Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Butternut Squash (and Blueberry) Muffins: Fall Fare from Jamie Oliver

Summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner. Not that it means a lot in a year-round temperate climate. (I know, I know, ...poor me!) Probably the thing I miss most about living in the Pacific-Northwest are the crisp fall days and the colors of the turning leaves of early fall (the sunny days before the endless rain). Still, even though the weather doesn't change much here, signs of autumn are about. I still like to "pet" the soft, fuzzy sweaters that appear in the stores, I get cravings for hot apple cider, I want to make and eat more casseroles and slow cooker fare, and I have the urge to buy shiny new school supplies. Speaking of school supplies, our theme this week for I Heart Cooking Clubs is "Back to School" and I picked Jamie's Butternut Squash Muffins to make. Butternut squash says fall to me, and of course muffins are always a great treat for breakfast on-the-go or lunch bags and boxes.

I wasn't sure about "whizzing" the raw butternut squash in the food processor, especially with leaving the peel on, but it works. With the cinnamon these are similar to a carrot cake, although a bit smoother. Jamie bakes them with raisins on the top, but I think they would much rather be mixed with plump fresh blueberries (and plenty of them!) rather than boring old dried raisins. Between the blueberries and the butternut squash, these muffins are full of rich antioxidants and ready to battle all those free-radicals and build up your immunity ;-)

Although Jamie has a version of these on his website, topped with frosting, I used this recipe from

Easy Butternut Squash Muffins (With Blueberries)
Adapted from a Jamie Oliver on
(Makes 1 Dozen Muffins)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, finely chop 7 oz seeded and roughly chopped butternut squash, leaving the skin on. Add 1 cup light-brown sugar and 2 eggs. Whiz again to combine. Add 1/8 tsp salt, 1-1/4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 6 Tbsp oil. Whiz just until combined.

Line a muffin pan with 12 paper cupcake liners. Evenly distribute the mixture into the muffin cups and sprinkle a few raisins (1/4 cup total) over the top of each muffin. I omitted the raisins on top and instead added about 1 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries, lightly coated in flour.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a wooden skewer or knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean (if it's slightly sticky, they'll need a bit longer—bake 5 more minutes, or until cooked through and golden on top). Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool.

Bake the muffins on the weekend and freeze.

Notes/Results: Extremely moist and really good. As you can see by the picture below, I may have gotten a little carried away with the amount of blueberries I put inside these--oh well! I hate when you get a blueberry muffin with three berries in it so I would rather have extra. I did toss my blueberries with flour so they would not "bleed" but that only seemed to work on about 1/2 of them. I actually think it makes them look prettier to have some of the berries spread out so in the end it worked. Two other small changes--I reduced the brown sugar to 3/4 cup since I was adding the blueberries, and I used white wheat flour for a little extra fiber. These muffins are very quick to make and tasty enough that I will make them again.

You can see what the other IHCC peeps took "Back to School" with them by going to the post and following the links.

What's your favorite season?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Crispy Okra Strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette & Creamy Celeriac Sauce for Food 'n Flix: Fried Green Tomatoes

Since it had been a long time since I had seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes with Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker, I was pleased to find it the August movie pick for Food 'n Flix, created by my friend girlichef and hosted this month by Glennis of Cantbelieveweate's Weblog. It's an entertaining journey to the south, both present day and back in the 1920s, as well as a great reason to crave some good southern-style cooking.

Based on the book "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg, it is the story of unhappy housewife Evelyn, played by Bates. Evelyn meets the elderly Ninny (Tandy) while visiting her husband's aunt at a nursing home and strikes up a friendship with her. Soon Ninny tells Evelyn about the adventures of Idgie Threadgood, a eccentric young woman in 1920's Alabama. The stories of Idgie, Ruth and the other citizens of Whistle Stop inspire Evelyn to have the courage to make changes in her own life and build a strong bond between the two women.

Of course I wanted to make some fried green tomatoes--you can't watch this movie and not crave fried green tomatoes! I found a recipe for them in "Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine" by Bryant Terry. Terry accompanies his tomatoes with a Creamy Celeriac Sauce, inspired by remoulade and since I have not cooked with celeriac or celery root before, it sounded intriguing. Of course because I was looking for them, there were no green tomatoes anywhere to be found and I had to resort to Plan B. One thing that is always readily available at the farmers market and stores here is okra, another ingredient I rarely eat or cook with. Terry had a recipe for Crispy Okra Strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette and since I had already purchased the celery root, I decided to make the sauce and serve it to dip the okra in. The okra and green tomatoes both use Terry's simple Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Food, so it seemed like a good fit.

