Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thai Squash Soup

Crockpot of goodness.
Thai Squash Soup with  sriracha-lime yogurt. 

I made this for my and my sister's birthday party. I baked tons of beer-yeast french bread, then made stuff that goes well with bread--bleu cheese butter, melted tomatoes, and soup! 
This was super delicious---spicy and warm and toasty-tasting. Winter squash is so yummy in any preparation, even just roasted plain--but this soup made it just fantastic. The cayenne and ginger gave it a lot of heat and the coconut milk made it rich and creamy. This soup also made me feel smugly healthy and all through the party I bragged to people like "have you tried this soup? It's a flavorful play on seasonal vegetables. I love vegetables, don't you?" Then I would smile condescendingly. Then I ate some deep-fried turkey. 

2 large yellow onions, diced 
1 4 inch piece of ginger, minced or grated 
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste 
2 butternut or acorn squashes 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 can coconut milk (not the light kind) 
3 cups vegetable stock 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
2 tablespoons fish sauce 
juice of 2 limes 
2 tsp cayenne pepper 

I have enough red curry for the next several years. 

What to do 
Cut the squashes in half and remove the seeds. Roast at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until entirely cooked and soft. Remove and allow to cool. 
Cover the bottom of a soup pot with olive oil and saute the onions and ginger until barely browned, about 15 minutes. Then scoop the onions and ginger into a food processor and blitz them into a smooth paste. 
Add a tablespoon more of olive oil and heat the pot back up. Cook the curry paste in the oil for about a minute. 
Add the onions and ginger back in and mix everything up. Turn heat to the lowest setting. 
Peel the roasted squashes and put the flesh into the food processor. Blend up! Add the squash to the onion-ginger-curry mixture. 
Add the vegetable stock, fish sauce, cayenne, lime juice, and coconut milk. Stir everything together and bring to a boil. You are done!

I put mine in a crockpot to keep warm at the party. 
I suggest serving with chopped cilantro, or sriracha lime yogurt (mix some greek yogurt with sriracha and lime).
Homemade sourdough to go with!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Leg of Lamb Provençal

This is an Ina Garten recipe---I absolutely love Ina Garten and want to be her.
I love you.
I want to be all pop-collar in capri pants and bare feet, planning dinner parties in the Hamptons for the middle-aged gay couple next door. Or surprising Jeffrey with a cake. She's always like "I can't wait until Jeffrey gets home--I think he'll be so surprised!" about the Italian cream cake or whatever. And unless Jeffrey is retarded, he is NOT surprised--you bake him a cake every day! Plus the camera-crew truck is in the driveway. He is obviously just pretending so you keep baking him more timelessly elegant cakes!
Barefoot Contessa is the benevolent fairy in a soothing, rosemary-scented WASP dreamworld of lemon and ricotta, "good" olive oil, shabby-chic down comforters and  rum cookies. Nobody says mean things about being fat and nobody ever gets divorced. 
I often leave Ina on in the background when I'm grading or planning because her voice makes me happy and calm. And her recipes are the BEST. Simple and no hard-to-find ingredients. Every time I make one of her recipes it turns out exactly right, down to the amount of salt. I usually add more flavor elements to any recipe I make (double the garlic, triple the crushed red pepper), but Ina's I follow exactly.
I had friends over for my sister's birthday, and I knew exactly what I wanted to make: leg of lamb. I had two gift certificates to Oliver's anyway, so I felt somewhat better about blowing 90 bucks on a single, if enormous, piece of meat. (What does it say about you if people get you gift certificates to the meat store as a wedding present? Something good or bad?) 
This is the second time I've made this recipe, and both times it turned out mind-blowingly delicious. Absolutely fabulous, wonderful and perfect. 
It's really great having a dinner party on a weeknight, too. You feel like a real adult with a life, not just a work monkey. Must do this more often.

Perfect medium rare!
I copied this recipe directly from epicurious.


  • 1 (6- to 7-pound) bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed and tied
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves), divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and 1-inch diced
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup good honey (see note), divided
  • 1 large Spanish onion, sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Note: You'll want to use a liquid—rather than a solid—honey for this recipe so it can be drizzled on the lamb.

what to do 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the leg of lamb in a large roasting pan fat side up and pat it dry with paper towels. Combine the mustard, 1 tablespoon of garlic, the rosemary, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a mini food processor and pulse until the garlic and rosemary are minced. Spread the mixture on the lamb.
Place the tomatoes, olive oil, 1/4 cup of the honey, the onion, the remaining 1 tablespoons garlic, 2 tablespoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a bowl and toss well. Pour the tomato mixture around the lamb and tuck in the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle the lamb with the remaining 1/4 cup of honey.
Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and roast for another 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until a meat thermometer registers 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare. Place the lamb on a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Discard the herb stems and return the tomatoes to the oven to keep warm. Slice the lamb, arrange on a platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with the tomatoes and pan juices spooned on top.

