Saturday, February 28, 2009

Homemade Refried Beans plus Garlic, Lime & Cilantro Marinated Opah: Healthy Mexican Food!

I have been trying to cook with more dried beans lately, so I was interested in this recipe for Refried Pinto Beans that I found in the Oregonian FOODday, the paper's weekly food section, while I was visiting my Mom. I love refried beans and liked the fact that these were made with olive oil and that you could add your own flavors and spices. 

Refried Pinto Beans
by Matthew Card, The Oregonian FOODday, February 10, 2009
(Makes 4
to 6 Servings)

Matthew Card says: "A great batch of beans begins at the store. Look for dried beans that are smooth and shiny; a cracked or dull-looking surface can indicate age or improper storage, which can lead to uneven cooking. Feel free to add a slice or two of bacon to the simmering beans for a richer flavor (remove and discard before puréeing). While the carrot adds natural sweetness, you may prefer the beans with an added teaspoon or two of brown sugar."

1 pound dried pinto beans, sorted well, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed, plus 2 cloves minced (divided)
½ medium white onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
3 sprigs fresh cilantro (or 3 sprigs fresh epazote or 1½ teaspoons dried epazote or Mexican oregano, available at some Latino markets)
2 bay leaves
6 cups water, plus more as needed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ancho or New Mexico chile powder (or paprika)
Lime juice, to taste

In a large saucepan combine beans, smashed garlic, onion, carrot, cilantro, bay leaves and 6 cups water. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1½ to 2 hours (adding water ½ cup a time as needed to keep beans just covered). Add salt to taste and cook 10 minutes more.

Remove bay leaves and purée beans in food processor or blender until smooth. To the empty pan, add olive oil, minced garlic and chile powder and cook over medium-high heat until sizzling and chile powder darkens, about 2 minutes. Add beans and stir well to incorporate. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until flavors have blended and beans have thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add lime juice to taste and serve.

Notes/Results: Smooth, creamy beans with great flavor. I followed the basic recipe but used about 1/2 the oil, For my herbs and spices I used cilantro, Mexican oregano, chili powder and smokey-hot paprika and got slightly spicy and smokey beans. Much better than the canned variety. I will make these again.

The beans were perfect as a side for some local opah (moonfish), cut into large chunks and marinated in a little olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper. I threaded the opah on skewers and cooked it in on my grill pan, about 4 minutes per side. Served with a salad of locally grown: greens, tomatoes, jicama and avocado, dressed with a little olive oil and lime juice and accompanied by a cumin-cilantro spiced brown rice with pine nuts, it was a delicious and healthy dinner.

And the leftover Opah made great chunky fish tacos the next day, (with red cabbage, tomato, avocado, cilantro and a cumin-spiked yogurt sauce), and served with a scoop of the beans and some lime wedges. The leftover beans also made great quesadillas with a bit of low-fat cheese on whole-wheat tortillas.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sesame Chicken ( & Tofu!) Salad with Spinach, Cucumber and Cilantro for Tyler Florence Fridays

I was in serious need of some green salad this week. I have been eating my veggies but not so much of the leafy green variety. Looking through my Tyler cookbooks, the Asian flavors in this Sesame Chicken Salad with Spinach, Cucumber and Cilantro caught my eye. It's from Tyler's Ultimate (page 128). I did make some healthier swap-outs for this one which I noted below. If you don't eat chicken, don't despair, just for giggles, I used some of the plentiful marinade and panko and made some sesame tofu to see how it would turn out. (You can read about the tofu in the "Notes/Results" below).

Tyler says: "The Asian-inspired dressing on this substantial salad hits your tongue in several different places--spicy, sour, salty, and sweet notes. It makes a great lunch or light dinner."

Sesame Chicken Salad with Spinach, Cucumber, and Cilantro
Tyler's Ultimate
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup soy sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
a couple good handfuls of stemmed spinach leaves (about 4 cups)
1 cucumber, unpeeled, cut crosswise into thin slices
handful of fresh cilantro leaves
1 scallion, white and green part, sliced
cracked black pepper

In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, ginger, sugar, and red pepper flakes for the vinaigrette.

