Monday, March 16, 2009

the ultimate irish lunch

I love meals that appear when you are absolutely sure you don't have anything to eat. A lonely leek here, leftover buttermilk voila. This soup is deliciously simple and flavorful--just leeks, potatoes and garlic, really. A good, homemade broth can make all the difference. If you've never made your own, it's time you do.
Probably the best thing about this meal is the appearance of fresh bread after a mere 45 minutes. The soda bread comes together in a snap, and after the soup is made you can pull it out of the oven to enjoy. For those who have never enjoyed irish soda bread, it's sort of like the bread version of a scone. You can substitute whole wheat flour at a three to one ratio if you'd like.
Now to what must be glaringly obvious...potatoes, irish bread, green soup. Yes, this is probably the unintentionally best-timed post I have ever made....happy st. patrick's day!

potato leek soup

5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 leeks
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp olive oil
chicken or veggie broth, pref. homemade

Cut leeks in half lengthwise, then slice fairly thin. Rinse in bowl of cold water. Dry leeks, then saute them in olive oil over med. high heat. When they begin to soften, add the garlic. After a couple minutes, before garlic browns, add the potatoes and chicken broth to cover. Simmer until potatoes are tender, 15-25 minutes.
Transfer mixture to blender, and puree completely. Add broth to desired thickness, season with salt and pepper.

irish soda bread *
3 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. Stir, adding more buttermilk if needed; the dough should be soft, but not wet or sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead just enough to bring the dough together. Turn it over and pat it into a round loaf about 1 1/2 inches high.
Place on a baking sheet and cut a cross into the top of the loaf with a knife. Cut fairly deeply into the bread, being sure to cut all the way to the edges; this helps the bread to rise properly.
Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400°F and bake for another 30 minutes or until done. To test, tap the bread on the bottom. It will sound hollow when done.

*from the art of simple food, by alice waters

Saturday, March 14, 2009

leek pizza

It's funny how altering something just a bit can change its character entirely.
I'm not even including a recipe with this post, because it seems almost identical to a previous one. But I will tell you how I made it, because it was just heavenly. When my husband and I took our first bite, we just kind of looked at each other. I was secretly lamenting the smallish size of the pizza, and I'm sure he probably was just enjoying the party in his mouth. Typical.
The pairing of grilled green onions and romesco sauce is a classic one, so when both show up in your fridge, you take action. In this case, I used the pizza dough recipe from Bottega restaurant in Birmingham. The romesco sauce had a little more heat to it than the one I previously posted, which is easily accomplished by throwing in a couple more dried peppers. To make the pizza, I just cut the leeks, washed and dried them, then tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I threw them under the broiler until they were all soft, and some were turning crispy dark brown. Then all you have to do is spread the romesco on the dough, add the leeks, then dollop with some goat cheese (which, ideally, you have combined with some seasoning and chives). Bake on high heat and die! (because it's so good, not because of some horrible kitchen accident.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

vegetarian chili

Slow-cookers are a bit perplexing. If they were as great as some of their hard-core fans claimed, surely they would have taken over the world by now, right? The truth is, they do have their downsides. As far as easily replaceable appliances go, they are rather large. There's the whole lifting the top issue, too- removing the lid adds hours to cooking time, and for taste and touch cooks like me this can be maddening.
But there are times when you just have the urge to dump your dinner ingredients and run. In this scenario, the slow cooker becomes your somewhat unsophisticated home chef. He knows the basics, the rudimentary yet satisfying home-style foods that can be just what you want. Just give him some time and space, and come back to something entirely different than what you left.
This is a chili that I adapted from an internet recipe. The barley transforms into something reminiscent of ground beef, making the bean stew oh so luscious and hearty. We ate it straight up the night I "made" it, then froze leftovers which were later reincarnated in the form of a chili cheese tofu dog.

vegetarian chili

* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 1/2 c. beans, dried (i used black, kidney, and garbanzo)
* 28 oz. tomatoes, diced
* 1 c. corn, fresh or frozen
* 1 c. barley
* 4 c. water
* 3 tbsp. chili powder
* 1 tbsp. cumin
* 1 jalapeƱo, diced
* 1 tsp. coriander
* 1 tsp. unsweetened chocolate powder
* Cayenne, to taste
* Salt, to taste
* Fresh ground pepper, to taste
* Grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese (optional)

The night before you want to eat, boil a cup and a half of dried beans in water for 5 minutes. Drain the water. Soak the beans in water overnight, discarding the soak water once during that time and again when you finish soaking.

(If you are using canned beans, just start the morning of the day you want to eat chili and drain and rinse your beans.)

The morning of the day you want chili for dinner, combine all ingredients except for salt, pepper, and cheese in a crock pot. Set the crock pot on low and cook for at least 7 hours. When you get back, taste your chili and adjust spices, salt, and pepper as necessary.

Serve with grated cheese.