Dal with Rhubarb

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By Alaina Sullivan

Rhubarb, with its stringy stalk and rouge skin, is often paired with fruits, though it is actually a vegetable. Its tart flavor is typically tempered by sugar (think pie, compotes, etc.), but here it is incorporated into a savory dish that preserves its natural zing.

The rhubarb stalks join a pot of red lentils (prepared as a traditional Indian dal with ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cloves, cardamom, and dried chile for heat). As the dish simmers, the rhubarb practically dissolves, leaving behind molten flesh and its tangy trademark flavor. The dal is delicious sprinkled with fresh cilantro and served over rice or another grain, or spread on toasted pita. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Simplest Dal

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes, largely unattended

1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 cloves

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 dried ancho or other mild dried chile (optional)

salt

2 tablespoons cold butter or peanut oil (optional)

chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Combine all the ingredients except the salt, butter or oil, and cilantro in a saucepan, add water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy.

2. Remove the cloves and, if you like, the cardamom pods (they’re kind of fun to eat, though). Stir in the butter or oil if you’re using it. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve.

Dal with Rhubarb. The rhubarb almost dissolves into this, leaving behind its trademark flavor: To the pot along with the other ingredients, add 3 or 4 stalks rhubarb, strings removed and chopped.

Posted in Indian, Recipes

Beef Stew (with or without Guinness)

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By Alaina Sullivan

This week I made Mark’s Beef Stew from How to Cook Everything, with a modest addition in honor of St. Patrick’s day: Guinness. Ireland’s famous black stout – “thinned” slightly with beef stock – makes the broth robust and dark, its mysteriously roasted flavor rippling throughout. All of the ingredients take to the Guinness in their own way – the meat gets deeply flavorful and tender, the carrots become malty and sweet, and the potatoes soak it up like sponges. You’ll be pouring your perfect pints right into the pot.

Beef Stew

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 1 ½ to 2 hours, largely unattended

2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, lightly crushed, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 to 2 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck or round, trimmed of surface fat and cut into 1- to 1 ½-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into eighths

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, water, wine, or a combination, or more as needed*

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

4 medium to large waxy or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Heat a large pot with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes; add the oil and the crushed garlic clove; cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then remove and discard the garlic. Add the meat to the skillet a few minutes at a time, turning to brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Do not crowd or the cubes will not brown properly; cook in batches if necessary. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper as it cooks.

2. When the meat is brown, remove it with a slotted spoon. Pour or spoon off most of the fat and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onions. Cook, stirring until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, and meat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.

3. Uncover the pot; the mixture should be wet (if not, add a little more liquid). Add the potatoes and carrots, turn the heat up for a minute or so to bring the liquid back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover again. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes, until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (At this point, you may remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and refrigerate them and the stock separately. Skim the fat from the stock before combining it with the meat and vegetables, reheating, and proceeding with the recipe from this point.)

4. Add the minced garlic and the peas; if you’re pleased with the stew’s consistency, continue to cook, covered, over low heat. If it’s too soupy, remve the cover and raise the heat to high. In either case, cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the peas have heated through and the garlic has flavored the stew. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Beef and Guinness Stew. In Step 2, omit the flour. Use 2 cups Guinness and 1- to 1 ½-cups beef broth for the liquid (add more beer, broth or water as needed during the cooking process).

Posted in Recipes

Mini Cannelloni

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By Alaina Sullivan

Asian and Italian cuisines aren’t often combined, but here’s a recipe that brings them together. Take the concept of Italian cannelloni – large, round tubes or squares of noodle, stuffed and baked (typically with cheese and a sauce). Instead of using fresh pasta (which most of us don’t usually have the time to make), swap in an Asian equivalent: the wonton wrapper. Commonly associated with the crispy exterior of dumplings or egg rolls (which are made from a larger version), the paper-thin noodle can just as easily be repurposed for stuffed pasta (think: ravioli, tortellini, cannelloni, etc.) Boiled or baked, wonton wrappers function much the same way as their Italian counterpart.

In this recipe, ricotta – a classic pasta filling – is mixed with fresh sage, Parmesan, salt and pepper. You can easily swap in any herb you like, but sage is particularly nice. Tomato sauce makes a classic accompaniment, but you can also enjoy it as I did – drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a generous amount of fresh black pepper (plus more grated Parm). Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Mini Cannelloni

Heat the oven to 400 F. In a bowl, mix together a cup of ricotta cheese, a tablespoon of chopped sage, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Put about a teaspoonful of this mixture in a wonton wrapper; roll into a tube, and put on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush or spray with olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the wontons are crisp. If you don’t have tomato sauce to warm up, serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with lots of black pepper.

Posted in Chinese, Italian

Crisp Tofu with Asian Greens and Peanut Sauce

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By Alaina Sullivan

The combination of quick-fried tofu, sautéed greens and Thai-inspired peanut sauce brings a ton of texture and flavor to the plate. For the greens I used baby bok choy, though Chinese broccoli, tatsoi, or Napa cabbage, alone or in combination, would work just as well. The tofu (which you want to be as dry as possible) is pan-fried, which browns its exterior while the inside stays warm and soft. The peanut sauce is thick and rich, with tangy notes of soy sauce and lime. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Crisp Tofu and Asian Greens with Peanut Sauce

Slice firm tofu into strips or cubes and pat dry; roughly chop a bunch of the greens. Pan-fry the tofu in some vegetable oil until it browns on all sides, about four minutes; remove tofu from pan and pour off all but a little of the oil. Add the greens and pinch or two of red chile flakes, and continue cooking until the vegetables turn dark green, about three minutes. Mix together a half cup of peanut butter, a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, and fresh lime juice to taste; add a bit of water if necessary to get a nice consistency. Add the sauce to the pan along with the reserved tofu and toss to coat. (You may not need to use all of the sauce, depending on how much greens/tofu you have). Garnish with crushed peanuts and serve.