Toast 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds in a small dry skillet until fragrant, a minute or two, then set aside.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Put a chicken breast on the cutting board and, holding a large knife parallel to the board, cut through the breast horizontally so that you get 2 thin fillets. Repeat with the 3 remaining breasts. Put the chicken on a platter, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat. Set the rest of the vinaigrette aside. Let the chicken marinate for about 10 minutes.

Combine the panko and the remaining 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a shallow bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Mix well with your fingers so that the seasoning is incorporated and then taste it; the panko should be well seasoned. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned crumbs, patting the crumbs gently so they adhere.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Line a platter with paper towels and set that to the side of the stove. Add about half of the chicken to the pan and cook about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Remove the chicken to the towel-lined platter to drain while you cook the rest of the chicken.

Put the spinach in a bowl with the cucumber, cilantro, scallion and a tablespoon of the toasted sesame seeds, and give it a good toss. To serve, arrange a mound of greens on a plate, set a piece of chicken on top, stack a few more greens on top, and finish with another piece of chicken. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Make 3 more plates  this way and shower with the remaining tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds and cracked black pepper.

Notes/Results: Tyler does it again, putting together another delicious combination of flavors. The chicken and dressing are nicely spiced and combine well with the cooling spinach, cucumber, and cilantro mixture. There are a few steps to this recipe but it goes together easily. I used some organic boneless chicken tenders, so no slicing chicken breasts was required. I decided to lighten it up by baking my chicken tenders, (450 degrees F for about 6 minutes per side was perfect), rather than pan-frying them. You do lose a bit of the crispness that way, but I had nice, tender chicken pieces with less fat and calories, and they still had great flavor and a nice bit of crunch. Other changes; lessening the olive oil in the dressing, mixing black sesame seeds in with the regular ones, (just for a touch of color), and using low-sodium soy sauce. 

Since there was quite a bit of the dressing and the breadcrumb mixture, I pulled some out before the chicken went in, and used it to marinate and dredge some chunks of extra-firm tofu, which I then baked off, (about 10 minutes per side at 450 degrees F.). The tofu was just as good, if not even better than the chicken; flavorful, firm, lightly crisped on the outside and soft within.  

As Tyler stated, this salad was a great lunch; both delicious and healthy. I will be making this again. You can check out what our other TFF participants created this week and see how they liked their recipe choices at the TFF site, here.

Happy Aloha Friday!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meringues Chantilly--Barefoot Bloggers

This month's second Barefoot Blogger's recipe, Meringues Chantilly was selected by BMK from Reservations Not Required. I was a bit nervous about this one, only because of the humidity level here in Hawaii. I made smaller meringues here once, and they had a bit of a "chew factor" to them so I had concerns about how the larger "nests" would turn out. It took me two attempts, (the details are in the Notes/Results below), but I got it; crispy meringue shells and a beautiful, elegant and tasty dessert.

(This recipe can be found at the Food Network site here or in Barefoot in Paris on page 176)

Meringues Chantilly
Barefoot in Paris, Ina Garten
(Yields 8 Servings)

6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whipped Cream with Orange Liqueur, (recipe follows)
Stewed berries, (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small glass and a pencil, draw 6 (3 1/2-inch) circles on each piece of paper. Turn the paper face-down on the baking sheets.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a large pinch of salt on medium speed until frothy. Add 1 cup of the sugar and raise the speed to high until the egg whites form very stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla. Carefully fold the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar into the meringue. With a large star - shaped pastry tip, pipe a disc of meringue inside each circle. Pipe another layer around the edge to form the sides of the shells.

Bake for 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry and crisp but not browned. Turn off the heat and allow the meringues to sit in the oven for 4 hours or overnight.

Spread some of the sauce from the stewed berries on each plate. Place a meringue on top and fill with whipped cream. Top with berries and serve.


Whipped Cream with Orange Liqueur:
(Yields 4 cups)

2 cups (1 pint) cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liqueur

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar, vanilla and orange liqueur and continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Don't over beat, or you'll end up with butter!


