2015 Lenten Potluck #6: Earthy Mac n Lentils

Seems to me pasta with some kind of creamy, possibly cheesy, sauce is one of the best foods ever in the whole world. I guess that’s why I grabbed this weird gluten free, 100% lentil penne from Uddo’s Kitchen, I just couldn’t resist. But the first time I tried some, something really odd happened. The water thickened and turned milky. I started to think maybe the lentil-y water would make a good soup base, so I drained it into a jar and put it in the fridge. And when I looked at it the next day…

I saw it separated, and there was a sort of a lentil paste at the bottom of the jar.

Hey, what if I made my coconut milk cheese, but left out the tapioca/corn starch and the agar agar, and added in this lentil mush? Lentils have a very earthy flavor, so this isn’t gonna be like Kraft mac n cheese. That’s okay. We’ll expand our horizons.

So, I boiled the remaining pasta (two of the three bags, you get three bags when you buy a box from Costco). My pasta pan with the special lid for draining wasn’t really big enough for all the water called for in the directions, so I just used enough water to cover the pasta…that was sort of a mistake. Because although it cooked through just fine, I could. Not. Drain. The pasta. The water really thickened up this time. Oops.

I added a tablespoon of tahini and stirred. Then seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir. Careful not to mash the pasta, gluten free pasta seems to be more delicate than it’s gluton-full counterpart.

Add the earthy cheez sauce…

stir to coat.

This really made a lovely sauce. As you might imagine, there is a very strong lentil taste. This recipe is oil free, but on an oil day sauteed onions and garlic would be an excellent addition. Maybe even crispy fried onions, like the kind used to garnish mjuddara.

We had a smaller crowd today,

but those who came brought the good stuff!

I did very well today taking small portions – it only took six weeks to gain self control!
For the first round, I had a small bowl of Dr. Fuhrman’s Anti-Cancer Soup, a stuffed grape leaf, some delicious bread, a wonderful rice with veggies that was topped with slivered almonds, baba ghanouj, and a stuffed cabbage roll with tomatoes. Not pictured, I had a small bowl of minestrone that was packed with chickpeas and veggies and lots of black pepper, and a little square of wacky cake with walnuts and cranberries.

This is the last of our Wednesday evening Lenten potlucks, but we also have a tradition of throwing together a coffee hour after the Liturgy for Lazarus Saturday. Then for Palm Sunday (remember, we Orthodox are a week behind Western Easter this year) we’ll have a parish lunch and bring Lenten desserts to share.

Does your parish do anything special for Lazarus Saturday?

Recipe Recap
~2 C Lentil broth/paste from previously boiled & drained lentil penne
1 13oz can full fat coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp vinegar
2 tsp salt
1/4 C nutritional yeast
1 heaping tsp smoked paprika
garlic powder to taste
onion powder to taste

24oz Uddo’s Kitchen red lentil penne
1 heaping Tbsp tahini
salt, pepper & garlic to taste

In a saucepan over low medium heat, combine coconut milk and lentil paste. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to incorporate. Allow sauce to boil lightly for a few minutes so it will thicken. If you do not plan to use the sauce right away, let it cook and store it in an air tight container, probably best to use within one to two days.

Boil penne according to instructions, but using just enough water to cover. When done, penne should be coated in the creamy, thickened boil water. Add tahini and stir to coat – you may need to add a little more water if it seems too thick. Season pasta with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

Add sauce. Stir gently to combine, careful not to mash the pasta.

2015 Lenten Potluck #5: Artoklasia Cake for Annunciation

Yesterday the fast was relaxed for the feast of Annunciation, the day we commemorate “the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would become incarnate and enter into this world through her womb.” Even better, the feast fell on a Wednesday this year, so it’s one of the rare times wine and oil are permitted not only on a weekday during Lent, but on a Wednesday in general. I wanted to take full advantage of that!