Bryant Terry says, "To be honest, there are only a few ways that I like to have okra, as I generally find it to be too slimy for my taste. This is one of them."

Crispy Okra Strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette
"Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry
(Yield 4 to 6 Servings)

Soundtrack: "Okra" by Olu Dara from In the World--From Natchez to New York

1 lb small to medium okra pods, ends cut off and quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Food (recipe below)
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
8 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
white pepper

In a large bowl, cover the okra strips with cold water, refrigerate, and soak for 15 minutes. Transfer the strips to a colander and rinse well under cold running water for 2 to 3 minutes. Put the strips back in the bowl, cover with water and refrigerate for an additional 15 minutes.

Transfer the okra back to the colander, rinse well under cold running water for 2 to 3 minutes, and let drain. With paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, pat the okra strips as much as possible to dry them (they will be slightly moist).

In a medium-size bowl, combine the okra strips with the Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Foods and toss them around to coat well.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the lime juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic, thyme, and salt in an upright blender. Blend while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Add white pepper to taste.

In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vinaigrette, just until it starts to bubble. Pour in the okra mixture and let it cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to brown (the pieces will start forming cakes). With a wooden spatula, turn over the pieces and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until browning and crisp.

Transfer the okra to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Then arrange on a platter and serve hot.

Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Foods
"Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry
(Yield: 2 cups)

Soundtrack: "Fried Neck Bones and Some Homefries" by Willie Bobo from Verve Unmixed 2

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Shake well to blend. That's it.

Be sure to store any remaining coating in the freezer, as it will go rancid otherwise.

Creamy Celeriac Sauce
"Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry
(Yield About 2 Cups

Soundtrack: "Three Changes" by The Good, The Bad & The Queen from The Good, The Bad & The Queen

1/2 lb silken tofu
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
coarse sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup peeled and coarsely grated celery root (celeriac)

In an upright blender, combine the tofu, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, agave nectar, mustard, olive oil, paprika, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and blend until smooth. if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the sauce to a bowl and stir in the scallions and celery root.

*This will keep up to three days refrigerated.

Notes/Results: OK, here's the thing. There is a reason I don't eat and cook with a lot of okra. It's slimy. Really, really slimy. I am fine with a little of it in soups or gumbo but too much slimy doesn't really work for me. I was hoping what with all of the soaking, rinsing, soaking, rinsing, carefully patting dry, coating in flour, pan-frying, etc., it would lose a lot of its sliminess--and it did lose quite a bit of it. But at the end of the day, it is still a bit too much of a slimy texture for me to fully desire to eat it often. That being said--the coating is very crisp and tasty and cooked in the Lime-Thyme (excellent pairing of flavors by the way) Vinaigrette, the okra had lots of flavor. The Creamy Celeriac Sauce was also full of flavor and the leftovers will soon grace a piece of fish. So, I would make all three recipes again--vinaigrette, coating and sauce--I'll probably just use them on something other than okra (green tomatoes, green beans, asparagus?). Fun to try cooking some new things and although I didn't see any okra in the movie, a sufficiently Southern dish to represent. ;-)

And, if you are looking for some healthier soul food cooking, check out Vegan Soul Kitchen. There is plenty in this cookbook to love, whether you are a vegan or not, including fun music recommendations for all of the recipes and tips and info on vegan and soul-food ingredients.

Glennis will be rounding up the Food 'n Flix entries for Fried Green Tomatoes on her site, or check out the upcoming movie selections by going to the Food 'n Flix site here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Smoky, Soupy Pinto Beans with Cilantro-Lime Pistou for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays (+ a Fairy Hobmother Visit!)

I opened the freezer door the other day and a bag with two smoked turkey drumsticks fell out. Luckily it missed my toe, and it reminded me that I shouldn't let them go to waste (and that I should clean out the freezer!). Partnered with my excessive pantry stash of dried pinto beans, the smoky turkey legs made a ginormous slow cooker batch of tasty comfort food.

