Saturday, December 13, 2008

Crickets chirping.....

Hello anyone still out there!!!  I'm sorry it's been so long.  Here we are looking at the holidays with Christmas quickly looming.  My plans to spend the fall busily baking and cooking while awaiting the arrival of my son didn't quite work out.  The pregnancy wiped me out more then I expected, and I spent little time in the kitchen.  Still, baby boy arrived on November 30th, and M. and I are delighted to be spending lots of time getting to know him.  So far Q seems to be a happy little baby, and we both melt at his little smiles.  

I hope to get into the kitchen more in the months ahead.  Right now I'm being spoiled by both M. and my mom cooking for me (and even more importantly doing laundry!) as I recover and begin to figure out my new routines.  We've made some delicious cookie recipes recently, so hopefully those will be a good jumping off point for posting in the future.  

So, once again, please check back.  I do hope to get back into the swing of posting again soon! 

Happy Holidays! 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pomodori al Forno

Here we are, staring October straight in the face.  I've neglected my poor little blog ... again... but there has been a lot of activity in the Veggie Kitchen of late.  We've been cooking up a storm - yes, both M. and I have been busy.  But, we've been cooking seasonally using fresh ingredients procured from local farmers' markets and haven't really been following recipes.  As a result, I've been too lazy to track ingredients, keep measurements recorded or even take pictures of the final result.  Bad blogger, I know.  

But now that we're moving into fall, I'm beginning to seek recipes and be inspired to keep better track of what I'm doing.  Recently I was inspired by Stephanie's post about a recent Molly Wizenberg column in Bon Appetit.  The column caught my eye when I read the issue, but it took Stephanie's raves about the recipe to really get me to the farmer's market to buy some tomatoes to try it for myself.  

We really enjoyed this recipe.  We enjoyed it as recommended at first, and served it on french bread slices over a bed of goat cheese.  The creaminess of the goat cheese complimented the tomatoes nicely, and we had to work hard to remember that there were supposedly eight servings in the recipe.  Then I used it in a tried and true pasta recipe in place of sundried tomatoes.  The leftover Pomodori al Forno worked perfectly, and added a depth of flavor that I don't remember previously.  So that experiment was considered a success in my book!

I also reserved the flavored olive oil from the Pomodori al Forno, and have used it in numerous recipes where I thought it would compliment the dish.  And so far, the tomatoey taste of the oil has done just that.  So the versatility of this one recipe has really impressed me.  And it's simple (although time consuming) and tasty to boot!  What could be better?

So I will join the ranks of those encouraging everyone to try this recipe.  Tomato season is almost over - but there is still time!  Hurry!  And I apologize for the lackluster picture accompanying this post - we were so busy scarfing down the tomatoey cheesey goodness that taking a picture was an afterthought.  :)

[Recipes for pomodori al Forno and Angel Hair with Sund-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese can be found by clicking the links above.]

Monday, August 18, 2008

Moomie's Beautiful Burger Buns

A few weeks ago we held a barbecue to celebrate my belated birthday.  M decided he wanted to serve sliders, but we weren't sure where to get small buns.  I checked out a local grocery store but was not impressed by what I found.  So I decided to try making my own.  This recipe has floated around the web with so many different variations that I figured it was a good place to start.  It was incredibly easy (especially using the bread machine to make the dough) and I was able to get about 20 or so slider sized buns out of each batch of dough.  

The rolls were soft and tender with a nice yeasty flavor.  I will definitely tinker with adding fresh herbs and whole wheat flour to future batches to experiment.  I think this will be our new "house roll" and I am determined to try other homemade breads using the bread machine in the future.  

Moomie's Beautiful Burger Buns
Makes 8 full size burger buns (or approximately 20 miniature buns)
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 egg
3 1/4 cups of flour
1/4 sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of instant yeast

1. Place ingredients in order in bread machine.  Select dough cycle, and allow to run to completion.  

2. Dump dough onto lightly floured surface.  Divide into 8 pieces (or smaller pieces if making miniature buns).  Slap into shape (dough is pretty sticky).  Place on greased cookie dough sheets, cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30-40 minutes.  

3. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.  Cool on wire racks. 

We toasted the buns on the grill lightly before serving.  I also froze leftovers with great success - the buns toasted nicely coming out of the freezer.  

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Red Lentil-Chickpea Patties

When I'm off from work, one of two scenarios unfolds.  I'm either very motivated in the kitchen, or very lazy.  I will have to work hard on falling into the former in the months ahead as I enjoy a little time off before the baby comes.

