Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tomato & Bulgur Soup

One of my favorite grains, bulgur, quite often works its way into soups to beef 'em up this time of year. This winter, I've gravitated to this very simple and hearty tomato and bulgur soup that I adapted from a NY Times recipe, and have taken a quart jar filled with it into work for almost a week's worth of lunches on a few occasions. Not only is it better the next day, or the day after that, but it's filling and satisfying without being heavy. It also absorbs additions marvelously: one day I may bring in some chickpeas pilfered from the previous night's chana masala, or a quarter-cup of cooked, crumbled Italian sausage, or some leftover pesto. Practically anything stirs in and mingles well with the tomato soup. As is, it's wonderful; at first sip it may taste *too* simple but you soon find that you can't stop eating it. It's a good'un.

Tomato & Bulgur Soup
Makes 6 servings

Adapted from the NY Times

*1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
*1 small red onion, finely chopped
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*2 tablespoons tomato paste
*1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
*1 pinch sugar
*1/2 cup coarse bulgur
*4 cups water 
*Squeeze of fresh lemon juice per serving
*Chopped fresh mint, to garnish
*Crumbled feta, to garnish

Pulse the tomatoes to a coarse puree in a food processor and set aside. Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low and add the onions with a good pinch of salt. Saute 5-6 minutes, then add the garlic and pepper flakes, and cook about another minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and bring to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add the bulgur and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, season with pinches of salt & pepper and cover partially. Simmer for about 45 minutes, check for seasoning, then ladle the soup into bowls with squeezes of lemon and sprinkle with mint and feta. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Joe Beef's Lentils Like Baked Beans

I can't believe it has taken me this long to write up a post about Joe Beef's lentils! Joe Beef is an incredible (world class, really) restaurant in Montreal in which my husband and I have been lucky to dine a few times, and once I realized there was a Joe Beef cookbook a few years ago, I immediately got my hands on it. Of course most of the dishes in the book I leave to the experts in the JB kitchen to tangle with, but the recipe for lentils like baked beans has become a mainstay in my rotation. In the summer, it's one of my go-to dishes for any and all cookouts, backyard parties, potlucks; in winter, it's one of our favorite comfort foods. The lil' legumes are absolutely delicious, boasting big notes of mustard, maple, and cider vinegar, and when you top a heaping ladleful with a fried egg you've got a masterful breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I tweaked the recipe in the cookbook to fit my palate; for example, they had listed two TABLESPOONS of powdered Coleman's mustard, which I have tried and think is just...way too much... but feel free to add more or less of any ingredient to suit your personal tastes!

Joe Beef's Lentils Like Baked Beans
Makes 4 entree-size servings

*3 slices good bacon, diced
*1 small onion, finely diced
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
*4 cups water
*Heaping 1/4 cup ketchup
*1/4 cup maple syrup
*1 tablespoon sweet BBQ sauce (I use a maple BBQ sauce, naturally)
*1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
*1 tablespoon dry mustard (Coleman's)
*1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground pepper
*1 bay leaf
*Salt, to taste

Heat the oven to 350. In a dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium until it's nearing crispness, then add the onions and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more, then stir in everything else besides the salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven. Bake 45-60 minutes (until the lentils are tender - timing depends a lot on their age). Taste for seasoning and then serve hot, ideally topped with an egg.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Meatball Cookies

My noted culinary genius pal Michael G has been baking up hordes of holiday cookies lately and out of all the goodies these "meatball" cookies most captured my attention, so after I secured the recipe I immediately set out to bake a batch. They were just as delicious as they looked, and I'm thrilled to have them in my cookie repertoire now. The scintillating spices mixed with notes of coffee, cocoa and orange conjure up a particularity warm and enveloping Christmas spirit, especially when they're paired with a mug of holiday blend coffee on a chilled December Sunday evening. May you enjoy them just as much as I do!

Meatball Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

Recipe adapted from my friend Michael G

*2 cups flour
*3/4 cup sugar
*1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
*1 tablespoon instant espresso
*1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
*1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon cloves
*1/4 teaspoon allspice
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*6 tablespoons unsalted butter
*1/2 cup milk
*1 egg
*Scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
*1/4 teaspoon orange extract
*1/2 teaspoon orange zest
*1/2 cup broken walnuts

Heat the oven to 375. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso, spices, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and blend well. Grate in the butter and work with your fingers until a crumbly mixture is achieved.

Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, extracts, zest and walnuts.  Stir with a large wooden spoon to combine until the dough is sticky and damp. Cover the dough and refrigerate for a few hours.

Scoop by the teaspoonful and shape into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10-11 minutes or until they are done. Let cool completely before glazing with a mix of hot milk, confectioners sugar and flavoring (I have flavored it with spiced rum or cocoa).