Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Pasta

Forgive me, the pun had to be done.

This is our christmas dinner, in a bit of a fit of untraditional abandon, it's Lasagne.

Christmas Lasagne

This is a bit of an odd Lasagne, but it was relatively easy to create.

Semi-Long Mushroom Sauce:

2 T Olive oil
a healthy sprig of fresh thyme
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water then strained, soaking water reserved, and after any extra grit is picked out of the mushrooms, they are then diced.
1 large can of strained imported italian tomatos. A can of tomato puree would also work. *
1 cup strong red table wine (In this case, a $3 Merlot that was languishing in the fridge)
1 T double concentrated tomato paste
a heathy sprig of fresh oregano **

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic, red pepper and thyme. Once the garlic is golden, either remove it from the oil so that it does not get burnt and bitter, or if your pot has smooth sides like a bowl, push it up the side until it is off the heat. Add the crimini or button mushrooms and just a sprinkling of salt, and let this cook until just a bit browned. Add the red wine, cook for a moment, then the tomatos, and the garlic again, the soaking liquid, the diced porcini, the tomato paste and the oregano. Let this marry a bit at a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, partially covered so that you don't loose liquid. Adjust for salt and pepper for your tastes.

"Ricotta-Tofu" Filling: ***
1/2 pint skim ricotta
1/2 lb firm tofu, passed through a potato ricer
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, diced
healthy pinch of salt, pepper, and garlic powder
2 T minced Mint
2 T minced Basil
2 T minced parsley
1 Cup cooked long grain wild rice
(Optional: One egg.)

Mix all "ricotta filling" ingredients in a large bowl, adjust salt, pepper to your tastes.

Have some "instant" no-boil lasagne noodles ready, (Barilla makes them, they are lasagne noodles that are thinner than normal, and they cook in the sauce. They are excellent, a great time saver if you want lasagne in a hurry,) as well as three zuccini, sliced lengthwise into long thin strips and left raw. ****

In a 9 x 15 or so pan, layer the ingredients... Sauce, noodles, zuccini, filling, until you run out. I got three layers and was just missing enough sauce to coat the top, as is traditional. So if you guys want to double the sauce and have enough for the top of the lasagne, then save the rest for pasta, it will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Cover the pan, and cook this at 350 to 400 for around an hour. Let it sit for 15 minutes, covered, and then serve!

* Always use an imported italian tomato if you can get it. Make sure that the tomatos have no sugar and no citric acid added. The absence of these two extra ingredients usually means a good imported tomato. Italian san marzano tomatos are sweet, so any sugar is a tip off that you may not be getting the ripest tomato. Citric acid is added as a preservative, which they don't really need, because they are canned, ie: already preserved. So citric acid doesn't usually help there, but it actually does impart and acidic tone to the tomatoes that can add to any reflux issues that you may already have with tomatoes. In the best situation, the ingredients on your canned tomatoes should read, "tomato," and maybe one other ingredient like basil, or salt. I like it when a packager lets you taste the tomatoes for themselves and then decide whether you think they need sugar or salt or acid.

** Notice the order of adding the herbs to the sauce. Earthy, hearty herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage, do well in a sauce at the beginning, to get their flavors into the oil. Fresher herbs with a lighter, gentler profile, (oregano, parsley, basil, etc) have milder flavors that tend to get lost as they cook, so they go in at the end, and they stand up much better. However, if the herbs are dried, they can go into the sauce sooner.

*** The filling takes the place of both the traditional layer of ricotta and herbs, and the seasoned meat in a meat based lasagne. The wild rice adds a grassy, herby, almost chocolate flavor that combines well with the herbs and gives some texture that would normally be lacking in a normal vegetable lasagne. If you want to simulate a more meaty flavor, add some nutritional yeast or even soy sauce in along with the rice.

**** The zuccini strips end up raw on top of the no-boil noodles, which while a great innovation, can sometimes be a little too al dente if your sauce thickens up too much, or if you don't make enough sauce to saturate the lasagne. The zuccini hold a ton of water in them, which will expell as the pasta bakes. Since the zuccini are right on top of the noodles, all that water will go into the noodles, ensuring that they get done.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tomato and Pecorino Souffle

tomato souffle

Alton Brown needs to have an episode on Souffles (actually, it seems that he already has, so... So much for my "Good Eats" merit badge.

