Monthly Archives: November 2010

Couscous with Curried Baked Lamb



I am turkied-out. Following my last post, my family ate turkey in so many different combinations that I began to think I’d be perpetually tripping out on tryptophan. We had traditional Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, ABC sandwiches with turkey (I also added cranberry sauce and substituted the apples for apple pie filling), turkey & cranberry sauce quesadillas and vegetable soup with turkey broth.

When I left my family’s house today, I vowed not to consume another meal involving turkey until all the tryptophan left my system and rendered me alert once again.

This recipe fit the bill. In fact, this recipe didn’t involve any foods I consumed on Thanksgiving, but still contained a few seasonal ingredients. (Yay local squash!)  Plus, it allowed me to use up more veggies that I had in my apartment fridge–feel free to substitute or remove any of the vegetables. Or opt for the vegetarian version, sans the lamb. The crucial feature of this meal is the spices, really.

I combined two different recipes to create this one. I liked the idea of baking the lamb, and I love curried anything. So here’s the best of both worlds.

Couscous with Curried Baked Lamb:
1/2 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 eggplant, diced
olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup golden raisins
a few tablespoons of vinegar
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup couscous
1 & 1/2 cups boiling water

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the diced squash and eggplant with olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes while preparing other ingredients.
2) In a bowl, combine raisins and vinegar. Set aside.
3) Cook lamb over medium heat with a sprinkle of olive oil until browned throughly. Spoon out lamb onto a paper towel-covered plate, saving the liquid fat from the lamb.
4) Add onion and bell pepper to pan, cook for five minutes. Add garlic. Let brown. Reduce heat, add spices, tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook until thickened. Remove squash and eggplant from oven.
5) Stir in spinach to pan and let wilt slightly, then combine lamb, drained raisins, roasted squash and eggplant. Cook for another two minutes.
6) Place the lamb mixture in a cake pan. Sprinkle with feta cheese and bake for 20 minutes.
7) In the last ten minutes of cooking time, pour couscous into a medium-sized saucepan (with lid). Pour in boiling water, stir with a fork. Cover with the lid and stir again in five minutes. Water should be absorbed.
8 ) Place 1/2 cup cooked couscous into a bowl, top with baked lamb.

Giving Thanks

The table is cleared, the pies have been put away, and we’re engaging in our annual Thanksgiving tradition–watching the perennial holiday classic Elf.

We don’t exactly look like a Norman Rockwell painting, our nuclear family, clad in jeggings or similarly stretchy pants and less-than-perfectly-coiffed hair. Still, we’re warm at home, full of food, and content.

Living the American Dream, that’s us.

This Thanksgiving, I have you all to thank, too. I never expected so many people to be interested in what comes out of my kitchen (and what comes out of my brain. Scary sometimes, ain’t it?).

So, thank you for the support and kind words and your seemingly endless appetite for photographic food porn.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Black Forest Cake



Today is my momma’s birthday. She wanted a chocolate cake with cherries. I delivered.

It’s nice to be able to cook and bake for her after all the years she’s spent in the kitchen keeping my family well-fed. Especially now that I can produce food that is surprisingly palatable.

Out of all my options, it’s appropriate that I made a Black Forest cake. Our family is mostly German, after all. And I like to think that I’m paying homage to not only my mother, but also my grandmother and her mother and all of those women, all of my ancestors, who baked up love in their kitchens.

I love being a part of that legacy.

The recipe is based on this one.

