Monday, March 14, 2016

Non-Beef and Barley Stew in the Instant Pot

This was a riff on a recipe from Straight Up Food that I saw on Facebook.  It depended heavily on lots and lots of mushrooms for it's meatiness, which I did not have, so I did what I always do - wing it.  I seldom have a disaster when I wing it, and sometimes, I get serendipity.  Today was serendipity, for sure - it was absolutely fantastic, and tasted curiously meaty,

I had about a half cup of barley that I had been meaning to put into soup, so today was the day.  I already knew that I was going to make the soup in the instant pot, and since the pot really intensifies flavors, I didn't bother sauteing the onions and garlic - I just dumped all the ingredients in the pot, poured the liquids over and put the lid on. I didn't even stir it, but it came out perfectly.

I needed to use up my potatoes, some old carrots and slightly limp celery. Never let it be said that Josie Cieri's granddaughter threw food away if she could help it!  Here is the recipe:

Non-Beef and Barley Stew in the Instant Pot

7 or 8 smallish potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 small head celery
4 large carrots, chunked
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 C tomato paste
1/4 C Better Than Bouillion Mushroom Base (or veggie broth of your choosing)
1/2 C pearled barley
1 1/2 heaping Tbs minced garlic
1 Tbs dried Italian herbs (yes, I do have a small supply - I just never use them for Italian food, mostly because I am Italian - but Herbes de Provence would be yummy, too)
1 heaping Tbs paprika (next time, perhaps the smoked paprika?)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
5 C water
1 C wine (yes, I finished the bottle - it was a pinot noir)
frozen peas
no salt and no pepper

Threw everything into the IP, locked the lid in place, and pressed the soup button. 30 minutes later, it was done to perfection.  I stirred a half pound of frozen peas into it, and called it done.

This was very substantial and thick, and quite filling. I think it could be flavored any number of ways, and when I'm eating meat again, I'm going to cube some beef stew meat, add some pickles and pickle juice and dill and call it Rassolnik (Russian Pickle Soup) which sounds weird but is truly yummy.

Next week, I'm going to replace the Italian herbs with dill, use any old veggie broth, keep the paprika and rosemary, add a little beer maybe, some cabbage, and use up two cans of diced beets that I have. A splash of vinegar or lemon juice in the bowl, and I'll have something quite borscht like.

If you don't have an instant pot, check it out. I've had a lot of appliances: I've used four different stove top pressure cookers, numerous rice cookers, steamers and crock pots, and quite honestly, absolutely nothing can compare with the instant pot.  It is absolutely, hands down, my favorite appliance.  I don't get paid to sing the praises of the Instant pot - I'm just a really, really satisfied customer.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Eddie's Favorite Boston Baked Beans

My Dad loved baked beans, and for him, they had to be baked beans or nothing at all.  It's the Boston thing, you know?  His mother grew up in Canada and came to the US shortly before she married, and she knew her way around a bean pot.  I grew up eating Boston baked beans on Saturday nights, usually accompanied by baked ham with pineapple sauce, and occasionally with a steak, but never, ever with franks. My father loved hot dogs, but they were a quick lunch and not dinner, at least not in our house. My Dad had a few culinary quirks and three were that he enjoyed baked beans as an accompaniement to fried eggs and toast on Sunday mornings, beans on toast, and as a sandwich filling on Mondays.

When I married, I began experimenting in the kitchen, and adapting tried and true recipes to my husband's taste and mine.  My kitchen is full of all kinds of crazy gadgets, and I enjoy adapting recipes to the different gadgets I own, too.  My Dad loved my baked beans, and he confided to me that they were better than my mother's, and his mother's, too, so this recipe is a winner, for sure.

I first made baked beans the old fashioned way, baking them in the oven in my mother's bean pot. Then I got a crock pot, and I adapted the recipe. Then I got a stove-top pressure cooker and adapted the recipe again.  Now I have an electric pressure cooker (an InstantPot) which cooks at a lower pressure than the stove top pressure cooker I have, and I need to adapt the recipe yet again.

Today is the seventh anniversary of my Dad's death, and in remembrance of his delight in sniffing the air and saying, "I smell BEANS! Someone must love me!", I made Boston Baked Beans in the InstantPot.  I may play with the recipe a bit more because they came out a little too juicy, but I will update this page when I do.

My Dad's favorite uncle, Uncle Amedee Gallant, used to make a fantastic variation which we simply called white beans, in which he substituted maple syrup (the real thing - the guy made his own maple syrup up there in Plaistow, NH) and white sugar for the molasses and brown sugar. He upped the mustard, too and added a couple of bay leaves.  He used to cook his beans for 24 hours on top of his woodstove in his knotty pine man cave that he built himself. Sometimes he used bacon instead of salt pork.  I really loved Uncle Mede and his cooking. Yum.

If you have time to soak the beans, you can make them in a crock pot or bake them in the oven.  If you are using unsoaked beans, you will need to use a stove top or electric pressure cooker.

