Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Chicken and Lentils

Abstract

A fantastic hearty soup for the start of winter!

Introduction

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged (or cooked really, for that matter), but today I finally managed to use my Saturday productively. I found this dish online searching for a hearty soup with some combo of chickpeas and lentils — the source recipe is from Emeril Lagasse: BAM!

Makes 10-12 servings

Materials/Methods

  • 2 (8 oz. cans) chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1-2 medium onions
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of diced tomatoes, with the juice
  • 1.5 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/4 lb green lentils
  • 1/2 cup long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Start by cutting up the chicken in to small pieces (like what you’d see in a stir fry) and putting it in a large pot with some olive oil. Sautée on medium-high heat until until the chicken is browned (it may be necessary to cook the chicken in several steps, depending on the size of your pan. Once browned, remove the chicken from the pot and cook the onions until softened (about 4 minutes)

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Add the ginger, tumeric, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the onions. Continue to cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the chicken to the pot, add the tomatoes and the juice from the can.

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Now stir in the chickpeas, and lentils, adding the chicken stock. Set the stove to high — once the mixture reaches a boil, cover and set the stove to low, letting simmer for 1 hour.

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After it’s simmered on low for an hour, add the rice and cook on medium-low for another 30 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the cilantro, parsley and lemon juice. That’s it! Enjoy!

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Results:

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Discussion/Conclusions:

This one was great! It proved again just how delicious these Mediterranean recipes are that incorporate cinnamon and nutmeg into a savory dish. The spices balanced really well; I think the only thing I might change would be to coarsely shred the chicken after cooking it instead of leaving it in larger chunks.

Muffaletta Sandwich

Abstract

The muffaletta is a New Orleans original packed with a variety of tasty Italian cold-cuts and a mouthwatering olive tapenade. Very easy to make, provided you have a blender and a good deli section at the local market.

Introduction

I almost feel ashamed for posting about a sandwich, but trust me, this is no ordinary sandwich. This creation is my all-time favorite picnic food. I have a very vivid memory of my mom making it for some sort of outdoor concert or play — I don’t remember what the event was, but I sure remember this sandwich! Last weekend some friends and I went to see an orchestra concert at Ravinia park, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a shot.

Note: Ideally you’re supposed to use a whole round loaf of bread such as sourdough and cut it in half to make the sandwich, and then slice it into wedges of an appropriate serving size. I couldn’t find a large loaf in time, so I bought two fairly large Italian loaves, which seemed to work just fine.

Also Note: I recommend making this 10-24 hours in advance, to allow the flavors in the olive tapenade to really blend together.

Materials/Methods (Cat not included)20130815_213021(0)

The sandwich:

  • 2 whole Italian loaves (or a very large round sourdough loaf if you can find it)
  • 1/4 lb Mortadella
  • 1/4 lb Capicola
  • 1/4 lb Genoa salami
  • 1/4 lb smoked ham
  • 1/2 lb provolone cheese

The olive spread (you will have some left over, but it’s worth it)

  • 16 oz. pitted green olives (with pimento)
  • 16 oz. pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2-3 tbsp: gardinera
  • 3-4 small pickled onions
  • 1 heaping tbsp capers
  • pepper (to taste)

We’ll start with the olive spread. Simply dump everything into your food processor/blender and pulse until you get a nice chunky paste. Depending on your personal preference you may want to add another tablespoon of capers (I’m a huge fan of capers).

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Congratulations, that was the hardest part! Now to build the sandwich. Cut the loaves in half and begin with a layer of mortadella, followed by the capicola. Layer the provolone cheese, the salami, and finally the ham. (I don’t really think the order matters to much, but that’s how I decided to do it).

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Finally it’s time to add the tapenade. Get a big spoon and spread a thick layer of the olive mixture over the top of the sandwich — this is the part that ties everything else together, so you really can’t add too much. The worst thing that happens is some falls out when you’re slicing up the final product (this is actually a bonus, because then you can eat it).

20130815_215141Now all that’s left is to put on the top part of the bread and partition it so that people will actually be able to fit it into their mouths. Before you cut it up, I recommend transferring the sandwich to a cutting board with a large length of plastic wrap on top (enough with which to wrap the sandwich), so that you won’t have to transfer individual slices, which are prone to falling apart. Carefully slice up the sandwich, taking care not to puncture the plastic. With this done, wrap the sandwich(es) up nice and tight, and toss it in the fridge!