A couple years ago I shared the recipe Fr. R and I used for Artoklasia bread, a sweet bread that is blessed and served on certain feast days. But what if…

Artoklasia Cake
3 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp anise seed
3 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp gin*
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C cold water
1 1/4 C orange juice
1 C margarine, melted or extremely soft

For the soak:
1 1/2 C sweet red wine
1/2 C orange juice
olive oil
confectioners sugar

*I couldn’t find masticha like we used in our bread, so I used gin for the pine taste. By the way, this is actually just another variation on my Lenten Cake recipe, it’s so versatile!

WARNING: This is not to actually be used for an Artoklasia service! Not that your priest would let you get away with that :)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add first four ingredients to a large bowl and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center, and pour in all wet ingredients. Mix just to combine. This recipe will make one 9×13″ cake or two 8″ round cakes. A large cake takes approximately 45 minutes to bake, smaller cakes about 25 (keep an eye on them and check the center with a toothpick when in doubt). Make sure you grease or line the cake pans.

Allow cake(s) to cool.
Combine 1 1/2 C red wine with 1/2 C orange juice.

Poke holes in the cake – I used a fork. Slowly pour the orange wine mixture all over the cake, giving it time to soak in, and making sure to distribute the liquid evenly between cakes if you made more than one. Chill cake in the fridge for at least half an hour.

When ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Serve immediately as the sugar will quickly begin to dissolve.

I meant to bring my little fine mesh strainer to help evenly and beautifully distribute the confectioners sugar over the top of the cake. I forgot it and had to use a wire colander with bigger holes…the confectioners sugar just kind of poured right through it!

The cake will be very soft, you can use an ice cream scoop to serve it.

I’ll tell you a story. I still remember the first time Fr. R made Artoklasia bread for us, it was for the vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil on Holy Saturday morning about six or seven years ago [actually it was EIGHT years ago, I can’t believe it]. There is a bottle of wine and a bottle of olive oil on the analogion with the bread while it’s being blessed (and wheat, in some traditions). In some places they give you a piece of the bread and little cup of wine, we just pour the wine over the bread and sometimes sprinkle it with confectioners sugar. Holy Saturday is a rare oil-free Saturday because we are keeping vigil, awaiting the Resurrection, so we just have a little bread and wine to hold us over. But that first Year of the Artoklasia someone made a mistake and drizzled the bread with olive oil before completely drenching it in wine and then covering it with sugar. The oil free business didn’t even cross my mind at the time – maybe I didn’t know about that then – and I just LOVED that bread.

The next year I was talking to an inquirer at coffee hour. I told her she had to go to the service on Holy Saturday morning because THE BREAD IS SO GOOD. When she walked away my sister wanted to know why, of all things, that was the one thing I thought to tell her about Holy Saturday. It does seem a little silly now, but that bread was good…and it is the inspiration for this cake.

P.S. The inquirer has now been a member of our parish for many years :)

2015 Lenten Potluck #4: Mortar & Pestle Hummus

2015-3-19 Traditional Hummus from Scratch
Some people like hummus because of its simplicity: just throw a few ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth. But what if I told you I just spent about 6 hours making one batch of hummus? I don’t actually know exactly how long it took, but this week for the potluck I did hummus completely from scratch – I started with raw ingredients, processed them myself, and mashed everything by hand. I just wanted to see what it feels like. Here’s how it went down.

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I started with 1/2 C raw sesame seeds – I didn’t want to finish and find out I didn’t have enough! You will most likely have a little leftover unless you really love a strong tahini flavor in your hummus.

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Heat them in a dry skillet over low medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning.

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After a while, the seeds will become golden brown and fragrant, and begin releasing their natural oil.

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Transfer to the mortar, and get to work crushing and grinding.

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It’s a slow process,

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I have to admit I took a break every so often to let my arm rest!

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But I could see progress being made,

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so I kept going,

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and finally I had a sesame paste!

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Still some whole seeds in there, maybe not the smoothest, but I am pleased, except…it’s a little dry-looking, sorta powdery.

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I added a little water and it made a very thick paste. Hmm. I’ll get back to the tahini later.

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I had already prepared 1 1/2 C dried chickpeas by doing a quick soak, then draining & rinsing, covering with fresh water, and simmering another hour or so. The chickpeas were soft and delicate. Some of them got a little mashed while I peeled off the skins (yes, I recommend doing this, even though it takes a while).

