Thursday, December 9, 2010

Deborah Madison's Lentil Soup

This is getting serious.

Our bathroom has smelled like a hot Italian sausage for almost a week now. And I am guessing I'm alone in this problem.

Several days ago, I didn't feel much like cooking so I got a bunch of broccoli rabe, some dried pasta, a jar of Rao's marinara sauce (the best jarred pasta sauce ever), and one hot chicken Italian sausage. I boiled water in my rice cooker for the pasta, and set up the electric skillet by the bathroom sink. While the rigatoni plumped in salted water, I cooked the sausage in the skillet and then steamed the greens in their juices. It was a lovely, easy, spicy meal.

The next morning as I made coffee, I noticed that in addition to the familiar smell of nutty, bitter coffee grinds giving off steam in my Chemex coffee pot, that there was also the very strong smell of pork casing, garlic and oil. Yuk.

So I flung open the window, despite this weeks freezing temperatures, and aimed to air the smell out. Well, that did not work and I was left with a freezing cold pot of coffee and a runny nose.

I have tried scented candles, eucalyptus oil, scrubbing down all surfaces, hot showers to steam it out, the window is permanently agape and several batches of chocolate chip cookies baked in the toaster oven. It lingers on.

I am at the end of my rope. As of now, there is an indefinite ban on any sausages or stinky foods, and in order to combat the cold air constantly circulating in the bathroom, a pot of lentil soup was called for. Rich, spicy and warming, never smelly.

This afternoon, if you're wondering what I might be up to? I'll be furiously scrubbing the walls and tiles wearing a pair of hot pink latex gloves. Because you can hide, but you can't run. 

I'll get you yet.

2 tbs. olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion
3 large garlic cloves
salt and freshly milled pepper
3 tbs. tomato paste
 1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Chopped celery leaves and parsley

Heat the oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add the onion and saute until it begins to color around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile mince or pound the garlic in a mortar with 1 tsp. salt. Work the tomato paste into the onion, then add garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves, and parsley and cook for 3 minutes. Add the lentils, 2 quarts water, and 1/2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

Stir in the mustard and vinegar. Taste and add more of either as needed. Check the salt, season with plenty of pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve, garnished with the celery leaves and parsley. The longer the soup sits before serving the better it will taste.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Molly Wizenberg's Buckwheat Pancakes

Sometimes when embarking upon a recipe I have more than one goal in mind. 

This morning my objective was to both, make Molly' Wizenberg's superbly delicious buckwheat pancakes, and, avoid going out in the cold by using up what seems to be a hundred, nearly empty jars and boxes of food that keep falling off shelves and out of the refrigerator. 

For example. Earlier this week, I opened the fridge and a can of ginger ale fell painfully on my foot. Then five minutes later Chris opened the fridge and that same can fell on his foot. Also painfully. So today instead of buying buttermilk and milk, and using very small amounts of both, and then shoving the cartons in an already crowded mini-fridge, I used the remains of some powdered buttermilk and the last of the Greek yogurt. And instead of buying a new bag of all-purpose flour, I used cake flour instead.

I am going to post Molly's original recipe, which is the lightest and most-moist-buckwheat-pancake-recipe I have come across, and then my "leftovers" version of her recipe, which by accident became a low-fat version of the former.

My thought for today is this. Before you brush your teeth and put on cold jeans, a scarf, jacket, mittens and a hat, and count your change, and make a grocery list, and head out into the cold while someone else is still cozy in bed, look a little harder at what you've already got.

It may be just as good.

Molly Wizenberg's Buckwheat Pancakes

2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. milk (preferably not low-fat or non-fat)
1 large egg, separated
2 tbs. (1 oz.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
vegetable oil, for brushing griddle
pure maple syrup, for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Pour the buttermilk and milk into a medium bowl. (A 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup also works well; you can measure right into it.) Whisk the egg white into the the milk mixture. In a small bowl, use a fork to beat the yolk with the melted butter. Whisk the yolk mixture into the milk mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once, and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be somewhat thick.

Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Brush the skillet with oil. To make sure it's hot enough, wet your fingers and sprinkle a few droplets of water onto the pan. If they sizzle it's ready to go.

Ladle the batter in scant 1/4 cupfuls into the skillet, taking care not to crowd them. When the underside of the pancakes is nicely browned and the the top starts to bubble and look set around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes, flip them. Cook until the second side has browned, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Re-oil the skillet and repeat with more batter. If you find that the pancakes are browning too quickly in subsequent batches,  dial the heat back to medium.

Serve warm with maple syrup.

Yields: 8 to 10 pancakes

Erica's "leftover" low-fat version

2/3 cup unbleached cake or all-purpose flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup water plus 3/4 cup dried buttermilk (3/4 milk would be a fine substitute if you don't have powdered buttermilk)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. 0% fat Fage yogurt 
1 large egg
2 tbs. grapeseed oil (or neutral oil like canola or vegetable)
Coconut oil, for brushing on the griddle 
Jam and yogurt, for serving

Whisk together all the dry ingredients including the powdered buttermilk, if you have it. Then measure the water (or milk) into a Pyrex measuring cup, add the egg and grapeseed oil, whisk together and slowly mix into the dry ingredients. Then fold in the yogurt until fully incorporated. Get a skillet hot and use about 1 tbs. coconut oil per batch. Cook the pancakes per Molly's instructions above. Serve hot with whatever you've got left in the fridge. Jam and yogurt or maple syrup is good. Or if you have some apples, peel, core and slice them, throw them in a pot with a little cinnamon and a couple tbs. water. Cover and cook until soft. Spoon hot over pancakes.