Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leftover Soup

Thursday is the day I receive my SPUD (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery) container full of all that yummy organic produce. I love Thursdays. I get home to find a neat plastic bin filled with beets and chard and eggplant and whatever else I have ordered that week. The thing about Thursday though is it tends to be the day that I have to cook whatever is left in the crisper to make room for the new fresh stuff (ah the joys of the apartment-sized refrigerator). So tonight I endeavored to use the last of the celery, the last few carrots, and the acorn squash that had been sitting on the top of the fridge. Remembering the leftover chipotles in adobo I had from Tuesday's fish cakes I decided to try for a soup and this was the result:

Chipotle Squash Soup

1 medium acorn squash
1-2 dried chipotles
2 tbsp olive oil
3 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tbsp chipotle in adobo, minced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
4 cups veggie broth
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Cut acorn squash in half and place face down on a baking sheet and place in the over at 400 degrees. Cook until soft (30 mins) and let sit to cool. Once cool enough, scoop out cooked squash and whip until smooth. Set aside. Cover dried chipotles in 2 cups water and let sit for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain and reserve liquid. Loosely mince chipotles. Saute onions carrots and celery in olive oil until soft but not browned. Add garlic, dried and reconstituted chipotles, cumin and coriander and brown for 2 minutes. Add minced chipotle in adobo and cook and additional minute. Add whipped squash and mix thoroughly. Add reserved chipotle liquid and broth to desired consistency. Heat through. Add the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. This soup can be blended smooth or served chunky. We prefer a chunky soup so we ate as is with a garnish of cilantro and a side of simple braised greens. It hit the spot on this snowy day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fish Cake!

I have, especially since moving to Seattle, been trying to increase the amount of fish in my diet. This is partially out of concern that I am eating too much soy, which is very high in fat. Being a household of a pescetarian and an almost vegetarian we try to be careful about where our fish comes from and thus are very sensitive to good fishing practices. I carry around a little cheat sheet in my wallet created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program. Its a great guide for anyone concerned about fishing practices and their effects on the environment. Using it we discovered that Tilapia from the US is farmed in systems that don't taint the natural fish stock and therefor A-OK! This is great because Tilapia is a really low fat and flexible fish. One 4 oz serving is only 93 calories and 1 g of fat but 21 g of protein.
I have cooked Tilapia in a few ways: baked whole and fish tacos, but tonight's fish cakes proved one of the most successful. A light and fresh cilantro lime sauce compliments the spicy flavor of the chipotle in the cakes. When using chipotle in adobo (you can find these in a can in the ethnic food aisle of most grocery stores) know that they can pack a lot of spice. The bulk of the spice is found in the chipotles, but the sauce itself is quite spicy as well. We like a lot of spice (so much so that the guy at our local Thai place is constantly questioning our 3 1/2 star request) so the following recipe is based on that. If you are sensitive to spice I recommend cutting both the chipotle and the adobe quantities in half.

Chipotle Fish Cakes with Lime Cilantro dressing

Lime Cilantro Dressing

1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tbsp well chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tbsp diced red onion
juice of one lime
1 garlic clove minced
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Add water to achieve desired consistency: I use a dense yogurt and thus added about 2 tbsp of water. Cover and refrigerate while you make the cakes.

Chipotle Fish Cakes

2 4-5 oz tilapia fillets
1/2 medium red onion finely minced
2-3 garlic cloves finely minced
1/2 red pepper finely minced
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
one chipotle in adobo finely minced (adjust for spice level)
3-4 tbsp adobo sauce
1/4 cup course cornmeal or bread crumbs
2 tbsp cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

Chop tilapia in a blender or food processor until blended but still chunky. Set aside. Mix onion, garlic, pepper, cilantro, chipotle and adobo in a separate bowl and salt and pepper to taste. You will want to moderately over salt and pepper at this point as the fish and bread crumbs will balance out the flavor. Combine fish and onion - chipotle mixture thouroughly and add cornstarch and cornmeal or bread crumbs. Form into 8 patties roughly 3" in diameter and 3/4" thick. Heat a nonstick saucepan over medium high heat and cook each patty for 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Serve on a bed of greens with spicy black beans for a low fat and satisfying meal. Drizzle with Cilantro Lime Sauce and garnish with avocado and loosely chopped cilantro.

Midwestern Make-ahead

I have many friends from the Midwest and I have to admit that a) being from California and b) being an almost vegetarian means that Midwestern fare is about as foreign to me as hummus is to a West Virginian. There are many things I fear in Midwestern cuisine; I have a innate distrust of cream of mushroom soup, I detest canned vegetables (with the exception of canned tomatoes - which everyone knows is actually a fruit anyway), and I tend to prefer my tater tots untainted by ground meat. That being said, I was pretty excited to try what my friend from Michigan calls a Make-Ahead, which I believe roughly translates to "a breakfast casserole that is prepared the night before cooking". I had envisioned a sort of scrambled egg/sausage/cheese/ hash brown concoction but was pleasantly surprised to find that it is more accurately compared to a sort of savory bread pudding. Having now tried it I have to admit it might have been the most filling breakfast food I have ever experienced and should only be served in cases of extreme hunger. I am pretty excited about the idea though and plan to experiment a little more with the savory bread pudding concept - perhaps even applied to dinner...