Black Forest Cake:
Cake
2 cups and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cherry filling
2 (20 ounce) cans pitted sour cherries
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream frosting
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Bittersweet chocolate for topping (optional)
1/2 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur, also optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with canola oil, then coat the oil with a thin sprinkle of cocoa.
2) In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups of sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
3) Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
4) Meanwhile, drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup of juice. Combine cherry juice, cherries, 1 cup of sugar and cornstarch in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring often. Then add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Let cherry mixture cool.
5) Remove cakes from oven and cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove cake from pans and let cool completely.
6) Combine whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar in a chilled bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.
7) With long serrated knife or a long piece of thread (I used thread), split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one of the four split layers into crumbs. (At this point, you can pour the 1/2 cup of Kirsch on the other three layers and let soak briefly, if desired.)
8 ) Take one layer and place on a serving plate. Spread about two cups of frosting on the cake, then top with cherry filling. Cover with another layer of cake and repeat the frosting/filling process. Cover with the remaining layer of cake.
9) Frost around the sides of the cake and the outer part of the top layer of cake. Take cake crumbs and pat onto the sides of the cake to cover.
10) Spoon remaining frosting into a pastry bag or sandwich bag and pipe out decorations along the perimeter of the cake. Add remaining cherry filling to the top of the cake. Grate bittersweet chocolate on the top to decorate.

Be sure to store this baby in the fridge. Make it ahead of time so the flavors get nice and cozy in the cake.

Flavor Tripping Party (and a Discount!)

I know what you’re probably thinking based on the title of this entry.

Flavor tripping? Is Meghan blogging about drugs in addition to food?

Not quite. Kind of, but not quite. On Friday, the roommate and I hosted a flavor tripping party sponsored by mberry**. Not familiar with flavor tripping? I learned about it last year in class, but had never tried it.

Basically, miracle fruit temporarily alters the tastebuds to make bitter and sour flavors taste sweet. It’s, well, pretty sah-weet. This New York Times article covers the concept better than I could, but imagine sucking on a lemon and tasting lemonade. It’s wild.

Charles Lee, the founder of mberry, sent us miracle fruit in the form of tablets, which are less perishable and last longer than the original berry form.

First, we tried all the foods plain. The table’s spread was pretty unusual–lots of acidic foods like lemons, limes, grapefruit, tomatoes and vinegar. An acid reflux sufferer’s worst nightmare, basically. We also had goat cheese, chilis, strawberries and salt & vinegar chips.

After we reminded our tastebuds of what the foods taste like in their normal state, we let the tablets dissolve on our tongue and cover our palate, waited a minute, and then, SHA-ZAM!


The tablets worked differently on each person. We all agreed that citrus fruits tasted especially strange since they didn’t elicit any puckered faces.

Everyone’s favorite combination of flavors was suggested by Charles–graham cracker, goat cheese and strawberries. (I also added semisweet chocolate chips.) This combo tasted exactly like strawberry cheesecake, since strawberries’ sweetness was exacerbated and even the goat cheese tasted sweet.

We demolished an entire roll of goat cheese in under 15 minutes, if that’s any indication of how delicious our healthier strawberry cheesecake tasted. I could definitely see these tablets aiding people on low-sugar diets or people who have Type II Diabetes.

We also had a fun little competition to see who could come up with a unique and delicious flavor combination. The winner received an mberry t-shirt. Katie squeezed lemon on goat cheese and graham cracker to make lemon pie and earned herself the prize. Yum.

Now, here’s the fun part: Charles is offering my readers a buy one, get one free discount on mberry tablets. Just put two packages of tablets into your shopping cart and enter the code “pricharm” at checkout. There are 10 tablets in each package, and the tablets can be split in half to share the flavor tripping love.

The mberry store link is here: http://muse.mberry.us/products/ Stock up quickly, as this code expires at 11:59 p.m. tomorrow (Monday).

I think these packages would make great stocking stuffers, or you could even host your own flavor tripping party.

Thanks to Eliza Kern for being my official photographer for the night. I’ll post more of her pictures tomorrow. She documented my day on Friday for a photojournalism class. It was like having my own paparazzi.

**Disclaimer: mberry provided the tablets free of charge, but opinions are my own. Not that I’m capable of suppressing my opinions, in any case.

Tuscan Bean Soup

It’s finally fall here.

I mean, I think it’s fall here. I never really know if I’ll wake up to encounter another 80-degree day. I’m taking advantage of the cooler weather to make soup in thematic, autumnal colors. I hope this weather will last, though, ’cause I adore soup.

