Appetizers

It’s a Non-judgmental Lentil

I just very nearly typed, “It’s been a long week,” and then I realized it’s only Monday. Good grief.

Next Sunday is Superbowl Sunday. There will be gatherings of people crowded around televisions to watch the sports ball while simultaneously putting food in their faceholes. Ahhh, tradition.

I always thought it was a little unfair that just after so many of us have had a decent January of eating healthy and getting our bodies out of Holiday Food Coma-geddon, they go and drop a day full of  deep fried, sauced, beerified, cheesy, crunchy snacks on us. I love those snacks. So, so much. *wistful sigh*

But I have an alternative for you. Or, if not an alternative to the whole array of goodies, maybe an alternative for one of the things on your game day plate. It’s kind of a dip… hummus-y sort of thing that is packed with flavor.

It was inspired by this Roasted Garlic and Red Lentil soup posted by Patricia over at Grab a Plate. I thought it sounded awesome as a soup, but maybe equally as delightful as a dip. I experimented a bit, and came up with this little ditty. You can do some of the prep, like cooking the lentils and roasting the garlic, a day ahead and then whir everything up in the blender on the day of the game. Or the day of the sitting at home watching Empire on Hulu while avoiding any mention of football altogether and snacking your face off.

Equipment:
1 medium bowl
1 medium pot
1 baking sheet
measuring cups and spoons
aluminum foil
spoon
knife and cutting board
blender

Ingredients:
1 cup red lentils, soaked for 30 minutes just covered in water
1 cup water and 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 whole garlic bulb
salt and pepper
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground coriander seed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400º.

In a medium pot, combine 1 cup water, 1 cup of stock, and the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover for 30 to 40 minutes until the lentils are tender.

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While the lentils are cooking, divide the garlic bulb in half horizontally, place it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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Wrap the whole thing up and pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes. When it comes out, it’ll be all roasty and sweet and mellow and smooshy and just really freaking delicious.

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Once the garlic is out of the oven and the lentils are ready, pour the lentils, as much garlic as you like, the red wine vinegar, and the ground coriander into the blender. Pulse 5 or 6 times to combine, then let the blender run while you stream in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Taste for seasoning, adjust, pulse a couple more times, then, viola! You’ve got dip.

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You can drizzle a little more olive oil on top, kind of like the way you serve hummus.

Also, you can play around with the seasonings to your hearts content. I imagine some curry spice would be interesting, or maybe a little smoky cumin. Give it a whirl!

Yay Sportsballs!

So, just in case you weren’t aware, I live in Denver, home of the Denver Broncos. I’m not a crazed fanatic about the team, or really, any team, but I mention this fact because some of you might be interested in one of the NFL teams which, along with the Broncos, will be participating in play-off games this weekend. Or, maybe you’re like me, and you really just pay attention to professional sports because watching them at home (yours or someone else’s) involves making or eating snacks.

I actually work at Sports Authority Field, where the Broncos will be playing the Colts on Sunday. I work for the catering company that cooks and serves the food to the folks in the suites for all home games, so I don’t really get to see much of what’s going on on the field. I’m typically very busy in a pantry somewhere helping to push out the food we’ve been cooking all week. However, if I were going to host or attend a watch party, these Chipotle Meatballs would be on the menu.

The original recipe comes from this book:

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It’s a great little book full of interesting recipes using authentic Mexican ingredients and cooking methods. My favorite chapter is the soup chapter, but the photos next to every recipe have been good enticement to want to make them. Details at the end of this post on how you can make this cookbook part of your collection. But first, we cook!

I’ve simplified the recipe I’m giving you here because I had limited time to cook, like many of you, and used a few shortcuts. The recipe in the book walks you through a few extra steps using more authentic ingredients for an entree version, but it’s still very approachable, as are all the recipes in the book. I took my batch of meatballs to a Rose Bowl party and they were a HUGE hit. I am pretty sure these would work just great in a slow cooker, too, if you wanted to make sure they stayed warm through the whole game. That is, if they last that long. Mine didn’t.

