Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Doubling up-- Stops 4 and 5 -- Soup and Dessert

i missed a couple of days, so i thought i'd double up. it rained like mad this past saturday and our two football games got cancelled, but that saturday night, since it was raining, we pulled out one of the soup books and tried something we'd never made before. whenever soup is on the menu, my sons kind of look at me in dazed amazement, not quite knowing whether they'll like it or not. brandon, my younger son, created this amazing seafood stew over the summer that i'm still dreaming of (he's 11 and i've got it written down, so i'll share this with you. it really is fabulous and i'm so proud), so i knew he would be up for it. if it isn't some kind of noodle soup, nicholas is always a little suspect... then tries it and usually goes for it. but that night, i still had the defrosted lamb and i definitely didn't want it to go to waste, so i wanted to find something that would use that and be quick, not an all day simmer sort of deal. it was kind of late in the day when i pulled the cookbook and i was blown away when i found this Lamb Mulligatawny Soup in this particular soup book, SOUP: A WAY OF LIFE by Barbara Kafka. every book i quote from, by the way, i recommend you try for yourself. even if one of the recipes WE try doesn't work out, i guarantee it's a blast to check them out for yourselves and see wassup, if you're into that sort of thing. this is a CRAZY great book, because i am deeply into soups. i have a couple of soup books, you will discover, and tons of soup recipes from other books. i get that love from my dad. it's definitely one of my favorite meals and things to eat.

we do a lot of Indian cooking, although my sons have no concept that we do. brandon is WAY into curry. he adores the taste and nicholas, my cook experimenter, likes to play with flavors. here's how the recipe goes:

5 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
4 tsps very finely chopped peeled ginger
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 tbs curry powder (preferrably East Indian)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 pound boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/2 inch dice
6 cups Lamb Stock (you'll see)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium rib celery, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

what to do:
1. puree the garlic, ginger and 1/4 cup water in a blender.
2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Stir in the spices, cooking for about 1 minute to release the aromas. Stir in the lamb. Raise the heat and cook, stirring, until the lamb begins to brown, being careful not to burn the spices.
3. Stir in the stock, garlic/ginger mixture and the veggies. Bring to aboil then lower the heat to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lentils and simmer for 8 minutes or until the lentils and lamb are tender.
4. Season with salt, lemon juice and pepper.

here's what we did:
we pureed the garlic, ginger and water in our food processor, because our blender broke a couple of months ago and we haven't gotten a new one yet. another wish for christmas. we didn't have any carrots or celery -- and, i have to admit that while i am a lover of soup and love to make it from scratch, i despise cooked carrots and always have to convince myself to use them in my mire poix. yes, i know. if you are a serious french chef or a culinay student of any kind, you will be appalled at me, but i'm just sayin'. i did, however, have some yummy baby bok choy, so we chopped that up and since brandon was helping me, he decided he wanted to toss the lamb in some flour for thickening before we browned and upped the curry level a bit. told you he loves curry. we also had some left over brown rice from our garlic allioli chicken a couple of days ago and added that to the whole thing. i didn't have time to make the lamb stock, so i used beef consome i had in the cabinet and the rest, as they say, is history. we served this with some pita chips and a light salad and, yes, success. the boys devoured this, it was quick, easy, SO delicious and hearty. brandon was VERY proud of his tossing the lamb with the flour and how well it went, so he is a huge believer in his abilities. lovely :o)

next night, we made something that we had pulled off line from the Barefoot Contessa television show, Ina Garten, whose cookbook i do have and will show up here sooner or later, but it was a lazy sunday afternoon, we had brandon's game rescheduled that evening for 4:00 and none of us were too into doing too much. so, i hooked us up with some tadpoles (ya know, hot dogs baked in refrigerator croissant dough -- yeah, but it's total kid fare), frozen french fries (again, a total kid and guilty pleasure), a salad and made this unbelievably yummy lemon yogurt cake as a sweet treat for the boys after a long and rather intense weekend. it is AWESOME and here's the lowdown:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt -- we have this a lot in our house, because we make a lot of fresh naan, lots of greek food, indian food, turkish food -- hell, all around middle eastern food, cuz it's yum, people
1-1/3 cup sugar, divided (1 cup in one bowl and the 1/3 in another)
3 extra large eggs
2 tss grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup veggie oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

what to do:
preheat oven to 350º and grease an 18-1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2 in ch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper then grease and flour the whole thing.

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. in another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, fold in the veggie oil making sure it is completely incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepped pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center of the cake comes out clean.
2. While that's baking, cook the 1/3 cup of lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in a small pan just until the sugar dissoles and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
3. When the cake's done, take it out of the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. take it out of the pan and put it on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan. While the cake's still warm, pour the lemon-sugar syrup over the cake and let it soak in. Cool.
4. Once the cake is cooled, you can make the glaze. Mix the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth then pour it over the cake and serve.

here's what we did:
when it comes to baking, i don't mess around too much. this stuff is pure chemistry and i sucked in science, but i love to bake. so, sometimes, i will go out of the box a bit and in this case i did a mix of lime and lemon, heigtening the flavor -- my opinon, i know, but whatever -- and giving it more depth. i also always use superfine sugar for baking and make sure my ingredients are room temp. they blend better, so i've learned, been told and discovered. my oven is WACK! as in, it's set at 350º and bakes something that should bake for almost an hour in 35 minutes. so i have to watch this sucker like a hawk, but it came out great, beautiful and happy. this is a moist, yummy and lowfat kinda cake, cuz of the yogurt and lack of pretty much any sort of bad fat, and it's great with tea, milk, coffee and a bad ass glass of wine. my sons were happy, i was happy, and life was goodish for a tiring sunday night battling homework.

as a total aside, this would make a terrific gift cake, something you could bring into work or send to a friend. it holds up really well and does sort of brighten your day with the flavors and ease. okay, see ya later. on to the next.

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