There is nothing fancy about soupy pinto beans so when I invited my friend Nat over for an impromptu dinner, I gussied them up a bit--using a leftover jalapeno half, a lime and most of a bunch of cilantro to make a pistou/pesto sauce to drizzle on top. We ate the beans on top of bowls of baby spinach and arugula with the pistou and served along with some quick quesadillas with goat cheese and green chilies. Of course I was a bad blogger and too lazy and way too ready to eat to take the time snap a picture of it. Instead, I took pictures the next morning, when a bowl of the beans topped with the pistou and a sprinkle of goat cheese made a delicious brunch.

Smoky Pinto Beans with Cilantro Pistou
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes a whole lot of beans)

4 cups dried pinto beans, sorted and rinsed
1 or 2 smoked turkey legs (or sub ham hocks or bacon if desired)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp cumin, or to taste
1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Place the beans, turkey legs, onion, garlic, cumin and cayenne into a large slow cooker, and add cold water enough to cover the beans by about two inches. Stir, cover and cook on low heat for 7 hours or until beans are to the desired tenderness. Remove turkey legs from beans and allow to cool. For creamier beans, remove about 2 cups and some cooking liquid, puree them, then add them back into the beans. When the turkey legs have cooled, pull the meat from the bones, chop it into small pieces, and add back to beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the Cilantro Pistou.
Cilantro-Lime Pistou
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

1 large bunch of cilantro leaves, washed and drained
1/2 jalapeno
pepper (or more if desired)
juice of 1 lime
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a small food processor, place the cilantro leaves and jalapeno and process down until fairly finely chopped. Add the lime juice and enough olive oil to process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes/Results: The beans are delicious on their own--nice and smoky from the cumin and the smoked turkey, but the pistou really livens them up with the brightness of the lime and cilantro and the slight spicy kick of the chili. It makes a simple bowl of beans a bit more interesting.A little goat cheese doesn't hurt either. I tend to make my beans more savory/smoky than spicy and liven them up with a little hot sauce at the table, but feel free to add more chili pepper when cooking them. This is cheap and filling comfort food, full of fiber and it tastes great too.

Now let's visit the Souper Sunday kitchen and see who is here this weekend.

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made an Indian-Style Black Beans Curry and says, "Channa (Chickpeas) Curry should have been done with chickpeas (garbanzo beans); BUT this was tweaked and done with black beans. As an alternative, the dish turns out quite different in terms of taste and flavor, not undermining its deliciousness fortunately. Was it luck? NO. The traditional spices used for Channa Masala or Channa Curry really help to bring everything together.

My good pal girlichef is the official soup princess this week, with three bowls of soupy goodness to share. First up, although she went on a year-long quest to fins the perefct bowl of tortilla soup, her all-time Favorite Tortilla Soup was under her nose all along. She says, "Even after all of the tasting and first favorite remains my current favorite. This will always be the tortilla soup that all other tortilla soups must measure up to. What can I say?"

About her 15-Bean Soup with Smoked Pork and Beans girlichef says, "'...I've never been one to shun soup in the summertime. I eat other hot things, so why not a bowl filled to the brim with healthy goodness that wafts up and slaps you in the face as you lean over to get a whiff? Make a big pot one day. Enjoy. Divide up the leftovers...maybe freeze a jar. What you have left in the fridge, you can ladle into individual bowls to reheat for quick meals." A girl after my own soup-loving heart. ;-)

Sadly, her third soup, a version of Jamie Oliver's Sweet Corn and Shrimp Chowder was not her favorite meal of the week. girlichef says, "While I had high hopes for this bowl of chowder, it wound up being just okay. We liked it. We ate it. But it probably won't be something we make again. But if I do, I'll use at least double the shrimp and the corn. It wasn't the pretty yellow I imagined it would be either. Oh well. It wasn't our favorite meal of all time, but it was pretty good...totally edible."

Kim at Stirring the Pot had better luck with Jamie's Pea and Mint Soup and managed to use up some of her surplus frozen peas in the process. She says, "So, if you're like me and you have a mega ton of peas in your freezer and an astounding amount of mint in your garden, then this recipe is for you! Not only is it healthy, but we thought it was quite delicious and filling. My non-soup loving husband even had two bowls."

Michelle at Ms. EnPlace made both a soup and a salad from Jamie Oliver this week but as she found the soup just to be so-so, she wants to focus on the salad, this colorful Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad w/ Orange & Lemon Dressing. Michelle says, I've never had roasted carrots in a salad before, but now I want them all the time. In every salad I eat. The combination and textures of the avocado and roasted carrots was rich and very filling. We could have eaten this as a meal."