Equipment:

large pot
skillet
mixing bowl
knife and cutting board
spoon for stirring
tongs or a spatula for turning the meatballs (or just use the same spoon, like I did, because  have I mentioned how much I hate washing dishes?)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can of chipotles in adobo sauce
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped, then divide in half
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed, but kept whole
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme (or a small pinch of dried thyme, if that’s what you have)
1 lb lean ground pork
1 lb lean ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:
Heat the oil in the pot on medium-low heat. Add 1/2 of the chopped onion and cook until just softened. Add the smashed garlic clove and cook until it just starts to become fragrant. Add both cans of crushed tomatoes and stir well. Add 2-3 whole chipotles (depending on how spicy you want your sauce to be) and about a tablespoon of the adobo sauce to the tomatoes, along with the thyme and bay leaf. Allow the sauce to simmer on low while you cook the meatballs.

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For the meatballs:

First of all, let me just say that I am not sure what kind of sorcery people use to keep their meatballs pretty and round when they cook them in a pan. If you know the magic, I applaud you. I have not mastered it, so please forgive the less than attractive shot of meatballs cooking. They taste delicious, and that’s how I forgive myself for not knowing how to make them pretty.

Anyhoo…

Combine the other half of the chopped onion, the minced garlic, the pork, and the ground beef in a mixing bowl. Add the egg, plus a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, and mix well. I’m not a huge fan of touching raw meat, but I think this is one of those times when you just want to get in there and mix with your hands. Use rubber gloves, if you want, but your hands are definitely the best tools you have for this particular step.

Form the mixture into umm… the book recipe says “chestnut sized” balls. Mine were somewhere between a large marble and a ping pong ball. I couldn’t remember exactly how big a chestnut is, so I just made meatball sized looking meatballs.

Brown the meatballs in a pan until they’re just cooked through. You’ll need to cook them in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

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As each batch is done, just add them to the sauce you have simmering over there.

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When all the meatballs are browned and in the sauce, bring it to a boil for about a minute, and then let the whole thing simmer on low for at least 20 minutes (but as long as 35 or 40), stirring occasionally.

And that’s that! You could serve this as the book suggests, as an entree over rice, or just bring them to the party as they are… maybe with some little rolls or slider buns or mini-tortillas. Both the sauce and the meatballs are so full of flavor, they don’t really need much garnish.

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And now, for the giveaway details. All you need to do to enter is answer this question:

What is your biggest recipe/cookbook pet peeve?

Mine is when the ingredients list includes a lot of specialty items that are expensive or difficult to source.

Leave your answer in the comments section to be entered. I’ll draw the winner next Wednesday, January 14th.

This giveaway is not sponsored by or affiliated with the authors or the publisher, Barnes & Noble New York. Winner will be notified on the I’m Gonna Cook That Facebook page, on the I’m Gonna Cook That Twitter account, and of course, here on the blog. The winner will have 3 days to respond or the prize is forfeit. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.

 

Cevich-haaaaaaaaaaaaay (and a Mini-Giveaway!)

Have you ever gotten so excited about a new recipe you just tried that you brought a container of it to work and started force feeding it to people? No? Ummm. Me either. *avoids eye contact*

Seriously, though. This Mushroom Ceviche is revolutionary. At least, it was to me. I’ve made marinated/pickled mushrooms in the past. They are delicious. But these are mushrooms that are basically prepared ceviche style, and I am telling you right now I was so pleased with how mine turned out I… well… I got a little twitchy when other people tried to eat some, too. And when it was time to clean up the kitchen and I saw that someone had taken the rest of the bowl away, I was all…

Of course, then I returned to (relative) sanity and realized that I have the recipe and can therefore make more. MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE.

And also, I can share it with you! Everyone wins. There’s a fair amount of prep work for this, but I promise you, it’s worth it.

