A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Monday, February 15, 2010


We had a progressive dinner with Mary Ellen and friends last night. Appetizers and wine were at our place, then we progressed over to her house for the main course.

My repertoire was limited to foods I had on hand--I did NOT want to go to the store on Valentine's Day while people were scrambling for flowers and chocolate at the last minute. I ended up with marinated carrots; empanadas with a filling of spinach, currants, pine nuts, and a little goat cheese to bind; and a frittata with green chiles.

I boiled the carrots in salted water until barely tender, then marinated them for a few hours in olive oil, wine vinegar, fresh thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. They were a nice change from richer things, and colorful as well.

Elaine made a fabulous lamb-meatball-and-spaghetti dish with Middle Eastern seasonings. She was on a TV cooking show and won a prize for it. Maybe she'll share the recipe here!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Indian Lamb and Garbanzos

I've really missed cooking these last few months. I've had a lot of evening work -- mayoral debates, late nights in the office -- and haven't had time for the kind of messy, unfocused cooking I like to do. We've had a lot more pasta dishes and tuna melts for dinner. I've made good stuff, and so has Lawson, but it's been different. It'll get better after the April city election.

Anyway, last night was a completely sprawling, right-brain, organic (in the procedural sense) night of cooking, and it was wonderful.

We were going to have grilled wings, naan and salad, but it started raining. Bad weather for an outdoor fire.

I'd already made the naan dough, so I decided to build a meal around that instead. I started cutting up some lamb we needed to use, leafing through Indian cookbooks, seeing what we had and what would taste good.

Here's what we ended up with, clockwise from left:

- Swiss chard sauteed with garlic and chiltepins, finished with a big squeeze of Meyer lemon juice
- lamb with garbanzos
- Boddingtons Pub Ale
- naan
- yellow lentils with spices (cinnamon, ginger, garlic and coriander, mostly)
- pickled okra

Lawson made the spice blend for the lentils. I made the rest.

The lamb-garbanzo dish grew out of a lamb recipe in an old cookbook called "Classics of Indian Cooking." It was called Cumin Lamb but I left out the cumin, added garbanzos, left out the bell peppers, and more, so it really is a completely different dish. You could use a teaspoon or two of cumin seeds in the spice paste; I didn't use them because there was a lot of cumin in the yellow lentils.

Lamb and Garbanzos
Blend in blender until smooth:
  • 1" piece of ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • cardamom seeds from 10 pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 20 almonds
  • 1 t chile powder or cayenne
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • stock as needed to moisten (I used lamb cut from the shoulder, so I simmered the scraps and bones for an hour or so beforehand and used that. Chicken stock would work, too. Leftover lamb stock goes to the dog.)
Heat in casserole or Dutch oven with lid:
  • 3 T butter
Saute until golden brown:
  • 1 onion, diced
Add and brown:
  • 1/2 lb or more lean lamb, cubed
Add the spice mixture and fry it for a while, making sure it doesn't burn on the bottom. Add:
  • pinch of saffron (10 threads?)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • Stock to moisten but not make soupy
Cover and cook on low until lamb is very tender, 75 minutes or more, adding stock or yogurt as needed.

The beans keep this from being too rich, but it stills needs to be paired with some bright flavors and green foods to balance it out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tofu with Peppers and Pecans

Hey, this is a really delicious tofu recipe. I can't remember where I modified it from, but we had it last week and really enjoyed it. Dad served one of his home-grown salads with it.

Tofu with Peppers and Pecans

1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vermouth or sherry
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice or rice vinegar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Red pepper flakes to taste
¾ cup vegetable broth

Mix above ingredients for seasoning sauce and set aside.

Prepare 1 tub firm tofu and set aside (cut into slices, drain, pat dry, brush lightly with oil, and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes per side.) Cut into strips or cubes.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 red, green, or yellow bell peppers, cut in strips
4 green onions, cut in 1-inch diagonals
¾ cup pecan halves

Sauté peppers and green onions in oil for 2 minutes. Add pecans and sauté 2 minutes more. Add seasoning sauce and stir until boiling and thickened. Stir in tofu and heat. Serve with rice.