Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hearty Chicken Sausage, Garbanzo Bean, Artichoke & Kale Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was craving a thick hearty soup, something with sausage and potato and something with lots of flavor but still healthy and low fat. A package of organic, minimally processed, nitrate-free chicken sausages with garlic and red pepper, along with a trip through the pantry resulted in this rich and satisfying bowl of goodness.

Garbanzos pureed into the broth give it a thick creamy taste without any cream and shredded kale gets some healthy greens in there. It tasted good until a can of artichoke hearts and some lemon juice brightened up the flavor and took it from good to great!

Hearty Chicken Sausage, Garbanzo Bean, Artichoke & Kale Soup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 12 cups)

8 cups chicken stock (separated)
1 package (about 12 oz) minimally processed chicken sausage, (I used a red pepper garlic from Whole Foods), sliced
1 yellow onion, small chop
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 yellow or Yukon gold potatoes, small chop
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
2 cans (or about 4 cups) cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained and separated
1 bunch organic kale with stems and large ribs removed chopped into thin strips
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat 1/2 cup of the chicken stock in a large pot over medium heat and add sliced sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage is just browned, and liquid mostly evaporates (about 10 minutes). Add onions, garlic, potatoes, fennel seeds, thyme, oregano, parsley and chili pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until softened, (about 10 minutes), adding more stock to the pot if mixture begins to stick or brown.

Place 2 cups of stock and one can of beans into a blender and blend until smooth. Add remaining broth to pot and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and onions are cooked through, (about 10-15 minutes).

Add the remaining can of garbanzo beans, the stock/bean puree, chopped kale and the artichoke hearts to pot and simmer until kale is softened and everything is cooked through, (about 5-7 minutes). Add lemon juice and season to taste with salt, pepper and additional red pepper flakes. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: Excellent! This is exactly what I wanted--great flavor, a nice little kick from the red pepper flakes and the taste and texture make it seem decadent and sinful when it isn't. By sauteing the sausage and veggies in the broth, no oil is used and the fat stays at a minimum. A bit of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top would be a great way to garnish this soup. A keeper recipe for sure.

Let's take a look at who is here in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week and see what goodies they brought:

So nice to have my friend Kat from Our Adventures in Japan here this week. Kat says, "You ever had one of those days when you want to eat two different things and can't make up your mind which one you should choose? That was my dilemma on Thursday night. I wanted something soupy, but I also wanted chili. My solution, I combined the two...Chili Soup (a total throw together recipe)...this hit the spot! lots of veggies and kick from the chili seasoning."

Natasha of 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures made this lovely and unique soup to share. She says, "This Walnut and Oregano Velouté is light and creamy, full of delicious nutty flavor with a touch of aromatic sweetness of oregano. It is great as a soup and also can be used as a sauce for pasta or ravioli. This version is vegetarian, and a vegan version can easily be created with butter and cream substitutes."

Megan from My Baking Adventures cooked her first lentils for this Lentil Soup with Spicy Sausage and says "And I cooked them perfectly. Score! I recently learned that David really likes lentils, and you know what? I didn’t know I liked them so much either. This soup is very hearty and warming and full of flavor. Just the ticket for a cold and rainy day – and we had plenty of those last week."

Tired of pleasing picky eaters, Kim from Stirring the Pot made an entire recipe of Ina Garten's Orzo with Roasted Vegetables salad for herself. Kim says, "I ended up with a huge bowl of pasta, which is absolutely fine with me. I will be enjoying this for lunch throughout the week and will actually feel good about eating it. Loaded with vegetables, this is a great way to "eat the rainbow". This recipe is also great because it is great served hot, room temperature and cold. This would make a great potluck dish to take along to a party or picnic."

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina didn't have enough turnip tops or broccoli rabe after an aphid problem to make the traditional pasta dish her partner loves, but she did have enough to make another wonderful dish, this Turnip Tops (Broccoli Rabe) Bruschetta. She says, "I had sowed also a test plant in a pot, and it survived.It was too small to prepare the pasta, but I cooked the seasoning anyway, and served it on a bruschetta (with a millet and marjoram bread that I will post soon) They were so tasty that I cursed the aphids for hours!"