Anyhow, I've stayed away from souffles for ages, fearing that they were just beyond my abilities. I've heard a lot of horror stories. But after looking at several of our recipe books, I realized that souffles all start with equal parts flour and oil cooking on medium heat, with some herbs, onions, whatever you like... Then you add 1/3 cup of milk for each tablespoon of oil and flour and cook it till it comes to a boil and thickens up. Any of you country boys and girls out there know what this is ALSO the recipe for... You got it, GRAVY! So after all the intimidation and French pronounciations of stuff like roux blanc, etc, the base of a souffle is "make white gravy." Ladies and Gentlemen, I can handle that. Then, off heat you add one egg yolk for each tablespoon of oil/flour, put it back on the heat, and stir till incorporated. Then you take it off the fire and add whatever you are going to put into the souffle. (Like grated pecorino cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes in this case...)

Then whipped egg whites (stiff peaks) get folded in, and this is then baked in a little special dish called a "ramakin", which sits in another pan with water in it for 25 minutes. (The water is in the pan, the souffle is in the ramakin, the ramikin sits in the pan surrounded by water... This keeps the souffle from burning on the bottom.)

The last trick is to not mess with it in the oven, trust that it is done after 25 minutes, and serve it right away.

Oh yeah, it seems that 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/3 cup milk, 1 egg yolk, 1 egg white is the ratio for one little ramakin, so if you wanted to make 25, you'd just bump up that ratio times 25.

It was easier than I thought it would be, and very tasty!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's a pic of our simple thanksgiving dinner, 2009:

Thanksgiving 2009

Clockwise from noon, a simple salad of butter lettuce, avocado and apples, in a dressing of olive oil, ume plum vinegar, a tiny bit of dijon mustard and a dash of worchestershire sauce.

At 5 o' clock, twice roasted sweet potatoes with maple syrup and olive oil. The potatoes are roasted for an hour at 450 degrees until very soft. Then left to cool, peeled, and drizzled with Grade B maple syrup and olive oil and then roasted again at 450 for 20 minutes more.

At 7 o'clock, a "mock" cranberry sauce, which is 1/2 of a small red onion, diced, four tomatillos, diced, 1 serrano chili, again with the dicing, 2 teaspoons of lime juice, some salt, and a half cup or so of freshly squeezed pomegranite juice. This is all boiled until it has reduced by half and then thickened with 2 teaspoons of arrowroot powder. Once it cools it should have the consistency of cranberry sauce, but be a little spicier and a little sweeter.

Finally, at 9 o'clock, to replace the turkey, a wild Coho salmon patty. (Specifically "Shogun Salmon Cakes" from page 148 of the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook.) We rarely eat salmon any more, but this is the third time we've had this particular recipe this year. These are very very good, and much less hassle than a complete turkey. These paired really well with the mock-cranberry sauce.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Apple Pie

Apple Pie, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

This is my first apple pie in our new kitchen. Our new oven works great! We started getting a produce box from a local farm again and we ended up with more apples than we could eat. Pie seemed like the most logical choice. Hopefully there will be some left for Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gumbo Z

Gumbo, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Gumbo was the first meal that the Crusader prepared in our new flat. It is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten at home. It comes from Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry and contains lots of greens (I believe we used collards, spinach, and maybe kale) and other typical gumbo ingredients like flour, onions, red bell peppers, celery, cider vinegar and a variety of herbs and spices.

This cookbook is great, but Bryant Terry is a proponent of "slow food" so almost everything in the book takes a while to make. Although I appreciate the thought behind slow food, it is not all that practical given how much people work these days and how little spare time most people have. However, if you do have some time here and there for cooking, this cookbook has some really tasty recipes in it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Millennium Beer Tasting Dinner June 24th 2009

One of the posts that got delayed due to our move was a post about the fantastic Belgian Beer Dinner we had at Millennium restaurant way back on June 24. We’ve posted about dinners at Millennium before; it is a really great vegan restaurant here in San Francisco. Their special dinners and prix fix dinners are the best way to experience the restaurant and the Belgian Beer Dinner was no exception. The Chef invited representatives of three local breweries to bring some of their best beers and the Chef created a menu to go with them.

Before dinner started we had a glass of Eel River Pilsner and some warm olives:

First Beer
Fennel Olives

This beer was really light and crisp and was a good way to start the evening. The olives had a great earthy taste.

