Teaser.

Good golly. I have patience for many things in the kitchen, however despite the allure of this bread, I am steering clear of any attempts to recreate its blistery-golden crust and likely stellar chew. There was, once, a failed attempt at making sourdough starter some ten years ago,  after I’d ogled my way through the La Brea Bakery bread book. However after several days, I needed a break and made for a weekend getaway.
In the middle of Summer.
Needless to say, when I’d returned, my starter was a giant, pungent, purple mass, bubbling over the top of my refrigerator in 85-degree heat.
That was my last experience with long-fermentation, and the words “feed me, Seymour!” are always in the recesses of my mind. The humming and cooing over craft loaves in recent articles makes me grateful to live in an area where celebrated bakeries such as Macrina, Tall Grass, Columbia City and Essential Baking Company are within a quick walk or farmer’s market-reach away.
photo

Coconut Cream Cake.

Moving on.
I took an extended weekend to spend time with family, peppering it with a bit of travel and baking. The cake above is just a teaser, as I’m still tweaking the recipe. I hope to post it eventually.
The week finds me craving the comforts of home, and of good company. I’d invited a girlfriend of mine over for dinner who prefers to avoid both meat and gluten, so naturally my mind conjured up Eastern flavors. I had some red lentils and a tin of tomatoes on hand, and plenty of spices, along with some ghee I’d made a few weeks back. If you’ve never made ghee, or clarified butter, it’s insanely easy to do; all one needs is a bit of mindfulness and time.
PicFrame
Lately, I’m come to favor blooming spices in a bit of fat or oil. Usually I’l grind or bruise them with either a mortar and pestle or, to be truthful, my coffee grinder. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just toss them into the dal at the beginning of cooking. Needless to say, freshly-ground or bloomed spices are simply the best way to get the truest flavor and aromatic bang from your ingredients.
Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes

Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes

For this dal, I bloomed the spices in ghee, and cooked the lentils along with lots of garlic and ginger and chopped tomatoes. It’s fantastic served with some nutty basmati rice. It’s my ultimate comfort food.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Ooh! p.s. I also whipped up some pickles. Well, carrot pickles. They should be ready in about 5 days.
Lucky me.
Spiced Carrot Pickles

Spiced Carrot Pickles

Red Lentil Dal with Tomatoes
2 c. water
1 c. red lentils
1-2 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely sliced garlic
1 14.5 oz plum tomatoes, chopped, reserving most of the liquid
1 tbsp ghee, or unflavored oil
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp brown or black mustard seed
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin seed
1-2 chills or 1/2 tsp red chili peppers
Salt, for seasoning
Basmati rice, cooked, to serve
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Method:
Combine first five ingredients, including tomato juice in a 4-quart pan over medium high heat. As mixture comes to a boil, reduce to low and simmer, covered.
Meanwhile, bloom the spices: melt ghee in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add spices and toss well, cooking for no longer than 30-60 seconds so as to avoid burning. Scrape ingredients into pan with lentils, cover again and continue cooking.
Check lentils for doneness at ~35-40 minutes. They should be soft and mash slightly with the push of a spoon. Season with salt to taste and serve over rice and garnished with cilantro.

 

Magic Beans.

Last week, I discovered that I have been treating my body terribly. It was rebelling in ways I’d rather not mention. Needless to say, I needed a redirect. The inextricable link between mind and body is a beautiful thing, and I’m fortunate that I’m able call that in from time to time, giving attention and respect to the remarkable gift of intuition.
photo 4
I found myself craving simple clean food comfort food; beans rice, warming spices. I also felt the need to reel in my sweet tooth a bit. There’s an insatiable hunger that, like a switch at the ready, activates as soon a I put a bit of pastry, a piece of candy or chocolate or some other sweet in my mouth.
It works for a while.
Until it doesn’t.
It’s manageable when other areas of my life are in balance. For example, when I’m running regularly, when I’m in a good place emotionally, mentally, spiritually. However, put a nick in any one of those precious spindles and I without fail dive wholeheartedly into a vat of sugar.
Not to mention, my skin was looking terrible, undoubtedly influenced by a dry winter and lack of good healthy fats in my diet. And so this past week I’ve been eating more oily fish, avocados and eggs, steering clear of bread and sweets.
For now.
photo 5
I’d been dreaming of making mujadarrah, a simple dish with lentils, rice and onion when I’d discovered Melissa Clark’s post on The How and Why of Dal (you can find the link, here)
It couldn’t have been more appropriately timed. Mujadarra is a typical dish that I go for, as is dal, however the marriage of rice and beans in kichri was perfect, so soothing, nourishing, a blanket for my tummy. I made a few adaptations based on what I had available in the pantry.
photo 2
I’d also felt the need to rebalance my gut with some healthy bacteria, so I whipped up some radish and beet pickles.
photo 3
And then there was the hummus: I know that hummus is rather ubiquitous, however I’d been pondering making some spicy fried chickpeas and became curious as to how they might work in a puree. The blistered skin of the chickpeas, the aromatic scent of cumin as it popped away in hot cast iron met well with the astringency of the tahini and bright flavor of lemon. I added a pinch of cayenne and toasted garlic to give it a little kick.
photo 1
As I nibble on dried persimmon and tap away at the keyboard, I’m more than certain I’ll be knocking on Pastry’s door again soon. However, for now I’ll adhere to a bit of Ayurvedic wisdom and give my body what it needs.
For now.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Spiced Lentils with Rice (adapted from Melissa Clark’s Kichri with Massour Dal )
Note: I prefer the smaller French lentils for their distinctive texture, however brown will work. Red lentils are great in dal, and would produce a slightly creamier consistency when cooked with the rice in this dish). Kichri is highly adaptable and can incorporate other vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, okra and the like. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous dollop of yogurt and toasted cumin seeds.
 .
Ingredients:
1 c. dried lentils (I prefer the smaller French lentils, however brown will work)
2 c. basmati rice
1/2 tsp cumin seed
4-5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp ghee, or olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
sea salt
Rinse rice and lentils well; soak the rice and lentils for at least an hour. Drain and rinse again.
Set a skillet over medium heat and add ghee or olive oil.
Add remaining spices and cook until fragrant; ~2-3 minutes. Fold in chopped onion and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Combine spices with lentils and rice in a large pot with 4 cups of water, along with 1 tsp salt.
Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer for ~20 minutes (less, if using red lentils).
Remove from heat and let stand for ~10 minutes, then aerate with a spatula to evenly distribute the flavors and serve.
Toasted Hummus
Note: I’m a fair-weather fan when it comes to garlic, however heating the garlic with the chickpeas tames it a bit and works well with the other smoky flavors in the spread.
 

