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.

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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.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic (In the Slow Cooker)

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had a lot of tomatoes around the house recently. We shop at Pricesmart (Guatemalan CostCo) for some things, like coffee, milk (it comes in a box here in Guate), beer, canned items, soap. Items we consume a lot of that has a long shelf life. Usually we also buy pears and apples, onions, and occasionally cheese if its a good deal. But sometimes we make stupid purchases. Like 10-or-so pounds of tomatoes. It didn’t really look like that much. But then we get home, make our first batch of tomato soup, and realize we have almost the same amount of tomatoes as we started with.

What do people do with so many tomatoes? Tomato soup, check. Pan tumaca, check. Tomato pie, check. Still, we had lots and lots of very ripe tomatoes. Now the question was more along the lines of how to preserve them because I’m getting a little tired of tomatoes. So this morning I sliced them in half, placed them on the toaster oven baking sheet, drizzled them with a little olive oil, salt, dried herbs, and some un-pealed cloves of garlic for good measure. In the oven at 225ºF and set the timer for 3 hours.

But…just two hours later our lovely little toaster oven let out it’s lovely alarm and then turned itself off. I forgot that it has a “safety” timer, and if you leave it on too long it shuts itself off. Thank you very much, Black and Decker…but I know what I’m doing here and no you haven’t finished your job. (No, we don’t have an oven. Don’t feel abd for me, I love our little kitchen).

But thankfully Héc is inventive, and suggested the crockpot. I know that many of you are thinking to remind me that the crockpot generally uses “wet heat” to cook, rather than the dry heat of the oven. However, if you place a dish cloth under the lid and leave the lid ajar a bit, the cloth will absorb much of the moisture, and trapping much of the heat inside, creating a similar environment as the oven.

I transplanted the tomatoes to the crockpot, drizzled a bit more oil on top, and set it on high for two more hours. They look gorgeous, and I don’t have to eat them for a few days if I don’t feel like it. Although, suddenly, I feel like spreading a juicy slice of roasted tomato over a piece of toasted homemade bread.

Olive Tapenade with Sun Dried Tomatoes

My favorite foods tend to be something you can spread on bread. This is definitely one of them, next to hummus, slabs of good cheese, olive oil, tomato jam, ect. Its really simple to make, much less expensive than the jarred stuff. Try it!

Olive Tapenade

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic
12 kalamata olives in brine, drained
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
3 springs rosemary
salt to taste
olive oil to taste

Directions:
Peel garlic and add to bowl. Toss in a pinch of salt and, using a pestle (or back of a spoon), grind the garlic into a paste. Pit and mince finely the olives. Mince the tomatoes into a paste. Toss together in the bowl. Mince the rosemary and add to the bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to taste (I used just a little, about 1 tablespoon). Salt to taste.

Tip: let it sit for a day or two so the flavors can blend well. Although it is still delicious immediately (I usually don’t wait).  Serve over toasted bread.

Pan Tumaca

We go to this Catalonian restaurant quite a bit — La Bocaria. It is fabulous in all ways: ambiance, staff, to the menu, the sangria. The prices generally are not what I would call fabulous, although there are a handful of affordable nutritious dishes that will fill your belly without breaking your wallet (although we don’t usually get them). We go there primarily for the sangria, and on very special occasions, the lechon. We love the dimly-lit, old-fashioned feel of the place, and Oscar is always happy to see us and seats us in our usual spot. On days when we are not too hungry and only want something to munch on while enjoying our refreshing fortified beverage, we order pan tumaca (this is my strategy for saving money). They always bring a small portion of it when we order the drinks, but the two tiny slices just tease my taste buds and I have to order another portion.

The first time we tried it we were baffled over what exactly was on the bread. The bite of the garlic was intensely clear. We could tell there was tomato in some form, but that was not so obvious.  It was almost jelly-like, but thin and not sweet. Finally we asked the waiter if he knew what it was. Just like the secret to the sangria, he gave it to us straight and simple. I wonder if the owners know he gives away their prized recipes…. perhaps its not that big of a secret,but in our household this allows us to transform lame bread into a masterpiece we don’t want to stop eating.

This is also where Hec took me the night he proposed. !

Pan Tumaca

Ingredients:

  • Bread, generally something dense and crusty, although whatever you have will work.
  • Garlic cloves, peeled. One per large slice of bread.
  • Ripe tomato, cut in half and seeded
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions:
1. Toast the bread
2. Rub the peeled garlic clove over the bread. It will dissappear as you rub.
3. Rub the tomato flesh on the bread until it turns pinkish.
4. Drizzle with olive oil, as much as you want.
5. Salt to taste.

This is a great appetizer, and great for when you have guests. Let them do it themselves (unless you want to keep the secret to yourself). They’ll enjoy it.

Whole Roasted Rosemary Garlic Chicken…My First!

I don’t know why this was always such an intimidating idea, but roasting a whole chicken always seemed a bit of a challenge. Too much time, too much preparation, too much experience and knowledge. I never really felt like getting my hands that involved in my food.

But we’ve been into these roasted chickens from Pricesmart lately. They are juicy and succulent and a pretty good price (3 lb chicken for 6 bucks? is that good?). But more and more I’ve felt a little defeated by this delicious chicken. So I decided that over the holidays I would take on the challenge of roasting my own bird. Finally today I had the time. I went and bought a scant-3-pounder from the market, and searched all my favorite websites for advice. I had no idea how to cook a bird. I dont have a thermometer, and when they all said “until the juices run clear” I was really really confused. What juices? What is the exact definition of clear? But I went for it.

