Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Peruvian-ish lentils with chorizo

I was feeling adventurous the other day and decided to experiment with lentils. I ended up sort of combining two recipes, using this one as a base and this one for inspiration. The next night, heating up the leftovers, I had the brilliant idea of getting some chorizo involved, and thus, Peruvian-ish lentils with chorizo were born. The recipe still needs some work (feel free to leave ideas in the comments!), but it was tasty enough that I figured it was worth posting about.

To recreate what I made, you will need:

2 cups lentils
1 chicken boullion cube
1 bunch parsley
2 red onions
lots and lots of garlic
crushed red chili
red wine vinegar
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 can tomatoes
1 cup forbidden rice

Put your lentils in a big pot with the stems from your parsley, chicken boullion cube, and a few cloves of garlic (I actually forgot about the garlic part, but I think you should try it. The Jamie Oliver recipe suggests a bay leaf too I just noticed, so add that as well, even though I didn't). Pour 8 cups or so of boiling water over it - the recipes vary in their amounts, but lentils drink lots of water.

As they cook, mince a few cloves of garlic and put them in a big pot with some oil over medium-low heat. Stir for a minute, then add your cup of rice (I used forbidden rice, because I had some and thought it would look pretty, but regular rice will probably do as well). Stir to coat, then add 2 1/2 cups of boiling water and turn the heat to very low.

Now, chop up an onion and a few more cloves of garlic. Set a smaller pot on the stove with some oil and sautee your onion and garlic over low heat for a minute or two. Once the onion softens, add some crushed red chili and a few spoons of cinnamon. Cook for another minute or two, then crank the heat and splash in a glug of red wine vinegar. Stir well, lower the heat, and add the tomatoes. I know Jamie Oliver says to do this first, but when I did, it cooked way too long and became too thick. As discussed below, this part of the recipe is the most iffy. It could easily be replaced with something better.

Now you wait, and chop up your parsley. Put it in a bowl. Then, chop up your second onion and a few more cloves of garlic and set aside. Open your can of peppers and remove them one by one, being careful not to lose their delicious sauce. Chop them up.

Your lentils and rice should be finishing up around the same time. Drain the lentils, remove the parsley stems and bay leaf, if you used it, and return to the pot. Then add the rice and stir to combine.* In a small-medium pan, fry the onion and garlic. When they're soft, add the chipotle peppers and their sauce. Stir until heated through, then add to the lentils and rice and stir.  Then add the parsley. Top with the salsa (ie, the tomato cinnamon thingy).

Oh, and the chorizo! As mentioned, I added it the next day. Basically, I fried it, breaking it up, and then added the cold rice-lentils concoction to the pan. I guess you could either fry the chorizo earlier. Perhaps with the onions, garlic, and peppers. But the basic idea is, you mix everything together =-)

Here's the deal though. The recipe is flavorful, but not so well balanced. The chipotle peppers and chorizo dominate. The tomato-cinnamon was a nice touch flavor wise, but it sort of added to the melange of adobo and chorizo in a not especially inspired way. I'm not entirely sure what to do about that. I would prefer, actually, to go with Italian sausages, as per Jamie Oliver's recipe, but I just didn't have any. For the chorizo variant, I might try to improvise on the original Peruvian recipe idea, which involves frying all this up at the end. My plan is to try, perhaps for lunch tomorrow, frying up a little more chorizo, combining it in a bowl with some of the lentil-rice concoction (because I still have tons of it left), and then, get this - combining it with some egg and frying that. I think the egg might mellow out the other flavors some.

The bigger problem, for me, is that it was overly dry. The salsa added some liquid, but not nearly enough (perhaps because I cooked it too long). I think ideally you'd really get some kind of good gravy like thing going for this.

I dunno. It's a work in progress. But the dinner guests I fed it to raved about it, and I did find it quite tasty, albeit somewhat monotone as a main dish, so I wanna stick with the idea and see what I can do with it.

*I would consider adding some butter to the rice when it's done cooking, and letting it sit for a minute, then adding it to the lentils. Living in Turkey has converted me to well buttered rice. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fou lard (bacon scarf)

I have to admit, I find it strangely beautiful. I kind of want one.

(The above image is from here, and I also need to give credit to my friend Alaska Jane for alerting me to it in the first place)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Expat pepperoni pizza

It's funny; you miss different kinds of pork at different times, living in Turkey. Sometimes I feel like I would would sell my first-born child for some good chorizo, other times I heart for a succulent pork tenderloin. Lately, I've been jonesing hard for pepperoni pizza. You can get something that is called pepperoni pizza here, but I quickly realized that it was actually pepperoni flavored sucuk, ie, a fraud. When my dad was visiting recently, I asked him to bring me some pepperoni and he obliged with a stick of Boar's Head. My oven is not trustworthy enough to make a pizza from scratch, but I figured it could probably handle a doctored up frozen pizza. And today I decided to take the plunge.