Last week I had a day off, and was extremely motivated.  I decided to make M. a healthy feast for dinner, and picked a recipe I've often looked at but never tried.  These patties were great!  The filling was really tasty - I found myself scooping little bits as I worked on other components of the dish.  I did totally blank on the chilling step - our patties did fall apart a bit so I think chilling them before cooking would have been a good idea.  Oh well, next time!  The flavor was partly Indian, partly fusion (when paired with the peanut sauce) and had a good blend of both fresh and dried spices.  The peanut sauce was quick to prepare and very tasty - I wasn't sure about the maple syrup sweetener but there was no discernible mapleness in the final sauce.  I paired the patties with a simple chopped salad.  

We both enjoyed this meal, and I will definitely make it again.  I think I might try a bun instead of the pita bread next time.  Both M. and I felt there was a bit too much pita and not quite enough patty.  But we did end up with extra patties, so perhaps ours were a bit small.  But overall, a tasty (although not quick!) meal that will definitely be repeated in the future.  

Red Lentil - Chickpea Patties
The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld
Serves 6 

3/4 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 3/4 cups water
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 pound carrots cut into small dice (1 cup)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cup of peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
6 whole wheat pita breads
shredded romaine lettuce
chopped fresh tomatoes
Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below) 

Combine the lentils and the water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Add 1 tsp salt, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.  The lentils should lose their individual shape and cook into one mass.  Cook them as dry as possible without sticking.  Stir the cooked lentils with a spoon to break them up, and pour them into a medium bowl.  Stir in the chickpeas. 

Warm the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots, carrots, and 1/4 tsp of salt, and cook until the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.  Add the cumin, coriander, and peas, and cook until the peas are tender, 2 minutes.  Stir the vegetables into the lentils along with the parsley, lemon juice, and cayenne.  Stir in the bread crumbs.  Let the mixture sit for ten minutes, or until it is cool enough to handle. 

Using your hands, form the lentils into 6 tight patties and place them on a plate.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator until very firm, at least 30 minutes.

Warm a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the burgers (they are a bit delicate so do not crowd pan).  Saute until golden, about 2 minutes.  Turn over and saute on other side until golden.  

Serve each burger in a pita with Spicy Peanut Sauce, topped with lettuce and tomatoes.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
Makes 3/4 cup

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions or chives

Combine everything except scallions in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Stir in scallions.  Store covered and refrigerated.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies - New York Times Recipe 7/9/08

I've already mentioned my love for chocolate chip cookies.  Here.  Here.  And I'll even count here, even though these cookies happen to also contain oatmeal. So, when the New York Times dining section contained a recipe for reportedly fabulous chocolate chip cookies, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would try them.  It took me a little time to collect the flours (cake and bread), as well as find the time to make the dough and allow it to sit for the full 36 hours.  This is not the cookie recipe to make for instant gratification (although the two I baked up on the first night for scientific purposes were very tasty indeed).  No, this is the recipe to make for an event.  An event 36 hours from the time of making the batter.  These cookies are delicious, probably my favorite to date.  They have crisp edges, soft and tender centers and are positively littered with chocolate chippy goodness. Although maybe that's because my hand slipped just a bit when adding the chocolate chips.  

M. prefers the cookies sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, but I prefer them plain. I think this recipe is our new hands-down favorite, and will definitely be repeated.  But, as mentioned before, only when there's time or an occasion to plan ahead.  When you need a cookie right now, then another recipe will serve you better. But when you can plan ahead, then I urge you to try these cookies.  And then if you're like me, you'll quickly freeze balls of dough (see above) in the freezer so as to reduce the temptation to eat cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner while they're around.  Yes, they're really that good. 

I think I made my cookies a bit smaller then the recipe calls for, even though I made them bigger then I would usually.  I do think the size is somewhat important, as a smaller cookie might not develop the crisp/chewy texture that makes the recipe so delicious.  I used Ghiardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips (with a handful of regular Toll House chips for good measure). And, as I mentioned, I also froze much of the dough into pre-formed balls for easy baking for future chocolate chip cookie cravings.  These cookies are way too deliciously dangerous to leave lying around!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Jacques Torres
New York Times 7/9/08
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
  • (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
  • Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baked Thai-Style Tofu

Sometimes I make a recipe, really enjoy it but don't make it for years.  This recipe is one such favorite.  I first made it years ago living uptown with three other roommates.  I can distinctly recall being impressed by the tangy, nutty flavor and the sweetness of the roasted peppers but yet years passed before I made the recipe again.  I made it again recently, and was again appreciative of the simplicity of the recipe in contrast with the freshness of the end result.  Trust me, the picture above doesn't do the dish justice!  

