Tag Archives: vegetarian

Red lentil coconut soup (plus a bonus feature!)

Now that I’m getting back into my Rouxbe cooking lessons, it was time for some more tasty practice. Today’s lesson: submersion cooking techniques (poaching, simmering, and boiling), as demonstrated by making a soup. There were a number of soups to choose from, but I settled on the red lentil coconut soup. (For those not on Rouxbe, you can see the slightly-modified recipe here.)

(Much more detail on my experience behind the cut… plus a bonus feature!)

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Tasty knife practice (and a bonus!)

As many of you know, I’ve subscribed to a lifetime membership at Rouxbe, and right now I’m going through their Cook’s Roadmap: Level 1 course. For a while, I’d stalled out, because I couldn’t really do any of the practical tasks while my kitchen was being renovated. But by yesterday we finally had things under control enough that I could start cooking again, and that, my friends, is what I did.

The Cook’s Roadmap starts really simple: with how to handle a chef’s knife. As some of you might recall, I’d managed to acquire a chef’s knife from a friend of mine and even practice with it a little before the renovations started. I skipped out on Rouxbe’s task to cut a whole lotta celery, both because I’d already done it before as part of another course and because I figured I’d get plenty of cutting practice with the next two tasks:

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Gnocchi

So, here’s the thing. We had a lovely Christmas dinner with a good friend’s family and brought home quite a lot of leftovers: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. Most of it got eaten in fairly short order, as tasty the second time round as the first. But the mashed potatoes… they didn’t reheat very well. And we had a fairly large container of them. I didn’t want to waste them, but I didn’t really want to eat them, either. What to do, what to do…

I did as I always did in this circumstances, I asked The Google. And The Google told me a whole bunch of things I could do with leftover mashed potatoes, but the one that really piqued my interest was gnocchi. See, gnocchi are my favorite pasta, bar none, and if I could do this properly, life would be sweet indeed. (Sweet and savory. Because gnocchi are best with butter and sage.)

A tour of quite a number of cooking sites revealed that this was going to be more “test and see how it turns out” than I’m used to. I prefer to use precise recipes, and this one… well, this was gonna be anything but.

In any event, I took the 2-ish cups of (cold) mashed potatoes, cracked in an egg, and stirred that around for a while. Then I added a cup of flour, mixed it some more, figured it wasn’t quite enough, and added a little more. Dumped the whole thing out and kneaded it for a while until it became (as the recipes instructed) a sticky dough. I had no idea whether it was too sticky, too smooth, or whatever, but I figured if I could roll it out into strips, it was good enough.

And roll I did! Into about 8 “snakes,” which I then cut up into little “pillows,” that seemed to be pretty delicate. Didn’t bother running them over a gnocchi board (because I don’t own one) or the tines of a fork (because they seemed too delicate), so I just left them as-is. Popped them into boiling water in three batches, and boiled until they rose to the top and then another 2-3 minutes past that, about 5 minutes overall. Drained for a while on paper towels, then served with butter and sage.

They were pretty soft (though they’re firming up as they cool down) and very filling, as gnocchi tend to be. I have no idea why they were so soft: too much or too little flour, too long or too short a cooking time, too much handling… no clue. But it worked out.

In the end, this isn’t the sort of recipe I’d make every day — because I have no interest in boiling up potatoes solely to use as gnocchi when store-bought gnocchi is both more convenient and better quality — but if I ever find myself with some extra mashed potatoes lying around, it’s certainly the sort of thing I can see myself making again. Success!

Batch cooking

Last week I started working full-time, and I quickly realized I had a problem: what to do for lunches? My office is the heart of downtown, with four major food courts within a block, not to mention the on-street restaurants. It’s really, really easy for me to just plunk down $7-10 dollars and grab something. But that’s a way to spend money fast, and I wanted to have other options.

Due to my social schedule, I’m not always home in the evening for dinner, which means I’m not always guaranteed leftovers. And I wanted something better than just sandwiches. Enter batch cooking.

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Curried butternut squash and red lentil soup

Oh, my God, this one came out fantastic. Definitely a keeper. A lot.

I got the recipe by searching around the net for butternut squash recipes, since I love butternut squash and now’s the time for it. I stuck pretty close to the recipe. I think the only change I made was using pre-mixed curry powder instead of the turmeric in Martha’s curry powder recipe, and I also replaced the fresh ginger with 1/8 tsp ground ginger, added in with the rest of the spices. (Both substitutions because I didn’t have the product at hand.) Also, instead of the two 14.5-oz cans of broth and 2 cups of water, I used one 10-oz can of condensed chicken broth and then filled the can about three and a half times with water, which I think works out to the same volume of liquid.

