Weekend lunching

Standard

Cooking is not really my thing, especially when hanging out on my own at home. But I become experimental and slightly ambitious when feeding others.

This weekend, it was sweet potato-millet-sweet corn-black bean burgers (with some avocado-tomato cream sauce), mixed potato wedges and chicken cauliflower chili.

Everything turned out really well even if I had no confidence in these items.

Sweet potato-black bean burgers
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 cup dry millet
1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 200°C. Bake the sweet potato for 50-60 minutes (until soft). While the sweet potato bakes, cook the millet until soft. Bring 1 cup of water to boil, stir in the half-cup of millet, reduce heat on the stove to low, let millet simmer with lid on the pan (this took maybe 15-20 minutes).

When sweet potato is cooled, put it in food processor or blender with the oats, one cup of black beans and all the spices along with a tablespoon of oil (I had to add a bit extra oil because this was very dry). Mix until smooth.

In another bowl, mix the sweet potato mixture with remaining whole beans, corn and cooked millet.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, place patties or large balls of the mixture in the pan and flatten into burger-shaped patties using a spatula. Brown each side.

While burgers are in the pan, toast buns and also make the avocado sauce.

Avocado sauce
1 ripe avocado
3 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Roma tomato, diced

Mash avocado with a fork. Mix in the Greek yogurt, lime juice, and salt. Stir in the tomatoes, and set aside for serving.

Serve burger on toasted bun with fresh avocado cream sauce. I also melted some cheddar on the buns while toasting them.

Mixed potato wedges

Scrub two or three regular potatoes and two medium sweet potatoes and slice into wedges. Toss in a bowl with salt, pepper, paprika and a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 200C oven for about 40 minutes (turning the potatoes over once at about 20 minutes in).

Chicken Soup

Standard

Something like hopping on a plane and almost immediately succumbing to excruciating stomach cramps and then classic and miserable flu symptoms is about the least fun I can think of. This unfortunate fate happened to Mr Firewall, and I have been trying everything in my amateur first-aid repertoire to help him get well and make him comfortable.

One bit was my first attempt to make standard chicken soup. I am not sure how I got to this stage in my life without ever having made basic chicken soup – it just never seemed like a priority. Not to add that it’s not really my favorite soup, and I rarely have chicken on hand. I didn’t even have a whole chicken – only boneless chicken breast, which is far from ideal for this kind of thing. This time, though, it seemed that when Mr Firewall felt like eating again, chicken soup would be just the right thing.

How did I do it?

Quickly sear both sides of two large chicken breasts in about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot. Remove chicken and set aside. Now you can either chop it into a few chunks to cook in the soup or cook thoroughly in another pot of boiling water to make it easy to shred.

I chopped up one red onion, one large shallot, one (cleaned) leek, two stalks of celery and two carrots and sauteed these in the pan in which I seared the chicken. Saute for about five minutes, stirring a couple of times during the process. At the very end, throw in about four thinly sliced cloves of garlic.

Add two cups of boiling water. In a separate glass, mix a half cup to one cup of boiling water with two chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes and about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper – mix that into the sauteed veg mixture and let all simmer. Add the chicken now as well. Simmer for about 10 minutes. (If you are or have been cooking and shredding the chicken separately you can wait to add that until the last few minutes.)

After simmering, I threw the chicken in as well as about a quarter of a head of cabbage chopped into thin pieces as well as a handful of baby spinach, also roughly chopped. I also threw in two more cloves of thinly sliced garlic – and voilà – it turned out pretty well.

And everyone is feeling much better, thanks.

 

It’s all gone meatballs – ricotta-filled meatballs

Standard

I was trying to figure out what to do with a container of ricotta that was expiring. I almost feel a little bit spoiled by having easy access to ricotta, thinking back to the years in Iceland when it was a rarity. Or to when my Italian friend came to visit me from Iceland and thought about taking several containers of it back with her because it’s just not something you can count on finding in Iceland (and if you do, it’s probably already expired).

I also had a bunch of meat. I found a “suggestion” on a website – ricotta-filled meatballs. The site did not really provide a recipe – just suggestions, so I went my own way with it. Unfortunately, upon cooking, the ricotta oozed out – but since I like the word “ooze”, I will pretend I don’t mind.

