Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lord, we eat a lot of soup!

I am realizing we eat a lot of soup these days. I guess its hardly surprising as it is an easy meal to cook and provides at least 2-3 meals worth of food, which comes in handy in households short on time. Yesterday after a long day of work in the backyard (and lunch of fish and chips and beer - backyard work food) I was hankering for something on the lighter side and warm. I had three heads of broccoli in the crisper that desperately needed using and figured the best use for them would be cream of broccoli soup. I don't buy cream and prefer not to cook with it, so in assembling this recipe I made it my goal to create a lowfat "cream" of broccoli soup. Potatoes add to the creamy texture when blended and a touch of lowfat milk gives it the proper color and sweetness. I like my cream of broccoli soup very peppery so I add quite a bit of pepper at the end and serve with hearty multi-grain bread:

"Cream" of Broccoli Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
2-3 medium celery stalks, diced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1-1 1/2 lb broccoli, chopped
9 cups veggie broth
2 tbsp good quality Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in a large soup pot. Cook onion, carrots, celery and potatoes over medium high heat 5 minutes till lightly cooked. Add 2/3 of the broccoli and all of the garlic and cook until broccoli is bright and green. Add broth, bay leaves and mustard and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the vegetable are cooked and soft (about 20-30 minutes). Using a blender (or immersion blender if you have one!) blend until smooth and return to pot. Add milk and cheese and heat thoroughly. In the meantime steam remaining broccoli until soft. Add to soup and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wine and Caramel Corn

So yes, we are in a Recession - big "R". It is a "difficult economy" as some say, and it is seriously starting to wear on me. My day job is in architecture, a field especially affected by the ebbs and flows of the national tide. Today my friendly neighbor to the east, a Canadian source of all thing eccentric, was laid off. I fear I am not far to follow. Things are changing in the place I work, and I am feeling very much left behind. Times like these call for comfort food, and what's more comfortable than a little red wine and caramel corn? After a dose of this miraculous duo, I am thinking that maybe I should just sell some AVON, pop out a kid, and be happy as as the ladies on the television. Well, maybe not. In the meantime I will just eat some more Caramel Corn and have another glass of wine...

Caramel Corn (straight out of Epicurious)

2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Heat Oil in a heavy saucepan, covered, over modern heat. remove lid and quickly add remaining kernels, then cook, covered, shaking pan frequently, until kernels stop pooping, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and uncover. (or you could just pop some microwave popcorn).

Melt butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring, then boil without stirring, until syrup reached 300 degrees (around 8-10 minutes). Using a wooden spoon stir salt and baking soda into syrup, then quickly stir in popcorn to coat. Spread out over parchment paper to cool. Break up into bite sized pieces.

Enjoy and, for a moment, stop thinking about the Economy...

Monday, March 23, 2009


I am not an expert at preparing lentils, but I have recently been trying to find ways to work them into my cooking regimen. Lentils are high in protein and dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1 and one of the best non-flesh sources of iron. As almost vegetarians and almost anemics lentils are especially good for us. Most lentil soups seem to rely on ham for their main flavor which is unacceptable for obvious reasons (though I do love ham). I found a recipe on Epicurious for a Curried Lentil Soup that I adapted a bit and made tonight. Perfect for a rainy Seattle spring day (that feels like winter) the soup is spicy and dense and very filling. Enjoy on your next rainy day.

Curried Lentil Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
4 large garlic cloves
3 tbsp good quality madras style curry powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 bay leaf
1-3 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
6 cups veggie broth
4 cups water
2 1/2 cups dried lentils
6-8 ounces lacinato kale (or green of your choice), chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Cook onions, carrots, celery and garlic stirring often for 5-10 minutes until soft. Add curry, cumin, garlic, red pepper and bay leaf and cook a few minutes more to release the flavors of the curry. Add lentils, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are soft. Add kale (or other green) and tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes till kale is soft. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and fresh cilantro.

Friday, March 20, 2009

breakfast for dinner

Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? As a kid that meant waffles for dinner, obviously something to which to look forward. As an adult my tastes run more savory (even at breakfast for breakfast) and breakfast for dinner usually means eggs. There are a lot of fantastic and easy ways to cook eggs (see the make-ahead post from February) and one of my favorites is a frittata. Last night I decided to experiment a little and try something different, something Debora Madison calls a skillet pie. It's basically an egg and cheese pie cooked in a skillet. I took her recipe and modified it a little - to add some texture - and got a smooth and cheesy dish that was a very satisfying but also very simple.

Skillet Pie with Mushrooms

serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small red onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used nonfat cottage cheese and it worked just as well)
1/2 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dill
1 cup shitake or crimini mushrooms
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cheap red wine
1 tsp marjoram
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium (6-8" diameter) cast iron skillet. Saute onions and garlic over medium heat until brown. While that cooks combine cheese in a bowl. Whisk in eggs until well mixed. Add milk, flour, dill, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and cook in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

While that cooks, stem the mushrooms and slice into thick slices. In a small skillet melt butter and add mushrooms. Cook until just soft. Add marjoram and wine and simmer until reduced by half. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve skillet pie on a bed of lightly braised greens topped with mushroom wine reduction.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

