Thursday, October 11, 2012

Minestrone with Lentils

A warming dish to start off the cool Fall season, Minestrone with Lentils is my kind of chicken soup for the soul... flavorful, comforting, perfect for vegetarians, hearty enough to make a full meal that will warm up both your kitchen and stomach and just plain good.

Minestrone with Lentils

 3 TBLS Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
 2 stalks celery, chopped
3 small zucchini, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 cup red wine
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 plum tomatoes, diced
 4 cups vegetable broth
 3 cups water
 2 cups lentils
 3/4 cup orzo
 1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 TBLS fresh summer savory. minced
1 bay leaf
sea salt and ground pepper -- to taste
 parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high flame.
Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute until the onion is transculent, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the wine and chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Then add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through but not falling apart, but if some do that's okay--they'll just thicken the soup a bit more.
Adjust seasoning, sprinkle a generous amount of grated cheese and serve with a garden and plenty of crusty bread. Enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sweet Potato Pierogi

Last week during this dismal rain we've been having here lately, I decided to try something new..for me at least. A dear friend brought me some Polish kielbasa after returning back from a family trip to New Jersey. We had eaten these earlier this summer at a cookout at their place, that were grilled. I have to admit, it was the best kielbasa I've ever tasted. To have them bring us some back from their trip was such a nice treat! So to thank our friends, and they being Polish/German descent I decided to try making pierogies. I found an old Gourmet magazine recipe seemed just perfect for my first pierogi making experience. The dough was so easy to work with and as I was waiting for my second filling to cool down I posted this photo of what I was doing on my FB page...and asked my friends 'what am I making'?
Their answers went anywhere from "dumplings" to "pumpkin ravioli" to "kreplach" and I'd have to admit, from the photo--all great guesses. And as you can see I just had to put my own twist on my filling. Instead of the usual pierogi of a potato cheese filling, I decided to use some just harvested sweet potatoes with carmelized onions instead.
The result was so delicious, that I ended up making three trays of these yummy dumplings-- one for our friends, some for us and the rest went into the freezer just for those times when I don't have time to prepare a big meal, as perogies keep very well uncooked and frozen. I'd never eaten anything but store bought frozen pierogies before this little experiment, but I can now say making my own is the only way we'll ever eat them again. Enjoy!
Sweet Potato Pierogies 
  For the dough: 

 2 cups all purpose flour - plus a bit more for kneading
1 egg
1/8 cup sour cream
3 TBLS olive oil
1/2 cup water

 For the sweet potato filling:

 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & diced - I used Beauregards
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
1/4 tsp ground pepper
 a pinch five spice powder
1 tsp milk
Optional: 1 TBLS melted butter infused with: a sprig of fresh rosemary a sprig of fresh sage

 First make the dough.

Put flour in a large bowl, making a well in the center. Add water, egg, oil, sour cream and salt to the well and carefully beat with a fork, working from the center, then gradually drawing in the flour mixing until a soft, dense dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for twenty minutes. Transfer the dough a lightly floured surface and knead dusting with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes... (the dough will be soft). Cover the dough with an inverted bowl and let rest 30 minutes.

 Make your filling now.

Bring the diced sweet potatoes to a gentle boil, cooking until just fork tender. While the potatoes cook, heat olive oil in a medium sized skillet on low heat, adding the sliced onions and garlic, cooking until lightly browned. Add the seasonings and cook another two minutes; then remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Reserve half of the caramelized onions for serving time. When the sweet potatoes are ready, drain and add them to the skillet of onions. Add a teaspoon of milk, mashing potatoes completely until relatively smooth. Set this mixture aside while you roll out the dough.

 Bring a 6 quart pot of salted water to a light boil.

 Halve the dough and roll out 1 half, wrapping the remainder in plastic wrap. Roll on a lightly dusted surface to 1/4 inch thick, then cut out your rounds of dough with a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter or glass of the approximate same size. Make heaping teaspoon size balls of cooled sweet potato mixture and center on the dough rounds. Brush the dough around the centered sweet potato ball with egg wash. Now holding the round in the palm of your hand, fold the round in half, enclosing the filling, crimping the edges with your fingers. You can then fork crimp to ensure an even better seal.

 Take your finished pierogies and drop gently 4 or 5 at a time into the pot of boiling water, stirring a couple of times to keep them from settling on the bottom or sticking together. Once the pierogi float to the top of your pot, they are done. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the boiling water, transferring them to a plate to drain. Now they are ready to eat, or you can go one step more and melt 1 TBLS of butter in a skillet and infuse this butter with a sprig of fresh rosemary and sage for just a minute or so. Then remove the herbs and lightly pan fry the pierogies over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve hot with reserved caramelized onions. Enjoy!