I find this recipe to be flexible.  With bigger pieces cooked longer, the recipe makes a delicious sandwich stuffer.  With the tofu cut smaller (as depicted above)  it makes a nice side dish or component of an Asian meal.  We rushed this particular batch - the tofu could have done with a little more pressing and the tofu could have baked longer.  Still, even though quickly prepared, the dish was delicious and one that will be repeated again before more years pass.  

Baked Thai-Style Tofu
Jeanne Lemlin
Serves 3

This method of baking marinated tofu gives it a crispy coating and intensifies all the flavors in the "sauce".  You'll also love the ease with which this dish can be put together.  A side portion of rice,  or plain couscous is the best accompaniment.  Don't hesitate to serve this dynamic tofu dish cold; it would make a great lunch to take to work.

The Marinade:
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoons minced gingerroot
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes and patted very dry
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, 1/4 inch by 2 inches

The Sauce
1 tablespoon natural-style peanut butter
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 scallion very thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil, or 1/4 tsp dried
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint, or 1/2 tsp dried

1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the tofu and red pepper to coat them evenly with the marinade.  Let sit 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 8 hours chilled.  Toss occasionally. 
2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the tofu mixture and any remaining marinade in a large shallow baking dish so that the tofu rests in one layer.  Bake 15 minutes, tossing once with a spatula after about 7 minutes.
3. Meanwhile make the sauce by stirring all its ingredients together with a fork.  Remove the tofu from the oven. Spoon on the sauce, then, using a spatula toss the ingredients together until everything is well coated.  Return the dish to the oven and bake undisturbed for 10 minutes.  Let the tofu sit for at least 10 minutes before serving for it is better when warm, and not piping hot.  

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blueberry season!!!

I love blueberry season.  I love walking among the stands at the farmer's market, and seeing the pint baskets lined up with their blue jewels sparkling in the sun.  I try to buy them as often as possible, and throw them into cereal, bowls of mixed fruit topped with a dollop of whipped cream and even enjoy them alone.  

Still, the ultimate blueberry experience has to be a blueberry muffin. I've tried many recipes over the year, but this time I tried one from Cook's Illustrated.  M. and I have enjoyed the magazine for the past year, however we recently decided an online subscription would better serve us as it would allow us to access many more recipes then in the bi-monthly printed version.  So I selected the Cinnamon-Sugar-Dipped Blueberry Muffin recipe.  The muffins seem a bit homely, as they're baked without paper liners.  Still, a quick dunk in melted butter and then a swift spin in a cinnamon-sugar mixture creates a soft and tender muffin with a sweet crust.  The crumb of the muffin was very tender, despite my worries that I had overmixed ensuring all pockets of flour were mixed in.  

I made a few changes to the recipe - I used fresh blueberries instead of frozen.  It worked well, although a few bled and exploded into the muffins.  Since these were just for us, it didn't make a difference.  But if I were making these for an event or company, I might go with the frozen in order to improve the appearance.  I also used the microwave to melt the butter for the final dipping step.  

We are really enjoying these muffins.  I froze most of them, however they are steadily reappearing from the freezer and being consumed at a quick rate.  The sweet topping combined with the tender crumb make these muffins really delicious, and I think this recipe will go into regular blueberry season rotation as a result.  

Cinnamon-Sugar-Dipped Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

This recipe does not require a standing mixer, but when making the batter, be sure to whisk vigorously in step 2, then fold carefully in step 3.  There should be no large pockets of flour in the finished batter, but small occasional sprays may remain.  Do not overmix the batter.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 oz)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar (7 0z)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups sour cream (10 oz)
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, preferably wild
1/2 up granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl until combined.  Whisk egg in second medium bowl until well-combined and light colored, about 20 seconds.  Add sugar, and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 0 seconds. Add melted butter in 2 or 3 steps, whisking to combine after each addition.  Add sour cream in 2 steps, whisking to just combine.
3. Add frozen berries to dry ingredients, and gently toss to combine.  Add sour cream mixture and fold with rubber spatula until batter comes together and berries are evenly distributed, 25-30 seconds (small spots of flour may remain and batter will be thick).  Do not overmix.
4.   Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop batter into greased muffin tin.  Bake until light golden brown, and toothpick or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, 24-30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time.  Invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes. 
5. While muffins are cooling, mix sugar and ground cinnamon in small bowl until melt butter in a small saucepan.  After baked muffins have cooled five minutes, working one at a time, dip tops of muffins in melted butter and then cinnamon-sugar.  Set muffins upright on wire rack; serve. 