I also don’t have exact quantities here, but my method (as much as madness):

Ricotta filling
One container ricotta
Some grated Romano cheese
Salt
Pepper
Chopped fresh basil

Make small balls of the mixture and put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet – pop the sheet in the freezer for an hour.

frozen ricotta balls

frozen ricotta balls

Meatballs
Ground beef
1 or 2 eggs
Minced garlic
One chopped onion
Grated Romano
Panko crumbs
Salt
Pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

Mix the meatball stuff together.

Meatball mix

Meatball mix

When the ricotta balls are ready/frozen, roll them into meatballs (small or large, your choice).

Ricotta-stuffed meatballs in the oven - pre-ooze

Ricotta-stuffed meatballs in the oven – pre-ooze

Put the meatballs in a parchment-lined baking dish and bake at 200-220C (about eight minutes on each side). If you’re lucky the ricotta will not explode right out the side.

I am going to cool these and freeze them for use at a later time.

On the cooking wagon with no kitchen to cook in: Afghan pumpkin & beef with yogurt sauce

Standard

My thoroughly kitchen-experimental side has stirred and it pokes at me again and again, not fully understanding that I live my life during the week in hotels, sans cuisine (quelle horreur!). I spent two solid days dreaming of making a rich, aromatic chicken pho, and now suddenly, the urge to make an Afghan dish (bourani kadoo), comprised of roasted pumpkin, beef and a yogurt-mint sauce, has completely overtaken me. Why – who knows? I saw the word “Bagram” in connection with an air base in Afghanistan, which made me think about the Afghan restaurant I had passed by so many times in Vancouver, Canada (need I even say that Vancouver is one of the best cities in the entire world – hands down? Most definitely for food but also just because it is fabulous) but never went to.

And what do I know about Afghanistan or Afghan cuisine really? Absolument rien! For me it’s a strangely beautiful and mysterious place with an equally enigmatic history. Some part of me loves it and wishes I knew more. It is all obscured by warfare and the Taliban, but I don’t let those things blind me.

I love pumpkin, though, and I will look for any reason at all to use it somewhere, somehow in my baking and even in my cooking.

The trouble, apart from lacking the facilities to cook on weeknights, is that I don’t really prepare meals for myself and cannot imagine going to all this trouble just for me. House husband/housewife candidates, apply within. (I will probably make this or some semblance of it this weekend in any case.)

Bourani kadoo
Pumpkin/squash
Two three-pound sugar pie pumpkins or the equivalent using butternut squash
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 to 3 cups sugar (less if you want a less sweet taste)

Preheat oven to 300ºF/150C. Cut pumpkins in half and scrape out the insides (seeds + stringy bits). Cut each half into 3-4 inch pieces. Remove the rind. Place the pumpkin slices hollow side up in a baking dish and cover with the oil. Pour the sugar on top. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 3 hours (until the pumpkin has caramelized into a deep, orange color).

Begin to prepare the yogurt and meat sauces while the pumpkin bakes.

Yogurt sauce
2 cups plain yogurt
2 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried mint
Salt to taste (1/4 to ½ teaspoon)

For the yogurt sauce, combine all the ingredients and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Beef sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 kilogram ground beef
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/3 cup water

Sauté onions in oil over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet until golden brown (about 20 minutes). Add ground beef and break up the pieces until the meat is no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Add remaining ingredients (except tomato paste and water). Blend in tomato paste. Add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce, and simmer for 15 minutes.

To serve, place the pumpkin on a serving dish or on the individual serving plate, on the bottom of the “pile” you’re building. Add yogurt sauce and then top with meat sauce.

For whom to cook? Chicken pho and coconut tapioca pudding with mango

Standard

Everyone knows I love to bake – and I bake and bake to the point of exhaustion and then come up with creative solutions for transporting all those freshly baked morsels to my office.

Sometimes, though, I go through cooking phases. I read a lot of recipes and gather inspiration for making real food. Trouble is, during the week I do not have a kitchen. And cooking only for myself is a drag. I need food guinea pigs and lab rats. And much more time at home in my kitchen.

Today I am overdosing on reading the archives of the Smitten Kitchen blog – filled with magnificent recipes, stories and pictures. Of course, what kicked it off was the post yesterday about chicken phở (me being a soup-obsessed wolf eel) caused a great stir in my brain. It also made me scroll through loads and loads of the recipes, dreaming about trying some out, experimenting. But why would I make a beyond-tempting coconut tapioca pudding with mango just for me – if I could even find tapioca with ease?