I also made salad with anchovy vinaigrette and homemade sourdough bread with parsley-lemon butter. 
Photo: Birthday dinner!
Consuela loves dinner parties. 
My sister loved it, which I knew she would.
This is a recipe I know I'll be making for special occasions forever, or for at least as long as there are still lambs roaming an un-destroyed earth or until a doctor specifically forbids me to keep feeding Adam this much red meat or until toxic gasses clog the sun and everyone dies, and the earth is one stretch of blackened debris, except for a tiny corner where a single TV is still plugged in, playing Barefoot Contessa reruns into the abyss.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mussels Cooked in Beer

Mussels in tomato-lager broth.
All done. We are feeling full and happy at this point.
Adam and I love beer, and the other night our friends Stacey and Steve introduced us to an amazing new bar for beer nerds. Colorado Plus --they have 64 Colorado beers on tap. Their selection is fantastic and really interesting--with a heavy emphasis on big stouts and IPAs--and you can get flights. Adam was in heaven but I was running the half-marathon the next day, and I thought that, having actually trained for it this time, maybe I should stay sober even if it was Saturday. So instead of ordering the 12% barrel-aged Imperial Stout I actually wanted, I sipped some gluten-free raspberry crap because it was the only thing on their taps at less than 8%.
And for dinner I ordered the mussels--and to my annoyance, they were cooked wrong. Raw-ish chunks of tomato were lightly simmered in barely-cooked beer. The mussels were juicy and plump, but the whole thing failed to reach it's potential. Irritating. So I kept thinking about it, and wanted to make a better version of the dish myself. I usually make a simple white-wine preparation for mussels, but why not mix it up?

Mussels are simple to cook--you saute a cup or so of aromatics, then deglaze with two cups of the liquid of your choice (wine, beer, stock, coconut milk, etc), then add the mussels, cover, cook for five minutes until they open, mix with the broth then serve!

1 bag of mussels (2 lbs? From the grocery store)
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 red onion, diced
3 ripe red tomatoes, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 can of lager (I used our homebrew, but anything will work)
1 cup fish stock or vegetable stock
handful of parsley, finely chopped
salt to taste

What To Do 
Remove the mussels from their bag and place in a large bowl. Fill with cold tap water. This freshwater soak will get them to expel any sand or ocean schmutz in their shells.
Melt the butter in the bottom of a large pot with the heat on medium-high. Add the onion and tomatoes and saute, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for five more minutes.

Add the beer and stock. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for seven or so minutes. You want the alcohol to cook out and for all the flavors to meld. Taste and add salt.
Drain the mussels and add them to the pot. Cover and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. Open the lid--are they open? If so, they're done. Sprinkle with the parsley. Ladel mussels into a bowl to serve, making sure everyone gets some of the tasty broth.
Serve with thick slices of sourdough bread.

I baked a loaf of bread to go with--using my trusty beer-yeast starter. The mussels were cooked in the beer this yeast produced--full circle or something, right? 
Mussels are a great choice when you're having people over--delicious and unusual, but really easy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chinese Roast Duck (with Chinese pickled vegetables, sesame pancakes, and special duck sauce)

Chinese pickled veggies, sesame pancakes, special sauce, roast duck. Impossible to overstate the deliciousness of this meal. 
Homemade Roast Duck! 
Duck pancake, about to be rolled up and devoured. 

I've been making this dinner for a few years now, and it is absolutely fabulous. Totally one of the dinners in our "pantheon" of best things I make. I can't imagine a better dinner at home. It's not  a quick dinner to make--you might want to save this for a Sunday when you'd be kitchen-putzing anyway. But so incredibly worth the time. This is perfect special occasion eating--what I'd make if we were having Christmas or New Years just the two of us.
The first time I made this was a couple weeks after Adam and I moved in together. It was a weeknight in our Cap Hill apartment and we ate it at the kitchen counter. And it was insanely delicious. That's the whole story.
I LOVE duck, and have tried making it a million ways--confit, seared breasts, Euro-styled roasted (with a wine salt rub), etc--but no duck preparation has ever compared to this recipe. The only way to get better duck is to head to Federal for the real stuff.

This dinner has four recipes in one--the duck, the pancakes, the pickled veggies, and the sauce. So, bear with me! Here comes all the information you need for the best dinner you've ever made.

Start the day before, by marinating the duck.

