Honey Garlic Lentils

I read this item on a menu once and though I never tasted them, the idea has been dancing around my head ever since. I searched for recipes online.I found some with a similar title, but the ingredient list never fulfilled the image and expectations my mind had created. I was expecting a strong but creamy roasted garlic with a surprising, but not overwhelming, sweetness. The other recipes included too many other overwhelming flavors such as soy or dijon. After too much searching, and plenty of thinking, I devised this simple recipe.

I love roasted garlic, and I find that its far too easy to consume too much. Some nights we each finish an entire head, wanting more, although we know it was plenty to begin. This recipe was begging for it. I roasted three heads, but think perhaps a few more could be added for stronger results. A few tablespoons of honey and barely a dash of balsamic. All whisked together, simmered for a minute, and folded in with barely-done lentils — al dente, if it can be applied here. You want them to keep their shape. Some red onions, gently sauteed, and pistachio nuts (although I would have used walnuts or pine nuts if I had had them around). Its better if allowed to sit overnight in the honey garlic mixture, and the onions and nuts added the next day right before the meal.

Honey Garlic Lentils

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked lentils
3 heads garlic, roasted
3 T honey
2 t balsamic vinegar
olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
salt
a pinch of red pepper flakes
pistachios, walnuts, or others– preferably toasted and well salted.

Directions:
Cook lentils and roast garlic ahead of time.

Squeeze roasted garlic from bulbs, and whisk with honey and balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Let simmer just a minute. Remove from heat. Pour over lentils. If you have time, let mixture sit overnight.

Heat olive oil on medium in a pan, and gently cook onions until just tender. Add a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes. Stir in lentils with honey sauce until just heated through. Toss in toasted nuts.

Roasted Caramelized Beets

Sometimes I really miss the television. Usually I’m too busy for it, or it would just keep me up insanely late.

Thankfully we go to the gym, and there I can get my T.V. fix. We go to the gym at 5am most weekdays, which means my early morning programing consists of Married with Children followed by The Nanny (luckily the volume is muted and we are provided with subtitles so that instead of listening to her screeching voice we can listen to the techno-pop music they have in the background. Actually, I’m not sure which I prefer.)

When I’m lucky, however, I get one of the treadmills or ellipticals with a T.V. attached to it, and I can select my own show. Those occasions are few because, despite how early it is, the gym is packed at this hour. When I can choose my show, it is always the food channel. In Spanish of course. Which is usually a strange experience because they are often shows originally in English but dubbed in Spanish. I can read their lips sometimes in English. weird. I prefer subtitles to dubbing, but I take what I can get.

This morning, Sunday, there was hardly anyone at the gym. Still, 3 out of the 4 machines with their own screen were taken. I ran for it. It was mine. Immediately I scrolled to the cooking channel and I encountered this recipe. One root veggie roasted to perfection with the most simple seasoning. It was a good thing we had beets at home. This is my new favorite way of preparing them. Crispy and salted around the edges; the stems are particularly delicious. It’s almost chip-like. Sweet and caramelized, even more dramatic than your average beet.

Roasted Caramelized Beets
adapted from food network canada

Ingredients:
4 beets, thoroughly scrubbed and sliced into wedges. Leave stems in tact.
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:
Heat oven to 425ºF. Roast for about an hour.

Grind Your Own Meat! Then Make These Baked Chicken Meatballs.

This NYTimes article got me thinking a while back, and since I have stopped buying ground meat. Honestly it wasn’t that frequent, and usually ground chicken. Visits to a favorite burger joint of ours, Pecos Bill’s, has declined dramatically I’m sad to say.  Apparently one burger may contain parts of 12 different cows from 5 different countries increasing the risk of e. coli and salmonella, bacteria which have shattered this woman’s life. Since then all our hamburgers have been from black beans or chickpeas. There has been no meatloaf, and certainly no meatballs. I love meatballs. and hamburgers, and meatloaf. But I don’t have a grinder. I thought to myself…why can’t I just use my food processor? I searched for people who had done something similar, but couldn’t find any responses…just people encouraging against it because it will be a gloppy mess. Well…isn’t ground meat a gloppy mess?So I tried it.

First I started with one chicken breast which I cut up with kitchen shears into small pieces. Then, with the sharp side of the place, pulsed it in the processor until it looked good. It formed a ball. My processor is small so I did one breast at a time. Then from there I followed this recipe for meatballs, more or less. At the end I tossed them with 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce. This is a healthy and relatively simple reicpe. Including the grinding and baking, it took about 30 minutes.

Please, if you have an explanation to why the meat has to be a particular “round” grind, let me know.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
adapted from: smitten kitchen

Ingredients:
3 breast worth of chicken chopped into chunks, aprox. 1.25lbs, (or already ground meat if you prefer)
1 large onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg beaten
1 large chunk of bread, soaked in milk, excess squeezed out
1-2 t dried basil
2/3 t salt
1 T tomato paste
1/3 cup BBQ sauce for tossing (or any other desired).

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 400ºF.

2) Pulse chicken in food processor.

3) In a pan, cook the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent.

4) With a fork mix it all together: chicken, egg, milky bread, tomato paste, onion and garlic, basil, and salt. Form into golfball size and place on a nonstick or lightly greased baking sheet.

5) Bake for 15-22 minutes until cooked through.

6) Toss with 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce if desired.

Wasabi White Bean Spread

This spread is one of Hec’s newest creations. He doesn’t spend much time in the kitchen these days for few reasons, mainly work and that I don’t share creative control of dinner once I have an idea in my head. Usually he catches up on preparing class, washes dishes, or plays the guitar for me while I work on dinner.

