Archive for January, 2011

I wish I could show you more about this deliciousness that I had last night, but alas, Kat Burns was not here to take photos of the meal, so the best I could do was to snap a few shots using Photo Booth with my laptop held precariously up in the air, hovering over our dinner.

So squash lasagna, kinda weird, right? Well, I guess so, but I’d been wanting to make something like this for awhile.  Mitzi’s Sister used to have some kind of squash or sweet potato lasagna on their menu, and I had it once a long time ago and it was totally different than most lasagna but definitely delicious.  It didn’t have a tomato sauce, and it wasn’t all gloopy, it was pretty dry actually, but not in a bad way.  Just in a it-doesn’t-ooze-all-over-your-plate way.  It was good.  And I’d been thinking about making something similar this winter, because local squash is always around this time of year, and since I made that galette back in october I’ve been itching for those tastes again.  I loosely followed this recipe, but mostly just as a guideline for how others did it.  I already knew I wanted to make a bechamel sauce, caramelize some onions, mash up some squash with ricotta and throw it together over noodles.  Changes I made to that recipe I linked: I used an acorn squash rather than butternut, and just roasted in halved and scooped it out afterwards; I didn’t bother pureeing it, just mashed it up and stirred in ricotta, salt, and pepper; I didn’t use parmesan at all, but added in some Gruyere de Grotte, which is the same cheese I used for the galette; I added sage to the sauce, because yum.

I think those are the main changes I made.  Also, this was my first experiment with oven-ready dried lasagna noodles.  I’ve never used them before! They scare me! Usually when I make lasagna I just buy the fresh flat noodles from Olivieri or whatever, and don’t pre-cook them at all.  But they’re so pricey! And I’ve been trying to save money and couldn’t really justify not buying dried noodles.  So I bought the oven-ready kind, which is totally a strange thing to me, and followed their instructions to add about a cup of water to the sauce.  I was worried about it.  But it was fine! They totally cooked up, no problem.  Science! The only mistake I made with this lasagna is that I didn’t grease the pan at all.  Not at all.  And that bottom layer of noodles? CEMENTED on.  I mean, we got the pieces out of the pan, and I don’t mind a crunchy layer of noodles or anything, but it was a bit of a pain and I would definitely grease the pan next time.

Because eating lasagna alone doesn’t seem like a real meal, we roasted up some veggies to have on the side.  I had rainbow carrots and cauliflower, so we roasted them, drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, cumin seeds, and garam masala.  They were delicious.  I also tried making an herb bread in my bread maker, but it wasn’t ready until 45 minutes after dinner was, and also I hate this bread it smells so herby and tastes like spaghetti and I’m not into it at all.  But, bygones.

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Last Monday Kat and I were unable to cook-n-blog together because I had to work in the evening, so I thought I’d delay the previous week’s post so as to space out the food porn until our next food adventure.  That sounds better than saying “I was too lazy to post something this week”, right? Anyway, the last time that Kat and I met I made the food that I had intended to make on our first Monday – a black bean soup using the crockpot that Kat has indefinitely lent me while she lives on the island.  Crockpots are so cool.  I’ve never owned one myself, and I don’t use Kat’s as much as I should, but I love the idea of being able to leave something simmering while you’re out all day without worrying about burning your whole house down.  I may have mentioned this in my last post, but I’m trying really hard to live more like a poor person these days, which mostly just means cooking more in the ways that I’d like to be anyways.  Meaning, less prepared foods – but to the max; i.e. I’ve been buying dried beans rather than canned ones, making my own bread in my awesome breadmachine that I got for Christmas, etc.  It requires a bit more planning, but you have so much more control over your food AND it saves money.

So I wanted to make a black bean soup, and I started out by wanting to make this one, because as you all know by now, I love the SmitKit.  Also, the cumin seed crema sounded amazing, and her soup just looks so…smooth. I wanted that smoothness.  But then, when I actually made the soup, I didn’t follow that recipe at all, but still complained when my soup didn’t look smooth at all.  Hey, I never said I was rational.  I think the biggest reason why my soup didn’t look like that is that Deb over at Smitten Kitchen COOKED her beans in the crockpot all together with the soup ingredients, so all that beany cooking liquid would be in there making it darker and more voluptuous.  But I cooked the beans beforehand, for reasons I just don’t know.  When I went to make the soup I looked at that Smitten Kitchen recipe, and the black bean soup recipe in my copy of Veganomicon, and then kind of made up my own that was inspired by each of those recipes.  Basically, I sauteed onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and some green and orange peppers and added spices and one of my reconstituted chipotle peppers from my summer CSA (the first time I actually used one of these peppers – so good!) and then dumped all that into the crockpot with some water and the beans and turned it on.  Later I pureed part of the soup in my teeny tiny food processor, which reminded me how much I miss having an immersion blender. Pureeing soup in any kind of blender or food processor is just the worst. THE WORST.

