Friday, February 4, 2011

Unexpected Cooking Extravaganza

It's a short work week for us students in these parts. We had a snow day on Wednesday and a day off today. I know, it doesn't seem fair does it? I spent most of the evening trying to put all of my leftover food to good use. I had brussel sprouts, cabbage, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower and sandwich bread that desperately needed to be eaten. I thought I was only going to make a cauliflower soup and try my hand once again at some homemade bread. I soon found myself cooking for hours yielding huge results!

I ended up with

Cauliflower and Carrot Cumin Soup, a new recipe that I snagged out of this great soup magazine. I received this for christmas and had almost forgotten about it until today.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Roasted Garlic

I love brussel sprouts, however they may be cooked. There aren't many other people that I know that like them or cauliflower. I swear that the cauliflower soup is delicious as is the other cauliflower soup that I often make. The other go to cauliflower soup is low maintainence and requires an onion, potato, cauliflower, chicken broth and a few basic indian spices, cumin, garam masala, tumeric, coriander and cayenne. Roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts, however will make any respectable cauli and brussel detesting eater humbly change his or her opinion. With roasted veggies, it's nice to season them with flavorful ingredients, like spicy peppers, herbs, a sprinkle of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar, or a dusting of parmesean cheese.

Tarta de Sardina y Verduras

This recipe is inspired from my days spent in Argentina. Tartas of the savory variety are quite common there. I found that they're filling, last for a couple of meals, are very tasty and can be made with almost any ingredients. However, I've never made a tarta from scratch before. Typically the average Argentina will buy the two Pascualina pastry discs in the local supermarket. I opted for trying my hand at making mine homemade. I found an Argentine recipe here

It turned out to be quite successful. I love simple the ingredients are and how the measurements are easy to remember. I ended up using a little more flour than called for and it made a little too much dough. I ended up saving the extra to make a mini tarta. Tartas Argentinas are typically filled with ham and cheese, spinach or swiss chard and cheese, bell peppers and carrots with a canned fish. In our household, we typically made tartas with bell peppers, shredded carrot, onion, hard boiled eggs, and some sort of canned fish. Call me crazy, but I learned to love eating canned fish on strange food, like on pizza, in tartas, with rice, in pasta. It's especially hard to believe since I grew up on the northeastern coast of north america. I guess canned fish is what you resort to when you go from living 5 minutes from the sea all your life to living in a landlocked province for 1 year. The type of canned fish we bought was usually a mild tasting, white small fish and it was usually unprocessed.It's known as merluza or caballa in Argentina. I think merluza may be hake and caballa is mackerel. I really can't be sure. Sardines worked fine, cheap and available almost everywhere. Within the can, you'd have the fillets of fish with the bones, and skin all included. The bones won't hurt you if you mash up the fish enough before putting it in your food. They're small and weak enough that it's like biting into a crunchy bit of grain. It sounds strange and maybe even unappealing. One day, just try it. You may be surprised. I certainly was.

I also started to make a rustic french bread out of Joy of Cooking. I searched endlessly for tips on breadmaking and on blogs and ended up sticking with dependable Julia. I thought maybe she'd be a good mentor to start with before I'd get too experimental. I accidentally didn't read the right recipe all the way through and before I knew it I had begun a process to make a bread with a starter! I was really getting in way over my head! A starter, for those of you that don't know, is a yeasty concoction that is made hours, often days, before bread is made. It gives bread that porous, and crunchiness that you may associate with sourdough. My starter has to sit for 6 hours. So I'll be posting tomorrow to tell you how the bread baking goes.

I admittedly had one mishap today. I left a spatula against the pan while I was intermittently stirring some homemade croutons for a salad. Needless to say, the spatula melted right at the base of the handle and onto the pan! It's a wonder that this was the first time that this has happened. In fact, I'm shocked that this little accident hasn't happened sooner in my cooking lifetime. I had to throw the spatula out and was able to salvage the pan.

A little while ago, I made Sophia's mother's famous and fabulously good homemade caesar dressing. I used lemon juice from the bottle, and anchovy paste from the tube, and omitted bacon. Sophia has used anchovies in the past from the can but she claims that there's not much of a difference between the paste and the using the actual fish. Her mother also traditionally makes her own croutons sauteed with bacon fat. I was inspired to do the same and found the opportunity to use my about to go moldy bread without the bacon fat. Though I have done this in the past and it was delicious. I added a little garlic and onion and sauteed, well accidentally burned to a crisp. This was at lunch. It made me hesitant to take on all the rest of the recipes of the day.

Clearly I've been out of the kitchen for too long. Whenever that happens, I somehow wind up cooking a series of different recipes that takes up hours of my day.

Cauliflower and Carrot Cumin Soup
The recipe is simple enough and requires few ingredients, which I love.

1 chopped onion
3 cups cauliflower florets (I chopped mine to make for easy blending)
1 1/4 cup coarsely shredded carrots (I always shred my carrots with a cheese grater)
2 cloves minced garlic (another job for the good ol' fashioned cheese grater)
1 tsp cumin
3.5 cups or 28 ounces of chicken broth
*I also added a dash of adobo chili pepper just for fun

1) Heat garlic and onion in a large pot for 5 minutes
2) Add cumin,cauliflower and carrots
3) Add broth. I would have preferred vegetable broth
4) Bring to a boil.
5) Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.
The recipe called to measure out the vegetables, about 1/4 at a time, to blend separately. Then it suggested gradually adding the blended portion back to the liquid and mixing with light cream. I opted for a dairy free soup as I am lactose intolerant and blended the soup directly. A little sprinkle of peppercorns and it's ready to eat. You may add garnish as you so desire.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Roasted Garlic
1) Mark an x on the end of each brussel sprout near the stem
This allows it to be cooked all the way through.
2) Mix brussel sprouts in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and whatever else suits your fancy
3) Choose how much garlic you would like to roast and peel away as much outside skin while still having enough to protect the clove.
4) Wrap brussel sprouts and garlic in tin foil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
5) Pop in the oven for about 35 to 50 minutes depending on how crispy you like your roasted veggies.

Tarta de Sardina y Verduras

~1+ cup of flour
1 cup of butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup of water
a tsp of salt

*egg, milk, butter, each respectively, is optional if you'd like to dust the top of the tarta with a wash before baking.

1) Add flour to a bowl and make a hollow in the middle
2) Add butter, egg, water and salt to the hollow
3) Mix with a spoon until the texture is sticky and the strands start to stick to the sides of the bowl. Add flour accordingly if the mixture resembles a liquid.
4) Form a ball with the dough, do not work the dough too much as it will harden it
5) Cover and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.
6) Take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up to make it easier to work with.
7)Cut the dough in half and create two equal sized balls.
8)On a floured flat surface. Roll out each ball into discs about 1 cm thick
9)If one disc is larger than the other, reserve this one for the top layer of the tarta. Place the smaller disc on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour.
10)Add relleno about .5 inch thick all along the disc.
11) Cover with the larger disc creating the top of the tarta.
12) Along the edge of the tarta, where the two edges of the discs meet, pinch and twist the excess dough to create the crust. This is called the repulgue.
13) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook for about 30 minutes until the tarta is golden brown.

2 chopped hardboiled eggs
1 diced onion
1 large coarsely shredded carrot
2 diced bell peppers
1 can of sardines or any other canned fish of your liking

*Extra seasonings may include: cheese, basil, parsley, hot peppers,

1) Add onion to a pan on medium heat with olive oil
2) Add carrot and bell peppers once onion is translucent
3) Stir and add condiments, herbs to your liking
4) Once cooked through, take off heat and mix in hardboiled eggs and the canned fish.

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