The bodega by my place didn't have a plain cheese pizza, so I got their fancy Italian style pepperoni. Side note: isn't it actual trick that frozen pizza boxes play on you? The picture on the outside looks like this:

A trained eye will immediately realize that something is not quite right about this pepperoni.

But what is inside the box invariably looks like this:

It actually looks better with the plastic wrap on, is the sad thing.

I picked off the sucuk, which looked crappy, and the olives and mushrooms (didn't want em anyways), so I was left with the least appealing part of any frozen pizza; the crust, sauce, and cheese. At this point I realized, again, how dumb it is t buy frozen pizza. All you really want is the crust, and it will invariably be awful, as will the sauce, probably sickly sweet, and vastly inferior to a can of tomato paste with your own herbs mixed in. Oh well.

I grabbed a hunk of my cheddar cheese reserves from the freezer, carved it up, and sprinkled it over the top, followed by a chopped onion, a hefty sprinkle of what smells to me like oregano but could be thyme, and, of course, the pepperoni. One of the nice things about DIY pizza is that you can finally have as much pepperoni as you've been wanting all along. They were ready to hit the oven:

I then got caught up in a New Yorker article about Justin Bieber's manager (I don't have full blown Bieber fever; more like a touch of a flush? He's a guilty pleasure. Shut up.) and semi-forgot about what was in the oven. Ooops. Luckily I like my pizza a little burnt-y. Voila, le dinner!

The wine was on sale at Real recently. It's decent, but not great. Especially on the second day.

Not as good as the real thing, but not too bad either. I think regular, crappy pre-sliced pepperoni might actually be more like what I'm craving. But this was close enough to tide me over for the next two weeks, when I'm visiting Amereeka.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pork from Poland

Thinking of pork shortages, check out the bounty I received from my mother recently (she flew here from Poland):
A pile of kabanosy, similar to slim jims but much, much tastier (some of these are actually made of goose, not pork, but whatever);
A whole log of my favorite coldcut in the world, kindziuk. Porky, spicy deliciousness. I've only ever seen it in Poland, but it's a Lithuanian food. The internetz inform me that it's a fermented sausage that is smoked but not cooked. And that it's legendary for its longevity. I hadn't realized this, so mine is sliced and wrapped in separate little bundles in the freezer, along with the other pork I brought from the States.
The kabanosy, I've eaten already. They exude a powerful porky smell, and I was worried that they'd offend my cleaning lady.

In case you were worried

Slate explains the alleged upcoming pork shortage.

Friday, August 31, 2012

BMan's Bacon

One of my boyfriend's co-workers,* Brian Lagerstrom, makes his own bacon. I had never really thought of bacon as something you might make at home, but there you have it. So Boyfriend came home the other day with this exciting package:

And we fried it up and had it for breakfast.**

(We cut the slices in half so they'd fit in the pan. Some bacon curls up like those mood-reading red fish when you do that, but this stuff was solid. But not so thickly sliced that it took half an hour to cook. Just right.)

Oh wow was it good. I'm gonna be honest, despite keeping this blog for so long, I haven't spent much time thinking about the intricacies of bacon's flavor. How thickly sliced it is, what recipes you can use it in, sure, but the range of taste notes - not so much. I first began to consider it when we did a fry-off between the bacon from Rich's, the Polish store down the street from us, and some from Butcher and Larder.*** Then I noticed that sometimes when I get bacon at crappy diners, it tastes like shoe leather. So I've started paying more attention.

ANYWAYS. This bacon was delicious. The perfect balance of salty and sweet, with a wonderful meatiness to it. Toothsome and quite succulent. There were definitely some good juniper and herb flavors, but they weren't overpowering. It tasted like bacon. Bacon this good should just be fried and eaten, not used for cooking, so that it can be properly savoured. It's awesome.

If you want to acquire some of this fabulous stuff, head over to his etsy page, where you can get a pound for the astonishingly reasonable price of $7. Let me give you that link again: HERE BE TASTY BACON. Come, my child.

*If you're wondering, they both work at (Michelin-starred) Sepia.

**He fried the bacon, I made the eggs (scrambled eggs with green chilis and cheddar). You may be surprised to learn that I am terrible at frying bacon, and almost always burn it - especially if I'm cooking for my boyfriend.