A new panini pan for Natashya at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies helped make these gorgeous Mediterranean Panini. She says, "Our old panini maker had flat plates. Yup, no groovy lines in my sammies. Sigh. But I soldiered on, living life bravely without the cool ridges in my panini, holding my head up even though, without the tell-tale marks, one might not even notice at first glance that they were, in fact, panini and not merely toasted sammies. But you see, the old press did pass away. And after a respectful grieving time we set about getting a new one.. one with ridges. For our anniversary actually. We are very romantic that way. See how pretty those ridges make a sammie? No comparison really."

Some wonderful soups, a delicious pasta salad and a couple of sandwich treats, mahalo to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lemongrass-Gingermint Infusion Tea: A Calming "Simple Saturday Sipper"

Simple infusions with fresh ingredients can provide lots of flavor and pleasure as is the case of this mix of lemongrass, ginger, mint leaves and lemon, with a touch of raw honey for a bit of sweetness. From "The Eat Clean Diet Recharged!" by Tosca Reno, it is the perfect drink to relax over after a large meal as not only does it taste good, it aids in digestion too.

Lemongrass-Gingermint Infusion Tea
"The Eat Clean Diet Recharged!" by Tosca Reno
(Makes 1 Cup)

2 tsp / 10 ml dried lemongrass
3-5 fresh mint leaves
3 slices fresh ginger, thinly spiced
1 cup / 240 ml boiling water
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
2 tsp / 10 ml honey (optional)

Spoon the lemongrass, mint and ginger into a mug. Pour hot water over the mix and let sit for five minutes. Strain out the lemongrass, mint and ginger. Squeeze lemon juice into the infusion and add honey if you need a sweet kick. Now sit back, relax and enjoy.

Notes/Results: Mmm...and Ahhh... After a busy week of running around and rushing about, relaxing over this simple drink is a great way to end the week. Great for when you want to drink something with flavor but no caffeine. Although I have teapots galore, I have an extra small French press / coffee press that I like to use for teas and herbal infusions like this one. Since it self-strains, it's quick and easy and works like a charm. (Just make sure it isn't the same one you brew coffee in--coffee oils are difficult to completely remove even with a thorough cleaning of the screens and it can negatively impact the flavor of your infusion). The recipe calls for dried lemongrass but since I had some fresh stalks, I replaced the dried with one stalk, trimmed, peeled and cut. This blend works well over ice too.

A few sips, a couple of "ohms" and I am in my zen happy place.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's More Soba..."Eat Clean" Sesame Noodles

I seem to be on a soba noodle kick lately and why not? Buckwheat soba noodles have good protein, are low on the glycemic index and rich in magnesium and maganese. I also am on a quest to find my favorite sesame / nut butter noodle. These Sesame Noodles from "The Eat Clean Diet Recharged!" by Tosca Reno are served hot and use almond butter, although the author also suggests trying them with any natural nut butter.

Tosca Reno says, "Any recipe with nut sauce tastes decadent to me. Substituting peanut butter for almond gives this easy-to-prepare classic Asian noodle dish a rich nutty twist. Try it with cashew butter for even more variety, and pair it with leftover veggies and chicken or shrimp to round out the meal."

Sesame Noodles
"The Eat Clean Diet Recharged" by Tosca Reno
(Makes 2 Cups / 4 Servings)

2 Tbsp / 30 ml tahini
2 Tbsp / 30 ml almond butter (or other natural nut butter of choice)
2 Tbsp / 30 ml brown rice vinegar
1 Tbsp / 15 ml agave nectar
2 Tbsp / 30 ml low-sodium tamari
1 tsp / 5 ml roasted sesame seed oil
1 (8 oz) package soba noodles cooked according to package instructions
2 Tbsp / 30 ml sesame seeds, toasted (black or white or combination of both)
sea salt to taste

In a medium saucepan combine tahini, almond butter, brown rice vinegar, agave nectar, tamari and sesame seed oil. Whisk mixture over gentle heat until well combined and a smooth sauce results.

Add cooked soba noodles to sauce and toss to coat. Sprinkle noodles with toasted sesame seeds and season with sea salt. Serve hot.