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Now the peeled cooked chickpeas go into the mortar in small batches.

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Mash as well as you can.

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The consistency of the mashed chickpeas was actually similar to that of the sesame seeds.

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Of course you need garlic for your hummus. I thought about mincing it really finely, but since I was already in my groove crushing and grinding,

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into the mortar it went. I did three cloves. You may use more or less according to your preference.

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Freshly-squeezed lemon juice. This is also to taste.

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After adding juice from the first lemon, the ground chickpeas started to look a little more like hummus. I also stirred in a good dose of salt, and then…

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back to that tahini. I added a bit more water until it more closely resembled the store bought stuff I’m used to. Anyway, the thickness of it was similar, but the texture was totally different. Almost gritty, and although it had a sort of sweet aroma the bitterness was way stronger than any tahini I’ve purchased. That made me nervous.

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But I went ahead with my experiment. Add 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons.

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Once again, after I added the tahini it began to look more like hummus. Then I added the juice of a second lemon. Add the garlic and stir really well for a few minutes.

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The texture was so different, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.

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I could taste each ingredient individually, but strangely the flavors didn’t seem to come together.

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WHAT IF EVERYONE HATES IT?? But hummus is one of those foods that tastes better after it sits overnight, so I covered it and tucked it in the fridge. Fingers crossed.

Then yesterday at work I started getting really nervous. I ended up whipping up a bean dish when I got home (basically a variation of This), and I also stopped by the movie theater to get my popcorn bucket refilled. I figured if I brought three things, at least one of them had to be good!

2015-3-19 Lenten Potluck Vegan
Once again we had a great spread, and looking at this picture I can see at least three things I didn’t have room to try :( That’s my hummus there front and center, garnished with paprika. I was still too nervous to try it on the first round.

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I was not about to miss out on fresh-from-the-oven soft pretzels, though. For years Super Pretzel was one of my go-to Lenten snacks, but of course homemade is better. And due to my plate being so crowded, some of my salad stuck to the mustard on my pretzel and I decided to just go with it. It was wonderful. Now I understand why pretzel buns are so popular. And now that I think of it, the roasted vegetables were great with those beans & greens.

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On my second round I finally tried my own hummus and beans. The hummus tasted SO much better after chilling overnight!! Most of it was gone by the end of the night. It was a good match with that salad.

On to the other dishes. The chickpeas in tomato sauce had a hint of cinnamon, if I am not mistaken, and the chickpeas were nice and tender. And yet another chickpea dish with tahini, Nadira’s salad with cucumber, fava beans, parsley and sumac. Now, I think you can’t have a Lenten potluck without pasta, we need a few extra carbs for energy this time of year. So that was it, I had the perfect meal.

Recipe Recap
1/2 C raw sesame seeds
1 1/2 C dry chickpeas
2 lemons (or to taste)
3 cloves of garlic (or taste)
salt to taste

Quick soak chickpeas, then drain, cover with fresh water, and cook another hour or so until very tender. Drain and set aside.

Toast sesame seeds in dry skillet over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until seeds are golden brown and fragrant. Place them in the mortar and grind until paste is formed. Scrape paste into a small bowl. Stir in a few tablespoons of water. Set aside.

Peel chickpeas. Mash peeled chickpeas with mortar and pestle in small batches, scraping each batch into a large bowl once it’s as smooth as you can get it. Set aside.

Mash garlic with mortar and pestle. SET ASIDE.

Juice two lemons, and add juice to mashed chickpeas. Stir in two to three heaping tablespoons of tahini, and salt to taste. Add garlic and mix well. You may add a little water to the hummus if it’s not as thin as you like, or just keep adding more lemon juice if that’s your thing!

Chill hummus for several hours before serving. You may want to taste again and adjust seasoning. Garnish simply with a dash or two or paprika and perhaps a sprig of parsley on a strict fasting day. When oil is permitted, drizzle olive oil over the top in the form of a cross before garnishing. Toasted pine nuts or walnuts will also look lovely sprinkled in the center.

If you can do this all in one sitting without interruption, it might be a good time to practice the Jesus Prayer :)