Also, I’ve been needing to eat more vegetables. My birthday was last week, so I’m still recovering from my ice-cream-and-cupcake-and-chocolate-cake-induced coma. Soup is basically an excuse to throw a bunch of vegetables in a pot and see what happens. It’s as close to a science experiment I’ll get now that I’m solely a humanities girl.

This recipe’s from The Kitchen Bible, which I adore because it has a picture of every single recipe.

Tuscan Bean Soup:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
2 garlic clovers, diced
1 quart (1 liter) vegetable stock
one 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
one 15 oz can white kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
9 oz spinach
salt and black pepper
Italian bread
Parmesan cheese

1) Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots and leek and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the stock, tomatoes and their juices and tomato paste.
2) In a bowl, mash half the beans with a fork and stir into a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
3) Add the remaining beans and spinach and simmer for 30 minutes more.
4) Place a slice of bread in each soup bowl. Ladle in the soup and top with Parmesan cheese.

What fall-inspired recipes do you make when cooler weather arrives?

An Announcement

You might have noticed a new sidebar on my blog entitled “As Seen In.” See it? See the sidebar?

Well, I have some exciting news. The Christian Science Monitor is starting up a food blog consisting of contributions from some super-talented food bloggers. AND I’M ONE OF THEM. Not to imply that I’m talented. I mean, these other folks are talented. I’m just along for the ride. On their coattails. Or, more appropriately, on their apron strings.

So there you have it. No book deals, no shows on Food Network, no awards dipped in chocolate and covered in edible gold. Yet.

Anyway, you can check out everyone’s contributions here. Pretty cool, eh?

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Butter Sage Sauce

I love Sundays. The waking-up-lazily-at-11, the excuse to skip straight to lunch, the afternoon nap and, of course, the intensive Sunday dinner. The last few weeks, it seems as though I cannot be happy unless I’m sweating over a hot stove, etc.

Also, my dear friend Katie was coming over to write an article about me for her food writing class, so I had to simultaneously feed and impress her very selective vegetarian palate.

Homemade ravioli fit the bill as sufficiently labor intensive and, ultimately, delicious.

I’ve adapted this recipe to include ricotta cheese in the filling. It’s just not ravioli without ricotta cheese, in my opinion. Actually, it’s just not a meal without cheese, period.

Butternut Squash Ravioli:
Filling
1 medium or 2 small butternut squashes, cut in half lengthwise
olive oil
dash of nutmeg
several dashes of cinnamon
pinch of brown sugar
salt & pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Pasta Dough
2 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Butter Sage Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
8 sage leaves, thinly sliced

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash on a pan with a lip and drizzle with olive oil. Cook for 20 minutes, flip, then cook for another 20 minutes, or until tender.
2) Meanwhile, mix all pasta dough ingredients in a bowl. Knead for several minutes on a well-floured surface, adding more water as needed. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough ball with plastic and let sit for 30 minutes.
3) Once butternut squash is tender, scoop out the flesh and stir in nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Let cool to room temperature (or place in the refrigerator), then add ricotta.
4) Once pasta dough has rested, cut ball in half. Cover one half with plastic and roll out the other half with a rolling pin or in a pasta machine. If you don’t have a pasta machine, I hope you have some amount of patience as you’ll be rolling out dough for awhile. I don’t have a pasta machine, so I just kept rolling out the dough until it was “thin enough.”
5) Cut flattened pasta dough into 2 by 2-inch squares. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the square, then fold pasta over to form a triangle. Seal the dough around the edges with your fingers. Have a bowl of water nearby to moisten your fingers as the dough dries out. Set uncooked ravioli aside. Repeat process with other dough ball.
6) Boil a pot of water while preparing the butter sage sauce. To make the sauce, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add sage. Add ravioli to pot of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft.
7) Drain ravioli and add to the skillet. Coat the ravioli with butter, place on a plate, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.