Friday, April 30, 2010


2 new ideas/techniques this week. Well new to me. The first was inspired by Mario Batali and discovered here, the second done out of necessity. So, the lentils are first up. They are a simple dish, lots of flavor and very inexpensive - especially if you buy the cheap supermarket lentils. The link suggests some rather more fancy lentils, but I used the 75 cent supermarket variety just fine.

Lentils with Guanciale
8 oz packet of lentils sorted to remove any small stones or other bad things
2 carrots halved
2 celery ribs halved
2 T Coarse Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
3 Oz guanciale or pancetta or other unsmoked bacon in a single piece
Water to cover lentils
Place the lentils, carrots, celery, mustard, bay leaves and guanciale in a saucepan. Cover by 1 inch with water, and stir to mix everything together.
Put over low heat, cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 25 minutes - or until the lentils are cooked. They should be al dente and not mushy.
Remove from the pan, discard the vegetation and chop the guanciale into 1/4 inch or less pieces. Mix the guanciale thoroughly back into the lentils.
Allow to cool to room temperature and serve with olive oil drizzled over it and maybe a little sherry vinegar if you want the acid bite. Depending on the pork product you use, you may need a little salt. My guanciale is pretty salty, so I found I did not need any.

Roasted and Oil Poached Red Peppers
This recipe came about because i was in a hurry and wanted some roasted peppers. The trusty blowtorch came to the rescue, but more needed to be done. The peppers come out sweet and tender, but don't have the caramelized roasted flavor.
4 red peppers
1/2 cup high quality olive oil (I used a good extra virgin oil)
Using an open flame (in my case the blow torch that Madame is so frightened of), blacken the skins of the peppers. This does not fully roast them, just makes them easy to peel.
Peel and seed the peppers and cut into 1 inch wide strips.
Place the pepper strips in a sauce pan and add the olive oil. Heat over low heat, taking care that the oil does not even reach the shimmering stage until the peppers are softened - about 15 minutes.
Remove the peppers from the oil - with a couple of tablespoons of the oil too, and place on the antipasti dish. Use the rest of the oil in a vinaigrette where the slight red pepper flavor adds some depth to the vinaigrette.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster

Our old and trusty iRoast 2 coffee roaster has been ailing for a while. It wheezed to life only to stop half way through a roast resulting in very unevenly roasted beans - reminiscent of an old man's shaving - there are simply patches of beans that got too little attention.

So what to do? There are some wonderful machines on the market - with exotic prices to match. I had thought about the Gene cafe roaster but at $495 that seemed too much. Then I saw the Behmor 1600 at for $299 and I was hooked. As usual when ordering from sweetmarias, the process was flawless and included an assortment (8 x 1lb bags) of green coffee beans

The device arrived on Thursday night. I was a little startled that it is about the size of a toaster oven - but no matter. Madame was, of course, horrified. Anyhow, I set it up ran its cleaning cycle and roasted my first lb of beans. I used the same beans that we had been using in the iRoast - Sumatram Mandehling so we could do a beans to beans comparison.

Night and day difference. First, of course, the new machine produced a perfectly even roast. Second it didn't go from FC+ to Vienna in the blink of an eye. I found I could control the roast pretty easily. Third is was blissfully quiet. I wasn't getting beat frequencies from its motor and the vent hood. The smoke was less than the iRoast2 for the same degree of roasting as well. So all in all I am happy.

For those contemplating the device, I used 15oz of coffee and did the roast on P3 to get an FC+. I killed the roast with about 30 seconds to go to prevent over roasting.

This may be enough to convince me to drink coffee again!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Naturally Slim

I have noticed that my clothes are becoming a bit tight and that the lying scales are becomeing more mendacious by the day. The result being that I need to drop some lbs. The question is how to? How does a serious, committed chowhound manage to limit the input while keeping the passion for food and love of cooking going.

Fortunately there are a couple of things on my side. First my employer, Sabre pays for a program called naturally slim. Second the house is in disarray because of some remodeling.
Naturally Slim, in a nutshell, says a couple of basic things. Eat when you are hungry, eat slowly, don't mistake thirst for hunger. They also recommend a dilute orange juice solution to drink to help smooth out blood sugar and keep you from wanting to gnaw the meat of any uncovered arms that happen by.
It's been 10 days, I have dropped about 7lbs and have (mostly) not been starving. Certainly I am eating less and that is goodness.However the diluted orange juice is an absolute non-starter. So to replace that I have made up a concoction using maple syrup. The diluted OJ is 1 part OJ to 7 parts water. To get the same glycemic load, I use 1/3 cup maple syrup to 1 gallon water. It tastes faintly mapley (?!) and isn't bad at all.

The big aha is that if I drink a pint of that, a pint of tea (milk and 1/2 t of sugar) and a pint of water first thing in the morning, I am actually not hungry until almost noon. Contrast that with eating a piece of toast and marmalade for breakfast, followed by being so ravenous at about 9:30.

I haven't actually changed what I eat much at all. definitely avoiding the snacking on candies that are littered around the office, am eating more slowly - eat slowly for 10 minutes, rest for 5, eat slowly for another 10 and the brain/stomach signals should combine saying, "yes you are full". They mostly do. So goodness all around there.

The secret weapon? Exercise of course, but with a twist. The approach requires so much liquid that one has to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes or so. Many extra walking steps as a result!

The goal of the 10 week program is to change the lifestyle so that one needs less food. Eat what you want, but only do it when hungry, and stay hydrated. We'll see.

During the early stages, I have little desire to cook :-(. I am sure that the passion will return once I am off the draconian early weeks - and when the house is finally fixed.