Lentil and Sauerkraut Soup

IMG_1814It’s winter! Kind of, sort of. There is snow on the ground at 8600 ft. finally. It’s been cold. Finally. This morning, a frigid negative something. Soup is definitely in season now.

This recipe is adapted from one in Gourmet. The original called for a hunk of smoked pork butt. (Reminder: pork butt is not the posterior. The cut known as butt is the shoulder.) I couldn’t find any smoked butt so I used a hunk of smoked ham. You could use smoked ham hocks. The point is, you want something smoked and piggy. I enhanced the porky flavor further by using 1/2 water and 1/2 ham stock.

Lentil and Sauerkraut Soup
(serves 8)

1 1/2 pounds smoked ham or 2 smoked ham hocks
7 cups ham stock (Penzeys sells a very good concentrate soup base)
7 cups water
1 pound lentils, rinsed
3 carrots, thinly sliced
4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 cup drained sauerkraut, preferably the good deli stuff or homemade
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
salt

Combine ham, ham stock, water, lentils, carrot, celery, onion, and bay leaves in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and partially cover. Simmer for about 1 hour (an hour and a half at 8600 ft.) until lentils are tender. Remove pork and allow to cool 10 minutes. Cut into bite-sized pieces and return to soup. Add sauerkraut, vinegar, and black pepper. Taste for salt; the pork, stock, and the sauerkraut are salty so you may need very little. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaves and serve with a rustic crusty bread.

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Mysore Spinach with Dill

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This recipe comes from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey. Ms. Jaffrey is, along with Julie Sahni, one of the most prolific and accomplished chefs of food of the Indian subcontinent, IMO. Jaffrey was born in Dehli, then moved to London to study theater. She finally landed in New York. And, what an addition of chefs in America, I’d say! A Taste of India is out of print now; I snagged it on a remainder table. Amazon still has it and you should get it because it’s a wonderful cookbook that presents Indian food in all its regional deliciousness. Indian food suffers the same problem that Mexican food suffers: most of us have no idea of the breadth of its flavors because we are exposed to only one version of it. That is, whatever is the already known and popular. You know, tandoori chicken, lamb vindaloo, and saag paneer. Nothing wrong with any of those, mind you, but there is so, so much more to it.

This recipe is a lighter version of what we know as “saag.” Saag refers to any leafy green, not just spinach. My contribution is to use bagged frozen cut-leaf spinach. Yes, these days it’s simple to pick up a bag of perfect baby spinach. (I consider this one of the great advances in food processing/marketing of recent memory. I remember trying to clean fresh spinach – not fun.) You can stash a couple of bags of frozen spinach in the freezer just so you can make this delicious recipe any time you want. You say, but the dill? Oh, you buy a bunch and freeze that too and you’ll always have enough on hand.

Mysore, now called Mysuru, is in the state of Karnataka, in the southwest of India. It was the capital of a great empire from 1399-1947 and there is an opulent palace there. Vegetarian cooking rises of great heights here, according to Ms. Jaffrey. This spinach recipe is surely a delicious introduction to the cuisine.

Mysore Spinach with Dill (Soppu Pallya)
attributed to Rani Vijaya Devi
(serves 4-6)

1 1/2 pounds cut-leaf frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill leaves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon butter, ghee, or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 whole dried hot red chili

Put the spinach and dill in a large saucepan (about 4 quarts). Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Give it a stir to make sure everything gets cooked. Uncover. Add the salt and cream. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Heat the butter/ghee/oil in a small skillet over medium heat. If you use butter, watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Add the mustard seeds. Cook for a minute. Then add the cumin seeds and chili. Cook for another minute. Scrape it all into the pot with the spinach. Taste for salt and serve.

High Altitude Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins

blueberry sour cream muffin - 1Well, I’ve been gone a long time. This is what happens when you a) build a new house, b) get your old house ready to sell, c) move, and d) just deal with the rest of life. I finally baked my first loaf of bread this entire year just last week. Cooking has fallen by the wayside.

But, I’m back! If you live at sea level, this recipe isn’t helpful. I adapted a high altitude recipe (3500-6500 ft, so Boulder/Denver is included) for my new even higher elevation of 8600 ft. Adapting recipes is kind of a crapshoot. There are a few things you can try and then you hope for the best. In this case, my small modifications produced perfect muffins first time out. Yay!

The original recipe came from High Altitude Baking by Patricia Kendall, from Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. These folks know more about baking at altitude then, well, me. And that’s saying something. ūüėČ Highly recommend the book.

Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins
makes 12 muffins
(original for 3500-6500 ft, my modification for 8600 ft, many ski town elevations, in [])

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar [3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons]
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour [2 cups – 1 Tablespoon]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder [1/2 teaspoon]
1 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh blueberries or raspberries

Preheat oven to 400¬įF [425¬įF]. Grease and flour a standard 12 cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, beat eggs on low until whites and yolks are combined. With mixer running, slowly add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

Add 1/3 of flour mixture to large bowl, mixing to combine and scraping down bowl. Add 1/3 of sour cream, mix and scrap. Repeat 2 more times. Mix on medium speed for a moment at the end to make sure there are no lumps of sour cream. Fold in blueberries. Portion into muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Original recipe says you can use frozen unthawed berries but you’ll need to bake the muffins 5-8 minutes longer. I used fresh berries so can’t tell you how to modify this with certainty. Probably need to add a little more time and turn down the oven at the end to keep the tops from over-browning.

