Monday, November 28, 2011

Lunch... with Special Guest Star Soup

For my mom: a picture of celery root.  See how it looks like a brain?  It's usually smoother, greenish, and not as brainy on the other side.

 I'm using up the last of the celeriac-potato soup today.  This lunch also has pomegranate-apple-goat cheese salad, clementines, crackers, and chocolate.

This will be a week of soup for lunch: we made potato-broccoli-cheese soup yesterday to pack once the celery root one is used up.  Here's how it goes:
  • Peel & cut up 2-3 potatoes.  Start cooking them in some boiling water.
  • Cut up 2 heads of broccoli, and add them to the boiling potato water after about 10 minutes.  Let everything cook for about 10 more minutes - that's 20 for the potatoes and 10 for the broccoli.
  • Drain the vegetables (if you don't have veggie broth, keep the water) and mash them with a potato masher.
  • Chop an onion and cook it in a couple of tablespoons of butter.
  • When the onion is at the transparent stage, add a couple of tablespoons of flour to the onions and butter to make a roux.  Cook it around until the flour smells & tastes cooked.
  • Slowly add a cup or two of veggie broth or your reserved broccoli water.  If you are using broccoli water, add a little salt too.
  • Add about a quart of milk.
  • Use an immersion blender to blend everything some more while the liquid is still fairly cool.
  • When the soup starts to steam, slowly stir in about 1/3 pound of grated cheddar cheese a handful at a time.  Consider also adding some grated parmesan cheese - it really adds to the cheesy taste.
  • Done!  Pack the soup up into 1-2 cup containers -- we got about 8 servings.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Lunch this week is a little bit unusual, because I cooked two delicious things that don't really go together.  On one hand, we're finishing up the tamales with Roman's chile sauce.  But I also made this French-style celery root soup.  So I've been packing celeriac soup, carrot sticks & hummus, tamales & chile sauce, and an apple.  The carrots and hummus are not pictured because I ran out of those and didn't want to buy more just when we're about to be off work for the holiday and have no need for packed lunches.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Excellent Tamales

Lunch this week is the result of an ambitious collaborative cooking party we had this weekend.  I invited a bunch of folks over and we made tamales as a team.  Tamales are great to make with company, because the assembly is a little tedious and then you have to wait for two hours while they steam.  In the mean time you can chat, have a drink, watch a movie... and bam!  Tamales!

The tamale recipe we made is based on this one, with a few modifications due to vegetarianism.  The process is:
  1. Soak your corn husks in hot water for an hour or two.  You can put them in the hot water before you start making the dough & filling, and then  they'll be nice and softened when you're ready to use them.
  2. Mix 2 pounds of instant masa dough with ground cumin, ground chiles, paprika, garlic powder, and salt
  3. Mix in 2 cups of vegetable oil
  4. Add ~2 quarts of warm veggie broth (I just used the "Better than Boullion" instant stuff and warm water)
  5. Make your fillings.  We used cheese, roasted poblano peppers, roasted sweet potatoes with spices, regular old refried beans from a can, and tofu with Roman's Awesome Chili Sauce, which I will describe later.
  6. To roll a tamale:
    1. Lay a corn husk in your hand or on a cutting board with the flat, cut end closest to you.
    2. Look at the steamer you will cook the tamales in.  They have to stand up on end in the steamer, so the depth of the steamer pot is the absolute longest you are allowed to make tamales.  I'll tell you later how I cheated on this, but try to keep the length close to Spread masa dough on the corn husk, about 1/4 inch thick (depending on how fat you want your tamale to be), 2/3 across the width of the husk, and as far down the husk as you have room for in your steamer.  Cover the corn husk all the way up to one side edge, and leave the other edge empty.
    3. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of your chosen filling(s) on top of the masa dough, roughly in a line.
    4. Roll up the corn husk, starting from the side that you covered with masa.  The empty edge will continue to wrap around the tamale tube.  
    5. Fold the empty bottom of the corn husk up. 
    6. Done!  Stand it on end in your steamer pot, open side up.
  7. Cover the tamale-packed steamer pots with their lids.  If the tamales are too tall, use aluminum foil to cover them (tightly).  
  8. Steam them for 2 hours.  Check periodically to make sure they haven't boiled dry.
We ate these with a variety of accompaniments, including veggie chili and Roman's Awesome Chili Sauce.  By now you must be wondering how to make that sauce.
  1. Simmer some dried ancho and/or california chiles in water for like 20 minutes until they're soft and rehydrated.
  2. Strain them, and remove the stems and seeds.
  3. Puree the peppers.
  4. Heat some oil in a frying pan, and fry the puree in the oil.  Consider adding some salt or lemon juice (we didn't think it needed either).
Put this sauce on everything.  Cubed/mashed tofu makes a great taco and tamale filling when topped with this sauce.  The sauce is also good on tamales or when eaten with chips.  I bet it would be good on enchiladas.  You could use it as a base for chili.  Just imagine!