The first course was a Mushroom Cocktail paired with Firestone 31:

Second Beer

The beer was floral, hoppy and citrusy. I love a beer with a lot of hops flavor.


The Mushroom Cocktail included seared oyster, maitake and king trumpet mushrooms, avocado, horseradish vinaigrette, a crisp plantain chip, and toasted pozole. I scooped everything up on my plantain chip and that was very tasty.

The second course was Stuffed Roasted Morel Mushrooms paired with Russian River Sanctification.

Third Beer
The beer tasted of sour cherry and was very refreshing and tasted very Belgian. We were told that this beer is usually more sour than the one we tasted. I thought the it was about perfect on the sour level.


The Stuffed Roasted Morel Mushrooms were served with white bean sage puree, and a salad of shaved fennel, nectarines and wild arugula with walnut oil. Unfortunately the picture is not so good because I was too distracted by the food. The nectarines really added a nice balance to the smokiness of the mushrooms.

The third course was Pineapple Achiote Grilled Protobello paired with Russian River Consecration.

Fourth Beer

The beer was very dark and sour (but delicious). It is barrel aged for 6 months in cabernet sauvingion barrels. It was very complex and had notes of miso, wine, fruit, and yeast. The beers got darker as the evening wore on (until the dessert beer).

Main Course 1

The grilled Portobello was served with cornmeal crusted tofu, tongue of fire beans, huckleberry potatoes, consecration broth, and chocolate ancho mole. The tofu was amazing. It was so tender and light inside with a nice crunchy crust. The broth had the consecration beer in it and was very delicious. I still had some sauce on my plate when I was done just because I could not get it all off of the plate. The young couple across the table from us had broken their tofu up so that it would absorb all of the sauce and I wished that I had done the same.

The fourth course was a Lentil-Bulgar Burger paired with Firestone 12 year anniversary ale. This course was the best of the whole night.

Fifth Beer

This beer is the most amazing beer I have ever had in my life. It was really dark and had all kinds of complex yummy flavors. It smelled a little of molasses and had flavors of caramel, mint, molasses and licorice. In fact it was so delicious that I asked for a refill when I had finished the glass (they were going around with another bottle of the beer). I have never had so much beer at one sitting in my life. Unfortunately this beer is a blend of many of the previous year’s beers and will never be available again. Once in a lifetime treat I guess.

Main 2

The Burger included porcini mushroom confit, caramelized smoked onions, green chile cheese sauce, and pickled romano beans on the side. I must say that this was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my life. It went perfectly with the delicious beer and was just so amazingly good, I kept saying “this is so good” over and over (I’m sure the beer didn’t hurt my insane babbling about the wonderful food). This burger was so good that I still have dreams about eating it sometimes—and then I wake up and wish I had one. The “cheese” sauce was a cashew cheese sauce (since they don’t do dairy) and went so amazingly well with the porcini mushrooms. It makes me drool just to think about it. The crisp romano beans were a lovely refreshing side that cut some of the heaviness of the burger.

The last course (dessert) was a Nectarine Filled Almond Galette with Lost Abbey Carnival beer.

Sixth Beer

This beer was really nice and was almost like a wine. It was very light and crisp and a good note to end on. It smelled of acricots and tasted kind of grapey—almost like a prosecco because of the bubbles. It is a spicey Belgian “saison” style ale (a style of brewing that does not involve refrigeration), but uses American hops.


The nectarine galette was served with a roast apricot-blackberry swirl “ice cream” and honey crème englaise. This was delicious, but at this point, I was getting so full that I needed a little help finishing it.

After this amazing meal, I was a little tipsy from the beer and so full I could not move. We took a cab home and felt a little sluggish the next day, but this was one of the most delicious and amazing meals of my life. I lucked out in that it just happened to coincide with my birthday this year. Next year it will be a day or two off, but we will probably still try to make it.

If anyone reading this had the chance to go to this annual dinner, I highly recommend it. Millennium also has a similar wine tasting dinner that we have never been to, but would like to try at some point.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pear and Goat Cheese Bagel

pear goat cheese bagel, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Well, this isn't the most exciting thing to post after being gone for so long. It also isn't the first thing we made in our new kitchen, but it is one of the first fall recipes for this year. When you are sad that all of the sumer fruit is gone, this is a good pick me up.

