It’s Been So Long, How About a Bowl of Lentils?

DSC_0868

For whatever reason I’ve got that “Reunited and it feels so good” song going around on repeat in my head tonight. Must be because this is the first time I’ve blogged, or even remotely felt like blogging in the last month or so. Why? Well it might be the little hormonal/life imbalance of becoming pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic about it, but it’s mostly robbed me of my desire to cook and eat. Rather strange no? Instead of having strange pickle & ice cream combo cravings I’ve found that I’ve mostly lost interest in food except as a means to quell hunger pangs and provide general nutrition to myself and more importantly the person in my belly. As someone who loved to eat beforehand, this is a somewhat devastating development. I’m hoping it’s just a “phase” and it’ll pass along with the phase that requires me to get all weepy-eyed at anything young or furry.  But I digress…. for some reason – maybe it was the copious farm share pick up or the fact that not all of our tomatoes were lost to blight this year (this year SUCKED for tomatoes in the northeast) but I actually felt like making something for dinner. AND I felt like writing about it, so here you go..

Tonight I made a kind of crazy concoction which involves Trader Joes pre-cooked lentils (I love them, so easy!) and a bunch of random stuff from our farm share and/or garden. As a side note, my doc tells me that canned food is now a no-no for pregnant and nursing moms as well as tots under the age of 2 because the cans are lined with ….BPA… yeah, I had no idea either …. so canned food is out the window for me for the foreseeable future. Good times. Here is what went into the pot:

1/2 large red onion diced

2 small fennel bulbs, sliced thin

1 carrot, diced

1 package pre-cooked lentils (approx 2 cups)

1 bunch of swiss chard, leaves only, torn into pieces

2-3 cups diced fresh tomato

2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 cup of chicken broth (see my note below regarding TJ’s chicken soup concentrate)

1/2 cup white wine (don’t worry, I cook the hell out of it, there’s no alcohol left)

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt to taste

Take a large sauce pan, place onion, carrot, fennel and olive oil and turn the heat to medium high. Stir often and cook for a good 5-6 minutes while the veggies get soft. Add the lentils, wine, curry powder and a pinch of salt and continue to cook on medium high heat for another 2-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, and parsley. Add chard – You will have to incorporate it slowly as it wilts into the stew. Turn the heat down to medium low and allow the whole thing to simmer for another 15- 20 minutes. In the meantime, add some brown rice to your rice cooker (or cook it stove top) and serve the lentil stew over top of the rice.

On the broth – I actually used Trader Joe’s Chicken Broth Concentrate, which is like crack if you really dig chicken soup like I do. This is THE BEST in terms of flavor I have ever had. And I make my own chicken soup from scratch on a regular basis but the flavors in this concentrate are so good, it’s unreal. Forget powdery bouillon cubes, this stuff is FOR REAL. Only downside: you need to use 1 packet for every 1 cup of water, so you go through your supply fast. I need to go back and buy out the shelf at Trader Joes. Maybe it’s the pregnancy, but this stuff is awesome:

DSC_0871

Random Bag Night – Lamb Meatballs with Sauteed Greens and Spiced Yogurt

DSC_0663

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Random Bag Night mostly because we haven’t been home a lot so there is very little in the way of leftovers and the farm share veggies have kept us occupied on the culinary front. The following recipe is very easy, provided you can find ground lamb in your local market, and is a different spin on something I’ve made a few times for this blog – meatballs. These meatballs differ slightly (aside from the variety of meat) in their contents from traditional meatballs and the turkey variety as I added cooked shallot and garlic which I don’t normally do. The lamb meat needs a little extra flavor to tame the gaminess of it and round it out. To accompany my lamb balls, I sauteed some radish greens in olive oil and garlic and I made a spiced yogurt dipping sauce (recipe below).

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground lamb

2-3 slices white bread soaked in a little milk (I used 2 hot dog rolls)

1/3 cup grated parmesian

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Generous pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place the minced garlic and shallot in a small saute pan with the olive oil and saute on medium heat until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic & shallots to the ground lamb. Add remaining ingredients above and mix well with your hands, making sure that all the flavors are incorporated. I like to leave the bread a little chunky so it gives added texture to the meatball.

Spray a cookie sheet with Pam or olive oil spray, take a small palmful of the lamb mixture and roll into a ball. Place each meatball on the tray. It’s important to make sure the meatballs are all roughly the same size so that they cook evenly in the oven. Once oven is hot, place the meatballs in and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes. The meatballs should be good and golden brown like the photo above.

For the yogurt sauce:

1/3 cup greek yogurt

zest of 1 lemon

6-7 fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

pinch of salt

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow the sauce to sit for a while in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes while the meatballs cook) so that the flavor develops.