Monday, June 30, 2008

Arepas... a Venezualan favorite.pbrea

I'm trying to get back into the swing of posting again.  Even during my "time off", I did occasionally photograph memorable meals.  Once a blogger, always a blogger I guess.  So, I'm combing back through the archives to see what I can share. 

Several months ago, the gluten free girl posted a wonderful how to make arepas post on her blog. We had some leftover black beans in the fridge, and breakfast was decided.  M. and I first tasted arepas, a cornmeal pancakey piece of gluten-free deliciousness, when my parents were living in Venezuala.  We were both taken by the arepa's versatility.... arepa with cheese - delicious!  Arepa with ham and cheese (if that's your thing) is (reportedly) delicious!  My personal favorite is an arepa sliced open like a sandwich with black beans and melted cheese.  Mmm!  

If arepas interest you, please check out the link above.  Shauna's attention to detail (not to mention step-by-step photographs) will encourage you to try this deliciousness for yourself. 

And in writing this post, now I want arepas again!  :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I know... I've gone missing again.

It's amazing how that happens.  Four months ago I was busily preparing a cake for the Easter celebration with my in-laws. And then, I found out that the Veggie Kitchen will have a new little veggie arriving in late November.  

Almost overnight, my interest in the kitchen faded, my interest in napping increased and M. has resumed primary food preparation duties.  Living life without my typical love of cooking and food has been interesting.  The cooking magazines are piling up with their recipes untried.  The cookbooks live mournfully on the shelf waiting to be taken down and used again.  I've even stopped buying new ones - a day M. never thought he'd see!  

But rest assured, all is well.  As the summer wears on and my workload decreases, I hope to get back into the kitchen more.  After all, I will want to try my hand at homemade baby food when that time comes!  So, keep checking back.  I do hope to return to regular posting one day soon.  

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fettucine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce

Every good blogger has back-up recipes lurking around their computer.  For every recipe that gets posted, about five or more actually get made.  For me, there never seems to be a common thread to the dishes which don't make it on to the blog.  Sometimes they have a long recipe which requires too much typing or sometimes they just don't grab me at the time they are made.  Still, they are useful in times like this when life has just been too busy to blog.  

This recipe was good, but it wasn't great.  If I make it again, and I might as the components appeal to me, I will roast my own peppers and use a block of feta bought in water.  I used dry crumbles, and the sauce just didn't quite work as a result.  There were little flecks of feta that were unappealing, and I do love feta in any shape or form.
So... from my personal archives I do present... Fettucine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce! A decent and quick weekday meal which may, with a few adjustments, become something quite delicious. Oh, and do excuse the frozen vegetable side.  It is utterly forgetable, but desperate nights call for desperate measures!  :) 

Fettucine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce
The Food You Crave
Ellie Krieger
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 16 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese or a six ounce block
1 lb whole wheat fettucine
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft, about ten minutes.  Add roasted peppers and saute until heated through.  Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.  Place mixture in the bowl of a food processor with stock and all but two tablespoons of the feta.  Process until smooth, about thirty seconds.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.  Toss pasta with sauce, adding pasta water by the tablespoon, if needed.  Sauce should cling nicely to the pasta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Divide among pasta bowls.  Sprinkle with parsley and remaining feta cheese. 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Vegetarian Cassoulet

M. and I love French food.  But, being vegetarian, there's a limit to how much I can enjoy the traditionally meat-heavy cuisine.  Desserts are no problem, but usually the stews and main dishes involve an animal prepared in some shape or form.  This recipe in the current issue of Gourmet caught my eye, and was put on the menu immediately.  

The dish was pretty simple to prepare, however I got a late start which meant dinner ended up on the table later then I'd expected.  Made with dried beans (prepared the night before), it came together in about an hour and a half (chopping an cooking time included).  The bread crumbs were delicious... definitely a key element to the dish.  Unfortunately, I was unusually heavy handed with the salt which did affect our enjoyment of the dish somewhat.  And, I can't claim that this picture is headed to any food photography hall of fame any time soon.  But, this is certainly a dish I will repeat in the future for its speed, homeyness and warm winter comfort.  

