Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adventures in Cooking, Part 2

Success! I did not poison us! I did not burn the onions! There was minimal raw potato! I totally count last night as one of my better cooking nights AND the food was tasty! So what if dinner didn't get eaten until 8:30 at night. Who cares if I was still hungry afterwards (though I suspect that is purely me and not the fault of the cooking)? I know I don't.

4 Onions, sliced crosswise
5 med. potatoes sliced and quartered (I used Klondike Gold - either red or Yukon gold potatoes would work.)
5 large-ish Carrots, peeled and coined
3 Celery Stalks, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
10 Greek Olives, pitted and diced1/4 cup finely chopped, re-hydrated sun dried tomatoes*
Sun Dried Tomato Juice*
1 tbs olive oil (I used Australian Olive Oil)
1 1/2 cups of cooked lentils
3/4 tsp Sea Salt (I only say Sea Salt because that's all we use in our house and I'm not sure if other salt would change things or not.)
Lemon Juice, about one lemon's worth
2 Bay Leaves
Feta Cheese or Goat Cheese (optional)
Note: We cooked this with our heavy roaster pan on two burners. This yielded about 4 and 1/2 servings. I swear to you, I would not have been able to do this without Avie. Seriously. She is an amazing cook and really has a flare for knowing what to put into things when all she has to go with it is, 'I feel like we need more color'. Everyone should have an Avie is their home; but you can't have mine. Anyway, onto how to get this sucker made!

*** IMPORTANT! ***
Make sure that everything is prepped and ready to go. I made the mistake of chopping up the onions first and tossing them into the pan before having everything else prepped.

* Add your olive oil to the pan and let it heat up before you add the chopped onions. Give them about 5 to 10 minutes to simmer saute on high heat. Keep an eye on them and stir as needed.
* Add your potatoes and salt after your onions are slightly brown. Let them sit and think with the onions for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring as needed.
* Add your carrots, celery and garlic. Leave for about 5 minutes, stirring as needed (noticing a pattern yet?)
* Add your lentils, stir.
* Add your sun dried tomato juice and sun dried tomatoes. Stir and simmer for a few minutes, making sure that the juice and tomatoes are spread through out.
* Add the two bay leaves and the lemon juice
* Stir everything and let sit for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and serve with some creamy feta or goat cheese.

How to Make Re-hydrated Sun Dried Tomatoes and Juice/Goop as per Avie:
* Fill one pint jar to top with dried tomatoes.
* Add boiling water.
* Store in fridge overnight
* Ignore the fact that the jar that now looks like a jar filled with blood with 'bits'
* Voila!

All in all, I feel that it's a pretty good recipe, though it will need some tweaking the next time I do it. Like I said, Avie was a HUGE help in that she kept suggesting stuff to put in it. Plus, she was giving me on the spot lessons (like how to handle the potatoes) which was very helpful.

I think the best part is that I get to have it for lunch tomorrow -- wahoo!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Adventures In Cooking, Part 1

I have never been an adventurous cook. Hell, years ago I couldn't boil water.* When I moved up here I did little things like Mac & Cheese with cut up Hot Dogs. We're talking real elegance here. I got braver and for my birthday one year I got a lot of student cookbooks. They were all vegetarian or vegan, which incidentally is what helped in my transition from eating chicken and pork to a completely meat free diet. **

I went through these books and discovered that it's not hard to cook. I know, crazy right? Putting onions, peas and feta cheese over pasta is in fact easy! Astounding! It took me awhile but I learned how to cook somewhat and even took photos like the big dork that I am. I'm pretty sure I still have them, collecting dust on my hard drive.

Anyway, these books were really terrific. The ones that really helped me were
Student's Vegetarian Cookbook, Student's Go Vegan Cookbook and The Starving Student's Vegetarian Cookbook. Though the first two were by the same publisher and had some of the same recipes, I still thought that they were the cat's meow. They even have permanent creases so they stay open easily when I'm cooking. I highly recommend these to ANYONE who knows next to nothing about cooking.

So seeing my humble beginnings as a cook, you should get a decent picture of what I'm capable of. My history is rife with unnerving cooking disasters like the non water boiling and setting a steak on fire while in the broiler) which all make for really great stories.

My point is that I have started to evolve in my cooking skills. I've made a killer aioli that I got from the 'bible' at home (you'll know it better as the Veganonmicon by Isa Chandra & Terry Hope Romero. For those of you non Veggieheads out there, this is like Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I. It's wicked hard sometimes but totally 100% worth it for the stuff that you can come out with it. Seriously. If you don't have a copy and enjoy cooking, or eating for that matter, go and get it.) I've broaden out somewhat to picking up stuff and throwing it in and praying.

But tonight, oh tonight, I shall be trying uncharted waters for me. I'll be cooking something that I've created the recipe for (with some help from my Girlie). It's crazy but when I got home from class last night and after I'd taken my shower, the Food Network was on. True, I ignored most of it because I had my nose in my latest book obsession (re: The Twilight Saga. I swear to you it stolen my SOUL). Right after 'Ace of Cakes' came on this AWESOME show called 'Chopped'.

Chopped is a game show were seasoned chefs compete to win money. They get surprise ingredients that they MUST use. They only have 30 minutes before they need to plate their food and pray that they don't get eliminated. I was immediately sucked in because one of the contestants was a vegan chef. It was pretty cool, even though she was knocked out after the first round. But there was this one dude, Sandy, who was this laid back Texan. He did this thing with duck, potatoes and honey and I swear to god I was salivating, which is impressive given that I like ducks waddling and not roasting.

This got me to thinking. I mean tonight was my turn to cook and I had nothing planned yet. I started talking to Avie about it before we finally conked out and she thought it was a great idea. This morning I started putting it all together and I'll be trying it tonight.

I have to admit, I'm a wee bit nervous but hopefully I won't kill the two of us. Maybe if we're lucky, I'll post the recipe tomorrow, providing that I don't have food poisioning.

[* Seriously, true story. I was dating this guy back in the day and for some reason I decided that I was going to make pasta or something for dinner. I don't remember what were doing but I decided that if we're having pasta we NEED to have garlic bread. Nothing says romance like garlic brea(th)d. Being the food connoisseur I was at 19, we stopped at the store and picked up frozen bread already pre-made with garlic and butter. We get home and I bound into the kitchen with my pasta and frozen bread. I throw the bread in the oven and set a pot on the stove on a low flame. For those of you who know ANYTHING of physics, you'll see the error in my ways, but for the sake of those out there who are really like me, I'll explain. Water needs heat to boil. Lots of heat, so putting it on a low flame to start means that boiling will occur in approximately never. The rest of the relationship, he never let me live that down. I was just glad he Mother wasn't home.]

[** Though that makes me wonder something: I still eat eggs because with the Fibro and the Crohn's it's an easy source for protein. The 'meat' of eggs… is that actually meat? I know that if I could give up eggs, I probably would except that… it's like I said, an easy source for protein for me if I have a bunch of hard boiled eggs all set and ready to go. Anyone have any thoughts?]