Food, Wine, Rock & Roll

Part food blog, part jam session

Curried Lentil Soup

Posted by Becca On March - 24 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

My husband’s great-grandmother was a vegetarian and raised him on lentils; he LOVES them.  Until finding this recipe, I had never cooked lentils or made a true “from scratch” home-made soup.  However, what attracted me to this recipe was neither the draw of making my own soup or indulging his love of lentils.  It was the curry; it was an opportunity to indulge MY love of Indian food, especially since I no longer live in a place where good Indian food is available.  The other things were just a bonus.

This is yet another super easy, quick (prep-work), and SUPER inexpensive recipe.  I realize this is becoming a pattern in these posts but I have no doubts that I’m not the only one who is becoming more and more conscientious about my budget.  It is also vegetarian, which makes it very healthy.  It also makes great leftovers.  Easy, cheap, quick, satisfying, and healthy – what more can you ask for?

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped (I start with julienned carrots to save time)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped, divided
  • 2 tbs. (or more) curry powder
  • 1 c. green lentils
  • 4 1/4 c. (or more) water, divided
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. butter

Preparation

Heat 1 tbs. of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add the onions and carrots.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Add half of the chopped garlic.  Stir until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer.

Add 2 tbsp. of curry powder.  Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils and 4 cups of water.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree the chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of water, remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil, and remaining garlic in a food processor.

Add the chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired.

Add water by 1/4 cupful to thin to desired consistency.

Serve with warm naan (Indian flatbread) and lemon wedges.

Crockpot Irish Stew

Posted by Becca On March - 16 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

This stew is incredibly easy, quite inexpensive, and makes a hearty, filling, and incredibly satisfying meal.  It also makes great left-overs; the flavors will continue to mingle and grow richer over time.

This is a perfect dish when you are short on time and/or cash.  I generally like to make it over a weekend or early in the week so that we have quick, filling left-overs to eat when things get too hectic during the week.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled & sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 lbs. red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 small bay leaves
  • 1 tbs. crushed rosemary
  • 1 tbs. thyme
  • 1 tbs. marjoram
  • 1/2 tbs. oregano
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 lbs. boneless lamb, cubed (you can also use beef, if preferred.  If so, use a roast cut)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 c. quick-cooking tapioca (optional for thickened gravy)

Preparation

Place first 8 ingredients in crock pot.  Pour chicken broth over all.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Sprinkle lamb cubes with salt and pepper.  Place in large skillet and cook until just beginning to brown on all sides.

Place browned lamb and mushrooms in crock pot.

Stir in tapioca.

Cook on low for an additional 3-4 hours until vegetables are tender and lamb is cooked through.

Serve with warm bread.

As a returning college student, one of my more recent concerns is super healthy food that can be cooked quickly, makes a ton of food (left-overs are my friend), is super filling, and is really easy on the budget.  In the area in which I live, that means anything vegetarian.  In this quest for all the above mentioned foods, I have also discovered my new favorite vegetable: bok choy (Chinese cabbage), which is very inexpensive, incredibly healthy, and very flavorful and filling.

This recipe is similar to Bibimbap, in that is uses many of the same ingredients and has a very similar flavor profile.  I view it as a “stripped-down” version of bibimbap, though, & turn to it when I am really short on time.  Served over hot cooked rice, this dish never fails to please.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp. sriracha (Thai chile sauce)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 3 tbs. sesame oil, divided
  • 1 14 oz. pkg, firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 lb. bok choy, roughly chopped (I prefer baby bok choy, also known as Shanghai bok choy)
  • 2 c. shittake mushrooms, sliced
  • Hot cooked rice

Preparation

Cut tofu into bite-sized cubes.  Place cubes on an absorbent towel and cover.  Allow tofu to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  The towel will absorb the excess liquid from the tofu, which will prevent it from falling apart while cooking.

Whisk together cornstarch and 1 tsp. of water in a small bowl.  Whisk in soy sauce, ginger, chile sauce, garlic, and 1 tsp. of sesame oil.  Set aside.

Heat 1 tbs. of sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Stir-fry tofu until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl and cover with a towel to keep warm.

Add 1 tbs. of sesame oil to heated skillet or wok.  Stir-fry bok choy until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add to large bowl, covering to keep warm.