Nutritional Value Per Serving (1/2 cup): Calories: 194, Calories from Fat: 102, Protein: 7g, Carbs: 17g, Total Fat: 0g, Sat. Fat: 1.5g, Trans Fat: 0g, Fiber: 2g, Sodium: 480mg, Cholesterol: Omg, Sugar: 0g

Notes/Results: Good. I still think Nigella's simpler. lighter Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds are my favorite lately, but these are tasty and I appreciate the fact they are lower in sodium and sugar than many similar recipes. After tasting them, I added a bit of crushed red pepper flakes and liked them even more with the little kick. I would make them again, maybe trying cashew butter for a change.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nigella's Basil and Goat's Cheese Dip and Rouge Limonade for Happy Hour

Uh oh, two weeks in a row that I haven't found enough to love for my normal Tuesday "Things I Am Loving This Week" post. I think I have had my head down and have been using up the things I have rather than finding new ones. I'll work on bringing back that lovin' feeling for next week. ;-) Instead today we have my pick for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs "Happy Hour" theme. Perusing my Nigella books the criteria was fast, easy, delicious, healthy--in that order, (what can I say, I am feeling lazy lately!) The two recipes I picked, Basil and Goat's Cheese Dip from Feast, (page 438) and Rouge Limonade from Nigella Express, (page 318) seemed to fit the criteria pretty well. Both are simple, go together quickly with just a few ingredients, pair well as an easy party treat, and taste great.

About the Basil and Goats Cheese Dip, Nigella says: "I know it's not all in the correct register but I love this smeared thickly over split, toasted and slightly cooled bagels. You can use feta in place of the soft, sour and salty goat's cheese here to balance the smoky sweetness of the nuts and mellow scent of the basil if that's easier to find or you just want something a little more pungent and less creamy."

Basil and Goat's Cheese Dip
"Feast" by Nigella Lawson

1 cup walnut pieces
2 scallions, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
1 packed cup soft goat's cheese
3 Tbsp garlic-infused oil

Process the walnut pieces, scallions, and basil leaves, then add the goats cheese and oil and process again to make a grainy paste. Transfer to a bowl and top with a basil leaf or two if it pleases you.

Notes/Results: Excellent! This 5-ingredient dip is full of good flavor and was perfect smeared on some multi-grain baguette and my favorite sesame rice crackers. I have been avoiding most dairy lately and was really craving cheese, plus I had some herbed goat cheese I didn't want to waste so a half-batch of the dip was the perfect way to use it up. I think toasting the walnuts first is a great way to pump up the flavor and because the goat cheese is salty, I found that I didn't need to add salt, just some black pepper--because most things are enhanced by a bit of black pepper. With the healthy fat from the olive oil, and the fiber, B-vitamins and antioxidants of the walnuts, the dip is pretty good for you too. I will make this again.

For the cocktail, I wanted something simple that would stand up to the flavors in the dip and found the recipe for the Rouge Limonade which is simply red wine topped off with lemonade. It will probably make wine purists gasp in dismay ;-) but I thought it would be fun to try, and since I had red wine as well as some lemons and agave to make lemonade, I was able to throw it together quickly.

Nigella says: "Finally the Rouge Limonade, a drink that is considered not quite 'comme il faut' (BTW: I looked it up and this means not proper or in accordance with accepted standards or conventions), in Paris, but much loved in the country. It is really just a spritzer made with red wine, only in place of club soda you use lemonade. Obviously, don't use good red wine--and this is why this can be a major help at a party. I don't say serve the sort of wine that could double as paint stripper, but something pretty rough could have its edges knocked off with a good top-up of lemonade. It's not chic, but it's thirst quenching--and wonderfully, seasonally, hued."

Rouge Limonade or Red Lemonade
"Nigella Express" by Nigella Lawson

3 parts chilled red wine
1-2 parts chilled lemonade

Pour the red wine into a glass or tumbler. Top with the lemonade according to taste (and quality of wine), much like you would a white wine spritzer. (One 750ml bottle of wine should yield 5-6 glasses).

Notes/Results: Surprisingly tasty--I liked it better than I thought I might. It made the red wine bright and lighter and was pleasing with the dip. I used 3 parts red wine to 1 part homemade lemonade for my proportions. As Nigella mentions, I wouldn't make this drink with a special or expensive wine, but I had a random bottle of Kendall-Jackson Syrah that came in a holiday gift basket and it worked well. It won't be my new signature cocktail but was quite drinkable and would be a good party beverage. Sparkling lemonade would be fun to try too.