If you can't find salt pork, or don't want to use it, you can use 8 oz of raw bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch bits.  You could use a ham bone or sausage or ham hock, and it would be delicious, but very different from Boston baked beans.

Different ways to initially cook the beans, prior to adding the ingredients:
1. Soak overnight, then:
     a.  cover with water and boil on the stove till the skins pop
     b.  pressure cook according to your cooker's instructions

2.  Unsoaked, dry beans can be pressure cooked, using your pressure cooker's instructions

Boston Baked Beans

1 lb or 3 Cups small white beans, such as navy beans

1 very large onion, chopped, at least 1 C
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 tsp dry mustard
3 Tbs ketchup
1/3 C dark molasses
1/3 C brown sugar
8 oz salt pork cut into 1" cubes

Wash and pick over the beans.  Precook as above.  Drain.

Retutn beans to pot. Add all other ingredients plus water. Stir well and cook as below.

Old Fashioned way:
Drain precooked beans and put into your bean pot. Add the ingredients plus enough water to just cover the beans and stir well. Put the salt pork on top. Cover the pot and bake at 250F for at least 8 hours without disturbing it - no stirring, no lifting the cover to see how it's doing.  At the 8 hour mark, take the cover off and put it back for another half hour.  This gives the characteristic crust on the top which is absolutely the best part!!!!!

Crock Pot:
Drain precooked beans and put into your crock pot. Add the ingredients plus 3 C water. Stir the salt pork into the beans.  Cover and cook 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.  OR, you can soak the beans, don't bother precooking them, and toss everything into the crock pot.  If you do that, you will need to cook them 8 hours on low or 6 hours on high. Check halfway through to make sure there is enough water.

Pressure Cooker at 15 lbs pressure (stove top)
Using UNSOAKED beans, cook beans in about 6 cups water at 15 lbs for 25 minutes. Quick release. Drain beans. Return to pressure cooker.  Add 2 Cups water and all other ingredients. Bring to 15 lbs pressure again, cook 25 minutes, use quick release.  Check to see if it needs more water, or if it needs some liquid boiled off and check for salt as needed.

InstantPot Electric Pressure Cooker (at 11 lbs pressure which is the standard)
Using UNSOAKED beans, place beans and 8 cups water in pot. Cover. Press manual and cook 30 minutes. Turn keep warm off. Use natural (slow) release for 10 minutes, then quick release if the pot won't open. Drain beans and return to InstantPot. Add ingredients, plus 1 - 2 Cups water (I used 2 cups and it was just a little too much - next time, I will try 1 1/2 Cups). Stir in the salt pork. Cover the pot, press Manual and cook for 25 minutes. Use quick release.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Vaguely Southwestern Chicken and Rice

Last night, the green beans and the carrots went bad.

This was especially frustrating, since I had just come from Trader Joes to get chicken.

The original plan was to have baked chicken with veggies and rice on the side, but since that wasn't happening, it was time to get creative.

I don't have a well-stocked pantry. This should probably change. Fortunately, I had exactly one can of tomatoes.

What I ended up doing was making a chicken and rice bowl. I melted butter in a saucepan until it browned, sauteed raw rice with salt and paprika until it get crispy, and added the entire can of tomatoes and one cup of water (the tomato juice made up for the rest of the liquid). I let that cook.

Meanwhile, I diced the chicken and browned it with Cajun seasoning. I like chicken almost burned, but that's a personal preference.

The chicken was done before the rice, so I just combined it all in the pot when the rice was finished cooking. The paprika gave it a nice smokey flavor, and what was initially emergency rations turned into a meal Boyfriend now requires I make regularly.

Mac & Cheese & Stuff

DD here!

I've been working full-time for over a year now. Most evenings I get home not too exhausted and a healthy dinner with all the major food groups gets made. Some days, it does not.

When Boyfriend doesn't feel like covering (we swap kitchen duties every other day), we have our go-to low-effort meal: Mac & Cheese with Other Stuff Added.

Other stuff can be whatever you want, although I usually go for sausage (Aidell's Cajun Style Andouille is a particular favorite). I saute the sliced sausage with either broccoli or green beans in olive oil until everything browns and caramelizes and add it to boxed macaroni and cheese, cooked according to whatever the side of said box says (we like Annie's Cheesy Taco Mac and Cheese best, but it's hard to find in our little Safeway. I add Cajun seasoning if I can't find it.).

It's filling, at least mildly nutritious, and only takes ten minutes from start to finish.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tikil Gomen - Ethiopian Cabbage, Carrots and Potatoes

Many years ago, on the west coast, my church became home for a while to a group of Ethiopians.  Every once in a while, they would have a dinner on Saturday night and on Sunday, the entire hall and kitchen smelled delicious.  Finally, Tennie cooked some lunch for us at the church, and the mysterious aromas and tastes kept me going back to the line again and again. Fast forward a few years, and a friend named Poindexter and I used to drive up from San Jose to Berkeley to hit the used bookstores and eat as the Blue Lotus, probably the best Ethiopian food I've ever had.  Alas, the Blue Lotus lives no more, but I will never forget all the different dishes I tried there.  We went there at least twice a month, and after a while, the proprietor would simply bring us food to try without us having to order anything. Man, I loved that place.