Vegetarian Cassoulet
Gourmet March 2008
Serves 4-6
Active time 30 minutes, start to finish 1 hr 15 minutes

A leek, carrot and celery mirepoix, cooked until tender with rich white beans, gets a crisp, crunchy texture and delightfully rustic flavor from a garlicky bread-crumb topping flecked with parsley. 

For cassoulet
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into one inch pieces
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 turkish bay leaf
1/4 tsp cloves
3 19 oz cans of cannellini or Great Northern beans rinsed and drained
1 quart of water

For garlic crumbs
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic 
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Make Cassoulet
Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into half inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry
Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.  

Make Garlic crumbs while Cassoulet Simmers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in the middle.  
Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.  Spread in a baking pan, and toast in oven stirring once halfway through until crisp and golden, 12-15 minutes.  
Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley. 

Finish Cassoulet
Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.  Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with  salt and pepper.  Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.  

Monday, March 10, 2008

Under the Weather Chicken-less Chicken Soup

I woke up today feeling a bit under the weather.  Sore throat, tired, headachey and just blah.  But, due to one of the children I work with also being under the weather, I had the fortuitous luck to be able to go back to bed and spend the morning at home.  And I wanted soup.  

I grabbed a couple carrots, an onion, celery and a few cloves of garlic, and within a half an hour I had something soothingly reminiscent of that traditional feel better food Chicken Soup. Obviously, there's no chicken in my soup.  But I'd like to think it will help me feel better. 

Under the Weather Chickenless Chicken Soup
Serves 4 - 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 celery stems, washed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small head of broccoli, or one half larger head, florets separated
4 cloves of garlic
3 cups of vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup canned chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Heat olive oil in large saucepan.  Chop onion, and saute on medium-high heat.  Add carrots and celery, and saute until vegetables are tender.  Add broccoli and garlic.  Cook for two minutes, and then add vegetable broth and diced tomatoes.  Add chickpeas and seasonings, and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and soup is hot.  Enjoy. 

Sunday, March 02, 2008

M cooks.

I've had some stressful days related to work lately. Nothing that won't resolve itself in the end, but it has affected my time in the kitchen. Last Wednesday was such a day. I received a wonderful text from M. offering to make me dinner. I gleefully accepted.

There are no recipes to share, since M. makes things up as he goes along. But this meal was truly excellent, both in taste and in the fact it was prepared for me. Being cooked for mid-week was truly a delightful treat.

Top left - rainbow chard chopped and cooked in a little olive oil with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Top right - sliced portabello mushrooms glazed with basalmic vinegar and red wine.
Bottom right - M explored millet for the first time. He toasted the grains dry, and then created a pilaf by cooking them in vegetable broth, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper as well as a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Bottom left - Heirloom (Good Mother Stollard) beans that were soaked, and cooked with a little salt.

We (particularly M.) are all about cooking heirloom beans lately. They are uniquely delicious, and have helped us realize that the merits of cooking dried beans from scratch. Cooking dried beans does take planning and forethought, but the results blow canned beans right out of the water. We got our first batch from, but a quick google search for heirloom beans will bring up a variety of sources from which they can be obtained. Heirloom beans cost a little more, but taste so much better!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Barefoot Contessa's French Lentil Soup

I really like soup. I usually make a lot of soup in a winter, however I realized I've relied on old favorites this winter and not really branched out. There are certain classic recipes that I turn to time and time again. This happens to be one of them. It is from the original Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and is flavorful and lentil-y.... in a good way.

This recipe yields a lot of soup. Sometimes I'm really great at making it through a recipe before getting sick of it. This was not one of those times. I hate wasting food, and try very hard to keep it from happening. But sometimes it does. So, if you're cooking for two (or fewer then the 8-10 servings in the recipe, I would consider making a half batch. Or getting one's act together soon to freeze portions. That was my plan, but the act getting didn't quite happen.

So, here's a tried and true which gets made at least once a year in my kitchen. I often forget to say this, but I always sub veggie broth. And doing so would also make it vegan. Enjoy!

Barefoot Contessa's French Lentil Soup
Barefoot Contessa
Recipe by Ina Garten
Serves - 8 -10
  • 1 pound French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • Boiling water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large leeks, white and tender green parts only, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  1. In a large heatproof bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic, leeks, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and the thyme and cumin and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the celery and carrots and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils to the pot. Increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the red wine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Note - Lentil soup often thickens as it stands, so it can be helpful to add additional broth to leftovers.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quinoa Muffins

I am a creature of habit. Sometimes distressingly so. I tend to follow the same path (give or take a green light or two) when walking to the subway each morning. Every evening when I walk in the door I enjoy a mug of hot Earl Grey tea while catching up on the day's emails. And, for the past two or more months, I've had oatmeal for breakfast just about every workday.

