Black-eyed pea cakes with salsa

September 26, 2020 at 11:49 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans) ()

Alma and I like black-eyed peas, but Derek is not a huge fan. I made a huge batch a while back and still have several jars of the peas in the freezer. Derek was unenthusiastic about me serving them plain, so I decided to try this recipe for black-eyed pea cakes with salsa mayonnaise from the cookbook Sara Moulton cooks at home. Note that the recipe has you chill the mixture for 2 hours. Plan ahead!

The recipe has you coat the patties in cornmeal, but I haven’t tried that step yet, because I was out of cornmeal. I also didn’t put any mayonnaise in my salsa, because I didn’t have any and it seemed unnecessary. The salsa is really more of a pico de gallo. It’s good but it needs way more cilantro than Sara calls for.

I’ve made this recipe twice now, and it’s solid if not stellar. Alma ate the black-eyed pea burgers happily the first time (with no salsa but a lot of ketchup) and less happily the second time (with no salsa).

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed if canned
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Tobasco sauce or other hot sauce to taste
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. Mince your garlic, and chop the onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. Place half of the peas in a large bowl and crush them thoroughly with a fork. Stir in the other half of the peas, along with the onion mixture, cilantro, and cumin. Taste the mixture, season with salt and pepper and Tabasco sauce, then stir in the egg yolks. Starting with 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, add just enough to form a mixture that will hold its shape. Cover and chill the mixture for 2 hours.
  4. Working with 1/4 cup of the pea mixture at a time, make 8 to 10 1/2-inch-thick patties. Coat the patties in the cornmeal and shake off the excess. Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Fry the patties in 2 batches, adding the remaining oil for the second batch. Do not flip until a brown crust has formed on the first side, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove the patties from the pan when uniform in color. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a 200ºF oven until ready to serve. Repeat until all the patties are cooked. Serve hot topped with the mayonnaise.
Salsa recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro (I use much more. Maybe 1/3 cup?)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I omitted this)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Toss the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and drain in a colander for 15 minutes. (I skipped this draining step. I like the tomato juice!) Combine the tomatoes with the onion, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and cumin in a large bowl. Mix in the mayonnaise (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (The salsa mayonnaise can be made up to a day in advance.) You should have about 2 cups.

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Beet and potato gratin with rosemary and walnuts

September 20, 2020 at 11:29 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, French, Root vegetables, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I first made this beet and potato gratin recipe back in 2010. I have since forgotten where the recipe originated. I’ve modified the recipe quite a bit in the intervening years. (The original recipe is at the end of this post if you want to see it.) Here is my current recipe. It has more cheese and less butter and cream than the original, and I’ve added walnuts and rosemary and omitted the breadcrumbs. The recipe is not really hard, but it is somewhat labor-intensive. I usually make it once a year, twice at most.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 Tbs. butter (or however much you need to grease your pan)
  • 1 cup / 4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (or use another cheese like aged gouda)
  • 1/2 cup / 2 oz. grated gruyere cheese (or use another cheese like comte or tete de moine)
  • 1 tsp. salt (I’m totally guessing on the amount. I just sprinkle a little salt on each layer.)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (ditto)
  • 3 to 4 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 200g / 0.85 cups heavy cream
  • lots of walnuts, pretty finely chopped (I think I use about 3/4 cup chopped walnuts maybe?)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets and potato until tender when pierced with a knife. Note that even though the gratin cooks for another 30 minutes in the oven, you need the veggies to be tender before they go in the oven. They don’t really soften up otherwise. You can steam the veggies on the stovetop, but beets take a while, so I usually steam my veggies in my Instant Pot. I put the beets in first and cook them until they are about 3/4 done. (The exact time depends on their diameter–tables are online.) Then I add the potatoes and finish cooking both. Ideally you should do this well in advance so the veggies have time to cool and you aren’t trying to peel or slice boiling hot beets!
  3. When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the beets. Depending on your potatoes you might want to peel them after they are cooked, but I usually don’t bother.  Cut both the beets and potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  4. Choose a gratin dish large enough to hold four layers of the sliced vegetables. (I use a 9×13 inch pyrex pan.) Grease the dish.
  5. Build a gratin with 4 layers: beets, potatoes, beets, potatoes. After each vegetable layer sprinkle one quarter of the parmesan, gruyere cheese, salt, and pepper on top of the vegetable layer. After each layer sprinkle on 1/3 of the walnuts and rosemary. (I don’t put walnuts and rosemary on the top layer of potatoes because I’m afraid they will burn, but maybe it would work if you put them under the cheese?)
  6. When all four layers are assembled, pour the cream evenly over the top.
  7. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese on top is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Update Oct 11, 2021:

Alma has never liked this dish, but today she said it was “delectable” and ate thirds. I thought it came out really great as well. Derek said it was tasty but needed more cheese.