Cut two pears into slices and mix with a tablespoon of maple syrup. Toast two bagels (plain or in the flavor of your choice) and then spread with goat cheese (we used a fantastic soft goat cheese containing fennel pollen and lavender). Arrange the pear slices over the goat cheese and then grate some parmesan over. Put the bagels back into the toaster oven or regular oven set on broil and cook until the pears get a little color on top.

This makes a great breakfast, lunch or snack.

Friday, September 4, 2009

More food to come...

Things have been quiet around the blog, but we bought our first place with a lovely remodeled kitchen, so there will be many pictures of food cooked on our new gas stove to come. I already took a picture of the first meal that the crusader cooked in our new place, but I still need to upload it. Things might continue to be slow here for a little while until we can get all of our stuff unpacked, but we'll be back soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Strawberry Crumble

Strawberry Crumble, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

I am usually not a fan of cooking strawberries, but this dessert actually turned out really well. Sorry about the blurry picture--I was standing on my tiptoes in order to get a view of the strawberries. The recipe is from a cookbook called Luscious Berry Desserts (another sort floor books find). I had 3 baskets of very tasty strawberries from the farmer's market and had to find a use for them (buy 2 baskets, get one free is too tempting).

The recipe is pretty easy--it mostly consisted of mixed sliced berries with breadcrumbs, vanilla, a little bit of sugar, a little bit of butter, hazelnuts, and some salt and then baking in the oven for about 20 minutes. The strawberries actually did not taste cooked and the full strawberry flavor came out. We served this with a little bit of vanilla ice cream and it was delicious.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Seitan Satay Salad

Seitan with Peanut Sauce

This is a nice twist on the "Wheat Meat Satays with Spicy Peanut Sauce" in "Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes."

The satay looked awesome all by itself, but looking at the recipe reminded me of the times when Optimistic and her law school friends and I would eat at Vietnam restaurant in Philly. They would serve satay (or tofu, or spring rolls, etc) in a bowl with the grilled greasy stuff on top, disguising a mound of that awesome carrot and daikon pickle, and a lot of raw veggies, with warm, starchy rice noodles underneath. So I wanted something like that, and being 2000 or so miles from Philly made it hard to get stuff from Vietnam. But we are intrepid food explorers! We could make do!

So I made up some rice, and put about 1/2 a cup in the bottom of a bowl, and over it, I spooned about a tablespoon of the marinade from the Satay recipe. Then I topped that with the following salad:

1/2 cucumber, diced,
1 Large carrot, diced
1T diced red onion (sure doing a lot of dicing!)
Wedges from 2 or three peeled mandarins
10-15 basil leaves
6 to 10 mint leaves
butter lettuce, chopped.

Toss all this with 1T unfiltered sake.

Then I topped that with the Wheat Meat Satay and covered it all with a liberal dash of the Spicy Peanut sauce.

This was so good, and so very reminiscent of the dishes at Vietnam, that I penciled our salad variation into the margins of our copy of VM&P, just in case we get the craving again!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Three-Carrot Post

Right before spring we began to see all these really amazing heirloom carrots in the markets. We made three really good dishes from these over the course of late winter and early spring.

The first was a recipe for Umami Carrot Soup from the Herbfarm Cookbook. This amazing soup really amped up the carrot flavor, using 2 cups of fresh carrot juice and then added a couple of fantastic additions, toasted corainder seed, and a super strong peppermint tea.

Carrot Soup

We don't have a picture for the second or third recipes. (Sorry to say!) We were tired all winter, and it was usually late and by the time we thought of taking pictures, we'd eaten all the food! (This happens to us a lot.)

The second recipe was a Hijiki and Carrot Salad. For some reason, I'm not too good with making salads, unless they have no leafy greens in them, and then I usually do okay.

Stealing an idea from the Herbfarm's soup, we soaked the hijiki in a hot mint green tea combo until it softened up. Then we drained it. The hijiki was tossed with some sliced radishes (about 5,) some diced heirloom carrots (probably two or three,) a diced avocado, and then dressed all of this with about two teaspoons of ume plum vinegar and about a tablespoon of unfiltered (nigori) sake and finished with a single drop of toasted sesame oil. This was really fantastic. We had it with something else, but darned if I can remember what that was!

The third recipe was an Heirloom Carrot Ziti with Ricotta.

