Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend prep work

Let’s be honest. A lot of us who like to cook do spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We brag about quick, easy dishes we can whip up in no time, but most of us probably spend a lot more time cooking than we mention to casual observers. There’s nothing wrong with it. I love to cook and find the entire process therapeutic and fun, but at times it can be a labor intensive hobby.

Weekends are my time to do a lot of the prep work for things I’ll use during the week. I have time to make some of the more labor and time intensive things that I’ll need during the week. This weekend’s prep includes a pot of white beans (likely destined for white bean cutlets – a variant of the PPK chickpea cutlets and perhaps a white bean, rosemary, and lemon juice dip), white wine braised roasted garlic (to be used in pretty much everything), and seitan sausages (for pastas and maybe pizza). The seiatan sausages are a variant of the ones in the Millennium Cookbook (a continual resource for inspiration and idea poaching).

Seitan Sausages

2 cups of wheat gluten
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 dried negro entera chile (or substitute pasilla or ancho)
2 teaspoons pimento (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of water
¼ cup of oil
2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
Cheese cloth and kitchen twine (for wrapping and cooking the sausages)

For the poaching liquid:
4 cups of vegetable broth
½ cup of white wine
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the liquids in a separate bowl. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and work into dough. Knead on a board for 5 minutes to get a smooth dough. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each one into a cylinder about 4 inches long. Roll the sausages in the cheese cloth (to help them hold their shape) and tie the ends shut with kitchen twine.

Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the four sausages in a single layer. Bring to a boil, add the sausages, and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for one hour. Remove the sausages and allow them to cool slightly before removing the cheese cloth. Store the sausages in the poaching liquid in the fridge until ready to use.

Garlic braised in white wine

This is another idea stolen from Millennium. Whole heads of garlic are roasted in white wine and herbs until they get soft and creamy. It’s fat free but adds sweet, mellow garlic flavor and creaminess to anything you add it to. It’s perfect to thicken pan sauces and dressings without adding fat.

4 whole heads of garlic, top ½ inch or so cut off
1 cup of white wine
A few sprigs of fresh herbs of your choice (thyme, tarragon, and rosemary all work well)

Put the garlic in a small baking dish, add the herbs and white wine. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 for 75-90 minutes. When the garlic is completely soft and the tops have browned a little, it’s done. Check it half way through the cooking. If it dries out, you can add more white wine. When it’s done, let it cool. Squeeze the heads out and store it in the fridge. It’ll keep for a week, but you’ll probably use it sooner. You can easily double or triple this recipe.

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