Over Apple Risotto
I’ve never really been a fan of lentils. So I thought I’d embark on a Journey of Lentils Challenge.
I tried to be diverse in my recipe choices to get a real rounded picture of lentils.
For the most part, the dishes were great. Just the couple times I made a cooking error..
Masoor Dal – India
Red Lentil Curry
Misir Wot – Ethiopia
Spiced Red Lentils
Fakes – Greece
Greek Lentil Soup
Mercimek Corbasi – Turkey
Turkish Lentil Soup
Poteje se Lentejas – Cuba
Cuban Lentil Soup
Mshosh – Armenia
Armenian Lentil Salad
What I discovered?
Lentils really aren’t too bad. Biggest lesson? Cook your lentils in broth. The couple times I straight cooked them in water, the dishes tasted like poop. Not literally… but it seemed that after cooking them in water, there was no real way to impart the lentils with strong flavor. And yes, I made this mistake on the curry, and I am fairly certain the curry shouldn’t taste bland.
I ended up only using Green and Red lentils. Though I have used Yellow once, and Black, which I actually like quite a bit.
(I also ended up making Persian Pomegranate Soup in the middle of this whole challenge. In honour of finishing the book Pomegranate Soup. It utilizes Yellow Lentils.)
With Sorrel Pesto
My Weird Tuna Pita. Tuna with chopped Pickle, Rosemary, and Chives, and Horseradish and Mayo. With Spinach dressed in Lemon Juice and cracked Pepper.
Plum Sauce with Soy and 5-Spice glazed Chicken, over Coconut Rice
Spaghetti with simple Olive Oil Garlic Tomato Sauce with a little Heavy Cream and lots of Basil
Lately, I have been very into this area that I realized is pretty much the old Silk Road. I have always loved Tibet and old Persia and Arabia. And I have always loved the strong flavors of this Central Asia area. So I decided to map out the Silk Road, and do a food journey along it.
It was not my best food tour. The possibility exists that I really was not cooking these dishes properly, but to my surprise, I found them to be extremely bland!
Also, because I am a single person following a recipe I cobble together, I ended up with huge portions. Many leftovers ended up requiring, though grossly inaccurate, flavor mending. (For instance, the soup got a healthy portion of coconut milk and chilli to make it more enjoyable..)
But, here it is:
Xian – Central China
Xian Cumin Lamb
(The only truly flavor packed meal)
Kashgar – Western China
Kyrgystan Apple Cake
(A weird mistake. I am not sure how my wires got crossed during research, but this recipe does not actually come from Kashgar…)
Pamirs – Tajikistan
Lagman, Uzbek Beef Soup
Merv – Turkmenistan
Turkmen Chicken Plov, Pilaf
Baghdad – Iraq
Damascus – Syria
Fatet Djaj, Chicken Platter
Tyre – Lebanon
Mujadara, Lentils and Rice
(I like to try and go out at one point of my culinary tours, eat a meal someone else has cooked, probably better than me. But due to our current state of affairs, I settled for going out and buying from the store. I added some Yogurt, Mint, and Fried Onions, and it was pretty yummy.)
I also paid a little homage to Marco Polo. (I tried so hard to read his book, but just didn’t find it an enjoyable read 😞)
A version of a Pasta I ate at a restaurant called Bella Italia.
Penne with Dark Meat Chicken and Scallion, in Plum Sauce.
And a recipe by Julia Child called Spaghetti Marco Polo.
Spaghetti, Chopped Olives, Roasted Red Peppers, Toasted Walnuts, Parsley, and Basil.
I don’t honestly know a lot about the Silk Road. I just have found myself drawn to the cultures that it travels through. So the possibility if my inaccuracy is high. But I thought I’d share the tour anyway.
I turn to food when I’m stressed. Not in a binge eating sort of way. But rather in a binging cooking show, researching and conceptualizing recipes. You know how they say, guys think about sex every 6 seconds? (…do they still say that?) I am almost entirely certain that I think about food every 6 seconds. (It might actually be a problem, but I’m not ready for meetings…)
And currently times are hard. Hard on many, but hard on the foodies. It stresses me out to see restaurants struggling to stay afloat. It stresses me out more, to go to the grocery store and find food shelves stripped bare of even their dust bunnies. And most of all… it stresses me out to still see all these damned food commercials. Take that shit off the air, it’s rude!
So I watch alot of food tv. None of that Guy’s Grocery Games shit, or Kids Baking Challenge… But like, I love watching professional and up and coming semi-professional chefs. The people who take their food seriously.
I have followed David Chang’s career for maybe a decade or more. The man loves food, he loves learning about food, he loves developing out of the box ideas.
This episode I randomly threw on this morning was less about food, but all about his first child. They say that Nursing School is the destroyer of marriages. I think that Restaurant life can often be the destroyer of families.
In this episode Dave did alot of interviewing veteran chefs on How. How did they manage to maintain their wildly successful restaurants, AND raise a family?