Add remaining 1 tbs. of sesame oil to the pan.  Stir-fry mushrooms until tender, about 2 minutes.

Return tofu and bok choy to pan.  Stir in soy sauce mixture and stir-fry about 1 minute, until hot.

Serve with additional soy sauce and gojuchang paste over hot cooked rice.

Sausage Hash

Posted by Becca On February - 11 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Looking for a dish that is super simple and inexpensive to make, warms your insides with its Cajun spice and comfort, and leaves amazing left-overs that can be quickly reheated throughout the week?  Well, look no more because this is your dish!  I think Andouille sausage is amazing for a number of reasons.  It is such a versatile protein that can be mixed with any number of veggies and/or starches (and other proteins) and you have an instant spicy Cajun delight.  It’s also pretty inexpensive, which is always a plus in my book.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 links Andouille sausage, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preparation

Over medium heat, saute the potatoes and onions in butter until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage, bell peppers, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and continue frying until the sausage is browned, about 5 minutes.

Add more salt and pepper to taste.

 

Green Chile and Pork Stew

Posted by Becca On February - 4 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

I love this dish for so many reasons.  Not only is it the epitome of comfort food, the slow heat of the green chiles in this dish make it something that will keep you warm and satisfied.  I also love it because the poblano peppers and jalapenos immediately take me back to the southwest where everything has that green chile flavor.

This meal is also perfect because all the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to work with.  It’s a recipe that requires very little prep time, fills your home with wonderful aromas all day, and is completely satisfying.  It also makes great leftovers so you can continue to enjoy it throughout the week.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 10 oz. package of frozen whole kernel corn
  • 3 poblano chile peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & chopped (I like to include a few seeds for a little extra heat)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried crushed oregano
  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 3 zucchini, halved lengthwise & cut into slices
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro

Preparation

In a large skillet, heat the cooking oil and brown the meat.  Drain off the fat.

Place potatoes, onions, frozen corn, poblano peppers, chopped jalapenos, garlic, salt, and oregano in a 5-6 quart slow cooker.  Place meat over vegetables.  Pour broth over all.

Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours (high heat 3-4 hours).

Stir in zucchini.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes on high heat.

Stir in cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Bibimbap

Posted by Becca On January - 28 - 201220 COMMENTS

My husband and I both love Korean food.  When we lived in a more metropolitan area, we were able to go out about once a month to a great little Korean restaurant and eat until we thought we would explode.  Unfortunately, the area in which we now live does not have a single Korean restaurant.  We were both heart-broken until he decided to find a good recipe for our favorite Korean dish: bibimbap.  Now, this is a dish I usually make once a week.

Bibimbap is incredibly easy to make.  There are several different forms of bibimbap (hot stone-bowl, sanchae) and many different recipes that call for  a wide variety of ingredients; it is rare to find two identical recipes for this dish.  I spent a good bit of time experimenting with several recipes until I came across this one.  It is the one which most closely resembles the dish we used to get at our favorite Korean restaurant.

This version is vegetarian BUT I have also used rib-eye (1/2 lb., thinly sliced) instead of tofu and it is equally tasty.  I have also been thinking about experimenting with shrimp, chicken, and/or pork.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger, grated
  • 8 oz. firm tofu, cut into thin slices
  • 1 1/2 zucchini, shredded
  • 1 lb. baby bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • handful of julienned carrots
  • handful of bean sprouts
  • eggs (optional)
  • hot rice
  • gojuchang red pepper paste (optional) – can be found in most international markets or on Amazon.com
  • rice wine vinegar (optional) – I don’t use this but some people like it

Preparation

Cut tofu into thin slices.  Place slices on an absorbent towel and cover.  Allow tofu to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  The towel will absorb the excess liquid from the tofu, which will prevent it from falling apart while cooking.

Combine the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a plastic seal-able bag.  Add the tofu and coat.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Warm 1/2 tablespoon of the sesame oil into a large wok or skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook until they are tender and soft.  Set aside in a large bowl (large enough to hold the other ingredients when ready) and cover with a towel to keep warm.

