Friday, August 31, 2012

Daal Fantastic (aka Spicy Red Lentil Soup)

Someone in our house looooooooves lentils.

I'm not kidding. He'd eat them every day and be happy. In fact, in his YPM (years pre-megan), he'd eat lentil soup for weeks on end. Cause he enjoyed it. (And cause lentils are, like, 5 lbs for a dollar)

When I came into the picture, the lentil eating slowed. I do like most lentil dishes, but they end up causing me tummy troubles. Which are not so fun.

Take a wild guess at which country in the world produces the most lentils?

(I read this on wikipedia, so it's got to be true)

Any guesses? India? They're number 2... And Turkey is number 3. I'll write the answer at the bottom of the post so you can have time to think.

But back to the soup. Mr. S said that he's had a lot of lentil soups in his day (and I believe him fully when he says that), but this is soup is hands down his favorite. Good thing we wrote down the recipe!

If you like the flavorful lentils known as daal you get at an Indian restaurant, this soup's for you.

Start off with red lentils (they gotta be red) in a pot.

Add water and bring to a boil.

In a large skillet, cook the serrano pepper, ginger, garlic, and turmeric in some veggie oil on medium heat. 

Once they brown slightly and smell delightful, add the tomatoes. Cook for another minute.

Dump all of that in the lentil pot. Stir. Put the lid askew and wait for it to thicken in 20 minutes or so. Stir occasionally.

In that same skillet pan - you don't need to wash it - toss in a bit more oil and the potatoes and green onion. Brown them and cook them through. About 10 minutes. Don't over crowd the pan. Do it in two batches if your skillet is smallish.

Once the soup is thickened stir in the cilantro, salt and pepper. You'll need a lot of salt. Taste and add till you get it right.

Serve in bowls with the potatoes on top and bit more cilantro.


Daal Fantastic (aka Spicy Red Lentil Soup)
Makes 4-5 bowls
Vigorously adapted from Food Network

2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
7 c. water
1 serrano chile, diced (remove seeds for less spicy)
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 red potatoes, cubed up into smallish cubes
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 green onions, chopped
Generous amount of salt
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
Naan or other flatbread, for serving

In a large pot, combine water and lentils. Cover and bring them to a boil. (Head up - the lentils are pretty starchy and may boil over)

In a large skillet, cook the serrano, ginger, garlic, and turmeric with a tablespoon of vegetable oil until you can smell them. Throw in the tomatoes, and cook for a minute or two. Dump all of that into the lentil pot.

Simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes with the lid partially on.

In the same large skillet - no washing required - over medium heat, brown up the potato cubes and green onions in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cook until brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the soup is thickened, stir in the cilantro, salt and pepper. Lentils need salt, you'll use a lot. It's ok. Spoon into bowls and add some of the browned potatoes to each bowl. Top with more cilantro if desired.


Figured it out?

The country that produced 1,510,000 tonnes of lentils in 2009 (560,000 more than India) was CANADA.

I know. Seriously. What's up with that??

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Steamed Gyoza


It's a beautiful word. It makes me think of home, blankets, and plump things - Like me!

I've already posted one dumpling recipe - and it's good. Truly. 

But I wanted more veggies. Strange - I know. But veggies bring flavor.

And I thought that if I filled them with veggies, I could eat more of them. And feel less guilty. And you know what? I did. I stuffed myself with 12 dumplings and then had ice cream. 

But it's ok. Cause I ate my veggies. 

In dumpling form. 

Start off with a smallish head of napa cabbage. 

Blitz, sprinkle with salt, and weight down to get rid of all the excess water. It will take at least an hour, if not four.

Blitz up carrots.

And then blitz leeks - after you wash them thoroughly. 

And blitz cilantro - after you've given it a rough chop. 

Mix them all with the cabbage.  It's a veggie party!

In the same food processor bowl (which is probably a wee bit tired by this point), mix the pork, sesame oil, rice wine, and soy sauce. Grate in the ginger and garlic.

Bitz a few pulses until combined, and then mix in with the veggies. 

Wrap them up. Check out the technique here.

Create your dumpling army. 

Steam and dine!

Steamed Gyoza (Pork, Veggie, & Cilantro Dumplings)

1 small napa cabbage
1 1/2 - 2 c. carrots
2 leeks
1 bunch of cilantro
1 lb ground pork
thumb-tall, two-finger-wide nob of ginger 
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 packages of dumpling wrappers

Get out your food processor. It's soon to become your best friend. 

Roughly chop the cabbage. Blitz it in the food processor until in tiny pieces. It might take you 3 to 4 batches to get it done. 

Move to a strainer and dust with 1 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix it around and squeeze some water out. Use a plate and a few canned goods to weight down the cabbage to press out more water. Let sit at least an hour. 

While that's sitting - blitz up the carrots in the food processor. You should get about a cup when packed. Toss into a large bowl. Chop up the leeks and wash them well. They carry a lot of clay and dirt, so make sure they've had a good bath. Toss them in the food processor and blitz. Into the bowl with the carrots they go!

Now, the cilantro. Blitz it too. Into the bowl with the other veggies. 

On to the pork. Toss it into your food processor with the sesame oil, rice wine, and soy sauce. Use a microplane zester to grate in the ginger and the garlic. Pulse a few times until it's all combined. 

At this point, feel free to sit down and read a book. Put some plastic over the pork and stick it in the fridge for a few hours. It's only going to get better as the flavors mingle, and the cabbage is only going to loose more water. It's a win-win. Go ahead. Have a read.