Stewed Berries:

1 half-pint fresh blueberries
3 half-pints fresh raspberries, divided
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons framboise (raspberry brandy)

Combine the blueberries, one-half pint of raspberries, 1/3 cup water, the sugar and zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. The juice will become a syrup and the berries will be slightly cooked. Off the heat, stir in the remaining raspberries and the framboise. Set aside.

Notes/Results: I was keeping an eye on the humidity level to determine a good time to make my meringues and it was running in the mid-50%s most of last week. Finally on Sunday, it got to the low-50%s so I decided to go for it. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until I went to add the sugar, that the only sugar I had on hand was organic, which if you have not used it, is not bleached like regular sugar. I went ahead and used it and hoped for the best but what I got was some nice "antique white" meringue shells and they had a bit more chewiness than I wanted. After a visit to the store the next day, I decided to try again, this time with regular white sugar. Monday the humidity was about 44% and the second time was the charm, this batch was pearly-white, nice and crisp. (I don't know if you can tell the true color difference in the photo below but the organic sugar one is on the right--it looked much more yellowed in person). As suggested, I left both batches in the oven overnight which seemed to help with the crispness.

I didn't do much to make this recipe "healthier", again mainly portion control, making a half batch. I did lower the amount of sugar a bit in the berries. Fresh berries were expensive and looking not so fresh, so I used some organic berries (raspberries, blueberries and a few strawberries), I had in the freezer since they were going to be "stewed" anyway. I did use framboise in the syrup as I had it on hand but left out the orange liquor since I didn't want to buy it. I did grate some orange zest into the whipped cream, which gave it a nice flavor. I used the leftover meringue in my pastry bag to pipe some little stars for garnish. Although this recipe is a bit too "fussy" of a dessert for me to make regularly and I'd rather spend my "indulgence allowance" on good chocolate, it was tasty and fun to make. I liked the flavor of the berries (the extra will be going into a milkshake with some homemade frozen yogurt) and the different textures with the crisp meringues, combined with the soft whipped cream. 

Thanks BMK for a great pick that helped me work on my meringue-making skills. You can check out what the other Barefoot Bloggers thought of this recipe at the BB site here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta

This year we started a monthly optional bonus challenge at Tyler Florence Fridays. In addition to the recipes we choose to make each week, our co-host Megan, from My Baking Adventures, selects a recipe than anyone who is interested can make and post during the month. Megan definitely has Italian food on her mind, the first recipe was for calzones, and February's pick was Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta.

Now I love a good gnocchi, but to me gnocchi has always been one of those things I think is best left to experts. There are people out there who really do it well and I believe they should be the ones making it, so I have avoided it, (much like the plague). Another reason I never tried making it is that it appears to be one of those things that has a high "PIA' factor" (That would be "Pain in A**" factor for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this scale). Being basically lazy and lacking in patience, things I have to fuss over, with a high PIA factor, are not generally things I usually like to make. Also just read the recipe: you get all done forming all those gnocchi, you have made the ricotta cream, prosciutto is crisping and oh, by the way..."Note:  If the gnocchi start to feather and fall apart in boiling water, you need more flour.  If the gnocchi don't float after 2 minutes and are hard, you used too much flour." Sorry sucker, better luck next time! You just spent an hour baking the potatoes and over 40 minutes making the little gnocchi pillows--now do it all over. (A smarter person or one who actually read the note at the bottom of the recipe sooner would probably argue that you could make a few and test them first, but that didn't happen here). None the less, the winning combo of Tyler and Megan, combined with trying to set a good example as a TFF co-host, had me spending my afternoon yesterday immersed in the wonderful world of gnocchi, (only ever so slightly) cursing Megan under my breath.

Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta
Tyler Florence

Potato Gnocchi:
2 pounds (about 4) russet potatoes, or similar starchy/white variety
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 egg white
1 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 pound prosciutto
1 large shallot, finely diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Grated Parmesan
2 cups Lemon Ricotta, (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Scrub potatoes, pierce the skin with a fork, drizzle with olive oil and salt and place on a sheet pan. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are easily pierced with a pairing knife. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly then peel the potatoes while they are still hot and press them through a potato ricer. Put the potatoes in a large bowl with salt, nutmeg, baking powder, grated cheese and egg white. Add the flour a little at a time and mix with your hands until the mixture forms a rough dough. Do not over-work the dough. 