 

Discussion/Conclusions:

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Three words: om nom nom! Initially I was worried that the capers overpowered the tapenade, but after letting the sandwich sit overnight all of the flavors were really blended perfectly. The muffaletta was a big hit at our picnic potluck and I’ll definitely be making it again.

California 2013 (Part I)

Sorry about the lack of updates: things got pretty busy with end-of-quarter assignments. But now I’m done with classes forever, hooray! For the next two weeks I’ll be in Livermore, CA (near San Francisco, but possibly a little too far east to truly be considered part of the bay area). So while that does mean I won’t be able to cook for two weeks, it probably means that I will be visiting a few good (and different) restaurants!

Livermore has a pretty small downtown area, but we were told that the First Street Alehouse was definitely worth a visit. So we decided to check it out on our first evening and sure enough, the beer selection was excellent and the sandwiches tasty:

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on the top we have the california chicken sandwich (chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato) and on the bottom the tri-tip steak sandwich. The tri-tip in particular was fantastic.

The next day we drove north to the town of Petaluma, CA to visit Lagunitas brewery. We only have a few weekends here, but a trip to this brewery was definitely at the top of our list.

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The brewery had a great atmosphere, with an enormous open-air patio that you just won’t find in Chicago. Aside from some initial confusion about where to set up camp (despite there being a hostess it was a self-seating free-for-all) it was really nice to sit back with a flight of seasonal/special brews and enjoy the sunny weather.

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From left to right: Famhouse Ale, Nelson Sauvin IPA, Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale, and Olde Gnarlywine. The brisket sandwich I got was also quite good, and it was especially nice to have a fresh salad to go along with it rather than more fried food.

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Sufficiently full, we went on a tour of the facilities. They have a very impressive setup (Lagunitas is something like the 11th largest brewery in the US) and it turns out they are building an even larger brewery/distribution center in Chicago in order to expand to the rest of the country.

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The best part of the tour, hands down, was listening to the guide’s stories about the somewhat troubled first few years of operation, which involved the founder’s butting heads with the local government over the names of individual beers (“Kronik”, now known as “Censored”), and an ATF raid over suspected marijuana dealing on the premises (which ironically led to enormous popularity due to all the media attention, as well as the naming of the popular “Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale”). The tour ended, as most tours do, at the gift shop, where I got a t-shirt and mason jar glass to add to my collection of brewery glassware.

All in all, a day well-spent. Work starts tomorrow, but expect continued food updates!

Potato soup — a family recipe

Abstract

A hearty and easy-to-make Mexican soup with potatoes in a tomato beef broth.

Introduction

We’ve had a chilly weekend in Chicago, so I decided to make some soup. This one is a favorite from when I was growing up — especially the peppercorns.

Materials/Methods

  •  8 potatoes
  •  2 cups tomato sauce
  •  8-10 peppercorns (you can add more if you want — I put 15 or so)
  •  4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 an onion
  •  6 c. beef broth (either actual broth, or water + bouillon cubes)
  • 2 serrano peppers
  •  1 tsp. salt
  •  1 bunch yerbabuena (this should be pretty easy to find in any Mexican market. Mint should work as well, or you can even do without it if it’s too hard to find)
  • oil

Start by dicing the potatoes into roughly 1/2 inch cubes

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Lightly fry the potatoes until just before they start to turn golden brown. Set them aside and pat some of the oil off with a paper towel. Then fry the half-onion (keep it intact) and the serrano peppers.

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Now cook the tomato sauce, onion, and serrano peppers in the remaining oil for about 10 minutes on medium heat.

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If you are using beef bouillon, boil 6 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of bouillon. Set to medium-low heat and add the potatoes, tomato sauce, onions, serrano peppers, bay leaves, salt, and yerbabuena.

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Let sit until the potatoes are cooked all the way through.

Results:

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Discussion/Conclusions:

Really easy to make and perfect for an unexpectedly cold weekend in May!

Moussaka/Lasagna Hybrid

Abstract

This dish takes a *long* time (several hours) to get everything prepped, but is well worth the effort for a lazy saturday.