Now that I live in a place that is not as diverse, I miss a lot of the little mom and pop ethnic restaurants that I used to frequent. Wherever I go, I look for Ethiopian, Eritrean, Cambodian, Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Polish, Russian, Romanian, Arabic and Vietnamese food.  I was so spoiled in San Jose, and I didn't even know it.

Last night I read a food blog which featured a recipe for Ethiopian cabbage, carrots and potatoes and I knew that was going to be my dinner tonight. I had a small cabbage, a few potatoes and carrots that really needed to be used, a large onion, and a collection of spices that would make a sultan weep. The problem was that I could tell that recipe was going to be really, really bland. Isn't google a wonderful thing? I googled the recipe, looked at about 4 recipes, and winged it in my pressure cooker.

First thing, you should measure out your spices.  Then you should peel the potatoes and carrots (save the peelings, onion skins and ends for broth). Chop everything.  Next, heat the oil in the pot over high heat, stir in the onions, garlic and ginger, then the potatoes and carrots, then the spices and saute, and lastly, toss in the cabbage, stir to combine, add about 3/4 C water, stir again and lock the lid in place. Bring to pressure and let 'er rip for 9 minutes exactly. Quickly bring the pressure down, open the pot stir and taste for salt and pepper. I ended up adding about 1tsp of salt and a squirt of Sriracha, just because I am addicted to Sriracha.  Alas, no injera in my house, so I'll eat it with a tortilla.  How is that for fusion dining?

This was so amazing!!!!!!!!  It took about 15 minutes to measure and chop, about 3 minutes to come to pressure, 9 minutes at pressure, and about 2 minutes to come down from pressure. Basically, this is a half hour meal.  Add some cooked chick peas if you want.  This would be amazing as a bed for a poached or baked egg, or as a cold topping for a strange, but delicious bruschetta.  At least I think so.

Here are the ingredients:
2 Tbs olive oil
5 carrots, peeled and sliced thick
1 onion, halved lengthwise and sliced
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
half a medium
cabbage, chopped
1 tsp curry
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 inch minced ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp mixed Arabic spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)
1 tsp ground cumin

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pascha Cheese 2015

The never ending saga of Pascha cheese continues.....

This year, I used 2 lbs of whole milk ricotta and my vitamix, and it was the best ever, texture wise, AND it was so yummy and chocolately.

First, I put the cream in the vitamix together with a small jar of room temp nutella, the vanilla, and a stick of room temp butter (the salted kind).  I whizzed it at high speed till mixed well and fluffy, using the tamper. Then I added the ricotta, again using the tamper, and added just one or two tablespoons more of cream.  It became so smooth!  I turned it out into a big bowl and stirred in the sugar.  I tasted it, and stirred in a couple more spoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. I packed it into my cheesecloth lined mold, set my brick on top and let it drain.  It drained very very little liquid and kept it's shape after unmolding, even hours later.

So there you have it!  It was yummy, and exactly the right amount for my little red plastic mold. No photos of it unmolded this year, unfortunately.

Here is a link to an all inclusive post about Pascha Cheese. It includes a link to directions on how to make the quark, or tvorog, itself, and links to my two favorite recipes.  Rebecca's has eggs, and Diane's does not.  This year's effort was a riff on Diane's recipe.

Friday, January 30, 2015


On a blog that I sometimes read, the writer was bewailing the lack of Trader Joe's in her area, a sentiment that I am totally familiar with....  Sigh....    The reason she was so upset was because she could no longer get her daily fix of Balela.  Balela?  What is THAT? I googled it, and found that Balela is one of Trader Joe's biggest sellers, a bean salad consisting of chick peas and black beans, with what sounded like a typical lemon juice based dressing.  Hey, I can make that!

And so, I did.

2 C cooked chick peas
2 C cooked black beans
1 large tomato, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
1/8 C minced fresh mint 

1/4 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C lemon juice
1/3 C EVOO
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp sumac
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
salt to taste (approximately 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp cumin (optional)

 NOTES:   I didn't use cumin, but it would be delicious.  I hesitate to use much cumin in arabic food, because cumin isn't a feature in Lebanese cuisine, and my mother in law, who was the best Lebanese cook EVER, absolutely never, ever used cumin.  I know that other parts of the Middle East have a great affection for cumin, and I do too, but I don't usually use it in arabic food.  No, not even in hummus, so don't ask!

This is the end of January, and I promised myself that I wouldn't do any food shopping this month so that I would be forced to cook up all the food I have in my pantry.  As a result, fresh parsley?  Fresh mint?  Don't have 'em.  I used dried instead.  Fresh tomato? Nope. I used a can of diced tomatoes, drained well, and saved the juice for another purpose. 

I love sumac, so you might want to use a half teaspoon at first, if you are not familiar with the flavor.  This one is a keeper.  It's a wonderful, sour and tangy bean salad.