Posted in Chinese, Recipes

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

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By Alaina Sullivan

There’s no better way to celebrate Mardi Gras than with a Po’ Boy (a beer-battered one at that.) Not only does beer give the shrimp great flavor, but it is scientifically proven to make superior batter. As soon as the beer-battered shrimp hit the pan, CO2 bubbles begin to dance and foam up around the shrimp. A panko dredging assists the process, and, as a result, the shrimp are left trapped in a flavorful and lacy-light crust. Pile them high on bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato, and you’ll have a happy Fat Tuesday indeed. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

Heat oil for frying. In a bowl, mix together one can of beer; one and one-half cups cornmeal (or panko) and pinches of salt, pepper; and paprika. Dip shrimp into batter and fry in batches until golden, about three minutes (flip once). Serve on split crusty Italian or French loaves with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise; lemon juice and hot sauce are also great here.

Posted in American, Seafood

Carrots and Cumin: 2 Ways

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By Alaina Sullivan

Carrot and cumin is a flavor pairing worth tattooing into your brain. Here, dressed simply in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, the carrots are roasted at high heat until they become tender, caramelized, and smoky. You can eat them straight from the baking sheet, or turn them into soup as I did (see below.) Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Roasted Carrots with Cumin*

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 35 minutes

1 to 1 ½ pounds baby carrots, green tops tripped, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds (you can also use ground cumin)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Seared Scallops with Romaine

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By Alaina Sullivan

When it comes to preparing scallops, less is often more: Salt, pepper and a quick butter sear is all it takes. Allow each side to caramelize for just a few minutes in a hot skillet – any longer and you run the risk of the scallops turning rubbery. Simple garnishes — a kiss of lemon juice and fresh parsley — add the perfect amount of brightness without overpowering the mild flavor of the scallops. Greens make a reliable companion, too. Here, the fresh crunch of romaine brings balance to the scallops’ soft flesh. Grilling the romaine adds even more character to the dish – its smoky flavor is an excellent foil to the sweet, buttery scallops. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Seared Scallops with Romaine*

Season scallops with salt and pepper; then sear the scallops for a few minutes in butter, turning once, until just browned on both sides. Drizzle a bunch of romaine lettuce with some olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the scallops with a bit more freshly squeezed lemon juice (some zest is nice here too) and some chopped parsley, and serve over the dressed lettuce with the pan juices.

*For grilled romaine: Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving the core intact,brush with the olive oil and some minced garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down until the lettuce begins to brown and get some grill marks, but remains crisp – 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, let it cool, and dress with the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Green Tea Broth with Udon Noodles

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By Alaina Sullivan

While udon noodles typically swim in water or broth, here they’re coooked in green tea. The herbal broth is fortified by the noodles as they simmer, and brightened with a touch of sweet mirin. This dish is easy as can be (if you can brew tea and boil noodles you’re good to go,) and a perfect canvas for endless variations. I made mine with yellow beans (added to the broth when the noodles were nearly finished cooking,) sliced leftover pork (decidedly not vegetarian,) crunchy lentil sprouts, chopped scallions and a final drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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Posted in Japanese

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

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By Alaina Sullivan

Lima beans are notoriously unloved, but they’re starchy, buttery, and delicious. In this stew, half of the beans are pureed into a luxuriously creamy base, while the other half (left whole) are suspended in the thick broth. For some freshness, arugula is stirred in at the end, wilting as it folds into the broth. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

Cook a package of frozen lima beans in a cup of water with some salt, butter, and minced garlic. When the beans are tender, puree half of them with most of the cooking liquid in a food processor until smooth; add some cream, half-and-half, or broth to thin. Return the pureed bean mixture to the pan with the whole beans and season with salt and pepper.* Add a bunch of tender greens and continue cooking until the greens are wilted. Add more liquid if necessary and serve, with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil and crusty bread.

 *Alternatively, I presoaked 1 lb of dried lima beans and added half of them to a pot of chopped yellow onion and minced garlic (sautéing in olive oil). For the liquid I added 1 cup of water and 2 cups vegetable stock, seasoning the soup with 2 Tbsp fresh thyme and 2 sprigs rosemary. When the beans were tender I pureed the entire mixture with a hand blender and then folded in the reserved whole beans; adding splashes of stock as needed.

Posted in American, Recipes

Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds

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By Alaina Sullivan

Impatient bakers love a good quick bread – the no-yeast, no-hassle loaf that teeters between bread and dessert. Typically a touch sweet, with a crumb more cakelike than its yeast-risen breads, quick bread is an easy solution for bakers who don’t feel like waiting.

This version is a variation on the master recipe for Fruit (or Vegetable)-and-Nut Bread from How to Cook Everything. Of the endless possibilities (think Banana-Walnut, Cranberry-Pecan, Zucchini-Sunflower, Pumpkin Ginger with Hazelnuts…) the one that struck me was a Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds. The shredded carrots ensure moisture, while the slivered almonds lend a consistent crunch. A combination of grains (all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran) yields a denser, heartier loaf, and brown sugar brings the right touch of molasses sweetness, while orange zest brightens the whole thing.

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Posted in Baking, Recipes