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Equipment:
Knife and cutting board
Large pot and strainer
Large mixing bowl
Spoon for mixing
Meez en place containers of some sort
Blender or food processor (optional)

Ingredients:
3 C Cremini mushrooms, cleaned, cut in half or in quarters (depending on how big they are) and then cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/3 C Celery, 1/4 inch dice
1/3 C Red onion, 1/4 inch dice, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and then drained (takes some of the bite out)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp Hot sauce (To start. Keep it handy because you might want to adjust it later.)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 C Fresh lime or lemon juice (I used a half and half mixture.)
1 T Olive oil
1/4 C Red bell pepper, julienned
1/4 C Green bell pepper, julienned
1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced
Kalamata olives, quartered, for garnish
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Blanch the mushrooms in boiling, lightly salted water for 30 seconds. Drain.

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Combine the celery, onion, and mushrooms.

Puree the garlic, salt, pepper, hot sauce, oregano, lime/lemon juice, and olive oil until well mixed. Note: I actually just minced my garlic up really finely and then smashed it a little bit with the side of my knife on the cutting board and then mixed it into the rest of the marinade ingredients instead of going to the trouble of dirtying up a blender.

Toss with the mushroom mixture.
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Adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Drain and toss with the julienned bell peppers and jalapeno. Note: I actually didn’t totally drain it. There’s some liquid that comes out of the mushrooms, and combined with that marinade it’s just really yummy. You can decide how “wet” you want your ceviche to be.

Garnish with the olives.

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And that’s it, folks. We served it as part of a cold salad plate with this (kinda boring, to be honest) tomato and onion salad that someone else in my group made. I had this amazing plating idea involving homemade tortilla chips and it all got blown to  hell when Chef said we had to plate both salads together with this dumb piece of kale. Effing kale. Go away!

Anyhoots, you can serve yours with tortilla chips if you want. Or on a taco. Or just eat it out of the bowl with a spoon while inhaling Orange is the New Black with your eyeballs pretty much any other way that sounds good to you. Hint: The longer this sits in the marinade, the more flavor it absorbs so if you can make it the night before and let it hang out overnight, do eet!

Also! If you’re not a fan of onion, or can’t eat it for whatever reason, you could substitute with some other vegetable. Carrots marinate well. You could cut them into 1/4 inch matchsticks. Or if you still want something with a little bit of  bite, use radish slices. Just keep it fresh and you can’t go wrong!

And now that you’ve stuck it out to the end of the post… I have details on the promised giveaway!

It’s a little one. I did some shopping at the I Heart Denver store downtown Wednesday night, and I saw all these cute items that made me think of you all. So, I decided to pick up a couple of things and give them away. See how I am? I’m a nice girl.

The first item is this adorable strawberry tea towel from Counter Couture.

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And the second is this little notebook from… I can’t remember. Another Denver based company that makes stationery and whatnot. I had a beer or two at dinner after my shopping trip. Don’t judge me.

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So… there will be two winners! All you have to do to enter is leave a note in the comments on this post telling me about something you’ve eaten recently that got your knickers all in a twist like this ceviche did for me. Easy, right? I may also throw some other random goodies in the packages because in addition to nice, I am also unpredictable.

The winners will be picked at random and I’ll announce their names next Wednesday, August 13th.

Get after it!

Squashed Like a Tart

If you’re as big a fan of impromptu get togethers as I am, you probably already have a stable of “go to” recipes for party food at your disposal. You might even be more prepared than I will ever be and have stuff in your freezer that can be  popped into the oven when company drops by without much notice. Knowing this about you, I also suspect you’re always on the lookout for new recipes to add to your repertoire. So… here ya go!

This squash tart is super easy, totally customizeable, and can definitely be made with stuff you might even keep on hand. In fact, there’s no rule that says you have to use squash. I got my inspiration from this recipe on the BBC Good Food website. It’s basically some sort of crust, with some sort of creamy cheese that’s been flavored with whatever you like, and then topped with… something. Once I give you the original recipe, I’ll also give some suggestions on variations.

Equipment:
sheet pan
knife and cutting board
spoon
mixing bowl
parchment paper
saute pan & spatula of some sort plate or bowl to hold the cooked squash for assembly

Ingredients:
1 sheet of puff pastry, chilled (not frozen)
1/2 C Ricotta
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 yellow squash and 1 zucchini
2 tsp vegetable oil salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the sheet of pastry in half. Fold the edges of each half in to form an edge about 1/2 an inch wide and lay on the parchment lined sheet pan. Put the pastry in the fridge to stay cool while you make the filling.