Roasted Duck Ingredients
1 whole defrosted duck (make sure to take the liver, other organs, and neck out of the cavity. Sometimes there is a bag of "orange sauce" in there too--just get rid of it)

a 2 inch, chubby piece of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup soy sauce (I used extra-dark)
1/4 cup sherry or Chinese cooking wine
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
1.5 tablespoons Chinese 5 spice powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper (or 1 tablespoon chile oil)

What to do
Place all of the marinade ingredients in the blender and blitz them into a smooth puree. 
Place the duck into a roasting pan (Or a bowl, or a large bag if it will fit). Pour the marinade over the duck and rub it in. 
Place the duck in the fridge to marinate. Every so often, rotate the duck or scoop the marinade up and pour it back over the duck. Make sure to get some marinade into the cavity--you want every surface of the duck soaked. Marinate overnight or for at least five hours. 
Time to roast the duck!
Preheat the oven to 430 degrees. 
Brush off any chunky bits of marinade clinging to the outside of the duck. 
Poke the duck all over with a fork. Pierce the skin but not the meat. Pierce about 50 times overall, in the breast, legs, back--everywhere. 
Place a roasting rack in a roasting pan. 
Truss the duck (tie the legs together) and tuck the wings under the breast. 
Roast breast-side up for 40 minutes (at 430)
Roast breast-side down for 40 minutes( at 430) 
Crank the oven up to 525 and roast breast-side up for 25 more minutes. The skin should be crispy and have a deep brown color. 
Take the duck out and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. 
Reserve the duck fat for future culinary perversions (and put some in the special sauce!) 
Serve with sesame pancakes, pickled vegetables, and special sauce. 
Hacked up

Sesame Pancakes 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 to 1 cup boiling water, as needed
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil, or as needed
What to do 
In a large bowl, add the boiling water to the flour and begin stirring it in immediately. Knead the warm dough until you have a smooth dough. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Turn the rested dough out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough in half. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll each half out until it is 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or the bottom of a water glass to cut out 3-inch circles of dough.

Use a pastry brush to brush 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil over the top of 2 dough circles. Lay one pancake on top of each other, so that the oiled sides are together. (Don't worry if one of the edges hangs over the other). Roll out the pancakes to form a 6-inch circle. Continue with the remainder of the pancakes. Use a damp towel to cover the prepared pancakes and keep them from drying out while making the remainder.

Heat a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add one of the pancake pairs and cook until browned on both sides (about 3 minutes altogether; the second side will cook more quickly than the first side). Remove the paired pancakes from the pan and place into tin foil to keep warm. Continue with the remainder of the pancakes. Serve with duck! (If you did a really good job making these you might be able to pull them apart into even thinner pancakes--works for me about half the time). 

Rolling out the dough. 
Painting Sesame Oil onto the circles of dough. 
A (somewhat misshapen) pancake cooking. 

Chinese Pickled Vegetables 
Slice 1 bunch scallions, half a red onion, and one carrot into thin strips. Place into a bowl or a tupperware. 
1 cup rice vinegar (or Chinese black vinegar--or any light-colored vinegar) 
3/4 cup water 
1/4 cup soy sauce 
2 tablespoons sugar 
2 tablespoons sesame oil 

Allow to sit in the pickling liquid at least 20 minutes before serving--several hours is also fine, and these will keep well for a few days in the fridge. 

Special Duck Sauce 
In a small bowl, blend: 
1/2 cup Hoisin sauce 
juice of 1 lime 
a dash of some spicy element (chile oil or sriracha or some cayenne pepper) 
2 or 3 tablespoons of the hot duck fat from the bottom on the roasting pan 

Dribble this over the duck before eating! 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

I used my beer-yeast starter for these cinnamon rolls--the bread has a more savory, tangy taste than a traditional cinnamon roll. I like the contrast between the sourdough and the cinnamon caramel filling. 

This exact recipe is hard to recreate if you don't have a bucket of starter fermenting in your kitchen (and I can't think of anyone else who does). It's also fine to use a packet of regular powdered yeast. (Here is a great regular cinnamon roll recipe). 

1 cup sourdough starter 
1 cup buttermilk 
2 TB white sugar 
1 cup warm water 
5-8 cups flour, depending on dough moisture (which seems to turn out differently every time) 
cinnamon filling 
1.5 sticks of salted butter
2 cups of brown sugar 
3 TB cinnamon 
1 tsp vanilla extract

A greased 8 x 12 baking pan with sides. 

What to do:
Combine the buttermilk, water, white sugar, and sourdough starter in the bowl of a standing mixer. Allow to sit for 20 minutes (this will "wake up" the starter, get it hungry and active). 
Using the dough hook attachment, gradually add in flour while mixing. Probably you will end up using six-ish cups, but what you are looking for is a cohesive ball, pliant and not too sticky, and moist enough not to have extra flour hanging out in the bowl. Mess with the moisture and flour until you have the right consistency. 
Cover the dough and allow it to rise. If using starter, this will take awhile. Leave for five hours or overnight (I actually left mine for like 12 hours and it was fine). 
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a long, flat rectangle. 
Combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan.Turn the flame on and whisk together until bubbling (about 8 min). Turn the heat off. Whisk in the vanilla. 
Ladle the warm cinnamon caramel over the rolled-out bread. Spread out so every surface is covered. If you have some left over that's fine. 
Roll the bread hot-dog style into a long roll. 
Cut the roll into little circles at 1.5 inch intervals. Place these into the greased baking pan. Nestle them together. 
Pour any leftover cinnamon caramel over the top. 
Allow to rise for 2 more hours. 
Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown, puffy, and cooked through. 
Cinnamon rolls before baking. 
These were fabulous, and they made the house smell like fatty heaven. I feel like this lager-starter is my bread-baking breakthrough of the year, and I can't wait to make all kinds of other carby awesomeness with it. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Meatballs from Heaven