***I probably should've posted about that. Not at all surprisingly (if you know us), I preferred the former, Better Half the latter. It wasn't really a scientific study though, because the Polish bacon was sliced super thin, and the Butcher and Larder bacon was quite thick, so that affected the eating experience. But flavor played a role as well. To me, the Polish bacon tasted... like what bacon should taste like. I dunno. To my sweet baby, it had a strong juniper flavor that he wasn't wild about. In contrast, B&L's pork tasted like it should to him, whereas to me it had a carmel kind of sweetness that I wasn't wild about. No offense to B&L, because I love their meats.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chorizo, chilies and potato tacos

Inspired by the tacos de papas con rajas at Big Star, a simple and pretty fantastic taco filling. I improvised quite a bit, as should you, but basically, I used:

1 pckg chorizo - Mexican, not Spanish style. It was basically a pork paste in a plastic tube.
2 medium-large russet potatoes
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 can diced green chilis
1 can chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (I am so bringing a few cans of those back to Turkey!)
Fresh cilantro

I peeled the potatoes and sliced them into matchsticks, chopped the onion into small slices, and diced the garlic. I put a little oil in a pan on medium heat and squeezed the chorizo onto it, stirring it around to break it up. Once it was crumbly and had exuded a nice amount of grease, I added the potatoes. Then I wondered if I should've removed the chorizo onto a paper towel first (but that always seems like such a pain in the ass to me), or if I should've added the onions and garlic sooner. So I tried to push the potatoes to the side a little, and stack the chorizo on top of it, and added the onion and garlic. I sprinkled the potatoes liberally with salt, which proved somewhat unnecessary, because the whole thing came out super salty (luckily still good though. But I think it'd be better dialed down a notch. My point being, go easy on the salt.). Then I stirred it all, with a sinking sense that it was headed for disaster. But what the hell, I opened the can of green chilis and added them, and the can of chipotle chilis. I sort of shook some of the sauce off them and chopped them up and threw em in. Gave the whole thing a few more stirs and decided it was ready. And you know what? It was awesome. I ate it on heated flour tortillas, garnished plentifully with cilantro. It has proved to be a fantastic packed lunch option, too - roll some up in a tortilla (no need to reheat) with or without cilantro, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and boom, portable lunch! For reheating at home, I think a frying pan would be the way to go, and maybe a squeeze of lime.

I know my timing guidelines aren't so helpful, but it really is a wing it sort of meal. What is crucial though, is that you not overcook the potatoes. You want them to have some crunch. You also want the onions and chilis somewhat firm. It really doesn't take long for it all to cook - its a simple, cheap, and plentiful dish. If you overlook it, it'll still be delicious, just maybe kinda mushy. At which point, I suggest you form it into patties and fry it on high heat. I bet that'd be awesome too.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bacon poetry

Seen on the facebook:

Kind of charming. It called to mind this delightful piece from McSweeney's. I used to find McSweeney's kind of obnoxious and irritating, but lately I have really enjoyed everything I've read from them. I wonder if I changed or they did.

Salami and Capers tomato sauce

I recently broke into my dwindling reserves (I'll be back in the US for the summer in just over a month now, so I can be less frugal with the pork supply) to try to recreate a pasta sauce that T* and I made way back when. Prior to that occasion, I had never tried cooking salami - it actually seemed like kind of an absurd idea to me. But that time, it turned out quite delicious. From what I could recall, it was basically sauteed salami hunks plus spicy tomato sauce and fresh parsley. But I don't especially like parsley, so I axed that part. I also used tomato paste instead of a can of tomatoes**, because I had a little jar of homemade tomato paste a family friend had made from the tomatoes in her garden that I was looking to use. So basically, I chopped up some salami and sauteed it with garlic, added the tomato paste, some crushed red pepper and oregano (or maybe it's thyme. I mean, it says it's thyme, but it really smells and tastes much more like oregano to me.) and cooked it for awhile. But then it didn't really taste all that amazig, so I added a few handfuls of capers! Capers are also something I do not think of as a thing one cooks, so it kind of made sense, category-wise.

Anyways, it was delicious. But to be honest, the salami was kind of the weakest link. This may be because of the particular salami I used, or because it is somewhat aged at this point. But the take-away lesson for me was actually that plain old tomato paste with some spices and capers is pretty delicious.

*I have decided that the 18th century convention of initials seems more dignified than calling him Better Half or my dude all the time.

**I am getting kind of paranoid about canned tomatoes. I keep hearing these rumors that they're really bad for you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

BaconCookbook for iPad

My friend Rowan sent me a link to this piece in Gizmodo about a bacon cookbook for the iPad. I haven't posted in eons, so I figured I'd pass it on. But I have no idea if it's any good or anything. =-)