Portrait of the Cornbread as a Young Man

I did, however, follow Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for the cumin seed crema, and I used creme fraiche and OMG why don’t I buy/make creme fraiche all the time? I want to eat this cumin creme fraiche on everything! I will be honest – while Kat and I watched 90210 I ate several spoonfuls (or actually, finger-dipfuls) of that creme fraiche all on its own, and also drizzled mass quantities of it over the cornbread I made to go with the soup.  Everything and anything is a vehicle for this creme fraiche to get into my belly.

Anyways, though the soup didn’t look nearly as pretty as I may have wanted, it tasted quite good and it packed quite a spicy punch from that one tiny chipotle pepper.  I had tons of leftovers and it reheated very well.

P.S. You may be thinking “That’s an awfully full glass of wine” but while I would not be opposed to drinking such a glass of wine you should know that it is actually a portion of the very delicious (though sadly not Ontario-made) Creme Brulee Stout that we drank that night, and which I have enjoyed on other occasions as well.  Beer + Beans + Cornbread.  Not a bad Monday.  See you next week, when Kat and I put a bunch of cabbage in a bucket and see what happens.

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I’m back! I will be trying to blog fairly regularly now – as long as Kat Burns manages to provide me with the photos of our exploits in a timely manner.  You see, my dear KB, ever the opportunist (ha! jk lol lmao kb!) seized her chance to eat my delicious creations on a regular basis while also securing herself a city couch on which to sleep.  What the hell am I talking about? Well, Kat Burns moved to the island to hone her artistry.  She comes downtown to work with adorable children on Monday and Tuesday, and as such she likes to just stay in the city overnight on Mondays to ease her commute.  And so! My broken camera plus her need for a bed have begot a wonderful weekly evening! Kat comes over around 6 and we cook and eat things, take pictures of those things and of us cooking and eating them, and then we sit and watch Beverly Hills, 90210 on dvd until I have to go to bed.  We’ve done this for two weeks now, but just now have the two of us gotten ourselves together enough to get the photos up on the internet.  And so! I will tell you about the first week today, and then if I’m feeling generous I will write about the second Monday before the weekend is over.

The first Monday didn’t go quite as planned.  I had big plans for our first Monday meal together, but when my work day went longer than expected, and then my TTC commute went longer than expected, and I didn’t get home in enough time to make what I’d been planning to make.  So when Kat arrived, we improvised, and I’m so glad we did.  Why? Because it yielded my new favourite everyday meal – barley + lentils cooked together in my rice cooker, topped with an assortment of delicious veggies.

It turns out that pot barley and regular French green lentils cook perfectly together in the same amount of time in my tiny rice cooker.  Equal parts barley and lentils, and double the water.  We added some cumin and garam masala and a splash of tamari to the rice cooker for maximum flavour output.  Toss it all in and forget about it.  In the meantime, I roasted a red pepper in the oven.  I sort of hate roasted red peppers when they haven’t JUST been made.  I’m not sure why – I think the longer they sit (especially in those liquidy store-bought jars) they seem to get stronger and sweeter tasting, which I’m sure is very appealing to many of you, but I just find that they overpower everything.  And I don’t like a flavour hog.  But roasted in my own oven and eaten right away? DELICIOUS.  And so easy! Cut your pepper in half, take out the seeds and the stem, rub of a bit of olive oil on both sides, and put them in a small pan in your oven at about 400.  Check on them and flip them once so that both sides get good and charred.  I find they’ll take about 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them.

While the peppers roasted and the lentils/barley boiled and steamed, we sauteed some onions in my cast iron pan – because a big pile of sauteed onions is the key to all yummy things (can I even believe that as a child I hated onions?! What was I thinking??) and crafted a lemony tahini sauce almost identical to the one that I use for this dish.  So in the end we had perfectly cooked and spiced barley and green lentils, topped with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, avocado slices, and lemony tahini sauce.  It was AWESOME.  A great start to cook-n-blog Mondays.  We then proceeded to complain about how dry the air in my apartment was while we finished season 8 of 90210, only to be left without knowing if Valerie Malone tested positive or negative for HIV! Enough with the cliffhangers!

So stay tuned, blog universe! Kat Burns and I have much more up our sleeves!

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