Introduction

A few weeks ago I went to Chicago Wine Riot with some friends, and for the lunch beforehand we visited this fantastic Greek place. I love Greek food, particularly that distinctive tomato sauce with allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, so I thought I’d try my hand at Moussaka, a hearty casserole-like dish with layers of meat, potatoes, and eggplant. However, I didn’t feel like making the béchamel sauce (a necessity for real Moussaka) partly because it called for so much butter, and partly because I always find separating egg whites/yolks to be a pain.

So I did some thinking and decided to try an experiment: a delicious bastardization of Greek moussaka and Italian lasagna. With so much Mediterranean goodness, what could possibly go wrong?

Note: I probably sound like a hypocrite after my recent post talking about being very particular about authentic Mexican food. I should point out that I enjoy a Chipotle burrito as much as the next guy, so long as it’s not billed as “authentic”. So! Disclaimer: This is not authentic. This is a dish prepared on a whim by a Mexican-American fusing two beloved recipes from distinct cultures, each with their own rich culinary traditions.

Materials/Methods

  • ~12 large lasagna noodles
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggplants
  • 4 large red potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 lb ground lamb
  • 3/4 lb Italian sausage
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon ground basil
  • salt + pepper
  • large baking dish/tray (tall one will be nice)

Begin by partially peeling the eggplants. What I mean by that is to peel strips of skin off along the long-axis, leaving about 1-inch of skin in between each “stripe”. I’m not sure why this is done, but most of the recipes I looked at for comparison seemed to insist on it. Cut the eggplants into ~1/2″ slices. Layer the slices on a baking sheet covered with paper towels, and douse them with salt. This step is to help remove excess moisture from the eggplants — I found it convenient to stack several layers of paper towels and salted eggplants to conserve space (see image below).

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You’ll want to give the salt and towels some time to work, so let the eggplants sit for about 30 min, and go to work on the potatoes. Slice the potatoes into roughly 1/4″ thick pieces. Lightly coat a baking pan or two with olive oil and spread out the slices evenly. Sprinkle some pepper, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and put the potatoes in the oven at 375 °F for about 25 minutes.

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Now that the potatoes are cooking it’s time to set up an assembly line for the eggplants. On the right we have my mighty eggplant-slice tower, in the middle is a container containing 3 eggs scrambled together with half of the parsley, and to the left is the 2 cups of flour. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg mixture and coat thoroughly with flour — if you have an extra greased baking sheet you can place them there, but if not just put them on a plate or something until the potatoes are finished.

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By now the potatoes should be done. I do love roasted red potatoes! Put them on a plate and out of the way so that there is room in the oven for…

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the eggplants! Arrange them on two baking dishes (if you haven’t already) and bake them at 400 °F for 30 minutes, turning the slices over at the halfway point.

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While the eggplants are cooking you are going to do two things. The first is to boil water for the lasagna noodles, and then cook the lasagna noodles. The following picture is not really there to show you how noodles are boiled, but more so that you remember to start cooking the noodles in the first place:

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The second is to take your chopped onions and minced garlic and throw them onto a skillet with some olive oil. Let cook for a few minutes, and then add the ground lamb and sausage. I like to remove the sausage meat from the casing, but you don’t have to.

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Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned and the onions translucent.

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Now it’s time to add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, red wine, cinnamon, oregano, allspice, cloves, basil (all the spices, basically).

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Let this simmer for about 20 minutes, depending on the consistency of sauce you’d like. By this point it should be time to take out the eggplants:

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Yum! The last thing before construction time is to take the ricotta cheese and mix it into a bowl with 1 egg and the rest of the parsley. (apparently I forgot to take a picture of this step, but it’s pretty straightforward).

OK! So you’ve got the eggplants, the meat sauce, the potatoes, the lasagna noodles, the ricotta cheese all good to go. For ease of reference I’ve made this chart of the “unit cell” that I decided to go with:

stacking diagram

The structure consists of two main layers. The “Greek” layer, consisting of potato, eggplant, and meat sauce, followed by the “Italian” layer with noodle, ricotta, mozzarella, meat sauce, and then another layer of noodles. In the end I managed to get two of each, although I did feel like I was a bit lacking on the meat sauce, so it might be desirable to increase the quantity. Anyway, this is what it looked like after the second “Greek” layer.