Janet from The Taste Space has a refreshing, packed-full-of-good-things Grilled Eggplant and Mango Noodle Salad with a Sweet Chili Dressing. Janet says, "The result was a wonderful merriment of flavours. You have the grilled, creamy, smoky eggplant pairing beautifully with the sweet, tangy mango with a slightly spicy sauce, all overtop zucchini noodles. The tofu added a nice, satisfying crunch."

Good friends and great dishes this week--thanks to everyone who joined in! If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, simply click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.
***Fairy Hobmother Alert!***

I have been seeing Fairy Hobmother visits all over recently and so I left a comment on my friend Kim's blog, Stirring the Pot, in hopes of a visit. A few days later, I was delighted to receive my own Fairy Hobmother visit and he was kind enough to leave a gift card to for me to pick out something fun. A big mahalo (thank you!) to my Fairy Hobmother from the land of Appliances Online! If you are longing for a little magic of your own, it might just happen. Leave a comment on this post saying you'd love a visit and you may be picked to receive a wonderful treat from the Fairy Hobmother.
Have a healthy, happy, week!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Green Couscous from Ottolenghi (with Wild Salmon): A Gorgeously Green Salad That's Full of Flavor

You know those cookbooks that you just pick up and never want to put down again? It could be because of the stunning pictures, the vivid descriptions of the recipes, or maybe just the luxurious feel of the book itself. With "Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi, it's a combination of the three. The moment I picked it up, I was hooked. In fact, I wanted to lick it, right in the store. Really. I think it was something about the smooth, slightly padded cover with those gorgeous eggplant on it--it just feels so darn good. I didn't lick it of course because, A) I do have some small measure of self-control and B) It was in a bookstore and lord knows who else touched it or didn't exercise the self control I did with the whole licking business.

I brought this book home a few weeks ago and it went right to the bedside table to be savored page-by-page each night and covered with a plethora of sticky tabs. Of course it took me a while to decide what to make. Ottolenghi knows his veggies--each dish sounded better than the next, but it was the Green Couscous that needed to be made first. Gorgeously green and full of healthy, tasty ingredients, it's a stunner. I could have added some feta and eaten it on its own, but it seemed like a perfect match for a simple piece of bright coral-colored wild salmon.
In addition to be in Plenty on page 255, you can see Yotam Ottolenghi make the dish and find the recipe here at Martha

Plenty says, "A good-looking and even better tasting side salad. It has strong flavors and is extremely healthful but still feels light and comforting. Serve it with poached baby vegetables or fish. Adding some feta will make it a bit more substantial."
Green Couscous
Adapted from "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4)

1 cup couscous
3/4 cup boiling water or vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Herb Paste:
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped tarragon
2 Tbsp chopped dill
2 Tbsp chopped mint
6 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
3 green onions, finely sliced
1 fresh green chile, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup arugula leaves, chopped

Place the couscous in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water or stock. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in the olive oil on medium heat until golden and completely soft. Add the salt and cumin and mix well. Leave to cool slightly.

To make the herb paste. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.

Add the herb paste to the couscous and mix everything together well with a fork to fluff it up. Now add the cooked onion, the pistachios, green onions, green chile and arugula and gently mix. Serve at room temperature.

Notes/Results: Oh so good! This salad is a wonderful mix of the flavorful herbs, sweet onions, warm smoky cumin, peppery arugula and little hits of chile--plus it is so fresh and pretty to look at. I loved the combination of herbs; cilantro, tarragon, dill, parsley and mint, and it is a great way to use the bounty from my lanai herb containers which are growing off the hook right now. The flavor of the salad was excellent, but it did call out to me for some lemon juice to brighten it up slightly so I added about a tablespoon and it was even better. I used a low sodium veggie stock (diluted) and local baby arugula (so I didn't bother chopping it), and I also swapped in some whole wheat couscous (why not get double the fiber when you can?). When I make it again, I will add more onion--I used one small sweet Maui onion and it was so good I wanted more. This salad was brilliant with the fish and I will definitely make it again. After all--it tastes so much better than licking the book cover! ;-)
Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mac 'n "Cheese" with Spinach and Sausage: Delicious Comfort Food That Just Happens to Be Vegan

I woke up stuffed up, achy and with a massive headache yesterday. Not sure why. Maybe seasonal weather changes? Payback from my body for a long stressful week? The big drag of the headache was that it hurt to do anything, thus sharply limiting my productivity. Reading and answering emails--ouch! Crafting an outline to send to the coordinator for a presentation I'm giving--double ouch! Work was out. It also knocked out any desirable non-work pursuits like blogging, reading and commenting on blogs, reading in general. That left me with sleep, laundry, and making vegan mac 'n "cheese" for lunch.

