Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coconut Tomato Soup with Mint and Yogurt

The soup pictured above was made in my own kitchen.

My husband and I were at Marjorie last week for dinner, a beautiful little restaurant in Capitol Hill with brightly colored chairs, blue walls and big windows. The space is calming and cheerful and we had a fantastic dinner. On the walls in the back of the restaurant there are amusing posters on the wall showing 'good' and 'bad' habits.

There were many things on the menu that I wanted to order but I settled on the coconut tomato soup for my first course and a white pizza for my main (which I am going to try to recreate and write about in my next post). My husband ordered the Maguro Crudo which was was served on a long, narrow plate with green apple, jalapeno, white soy, yuzu and celery. It was a little spicy and the maguro was perfectly 'cooked'. For his main, my husband had the beef cheek bolognese. We also ordered their columbia city bakery baguette with housemade butter because pretty much whenever housemade butter is on the menu, we order it. We were glad we had.

They also served us up some delicious cocktails, the trenchtown and a greyhound. The trenchtown was made with Appleton Estate V/X Rum, Fresh Coconut Water, Ginger, Lime. It was a good drink and I will say that they do not skimp on the alcohol at Marjorie. And for dessert we shared their bread pudding which is really as over the top and delicious as they claim it is.

The next day I went to the store and bought some lowfat coconut milk and pacific foods tomato soup in an effort to keep eating that soup. In the summer I would love to make something like this with fresh tomatoes from our csa. This recipe is what I ended up with, not what I ate at Marjorie but something that is super easy to make at home, low in calories and a nice treat for lunch.

Coconut Tomato Soup with Mint and Yogurt
Approximately 150 calories per serving
Serves 2

2 cups of Pacific Natural Foods Organic Creamy Tomato Soup (or other good quality tomato soup)
3/4 cup Lite Coconut Milk
1 to 1.5 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp tomato paste
4 T plain yogurt
1 T mint, washed and sliced thinly

Place the tomato soup, coconut milk, tomato paste and a heaping tsp of curry powder in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the curry powder and tomato paste is blended and stir occasionally until the soup is heated through. Taste and add salt and more curry powder, if desired.

Divide evenly between two bowls. Put 2 T of yogurt in each bowl and sprinkle with the mint.

Marjorie on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Falafels and Lemon Tahini Sauce


One of the many cookbooks on my shelf is a small, unobtrusive looking one written by the original owner of a famous but now closed vegetarian restaurant in Montepelier, Vermont called the Horn of the Moon.

I have carried this cookbook around since it was given to me in college by a good friend. There is a small inscription in the front, 'to Miss Petunia, Hey good lookin', what you got cooking?' We are still good friends and she is one of the healthiest people I know so this cookbook reminds me of her and it reminds me to be healthy. I was a vegetarian when she gave me this cookbook and it seems like we might be heading that direction again, at least according to my husband. The debate on vegetarianism has been a hot topic in our household lately.

Flipping through this book I had no plan but came across the author's recipe for falafels. After locating a bag of garbanzo beans in my cupboard from my favorite bean supplier, Rancho Gordo, I decided falafels were what we were having for dinner. I forgot how good homemade falafels are.

Falafels
Barely adapted from the Horn of the Moon
4 Servings

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, split
3 - 4 cups of oil for frying
4 pitas
1 cucumber, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Lemon Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)

Put a skillet over medium heat and add the 1 T oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until they start to brown. Add the spices, mix well and turn the heat off.

Mash the garbanzo beans finely (or use your food processor which is super fast and easy).

Put the mashed beans in a large bowl with the tahini, breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of the flour. Add the onion, garlic and spice mixture and mix well.

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan over medium to medium-high heat.

Put the remainins ~1/4 cup whole wheat flour in a small bowl.
Make a ball (about the size of a small golf ball) with the mix and lightly roll it in the flour. Drop it in the oil. The oil should boil and foam around the ball without foaming up too much. If it foams up a lot, then the oil might be too hot so turn it down. If it doesn't start sizzling, then turn it up a bit. When you have found the right temperature, add the rest of the balls and cook until a dark golden brown color,watching closely. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve in the pitas with the cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and lemon tahini sauce.

Lemon Tahini Sauce
Makes 1 cup
Barely adapted from the Horn of the Moon cookbook

3/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 T tamari
1/2 cup water
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until fairly smooth. Add more water if the sauce seems too thick. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chicken, Biscuits and Mustard Shallot Gravy


One of the most frequently requested meals in our house is chicken, biscuits and gravy. It is our comfort food, easy to make and if I have chicken, I usually have everything else I need. The meal is sometimes requested at 5. Or I decide it is a good idea at 5:30. And I frequently don't have a whole chicken, I just have some bone-in chicken breasts. I can finish this meal in just over an hour which makes it an obtainable weeknight meal with the feel of a weekend treat.

