Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Red Lentil Spread for Toast

It's been a busy ten days since my last post. I spent all of last weekend working an Artist Alley table at a comics convention, started and completed a rush painting that had to be shipped overnight to Los Angeles this morning, filmed half of a new painting tutorial video, and worked on lots of other jobs and tasks. Sadly, food and sleep are the first two things that suffer when work gets crazy.

Even though I'm still catching up on work, I finally had a chance to get back into the kitchen today, and I wanted to make something on the healthier side. Brendan and I have been craving Ethiopian-style food for a while, so for my lunch today I created a sandwich spread loosely inspired by the traditional Ethiopian red lentil dish Mesir Wot.

Red Lentil Spread for Toast

  • 2 cups and 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chopped basil
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper to taste

Add 2 cups of water to a metal saucepan (don't use a non-stick pan), and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the red lentils and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the water is gone and the lentils are fully cooked.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook the finely-chopped onions until soft and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the onions from the heat and set them aside.

When the red lentils are cooked, season them with salt and pepper, paprika, and basil. Stir well. The next part might go against all of your cooking intuition, but continue to cook the red lentil paste and let some of it stick to the bottom of the pan. It's ok if it starts to burn a little bit, too, just remove it from the heat if it starts to smoke or blacken. Scrape what's stuck to the pan back into the paste, and after about 5 minutes remove it from the heat. Add the cooked onions. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 cup water and stir it all together to get a creamy consistency.

In the photo above I toasted some home-baked Spent Grain Bread in a hot frying pan, then cut it into triangles before adding a thick layer of the warm red lentil spread. Enjoy as a spread on sandwiches or wraps, or as a dip.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jeannine's Egg Strata

I took the evening off yesterday and ventured over to have dinner with friends. My girlfriend Jeannine made a delicious (and photogenic) egg strata:

This vegetarian version of the classic dish contained egg, red pepper, mushrooms, potatoes, and Jarlsburg swiss cheese, baked between layers of bread.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rosemary Flatbread

This is part two of yesterday's post on the Asparagus Flatbread Pizza with Sherry Cream Sauce, about how to make the delicious rosemary flatbread.

Unlike some breads which require lots of mixing, waiting, and baking, flatbread is really simple and can be started the same day you're planning to serve it.

Rosemary Flatbread

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano (remove the stems)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp active yeast

In a small bowl or ramekin, stir the yeast into 3 tbsp of warm water until it’s dissolved. In a larger bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and herbs. Add the yeast mixture and oil, and then pour the water in slowly while kneading with your hands, until the dough becomes very smooth; it should remain slightly sticky, not thick and floury like pastry dough, but should just barely not be sticking to your fingers. Add more flour or water as necessary to reach that consistency.

Place the kneaded dough in a bowl lightly coated with olive oil, and cover with an oiled sheet of cling film. Leave the bowl on a countertop or warm spot (don’t refrigerate) for 2-3 hours, or until the dough ball doubles in size.

Spread some flour onto your counter top or work surface, and re-knead the dough into a ball. Cut the dough into 2 pieces and roll each out with a rolling pin. *For my creamy asparagus pizza, I rolled the dough into long ovals that were roughly 9 inches long, but you can cut and roll yours into more or fewer pieces of any shape. The dough will fight you, but be patient, and keep turning it over and rolling until it stays flat.

Without using any oil, place the rolled dough directly onto a grill pan over medium-high heat and let it cook until you see bubbles on the surface. Flip it over and continue to cook until the bread is puffy (about 2-3 min on each side). You can also use a charcoal grill, gas grill, or probably even a George Foreman-style grill and get good results.

Freeze what you don’t serve right away, but it always tastes best fresh!

Brushed with oil this could be served as-is... patience, patience.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Asparagus Flatbread Pizza with Sherry Cream Sauce

I think this is the longest I've gone without posting a recipe since I started the blog. I had to take a week off after the Game of Thrones party because

a.) I was exhauted, and
b.) Most of our meals for the days that followed involved leftovers, so there was nothing new in the kitchen to report.

But today is a new day, and now that I'm finished making recipes from old world Europe I can get back to creating some dishes of my own. Being the beginning of Spring, everyone is agog over asparagus recipes, and I confess, I'm no different. Here's a dish I came up with, inspired by a cream of asparagus soup that Brendan used to make:

Asparagus Flatbread Pizza with Sherry Cream Sauce
(Makes approximately two 9-inch pizzas)

Note: I'm going to split this recipe into two pieces: I made the Rosemary Flatbread from scratch and I think that deserves its own post. For this post I'll focus on the two pizza-centric parts. So you may go ahead and use store bought flatbread (as long as it has rosemary!!!), or make your own. Your choice.

