Without Vodka

Those bottles of pink sauce in the store always seem to list vodka in their ingredients, but I have to wonder if it imparts any particular flavor, being vodka. This sauce is similar, but less tomatoey, and with mushrooms and pine nuts. [And wine, though it's quite good without it.] Recipes are generally presumed to be finished. But I've varied this sauce so many times... Sometimes more tomatoes, sometimes fewer, sometimes tomato sauce (though I really don't recommend tomato paste--that gives it a sickly, blunt, cardboard flavour), sometimes no mushrooms or pine nuts. And I've tried varying the herbs a lot. Paprika might be nice. Hot chiles are what you would expect--and some people I'm sure would really hate the result. Rosemary is probably a mistake. Sage would certainly kill it. If you have it, fresh oregano and basil really are vast improvements over themselves dried.

1/2 onion

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

4 roma tomatoes

6 crimini mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

4 tablespoons grated parmesan

2 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh leaves)

1 teaspoon dried basil (or about 10 fresh leaves)

[1/2 cup white wine]

Oil a large saucepan on medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil and melt 2 tablespoons of butter in it. Put a small saucepan on medium heat. Chop finely onion and garlic and transfer to large saucepan. Don't let the onions burn. Toast pine nuts in small saucepan until well browned but hopefully not blackened. Put pine nuts aside in a bowl. Oil small sauce pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and turn heat to medium-low. Slice tomatoes into quarters and then 5mm slices and transfer to small saucepan. Don't let the tomatoes stick to the pan. Add a pinch of salt to both pans. Chop mushrooms in half and then into slices and stir into large saucepan. The goal here is to cook the onions until soft and at the same time begin reducing the tomatoes into a sauce. Add black pepper, oregano, basil to large saucepan. [When onions are mostly cooked, add white wine and let it boil off for a minute or two.] Once the onions are done, transfer the tomatoes to the large saucepan. Stir in heavy cream. Once the cream begins to boil, adjust the heat so that it boils just gently. Add toasted pine nuts. Reduce sauce to an almost pudding-like consistency, occasionally stirring to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Grate in parmesan while stirring. Salt to taste. Remove from heat. Serve over pasta.

30 September 2009

Not Quite Lorraine

But quiche nonetheless.

crust, adapted:

one stick butter

one and a half cup whole wheat pastry flour

half teaspoon salt

one teaspoon sugar

half cup cold water or less

Preheat oven to 400F. Put together flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Using flour as a way to keep butter from being slippery, cut stick of butter into small cubes (~1cm square) and distribute into flour. Cut butter into flour (in lieu of a pastry cutter, a fork will work with some finger pain). Add cold water a tablespoon at a time until it's possible to smash the dry clumps into a ball of dough with your hands. Sprinkle some flour liberally on a flat surface. Use this area to roll ball of dough into a disk large enough to lay on top of your pie dish plus a couple inches. While you're rolling dough keep it from sticking by flipping over and sprinkling more flour on each side. Lay dough disk into pie dish and push it around to conform to the shape of the dish. Cut off excess if you want (eat it!). Poke the bottom of it with a fork a few times. Bake until dry but not browned or hardened. It will bubble when baked--this is generally a big no-no, countered by weighing down the dough with heavy objects in a bag, but you're not cooking this crust hard, so the bubbles should be pressed back down by the liquid of the filling. Or they won't. I'm lazy.

filling, adapted:

half an onion

four crimini mushrooms

quarter stick butter

one cup grated swiss cheese

four eggs

two cups heavy cream

one teaspoon salt

a pinch sugar

half teaspoon cayenne pepper

half teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to to 425 F. Chop onion into 1cm square pieces. Slice mushrooms in half and then into thin slices. Melt butter in a small frying pan and fry onions and mushrooms on medium-low heat until onions are translucent. Remove from heat. In a large bowl mix together thoroughly eggs, cream, salt, and sugar. Grate cheese into crust. Transfer onions and mushrooms into crust. Pour egg and cream mixture on top of this. Muss it about with a spoon to avoid a heap of cheese in the middle. Sprinkle cayenne pepper and paprika on top. Bake until top becomes somewhat browned.

29 September 2009

Cold, Hard Proof that it's Summer (well, not so hard)

Even if it's not summer.

one bottle lemonade (make it yourself, for all I care)

five strawberries

2 tablespoons rose water

[eight cloves]

Drink a small glass of lemonade. Slice five strawberries into quarters (yes, after removing the leafy top) and put them in the bottle of lemonade. Add two tablespoons (cap-fulls) rose water. [Bring 1/2 cup water to boil. Add eight cloves to water. Continue boiling until water is reduced to two tablespoons. Pour this into the bottle of lemonade.] Serve in a glass with ice.

29 September 2009

Lentil Soup 41358

We can pretend that the sweetness of the sauteed onions is accentuated by the seemingly out of place nutmeg and cinnamon in this soup. Really, convince yourself. Or maybe the odor of the nutmeg will unexpectedly please you. Or maybe you don't care, and you will look at this recipe only for its proportions of water, lentils, and salt (the last of which isn't provided). Which is all you need anyway I'm sure.

1/2 pound lentils

one small onion

one or two cloves of garlic

one or two fresh chiles (something medium hot, like serrano)

one tomato (roma, but any kind will do)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cooking oil

three teaspoons coriander powder

two teaspoons cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

a pinch of freshly shaved nutmeg

salt to taste (a guess: 3 teaspoons)

Put a medium pot on medium-low heat, pour in the cooking oil, and melt the butter in it. Meanwhile, chop the onion into 1cm square pieces or smaller, the garlic as finely as possible, and the chile(s) into lengthwise quarters and then fine slices. Transfer all three into the pot and spread evenly for frying. Make sure that the heat is low enough that it doesn't burn the onions. Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Slice the tomato into quarters and then fairly thin slices. Once the onions are translucent, soft, and somewhat sweet, add the lentils, the tomatoes, and roughly a quart of water or twice as high as the lentils in the bottom of the pot. Turn heat to medium-high until the water boils, and then turn back down to medium-low. Let it mildly boil until lentils expand to the top of the pot, then add more water to create your desired consistency (I like to keep at least a 1/2 inch of water above the mass of lentils). Add salt. Continue cooking on low heat until the lentils are soft. You may need to add more water.

29 September 2009