1lb heirloom carrots, cut into thin disks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
2 T olive oil
2 or 3 fresh tomatoes, diced, or a 24 oz can of chopped tomatoes drained of liquid. Save the liquid for another sauce!
1 or 2 T of drained, rinsed capers.
2 T chopped fresh mint (basil would work)
2 T fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup fresh sheep's milk ricotta.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Start some water to cook a pound of ziti. The water should be started while you prep the stuff above, and the pasta and sauce should cook at around the same time. When you drain the pasta, hold on to about 1/2 cup to a cup of the pasta water.

Heat the garlic and the shallot in oil on medium high heat until golden. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes (at the end of cooking, the carrots should still be a bit crisp and sweet, so keep that in mind.)

Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until they begin to break down a bit. Add the capers and simmmer until it breaks down a little more.

Take the ricotta, the mint and the parsley and put them into a bowl large enough to hold all the sauce, and all the pasta. Add 1/2 cup of pasta water and wisk this until it's smooth-ish.

Once the pasta finishes, drain it (don't rinse!) and add the pasta and the tomato sauce. Toss, and season with salt and pepper to taste. This is good enough to eat at this point (and we did, twice!)... BUT

This type of sauce would traditionally add around a cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano and some grated nutmeg at this point and then have you stir that all in, but it really will stand up without that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Yuzu Salmon

yuzu salmon

It's been a while, sorry to say. This is a winter recipe, you can tell by the flash photo of the food. This was in the dark of winter, but the food was sunny!

We found a rare treat, some real yuzu fruit, in the Berkeley Bowl. These Japanese citrus fruits are almost never seen outside of japan, and even the concentrated juice is very expensive:


When you get such a strange thing, the question always is: "What do we make out of this?"

In this case, packet wrapped salmon with little slivers of yuzu, sliced shallot, and herbs. It's served here with a really simple salad and some baked potatoes, just with Goddess dressing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving 2008, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

No, you are not seeing things and we have not gone back in time. We are almost half way through March and I am posting our Thanksgiving meal. I notice that the pictures started piling up right around when I got my new job in November.  Hm...

Since we often get stuck in a flavor rut, 2008's Thanksgiving dinner was much the same as 2007. Except this time we left out the mashed potatoes and made a different stuffing. The stuffing was a stuffing mix made by a local bread company. It looked pretty good in the bag as dry bread with herbs (about as good as dry bread can look) and it was even better with carrots, onions, and celery. Again the cranberry sauce was the bomb!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sweet Potatoes and Jerk Tofu

I am trying to clear out old food pictures that never got blogged. This meal was made way back at the beginning of November. The jerk tofu recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance and the sweet potato recipe is from either Vegan with a Vengeance or Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes (I am too lazy to actually find out).

The jerk tofu was pretty good, but the sauce was very strong and vinegary. We served it over a little bit of rice and it could have used a lot more rice to subdue the flavor a little.

The sweet potatoes were the real star. They were baked in the oven after being steamed. Before baking we mixed the sweet potatoes with a little bit of maple syrup, dried cherries, and roasted pecans.

The meal really could have used something green, but we didn't want to make another side dish.

We've both been sick, so there has not been much cooking going on. I'm hoping that when spring really rolls around we will get the cooking bug because of all the fresh produce. Even though we are luckier than most parts of the country in winter, I still really look forward to more variety.

We have a few more "old" food pictures that we will try to get through in the near future.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon Cupcakes, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

We went to a party with my new co-workers and spouses on Saturday and I made lemon cupcakes and green tea cupcakes. You have seen enough of the green tea cupcakes I am sure, so today I feature the lemon ones.

The recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance. They were very good, but a lot went wrong when I was making them. The recipe called for what seemed like a ton of baking soda. when I combined the wet and dry ingredients, the batter swelled way up and ended up being enough batter for 18 cupcakes instead of 12. The first batch was a little deflated out of the oven and got a little too brown. The second batch, which had to sit while the others baked turned out much better. (The cupcakes at the front of the picture are from the second batch.)

If it were not for the sprinkles that we found in our cabinet, these cupcakes would have looked pretty sad. They made up for their looks by being pretty tasty, so I forgive them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Of love and sandwiches

Okay, okay, it has been a while since we have updated this blog.  We have both been really busy with work and we have had to put blogging on the back burner.  Post may still be sporatic for a while, but I have to tell you about the best sandwich place in the universe: Ike's Place.