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead the dough for 1 or 2 minutes until smooth, adding a little bit more flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking. Break off a piece of the dough and roll it back and forth into a rope, about the thickness of your index finger. Cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece down the prongs of a fork while pressing a small dimple with your finger in the back. The gnocchi should be slightly curved and marked with ridges. This will allow the pillows to hold sauce when served. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Boil the gnocchi in batches in plenty of salted water. The gnocchi are done about 2 minutes after they float to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon. Reserve about 1/2 cup cooking water. If not cooking immediately, place the gnocchi in a single layer on a baking pan dusted with flour.

Note: If the gnocchi start to feather and fall apart in boiling water, you need more flour. If the gnocchi don't float after 2 minutes and are hard, you used too much flour.

Blanch peas in hot water and set aside. Place 4 strips of prosciutto on a sheet pan and place in a preheated 350 degree F oven. Cook until the bacon is crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Add chopped shallots to a pan over medium high heat with 2 counts of olive oil pan of and gently saute until fragrant and translucent. Dump in the peas and toss gently to coat. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add boiled gnocchi to the pan and gently toss. Add a ladle of gnocchi water to the pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter, sprinkle with Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with crispy prosciutto and a scoop of fresh lemon ricotta. (Optional: finish with a drizzle of white truffle oil)

Lemon Ricotta:
2 cups good quality ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Place the ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl and add the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and serve with the gnocchi.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Notes/Results: My gnocchi was a bit soft but the dish had great flavor. As nervous as I was about making this, I didn't make a lot of "healthy" adaptations to the recipe, focusing mainly on portion control (and PIA control), by making a half batch. I did use a partial skim ricotta, reduced the Parmesan and increased the amount of peas but otherwise left it pretty much the same. I am glad that I cut the recipe in half because forming double the amount of gnocchi may have put me over the edge. There was some anxious moments waiting for the first gnocchi to rise from the boiling water, and much joy when rise they did, some a little soft around the edges, but the vast majority very much intact. I originally was going to leave out the lemon ricotta because I have never been a huge ricotta fan but it really makes the dish. Finally, although I did try to clean as I went, a few more (mild) curses were uttered (sorry Megan!) as I cleaned up the many dishes. Overall, I will most likely continue to order my gnocchi at a good Italian restaurant rather than attempt it again, but (yes Natashya!), I am glad I tried it and I learned from the process. (I didn't love the process and Max, who came to watch on the stepladder in the doorway, found it quite long and boring).

All things considered, it made a very tasty dinner and I still love Megan, (But if she picks an easy Tyler recipe next month I won't complain and will love her even more!).

Stay tuned for my other struggle this week--making meringues in Hawaii for Barefoot Bloggers tomorrow and back to our regularly scheduled (low PIA factor!) TFF pick on Friday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Palak (Tofu) Paneer--Healthy Indian Food

The third dish from my healthy vegetarian Indian food class was a spin on Palak Paneer (Palak means spinach and paneer is a type of cheese). This non-dairy version of Palak (Tofu) Paneer, uses a baked marinated tofu in place of the cheese and a little (optional) Silk Soy Creamer for a touch of richness.

Palak (Tofu) Paneer
Chef Alyssa Moreau

1/2 block extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt/pepper to taste 
1 Tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos (can substitute Tamari or Soy Sauce)

16 oz fresh, cleaned spinach leaves, washed and drained

1-2 Tbsp olive oil or ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup thinly sliced or grated onion
1 tsp ginger, minced (+ a few slivers for garnish)
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp Silk Soy Creamer (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss tofu cubes in a mixture of oil, turmeric, salt, pepper and Bragg's. Place on a baking sheet (oiled or lined with parchment) and bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly cooked.

Steam or saute spinach in a bit of water until wilted and tender. Drain and cool, then puree, (using a stick blender, regular blender or food processor), and set aside. 