Local Boulder Eats: Avery Brewing

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I don’t know why I’m telling anyone about this place. It’s already popular and last time I went for dinner, I had to wait over an hour for a table. Well, at least you can get a beer then¬†hang out on the viewing platform over the brewery, enjoying that¬†excellent beer.

I have loved Avery, a Boulder craft brewery, since I first tried the¬†Ellie’s Brown Ale. It helps that there is a picture of Ellie, the chocolate lab, on the label. I have tried many of their beers. Ellie’s is still my favorite in the bottle. At the brewery, you can sample the wide variety of beers that never see a bottle or a can. Some, like the¬†Liliko’i Kepolo which is available nationally in cans,¬†tastes even¬†better on tap. No matter what style of beer you love, Avery will have something for you at the brewery. I’m also pretty sure they’ll have styles of beer you have never heard of. They do a lot of experimenting and these wild (and often ancient) forms of beer show up in the taproom. The draft menu changes often. You can check what’s on tap now on their draft menu.

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Avery’s Taproom. Many beers on tap daily.

Avery has had a tap room in Boulder for a long time. When¬†they moved to their brand new sparkly brewery last year, they added a restaurant kitchen. Now, they turn out food to match the beers. There is a taproom downstairs and a sit-down restaurant upstairs. The menu is the same in both, but if you have people who aren’t comfortable at a high-top table, reserve a table upstairs.

The food¬†is mostly Southern-influenced and it¬†matches perfectly with their beers. They smoke their own meats and do an outstanding job. The Meat, Meat, Meat platter is huge, and you get to sample¬†a selection of the delicious meat that benefits from time in that smoker. The menu changes everyday and seasonally. The fried chicken, on the Monday menu, is crispy-crunchy goodness. There are vegetarian options on every menu; I have found all of them to be fantastic and interesting. So, if you don’t do huge platters of meat, no need to avoid Avery. These vegetarian options are not lame afterthoughts. They stand on their own and they go great with the beer.

Alas, if you don’t drink beer, there is no wine nor liquor. Just the way it is. You’ll have to make do with water. Go for the food though. It’s worthy, even if you don’t like beer.

Avery Brewing is located a few miles northeast of downtown Boulder in Gunbarrel. Not a place you’d go looking for a restaurant, but you won’t be sorry you ventured out that way.

Avery Brewing Co.
4910 Nautilus Ct.
Boulder, Colorado 80301

They take reservations¬†online. There’s usually a wait, so strongly suggested.

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole

This is a great dish for a brunch. It’s like hash browns with sausage gravy.

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole
(serves 6)

8 oz. chopped broccoli
1 lb. Bulk Breakfast Sausage
2 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
¬ĺ¬†teaspoon¬†garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried onion
1 ¬Ĺ¬†cups Whole¬†Milk
1 1- lb. Package Frozen Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes
1 ¬Ĺ¬†cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350¬įF. Grease¬†9″ x 9″ x 2″ glass baking dish.

If using fresh broccoli, steam or boil for 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well. If using frozen broccoli, thaw completely.

Cook sausage in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until brown, breaking into small pieces with back of spoon. Mix in flour, garlic power, and dried onion. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture thickens and comes to boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits on the pan. Remove from heat.

Arrange potatoes in prepared dish. Top with broccoli. Sprinkle lightly with salt and  pepper. Cover with 1 cup cheese,  then the sausage mixture. 

Bake casserole for 50¬†minutes. Top with remaining¬†¬Ĺ cup cheese. Return to the oven to melt cheese and finish cooking, about 10 minutes.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

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I have made this recipe many, many times. Not so much lately because we don’t often have bananas in the house. I don’t like bananas. I don’t like the smell of them sitting on the counter. I don’t like the texture. My husband loves bananas but he hides them at work. Oddly enough, I love banana bread! Banana cake too. (I need to post my mom’s¬†recipe for that. It’s a classic. But I digress.) I guess I need to buy a bunch of bananas and set some aside for this.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
(makes 1 8″x 4″¬†loaf, serves 12)

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 mashed ripe bananas (2 cups)
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (1 1/2 teaspoons at Boulder altitude, 5400 ft.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dried pineapple
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or whatever nuts you prefer)

Preheat the oven to 350¬įF. Grease a 8″ x ¬†4″ loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vanilla, bananas, egg, and lemon juice.

In a medium bowl stir together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing to just combine. Stir in the dried fruit and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Gently thump the pan on the counter to settle any bubbles. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and finish cooling on a rack. Don’t try to slice it while warm; it will fall apart.

Store at room temperature for 2 days. After that, refrigerate or freeze. Because of the high moisture in quick breads, they grow mold within a few days.

Orange Carrots

I made this recipe for Thanksgiving. I was¬†surprised to discover that many of my guests had never had this combination. How could this be? It’s so easy and so perfect. I sometimes believe that in our rush to embrace the latest exotic ingredients, we forget that there are some very delicious old standards that we should still be cooking and eating. This would be one of them.

Orange Carrots
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons butter
1 pound carrots, cut into 3″ long x 1/4″ thick sticks
juice and zest of 1/2 orange
salt, about 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a large skillet. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until carrots are nearly done, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook off most of the liquid so that the carrots are glazed, stirring to prevent the carrots from sticking. Serve immediately.