I am very happy with both choices this week--go Nigella! You can see how our other IHCC participants celebrated their "Happy Hours" by going to the post (here) and following the links.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vitamix 10-Minute Thai Creamy Tomato Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Most weeks the whole process of making soup, the chopping, sauteing, simmering and seasoning is relaxing and enjoyable, and then there are weeks like this one when all of that seems way too much effort. Like this week, I had a soup all planned out and yesterday I ended up getting up early, was out running around, hanging out with friends, eating a really late lunch and in no mood to slow cook a heavy pot of soup when I got home. Instead I opted for an easy but delicious, Vitamix 10-Minute Thai Cream of Tomato Soup for which I owe credit to the wonderful Jenn at The Leftover Queen. Jenn posted about her love for her new Vitamix blender and a Creamy Tomato Soup she made in it. (Here) Reading her post, I became a bit jealous of Jenn's new relationship with her Vitamix as I have had mine for a few years now. Me and my Vitamix have a good solid relationship, we see each other at least every day, but mostly I grunt at it in the morning as I dump the ingredients for my green smoothie into it, or we spend some brief time together as I whip up a quick salad dressing, or put the small dry container on to make nut flour. But there is no spark, or heat in the relationship anymore. ;-) I have made plenty of cold soups in it lately but needed Jenn's reminder that it makes a darn good hot soup as well. After all, watching the demonstrator at Costco make a hot tortilla soup was one of the reasons I made the investment in the Vitamix to begin with, so I was determined to put some heat and spice back into my blending.

Jenn's recipe looked fantastic and simple with a carton of drained Pomi tomatoes, some jarred roasted red peppers, a dash of cream, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. I chose to keep the tomatoes and pepper but made it non-dairy by adding some coconut milk to replace the cream and that of course conjured up Thai flavorings like kaffir lime and lemongrass. The soup itself only takes about 5 minutes to puree and cook with the friction of the blender but with gathering and a quick chopping of a few of the ingredients it was about 10 minutes total.

10-Minute Thai Creamy Tomato Soup
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen (inspired by The Leftover Queen)
(Makes two servings--just under 4 cups)

1 box of Pomi diced tomatoes, strained off about 1/2 the juice
about the equivalent of 1 1/2 roasted red peppers (jarred organic)
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
2 lemon grass stalks, outer skins removed and chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tsp sambal oelek (red chili paste)
dash black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro and extra lime wedges for garnish

Put all ingredients into the Vitmix and blend on high for about 4 minutes until steam starts to rise from lid. Serve immediately garnished with a tablespoon of chopped cilantro and a lime wedge.

Notes/Results: Delicious! So much flavor for such a quick soup. Since I had such a late lunch, a big cup of this soup and some sesame rice crackers was the perfect light dinner. Lightly spicy, nicely tangy and thick and creamy, not to mention healthy--where as this soup been all my life? Thanks to Jenn for the idea and inspiration, I foresee much more heat and spice with my Vitamix. If you don't have a Vitamix or high power / high speed blender, you can make a similar soup (it will just take a bit longer) by thoroughly blending all of the ingredients except the coconut milk in a blender until smooth, then heating it in a pot over medium-high heat until hot, turn down to simmer, stir in coconut milk and heat through. You can also make it vegan by omitting the fish sauce and adding a bit of soy sauce instead. By the way, the soup is excellent cold too--as I discovered eating some for breakfast this morning. A keeper recipe for sure.

Let's see who is in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week.

The lovely Graziana from Erbe in Cucina is back this week with a classic Stracciatella (Egg Soup) to share. She says, "I was on my way home during a cold morning, and I really needed a hot meal. More: hot and nourishing. And tasty too, of course. Uhm, maybe with an aromatic fresh herb from my garden... I remembered Stracciatella, a traditional Italian egg soup that I often ate as a child, when my mother served me with very small puffs. When I was a child, I admit that the puffs were the most exciting part of the dinner, but now this hot soup was all that I needed."

