Recipe Roundup: Closet Cooking Part 1

As any regular readers will know, it’s been a looooong time since I’ve posted here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. Unfortunately, with work and all kinds of other things going one — raising our two year old and prepping for a new little baby — MATK can fall to the wayside. But, I’m still cooking almost every night which means I have a huge backlog of meals to talk about going back to last fall. So, in an effort to try and document the good recipes I’ve tried out in the last few months, I figured I’d implement a new kind of a post called Recipe Roundup that will gather a bunch of meals from different places, throw in a few pics and do my best to remember how they turned out.

Today’s subject is one of my favorite new cooking sites, Closet Cooking which is great because there’s tons of older recipes on there and the site gets updated constantly. I also appreciate that Kevin Lynch seems to be cooking in a kitchen even smaller than mine which is no small feat. So, without further ado, hit the jump to check out the first batch of CC recipes I’ve tried out in the past few months!  Continue reading

Advertisements

Cooking Smitten Pasta With Cauliflower Walnuts and Feta

I’ve been so lax in posting here on MATK that I’m actually circling back around to recipes I tried months ago, snapped pictures of and never posted about. So, the main photos from this post are from that original try while the last one is from the most recent.

The first time I made Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta With Cauliflower, Walnuts & Feta, I followed the recipe to the letter, using the whole wheat pasta, two heads of cauliflower and the whole deal. It’s really simple to put together. Just get the water going, chop the veggies up, stir, drop, repeat, season and mix. My memories are a bit fuzzy from the first attempt, but it must have been good because I kept the link.

The second time, I jammed a little bit on the recipe, mostly because we had a few things sitting around in the pantry that I could sub in and save a little cash. First off, I used half a bag of egg noodles. I tried a new way of boiling pasta that I will get to in an other post, but I think I cooked them a little long because they got a bit sticky. I also swapped out the toasted walnuts for pecans because I had some on hand. I ground them down to sand size and toasted them up in a separate pan.

Since I’m trying to write down my cooking experiences in a more timely fashion, I can say that this is definitely a hearty, tasty meal that benefits from the mixture of acid from the lemon and white wine vinegar mingling with the punch of the feta and the crunchy sweetness of the cauliflower. My alterations this time around worked out well and showed how versatile this recipe — and the showcase ingredient — can be.

MacGyvering Thai-Style Lentil, Coconut & Green Bean Soup

Do you have a blindspot when it comes to a certain aspect of cooking? I do and it comes in the form of the slow cooker. For some reason, my mind always forgets to remind me that I need to actually get those dinners ready until there’s not enough time. With ingredients ready to go bad in the next few days and a need for a dish, I took to my trust copy of The Ultimate Soup Bible and did a little digging.

After looking up a few soups by ingredient, I realized I had most of what I’d need to follow the recipe for Thai-Style Lentil & Coconut Soup (p. 123), plus a bag of green beans, so I got to work. I had to make a few changes for this one. First off, I didn’t have sunflower oil, red onions, a Thai chili, lemongrass or cilantro so I swapped out for peanut oil, a yellow onion and shallot and omitted the rest.

I cooked two chopped onions, two cloves of garlic and the cleaned and broken-up green beans in some peanut oil for five minutes before adding 7 ounces of lentils (I had regular, not red), a teaspoon of coriander that I warmed and ground myself as well as a teaspoon of paprika. Then the can of coconut milk went in followed by 3 3/4 cups of water. I brought that to a boil and then simmered for 45 minutes. When that was done I added the juice from a lime and some sliced scallions. And thus a soup was born!

I’m sure the recipe as written has a much greater depth of flavor thanks to the additional heat from the chili (which I probably would have skipped anyway) and the lemongrass, but I thought this worked out pretty well for a quickly MacGyvered meal. For an extra bit of protein and saltiness, I put some lightly salted roasted peanuts on top of mine which helped round things out.

Making Veggie Hash Out Of Failed Veggie Burgers

When I first started cooking, I was really big on following the recipes to the letter. My wife, who’s been cooking much longer would razz me about this a bit, but I took the same approach to cooking that I’ve read about comic book editors gave to new artists: do it a very specific way until you get the craft down, then branch out and do what you want. In the case of comic artists, they were often given a set number of panels to work with per page. For my cooking, I stuck super close to the recipes.

Now that I’ve been playing with food and recipes for a while, though, I feel like I can play around a little more. It’s good that I have that confidence now because my attempt to make Food Network’s recipe for Veggie Burgers With Mushrooms wound up not working out quite as planned. I don’t quite remember why my veggie burgers didn’t hold together. The only real swap-out I made was to use Panko crumbs instead of regular bread ones. Could that have had something to do with it?

Anyway, after making the patties and starting to cook them in the pan, I realized that these guys were not going to stick together. So, I broke down the burgers and cooked the whole thing as a kind of stir fry or hash, adding a little more Worcestershire AND low sodium soy sauce to boost the flavor.

For dinner that night, we ate it as is, but my wife suggested eating them with eggs, like a breakfast dish. I didn’t feel like cooking up some eggs at that point, but I did remember the idea the next morning and had myself a nice breakfast of sunny side up eggs and veggie hash. I gotta say, the eggs really brought the whole thing together and made for a much more interesting and tasty dish than it was as a plain old dinner.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Tomato Vegetable Casserole

In addition to mixing up our protein intake when coming up with a weekly menu, I like to usually throw in a vegetarian meal. I came across Giada De Laurentiis’s Tomato Vegetable Casserole and liked it because it’s pretty simple but also involves one of my favorite aspects of cooking: prep. Since this recipe includes potato, yam, tomato, bell pepper, carrots, onion and zucchini, I got to spend a good deal of time with my knife and cutting board chopping veggies up into slices and tiny cubes.