Now, I love oatmeal. It's a nice and hearty breakfast that is both filling, whole grain and healthy. But, sometimes too much of a good thing is still too much. And I reached that point this week. Breakfast had to change.

When I read through food magazines, recipes will often jump out at me but will be put aside until the time is right. This muffin recipe was one such example. I thought it sounded intriguing when I saw it in January. But the mood didn't strike me to make it until this week. These muffins are cool. There's no other way to describe them. Quinoa in muffins - brilliance! The quinoa provides a nutty, chewy texture which is complimented by the sweetness of the brown sugar. And because quinoa contains a lot of protein, one muffin with a swathe of light cream cheese did quite well at keeping the hunger monsters at bay.

Two thumbs up, both as a recipe for an interesting whole grain muffin, and for keeping me from drowning in oatmeal monotony.

Quinoa Muffins
Every Day Food Magazine - January 2008
Makes 12
Prep - 25 minutes
Total time - 1 hour

Every Day Food's notes - Instead of oat or bran muffins, try these moist breakfast treats to fuel your morning. Substitute other chopped dried fruit for the raisins, if you like.

My notes - I baked the muffins in liners sprayed with a quick squirt of PAM because I'm too lazy to do the greasing and flouring step called for in the recipe. And they came out great.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup vegetable oil plus more for pan
2 cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled) plus additional for pan
3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender. 11-13 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, brush a standard 12 cup muffin pan with oil, dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins and 2 cups cooked quinoa. Reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
3.In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
4.Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to five days.

Additional Every Day Food note - Be careful not to overcook the quinoa or to use more then the required amount of water. The grains of quinoa should be tender but separate, rather then mushy and clumped together.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vanilla Bean Loaves

Hello February! January, where did you go? Things have actually been bubbling away here in the Veggie Kitchen, but a number of factors have collided to make my sharing of them somewhat more challenging. First of all, our computer has begun a slow descent into the depths it shall not resurface from. It is old, as computers go, and has begun to struggle to handle the demands I place upon it. It tends to get stuck between wesbites, churning away desperately trying to get somewhere, but stuck in blankness. The other trick of which I am so fond is randomly closing and opening windows on me. That's fun for everyone involved. This growing technological crisis, plus an increase to my work schedule has meant less time spent both on the computer and in the kitchen (at least during the week).

Still, I hope the backlog of pictures and recipes I have will enable to me to move forwards, dragging my unwilling technology partner as I go. Today's offering is a delightful poundcake encrusted with a delicious vanilla-y sugary crust. I made the recipe as written, although I did not take the time to make the vanilla sugar called for in the recipe. Ms. Hesser's instructions are to place a vanilla pod into a pound of sugar and allow to sit for several days. Easy enough to do, but not fast enough for my "I want to bake this cake NOW!" mood experienced on Saturday. Between the tablespoon of vanilla also in the cake, not to mention frequent applications of a vanilla steeped simple syrup to the cooling cake, I did not find this cake lacked vanilla-ness in any way. But, if you are a purist then I suppose a little vanilla sugar will never hurt.

M. and I both liked the crunchy crust created by applying the sugar syrup to the cooling cake. That stuff got everywhere, but the results were worth the sticky fingers (and tables, and utensils, and books and....). I used all of it (although I will admit the last application was primarily dumping the syrup onto the cake because I'd grown a bit weary of delicately applying it with a brush). The cakes were baked on Saturday, sampled and then refrigerated in multiple layers of Saran Wrap. Sunday's tasted was denser but still tasted fresh and delicious. This is a dense and sweet cake, a little definitely goes a long way. Small portions are key to not suffering a tremendous sugar high! But, served with a touch of whipped cream, this was a delicious and easy dessert. Since the recipe makes 2 loaves, this is a perfect cake to make for yourself and a friend (or in my case, M.'s coworkers).
Vanilla Bean Loaves
Cooking For Mr Latte by Amanda Hesser

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
2 1/2 cups vanilla sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 large eggs, room temp.
3 cups All Purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the syrup:
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped

1. Heavily butter two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Scrape the vanilla bean and flick the seeds into the mixer, along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix just until smooth. Take the bowl off the mixture and scrap the bottom with a spatula and fold the batter a few times. Divide the batter between the two buttered pans. Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pans. Bake an additional 25 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out almost clean.
3. While the loaves are baking, prepare the syrup. In a small pan dissolve the sugar in one cup water over medium heat. Add the vanilla beans and stir a little so the seeds and fragrance disperse. When the sugar mixture is completely dissolved, remove from heat.
4. When the loaves are done, cool for 10 minutes on racks and then turn them out of the pans onto racks over parchment paper. Brush generously with the vanilla syrup on all sides and tops and bottoms. Brush a couple of times as the loaves cool. These cakes store well. They may be wrapped and frozen.