AIG Chili

According to Wikipedia chili is said to be "the food of forgiveness and reconciliation". Knowing that, I think that one solution to assuage the country's mutual frustration at the leaders of AIG might be that, using those "huge bonuses", they throw one giant chili cook off for the entire country. With the myriad of varietals - Cincinnati, Louisville, and of course the classic, Texas chili - everyone in the country can have their chance at forgiveness and reconciliation. Being almost vegetarians we make a chili con frijoles rather than chili con carne. While I know that to all you purists chili isn't chili without meat, fake meat can only carry a stew so far. J is a master chili man, either a result of Texas upbringing or his constant need for forgiveness and reconciliation, so he is the chili chef in the house. I closely watched the last time he made it so that I could accurately post the recipe here. Its filing and makes a lot so be prepared for some leftovers:

Chili con frijoles

2 tbsp canola oil
1 med yellow onion, diced
2 bell peppers (preferably red and green)
2-3 small carrots, diced (optional)
1 med zucchini (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup good chili powder (the New Mexico chili powder you bought to make red chili sauce works great)
2 tbsp cumin
2-3 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp coriander
2 15 oz. cans black beans
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans
1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups beer
1 pkg soyrizo (8 oz) or other meet substitute

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Saute onion, peppers and optional carrots or zucchini on high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, oregano and coriander and cook until vegetables are just slightly soft. Add beans, tomatoes and beer and lower heat. Heat through and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add soyrizo and salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and shredded cheese.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


So Wednesday nights I take a class at my gym that involes lots of flailing about and by the time I get home I am in no mood to cook a big complicated meal, so I rely on easy fast and filling options like fajitas. I don't go in for those spice packets you buy at the grocery, instead I season my fajita veggies with a red sauce we make from New Mexico Red Chili powder. With that great sauce it's pretty easy to put together a fajita meal. I slice a big onion into wedges, slice a red bell pepper into strips, chop a zucchini and maybe a carrot into thick chunks and then saute them all in a cast iron skillet on high heat. After the veggies have cooked just a little I add a good dose of the Red Chili Sauce (maybe 1/4 cup). I usually serve the veggies with cheese and avocado in soft flour tortillas and side with spicy black beans. These recipes are staples in my kitchen:

Red chile sauce

3 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp flour
4 tbsp New Mexico red chili powder (available at specialty stores and New Mexico)
2 1/2 c water
salt to taste

Heat oil over low heat in a saucepan. Add garlic and flour, cook until golden brown. Mix in red chili powder. Add water and whisk till lumps dissolve. Simmer 10- 15 minutes over medium heat. Salt to taste. You can store in your refrigerator up to two weeks.

Spicy Black Beans

2 tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp mexican oregano
2 tsp ground coriander
1-3 tsp reed pepper flakes
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
1/4 cup veggie broth or water
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic over medium high heat in oil till soft. Add cumin, coriander, oregano and red pepper flakes and fry to release the flavors. Add black beans, broth or water and bay leaves. Lower heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Full Immersion

I really want an immersion blender. It just really seems I would use it a lot and with such a small kitchen its a great alternative to a food processor. Unfortunately, since the accident I am a little afraid of that particular tool. It was silly really, not a big deal, but when I look down at my mutilated fingernail I do get a little queasy just thinking about it. It could have happened to anyone, at least anyone with a taste for gin martinis and a very attentive big brother...

It was Christmas Eve and I had just finished putting together the Christmas dinner for my family (13 people). I made a pork loin roast with wild rice and sausage dressing (see below) along with some roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and a few other accompaniments. Bro had been keeping me in good spirits with his special mix of Hendrick's gin, Via vermouth and lime zest (heaven). Dinner went smoothly. Everyone was feeling festive and full and as we prepared to serve desert I decided to experiment with the immersion blender to see how it would work for whipping cream. For those who were wondering, it works really well. I don't think everyone needs to hear the gory details of what precisely happened but suffice it to say I learned some very important lessons that evening:

1) Gin martinis and immersion blenders don't mix. Seriously. They should have a warning label or something. Who knows, maybe they do - I didn't buy the thing. Rest assured, when I do eventually purchase one, I WILL be checking for that along side the warning for risk of electrical shock.
2) Don't stick your finger in the blade thingy to clean it off. Seriously. The extra whipped cream that gets all jammed up in there IS NOT WORTH IT.
3) Alcohol thins your blood. Seriously.
4) That being said it is really easy to clean blood out of whipped cream... but seriously, we are all family, right?
5) Fingernails grow at least 1/8" below your cuticle. If you cut your finger there you will cut your nail as well; and when it grows out it will look seriously gross.
5) This may be the most important lesson (though the least related to immersion blenders). Don't drink four martinis on Christmas Eve or you WILL, the next morning, be getting the adult version of coal from St. Nick, otherwise known as a serious hangover.

Wild Rice Dressing
2 cups wild rice mix (mix of long grain brown rice and wild rice) cooked
2 tbsp olive oil
1 med onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 med parsnips, diced
1 med carrot, diced
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp sage
2 links Field Roast Apple Sage Veggie Sausage broken into pieces (or your favorite pork sausage)
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 cup dried cranberries or cherries
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup to 1 cup veggie broth

Saute onion, parsnips, and carrots in olive oil until soft. If using real sausage add it now and cook through. Add garlic and spices and cook for 2 minutes or so. If using veggie sausage add after spices and warm thoroughly. Add rice, almonds and cranberries and salt and pepper to taste. Place in a 8x8 baking dish. Drizzle veggie broth, cover with aluminum foil and cook @ 400 degrees (with roast) until warmed (about 20 minutes).