Notes from Sept 20, 2020:

I shattered my 9×9 inch pan a few months ago, so we used a 9×13 inch pyrex dish. It was bigger than necessary, but worked fine. I think next time maybe I’ll increase the amounts of veggies to make more gratin in the same pan. I forgot to measure my beets this time but I know I used almost 2 pounds of potatoes. I think maybe I used 5 medium/small beets (about 2.5 inches in diameter), so maybe only about 2 pounds?

I cooked the beets in the instant pot for 10 minutes under high pressure, left them for a bit, then did a quick pressure release and added the (medium-large) potatoes and cooked them for another 10 minutes under high pressure with a natural release. The beets came out perfectly–easy to peel but not mushy. But 10 minutes was too much time for the potatoes. They were way too soft. The skins were falling off and they were hard to slice. I couldn’t use the mandoline at all. They would have been great for mashed potatoes, but next time maybe I’ll try 15 minutes for the beets + QR and then only another 5 minutes extra once I add the potatoes.

This time we forgot to add walnuts but I definitely want to try adding them next time!

Definitely make sure your potatoes are on the top layer. They get nice and crispy, which doesn’t happen to the beets. And maybe reserve a bit more than 1/4 of the cheese for the topping?

I’ve made some version of this recipe a few times in the last couple of years, and Alma has never liked it. She will take a few bites of the cheesy top, but then rejects it. (She’s never liked non-crispy potatoes.) Tonight (at 5.5 years) she had a bit more than she has in the past, but we had challah on the table, so she mostly focused on that and wasn’t interested in the gratin.

My original notes from Nov 6, 2010:

Derek and I went to a local German restaurant a while back and I got a beet and potato gratin that had walnuts in it.  I really loved the beet and walnut combo, so I decided to try adding walnuts to this French recipe.  The recipe says to steam the beets and potatoes separately, then peel and slice them.  That was a huge pain.  I also don’t like peeling potatoes, as the skin is the best part.  The steaming instructions confused me because they say to steam until tender but then you bake the gratin for another 30 minutes or so.  I was worried that the veggies would get overcooked, so I didn’t let them get totally tender.  That was a mistake, as the beets in the final dish were just a tad undercooked.  Once the veggies are steamed you slice them and then make a layer of beets, a layer of potatoes, and a final layer of beets.  Between the layers you sprinkle salt and pepper, rosemary, small amounts of parmesan and gruyere cheese, and dotted butter.  You then pour a mixture of cream and milk over the whole thing, and top it with bread crumbs and 1 Tbs. dotted butter.  But 1 Tbs. of butter is not enough to cover a 9×13 pan, and the bread crumbs ended up just like dry, sandy breadcrumbs.  Derek said he liked the topping though, despite its dry, sandy quality. He liked the dish a lot, actually.  He kept saying how flavorful it was, and tried to eat all the leftovers for breakfast.  My guests seemed to like it too, and even asked for the recipe.

I used less butter and added walnuts.  I used a light cream not heavy cream, and lowfat milk.  If I made this again I would double the rosemary and try it without pre-cooking the vegetables.  Steaming the beets and potatoes separately is a pain.  I might also try adding more cheese and skipping the cream altogether–just using milk.

And here’s the original recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup fine dried, bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets until tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside.  Steam the potatoes separately in teh same way;  they should also be tender in 20 to 30 minutes.  (You can also boil instead of steaming.)  When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  3. Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables.
    1. Layer 1:  Grease it with 1 Tbs. of the butter.  Arrange half of the beets in the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle with one third each of the parmesan and gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    2. Layer 2:  Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets.  Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    3. Layer 3:  Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper and rosemary.
    4. Final topping:  In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top.  Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter.
  4. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

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Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

September 13, 2020 at 10:10 pm (Derek's faves, Pasta, Website / blog)

This Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty has been lighting up the internet for years now. Serious Eats loves it. 101cookbooks has blogged it. Epicurious has posted it. Several friends have personally raved to me about it. So back in 2018 I tried it.

I didn’t love it. The eggplant was greasy. The whole recipe seemed overwhelmingly sweet and not salty/acidic/spicy enough. I didn’t think the eggplant and mango really did much for each other. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine. It didn’t taste bad. But it was a lot of work for a recipe that was only meh. I told this to one of the friend’s who had recommended it and she thought maybe I had screwed something up. She came over a few weeks later and we made it together. It tasted about the same. Still meh. Derek again loved it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Then this weekend another friend invited us over for dinner and served it as our first course. It was definitely better than when I had made it. The eggplant was cooked much better—more uniformly cooked through and much less greasy. And the whole dish just looked more professional and refined. But my overall impression was the same—too sweet, not enough salt or punch. Derek said he thought there was plenty of acid in the dressing, but I couldn’t detect it. He normally adds salt to the food I cooked, but he thought the dish was plenty salty. For me the sugar overwhelmed all the other flavors. I really wanted more of a dressing like the one that goes in a Thai green papaya salad, where by the end smoke is coming out of your ears. Derek said this isn’t supposed to be that kind of a dish, and I know that’s not what was intended. But if I were going to make a noodle dish with eggplant and mango and chilies and cilantro and basil, that’s what I would want.