Why vegan macaroni and cheese? Well, first off I wanted comfort food and mac 'n cheese fit the bill. Besides supporting my goal of reducing the overall meat and dairy I am consuming and eating more plant-based foods, a stuffy sinus area didn't exactly need the mass quantities of cheese, milk and butter found in regular mac 'n cheese.

My original intent was to make a basic pasta in creamy sauce style, but the big container of baby spinach in my fridge "suggested" that I should probably get something green into the mix, and then there was a beckoning from a package of Field Roast Grain Meat Company Italian sausages. (My new favorite sausage replacement--tasty, with a non-scary ingredient list.) Does the food in your refrigerator call to you too? No? ...OK, maybe it was the headache talking.

I had found this recipe for "Quick & Dirty 5-Ingredient Vegan Cheeze Sauce" from the blog Oh She Glows, a great site for tasty vegan food, and since I had all of the ingredients called for (almond milk, flour, nutritional yeast, Earth Balance butter, and salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder--apparently all the spices are counted as one to make it "5-Ingredient?), so I used it as my base.

While the pasta cooked (I used about 1/2 package of Barilla mini rotini), I crumbled and browned one sausage in a large sauce pan and stacked and thinly sliced about 3 cups of the baby spinach. I removed the sausage from the pan and set it aside, then I used the pan to make the cheeze sauce. Once the sauce thickened, I stirred in the spinach and browned veggie sausage and heated it through, then drained the pasta and mixed it into the pan with the sauce.

About 20 minutes from boiling the pasta water, I was sitting cross-legged on the couch with a bowl of creamy pasta goodness on my lap listening to the DVR'd latest episode of The Great Food Truck Race. (It still hurt to actually watch it). So maybe it didn't cure the headache, it hit the spot--creamy, "cheesish" pasta that tasted great with the strips of tender spinach and crispy sausage bits, and with a lot less saturated fat.

Notes/Results: Am I here to tell you that this is a exact replacement for the famous gooey macaroni and cheese recipe that has been handed down for generations in your family, or the 4 cheese lobster mac from your favorite restaurant? No, it isn't an exact replacement, but it is darn good, fulfills a craving, and it is packed with some great nutrients from the nutritional yeast flakes and the spinach with lots of fiber from the pasta which has 6 grams per serving. At first I wished I had doubled the sauce to make it gooier, and I could have easily made another quick batch, but as I ate it I found that it was actually just creamy enough to feel indulgent without overkill--every noodle was covered in the tasty sauce.

As a quick-to-prepare, semi-homemade convenience-style food, it sure beats the unnamed blue box in both flavor and nutrition--although if you prefer looking the noxious orange color you may want to add some red food coloring to the sauce! Delicious, and I will make it again.

P.S. My head is MUCH better today and the mac 'n "cheese" still tastes great. ;-)

Pasta this tasty belongs at Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Honeybunch at The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. Check out her post on Friday for a round up of some great pasta dishes.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Bread and Tomato Soup: Garden to Pantry Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Good soups make you happy when your spoon hits your mouth, feeling warmed, satisfied and content. This Bread and Tomato Soup from Jamie Oliver made me happy the moment I started preparing it. The moment the scent from the roasting cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic hit my nose, followed by the aroma of the tomato base bubbling away on the stove hit my nose, I knew it was going to be delicious. This isn't a fancy soup, but when the garden (fresh local baby tomatoes and a rustic garlic loaf from the farmers market, plus basil from the pots on my lanai) combines with the pantry (boxed Pomi tomatoes and a head of garlic), it makes a bowl full of goodness to savor.

This coming week the theme is Soups, Salads and Sammies at I Heart Cooking Clubs (believe it or not, I didn't pick it!) ;-) I am a day early with this soup, but once I had it in my head I just had to make it.