But this is 100% his creation. I had other plans for the white beans we had cooked that day, but when he said he had an idea, I let him run with it. At one point he was a genius in the kitchen, combining things I never would have imagined yet producing the most succulent meal. I recall a certain pork chop with pineapple, raspberry jam, bbq sauce, and who know what else was in there. I think I need to encourage him to come into the kitchen more, and perhaps its time I washed the dishes and learned guitar.

This dish has few ingredients — but that is the beauty. The white beans blend to a smooth and creamy texture, the olive oil adds depth and richness, and the wasabi gives a strong kick at the end. And it is versatile. Eat it on toast or crackers, use it on a sandwich in place of the usual condiments, or serve as a side dish instead of the average mashed potatoes.

Wasabi White Bean Spread

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked white beans, drained completely
1 T wassabi paste
2 T olive oil
salt to taste (I add it when I cook the beans)

Directions:
Blend everything together until smooth. Enjoy!

*Everything is more or less to taste. Adjust the wasabi and olive oil to your liking.

Balsamic Glazed Eggplant

Babaganoush is pretty much the only way I have prepared eggplant. Perhaps once before I sauteed it, but I can’t remember clearly, and I think thats because it wasn’t successful. I was a little intimidated to make anything else because of an episode of Good Eats I watched a while back. It seemed too difficult to drain out the water for a few hours before baking, grilling, or frying it to prevent a gloppy mess.

But one afternoon I finally had time and desire to try it. It turned out very well, too. The texture was great, and the flavor combo as well. There are lots of ways you can prepare eggplant, and the flavors are endless, too. This is effort #2 of hopefully many many more.

Honey Balsamic Glazed Eggplant

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 cloves garlic, ground to a paste
1 T honey
2 t balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
red pepper flakes

Directions:
1) Salt both sides of eggplant slices and place on a cooling rack. Place a heavy cutting board, or something similar, on top and add weight. This will help squeeze some water out of the eggplants. Let it sit like this for an hour or two. Rinse off the salt and squeeze the water out. Pat dry with a clean dish towel.

2) Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

3) Grind your garlic cloves to a paste. Whisk in honey, balsamic vinegar, and salt.

4) Place eggplant on cooking sheet, and brush generously with the glaze. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you wish. Bake for about 20 minutes each side or until tender, reglazing as you flip.

Chicharrón de Pollo

Chicharrón is, by definition, the skin of a young pig, deep-fried. Gross, I know. But it was actually the tipping point in me returning to meat. My first few months in Guatemala I tried to remain. But after offending some, and baffling others, and eating nothing but rice and potatoes in my homestay, I started to give. A bite of chicken here, of beef there. But I still considered myself a vegetarian…until I went to Zacapa.

“Just try a bite,” they said. So, I did. It was like bacon but a million times more amazing. Thick cut slabs. Crunchy yet chewy. Saturated with flavor (and fat). Salty. Delicious. After tasting, I let out a little groan of joy and said “I guess I can’t consider myself a vegetarian anymore.”

Now what you see above is not traditional chicharrón. I don’t even like it, but Hec loves this crap. When we get Pollo Campero (Guatemalan KFC) I give him the skin. Whenever I get a piece of chicken with skin, he gets the skin. I don’t like the texture and I don’t like the flavor. We make a prefect combination.

So when I was making my latest roasted chicken, I decided to remove the skin entirely, save the thighs and wings. Knowing this would break Hec’s heart, I decided to crisp it up in the frying pan with a generous glug of oil. That way I didn’t have to eat chicken with the skin, and he could enjoy it in its most exhaled form: fried.

I share this with you not so much as a recipe or technique, but more of a cultural nuance. Guatemalan’s love their chicharrón. I do enjoy a piece of the real thing every once in a while as well.

Whole Wheat Crackers

Its a great feeling making your own crackers. You know exactly what is in them, and you can customize them to your tastes and nutrition requirements. I like to use whole wheat flour in just about anything I use flour in. Sometimes I question what “whole wheat” means when it is advertised on packages, and I dislike not recognizing ingredients on the packages of my food. So I started making my own crackers. Simple, yet more delicious than any cracker I can remember. I believe it was because I made them and I knew they were good for me, and I could season them as I pleased.

I haven’t made these crackers in quite a while. They are a rather simple creation, but unless you have a large oven and lots of counter space it can take a bit of time. It’d compare it to making Christmas cookies. Rolling them out, cutting the shapes, decorating a bit if desired, and rotating trays in the oven every 12 or so minutes. Its simple, but you need to have the time and patience.

Crackers - DoughCrackers - Rolled with Seeds

Although they may take some time, if you have a free Saturday, or evening with your friends or family and feel like getting flour all over the place, I recommend giving it a try. Its not hard. If you’ve got it in you, make a lot and store them in an airtight container for later. They’re great for dipping and spreading all kinds of delicious things like hummus, cheeses, tapenades. These make me feel good about snacking.

Whole Wheat Crackers

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or what you prefer)
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup water
Optional toppings: sea salt, sesame seeds, black pepper, lime zest, rosemary, hot paprika, zaatar, grated cheese

Directions:
Sift together the salt and flour. Whisk in the olive oil until absorbed. Add water and mix until all together. Turn out onto a clean, floured surface and kneed for a minute. Roll into a ball and cover with a clean dish towl and let the dough rest for a half an hour or so.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Roll out the dough until thin as a Christmas cookie, or thiner if you prefer an extra crispy cracker.

Sprinkle with desired toppings and press them into the dough gently. Cut into desired shapes. Using a fork, dot dough with a few holes (to prevent bubbles from forming, if you mind that), and it also makes it look pretty. Transfer carefully to a baking sheet, and bake about 10-12 minutes until golden.