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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beets, Chicken Soup, Lentils, Chili Flank Steak and onions, Tabouli, Molten Chocolate Cake, and THE GUAC!

Hidi-ho neglecterinos!
Long time no see!

I've been busy with the semester ending/beginning, and a certain sister's marriage. (Apparently she reads my blog and knew that she was getting a mouli for her shower. SHAME on her!)

In the meantime, I've managed to cook quite a few things. In addition to my regular home-cookin', I was given the privilege to write a restaurant review for the super-cool Iowa City mag Little Village. My review of Lincoln Cafe, and lots of other awesomeness, can be found in the first new issue of Little Village coming out May 29th. Look out for it in those little magazine bins around town. If you're not lucky enough to live in Iowa City, find a friend who will steal one for you.

Onto the important stuff: food I've been cooking.
Wanna know something funny? My husband loves beets. Like, a lot. As in, the last time I made them, I didn't get to have any he ate them so quickly. I love to have them in a salad with goat cheese and romaine lettuce.

Roasted beets are the easiest thing. Detach the beets from their greens, reserving them, and rinse thoroughly. Drizzle with olive oil, pour on lots of salt and pepper, and add a little rosemary if you like it. Wrap this up in a bundle of aluminum foil and roast at 350 for 45 minutes or until a knife slides through easily. Some people peel them, but I don't find the peel annoying so I don't. When dealing with beets, be cautious. Tim refers to them as "radioactive". They get dark red juice on anything they touch, though it rinses our with water pretty easily.

To my surprise, beets are actually the same species as chard. As you might guess, you can eat their greens, which are delicious and nutritious. And they're free with the beets! All I do is rinse them very thoroughly and spin them dry in a salad spinner. (My favorite) Cook some thinly sliced garlic in olive oil. Throw in the chopped greens and saute until just limp. We almost always eat them right alongside the beets. It's a cheap and healthy dinner.

Recently I had roasted beets with a soup that I jazzed up from my mother. She gave me a basic chicken soup with just noodles and chicken. I chopped up some onions, carrots, and celery and added dumplings at the last minute. You can see some of my fine knife-work and the beautiful beets in this photo.



Here you can see the greens whole and chopped up into the bed of my salad spinner. Remove the greens from the bright red stems and chop into bite-sized pieces.



Oh yea, next to it is honey baked lentils. I've really been getting into OMAC(Once-a-month cooking). I'm not quite at the cooking-once-a-month point, but I've been using some of the recipes and doubling up on a lot of my usual recipes. These lentils are easy, cheap, delicious, and healthy. I need more food like that in my life.

Honey Lentils

2 1/3 cups lentils (1 lb)
1 small bay leaf
5 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup water
1/3 cup honey

In a dutch oven or saucepan combine lentils, bay leaf, 5 cups water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients, save the honey, in a bowl and add to the lentils. Spread into a 9x13 pan. Drizzle honey on top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to one hour.

Chili Flank Steak

So, we're trying to live cheap these days. Flank steak is a lean cut of beef that is actually quite cheap and healthy. I decided to serve it in tacos at my sister's bachelorette. I used this same marinade on the flank steak, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and shrimp, all on the grill. They were all delicious. It's super easy and cheap.

Combine in a blender

1/2 mild chili powder (if you light it hot, 1/4 c. each mild and hot)
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp. salt
the juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp. freshly ground cumin (toast the seeds whole in a dry non-stick skillet on low heat, then grind in the blender or a spice grinder)

Then, rub this all over the flank steak. We love grilled onions, so I decided to slice up a
large whole sweet onion, like Vidalia

Grilled the steak to a medium rare. Caramelized the onions. Served them with some homemade refried black beans. (Just use canned black beans, your potato masher, some toasted ground cumin, lime juice, and lots of salt.)

The steak must be cut across the grain so it's tender.

Before:




After:



Lastly, we come to my tabouli and molten chocolate cakes. I was at the second farmer's market of the year this week and found some beautiful seedless English-style cucumbers. I wanted them, so I bought two. I ate one by itself and it was delicious. I chopped the other one up with the tomatoes I got from the same vendor (you know her. she's the lady that sells the best tomatoes.) Tabouli is a great snack, and quite inexpensive. I brought some to the cabin and someone put it on their brat. It looked really good. This is a very basic recipe-

1 c. bulghur wheat (pour boiling water to cover in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes)
1 English cucumber, seeded, chopped
3 small roma tomatoes, chopped and drained of liquid and seeds,
5 green onions, including tender green parts, sliced thinly
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 bunch parsley, coarsly chopped
1/4-1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Mix together in a bowl. Great for you, and delicous. You can subistitue cous cous for the bulgur, and add things, like feta cheese and artichoke hearts, or pesto and sun-dried tomatoes.

Here is it with a not-so-simple concoction, molten chocolate cakes.




Mother's day was coming up and I wanted to indulge my mom. These individual cakes dusted with powdered sugar and warmed up in the microwave did the job. The most important thing is not to over-cok them. In fact, you have to undercook them. That's how they get that "molten" center. Yum.
I used this recipe from Joy of Baking.com:

Molten Chocolate Cakes

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped, at room temperature
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Grease a muffin tin and coat with granulated sugar.

In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate and the butter. Remove from heat and add the three yolks, beating with each addition.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the three whites and 1/3 c. of sugar until frothy. Then, add the 1/8 tp. cream of tartar and whip to soft peaks.
Add 1 tbsp. of sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the chocolate gently.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the edges are cooked and the centers are still wobbly.
Let cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges. Cool upright on a cooling rack or serve immediately.
I warmed them up in the microwave for 30 seconds for serving and dusted with powdererd sugar. Berries and crème fraîche would be awesome.




And the final dish for this entry: THE GUAC.
I cook. A lot. I cook at home, I cook at my Mom's house, I cook at my friends' houses, I cook a the cabin. I feed people a lot, and sometimes they tell me what they think about what I cook. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's not. However, universally, everyone likes my guacamole. Not only do they like it, they tell me so without me asking. In fact, many people have asked for my recipe.

So, for the ages, here is my recipe. I prefer to have it with blue corn tortilla chips, or the baked ones that are like little boats.

2 ripe avacados. (if they are not ripe, this is not worth eating.)
2-3 small roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 a small red onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
the juice of one lime (maybe more to taste)
1 tbsp. salt (again, more to taste)
1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper




We eat this all summer long.
Enjoy! The next time we meet, it shall be in our NEW HOUSE! Pictures to follow...
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