Oh, and at the very end, I used a hand blender to make it a puréed soup instead of a broth-plus-chunks soup.

People, this thing is phenomenal. It’s a perfect soup for a cold fall evening. Seriously. You owe it to yourselves to make this.

Tomato and white bean panade

Today I learned how to cook panade (a stew thickened with bread or breadcrumbs). Because the weather was so miserable out today and I didn’t feel like doing groceries, I decided to find a recipe I could make using stuff I already had in the pantry, and found this recipe for tomato and white bean panade. I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, except with less added salt (I don’t think I added any salt, actually) because I was using condensed chicken broth. Also, I left out the star anise, because who has star anise floating around, really? (If you have star anise in your pantry, don’t tell me. Leave me my illusions.) I actually did have fresh parmesan in the fridge, which was a very nice touch (as opposed to the packaged stuff I usually use, which isn’t great but lasts forever).

I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I was using my normal around-the-house bread, which is a whole-wheat flax bread. But actually, it turned out very tasty. It’s far from the most appetizing-looking dish you’ll ever see, but it’s filling, hearty, and wonderful for a yucky-weather night like this. The bread not only turned mushy but dissolved, so that Marc got a third of the way through his bowl before remarking “I haven’t hit a bread piece yet.” (Oh, yes, darling, you did. You just didn’t realize it. Mwahaha…)

I’d make this again. Very tasty, very filling, and aside from the parmesan, very cheap.

Apple and onion stuffin’ muffins

When I saw a friend of mine post pictures of her own “stuffin’ muffins” (stuffing in muffin form), I decided I absolutely had to try to make some. I’m a huge, huge stuffing lover. I found a recipe by Rachel Ray that seemed simple enough. But for a recipe marked “easy,” I actually had a lot of problems with this one.

Let’s start with the very first sentence, “large skillet.” Now, I already had my misgivings, looking up at the ingredients and seeing 8 cups of stuffing mix. I definitely don’t have a skillet that can hold eight cups! I really wish I could have seen the video associated with this recipe, especially since (according to the comments) she makes it differently in the recipe compared to the video. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s blocked in Canada. Darn it! I just had to soldier on myself. (Darn it!)

In the end, I started the vegetables and the apples off in a skillet, with a whole stick of butter (unhealthy, tasty, and apparently what Rachel does in the video). I was chopping as I went, which was actually quite stressful for me. Usually I like to have everything ready before I start. I kept getting frustrated at my apples (which I never learned to core properly with a knife and for which I have no corer) and other stuff as they fell onto the floor and needed to be rinsed off.

When it came time to add the stuffing mix (the overpriced stuffing mix, but I didn’t know how to make stuffing mix this morning and had no time to experiment, being out of the house all day), I realized I’d need to transfer everything to a pot. It pretty much entirely filled my big saucepan — about 12 cups! Large skillet… ha! I used about 3 cups of chicken broth, since lots of reviews complained that it wasn’t moist enough.

When it came time to put the stuffing in the muffin tins (sprayed with cooking spray instead of buttered because I was starting to lose patience), I ran into another problem of not having an ice cream scoop. I started off with wooden-spoon-and-fingers, which lasted about two scoops. (Hot!) Then I switched to wooden-spoon-and-regular-spoon, which quickly morphed into two-regular-spoons. I got it all in eventually, but I *really* don’t want to look at all the stuck-on burn stuff at the bottom of the pot. Soak, little pot, soak! Man, do I wish I had a dishwasher.

It wasn’t quite crispy enough at 12 minutes in the oven, so I decided to put it in for the full fifteen. Taking the muffins out of the pan also proved challenging, because they were only barely sticking together and I didn’t want to pull the tops off. I would up doing it with two spoons.

In the end, the stuffin’ muffins were quite tasty. I found the tops (slightly crispy) much better than the bottoms (still somewhat soggy), but other people seemed to like them too, and there were none left at the end of the evening. I actually found they got better as they cooled off a bit, which is counter-intuitive but useful to know for next time.

So… that was this weekend’s adventure. Tonight we dine at Marc’s parents’ place, where I will thankfully not need to do the cooking.