2 fragrant cakes

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Golden Winter Soup

Now that I'm trying to get back in the swing of blogging again, I'm encouraging myself to try recipes that catch my eye. It's easy to get caught up in the week, and rely on thrown together meals just to get by. And that does still happen far too often. But this recipe grabbed me, and I made it two days after receiving the magazine. It was quick to put together, and made a great weeknight meal. I did sub Yukon Gold potatoes for the russets, and I used vegetable broth, not chicken. M. and I both enjoyed the rich yet sweet flavor of the soup, and I would definitely make it again.

Golden Winter Soup
January 2008
Cooking Light's Notes - Leeks and potatoes provide the base for this hearty vegetable soup, and butternut squash adds a hint of sweetness. Gruyere toasts add a salty note.

My notes- I used Yukon Gold potatoes, and vegetable broth.


2 tablespoons butter
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
12 ounces baguette, cut into 16 slices
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Place half of potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture. Stir in half-and-half. Cover and keep warm.

Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil bread slices 2 minutes or until golden. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives. Serve 2 bread slices with each serving. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

Yield - 8 servings

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moosewood Restaurant's Tuscan Bean Soup

Sometimes recipes surprise you. Sometimes you scan a list of ingredients, and mentally check off in your head that you do have everything required. The recipe doesn't thrill you, but you need something to make for dinner. You start the dried beans cooking in the slow cooker, and later you chop the other ingredients. The soup smells good while cooking, but your expectations remain low. You are happy to skip the whole soup in a blender step by using your stick blender, but otherwise you follow the recipe to the letter.

And you sit down to eat. The first bite is filled with sagey goodness, and the luscious thickness of the beans is comforting on a cold January night. The carrots add a touch of sweetness, and the soup as a whole has a complex flavor that belies the simple ingredients. Both you and your husband enjoy the warmth of the easy yet filling Tuscan Bean Soup.

As the leftovers sit in the fridge, they do absorb a fair amount of liquid. I found that if I wanted to enjoy them as soup, then I had to add water or broth. But, I also found the drier leftover soup made an excellent quesadilla filling. Just throwing that out there, if you're feeling adventurous.

Tuscan Bean Soup
Moosewood Daily Special

2 c. diced onions (about 1 large)
1 c. peeled and diced carrots (2-3 medium)
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 T. olive oil
15 large fresh sage leaves (or other herbs)
6 c. cooked pinto, Roman, or small red or white beans*
3-4 c. vegetable stock, bean-cooking liquid, or water
salt and pepper to taste

*Beans: 3 15 or 16 oz. cans, undrained. Or, 2 c. dried beans yields about 6 c. cooked.

In a soup pot, saute the onions, carrots, and garlic in the olive oil on medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Stack the sage leaves and cut them crosswise into thin strips. Stir the sage into the vegetables. Add the cooked beans and 3 c. of the stock or other liquid. Continue to cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup is hot and simmering, 5 to 10 minutes.

Carefully ladle about 3 c. of the soup into a blender and puree into smooth. Stir the puree back into the soup. (Using an immersion blender sparingly also works.) If you wish, add more liquid for a less thick consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, gently reheat the soup. Serve hot.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Feeling Crafty

I'm finally breaking out the knitting needles on a more regular basis. Okay, the scarf to the left took me almost a year to complete. But that's what happens when you knit for a few days, and then take a month off! :)

Still, Wavy kept me busy and was a great project for me, a new knitter. The hardest part was getting going, and then once I did that the hardest part was keeping going. The pattern is quite repetitive, and so I found I got bored easily. Hence the frequent breaks. If you are a new knitter and plan on trying Wavy, I do recommend that you write out all of the repetitions. The actual written pattern is short, and full of "as row 5" lines which are hard to keep track of. I wrote out each of the 42 lines of the pattern, and then drew ten little empty boxes next to each one. As I finished a line, I checked off a box. Otherwise I would have been hopelessly confused.