Heat oil or ghee in a small saute pan and toast the cumin seeds, (they will turn dark). Add in the onions and fry until soft. Stir in the ginger, garlic, and spices and cook a few minutes, then add in the tomato; cook until soft. Poor in the spinach puree and stir well. Bring to a boil. Add in the baked tofu cubes and simmer a few minutes to heat through.

Serve hot, drizzled with a bit of Silk Soy Cream and some thinly sliced ginger slivers.

Notes/Results:  Delicious! The pictures don't really do it justice. (I was starving when I got home from class and just took a few photos before I ate it.) The baked tofu was especially good and I will make it again, using different spices for different dishes. The flavors are really good and it isn't swimming in a rich sauce like the Palak Paneer or Saag Paneer, I get at restaurants. (If you are wondering what the difference between the two are, Palak Paneer usually refers to just spinach while Saag can be made from spinach, mustard leaves and other greens). If you don't have fresh spinach and tomatoes, you could probably use a frozen spinach, defrosted and well drained and some drained, canned tomatoes. The Silk Soy (or other non-dairy creamer) is optional, but it does add a nice touch. I will happily make this again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Corn, Coconut, Lime and Basil Soup for Souper Sundays

Happy Souper Sunday!  I chose this week's soup from a cookbook I bought at Powell's, my favorite used bookstore, in Portland. The book, Fast and Fresh Vegan Pleasures is by Amanda Grant, a UK food editor and cookbook author. I tagged a bunch of recipes to make and this one for a Thai-inspired soup using corn cobs for the stock, sounded especially delicious. I was able to grab some Ewa Sweet Corn at the farmer's market here, but the author says you can also use canned or frozen corn and a good vegetable stock if fresh corn is not available. I made a few changes and additions which are noted below.

Corn, Coconut, Lime and Basil Soup
Fresh & Fast Vegan Pleasures, by Amanda Grant
(Serves 4)

4 ears of corn
5 1/2 cups (2 3/4 pints) water
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 shallots, sliced
1 jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves or zest of 1/2 lime
4 fl. ozs. canned unsweetened coconut milk
large handful of fresh basil leaves
2 limes, each cut into chunks

Scrape the kernels from the ears with a sharp knife, and put the kernels in a bowl. Set aside. Break each of the ears into 2 or 3 pieces. Put them in a large saucepan, and add 5 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. You will need to skim the foam from the top of the liquid with a large spoon, especially for the first 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth.  

Heat the oil in a large clean saucepan, and add the ginger, shallots and jalapeno. Fry gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shallots are softened. Add the kaffir lime leaves or lime zest, reserved corn stock (or the equivalent volume of vegetable stock) and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat immediately, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add water, if necessary, to achieve the texture you prefer. Add the reserved kernels, and simmer for another 5 minutes. 

Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Stack about 6 basil leaves together, roll them into a cigar shape and slice thinly. Repeat with the remaining basil. Scatter the basil strips over the soup. Serve with the wedges of lime.

Each serving contains: Calories 210, Protein 5g, Fat 11g (Sat Fat 3.6g), Carbs 23g, Fiber 2.6g, Cal from fat 48%.

Cook's Notes from Amanda Grant: "I try to make soups with ingredients that provide the flavor rather than having to rely heavily on stocks. The stock for this particular recipe is made from the corn cobs leftover when the kernels have been removed. However, if fresh corn is not in season use 14 ounces of canned corn and a good vegetable stock." She also notes that if you can't find kaffir lime leaves, the fine zest of 1/2 lime will work.

Notes/Results: A great soup, full of tangy, spicy flavor. I made a couple of changes to lighten it up, lessening the amount of oil and using a lite coconut milk to reduce fat and calories by about 60%. I also like a lot of lime flavor in my soup so in addition to the kaffir lime leaves, I also added the lime zest. The author mentioned having to skim the foam off of the stock but mine never ended up with any foam, (maybe it's the Ewa corn?). Also, corn is the star of this soup, but I didn't see any reason not to give it a strong supporting cast, (It is the Oscars tonight after all!), so I added some baby spinach, (about 1 cup), and some assorted dried mushrooms (about 1/2 cup). A keeper recipe, that I will make again.

