Saturday, January 3, 2015

Cooking in 2015 & Bittman's Mini Minimalist

Happy New Year! I'm not a big one for resolutions, but I've realized that I've been slacking on cooking, and that has to change (for both budget and health considerations). I do love Blue Apron, but while I'm on break from teaching I'm trying to plan meals and cook more often.

Santa was kind enough to bring us Mark Bittman's The Mini Minimalist set, as well as Ottolenghi and Tamimi's Jerusalem cookbook.

Thus far in the new year, I've made Bittman's "Broiled Bluefish or Mackerel with Green Tea Salt" (The Mini Minimalist: Meat, Fish & Poultry, 20-21). We had to substitute sea bass as that was the fish that was available and least likely to compete with the green tea (something told me salmon would be funky).

The neat part of this recipe is the green tea powder with coarse salt. Bittman recommends grinding one's own green tea, but I went for Matcha powder since I had it on hand.

The recipe worked out fairly well, except that I'd cut the salt down to 1/2 tablespoon next time. You will have to adjust how much salt you want according to your taste. I served it with "Stir-Fried Leeks with Ginger" (Bittman, The Mini-Minimalist: Vegetables, 48) and "Rice Salad with Peas and Soy" (Bittman, The Mini-Minimalist: Pizza, Pasta & Grains, 86). The rice salad was really excellent as were the leeks. With the latter, the recipe doesn't make a lot, so I recommend more than two leeks.

Broiled Sea Bass with Green Tea Salt; Rice Salad with Peas and Soy; Stir-Fried Leeks with Ginger

Feeling more adventurous, I tried the "Slow-Cooked Lamb with Fresh Mint Sauce" the next day. I toyed with the idea of doing this in the slow cooker, but I think the cooking time would be much longer as most slow cookers seem to fall under 250 degrees at their highest temps. The recipe is for a six pound leg of lamb, and I should have cut the cooking time--probably in half. Bittman doesn't provide a temperature guide. But aside from being well-done, it was very very good. The secret is poking holes in the lamb and stuffing those holes with a paste of  minced garlic and salt. If you enjoy spackling, you'll enjoy this process:
Not so beautiful at this point, but you get the idea. The good news is, I'm glad I chose to do it in the oven because I don't think it would have looked like this in the slow cooker:
 It was supposed to be accompanied with a green beans and tomato dish, but I forgot to buy the green beans. So, quick n' dirty salad to the rescue. The mint sauce would have been better if I had remembered to make it sooner--I didn't have the patience to let the sherry vinegar and sugar become more viscous, so all the mint floated to the top of the "sauce." That's what you see scooped on the finished product below:

Slow-Cooked Leg of Lamb with green salad
Broiled Mackerel (Sea Bass) with Green Tea Salt (Bittman): 4 stars
Rice Salad with Peas and Soy (Bittman): 4.5 stars
Stir-Fried Leeks with Ginger (Bittman): 4.5 stars
Slow-Cooked Leg of Lamb (Bittman): 4 stars