Warm 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil in the wok or skillet and add the shredded zuccini and chopped bok choy.  Cook until it is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the handful of julienned carrots and cook for 1-2 minutes (carrots should still be firm and crunchy).  Add to large bowl, covering to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, bring a few cups of water to a boil.  Add the bean sprouts and cook for about a minute.  Drain in a colander and add bean sprouts to large bowl with other cooked ingredients.

Increase heat in wok or skillet to high.  When hot, add the tofu.  Cook, stirring constantly until the tofu is browned on all sides.  Add to large bowl.

Optional:  In a medium non-stick skillet, add remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil over medium heat.  Cook the eggs until the whites have set, but the yolk is still runny.

Place hot cooked rice in the bottom of bowls.  Add all cooked ingredients over hot cooked rice, placing the fried eggs on top.

Break the yolk and stir all ingredients until well mixed.

Serve with gojuchang paste and/or rice wine vinegar if desired.

Moussaka

Posted by Becca On January - 21 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

This is not a recipe for someone who is new to cooking or isn’t willing to spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen; be prepared to spend around 2 hours working on the prep & another hour in the actual cooking.  In the end, though, the time and effort are worth it, especially if you love Greek food (like I do) and can’t always go out for it.  Though it would be more “Greek” to use ground lamb in this recipe, I most often use ground beef and have found it to be just as tasty as it is with lamb.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1 qt. milk
  • 3 eggs
  • nutmeg
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs (I like to use the herb & garlic)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Peel the eggplants and cut them into slices about 1/2 inch thick.  Brown the slices quickly in 4 tablespoons of the butter.  Set aside & cover to keep warm.

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet and cook the onions until they are brown.

Add the ground meat and cook 10 minutes.

Combine the tomato paste with the wine, parsley, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  Stir this mixture into the meat and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove the mixture from heat.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Make a white sauce by melting 8 tablespoons of butter and blending in the flour, stirring with a whisk.

Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add it gradually to the butter/flour mixture, stirring constantly.

When the mixture is thickened and smooth, remove it from the heat.

Cool slightly and stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, and ricotta cheese.

Grease an 11×16 inch pan and sprinkle the bottom lightly with bread crumbs.

Arrange alternate layers of eggplant and meat sauce in the pan, sprinkling each layer with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Pour the ricotta cheese sauce over the top and bake one hour, or until top is golden.

Remove from the oven and cool 20-30 minutes before serving.


The Times They are A-Changin’

Posted by Becca On January - 14 - 20122 COMMENTS

If any of you are regular followers, you will have noticed my long hiatus from this blog.  For that, I do apologize.

The last year of my life has been filled with some significant changes; some were not so great, while others have been amazing.  They all have brought their own challenges and adventures.

The most significant change in my life has been the most challenging but also the most amazing.  I left my teaching job in Texas to pursue my PhD in Theatre History and now live in Southern Illinois.  Yeah; it’s been a big change.  If I thought I didn’t have time to cook and maintain a blog while teaching, it’s been nothing like the last six months of my life.  The few hours a day I don’t have to be in front of a computer are very precious and I take full advantage of them.

On the other hand, the opportunity to live in and experience a different part of the country has been such a wonderful adventure (especially for my culinary skills)!  The region in which we now live has been referred to as “Little Egypt” because of its fertile soil and abundant farmland.

For the first time in my life, I live somewhere that has a REAL open-air farmer’s market!  It runs from April to November and is amazing.  Within a week of moving to the area, the Saturday morning farmer’s market became an integral part of my weekly grocery shopping.  The produce is incredible (and inexpensive), the people are friendly and helpful, and there is a sense of community that pervades the market.  I have learned more about the importance of ecological farming and supporting farmer’s markets in the last few months than I ever thought I would.  Because the produce is so fresh, tasty, and inexpensive I am slowly incorporating more and more vegetarian/vegan dishes into my repertoire and it has been great (so, be on the look-out for some of these great recipes)!

Another fun adventure to living in this region is the fact that it is surrounded by wineries.  The rich soil that is so conducive to farming is also perfect for the growing of grapes, as is the warm summer and cool fall weather.  Southern Illinois wines are generally on the sweeter side but are unique and quite wonderful.  I have spent a few beautiful Saturday afternoons exploring the multiple wineries scattered throughout the area.  Much like the farmer’s market, the people who run the wineries are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable.  The drive is always stunning and the wineries themselves are relaxing and fun.  As an added bonus, it is not uncommon for local bands to play at these wineries.