Let's see who else is in the Souper Sunday Kitchen this week:

A search for a misplaced favorite soup recipe led Christine from Kit's Chow to the uniquely named Soup of the Bakony Outlaws. Having a "thing" for interesting recipe names, Christine spent some time researching the story behind this Hungarian soup (check out the details on her site), and ended up with both a geography lesson and a delicious, creamy hearty soup.  

Kristen from Sogkonnite Living, (she recently merged this blog and her locallcfoods into one), multi-tasked by making Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup for both Tyler Florence Fridays and Souper Sundays. Overall she gave this soup a rating of "very good"; her husband, who likes spicy food loved it, Kristen was glad for the cheese and avocado to temper some of the heat and her kids were divided on the spice level. 

Re-purposing one dish into another is one of the best parts of cooking. Left with some extra pork ribs, Amanda, from Joie de Vivre turned them into a filling soup, aptly titled: Joie's Thank Goodness for Leftovers Soup or (Red Lentil, Spinach and Pork Rib Soup). Full of the chopped pork ribs, lentils, and veggies, this turned out to be a quick, easy and delicious creation. 

A house full of sick family members didn't stop Ulrike from Küchenlatein from making and posting her weekly soup. She put together a warming Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup with Thai Pesto from her kitchen pantry. Topped with a pesto of herbs and spices, like garlic, ginger, coriander, basil, mint and parsley, and with a spicy kick from the green chilies, Ulrike credits the herbs and hot spices for getting rid of the viruses.

A familiar face at TFF, but new to Souper Sundays is Donna from My Tasty Treasures who made the classic Pasta E Fagioli soup this week. Full of good things like bacon, onions, tomatoes, spices, beans, ditalini pasta and topped with grated Parmesan and olive oil, this soup will transport you to Italy. Donna calls it a "comforting soup that is out of this world delicious!"

Stephanie, from Dispensing Happiness took a break from her Blog Party hosting to contribute another soup this week; Potato-Cheddar Cheese Soup. Soup that tastes like a yummy baked potato sounds pretty darn good to me! She says the recipe "was so simple, it came together quickly and proved hearty", and she found that it really did taste like a well-loaded baked potato.

Comfort food is just the thing to warm up those cold winter days and combat the recent snow flurries in her neck of the woods for Natashya at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. She put together a Chicken Barley Stew with a Puff Pastry Lid using leftovers from a roast chicken dinner. Chock full of hearty vegetables and barley and flavored with homemade stock and white wine, Natashya says this dish is "Just like a warm hug on a cold day!" Yum!

Hot, sticky February days in Sydney make it the perfect weather for Vichyssoise. Suzie from Munch + Nibble, once won a school spelling contest for being able to spell vichyssoise, (I, on the otherhand had to keep looking it up to type this out!). Suzie used this recipe from her Tetsuya cookbook for this Cold Soup of Potato and Leek and found it easy and delicious. She also gives a great explanation of the origin of this classic chilled soup on her site and it looks so refreshing on her pretty blue and white plate and placemat.

Reeni fom Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice has a nasty cold but has not lost her appetite. Needing something soothing, flavorful and hearty, she found it in the quick and easy  Fork & Spoon Fettuccine Soup that she created. Ready to eat in about 30 minutes, and so full of chickpeas and noodles that you need both a fork and a spoon to eat it, it is also vegetarian- friendly, using a vegetable broth as it's base. Hopefully this soup will fix her right up and have her feeling better soon!

Hot, cold, some with meat, some vegetarian, soup with puff pastry, a soup you need a fork for; quite a variety of delicious and creative soups again this week! Thanks to everyone who participated. Take some time to visit all their blogs and get more details, photos and recipes for their fabulous soup creations. If you want to share a soup, click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar to get all the details.

Have a great week!  

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cashew-Coconut Korma--Healthy Indian Food

I took the best cooking class last weekend through the Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts Program, an Indian food class with a healthy vegetarian twist. Our instructor, Chef Alyssa Moreau, is a private chef who works with clients who are trying to eat better and change their diet, generally for health reasons. She took some typical Indian favorites, Samosas, Palak Paneer and my favorite, this delicious Cashew-Coconut Korma and made them healthier. Her korma, uses a base of coconut milk and cashew "milk" for a creamy, flavorful sauce and you absolutely won't miss the dairy or cream.

