Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lentil Pasties (short "a" sound)

Pasties are a culinary tradition of Michigan's Upper Peninsula where they were historically a food carried by the copper miners into the mines for a delicious and hearty lunch or dinner.  Traditionally pasties would be made with beef, but, you guessed it, we made ours with lentils!

This recipe is delicious, but certainly not the quickest or easiest recipe.  As we made these I imagined myself as a copper miner's wife, up in the wee hours of the morning rolling out all this dough while cursing the world that I was up at this early hour and going to such trouble.  Even though these were a little time intensive, I thought they were totally worth the effort based on the deliciousness factor.  But it's probably a good thing that they take a little time and effort to make, because otherwise I would want to eat these all the time, and eating delicious, buttery pastries all the time turns one's body into a buttery pastry--something I'd rather avoid.

The process is (briefly) as follows: (makes about 8 pasties)
1.  Make and chill pastry dough
2.  Cook lentils and cool to room temperature
3.  Chop veggies and mix with lentils
4.  Roll out pastry dough
5.  Fill dough and shape into pasties
6.  Bake pasties

Now, in more detail:

1.  Make and chill pastry dough
Pastry dough is actually very simple and easy to make in the food processor, and so unbelievably delicious.  To anyone out there who likes to put Crisco or shortening in your dough - 1. gross! and 2.  try this dough, it is so much better!

Pulse in bowl of food processor for 10 seconds:
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks of COLD butter cut into pieces.

With machine running, slowly add 1/4 cup icy cold water and process for no longer than 30 seconds.

Test dough with your fingers, it should hold together when pressed.  This is it!  You are done!

Divide the dough into equal 3 ounce portions, roll into balls and flatten slightly with your hand.  Throw in the fridge to use today or in the freezer if you want to use later.  This dough is also delicious for fruit pies and makes enough for a top and bottom crust.

Pastry Dough - 3 ounce portions, slightly flattened, ready to chill and then roll out.

2.  Cook lentils and cool to room temperature

Cook 1/2 cup lentils in 2 cups of vegetable stock.  Let cool to room temperature.

3.  Chop veggies and mix with lentils

Chop into 1/2 inch dice:
2 turnips
3 carrots
1 onion
3 potatoes

Season with salt and pepper
Mix with lentils

4.  Roll out pastry dough

Clean and lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin.  Roll out the dough, starting by rolling out a bit, turning dough 1/8 turn to the left, rolling out a bit of dough, turning dough 1/8 turn to the left, and repeating until dough is rolled out flat enough that you can cut a 10-inch round using a plate as a guide.  

Rolling out dough on floured work surface
10-inch round cut from rolled dough
5.  Fill dough and shape into pasties

Place about 1 cup of lentil filling on the dough and fold dough over the mixture.  Crimp the edges together and seal.  Cut several slits in the pastry dough and lightly glaze with an egg wash.  If you have any extra pasty filling, put it in a casserole dish and bake it alongside. 

Adding filling to the dough

Folding the dough over

Ready-to-bake, with slits cut into pastry and glazed with an egg wash
6.  Bake pasties

Bake in 350 oven for about 40 minutes.  Check on your dough and pull your pasties when they are looking delicious and golden brown.  Cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.  Pasties can be served hot or cold.

Cooked pasty, resting on a wire rack--before being devoured!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sloppy Lentils

Good old sloppy joes with a lentil twist.  (This recipe makes 8 sandwiches.)

1.  Cook 1 1/4 cup lentils in 4 cups vegetable broth.

2.  In a separate pan saute in some olive oil:
  • 1 grated onion (grated onions are much juicier than chopped, so cook until all the excess water has evaporated away leaving the pan dry)
then add:
  • 2 stalks celery small dice
  • 1 red pepper small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic minced

When veggies are crisp tender add the spice mix, stir to coat and toast spices for a minute or so.

Spice mix:
  • 1/2  tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry ground mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • dash of ground all spice
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

3.  Mix it up!
Add to fully cooked lentils:
  • spiced-cooked veggies
  • A 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • Tbl brown sugar
  • Tbl cider vinegar
  • 5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Bring to a boil and let simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors.

4.  Lightly toast some buns and using a slotted spoon to drain the mix a bit, pile the lentils atop.  We used Wegmans seeded Kaiser rolls.

5.  Enjoy (with a napkin ready).  I enjoyed my sloppy lentil sandwich with a side of macaroni salad.

Lentil Golabki

By guest poster / collaborator : Mike

The City of Buffalo recently celebrated yet another Dyngus Day.  This Polish holiday follows Easter Sunday and there is normally a table full of delicious Polish foods to enjoy at our friends’ place for the festivities.  I have gotten in the habit of making pierogi the last few years but I figured this would be the year to try something else.  Although our friends have postponed their Dyngus Day party until their schedules are free, I’ve decided to try out another experiment before I bring it over for all to enjoy: Lentil Golabki.  Golabki are pretty much cabbage leaves stuffed with beef and rice, cooked in a tomato sauce.  They are always great but the meat can be a bit much sometimes.  Obviously, a perfect opportunity to try it with lentils!

Here are the ingredients:

1 large green cabbage
2 tbls unsalted butter
1 onion – chopped
1 garlic clove – minced
4/3 cups dry brown lentils (rinsed)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup rice
1 green pepper – shredded
2 celery stalks – diced
4 cups tomato puree

First, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, remove the core from the cabbage and dice/chop/shred vegetables.  I use a cheese shredder for the green pepper – it’s kind of awkward to shred the pepper like this but it really gets it to a perfect size.  Cook the one cup of rice in a separate, smaller pot in two cups of water (bring water to a boil, add rice, cover and simmer 20mins) and set aside when done.