Though I now REALLY live in an area that was practically custom made for this blog, I do have to admit that the long hiatus probably won’t be a rarity.  I am closing in on the end of my winter break and will soon be back in the trenches of school work.  I will make a more concerted effort to post more often, though they may be much more abbreviated.  I may take a different direction and simply focus more on recipes as opposed to my previous format.  I will, however, try to include some posts about the local wines.

For now, thank you to those who have stuck with me.  Hopefully, I can return to this blog more often than I have in the recent past.

Red Beans & Rice

Posted by Becca On February - 8 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

I love Cajun food and could eat it at least once a week for the rest of my life.  There’s just something about the heat in the spices of Cajun that I find comforting.  It’s perfect on a cold night or on a hot day with a cold beer.  For years I had used boxed or bagged mixed when I made red beans and rice.  I had found some brands that I really loved (Tony Chachere or Mahatma) and still use when time is a concern but was very excited when I found this recipe and could make it from home-made.  The first time I made this, I had some left-over red beans with pork bone that I had made a few days before and decided to use them instead of the canned red beans.  However, in later versions, I have used canned red beans and it is still delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Andouille sausage (chicken or pork; I have even used venison sausage)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 c. hot cooked rice

Preparation

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add sausage and onion mix to pan.  Saute 4 minutes.

Add Cajun seasoning, salt, oregano, and garlic to the pan.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Partially mash the beans with a fork.  Add beans, 1/4 cup of water, and tomatoes to pan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until thickened.

Remove from heat.  Stir in pepper.

Serve over hot cooked rice.

Drinks

This is another dish that doesn’t totally work with a wine.  The heartiness of the beans, sausage, and rice demand something a little bolder – something like a nice German beer.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love German beers; I have not yet come across one that I don’t like.  My favorite beer for this dish is a Bitburger Premium.  This is a brewing company that has been family owned and continuously brewing since 1817 so they have had a little bit of time to perfect this amazingly delicious brew.

Music

When making Cajun food, what could possibly be better to listen to than a band straight out of Louisiana?  Dirtfoot is self-described as “the only Front Porch, Whiskey Swillin, Foot Stomping, Gypsy, Punk, Country, Grumble, Boogie band in the land.”  Once you hear their totally unique sound, you will realize that this is the absolute best description for their rollicking, growling, eclectic, incredibly dance-able music.  My favorite album to throw on is their first album, Entertain Me.

Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

Posted by Becca On January - 25 - 20113 COMMENTS

As I’ve mentioned before, I love mushrooms and could eat them every day.  I also love pasta dishes.  So when I found this recipe that combined both of my loves, I had to try it.  The original recipe called for a packaged mix of pre-sliced mushrooms called the “exotic mushroom blend” (shiitake, cremini, & oyster mushrooms).  The only thing my grocery store had that came close to this was the freeze-dried mushrooms that needed to be reconstituted, but they did have fresh baby bellas (also known as cremini) and fresh shiitake mushrooms.  I decided to go with the fresh mushrooms and, of course, was very happy with the results.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups  thinly sliced fresh shiitake & cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper.  Cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat.

Combine the mushroom mixture, pasta, whipping cream, cheese, and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat.

Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Garnish with minced fresh parsley, if desired.

Drinks

This dish is is best described as “creamy goodness.”  To balance out the whipping cream and cheese combined with the earthiness of the fresh mushrooms, you need a wine that is subtle and sweet.  I like to turn to Master Plan Vineyard’s Chardonnay for this balance.  It has just a hint of oak that complements the fresh mushrooms beautifully and a moderate sweetness that reminds me of fresh apples or pears.

Music

I think that a creamy pasta dish should be a staple meal in every household across the country.  It’s something that is comforting and familiar.  This one adds a little twist to the standard by incorporating a variety of fresh mushrooms that are not always found in this type of dish.  Since it is something that I view as a staple with a twist, I like to put on an album that is, in my mind, a staple of the rock world: U2’s The Joshua Tree. It is one of the highest selling albums of all time, making it something familiar and comforting.  At the same time, though, I never fail to discover new and surprising things every time I hear it.