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After the second “Italian” layer I had run out of meat sauce, so I topped the whole thing off with a final layer of noodles, the rest of the mozzarella, and some parmesan.

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Let it bake at 375 °F for 25 minutes covered with aluminum foil, and then 25 additional minutes uncovered. Now pour yourself another glass of wine, because you’re finished!

Results:

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(it doesn’t hold together very well, but then again it doesn’t last long enough for it to matter)

Discussion/Conclusions:

This may be my most successful recent cooking experiment! The dish is incredible; the only thing I might change would be to make more sauce, as I had to skimp on the layering towards the end.

Cemitas Puebla

The weather is finally consistently nice, and so begins the season of Chicago food adventures! Being half-Mexican has made me pretty particular when it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine (I won’t touch taco bell with a 10 ft pole), but the flip side is that when I find a really good Mexican restaurant I tend to go back. Often. Cemitas Puebla is a restaurant that exceeds even my high standards, and has become a staple that my friends try to visit at least every few months. The restaurant itself is a bit out of the way and most easily accessible by car, but the sandwiches more than make up for it.

The term “cemita” is a trademarked version of a Mexican torta, consisting of a sesame-covered fresh loaf of bread with avocado, fresh Oaxaca cheese, and your choice of meat. I was particularly hungry and opted to get the Cemita Atómica, which is filled with ham and a generous helping of pork milanesa (fried breaded pork cutlet).

Cemita Atomica

I hadn’t eaten breakfast in anticipation of this meal, so the cemita, consumed with several varieties of homemade salsa and washed down with a bottle of Mexican soda, really hit the spot.

They also have more traditional fare such as burritos and tacos, but as one of our group was told by the friendly proprietor: “burrito? You can get a burrito anywhere. These guys? [pointing to two of my friends] they come here for the cemitas.” And we certainly plan to come back.

Tomato Curry Chicken

Abstract

This is a very straightforward and easy-to-prepare dish consisting of chicken and vegetables in a tomato-based curry sauce. Good for large batches, and the choice of vegetables can easily be changed according to preference.

Introduction

While I was in Milwaukee, I visited the Miller Brewing Company and purchased a pocket-sized cookbook called “101 Recipes with Beer” in the gift shop. I love beer and cooking with beer, so I’m pretty excited about trying the wide variety of recipes that this booklet has to offer. So, without further ado: a modifed version of Tomato Curry Chicken

Note: I like to cook in *very* large batches in order to have food for most of the week. Keep this in mind, especially when considering the size of the pot you have to work with!

Materials/Methods

  • about 3.5 lb of boneless, skinless chicken (I used a mix of breast and thigh meat)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large heads of broccoli
  • 2 medium sized onions, coarsely chopped
  • 12 oz. (2 bags) baby spinach
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 12 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 beer
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by cutting up the chicken in to small pieces (like what you’d see in a stir fry) and putting it in a large pot with some olive oil. Sauté on medium-high heat until until the chicken is browned (it may be necessary to cook the chicken in several steps, depending on the size of your pan. Once browned, remove the chicken from the pot and let it sit on a plate.

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Add a little more oil back to the pan if needed, dump in the chopped onions, and sauté until they become translucent.

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Once the onions are cooked, throw in the broccoli, baby spinach, and pour in about half the beer in order to steam the vegetables. Cover the pot and let sit on medium heat until the spinach and broccoli  have begun to cook nicely.

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Now add the chicken back in and mix it all up

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Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, spices, and the rest of the beer

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Let sit on low heat for 30-45 minutes. I recommend about 20 min covered and the rest of the time uncovered. If you want the consistency to be a bit thicker, just let it sit for longer uncovered.

And enjoy! I served mine over quinoa this time, but any grain or starch should do nicely.

Results:

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Discussion/Conclusions:

Overall this recipe turned out quite nicely! If I were to make it again I might use half cauliflower and half broccoli, and add the broccoli a little bit later so that they are a bit more firm by the end. I might also put in some crushed red pepper or chili powder to give it a kick, but some sriracha will suffice for now🙂