Cashew-Coconut Korma
Chef Alyssa Moreau

1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk (lite is fine)
1/3 cup cashews
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp (rounded), cardamon
1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp oil (or ghee if preferred)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup green beans, in 1" slices
1/2 cup carrots, in 1/4" slices
1/2 cup Yukon gold potatoes, in 1" cubes
1/2 cup cauliflower florets in 1 1/2" slices
1/2 cup tomato chunks (optional)

1/2 tsp garam masala
2 Tbsp cilantro, minced

Blend the water, cashews, coconut milk and spices until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute or so), strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl; set aside.

Heat oil in saucepan and cook onions until soft. Add in garlic, the rest of the vegetables and sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through. (If it gets too thick, add in 1/4 cup water). Stir in garam masala and garnish with cilantro.

Options: Add 1 can garbanzo beans or some baked, seasoned tofu for some extra protein.

Notes/Results: The combination of flavors and spices is a winner. It's a nice, mild, creamy curry and I am already craving it again. It goes together easily, although our veggies took closer to 30 minutes to get cooked through, and I did need to add the extra water to keep it the right consistency. Have plenty of rice and or flat bread available for the delicious sauce. This recipe is a keeper for me. Kormas are usually a milder, less spicy curry but you can add some cayenne pepper or chilis if you want more "heat". You can also change out the veggies to whatever you like or have on hand. If you really want the meat, you could add some lean chicken to it, but it doesn't need it at all. I'm going to add the chickpeas the next time I make it, which will be soon!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Baked Eggplant with Sesame Yogurt and Mint for Tyler Florence Fridays

So my choice for Tyler Florence Fridays this week will not win any beauty awards, but it is darn good. Since I had picked up some local Japanese eggplant from the Framer's Market last weekend, I selected the Baked Eggplant with Sesame Yogurt and Mint recipe from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen (page 262). 

Tyler says:  "The eggplant is also great grilled. The yogurt sauce is my version of tahini."

Baked Eggplant with Sesame Yogurt and Mint
Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen
(Serves 4-6)

6 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise
extra-virgin olive oil
1 fresh red chile, thinly sliced on the diagonal
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted. plus more for garnish (see note)
juice of 1/2 lemon
fresh mint for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Put the eggplant in a large shallow bowl and add the oil, chile, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange the eggplant on a sheet pan, cut side down, and bake for 40 minutes, until soft. While the eggplant is in the oven, make the yogurt sauce.

Combine the yogurt, sesame seed and lemon juice in a food processor or blender; doesn't matter. Blend until creamy and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. When the hot, gooey, sticky eggplant comes out of the oven, drizzle the yogurt sauce on top and garnish with more sesame seeds and some fresh mint. Nice Moroccan dish.

Note: To toast sesame seeds: Put the sesame seeds in a dry skillet. Place over medium-low heat and shake the pan constantly until the seeds are golden brown.

Notes/Results: I think my Japanese eggplants must have been much smaller than Tyler's. I thought that 40 minutes seemed like too long to cook them so I set the timer for 20 minutes to take a progress check, and they were slightly more than done at that point. They were not the lightly golden ones in the picture in the cookbook--in fact those look suspiciously like they never saw a baking sheet. None the less, they were still delicious, creamy inside, lightly spicy from the chili, and a little bit of heaven with the yummy sesame yogurt sauce. I will make this dish again, with slightly bigger eggplant, maybe in my grill pan and watching the time carefully. I served it with a simple salad, and since this dish had a Middle Eastern flair, I decided to make "Bud's Special Rice", from The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber, (Our last Cook The Books pick), after seeing how much Arlene from The Food of Love enjoyed it. (Her post and the recipe are here). The rice, topped with pine nuts, cinnamon and pepper was delicious. (I did use brown basmati rice and I left out the butter, browning the pine nuts in just a bit of olive oil. Sorry Bud!). 

A really delicious dinner. I took some leftover eggplant and mashed it up and ate it on a multi-grain roll with some avocado, tomato, lettuce and the yogurt sauce for lunch the next day and that was great too. Another flavorful, delicious, Tyler recipe.