Once you’ve got that done, you’re basically done making dinner. All you need to do then is arrange the veggies in the order suggested — like a lasagna — cover with bread crumbs (I had panko on hand) and pop into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. When your cook time is done you’re left with a sweet and somewhat tangy vegetable dish that balances the candylike yams with the  tomatoes. You could probably really mix things up when it comes to the actual vegetables included in this dish and I can only imagine how much better it would taste with super fresh ingredients all around. I’m looking forward to the farmer’s market kicking back up so I can try this with yams, carrots and potatoes fresh from the ground and maybe some heirloom tomatoes. Just thinking about that is making my mouth water.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta & White Beans

I’m a big fan of the Smitten Kitchen website. Proprietor Deb Perelman and I seem to share a lot of the same food sensibilities which is great because I’m always looking for new recipes to try out every single week. Lately she’s been doing a lot of dessert stuff which I’m not really into, but any time an entree pops up, I’m usually trying it within a week or two. That was the case with her recipe for Pasta & White Beans (I skipped the garlic-rosemary oil because my wife’s not a fan of that particular herb), even though that was a while back. By the way, sorry about the lack of posting lately, I got sick last week and have been pretty busy doing the whole freelance writer/stay at home dad/new podcaster thing (check out my Pop Poppa Nap Cast over on PopPoppa.com or through iTunes).

Anyway, back to food. I mentioned in a previous post how when I made Nigella Lawson’s Turkey Meatballs In Tomato Sauce it made me think of using a similar “throw the aromatics into a food processor and cook that” approach for my beloved Pasta With Onion Butter Red Sauce from Smitten (which I did here). Oddly enough, this particular recipe for Pasta & White Beans actually does the exact same thing with carrots, onions, garlic and celery. It’s a great way to get all those ingredients together from the jump and really get their flavors to develop while cooking. It also helps make for a bit of a thicker pasta experience which I’m almost always in favor of.

I went with canned beans because I haven’t quite made the transition to getting my own and soaking them over night (maybe when I have more kitchen space, but as of now it doesn’t make a lot of sense in our tiny galley kitchen. The rest of the recipe is really simple. You get the pasta going and cook the food processed vegetables with some water and beans for a while. When everything’s ready, combine, heat through and you’ve got dinner. It’s a really solid, hearty meal that probably can’t be any easier to make. As is, it’s vegetarian, but you could also easily throw in some cooked chicken or turkey and give it some animal protein, although you’re already getting a good deal of that from the beans.

Cooking Nigella Lawson’s South Indian Vegetable Curry

I think it’s good to drop in a vegetarian meal about once a week or so. I have noticed, though, that those dishes tend not to go as fast as some of the other leftovers. I’m not sure what it is, but those kinds of meals — or at least the ones I’ve made — tend to be pretty good on the first day but don’t look so appealing after that. That was the case with Nigella Lawson’s South Indian Vegetable Curry (also seen on page 154 of Nigella Kitchen).

The idea behind this dish, which I didn’t really realize until after I bought all the ingredients and then decided to read the intro, is to use up a bunch of vegetables that you might have in your fridge that are getting close to heading south. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but I bought everything new and tossed it into the pot which might have made for more of the dish than we needed.

Anyway, the meal came out well enough. I must admit, I’m not overly familiar with curry. My wife bought some light and dark curry powder when she was over in Sri Lanka, so I know we’ve got some of the good stuff, but I’m a little nervous when it comes to messing around with that particular spice both because I don’t know it very well and partly because I don’t want to waste it. Like I said, it was good the first time around, but that yellow and green bowl of mush didn’t look super appealing sitting in the fridge. I probably didn’t give it enough of a shot, but I don’t know if I’ll be returning to this one…unless I have a bunch of veggies I need to cook before they go bad.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Baked Orzo With Eggplant & Mozzarella

A few weeks back my parents came in for a visit. Since my mom’s a vegetarian, I always try to come up with something fun and new to try when they visit. I was looking and looking and looking and then I came across the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Baked Orzo With Eggplant & Mozzarella and figured I had a contender on my hands. I neglected to take pictures of the last few steps, but I can assure you that this recipe is a good one to try out even if you don’t have any vegetarians in your crew.

The first thing I did, well before I even started prepping everything else, was get the eggplant cut up, salted and hanging out in a strainer over the sink. I’ve had problems getting the water out of the purple tubers before, but think it went pretty well this time. After a while I got to work on the rest of the prep work which consisted of chopping up carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

With everything good to go, I got to cooking. The eggplant went into oil first which was kind of like frying, but without the crispiness. You take that out and set aside on some paper towels before using the same pot and cooking the rest of the veggies. Right here I have to stop and say that I appreciate any meal that doesn’t result in a mountain of dirty dishes at the end.

Anyway, after cooking everything, you add in a few of the other ingredients, mix things up and pop it in the oven. You might need extra time to make this because of the eggplant and the oven time, but it’s really a simple set up that yielded awesome results. I mean, what’s not to like about orzo, two kinds of cheese and eggplant? It winds up being kind of like a veggie-filled mac and cheese which I am always in favor of.