Friday, January 25, 2013

Lentil Soup

1 pound of lentils
half pound mushrooms
half pound carrots
half an onion
tablespoon of minced garlic
olive oil
bay leaf
teaspoon of oregano
teaspoon of basil
one 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
two tablespoons vinegar (red wine vinegar ideal, any other kind can work)

Put the lentils in a colander and rinse them with water, turning them over a bunch looking for anything that turns out to be a little rock or a little stick.

Cut the mushrooms in slices.

Peel the carrots and cut them in slices.

Peel the onion and cut it up pretty small.

Dump the tomatoes and their liquid into a bowl and pull each one apart with your fingers into several pieces.

Put the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, basil, and oregano in your soup pot.

Put a frying pan on the stove over medium heat.

When you can feel warmth holding your hand four inches above the surface, add just enough oil to cover the bottom.

When the oil shimmers a little, add the carrots, and stir and flip frequently. When they've all changed color a bit, dump them on top of the lentils.  (Could take five minutes)

Add a little more oil to the frying pan, add the onions, and a gain stir and flip frequently. Watching for them to be translucent.  (Could take five minutes)

Add the garlic to the onions and stir and flip constantly until the smell is strong and a bunch of the garlic bits are brown.  (Could take less than a minute) Flip the garlic and onions into the soup pot.

Add a little more oil to to the frying pan, and add mushrooms.  Stir and flip constantly until all the mushrooms are partly brown.  For this one, you may decide you need to add a second bit of oil, but don't add lots: mushrooms like to drink it all but don't need as much as they want. (Could take two minutes.)  Flip them into the soup pot.

If the pan has nice brown stuff on it, add a cup of water, and then push your spatula along the bottom to get the brown stuff to melt into the water. Add the water to the soup pot.

Add seven cups of water to the pot.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.

Simmer for an hour.

Add the vinegar.

Add some salt and pepper, stir well and decide whether to add more.

Celery, treated like the carrots, makes many people happy. I don't care for the texture of cooked celery, but you might.

Frozen corn, canned corn, or fresh spinach could be added 50 minutes or so into the cooking.  Thin sliced kale might be good too.

Everything except the lentils is about flavor. If you're missing something that's on the list, you can use alternate stuff: parsley, thyme, red wine, lemon,  chicken stock, chicken bouillion can all contribute.  Bacon or ham or sausage would make something different but lovely.

Grated cheese makes it better, though less thrifty.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Buy a lemon every two weeks

Lemons are cheap, and make many nice things nicer.

You can put lemon in your tea, hot or iced.

You can use lemon to make salad dressing.

You can add a little lemon to any vegetable--and it's especially nice on sautéed spinach or kale.

You can use lemon on your easy chicken thigh

For company, you can cook a whole chicken by cutting open a lemon, squeezing the juice over the whole bird, and putting the two halves inside the bird while it cooks.

For fancy pork chops, you can sautée some lemon slices in the olive oil at a low heat for a few minutes (until the kitchen smells great), take the lemon out, and brown the pork chops in the lovely lemon flavored oil.  Then add some chicken stock or some wine or some water, cover, and let them cook until done.

Buy a lemon.

Extremely easy chicken

Today's the last full day of my "Back up the Molly" trip.  Of the things I've cooked so far, I liked this one best.

Four chicken thighs (yes, organic and free-range is worth the price) (yes, you want the kind with the skin on)
A lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the chicken thighs in a 9 x 9 glass pan, skin side up.

Cut the lemon in half.

Squeeze the juice of one-half over the chicken.

Grind some salt and pepper over the chicken.

Put the chicken in the oven.

Basically, take it out again after 30 minutes.

You want more than basically, because you're, say, Molly?  You can try any of the following:

  1. See if it looks really beautifully browned on top, like chicken you've liked before.
  2. Listen for the sound of the pan juices sizzling because they're hot right through.
  3. Feel the texture when you stick a piece with a fork, again testing to see if it feels like chicken thighs you've eaten before.  
  4. Cut one piece open near the bone, and see if there's any pinkness left.
Oh yeah. There's half a lemon on your counter.  Put it on a tiny plate or in a tiny bowl, cut-side down, and use it tomorrow morning for tea or tomorrow night for your spinach.  Or, worst case scenario, you end up having spent 50¢ on a lemon and only using 25¢ worth.  Compared to other things you'd buy to make great chicken, and never use up, this may be the cheapest ingredient you could possibly waste.

Salad dressings without big bottles

I'm writing this from Molly's apartment, where she likes green leaves with no dressing and other people like green leaves with added flavor.  In her fridge and cabinet, I spy the ingredients for multiple dressings and little or no waste.  

Basic oil and vinegar:  Two tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon vinegar, tiny quantities of fresh ground salt and pepper, whisked together with a fork until it all looks thick and you can't see through it.  (Any vinegar can work, with wine vinegars most classic for this.  Use balsamic vinegar, get balsamic dressing)

Honey-Lemon: Two tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon lemon juice, one half-tablespoon honey, whisked the same way.

Honey-Mustard: Two tablespoons mayonnaise, one teaspoon mustard, one teaspoon honey, and just a little lemon juice, whisked until completely mixed

Easy Russian: One tablespoon mayonnaise, one tablespoon ketchup, whisked until completely mixed.

Nice on greens that go on a sandwich or panini: one tablespoon olive oil, tiny quantities of fresh ground salt and pepper.