You can check out what the other TFF participants made this week and see their feedback at the TFF site here.  

Happy Aloha Friday!  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blog Party #43--Spice It Up: Baked Samosas with Mint Chutney & Rose-Pomegranate Martinis

It's Blog Party time again (my 10th since I have been blogging!), and time to get a bit "spicy" for this month's theme, "Spice It Up". Hosted by my friend Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness, Blog Party is my favorite virtual party, where all manner of creative appetizers and drinks show up in celebration of whatever wonderful theme Stephanie has dreamed up for us.  

This month, India was my inspiration and I was madly trying to decide what to make when, like magic, the perfect appetizer recipe appeared. I took a really wonderful class this weekend on healthy, vegetarian Indian cooking (I'll share more on it later) and we made these delicious Baked Samosas and also sampled and learned the recipe for a delicious Mint Chutney to go with them. I trucked home my allotment of food, including the samosas we made, and whipped up a batch of the chutney as well as concocted a fabulous Rose-Pomegranate Martini to serve with it. Blog Party dilemma solved!

Baked Samosas
Chef Alyssa Moreau

Pastry Dough:
1 cup unbleached white flour*
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup light oil (walnut oil preferred)
1/2 tsp vinegar (rice vinegar preferred)
1/2 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Combine wet ingredients and then stir into the dry mix until just moistened. (If it's too dry, add in some water 1 Tbsp at a time). Pat into a flat disk, cover, and refrigerate 1/2 hour.  *You can substitute whole wheat pastry flour for white flour.

Samosa Filling:
2 cups russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 Tbsp ghee, butter or oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
cayenne to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced

Boil potatoes in water (to cover) until soft (approx 15 minutes). Drain and lightly mash. Set aside. Melt the butter, add cumin seeds and cook a couple minutes, add the rest of the spices and cook a couple minutes more, making sure not to burn. Add to mashed potato mixture, along with remaining ingredients. 

To assemble samosas:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or oil well. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Divide dough into 8 pieces; form into balls. Roll out each ball into a thin round and cut with a biscuit/pastry cutter.*  Place a spoonful of samosa filling over 1/2 of circle and fold over to match edges. Use a fork to press edges together. Brush with melted butter or ghee. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned.  *Depending on the size of your pastry cutter, you may have extra dough and more samosas to make. Serve with chutney.

Mint Chutney
Chef Alyssa Moreau

8 sprigs mint, leaves pulled off
1/2 cup cilantro, stems and leaves
1 tsp garlic , minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1/2 green chili, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp plain yogurt

In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients together and adjust flavors to taste.  

Notes/Results: These were nicely flavored and spicy little samosas. Using part whole-wheat flour and baking instead of deep frying makes these little treats much healthier than your average samosa but just as tasty. The dough was easy to work with and the combination of the white flour and whole wheat pastry flour was tender when baked up. The mint chutney (shh...don't tell Stephanie there was cilantro in it and maybe she won't notice with all the spices!) is good but I would suggest at least doubling the recipe, as it just makes a small quantity. I would make both recipes again.

My beverage this month is a delicious Rose-Pomegranate Martini. Not particularly spicy but delicious with spicy foods. A few years ago I traveled frequently to Puerto Rico on business and ate often at a restaurant called Tantra, a sort of fusion Indian and Latin restaurant. Tantra had an extensive martini menu, including one with fruit juice and rose water that was delicious and really complimented the food. Their martinis always had rose petals floating on top, a decadent and festive touch, so this martini is inspired by Tantra.   

Rose-Pomegranate Martini

4 oz pomegranate juice
1 1/2 oz fruit-infused vodka
dash of rose water
rose petals for garnish

Mix pomegranate juice, vodka, rosewater and ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake and drain into a martini glass (or margarita glass, or whatever glass you prefer). Garnish with fresh, clean, pesticide-free, rose petals and enjoy. 

If you want to join the party, RSVP to Stephanie no later than Friday the 20th. You'll be able to check out who else came to Blog Party and how they "spiced it up" at the round up which should be up on her site after Sunday the 22nd. Cheers!