Sunday, February 21, 2010

Casseroles Here I Come!

I bought myself a present today! I've never spent so much money on cookware before, but I figure this a lifetime investment. After some browsing around I finally selected the 6.5 gallon (I know, it's a beast!) enamel cast iron Fontignac Cocotte Pure in hunter green. I can't wait to make a casserole this week!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Moroccan Harira

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten Moroccan food before, let alone cooked it. I also don’t think I’ve ever eaten lamb before, let alone cooked it. AND had no idea what “Harira” meant. So, right off the bat this recipe was going to be an adventure. But the picture in the cookbook looked good – so I figured it was worth a shot!

According to “The Soup Bible” Moroccan Harira is a meat and vegetable soup that is traditionally eaten during the month of Ramadan, when the Moroccan Muslim population fasts between sunup and sundown. It sounded (and looked) hearty, which was great for a cold winter’s night in Boston. Before I continue I must digress… I’ve never eaten lamb before for a silly reason: I always though of them as “cute” animals. But really, I got to thinking, I find cows cute too, and deer (and I have perfectly no problem eating those) so I’m not sure why I’ve been so adverse to eating lamb. I figured this soup was the perfect opportunity to combat my weird lamb phobia.

This soup/stew was a mixture of lamb meat, chick-peas, shallots, red lentils, tomatoes, and soup noodles (I used a thin capellini). The soup was also flavored with cinnamon (a personal favorite), turmeric, and garnished with cilantro and limes (two more of my personal favorites) so I knew my taste buds were going to be in for a treat. This recipe was pretty easy to make, it took a little bit of prep work browning the meat {see picture 1: meat & onions cooking} and then adding the ingredients together at the right time, but once everything was put together it was nice to let it just sit on the stove or crock-pot (which is what I did) for an hour and a half. The inclusion of soup noodles was a great addition which turned this stew into more of a soup. The only downfall was that they soaked up a lot of the broth so I’ll probably have to add more water next time or use some vegetable broth.

All in all, I thought this soup was delicious with a great amount of spice and very tender, tasty meat.

Overall score: 9 out of 10.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

French Provencal Beef Stew

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I've been eager to treat myself to a few new cookbooks. New year, new cookbooks. It only seems logical. As I was browsing for books one caught my attention immediately: Gourmet Slow Cooker – it had everything I was looking for! I really like this book because it categorizes the recipes into region of origin which makes it easy to pick out something if I am in the mood for a particular style: America, England/Ireland, France, Italy, India, Mexico.

This week I flipped to the French section and decided to go with Provencal Beef Stew. It took about an hour of prep time (browning the meat {see picture 1}, chopping then cooking the veggies, etc.) but then I poured the veggie/wine sauce {see picture 2} over the meat in the slow cooker and let it cook on the low setting for 5-8ish hours. I love crock pots – it makes dinner so easy because I can do all the preparation/cooking early in the afternoon and then it’s all ready for me to eat later that night. (It sort of feels like dining in a restaurant that way, when I’m ready to eat all I have to do is ladle it out of the crock pot and I’m good to go.)

While I sat here and did work as the stew cooked in the slow cooker the smell that filled my tiny apartment was AMAZING. (I think it was especially in part to the fresh rosemary mixed with onions and garlic.) The tasty aroma made me incredibly hungry and eager to eat, but alas, I had to wait.{See picture 3: that's the stew cooking in the crock pot.}

And then a few hours later, finally, it was time! {See picture 4: That's the stew after a few hours.} I liked the variety of ingredients in this recipe (like white wine, Dijon mustard, fresh rosemary and thyme), they were all unique enough to add a distinct flavor yet not hard to find. After slow cooking for numerous hours the meat became so tender that if I stirred it around too much or too vigorously it would just fall apart. I served the stew with some toasty French bread and some soft brie on the side. Everything was delicious! This stew was hearty and perfect for a meal on a chilly winter night. The meaty taste coupled with the veggies gave the stew a nice consistency and a lot of bold flavor. I would gladly made this again!

Overall score: 9 out of 10.
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