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.