Chaya from Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog has two soups to share this week. The first is this Baked Potato Soup adapted from Paula Dean. She says, "This is the most phenomenal soup. It is smooth and creamy and rich in taste. We finished off the whole thing, in one sitting. I used Paula Dee’s recipe but cut back on some of the less healthy ingredients. The soup was hearty and warming on a cool night. The flavor was full-bodied and because of the vegetable broth, the color of the soup was golden. It passed all tests, visual, taste and texture."

Chaya follows that up with "The Swimming Salmon Soup". She says, "The idea for this soup came from elsewhere but as usual, I ended up miles away from the original. I started out, with the idea of make a salmon casserole with potatoes, mushrooms and spinach and I hope to do this, at another time. I ended up with soup with salmon swimming upstream against the noodles."

So happy to have my buddy Megan from My Baking Adventures here this week with her version of Ina Garten's Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup. Megan says, "This soup, easily made vegetarian by substituting beans for the chicken, was absolutely delicious. In fact, the kids each had a bowl after school today, while I took a 20 minute power nap on the sofa. I used my trusty slow cooker to poach the chicken, instead of roasting it – and used the resulting stock for the soup (a first for me!). I also pureed the soup with my stick blender, to avoid any issues with the kids about chunky stuff."

Let's welcome Iris from The Daily Dietribe, hailing from Brooklyn and joining us for the first time this week. Iris says, "I'd like to contribute my Vegetarian Soup For The Soul. It's a vegetarian, naturally gluten-free recipe that's low-fat, low-calorie, and tastes amazing! This soup tastes so good, I'm making another batch for dinner tonight. In fact, I can honestly say that this is my favorite soup that I've made so far." Nice to have you at Souper Sundays Iris!

Kait from Pots and Plots has a hearty, healthy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup this week to share. Kait says, "I’ve been on the search for a new veggie soup that’s not my usual tomato or roasted red pepper. Butternut squash seemed to be the ticket. I keep trying to find a way to eat it that I like (as my butternut squash oven fries didn’t turn out the way I liked), and I think I finally found it. This soup is light, creamy, and reminds me a bit of my zucchini chowder, but sweeter."

Natashya of Living in the Kitchen of Puppies has a lovely Cream of Broccoli Soup with Wild Mushrooms this week. She says, "I promise you that is not ketchup all over my cream of broccoli soup. I was trying to be fancy and puréed some roasted red peppers and drizzled them coulis-style all over the soup. Quite delicious, really a lovely addition to the already very tasty soup... and looks alarmingly like ketchup in the photo. Oh well. The soup is actually fairly light and delicate for a cream soup. I love the meatiness that the generous serving of mushrooms gives to the soup, making it more of a meal than a starter."

Lee Ann from Mangos, Chili and Z says about her combo this week, "We all know we have to do it every once in awhile. Get those noses out of the cookbooks and eyes off the food blogs. We have to stop looking for our next great creation and walk over to that refrigerator, drag out all that unused produce and use it up before it goes bad. Meet The Soup and The Salad. This is how I use up all of those vegetables. The soup is just a good old healthy vegetable soup and the easiest thing in the world to make and so flexible and variable. All you need is brothy liquid of your choice, tomatoey liquid, seasonings and vegetables. And the same theory for the salad. Use those greens that are sitting in the produce bin in the fridge. So there you have it, a delicious and healthy dinner in about 30 minutes."

And we have one sandwich this week, Joanne from Eats Well With Others has some zesty Texas Barbecue Sauce Pulled Pork on a Whole Wheat Bun to share. Joanne says, "You just actually can't get any better than pulled pork. In my opinion. It is my meat of choice. All day. All the time. For the rest of my life. I used the crockpot method but this time instead of using storebought barbecue sauce, I decided to make my own. No high fructose corn syrup crap for me. Instead, I made this Texas Barbecue Sauce Recipe from Bon Appetit. The only thing I changed was to use tomato sauce instead of ketchup (The smell of ketchup makes me gag. So there is no way it is allowed in my kitchen. Ever.) And it was fantastic. Just the right amount of sweet and spicy to make me swoon."

Some incredible soups, a soup-salad combo and even a delicious sammy! Thanks to all who participated in Souper Sundays this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich you would like to share, just click on the logo on the side bar for all the details.

