Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Cooking

We've fallen victim to a winter storm that has stuck around for a few days. I think we received just under 3 inches of snow and tonight's low is forecast to be -4. School has been canceled for two days leaving me with lots of time on my hands. Weather like this combined with oodles of "free" time calls for using the kitchen to keep the house toasty.

Yesterday I baked a loaf of peasant bread which made the house warm and smell of delicious yeasty goodness. A spicy lentil soup (recipe to follow) and hummus were whipped up for lunch with fresh radishes and other veggies delivered by our CSA. Dinner was this delicious Shepherd's Pie

I modified it a bit, using meatless soy-free crumbles to replace the ground beef and added the carrots to the pie filling rather than mash them into the potato "crust."  We ate more than our share and both needed a giant mug of Eater's Digest tea to combat the full bellies.

Today I'd like to try these two wintry recipes for dinner: Slow-Baked Beans with Kale and Creamy Cumin-and-Garlic potato gratin. Comfort foods at their best (I hope!). For meals like this, one needs to plan ahead--casseroles and such take time and I have the lima beans soaking now so they'll be ready to slow cook come dinner. I get a lot of pleasure from planning and anticipating these types of dishes and am glad that today I have the luxury of time to make them happen.

Here is the recipe for the spicy lentil soup I made yesterday. It comes from my well-worn copy of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. If you don't already have this cookbook, it is a must have. I've used it countless times when I'd like to try an unfamiliar grain or something shows up in the CSA share that I've never cooked before.  His How to Cook Everything Vegetarian looks pretty great, too.

Lentil Soup
Makes about 4 servings

1 C. lentils, washed and picked over
Several sprigs of fresh thyme or a few pinches dry thyme
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch or smaller cubes
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2 inch or smaller cubes
About 6 cups water or chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, preferably warmed
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 t. minced garlic
1 C. chopped tomatoes (canned are fine)
1/2 C. minced parsley or cilantro
1T. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 t. ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place lentils, thyme, carrot, and celery in a medium pot with 6 cups of the stock. Bring to a boil , then turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a small skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens. Add the garlic and stir. Cook for one minute more. Add the tomatoes, parsley or cilantro, ginger, cayenne and cumin. Stir to combine.

 3. When the lentils are tender--they usually take about 30 minutes--fish out the thyme sprigs and pour the onion mixture into the soup.

4. Add more stock if necessary; the mixture should be thick, but still quite soupy. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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