When you've finished a few chapters, head back to the kitchen. Combine all the veggies. Throw in the pork. Mix it all up and break out the dumpling wrappers. Create your dumpling army. 

Steam the dumplings for 10 minutes - or do it the proper way for a gyoza and pan fry them for 3 minutes, then toss in some water and cover and steam for 8-10 minutes. It's up to you.

Drown in soy sauce and green onion dumpling sauce.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lobstah Rolls

Confession: Even after four years of living on the east coast, I had yet to eat a lobster roll. Until Saturday.

Oh, I had several opportunities - but ordered something else instead (most of the time I just panicked at the though of spending $20 on a sandwich). 

Mr. S loves lobster rolls. He's had the real thing though - Grandpa Stevens has a house in Maine. Most summers of his youth, Mr. S enjoyed the delights of true north coast living. Tiny blueberries, ice-cold water, beautiful sunrises, and lobsters at $2.50 a pound (or less!). 

Needless to say, the lobsters we found here in CA were slightly more expensive than that ($7.99/lb at the local Asian grocery - $23 for two), and probably had never even heard of Maine.

But man - after I got over my "Ewww they look like giant bugs. I don't want to touch them!" squeemishness, they tasted delicious!

Mr. S had no such fears, and proceeded to do an impromptu puppet show to show me how nice they were. The lobsters seemed less than amused. 

 Then their misery was ended. By a pot of boiling water. 

After a few minutes, pull those bright red suckers out.

And dump them into an ice bath. 

Let them cool for a few minutes and then break off the claws and the tails. Just use your muscles. You don't need the knife just yet.

Next, break out your big chef's knife. Turn the tails over and cut them down the middle. Split open the shell to get the delicious tail meat. 

 Next, the claws - wrench off the little thumb pincher. Sometimes the meat will come with it, sometimes not. 

Take your gigante knife and, using the base of the blade, knock a line of little holes into the base of the claw.

Break the claw open and admire the yummy meat. Mmmmmm.

And don't forget the knuckle meat! Break the leg joints open with the knife and get all that lobstah goodness out.

 Chop all the pieces up into 1 inch chunks. Bite size. 

Toss them in a bowl with a tablespoon of mayo, a few inches of green onion, salt and pepper, and a gentle squeeze of lemon juice. 

Now - the bun! If you don't have the split-top buns at your local grocer (we didn't) get the un-cut sandwich rolls. Slice off the sides, and slice down the middle. 

Brown the sides in a pan of melted butter. 

Seriously - yum.

Fill with the delicious lobster salad. 

We will definitely be having these again. Soon.

Lobstah Rolls
Adapted from the Maine Lobster Council

2 live lobsters
1 tbsp mayo (up to you if you want to add more)
2-3 inches of green onion, diced
salt & pepper to taste
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 rolls, preferably split-top
butter for browning

Boil water in a large stock pot. Toss the lobsters in the pot and cook for 12-13 minutes. Move them immediately to a bowl of ice water to cool.

Remove the lobster meat from the shell. Chop into bite-sized pieces. Mix with mayo, green onion, salt & pepper, and lemon juice. 

Brown your rolls in melted butter in a pan on the stove. Fill warm rolls with cold lobster salad. Serve with potato chips. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alfajores - And a Giveaway

 In honor of my 100th post last week, I wanted to do a giveaway. 

Since it's my first giveaway, I wanted it to be a good one. 

Which set me to thinking - "What amazing things do so few of my friends know about and would love me forever for introducing them to?"

The answer came as I was gallivanting around my local Mi Pueblo...

1. Vanilla (the Mexican version is sooooo superior to anything in a normal grocery store)
2. Piloncillo (the conical raw sugar of choice with a delightful molassesy flavor)
3. Cajeta quemada (which Mr. S claims - and has proven - can go on anything)

I couldn't very well just pick one and force you all to miss out on the deliciousness that is the other two. 

And besides. Two of these three are important components of alfajores - a far superior version of the Oreo cookie, which contains two delicious vanilla shortbread cookies with caramel (or cajeta) in between them. 

Oh - Rules! Rules!

To enter the giveaway - leave a comment on this post telling me about your favorite Latin American dessert. And I'm only capable of shipping within the USA. (Sorry Masha!)

On Friday at 6 pm Pacific I'll pick a winner using a random number generator. Good luck!

And Mr. S - YOU HAVE YOUR OWN BOTTLE OF CAJETA ALREADY - so stop filling the comment field. Seriously. Or I'll revoke your chocolate ice cream privileges.

Now - back to the cookies.

Start with butter and powdered sugar.

 Beat till fluffy and add egg yolks, lemon zest, and Mexican Vanilla. 

Sift the flour and baking powder in. 

Beat until it looks like sand. Scrunch it together. 

Form the sandy dough into a log shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. 

Slice into little rounds.

Put them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

They should still be white, not browned at all. 

Allow to cool. 

Dollop one cookie with the cajeta quemada and sandwich with another one. Refrigerate the cookies so the caramel firms up. 

Or you can enjoy the goopyness. I definitely do.

Adapted from A Taste of Peru
Makes around 2 dozen sandwiches, depending on the size you want your cookies
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp Mexican vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
Cajeta Quemado

In a medium sized bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, zest, and vanilla. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and beat until the mixture becomes sand-like. Scrunch it together and form a log the size you want your cookies' circumference to be. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Spread half the cookies with Cajeta Quemada. Top with the other half. Refrigerate until ready to serve.