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Thinly slice both squashes. Don’t stress yourself over trying to get them paper thin. Just try to keep them to about 1/4 inch or thinner. Add 1 tsp of the oil to the saute pan over medium low heat. Add 1/2 the sliced squash and season with salt and pepper. You want the squash to basically just cook through, but not brown. Remove the first batch of squash to a plate or bowl and cook the 2nd batch the same way. Set aside.

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Mix the lemon zest, juice and dried thyme into the ricotta, along with salt and pepper to taste.

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Get your pastry out of the fridge. Spread 1/4 C of the ricotta mixture onto each tart, then layer the squash over it. You might have extra squash left over. I did, but I just added it to some leftover brown rice with some other random leftover veggies later in the week and it made a really yummy lunch. Pop the tarts into the oven for about 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes and cut into slices when you’re ready to serve.

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This one is delicious. I love recipes that follow a formula rather than demanding that you use specific ingredients, and this is definitely one of those recipes. You could keep everything the same and just change how you season the ricotta and get a whole new flavor profile. Maybe use some whipped goat cheese instead of ricotta. Or keep the filling the same and use tomatoes, roasted asparagus, or sauteed wild mushrooms, or even throw some pepperoni or Serrano ham on there, with or without a veggie.  You could embellish with a little crunch from pine nuts, like in the original recipe, or any other kind of lightly toasted nut, or even some grated Parmesan or Manchego. And those are just the savory options! Imagine mixing some maple syrup or brown sugar and a little orange zest into the ricotta, and topping the whole thing with roasted strawberries or peaches.

See where I’m going with this? Get the basic method down, and the only limit to the possible flavor combinations is your imagination. That’s also nice because instead of having that one thing you whip up or bring to every party, you can make it something totally different from the last time, but without all the stress of learning a whole new recipe. Neat, yes?

If you’re looking for other party food ideas, give these two a try. I tested them out at a little shindig the roomie and I threw at my place a couple weekends ago, and they were a big hit.

Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips: I know it sounds a little weird, but trust me, these are kind of life changing.  Just melt some semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave, then dip the chips and let them set in the fridge. I like Wavy Lays vs. Ruffles.

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Mini Polenta Pizzas: Inspired by this recipe over at A House in the Hills. Again, this is one that could be topped with all sorts of things, although the ones in her recipe are pretty darn tasty!

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Go forth and party, my lovelies! We have all summer.

I’m about to get jalapeno business!

So, I was going to just do a post later this weekend, but I had the best week in the kitchen at school (it was Tex-Mex week and despite my initial misgivings, it was SO MUCH FUN!) and I had to share this with you all because it was so easy and delicious and you just have to try it. Did you hear me? HAVE. TO.

I only have one picture, but here it is. It’s not the chili you need to be looking at, it’s that lovely jalapeno shaped thing on the side.

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That’s not just your typical jalapeno popper. It’s a jalapeno full of cornbread. Yes, the cornbread goes INSIDE the jalapeno, and then you cover it with cheese and you bake it for 20 minutes and it’s just really effing delicious. I won’t blame you at all if you skip the pretense of garnishing a bowl of chili or soup or something, and just make yourself a tray of these and binge watch The West Wing on Netflix tonight. Maybe treat yourself to some really good beer, too. You deserve it.

I wish I could claim all the credit for this genius invention, but I actually got the idea from Oh Bite It! They provide you a perfectly good cornbread recipe over there, but I’ll also give you the one we used in class.

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Customize it however you like. Or instead of stuffing jalapenos, go big and stuff the poblanos, instead. Use a different cheese.  No matter how you do it, you are not going to be disappointed. Bring a buncha these to one of those Memorial Day cook-out things that social people with lives like to attend. If people aren’t bringing you beers and just generally being extra nice to you after trying one of these, you need to get new friends because those people are dumb-dumbs.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, ya’ll!