I made a brine by grinding fresh rosemary, an entire head of garlic, and a generous amount of salt and olive oil. After washing the chicken inside and out — which I found to be a depressing procedure, considering how alive the non-dismembered meat appeared — I smeared the brine inside and out, even under the skin. (Its even sad to talk about). I stuffed it with quartered limes, onions, and a large bundle of rosemary, thyme, and an unplealed head of garlic. I drizzled everything with oil, preheated the oven to 375,  lined the toaster oven pan with foil, arranged some sliced potatoes onions, and limes around the endges, drizzled more olive oil, and place my cherished bird on top. I didn’t have “kitchen twine” (whatever that is) so I used dental floss. It worked perfectly, by the way. I put her in the oven and set the timer for 60 minutes.

When the alarm sounded, following some peoples advice, I poked a breast with a knife to see if the “juices ran clear”. To my surprise, they did! It was almsot like a fountain, and at the moment I wished I had had a thermometer instead so the succulent juices would have stayed within the meat.

I cranked the temperature up to 450 for another 10 minute just to brown the outside a little more (Hec really likes toasty chicken skin). I removed her from the oven, covered it with foil as my dear father always does with the thanksgiving bird, and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then we cut her up and boy oh boy was this the juciest tenderest most delicious chicken I can remember eating in my life. I’m bragging here obviously, but it was delicious.

And so here is the dilemma. I really really enjoyed this meal. But it was heartbreaking to prepare. I just couldn’t imagine doing it again. It was too alive, too friendly. I think the chicken we ate this afternoon was a very happy bird, was named Clementina, and would have made a lovely pet.

But didn’t she turn out really pretty? And she really was succulent. Mom, aren’t you proud?!

Seafood Avgolemono (Greek Style Egg Lemon Soup with Calamari and Tilapia)

Avegolemono - Rings of Squid

Avgolemono soup reminds me of Solonica, located on 57th Street in Hyde Park Chicago. It was just two blocks from my place, and was a frequent breakfast stop, especially mornings (or afternoons) after a party. It is a diner-style restaurant but the menu is sprinkled with Greek-style culinary treats such as moussaka, omelettes with spinach and fetta, spinach pie and, my favorite, baklava. Avgolemono was also on the menu. It traditionally is an chicken stock thickened with eggs, scented with lemon, and served with rice, and sometimes herbs such as mint or dil.

My recipe is slightly different. In fact, I began making this stew with something completely different in mind. I was going to make a simple seafood stew, featuring the many pounds of squid we recently bough without taking note of the expiration date (thats why it was so inexpensive…) But didn’t read the recipe carefully. After I finished making the stock (step #1 in my recipe below) I realized that the recipe called for mayo. It called for mayo. I despise mayo. So I thought and I though. What can I put in place of the mayo? I didn’t have yogurt prepared, which is my number one go to substitute for mayo. I thought milk would be too watery for the consistency I was looking for. I don’t do cream any more willingly than I do mayo. But what is mayo, anyway? Eggs, lemon, salt, and oil. Huh. Eggs and lemon sounds an awful lot like Avgolemono…and lemon goes wonderfully with seafood. So it was settled. Instead of they mayo I added the juice of two lemons (limes actually- lemons are almost impossible to find in Guate, but I found the limes to work just as well) and 4 eggs.

LeeksAvgolemono - With Veggies

The result was a lovely light lemony cream sauce, and rich in protein. I followed most of the directions of my original inspiration, but the lemon and eggs took the dish hostage-which I was greatful for. The dish was perfect. There were groans of joy throughout the entire meal. In addition, the veggies I used added a nice texture, color, and flavor that traditional chicken broth wouldn’t have provided. This broth was a perfect way to feature the calamari and tilapia.

Seafood Avgolemono (Serves 6 -8)
For Vegetarian version, use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and omit seafood. Perhaps chickpeas or white beans would be a nice addition.

Ingredients:
1 pound squid, cut into rings
4 tilapia filettes
1 pound new potatoes, boiled separately and put aside (optional)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tomato
1 bayleaf
4 eggs
2 lemons or limes
1/4 teaspoon paprika
large pinch of salt
8 garlic cloves
Olive oil and generous fresh black pepper. This is important!

Directions: 1. Add olive oil to a 4 quart pot, and add carrots, leeks, and onion. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, making sure not to brown the veggies. One the veggies are tender, add the tomato, and cook another two minutes. Add the fennel, thyme, and bay leaf, along with the chicken stock, water, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3o minutes. At this point I prefer to strain the veggies, and set them aside. I will add them in later. For me, it makes preparing a creamy broth much easier. However you can keep them in if you prefer.

2. Prepare the egg mixture: Beat the eggs well. Add the juice of the lemons and whisk together. Peel all the garlic, and place in separate bowl or plate. Add the salt, and grind together to form a nice paste. This will ensure that the garlic combines well into the soup. Once into a fine paste, whisk the garlic into the eggs. Set aside.

3. If you want to make this ahead of time (lets say the night before, or in the morning), you can let the stock cool, and cover it and the eggs well and keep in the fridge up to 24 hours. When you are ready to prepare the rest, about a half hour before eating, bring the broth to a simmmer and let the eggs sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

4. Temper the eggs. Ladle a half cup of the hot broth into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously. Add another half cup and continue whisking. This ensure that the egg does not “seize” and start cooking when it enters the hot broth. Add the egg mixture to the broth and whisk until well combined.

5. Add the squid and tilapia (torn into bite-sized pieces) and cook for a few minutes until opaque and flaky. If you removed the veggies and wish to have them in your soup, you can add them at this point. Add the potatoes, if desired, at this point as well. (So, Alton Brown says that the veggies after being cooked for so long are “worthless” as far as nutrients go. But for me they still have flavor, texture, color, and fiber. So I keep them. It doesn’t hurt.)

6. Serve drizzled with olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper. Look at the picture below…this is important. A few mint leaves would also add a lovely touch.

Avgolemono - Pepper and Olive Oil