Jamie says, "This Tuscan soup is delicious – it’s a soup everyone should try. Just thinking of it makes me salivate! It’s a family-friendly soup – babies and grandparents (both without teeth!) can eat it with gusto. I’ve added roasted cherry tomatoes to my recipe but it also works really well just with canned tomatoes. The great thing is that it takes only 20 minutes to cook, so go for it! PS. Use a stale white country-style loaf – not cheap sliced white factory bread."

Bread and Tomato Soup
by Jamie Oliver at
(Makes 4 {or More} Servings)

about 1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves
picked, stems finely chopped
the best extra virgin olive oil you can find
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (14 oz) cans of good-quality plum tomatoes
about 1 lb or 2 large handfuls of stale good-quality bread

Prick the cherry tomatoes and toss them with one sliced clove of garlic and a quarter of the basil leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a roasting pan, and cook in the oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes. The reason for doing this is so that their flavor becomes intense and concentrated.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot and add the remaining garlic and the basil stems. Stir around and gently fry for a minute, until softened. Add your canned tomatoes, then fill the can with water and add that. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Tear the bread up into thumb-sized pieces and add them to the pan. Mix well and season to taste.

Tear in the basil leaves and let the soup sit on a low heat for 10 minutes. By this time your roasted tomatoes will be done, with juice bursting out of their skins, so remove them from the pan, remembering to scrape all the lovely sticky bits from the bottom. Pour them into the soup with all the juices, basil, and oil from the pan.

Give the soup a good stir – you’re looking to achieve a thick, silky, porridgy texture, so feel free to adjust it with a little water. Then remove it from the heat and add 6 or 7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Divide between your bowls and serve with a little extra basil torn over the top if you like. The most important thing with this soup is that you have a wonderfully intense sweet tomato basil flavor.

Notes/Results: A flavorful soup that tastes like a warm summer day. Fragrant and filling and simple to make, this is a great version of a classic Pappa al Pomodoro. (Not my favorite version of this soup--that honor belongs to Ina Garten's with it's baked pancetta, ciabatta and basil topping, but still really delicious and it's vegan to boot.) The roasted cherry tomatoes add a layer of flavor to the canned tomatoes--so if you can with them. I followed the recipe fairly closely, except I reduced the olive oil down by about half which was plenty, and my bread was fresh, not stale. I also added one box of Pomi chopped tomatoes and one box of the puree to keep it thick and silky, I thought about pureeing it a little to break up some of the cherry tomatoes a bit more but instead I used a spoon to it break it up and that worked just fine. An easy and satisfying dinner, I would happily make it again.

We have some friends waiting in the Souper Sunday kitchen, let's go take a look.

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a healthy, soupish Sambar - Split Peas with Vegetables. She says, "Earlier, this Indian Sambar (Yellow Split Peas with Vegetables) was far from perfect. As it is my favorite Indian gravy-based wholesome vegetarian dish, I recently refined and improved it with the some key tips from my friend's mother. This time, nearer perfection."

Sharon, The Travel Cook from Brain Food is here with a Cactus Salad, made in her hotel room in New Mexico. She says, "I know cactus is not on everyone's wish list when they are hungry, but just one look at all the valuable nutrients and you may change your mind. The real salad was a bit too real for my gourmand photographer, so I tamed it down a bit by adding some of the fresh fruits found at the market today."

Janet from The Taste Space has both a salad and a salad dressing that she would like to highlight this week. First her Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate-Roasted Vegetables, about which she says, "I had a recent hankering for pomegranate-roasted vegetables. I wanted to add them to a wheat berry salad. At first, I scoured the web for other pomegranate-grilled vegetables, but then I remembered I already knew the perfect glaze! Last year, I made a delectable pomegranate-glazed salmon that combined a simple glaze of pomegranate molasses with olive oil, but then it was heightened with fresh lemon juice, maple syrup and chopped basil. Therefore, I based my new recipe on that template, adding more pomegranate molasses and less maple syrup, because I wanted a more pronounced deep pomegranate flavour."

Janet also has a new favorite, this 3-2-1 Simple Salad Dressing to share and says, "I am sure most people don’t need much guidance in the simple salad dressing component, but I thought this was definitely worthy to share. It is a healthy and vibrant dressing, so totally Janet-style. Throw it on top of your favourite leafy greens and enjoy!"