Ingredients (Sherry Cream):
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp sherry
  • 1 tbsp vegetable stock (or water)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation of the Sherry Cream Sauce base:
The sauce base begins with a traditional roux. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the flour until combined. Add the chopped onions, cook for 2 minutes, then add the chopped garlic and continue cooking and whisking until the mixture begins to brown but not blacken, about 5 minutes.

Add vegetable stock and sherry and let the mixture simmer for another minute, still whisking, then add the heavy cream. Reduce to a low heat and let the mixture simmer and reduce for about 5 minutes, whisking often to mix it and test the consistency. The final product should be a thick pasty sauce. If it's runny at all, continue simmering.

Ingredients (Toppings):
  • 8-10 fresh asparagus stalks
  • 12 sun-dried tomato halves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • parmesan cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Wash the asparagus stalks. Holding the stalks by their bases, shave each one into slivers using a vegetable peeler. This seems to be a trendy technique on food blogs, but it very helpfully ensures that the asparagus stays tender as it cooks in the oven.

To top the pizza, begin by brushing the fresh flatbread with olive oil, and spooning on the sherry cream sauce, as shown above. Arrange the asparagus slivers and press them down into the cream sauce. Then add the sun-dried tomato halves, salt, and pepper.

Place the flatbread pizzas on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the flatbread become golden brown and the asparagus slivers blacken just a bit. Let cool for 5 minutes after baking, then slice and serve.

The flavor stars of this dish -besides asparagus- are the sherry and the rosemary (baked into the flatbread). In my opinion, those are irreplaceable ingredients, and if you don't use them, you're making a different dish. It all works together to create a fantastic blend of sweet and savory. Texture-wise, the flour in the roux for the sauce almost bakes it into the flatbread while it's in the oven, creating a creamy topping that's at once a sauce and part of the bread beneath. Lovely.

Tip: If you do add grated parmesan, I would serve it at the table. The flavor is great, but it can burn in the oven if you sprinkle it on the pizza before baking.

And while everyone's got asparagus on the brain, check out a friend-of-a-friend's blog, Big Red At Home for her tips on making Proper Asparagus, including how to buy the freshest, best-tasting spears.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Game of Thrones Party Photos!

I'm happy to report that the evening was mostly successful! Aside from two parking tickets, one tray of burnt bacon, and my inability to prepare caramel in time before the show started, plans went off well. Here are some of the best photos from the evening:

Preparing everything before the guests arrived:

A last minute addition to the drink menu- Game of Thrones blonde ale! Not for everyone's taste, but for a light beer it was pretty good.

Rolling and shaping pastry dough for pies...

The finished Tarts in Ymbre Day (cheese and onion pies) fresh from the oven. To make these a bit cheesier than the last ones, I cubed the cheese instead of grating it.

Pre-baking pastry shells...

Preparing the filling for twelve Fruit Tarts with Raisins, Apples, and Pine Nuts

Icing some delicious Elizabethan Lemon Cakes

Jeannine trusses a chicken while Brendan and Sven look on... *special thanks to Sven and Jeannine for helping us set up!*

The trussed chicken, stuffed with fruits, ready for the oven. #notvegetarian

Let The Feast Begin:

Setting up the dessert trays in the living room.

There's a lot of red in the dining room... perhaps we're in Lannisport?

...And perhaps these are Cersei's grapes? *steals some*

Part 1 of the food spread. I wish I'd been able to photograph it before the "Martell speared boar" (bacon) tray was massacred, but you know how it is. Also pictured are the honeyed chickens, and some Salad from Castle Black

A closeup of one of the cooked chickens.

Part 2 of the food spread, with one of the cheese and onion pies, some fresh Spent Grain Bread, and grapes.

Some Pease Porridge emerges on the right, in front of some warming Buttered Carrots and Parsnips.

"Let the feast begin!"

The rest of the night went by in a flash. Immediately after dinner we all grabbed some floor space (and pillows) in the basement and watched the season premiere. It definitely didn't feel like an hour had gone by after the show was over, but it was a good opener, setting up lots of events that will unfold in season 3.

The Aftermath

The buttered carrots are all gone...

So long, salad...

Where the bread once stood, only crumbs remain...

Goodbye, sweet pie...

Hope everyone had a good time! :)

EDIT: Remember, most of the recipes here are from A Feast of Ice and Fire, the Game of Thrones companion cookbook... so pick one up! Also, go to the tag Medieval March to see all the prep work we did for the party this month.