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Zucchini flaxseed muffins

September 8, 2020 at 10:06 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Muffins and quick breads, Website / blog)

I accidentally ground up way too much flax seed and was looking for something to do with it.  This zucchini flaxseed muffin recipe from the Thriving Home blog looked perfect, as I also had zucchini and carrots from our CSA, and I had accidentally bought quick-cooking oats and had no idea what to do with them.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of brown sugar, but I didn’t have any brown sugar so I used 3/4 cup of white sugar and a little bit of molasses (didn’t measure). For the nuts Alma added a mix of pecans and almonds. I didn’t see her measure them, and I think she might have actually put in quite a bit more than 1 cup? The final muffins were quite nutty, which I enjoyed.

The main mistake I made was not realizing that the recipe is for 24 muffins, not 12. (The instructions don’t say anything about using two muffin tins, so the only way to tell is by reading the header which says how many servings it makes.) I filled all my muffin tins about 3/4 of the way full, but still had quite a bit of batter left (although not nearly half). At that point I went to double check the recipe and realized my mistake. But I thought, eh, I don’t really want to have to clean out the muffin tins and butter them again to make a second batch. So I just poured the rest of the batter in. The muffins took a bit longer to bake (maybe 17-18 minutes instead of 13-15?). But they came out great. Everyone liked them. They were big muffins, but Alma ate I think 2.5 muffins! Of course, the next week she didn’t want to look at the muffins. I froze most of them but Derek and I each had one for breakfast the next day. They were still really good. They are moist without being doughy inside, and they have a lot of flavor. I could definitely taste the flax seed, but neither Derek nor Alma said they noticed it. I cut down the sugar slightly and Derek thought they needed to be more sweet, so he ate his with jam. Alma and I thought they were fine as is. Next time I might try cutting the sugar down to 2/3 cup and adding some raisins.

Calling these “zucchini” muffins is a bit of a stretch. The recipe calls for 1 cup of grated zucchini, which wasn’t even 1 whole zucchini for me. So each of my huge muffins only has less than 1/12 of a zucchini in it, and only about 1/24 of a carrot. If you want to eat some veggies, just make yourself a side of sauteed zucchini and carrots to go with the muffins. If you want a yummy, filling breakfast that freezes well (I think–haven’t tested it myself yet) and that you can grab when you’re in a rush, try this recipe. Although it doesn’t really have much vegetable in it, it does have lots of nuts, lots of flax seed, some oats, and a bit of egg. I think those ingredients help make the muffins quite filling and satisfying.

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Roasted Eggplant and Black Pepper Tofu

September 1, 2020 at 11:35 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Ottolenghi, Summer recipes, Tofu, Website / blog)

This is Smitten Kitchen’s riff on Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu recipe. You roast the eggplant and tofu in the oven, then toss them with a sauce made from shallots, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, lots of butter and black pepper. Smitten Kitchen reduced Ottolenghi’s original 11 tablespoons of butter down to what seemed a more reasonable 3 to 4 Tablespoons. Well, so I thought until I realized that the recipe calls for another 4 tablespoons of oil to cook the tofu and eggplant! It seemed way too rich for my taste, so I only used 1 tablespoon of butter to cook the onion in. (I was out of shallots.) I didn’t have any low-sodium soy sauce so I added 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce (instead of the 8 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce) and it tasted plenty salty to me. The tofu and eggplant cooked pretty well in the oven, but some of the smaller eggplant pieces ended up burnt and some of the tofu on the outside of the pan was a bit too dry.

I liked the dish, but even cutting down the butter I found it way too greasy. It tasted like restaurant food, which to Derek was a very good thing, but is not really what I want from home cooking. I think I will try to make this dish again, but I suspect that I can use just 2 Tbs. of oil to roast the eggplant and tofu in (1 for the pan and 1 to toss the eggplant with), and 1 Tbs. of butter for the sauce. The trick will be getting the eggplant nicely cooked without it burning or getting greasy. If anyone has any tips, let me know.

Even though I left the black pepper off, Alma didn’t like this dish at all (too much garlic and ginger and onions I guess). She ate some of the roasted eggplant and tofu plain without the sauce. Derek and I ended up adding a lot of black pepper to our own bowls. Yum.

 

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Super Simple Quick Zucchini and Almond Saute

September 1, 2020 at 11:14 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes)

Last week I tried this quick zucchini saute with sliced almonds from Smitten Kitchen. It’s a super simple recipe. I julienned the zucchini quickly using my mandoline, toasted the sliced almonds, and then cooked the zucchini for 1 minute. I wonder if my heat was too high, because my zucchini released a lot of water. In any case, I enjoyed the dish, but found it just a tad boring. It was better after I added some fresh basil. I would say B+.

Alma had a few bites then said she didn’t like it. Derek said it was fine but he wasn’t excited about it. Given how easy it was, I will definitely try it again.

Last month we also tried Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini fritter recipe. I don’t remember the details, but I think I had trouble figuring out the right heat level, and I probably didn’t use enough oil, so they ended up a little dry. But still we enjoyed them. Derek liked them a lot and I thought they were fine. Alma wouldn’t eat them.

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