Continuing the tradition of lag-time with cooking and then actually posting things … Monday evening was the start of Passover and while I’m not actually Jewish, I do love an excuse to cook different things. I was looking through the NPR cooking blog, cause that’s what I do for fun, and I found a really cool looking passover recipe: casseroles with matzo instead of noodles or crust. Kinda like a matzo lasagna. There were several versions that were vegetarian, but I went with the asparagus/leek one.
As with everything I tend to cook – I didn’t follow the recipe quite exactly. I could not find mint at Whole Foods, which was of course tragic, so I had to omit that. I also forgot to buy leeks, so I just substituted onions. You can do that with any recipe that calls for leeks, it really doesn’t make a huge difference. I did however splurge on some really nice ricotta cheese. My god, ricotta is usually a fairly indifferent ingredient, but this is good enough to just eat by itself – which I’ve been doing until I find a good ricotta recipe. Can’t let high-quality ingredients go to waste. I also added peas because I felt it needed more veggies than just asparagus and I didn’t have any spinach and some fontina cheese cause I had it and it works well with asparagus.
The result one one of the best fillings I have ever concocted. Seriously, it was ridiculous. The eggs and cheese mixed together really thoroughly. And the lemon zest added a really lovely touch – I think it may be my new favorite thing to add that adds the special oomph to a dish. Like any experiment it wasn’t perfect. The egg to vegetable ratio was a little off, I think adding a bunch of spinach would be very helpful next time around. The filling to matzo ratio was also a bit off. Too much matzo, not enough filling, which made it a bit drier and denser than I would have liked. I’m thinking of trying next time around with pie-crust, or possibly phyllo, instead of matzo. At this point its about taking a really good recipe and making it spectacular.
Since Sunday was St Patrick’s day, naturally I had to do an Irish recipe. The annoying thing is that Irish food is very meat-heavy. And while I have an number of recipes for vegetarian versions of Irish meat recipes, I really wasn’t in the mood for improvisational cooking – too exhausted. School plus job hunting has made me very busy this month and very tired, hence the lack of posts. So I decided on a different stereotypical Irish food – Irish Soda Bread.
I went to my go to online recipe site, allrecipes.com and found a really simple recipe. Honestly, easier than making chocolate chip cookies, which I mastered by age 7. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl, mix. Then add the wet ingredients and mix it all together. Like most dough, once it starts coming together it is far more efficient to mix with your hands, rather than a spoon. Seriously, always finish mixing dough with your hands. Always. Most commercially sold Irish Soda Bread has raisins. But I’m not really a fan of raisins. I don’t dislike them, but I am not about to buy them while I’m on a tight budget. I do, however, love dried cranberries. So I made two smaller loaves, one plain and one with the cranberries. As always, bake until it smells good.
The soda bread turned out pretty well. Its very very crumbly, especially as it gets older (I made it Sunday, but I’ve been eating it as my breakfast toast for several days). It can get a little dry too. The solution to that is honey! I never really ate honey growing up but one of my best friends absolutely loves it, and she converted me. But I didn’t break down and buy some for myself til this weekend (I’d been thinking about it, but never really got around to it). Soda bread, spread with butter and honey, with a nice cup of tea … more proof that simple things are often wonderful.
It was actually warm today! By warm I mean sunny and in the low 50s, which if I still lived in Cali would be cold but I suppose I’m slowly acclimating to East Coast weather. As a result of the weather, I just wanted to pretend it was spring or summer, and return to my summer diet which largely consists of fruit, bread, cheese and white wine. So the next best thing to it actually being summer (which would be bad cause before then I need to get a job, finish my thesis and convince my best friend to move here) is eating summery foods!
Today was an experiment, no recipe, just things I liked compiled together – polenta with summer medley. Step one – cook polenta/cornmeal in vegetable broth until its thick and doesn’t taste grainy. Don’t cook in water – broth just makes it so much better. Spread polenta in a pan and let it cool. (My polenta was kinda lumpy – downside of using cornmeal and not proper polenta). Step 2 – chop and saute garlic and onions in butter. Add chopped tomatoes and a roasted red bell pepper (toss bell pepper in olive oil and roast before-hand at 400 degrees until the skin kinda bubbles off). Step 3 – shred some cheese, I chose sharp cheddar, but mozzarella, fontina or parmesan would also work. Step four – compile. Cut a square of polenta, top with the sauteed mixture and then cheese. Step 5 – enjoy with a glass or two of white wine (my choice was a white blend from the Languedoc region of France – one of my favorites and under $10).