I saw this sandwich place featured on "Eye on the Bay."  The sandwich that the guy on the show was eating looked so amazing that I absolutely had to find this place.  As it turns out, it is practically next door (well, down the hill and next door in the Castro anyway).  They have an amazing array of sandwiches--vegan, vegetarian, meat.  We tried the Elvis Keith (halal chicken breast, teriyaki sauce, wasabi mayo, and swiss) and the Veggie We're Just Friends (vegan turkey, sweet orange glaze, avocado, pepper jack).  They were so good!  All I want to know is why has no one mentioned this place to us?  Shame on you people for hiding Ike's Place!

So if you are in San Francisco, Ike's Place is a must eat place. 

Monday, February 2, 2009


Blueberries!, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Lately I have been obsessed with blueberries. I have been eating blueberries with everything. The last few batches of blueberries have been super large, plump, and tasty.

In the pictured breakfast I had blueberries with a garlic bagel with herbed cream cheese. They don't sound like they go together, but they do.

My only question is why are blueberries so expensive? My thought is that blueberries are the new hip fruit to eat because they are so full of good-for-you stuff. I miss the days when blueberries were under $2 a basket--now I consider myself lucky if I can find an organic 1/2 pint for under $6.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter Squash Pasta

Winter squash pasta, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

I discovered this picture languishing in my flickr account. Sadly I cannot remember what recipe this was from, but I do remember it being good. It was a simple pasta dish with steamed winter squash (we used Kabocha squash I think), some of the pasta water to make a sauce and a little bit of cream. Onion, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, and perhaps mustard powder were in there as well. If I actually find the recipe it came from, I will revise this post.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Black Eyed Pea Stew

Good Luck Black Eyed Peas

We are always looking for a way to cook black eyed peas for New Year's Day. I never mind, they are one of my favorite things.

This stew is modified very heavily from a starting recipe from the fantastic Lebanese cookbook Food for the Vegetarian: Traditional Lebanese Recipes.

Everybody into vegetarian cooking should snag a copy of this cookbook. The recipes need some "toning down" from time to time to suit our western tastes, but it serves as a fantastic jumping off point for new flavors and ideas, it's one of our favorites. (Then when you get it, you can cook the original version of this, which is quite different, titled: "Black Eyed Peas in Olive Oil.")

Black Eyed Pea Stew.

In a soup pot, heat up 2 T olive oil over medium high heat, and then add:
1 Medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic
2 teaspoons Fresh Thyme

Cook this until the onion begins to brown around the edges

Stir in,
1/2 teaspoon allspice
a pinch of salt

Then add 1/4 to 1/3 cup Laphroaig Scotch whiskey, (10 year old is fine.) This of course, is NOT part of the traditional Lebanese recipe, (In Muslim lands, liquor is strictly forbidden,) but is an addition of our own. (I've just learned that Lebanon doesn't forbid liquor, and I encourage you to read the comment from a thoughtful Lebanese reader!) In my Georgia days I had a lot of black eyed peas and the natural, slightly smoky flavor of the peas was usually accentuated with a little bacon. In the vegetarian world, bacon is out, and substitutes are sort of the holy grail. Unfortunately, most alternatives are loaded with nasty stuff, or difficult to obtain, or far too impractical being too pricey for the one time per year that you might need them. However, Laphroig has a strong, almost unendurable, smoky flavor that comes from the carbon interior of the charred oak barrels it's aged in. Laphroig also imparts a salty, oceanlike flavor. (Tasting Laphroaig is like: A smooth, sweet, carmel intensity that finishes with someone shoving a burnt sea urchin up your nose.) Anyhow, adding Laphroaig to black eyed peas and other recipes that call for bacon or liquid smoke, works really really well to impart a bacony flavor that will fool most hard core bacon lovers. The strong ocean and char flavors stay after the alcohol burns off. Plus, you look like a REAL MAN with Laphroaig on top of your fridge, it's seen in the whiskey world as sort of the MACHO whiskey. (You don't have to tell anyone it's just for cooking.)

Let the whiskey deglaze the pan and cook for five minutes or so, and then stir in:

2 diced tomatoes
4 T tomato paste (Or 2 T Italian Double Concentrated Tomato Paste)
2 Cans of black eyed peas, drained
4 Cups of stock or water
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes on low, until thickened up.

Finish with more chopped Parsley, the juice of half a lemon, salt to taste, and another generous pinch of allspice.

Serve over Basmati Rice with some cornbread and greens.