And, on to the next challenge. I do have a couple knitting projects waiting to be started in the wings, but first I'm venturing into the world of crocheting. I signed up for a three week beginning crochet class, and the first class was last night. It was great! Obviously challenging, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. On the right you can see my first crochet swatch (the square on the right) and my "homework" on the crochet hook. I'm using the coolest yarn - it's multi-colored purple with strips of blue and pink. Very fun!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It is a New Year.

Accordingly, it is time to make a new start.

I guess I needed a little bit of a hiatus from blogging. Life happened. But now I hope to get back into it. Back into the kitchen, back into trying new recipes, and back into speaking to the probably now nonexistent people who no longer read my blog since I took so much time off. Helloo!!! (echo, echo!)

Well, this post is definitely for the bakers. I was whiling away an hour at Whole Foods one day last December when I happened across a seat in the cafe with an abandoned New York Times newspaper. Now, I don't normally read the paper during the week but this seemed fortuitous because not only was it a paper which was something new to read, but it was Wednesday which is the Dining and Wine day. So, I flipped through it. There was an interesting article by Mark Bittman about 100 easy to prepare appetizers, an article about one writer's family Christmas cookie tradition.... then I turned the page. There it was in chocolate and raspberry glory - Melissa Clark's Triple Chocolate Brownie Trifle with Raspberries. Up until that point my contribution to Christmas dessert had been in the air, but was now decided. This trifle was too good to pass up.

The trifle involved several steps - making the brownies, making the pudding and making the chocolate whipped cream. Each step was in of itself not too challenging, but all were time consuming especially when considered together. This dessert is truly a labor of love. I had trouble with the pudding. It never really set despite adequate hours in the fridge. But, once mixed into the trifle it wasn't readily apparent and did not hamper anyone's enjoyment of the dessert. The brownies were fudgy, and I did choose to infuse them with rum. The taste was not overwhelming (my brother-in-law who does not drink probably had no idea until I admitted this fact in print) but I would omit were children to be present at the table.

Overall, the dessert was a success. In fact, there were calls from tasters to make this a Christmas family tradition. You never know....

Triple Chocolate Trifle with Raspberries
New York Times, December 19th, 2007

Time: 1 1/2 hours plus 3 hours’ chilling


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for greasing pan

3 ounces finely chopped unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons Cognac, rum or bourbon, optional


1/2 cup granulated sugar

8 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Pinch salt

1 3/4 cups whole milk

3 cups heavy cream

2 large egg yolks

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (2 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar for whipped cream

1 to 2 pints fresh raspberries.

1. To make brownies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Remove pan from heat and stir in chopped chocolate until fully melted. Stir in cocoa and sugar until combined. Slowly add eggs, whisking chocolate mixture constantly, then whisk in vanilla. Fold in flour and salt.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until just firm, about 25 minutes (do not overbake). Transfer pan to a rack to cool. If using spirits, prick holes in hot brownies and drizzle evenly over pan.

4. In a large bowl, mix together granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 3/4 cup milk. In a large saucepan, bring remaining 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream to a boil over medium heat. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into cocoa mixture. Return to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking gently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. (A simmering bubble or two is O.K., but do not let it boil.)

5. In a medium heat-resistant bowl, whisk yolks. Whisking them constantly, very slowly dribble about half the cocoa-milk mixture into yolks until fully combined. Pour yolk mixture into saucepan with remaining cocoa-milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking occasionally, over medium-low heat, until thickened, about 5 minutes. (Do not let mixture come to a simmer. If pan begins to steam thickly, remove from heat for a few moments and stir well before continuing.) Let cool slightly.

6. Melt 5 ounces chopped chocolate with butter. Stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Cool 5 minutes, then fold into thickened egg mixture. Place plastic wrap directly against pudding (to prevent a skin from forming), and chill until set, about 3 hours. (Pudding and brownies can be made up to 5 days ahead, and refrigerated.)

7. Just before assembling, in an electric mixer, beat remaining 2 1/2 cups cream with remaining 5 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar until it forms soft peaks. Scrape down sides and fold in any excess cocoa or sugar.

8. Cut brownies into 1-inch squares. Fit a layer of brownie squares in bottom of a 4-quart trifle, glass, or other bowl. Top with half the pudding, a third of the whipped cream, a third of the remaining chopped chocolate and a third of the raspberries. Repeat layering until all ingredients have been used. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.