1 lb ground breakfast sausage (veggie works fine)
one small onion, diced
oil for cooking (if using veggie sausage) 
8-12 slices white bread (depends on thickness of slice) 
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Saute onion in pan till soft. Add sausage and garlic and cook until brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Whisk eggs and milk together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper.
Tear bread into chunks and place on the bottom of a 9"x 12" baking pan. The bread should cover the bottom of the pan about 1 in deep. Cover bread with cooked sausage. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the pan. Slowly and evenly pour egg mixture into pan. Cover and let sit overnight refrigerated.
Heat oven to 350 degree. Cook for 40 minutes or until egg is cooked through.


So the main event in our weekend adventure is our Saturday night feast prepared by our groups' amateur chef. He has a vary particular style of small plates served over a long period of time. It's lovely as it allows for a lot of chatter and full appreciation of each plate. This year we had 7 courses followed by a light sweet snack.

Its always interesting to watch someone else cook and Jan has a very distinctive style and preferences for certain ingredients. In the few times he has cooked for me I have noticed a strong preference for root vegetables (though this may be influenced by the season), toasted nuts (hazelnut seems to be a strong favorite), and something involving truffle oil for which I cannot blame him. This year my favorites were the house smoked trout, the beet relish, and a shitake leek soup that he serves like a french onion with a slice of parmesan floating in the bowl. This simple soup utilizes a beet based stock which makes for a nice juxtaposition with the earthiness of shitake:

Shitake Leek Soup

3 cloves garlic crushed
1 leek, julienned
2-3 cups dried mushrooms (porcini or shitake or a combo)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
3 cups veg stock (made from blanching beets which can then be used to make beet relish)
½ cup red wine

Sweat garlic & leek in saucepan with butter and olive oil (I am informed that "sweating" means saute without browning). Add stock, wine, mushrooms, Dijon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mushrooms are reconstituted. Serve with a slice of Parmesan.

Monday, February 23, 2009


A large number of us know each other because we went to school together in Eugene, OR. That bastion of commie-liberal-hippies not surprisingly produces a lot of truly excellent food fit for an almost vegetarian like myself. One such option was a wonderful little cafe that makes a meal out of simple rice and beans, Cafe Yumm. This place served bowls of brown rice topped with all the wonderful things in life - beans, cheese, salsa, avocado, olives - topped with a heavenly hummus-y sauce. Two friends wisely chose to serve this on night one (to get off to a good healthy start) using a recipe procured from friends of friends. It hit the spot:

Yumm! Sauce

1/ 2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. raw almonds
1/3 c. nutritional yeast
1/3 c. garbanzo beans
1/4 c. silken tofu
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried oregano
blend nuts, beans and oil, then add remaining ingredients, one at a time, blending after each, until mixture is smooth. you can blend in blender or food processor.

Cuisine de cabin

So this weekend Team Snowshoe ventured into the wilderness to eat drink and, yeah, do some snowshoeing(this proves to mostly be an excuse for the eating and the drinking). We generally take turns cooking for each other which affords a fabulous opportunity to watch others in the kitchen. I'll skip my addition to the weekend as it is something I do every week and surely will get covered later in this blog and instead concentrate on the cornucopia of culinary wonders that we experienced. The following three posts will help express the richness of the weekend's gastronomical exploits:

(photo credit: mmd)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pasta with beans and greens

I traveled to the Piedmont region of Italy six years ago with a group of fellow students in order to study and document ancient stone building techniques. Overlooked by many, this northerly region combines the warmth of Italian hospitality with the crisp and clean simplicity of Switzerland. While there, we stayed in the small village of Canova - a collection of stone houses interconnected by stairways and alleys. Hosted by the husband and wife team who had renovated the medieval structures, we ate very well - hearty meals of pasta and fresh vegetables usually followed by espresso and little chocolate cookies. These days, when I want a quick but satisfying meal I copy a meal the lady of the house often served at lunch: Pasta with beans and greens.

When I make it in my kitchen I use whole wheat pasta (kamut, quinoa and spelt are nice as well). I find that these pastas don't weigh me down quite as much as traditional semolina pasta. I prefer a chunky shape to a noodle (rotini, penne or orecchiette). I alternate between using hearty greens (curly kale, collards, or rainbow chard) and other more "exotic" options (rapini, beet greens, or lacinato kale). Depending on what is in my crisper I will even make this pasta with something as simple as broccoli and peppers, as I did tonight. Regardless of the exact ingredients the recipe generally goes something like this:

Pasta with Beans and Greens

1 lb whole wheat pasta shapes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
6 large cloves garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch greens (curly kale is my favorite), loosely chopped
1 15oz can great northern or other white bean
1-2 tbsp red pepper flakes (depending on how much kick you like)
1 tbsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Boil water for the pasta and cook per instructions. Saute onion in 1 tbsp. olive oil till slightly cooked (2-3 min). add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and saute till onions are thoroughly cooked. add chopped kale and cook until just wilted. add beans, toss together and heat until beans are heated through. salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is cooked strain and rinse with cold water. Put in a large bowl. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper pasta to taste. Add beans and greens, as well as the grated Parmesan. Toss until combined. Serve with crusty bread and a hearty red wine.