Despite my happy claims, I would like to clarify that this meal uses bowls, pots, cutting boards, baking sheets and knives. It is not a one pot meal that gets your family to the table in 30 minutes and leaves you with 0 dishes to clean except that one pot. You could trim the time down by using boneless skinless chicken breasts and get the meal to the table in 45 minutes but it would take some organization and one of those evenings where you don't get the yell from the other room that, "it spilled". Or a meltdown that they can't find "that toy", which despite your pointing out that there are five thousand other toys to choose from, still results in a massive hunt throughout the entire house for that one specific toy that ends up getting played with for about five minutes after you find it. Or if you don't have kids and you don't know what I'm talking about then maybe you had one of those days at work where you wished you had picked a different major in college (or went to college in the first place), and again, this is not the night to make this meal unless cooking soothes your soul. I return now to the regularly scheduled program of food.

Biscuits which might seem mysterious at first glance, are pretty straightforward. Most recipes call for 2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of milk, cream or buttermilk, 6 - 8 T butter, 1 tsp salt and 1 T baking powder. If you chose buttermilk, then you need to add 1/4 tsp of baking soda and reduce the baking powder. If you search for biscuit recipes this is a pretty universal recipe which ironically brings about wildly varied reviews from people saying they are the best to worst biscuits they have ever made. So it must be in the details. Is the baking powder fresh? Did the biscuits sit on the counter for too long and loose their bubbles causing them to fail to rise when they were put in the oven? Did the dry ingredients get properly whisked together so the leaveners are evenly distributed in the flour? Was the oven hot enough? If it isn't then the biscuits don't rise as the process is quick and the bubbles will pop if they don't expand. Now that I write this, it seems that biscuits are more mysterious than I claimed, but it's just science. There is no magic and if your biscuits don't rise I would argue that there is a 95% chance that your family will still enjoy them.

Chicken, Biscuits and Mustard Shallot Gravy
Serves 4

4 bone-in chicken breasts
2 T Olive Oil
salt and pepper

1 - 2 shallots, chopped
2 T flour
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 T dijon
salt and pepper

2 cups all-purpose flour plus another 1/4 cup for rolling out the biscuits
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
8 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup milk

Pre-heat the oven to 425degrees.

Chicken:

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Place a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 T of Olive Oil and when it starts to shimmer, place the chicken, skin side down in the pan. Let it cook until it is golden brown, about 3 - 5 minutes, and then flip it over. Check the chicken frequently, you want it golden brown but not too dark because it is going to keep cooking in the oven. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes more and put it in the oven and cook for 20 - 30 minutes, when the temperature reaches 160. The time will depend on the size of your chicken breasts.

Biscuits:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter (I use my fingers), until it looks like coarse meal. Add the milk and using a large wooden spoon or spatula, stir gently, pressing lightly with the spoon until the liquid is all absorbed. Take the 1/3 cup of flour and coat your hands and the counter you will be making the biscuits on. Gently knead the biscuit dough a few times until it is holding together, but without overworking it. Place on the floured surface and press out to a square until the dough is about 1/2  inch high. Cut into squares and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. I usually get 12 - 15 biscuits.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and put the bisuits in, setting a timer for 12 minutes.

Gravy:

Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Drain off the fat from the pan (that the chicken was cooked in) and put the pan on a burner over medium heat.

Throw in the shallots and stir them around. When they start to look translucent, add the wine Scrape the bottom of the pan and simmer off about 1/2 the wine. Add the flour and cook for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring. Slowly add the chicken stock, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in the dijon, if you are using it. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Serving Suggestion: Steamed broccoli or wilted greens (like spinach or chard).



Friday, March 9, 2012

Soba Noodle Salad with Miso Vinaigrette


I have always loved exercising and recently I have started running more.  Ten miles, once a week. About 25 miles total per week. Two friends expressed interest in doing a race with me and that was all the motivation I needed. As I run more, my body seems to prefer, or demand really, simple, healthy food. Less fat. Less sugar. More vegetables. Protein in the form of things like hummus. It is a nice feedback system and I find it interesting that one of the rewards for exercising is craving healthy food.

When I press my body to perform, it will complain loudly when I haven't given it proper nourishment. A snack now often entails a sandwich, made on whole wheat bread with hummus, cheese and vegetables. Don't get me wrong, I made some fudge the other day and I eat that too, but overall I seem to be craving healthier food.