He eventually talked about how he and his wife learned they were pregnant, the day after Anthony Bourdain passed. He said he knew it was that day because he couldn’t stop crying. That it felt unfair to lose someone so great, and to then be bringing a new life into this world. But it turned out to be one of the most terrifying, and amazing things for him.
And it was kind of nice. Facebook, one of our most used and greatest ways to stay connected during these isolation and social distancing times. It was nice to see… I don’t know, children. To see new life. To see hope. Because, right now, it doesn’t feel like there is a whole lot out there.
Don’t Kiss Me, Even Though I’m Irish..
I cook because it is the only thing that can fully occupy my mind. Even more so than reading a great book. I always play music. I think it helps fill the negative space. While I work, self soothe.
It’s St. Paddy’s Day. The world is encouraging “social distancing.” What a slap in the face for perhaps the most social holiday, second to Mardi Gras. But these are Pandemic Times.
I choose not to mix the cake dough by hand. While generally it is a good way to work off a stressful day at work, it also leads to much over mixed dough, and in turn, dense ass cake. Today, I use the kitchenaide, keeping it on a gentle spin, just enough to mix. In the background, my attempt at Irish(ish) Folk music fails. The Loreena McKennit station begins playing tracks from Last of the Mohichans, the song from a Christmas movie I haven’t seen in decades, and then some Pachelbel Canon a la The Scottish Royal Dragoon Guards bagpipe band. It’s actually really good.
I research and scratch out lentil recipes while the cake bakes. I don’t even like lentils, but… these are Pandemic times..
I can’t stop from taking a nap. I nap always. I joke that I am half cat, but actually I really am tired all the time. My doctor recently changed my meds. Taking away the fatigue inducer in replacement of one more… ass kicking. In turn, also taking away the med that helped with the chronic back pain. A fortunate side effect. My back has been hurting all day.
I crack open a beer, saving the Guinness for dinner. The Corned Beef has been bubbling in the pot. I boil potatoes and saute some cabbage and leeks in butter and garlic. Colcannon. I mix whiskey, ketchup, and soy sauce. Some odd, but delicious glaze. I pour an extra splash of whiskey into the measuring cup and take a sip. It might be more than a spash. But it’s St. Paddy’s Day and tomorrow the world might end.
The dwarves of Middle Earth begin singing their haunting mountain song. Dwarves singing. While not entirely an Irish classic… I don’t really know what to expect from this station.
I toss some broccoli florets in oil, garlic, and salt, then throw it in a high heat oven. Roasted broccoli, a gamble, but while my back is turned, I stir a pot of cheese sauce. Surely even cheese sauce can give the scortched broccoli redemption.
A quick 10 minutes in the oven for the whiskey glaze to get friendly with the beef, and it’s all done. No boiled cabbage or carrots. The meat is tough from unsupervised aggressive boil while I took a nap. But shit, we can’t all be perfect.
These are Pandemic times, and tomorrow the world might end.
Ps: The cake wasn’t dense.
This February, I decided to try a food colour challenge. I was intrigued by the idea of Black food, either in true colour, or in name. I also found that alot of the Black went kind of hand in hand with White. Black Truffle, White Truffle. Black Sesame Seeds, White Sesame Seeds. Or how Black Cod, is a White fish. Black Radish, is white inside.
There were also some Black desserts too…
What was most difficult about this challenge was making an actual meal. It was one thing to research and list out various black foods. But it was entirely another to conceive of ways to make them work together into something palateable. It actually took me months to do. And with the exception of some over baking, and some under sauced noodles, I think I did really well.
It makes me want to attempt another colour theme food challenge. And some day I still might.
Seared Duck Breast, with Pomegranate Sauce, on Goat Cheese Polenta, and a Port and Pomegranate Poached Pear..
And Roasted Black Radish and Black Grape Quinoa Salad, with Lemon Dijon Dressing.
(Don’t burn the radish, they’re bitter enough as it is! 🤢)
Pumpkin Pasta, with Sage, Feta, and a bit of Heavy Cream
Khoresh-e Fasenjan. Persian Pomegranate Stew. (Which apparently doesn’t typically have squash in it. I just happened to find the ONE recipe that does.)
Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, wirh Bacon, Goat Cheese, and Chives
Butternut Squash, Ricotta, Spinach stuffed Shells, with too thick Brown Butter, Sage, Squash Sauce
Soup Joumou. Haitian New Years Soup
Fug Tong Gaeng Dang. Thai Squash Curry
Sausage and Kale, with Squash Puree and Parmesan roll ups, with weird Apple, Brown Butter, Sage, Walnut Sauce
Giant Shell Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese, with Gruyere, Nutmeg, Sage, and Heavy Cream
Butternut Squash Chili, with Ground Turkey, Black Beans, Jalapeno, and other stuff
Pomegranate Chicken, with Roasted Kabocha Squash, over Coconut Rice
And for Dessert…
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Zucchini Bread
Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns, with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
Good ol’ Pumpkin Pie
Happy Autumn Everyone. Eat some Squash!