When the large pot of water is boiling, lower to a medium-high heat and throw in the whole cabbage.  After a couple of minutes you should be able to start peeling away the cabbage leaves.  You won’t be able to remove all the leaves right away so you’ll have to keep coming back to the pot and peeling them away - I suggest using tongs while the cabbage remains in the hot water.  Pull as many leaves away as possible because you’ll want to make as many golabki as you can.  Cut off any excess stem from the leaf because those will be too tough to eat.  Don’t discard the cabbage water - you’ll need some later.  

In another pot, brown the onions in the butter with some salt and pepper (1/2 tsp of each) and add the garlic.  After cooking the garlic for a couple minutes, add the chicken stock and lentils and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat on the lentils and cover and cook for 20mins.  After 20mins, remove the cover, turn up the heat and let the lentils reduce a bit - otherwise the filling will be too wet.  When the lentils have reduced, remove a cup and blend in blender and return the blended portion to the rest of the lentils, or use an immersion blender to blend about a cups worth.

In a large mixing bowl, add the rice, celery, green pepper and the lentils.   Line the bottom of a Dutch Oven with some of the cabbage leaves.  With the remaining cabbage leaves, spoon about 1/3 cup of the lentil filling into a cabbage leaf and roll it from stem to tip, pinching in the sides to keep filling from coming out.  Place each roll into the lined Dutch Oven, keeping them close together and place additional ones on top if necessary.  In a separate mixing bowl, mix two cups of the cabbage water with the tomato puree and pour it over the stuffed leaves.  Place the Dutch Oven on the stove and bring the cabbage-tomato puree to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover the pot, cover for an hour or when the cabbage is tender. 

I served it with some sour cream but Martha discovered if you mix some dill with the sour cream, it’s even more delicious.  I’m thinking of adding carrots but any other additions or suggestions are welcome too!

Hungarian Lentil Goulash

By guest poster / collaborator : Mike

After Martha decided to make the focus of this blog on lentil-based recipes, we made a list of classic dishes/recipes to experiment with where we would replace the ground beef that would normally be used with cooked lentils.  However, Martha is busy with school so I have more free time than her to try things.  Therefore, I am guest blogging to share a lentil experiment: Hungarian Lentil Goulash.

Growing up, “goulash” in my family was just elbow macaroni, canned stewed tomatoes, and ground beef.  Most school cafeterias would serve a similar type of “goulash.”  Consequently, goulash in mind was never anything too spectacular.  However, a few years ago I was watching a cooking show and they were making a more “authentic” dish.  I was surprised at how much more delicious-looking goulash really was—leave it to American food science and a “time-saving” mentality to reduce something so fantastic into something so bland.  This blog gave me an opportunity to make that much more delicious dish but to throw some lentils in too.

This recipe is adapted from the one in “The Joy of Cooking.” Here are the ingredients:

4 oz. bacon – diced
2 onions – thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves – minced
½ cup Hungarian Paprika
3 red bell peppers – diced
2 carrots – diced
1 tbl. dried marjoram
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. black pepper
3 bay leaves
1 - 16oz. bag of dry brown lentils (rinsed)
8 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine (preferably Zinfandel/Primitivo)
1 lb. sauerkraut – drained
¼ cup tomato puree
sour cream

First, brown the bacon bits in a Dutch Oven.  The Dutch Oven is one of the best stew/soup making dishes to have and its versatility is what really makes it so great.  Anyway, after you’ve browed the bacon bits, remove them from the pot (don’t worry they’ll come back) and add the onion with a little salt (about ½-1 tsp).  Make sure the onion is very thinly sliced; I suggest cutting the onion in half (from stem to root) and using a mandolin to achieve an even cut.  Once the onions are soft and browned slightly, throw in the paprika—make sure it is Hungarian Paprika and not just hot paprika!  It seems like an absurd amount of paprika but it really adds a lot of color and flavor.  When the onions are coated throw in the garlic, red peppers, carrots, caraway seeds and the other three spices.  Mix it all up and then add the beef stock, lentils, sauerkraut, tomato puree and red wine.  I suggest Zinfandel/Primitivo since it is believed that this varietal originated in Hungary – giving this dish perhaps a bit more authenticity.  In addition, the fruity-pepperiness of this wine really contributes to the flavor of this dish.  As with all dishes that call for wine don’t be too cheap with the bottle you choose, it can reflect poorly in the dish.  Plus you’ll want to enjoy the rest of the bottle with the finished meal!  Bring the pot to a boil, return the cooked bacon bits to the pot, lower the heat to a simmer , cover and cook for 30mins or until lentils are tender.  Spoon the goulash over egg noodles (remember, don’t serve the bay leaves to anyone) and garnish the top with a dollop of sour cream.  It can also be served over brown rice, which we had to do since this recipe makes a lot of goulash and we ran out of egg noodles after the second day.

I want to try adding potatoes and/or mushrooms the next time I make it.  I’m also trying to think of ways to make this into a vegetarian dish.  Not that I’m a vegetarian (obviously) but sometimes replacing meat can be a fun challenge.  I can only think to use porcini mushrooms in place of bacon, treating it like the bacon in this recipe (but sautéing in vegetable oil first) and using a dark vegetable stock instead of beef stock (Moosewood Restaurant has a dark vegetable stock recipe that just adds mushrooms and lentils to a normal vegetable stock to get the dark color and earthy flavor).  Any other suggestions are welcome!

Let me know what you think of this dish and up next – Lentil Golabki.