After my run today, I needed to eat a Soba Noodle Salad with a bunch of vegetables mixed in. Miso Vinaigrette is one of my all time favorite salad dressings. I use it on green leafy salads like butter lettuce with cucumbers and radishes. It is good on almost any salad with grilled meat or chicken. And I also love it on noodle salads. It is easy to add things to a miso vinaigrette to mix it up. I have added tamari, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and/or lime juice (instead of, or in addition to the rice wine vinegar). Miso has quite a bit of salt in it, so I don't usually add extra salt to this dressing.

Soba Noodle Salad with Miso Vinaigrette
Serves 1 as a main course

~6 ounces soba noodles
1/2 cup washed and chopped cucumber (peeled, if it has a waxy skin)
1/2 red bell pepper, washed and sliced thin
8 oz mushrooms, stems removed, wiped free of dirt and sliced
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes (optional)

1 T miso paste
3 T rice wine vinegar
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp tamari

Cook the soba noodles and drain. Rinse them with cold water and drain again. Set aside.

Put a skillet over medium heat and add the oil and mushrooms. Sprinkle them lightly with salt, pepper and optionally, the red pepper flakes. Cook until they are soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, add the miso, vinegar and tamari. Whisk in the olive oil.

Place the soba noodles, cucumbers, red peppers and mushrooms in a bowl*. Add the vinaigrette and toss gently.

* One seemingly unimportant tip for making a great salad is to mix the ingredients in a large bowl and then transfer them to the right sized bowl for serving. Using a big bowl ensures that the dressing gets evenly distributed throughout the salad. Otherwise it is easy to end up with either gobs of dressing on one part of the salad and/or no dressing on other parts.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Preserved Lemons and Hummus


My mom sent me a new cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous - My Search for Jewish Cooking in France written by Joan Nathan. It is not a trendy cookbook and it isn't trying to be. If the cookbook had been released four or five years ago when foam was all the rage, the author still wouldn't have mentioned it. This cookbook is refreshingly unique in it's abject refusal to be trendy. I know very little (but more now!) about French Jewish cooking but this seems pretty straightforward in delivering what it promises. It has beautiful pictures but the recipes and stories are the center of the book, not the shiny pages or beautiful photographs.

Her recipes seem accessible to me both from a time and experience standpoint for the home cook (even one with small children in the house). Most fill one page with a few that span over two pages and they almost all sound like things we would like to eat - Fennel Salad with Celery, Cucumber, Lemon and Pomegranate or Brisket with Ginger, Orange Peel, and Tomato for example. It is also filled with interesting stories like the one about Marthe Layrle who lives on a farm in Southwest France and who did amazing things during World War II. She grants the author, and now us, a unique view of a very different lifestyle.

The first recipe I tried from the book was Preserved Lemons. I love lemons and seem to have passed that love down to my daughter who at age 3, will sit and eat them raw. She requested one this morning in fact. I had a couple of bags of Meyer Lemons so I decided to preserve them. The hardest part of preserving lemons is that after you jar them, you have to stick them in the refrigerator and just wait a couple of weeks.

Then you can just let your imagination run away with what to do with them. Slice and layer them on a fish and bake it. Stuff them in a chicken along with some herbs and garlic and roast it. Or, as Ms. Nathan suggests, throw one in some hummus. I cooked my own garbanzo beans though canned beans are fine - but if you are pondering cooking your own, read this for some general encouragement on why you might consider giving it a try.



Preserved Lemons
Barely Adapted from Joan Nathan's Recipe

8 lemons
Kosher Salt
1 cup or more of lemon juice
Water
2 T Olive Oil

Rinse the lemons and cut off the very tip of each end. Then cut them in quarters but not the whole way through (see picture above). Sprinkle the pulp sections of the lemon liberally with Kosher salt. Place them in a jar and fill with lemon juice and then water* so that they are completely covered.

Let them sit over night and then cover the top with the olive oil. Place in the refrigerator and allow to cure for 2 to 3 weeks.

* Ms. Nathan recommends using straight lemon juice. This sounded good in theory but I found that I had to use a lot of lemons (more than 1 cup though it depends on your jar I guess), so I did a mix of lemon juice and water so I wouldn't need to purchase quite so many lemons.


Hummus with Preserved Lemon

2 cups of garbanzo beans
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 - 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Drain the beans, saving the liquid they were sitting in.

Place the garbanzo beans, tahini, 1/4 preserved lemon (minus any seeds you see), the garlic and 1 tsp salt into a food processort. Add 4 T of bean liquid. If you didn't save it or don't have the liquid you can use water. Blend until smooth, adding more liquid if the hummus congeals and is too dry. I usually end up adding about 6 - 8 T of liquid.

Taste and add the rest of the preserved lemon and salt if desired. The preserved lemon holds a lot of salt  itself so consider that when tasting and adding more.