Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cook, damn you, cook!

Busy, busy, busy in the kitchen these last couple of days. The weather was a bit crappy yesterday but the weekend was gorgeous. Lots of sun, nice temps. I was able to get some of my peatlets potted; however, I did have to supplement my little table garden with some already-potted herbs and veggies because, for some reason, the peatlets did not take as well this year. Most of the basil, the radishes, and the peppers all came up nice but the mesclun and most of the others gave up the ghost and barely sprouted. It's of no never mind, though, because what I picked up at Lowes and Home Depot more than made me happy. I now have some really nice tomato plants--which include an heirloom variety called Mr. Stripey, how fun is that?--a ton of lavender, rosemary, and peppermint; cinnamon basil, cilantro, dill, and numerous peppers, mostly hot but also a nice sweet yellow variety. I had a lot of fun potting them and, fingers crossed, I'll get yet another bumper crop.

Did the lamb last week, roasted on a bed of dried Greek oregano branches and kalamata olive oil, and plugged all over under the netting with chunks of garlic. I sliced it down and got three good-sized meals out of it. Yes, I taste-tested and yes, it's very, very good. I'm pleased with my first attempt.

Made a really nice, very orange in color soup for the week. Buttersquash Lentil this time around. Very simple and tasty if I do say so myself.

Buttersquash Lentil Soup

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp kalonji seeds
2 tsp yellow curry powder
Salt and pepper
1 medium buttersquash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup orange lentils
6 cups water

Saute the onion and garlic with a large pinch of salt in the canola oil until softened. Add the seeds and curry powder with a good grinding of fresh black pepper and saute for a minute or two until you can really smell the spices. Add the buttersquash, sweet potato, and lentils and stir until all are coated with the spiced oniony oil. Add the water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have disintigrated and the vegetables are tender. Puree with a stick blender right in the pot, adding water if necessary until you have the consistency you desire. I like it slightly thick, like a cream soup.

Sweet for the week, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, courtesy of Rachel Allen. These are good--really good--and I made them tiny because two of them are just enough. The recipe easily made five dozen; however, I made about three then froze the rest of the dough for later. I rolled it into a log in the bottom of a zippy bag so I can cut off slices next time. Very much full of yum and excellent with coffee or tea.

Lastly, I made lasagne. Not just any lasagne, the best flippin' lasagne I have ever made. And I've made a lot over the years, with meat, without, with bechamel, with veggies. You name it, I more than likely have made it. Yesterday, I went out to get chicken and happened across the fresh pasta sheets. So I got them and some fresh ricotta to see how it all would work as a broccoli lasagne.

Awesome. Really effin' awesome. The texture was divine, unlike any I've made with dried sheets and the fresh ricotta really tasted fresh. It's a lot drier than regular carton ricotta, which made it a wee bit difficult to blend with the broccoli, egg, and cheese and spread over the sheets but I blobbed it around and sorted it all out by hand instead of using a spoon. For sauce I just simmered some canned chopped tomatoes with a little paste, some olive oil, garlic, and dried basil and Greek oregano for about ten minutes, just to infuse the flavors. Jerry and I loved it; the bairns not so much because they were tired and hitting the wall. I made the mistake of eating off their plates and died later but it was so worth it.

I'm making Tana's mango chicken salad for dinner tonight, accompanied by Rachel's brown seeded scones. The sun has come out and it's warming up so I want something light and filling that isn't too much work. I've got two packs of chicken cutlets in the fridge I can grill on the cast-iron grill and the scones are really easy with not too much oven time. Plus, it won't be like last night's meal where we're bobbing and weaving from bellies that are way too full.

Oh, and I discovered the dangerous joy of having a box of white wine in the fridge. *hic*

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