Ingredients

1.5 c garbanzo beans, cooked, rinsed and patted dry
1 tsp cumin seed
1-22 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 c water
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Method:
Place a large skillet on moderate heat. Add olive oil. When olive oil starts to shimmer, add the chickpeas and cumin. Shake pan occasionally and cook until chickpeas are blistered and lightly browned; about 7-9 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow beans to cool slightly.
In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil and pulse to combine, scraping sides down as necessary. While the machine is running, slowly add olive oil. Taste; season with additional salt and lemon juice as indicated.

It started with a cup of beans.

There are times when I’m completely uninspired, when trying to figure out what to do for dinner just leaves me panic stricken, stoned, mute. A bit dramatic, admittedly, however I flutter at hummingbird speed until I hit the wall. And there it was, my wall. It’s times like those where I have to just sit down and not ascribe too much energy to the moment, and simply wait for the inspiration to come. This weekend’s inspiration came in the form of beans. I think it came about after I was musing on the previous weekend’s feast at my friend Dulce’s. She’s always whipping up these fantastic dishes, familial cuisine, that I find so beautiful and delicious. Whether it be tacos with meat, or eggs with salsa burritos, accompanied by a bevvy of condiments that round out and balance the tastes with sweet, sour, salty, astringent, umami; tempered with a bit of heat and cooling energies. I wanted to invite that into my cooking this weekend, and so evolved a humble meal, embellished with flavors that complement the beans; rich with spices and an array of flavors to satisfy the palate.

Fragrant Black Bean Tacos

Fragrant Black Bean Tacos

I made this dish over the course of two days, not because of the time involved, though cooking dried beans does involve a bit of extra attention. However, as I sat with the aroma from the pot as the beans bubbled along with bay, allspice and cinnamon, I wondered, why ever bother with canned beans? (On a practical note, I am unafraid of busting out a can of beans, when I need a quick meal on the fly.)

The pickled carrot and radish also take time to cure, however I found it quite easy to tuck the more laborious tasks into an already full weekend.

It looked a bit like this:

Wake up; soak beans and marinate veggies. Go for a run.

Come home; check on veggies. Head out for a pedicure.

Nap.

Get a haircut; grab remaining ingredients for dinner.

Cook beans; prep remaining ingredients.

See? It’s totally doable.

Black Bean Tacos

Ingredients

1 cup black beans

1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp chili flakes

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Sautéed vegetables (recipe follows)

Picked radishes, carrots and scallions (recipe follows)

chopped cilantro

diced avocado

chipotle sauce, or other hot sauce, if desired

fresh, mild cheese (optional)

Soak beans in water for several hours; drain and rinse. Place allspice in a tea strainer or a piece of cheesecloth; combine remaining ingredients, including beans in a 4-quart stockpot; cover beans by at least an inch of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cover. Cook until beans are tender, about 40 minutes, checking for doneness periodically. The beans should be slightly firm, skin partially intact, with a creamy center. If not planning to serve the beans immediately, allow to cool in their own cooking liquid and store for later use.

Sautéed vegetables

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1-2 pasilla peppers, or red peppers, if preferred

4 oz chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

zest and juice of 1/2 orange

Place a large sauté pan over moderate heat. Add onion; cook ~2-3 minutes, until slightly transparent and soft. Add garlic and remaining vegetables; turn up heat to medium-high and give a toss. Allow veggies to sit for a few minutes to develop a bit of char. When nice and soft, add chopped chiles, a pinch of salt, orange juice and zest. Cook for another minute; remove from heat.

saute

Quick Pickles

4-6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chile flakes

Combine sugar, salt, chile and vinegar in a small pot over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Add sliced vegetables, cover and set aside for several hours. Place in a glass jar in refrigerator. This will keep for ~1-2 weeks.

Pickled radish, carrot and shallot.

Pickled radish, carrot and shallot.

Enjoy, and much love,

J