Stash from The Spamwise Chronicles made a colorful Heirloom Tomato Salad with Garlic Croutons and says, "September in New York is my favorite time of the year, food-wise, because of all the wonderful produce that’s available at the market. Ripe tomatoes, fragrant peppers, luscious eggplant and flavorful peaches … these are the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s a season that’s all too brief. Heirloom tomatoes are at the peak of flavor, so enjoy them while they last. With autumn knocking on the threshold, it’ll be October before you know it."

Simona from briciole created this summery Roasted Corn Salad with Hearts of Palm, Cherry Tomatoes and Lemon Cucumber and says, "As a child, I ate corn at most once a year, if we happened to visit a family of friends, who grew some in their garden, on harvest day. They would build a fire and we had roasted corn for dinner. I was an adult the first time I had a salad made of corn; the other ingredients were hearts of palm and diced Emmenthal cheese. So, in today's recipe, I pair the two memories I just described: roasted corn and a corn salad that includes hearts of palm.The center of attention of the salad is roasted corn."

Lauren from Healthy. Delicious. made these tasty Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pitas and says, "As the days get shorter and the evenings start to get that fall chill to them, I’m making an effort to squeeze in every last little bit of grilling that I want to do. These grilled vegetable sandwiches are an old favorite that I had forgotten about until recently. I’m really happy that I remembered them though, because they’re super simple to make and are full of fresh summertime flavors."

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes tried these Toasted Turkey Sandwich with Quick Pickled Cucumbers and says, "...last month when the July/August issue of Everyday Food arrived, I marked a turkey sandwich recipe. I left the magazine open on the arm of my chair, as a constant reminder that this recipe was going to be made. And made, it was. And excellent, it was. Followed the recipe exactly, except that I could find any store bought tapenade. So, I made my own, which basically amounted to me tossing all the olives I had, some roasted red peppers, some pepperoncini peppers, capers, garlic, a little olive oil and salt and pepper in a food processor, with a little basil vinegar. Better than store bought!!!"

A lovely little group of recipes this week--mahalo to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Vegan Spumoni Ice Cream: Cherries, Pistachios and Chocolate Chips! Oh, My!

A quick little post for a busy week with a fun vegan Spumoni Ice Cream from Veg News magazine. I have only had real spumoni ice cream once, at an Italian restaurant on a high school trip to New York. I remember the layers being pretty but not liking the taste all that much. But, tastes do change, and the combination of the cherry ice cream with the toasted pistachios and vegan mini chocolate chips sounded good--plus, I love experimenting with non-dairy ice creams, so I decided to give it a try.

Veg News says, "Rather than laboriously churning each individual component of the traditional chocolate-cherry-pistachio trifecta, this rendition keeps things sweet and simple, A cherry base packed with dark chocolate chips and toasted pistachios more than makes up for the lack of distinct, colorful stripes."

Vegan Spumoni Ice Cream
Veg News Magazine, August 2011
(Makes 1 Quart)

1 cup full-fat coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsps cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz (3/4 lb) pitted sweet cherries, fresh or frozen and thawed, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch, and salt, beating the mixture vigorously to ensure that there are no residual lumps of starch. Allow the mixture to cook, whisking occasionally, until it reaches a gentle boil and significantly thickens in consistency. Remove from heat, and let cool for at least 15 minutes before proceeding.

In a blender or food processor, place 8 ounces (1/2 lb) cherries. Add coconut milk mixture and puree until smooth. Add in the vanilla and almond extract, and pulse to incorporate. Transfer the cherry base into a bowl or pitcher, and chill in your refrigerator for at least 2 hours before churning. Roughly chop the remaining cherries, and set aside.

Process chilled base in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, adding the chopped cherries, pistachios, and chocolate chips in the last 5 minutes. Transfer ice cream to an air-tight container. Place in freezer for at least 3 hours or until solid enough to scoop before serving.

Creamy, sweet and good. The cherry base is subtle, but that makes the flavors of the chunks of cherry, pistachio and chocolate stand out. The full-fat coconut milk keeps it creamy and it would be hard to identify it as non-dairy if you didn't know. My only real complaint is that the ice cream in the picture in the magazine was a gorgeous deep, dark violet shade and mine turned out more of a creamy, paler strawberry pink. I am not sure how they got their color so bright--I even weighed out my cherries to make sure I had the right amount. Oh well, the flavor makes up for it. ;-) I would make this one again.

Happy Aloha Friday!