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Apple-Orange-Hibiscus Infusion: An Afternoon Pick-Me-Up and "Simple Saturday Sipper"

For this week's "Simple Saturday Sipper" I was looking for a little something to perk me up in the middle of a long lecture/study session, so I tried this simple Apple-Orange-Hibiscus Infusion from a book called "Aromatic Teas and Herbal Infusions" by Laura Fronty. This tisane or infusion has no tea or caffeine but a delicious fruit flavor and the scent of the orange zest is very energizing. The book says: "If you need a pick-me-up when the day is getting a little long, try this tea instead of regular tea, especially if you tend to suffer from insomnia."

Apple-Orange-Hibiscus Infusion
"Aromatic Teas and Herbal Infusions" by Laura Fronty
(Makes 2 Cups)

Peel from 1/2 apple or a few cubes of dried apple
zest from oorganic orange
4 teaspoons hibiscus flowers
2 cups water

Finely dice apple peel and orange zest. Heat the teapot in advance and add the hibiscus, apple peel and orange zest. Add boiling water and let steep for at least 10 minutes. Sweeten to taste.

Notes/Results: A nice tangy-citrusy combination. I sweetened it with some local honey and also added some vanilla. (The author mentioned that vanilla, cinnamon or ginger could be added if desired). A good choice for afternoon or evening, it would be nice iced and the pretty dark pink color would make it fun for a shower, luncheon or child's tea party. I would make it again.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish & Stall-Style Minced Beef Stir-Fry for Cook the Books: "A Taste for Adventure"

Our first Cook the Books selection for 2010 is "A Taste For Adventure" by Anik See, hosted by the wonderful Rachel at The Crispy Cook. A delectable blend of travelogue, foodie memoir and cookbook (there are close to 40 recipes throughout the book), Anik See writes of her adventures around the world on a bicycle. Journeying to Malaysia, Singapore, Patagonia, Thailand, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Indonesia, Argentina, Iran, Mexico and Canada, See's
descriptions of the people she meets and the incredible food she shares with them are vivid and transport the reader to the many exotic places she visits. It was a fun book to read and I particularly enjoyed her chapters on Malaysia and Singapore and Thailand, three countries I traveled to frequently for business in a previous life. Although as a business traveler primarily (with a few pleasure trips thrown in on the side), I didn't have the same type of adventures and experiences See did but we did share the pleasure of wonderful food and incredible people. For my representation of the book I chose to journey to Thailand and cook two recipes, the first Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish (Tom Kamin Pla) from my own Thailand experience, and the second, Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry (Neua Pad Keemao) from the book.

One of my worst and best travel experiences happened on the same trip in Thailand where a long trip full of workshops in multiple countries with a co-worker was scheduled to end in Thailand with a long weekend on the island of Phuket. The bad part, I got the WORST case of food poisoning I have ever had. I won't go into all the details ;-) but I spent a miserable week flat on my back in the hotel room assuming I was going to die in Thailand and wishing it would happen already and end my suffering. (Yes, a bit dramatic but it was pretty bad!) By Friday I was at least able to hold down the crackers and 7-up the hotel doctor was making me eat, so my co-worker and I continued with our plans to relax in Phuket and arrived that afternoon to our hotel, Mom Tri's Boathouse. The kind people at the Boathouse took very good care of us and although I went to dinner the first night planning only on continuing my bread and 7-up, the waiter talked me into lemongrass tea, jasmine rice and a simple, clear turmeric soup with fish and mushrooms, that he felt would be good for my stomach. It might sound weird that it was my choice for my first real food in days, but it was delicious and I felt much better almost instantly. We were scheduled to take the hotel's weekend cooking class and I was feeling good enough to enjoy it. The chef Tummanoon Punchun was a kick--very funny and patient and our group was made up of people from all over the world. We bonded over food and even made a version of the soup I had eaten the night before. We all got a copy of "The Boathouse Cookbook" to take with us, signed by Punchun, the author-chef.

Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish (Tom Kamin Pla)
"The Boathouse Cookbook" by Chef Tummanoon Punchun
(Serves 4)

350 g (12 oz) fish (or chicken)
4 shallots, peeled
150 g (5 oz) turmeric root, peeled and roughly chopped
12 stalks lemon grass, outer skins removed
4 Tbsp chopped galangal
4 Tbsp chopped cilantro root
6 cups chicken stock
(added 1 can straw mushrooms, rinsed and drained)
4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
(added the juice of 1 lime and cilantro to garnish)

Slice the fish and set aside. In a food processor, blend together the shallots, turmeric, lemon grass, galangal and cilantro root to make a smooth paste. Heat the chicken stock, then add the herb and spice paste and bring to the boil. (Note: I simmered the herb paste in the broth for about 10 minutes, then poured it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any solids then brought it to a boil and added fish and a can of straw mushrooms). Add the chicken of fish and simmer until it is just cooked. Season with sugar and fish sauce, and serve immediately. (Note: I reduced the amount of fish sauce by 1/2, added the juice of one lime and garnished with chopped cilantro).

Notes/Results: Still delicious and although Tom Kha Gai (coconut soup with chicken) will always be my favorite Thai soup, this one brought back the good memories of the trip. A visit to the Thai store gave me everything I needed to make the soup, and it goes together easily. I did realize why I never make it though, making the paste in the food processor gives ample opportunity for getting yellow stains from the turmeric root all over. My dishwasher is hopefully removing most of them as I type this. If you make it, I recommend straining the solids from the broth before adding the fish as outlined in my notes in red on the recipe. It was fun to pull out the cookbook and my folder of notes from the class (I still have it almost 10 years later!), to make this recipe.

I wanted to try one of the Thai recipes from the book and since I love lettuce wraps, the Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry sounded great and easy too. I used ground bison in place of the minced beef and since I got a half head of green cabbage in my CSA box, I used wedges of it to "scoop" up the beef.

From the book: "The cart owner peers at me from under a large, conical straw hat, then, grinning, he grabs a piece of meat and places it on a chopping board so worn into concavity it could be used as a bowl. In a rapid staccato of metal on wood, he attacks the meat with two cleaver, mincing it in a matter of seconds. After he pours a bit of oil into the wok, he stirs it with a pair of chopsticks and with his other hand tosses in a constant stream of ingredients--garlic, chilis, shallots, lemongrass, chopped coriander and it's root, the minced beef. A sharp, spicy smell hits my nose and drifts around me. Deftly he adds some liquid, a bit of sugar, then lines a large plastic bowl with lettuce leaves. He spoons the beef into it and pushes it towards me, smiling, showing me how to take one of the lettuce leaves and fold it so it is sturdy enough to use as a spoon."

See says: "This is a popular late-night snack on the streets of Bangkok. Bird chilis, lemongrass, palm sugar, and rice wine are available at any Asian food market. Cilantro with its roots still attached should be easy to find there too."

Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry (Neua Pad Keemao)
"A Taste for Adventure" by Anik See
(Serves 4 as a snack)

2 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 bird chilis, fresh or dried, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 inches fresh lemongrass, chopped, or 2 Tbsp dried lemongrass
1/2 bunch cilantro, with roots, chopped
1 lb minced beef (I used bison)
1/2 cup beef stock or water
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine or sake
1 head lettuce, separated into leaves (I used cabbage instead)

Heat the oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, chilis, shallots and lemongrass and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro and beef and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, breaking up the beef as you stir. Add the stock, palm sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine. Bring everything to a boil and cook for another minute. Serve in bowls with lettuce on the side for scooping.

Notes/Results: This was delicious, nicely spicy with lots of layers of flavor. It's a bit spicy and a bit sweet with a nice little tang to it and its perfect scooped up on cold cabbage leaves (or lettuce if you want to use it). With all the liquid--stock, sake, soy sauce, it is different from the dry beef in most lettuce wraps or the larb (ground meet mixture) I get at my local Thai restaurant and I think it is a great alternative. I will make this one again.