Could anything be better than spaghetti and meatballs? 
It's fall in the 11th grade, so the book is East of Eden. One of my all-time favorite reading experiences, ever. And to teach East of Eden--especially to a class of 70% first generation students who love to read--that is really living, in my opinion. I've taught it for years and years--I know by heart the lines, the  characters, the pages with good metaphors or allusions or irony. And yet, every time I teach East of Eden, I find it as joyful and exciting and rich as the very first year. The complexity, the depth, the humanity.  It's electrifying and comforting at the same time.
And that's how my meatball recipe is, too. Years and years after perfecting the recipe, I am still sort of amazed by how fabulous these meatballs are. They're complex and deep and rich and delicious. I've never had a better meatball, and every day I cook them is a great day. 

Sauce Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil 
5 ripe tomatoes 
2 cups red wine 
7 fat cloves garlic 
2 red onions 
1 large can (22oz) tomato puree 
1 large can diced tomatoes 
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 tablespoons sugar 
dash of black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper 

How to Make the Sauce
In a large saucepan, saute the onion in the olive oil. Meanwhile, put the ripe tomatoes and the garlic cloves in a food processor and blitz them together into a smooth puree. 
When the onions are carmelized and brown, add the wine. Reduce for 15 minutes. 
Add the fresh puree of tomatoes and garlic, and the canned tomato puree and the diced tomatoes. Mix together. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Add the sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for anywhere from an hour to all day.

Meatball Ingredients 
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork 
4 strips hickory smoked bacon, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped 
1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds 
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs 
2 eggs 
1 tablespoon salt 

How to Make Meatballs 
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. 
To mince bacon, either pulse it in the food processor or chop it finely with a knife. 
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Work the mixture with your (clean) hands, making sure all elements are evenly mixed. 
Roll into balls about golf-ball sized or a bit larger. Place onto a cookie sheet. 
Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. 

When the meatballs are done, place them into the sauce and submerge. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 20 or so minutes. 
Serve over spaghetti! Garnish with Parmesan or mozzarella (or both!) and fresh torn basil and / or parsley. 

The morning after I made these, I woke up and made us meatball subs for lunch.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Melted Tomatoes

These taste AMAZING.
Melted tomatoes and ricotta on beer yeast bread. 

This summer was my first experience with home gardening--and it was fabulous. I have a year's worth of pesto in my freezer and am a master of no less than seven zucchini recipes (bread, latkes, crisps, pasta ribbons, ratatouille, nut muffins, fritters, strata). We love having a garden--a great way to shake the work-day out of your head is to come home and putz around out there for awhile, inspecting the plants, weeding, rearranging branches, etc.
Our tomatoes have been developmentally delayed--early squirrel attacks set them back a month--so ours are only maturing now--when there's already snow in Summit county! But better late than never. 
the garden
Now that the tomatoes are coming alive, I've been making tons of tomato salad, one of our all-time favorites. But I wanted to try something new, and I've been reading recipes here and there for "melted tomatoes" for years. 
And holy shit--these were UNREAL. Absolutely delicious. Fresh tomato x 100. Fruit-jammy and tangy and rich and deep.
The perfect dinner or lunch is to toast some good bread, spread with a thin layer of ricotta, and top with melted tomatoes and maybe a scattering of crunchy salt. Drink with wine.

How to Make Melted Tomatoes 
Chop some tomatoes into big chunks. Quarter big tomatoes or slice smaller ones in half. Spread into the bottom of a roasting pan, pie pan, or casserole. I don;t think the amount of tomatoes particularly matters--enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but if they fill the pan, that's fine.
Mince several (5?) fat cloves of garlic. Scatter over the tomatoes.
Add two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of balsamic. Toss everything together.
Place in a 210 degree oven for 8 hour, or a 225 degree oven for 5 hours. You could cook these overnight at 210.
Eat however you want! As a condiment on sandwiches, on salads, on top of meat, by itself.

Chopped tomatoes 
Ready for the oven 
Yummmm. Many hours later...

Put the finished tomatoes and all their juice into a tupperware or jar and refrigerate. Should last quite awhile. 

Melted tomato toasts.