Weekly CSA #2 – More Greens (again)

DSC_0654

The above picture mostly sums up what happened to our portion of the CSA share for week # 2. This week’s share included: kale, sugar snap peas, bok choi, swiss chard, garlic scapes, and one other green which I am forgetting about at the moment. We have already slacked in our usage since we ate out a few times last week so the following is what happened to our CSA items so far:

1. Kale – Used half of it with some fingerling potatoes in my take on mashed potatoes with kale. The pairing, which I’ve read about elsewhere, is actually pretty tasty. Throw in some butter with that and heck yeah, it’s good. I boiled both together in some water for about 8 or 9 minutes and then tossed them back into a pan with olive oil & butter & some salt & a dash of chicken broth, covered it and let them cook another 15 minutes. Took the lid off and let the taters get a little brown. Definitely a good side dish

2. Bok Choi, Chard, & garlic scapes – all three went into the dish above. It is a brown rice bowl topped with all the greens and scapes and a delicious fried egg. I sauteed some shallots and garlic in some olive + sesame oils and then added the harder stems of the chard and choi + garlic scapes (chopped) + some radishes sliced thin. After a few minutes of saute, I added all the leaves and about 1/3 cup tamari soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1-2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, and juice of 1/2 lime and let the whole thing cook down, covered, until everything was nicely braised. Cooked the egg in some olive oil and added it on top of the bowl. Great Monday night dinner.

The radishes, for those who have never cooked them, were AWESOME in this dish. All the peppery flavor goes out and they just get mellow and succulent:

DSC_0653

Sadly I haven’t used the sugar snap peas yet… hoping to get there this week.

Lobster Salad with Avocado, Arugula & Grapefruit

DSC_0632

This past weekend was our 1 year wedding anniversary (yay!). We decided to have a slightly unconventional anniversary dinner party where we invited the best man and his fiance to join us for a fancy schmancy dinner at our place. The men wore their tuxes, our best man’s fiance wore the dress she wore to the wedding and I wore my gown in full regalia and it ended up being a spectacular night. We made a lobster salad, which I’ll talk about in a minute, fresh pasta with tomato sauce and a grilled pork tenderloin (in honor of the pig roast that was our reception dinner). For dessert, the top of our wedding cake – which was Carvel ice cream cake! – and Harry & David’s chocolate covered cherries paired with an awesome dessert wine. We were definitely fat ‘n happy by the end of the night and a great time was had by all.

My favorite dish (besides dessert) was this lobster salad which is a recipe my husband found on Epicurious.com. If you are a fan of lobster, you are going to *love* this. The pic below is the salad fully assembled:

DSC_0633

The pepper of the arugula paired beautifully with the sweetness of the lobster meat and the grapefruit complimented the richness of the avocado. The dressing, which is easy but must be done in advance, really pulled the whole salad together. This is definitely an “impress your guests” kind of appetizer.

For those who are local to Boston, we purchased the live lobster at New Deal Fish Market in Cambridge which is an excellent little fish shop. The arugula came form the Union Square farmer’s market.

Steamed Mussels & Clams in White Wine

DSC_0623

First let me apologize for not getting a shot of the finished product. I was somewhere between punchy and delirious around dinner time last night due to several nights in a row of bad sleep. That being said, I did still manage to crank out a decent steamed mussel + clam dish which is something that used to really intimidate me. I should admit here that I am somewhat afraid of all sea creatures – particularly the live ones – because somewhere deep inside my brain I am convinced that things which aren’t furry can’t be reasoned with. Don’t ask. I don’t know. It’s the sort of thing I categorize with my other irrational fear: clowns.

I still get kind of squeamish about handling the passive creatures, and paranoid about getting a bad one which will give us a wicked case of food poisioning. Whether or not that is rational is debatable, but it’s me so I don’t make this EASY and FAST dish nearly as much as I should. I served the steamed shellfish with a side of greens sauteed in olive oil, shallots and a splash of good red wine vinegar + salt to taste. The greens included some baby chard from our garden:

DSC_0622 You can pick the chard when it’s small like this and it’s very tender. Moreover if you start to pick off the larger leaves, the plants continue to grow and produce more of them, so you can harvest a couple times before having to replant. I also snipped a few of the beet leaves as well to add to the flavor. Aside from the chard and beat greens, the dish included some kale and some arugula.

The mussels and clams were from Maine, purchased at Whole Foods and already mostly clean which was nice. I placed them both in some cold water for about 20 minutes to get off any excess sand which might be lurking. In the meantime, I assembled the ingredients for the broth:

1 leek, chopped

5-6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 pinch red pepper flakes

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped

4-5 chives, chopped

small handful fresh parsley, chopped

Generous pinch of salt

Start the olive oil, garlic, leeks, salt and pepper flakes in a large deep pot on medium high heat. Saute until the leeks start to soften and the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the wine and the herbs and bring the whole thing to a rapid boil. Add the shellfish and cover immediately. After 2-3 minutes, check the shellfish and give them a stir (or shake the pot to move them around. Replace the cover and continue for another 2-3 minutes. By this time most if not all of the mussels and clams will be open. You should start to remove the ones that have opened and replace the cover to cook the remaining mussels and clams until they open (shouldn’t be more than another minute or 2). Discard any unopened mussels and clams after they have been cooked for more than 7 or 8 minutes as they are likely bad.

We used tongs to remove the mussels and clams into a large bowl so that we could allow the broth to settle and any sand that was in the pot to float to the bottom. We carefully ladled off some broth for dipping the mussels & clams into a bowl and served it on the side. It is fine to do a communal bowl if you are sharing with your hubby, but if it is for other folks who might be less accommodating, ladle the broth into individual bowls along with a portion of the shellfish.

Great to serve also with some crusty bread for soaking up that yummy broth!

DSC_0620