Great food for a great book--that's what Cook The Books is all about. Thanks to Rachel for picking such a fun and interesting book for this round! Rachel will be posting a round-up of all the dishes from "A Taste for Adventure" at the Cook the Books site soon. BTW--I am hosting the next book, one of my favorites and a foodie classic, "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel. (We will be reading and posting a dish for this book by March 26th). If you want to join us and read or re-read this wonderful book, you can get all the Cook the Books details here at the CTB site.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Nigella Triple Threat: Pepper Seared Tuna, Vietnamese Dipping Sauce and Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds

This week is our monthly "Potluck" theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs and the chance to make any Nigella recipe that strikes our fancy. I wanted a recipe that was simple, healthy and tasted great and I found three--all from Nigella's "Forever Summer" cookbook. I love fresh local ahi tuna so the Pepper Seared Tuna was an easy choice. Nigella suggests dipping the tuna in the Vietnamese Dressing from her Shrimp and Black Rice Salad and so I decided to try it with a couple of small changes to reduce the sugar and make the flavor fit better into the meal. Finally I had been wanting to try the Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds and thought it would be perfect with the peppery tuna. Any changes I made are in red below.

Pepper Seared Tuna
"Forever Summer" Nigella Lawson (pg 86-87)
Serves 8 as a Starter)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon prepared English mustard
18-ounces sashimi-quality tuna fillet cut in a log of even thickness at either end
3–4 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed roughly in a pestle and mortar

To Serve:
cucumber, cut into slender batons
a few scallions, cut into short lengths and then into fine strips

In a small bowl mix the oil and mustard, and use a pastry brush to paint it on the tuna. Roll the tuna in the crushed peppercorns so that the long sides of the log are covered, but the ends are not.

Heat a dry frying pan until it’s very hot and cook the tuna on all the long sides, searing the fish to about 1/4-inch in a circle around the edge. You’ll be able to see how much of it’s cooked, because the ruby flesh will turn brown and the depth of the ring, if you see what I mean, will be evident from the uncoated round ends. Take out of the pan immediately and cool on a plate.

With a sharp knife cut into the finest slices you can and serve with the cucumber and scallions and soy, dipping sauce, wasabi, as you please.

Vietnamese (Fusion) Dressing
"Forever Summer" Nigella Lawson (pg 75)

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 fresh Thai birdeye chillies or other red chilies, finely sliced (used sambal oelek paste)
aprox. 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, finely minced
4 tablespoons fish sauce (Used 3 Tbsp tamari sauce and 1 Tbsp fish sauce)
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (Used 1/2 Tbsp agave syrup)

To make the sauce, simply mix all the ingredients together. It doesn't get much less complicated than that, frankly.

Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds
"Forever Summer" Nigella Lawson (pg 48-49)
(Serves 4 as part of a meal or 2 when eaten, gratifyingly, as they are)

1/3 cup sesame seeds
8 oz soba noodles
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
5 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
5 scallions

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a high heat until they look golden brown, and tip them into a bowl.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt.
(I didn't add any salt--you rinse the noodles anyway). Put in the soba noodles and cook them for about 6 minutes (or according to packet instructions) until they are tender but not mushy. Have a bowl of iced water waiting to plunge them into after draining.

In the bowl you are going to serve them in, mix the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oil. Then finely slice the scallions and put them into the bowl with the cooled, drained noodles and mix together thoroughly before adding the sesame seeds and tossing again.

Leave the sesame seed noodles for about half an hour to let the flavors develop, although this is not absolutely necessary or sometimes even possible.

Notes/Results: Everything was delicious--I liked each dish and it all worked really well together. The meal goes together very quickly--the most time is spent grinding the pepper and chopping the onions. Even with just a thin layer of pepper, the tuna is very peppery-spicy which I like, and the noodles provide a nice, cooling contrast to it. If you don't like it so peppery a good option is to mix some sesame seeds and pepper together to cut down the heat. I wanted the dressing/dipping sauce for the tuna to compliment the dressing on the noodles so I reduced the amount of fish sauce in it and replaced it with a low sodium tamari (fermented soy sauce). I also replaced the sugar with a lesser amount of agave. The noodles are pretty perfect as is--the dressing and toasted sesame seeds go really nicely with the buckwheat soba, and I like it even better than the peanut or almond butter sauced cold noodles I normally make. The only change I made was not to salt the cooking water of the noodles as you rinse them in cold water anyway, and the soy sauce makes them salty enough. I will make all three of these recipes again.

You can see what the other IHCC members selected as their "Potluck" creations by going to the IHCC site here and following the links.