Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Book Tour Stops Here: "The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted" with Salade de Pâtes Fraîches aux Herbes (Fresh Herb Pasta Salad) & a Giveaway!

"Every woman needs one lost summer in her life. This is yours." So says Heidi's mother in order to push her to travel to Provence and check on the generations-old family cottage that suffered a kitchen fire, but more importantly, to bring her back to the land of the living. It's been two years since Heidi's husband and soulmate Henry was killed in a tragic car accident and Heidi is (just barely) going through the motions of living. She needs to pull it together and find a way to heal her broken heart, if not for herself then for her young son. So Heidi, son Abbot and her teenage niece Charlotte head for the tiny village of Puyloubier in the south of France, to restore the house that is rumored to mend broken hearts.

"The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted" by Bridget Asher is a beautifully-written novel that tugs at the heartstrings, it is in turns--sweet, romantic, sad and hopeful. Heidi struggles to deal with her devastating loss, seven year-old Abbot desperately misses his father and is challenged by his obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and wise-beyond-her-sixteen-years Charlotte has pain over a secret she is hiding. All three are in need of the healing power of family, friends, love, and a crumbling old house in need of a bit of healing itself. Asher's descriptive prose had me reveling in the feeling of the the warm summer air, the smell of the flowers and vineyards, seeing the beautiful French countryside, and tasting the delicious food and pastries. My only real complaint is that the end of the story seemed to come much too quickly, especially when so much time was spent setting up the story. I wanted more time and more details about the characters in the wrap up. But still a very charming and heartwarming read overall.

As is my habit when reviewing books on this blog, I wanted to cook a dish inspired by the book so I dug through my cookbook shelves and pulled out my copy of "Chez Nous: Home Cooking From the South of France" by Lydie Marshall. There I found a pasta salad recipe full of flavorful tarragon, chives and parsley that intrigued me. (Could it have been the capers that drew me in?) ;-) It sounded like something fresh and lovely that Heidi might have enjoyed, cooked by neighbor Véronique, for dinner in the book.

Salade de Pâtes Fraîches aux Herbes (Fresh Herb Pasta Salad)
From "Chez Nous" by Lydie Marshall
(Serves 8)

Marshall says, "I serve this herb vinaigrette with dishes other than pasta; it's perfect for poached or grilled fish, steamed new potatoes, cold chicken, etc."

2 hard-boiled eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon drained capers
fresh egg pasta, cut into fettuccine or angel hair
freshly ground black pepper

Dice the cooked egg-whites.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the egg yolks, mustard, herbs, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt, occasionally scraping the work bowl. With the motor running, dribble the vinegar and oil through the chute.

Pour the dressing into a large bowl, add the capers and the egg whites. Set aside. In a large kettle, boil several quarts of salted water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 minute.

Drain and toss the pasta in the dressing. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Taste and correct seasoning.

Notes/Results: Full of fresh herbal flavors, this is not a dish for the flavor-shy! Between the garlic, mustard, capers and the assertive taste of the fresh herbs this pasta dish packs a strong punch. I really enjoyed the creamy sauce with the diced egg whites and salty tang of the capers and the tarragon really stands out. I ended up serving this over fresh egg fettuccine noodles and alongside some shrimp cooked in olive oil and herbes de provence (a little trick I learned from Giada), which paired very nicely with it. A glass of white wine and a simple green salad, and I could imagine myself in the French country side. It is an easy recipe, pretty to look at, and the sauce would be wonderful on fish too so I will definitely be making it again.

Book Giveaway!

The publisher will be providing 1 copy of "The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted" to a lucky U.S. book lover!

I will be randomly drawing one winner from all of the applicable comments.

How To Enter:
It's very simple! Just leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite food or place to go when your heart needs some healing. (Make sure you leave me a way to contact you either by blog or e-mail in case you win!)

Note: This giveaway is open to US residents only. (Sorry to my International readers.)

Deadline to enter is midnight (Hawaii time) on Tuesday, April 5, 2011.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: Review and giveaway copies of this book were provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours but I was not compensated for this review or influenced by anyone--as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

For more blogger feedback on this book you can check out the other Book Tour Stops for "The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted" here.

Finally, such a great pasta dish has to be sent to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder Ruth at Once Upon A Feast. Stop by her blog on Friday to check out her round up of some incredible pasta dishes.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review & Recipe: "The 4-Hour Body" by Timothy Ferriss and "On the Go Hummus"

When I was given the chance to review "The 4-Hour body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman" by Timothy Ferriss, a few months ago, I wasn't expecting almost 600 pages of how-to's on to transform myself and become "superhuman." The book's size was somewhat intimidating, and it sat on my shelf for weeks until I finally opened it up and read "Rule #1: Think of This Book as a Buffet" where the author instructs the reader not to read the book from beginning to end, but to instead pick the chapters that are most relevant to them and just read those. Whew! ;-)

Author Ferriss, author of the business best-seller "The 4-Hour Work Week," states clearly that he isn't neither a doctor nor a Ph.d, but instead "a meticulous data cruncher with access to many of the world' best athletes and scientists." I would also venture to say that he is just a little bit crazy too, spending 10 years and more than $250,000 to test every workout, diet, supplement, and health fad he could find on himself to find the ones that work with the least amount of effort and time. Throughout his journey, Ferriss worked with more than 100 experts-- doctors, scientists, Olympic athletes, and different specialists, and tested his results for 3 years with over 200 volunteers, male and female.

His Result: The book states that you will learn (in less than 30 minutes each):
  • How to lose 20 lbs in 30 days (without exercise) on the ubersimple Slow-Carb Diet
  • How to prevent fat gain while bingeing on holiday meals
  • How to increase fat-loss 300% with a few bags of ice
  • How to sleep 2 hours per day and feel fully rested
  • How to produce 15-minute female orgasms (yikes I just said orgasm on my blog!) ;-)
  • How to triple testosterone and double sperm count
  • How to go from running 5 kilometers to 50 kilometers in 12 weeks
  • How to reverse "permanent" injuries
  • How to add 150+ pounds to your lifts in 6 months.

10 Surprising Tips from "The 4-Hour Body"
  • To increase fat burning up to 300%, drink at least 500 ml (about 17 oz) of ice water on an empty stomach immediately upon waking, follow with a 5-minute cold shower, and place an ice pack on the back of your neck for 30 minutes while watching TV in the evening.
  • Eat within one hour, ideally 30 minutes, of waking to increase fat-loss. One subject went from approximately 5 lbs. of loss per month to more than 17 lbs. per month with this one change, based on a few protein-rich foods.
  • Pig out on junk food one day a week to lose weight. This will ensure that your metabolic rate (thyroid, hormone, etc.) doesn't downshift from extended calories restriction.
  • On these scheduled "binge" days, drink yerba mate tea so food will exit your stomach faster and add less fat to your waist line. Lime juice or wedges can be timed for more effect.
  • Add cinnamon to your pastries to increase your insulin sensitivity and minimize fat gain.
  • Consume three tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice just prior to meals to lower your blood sugar peaks by approximately 10%.
  • Eat two tablespoons of raw almond butter before bedtime to make even four hours of sleep feel like eight hours.
  • Take a cold bath one hour prior to bed for a good night's sleep (faster time to sleep).
  • To increase your sex drive, eat three to four hard-boiled eggs the night before sex and Brazil nuts and raw almonds a few hours before.
  • Increase your step cadence to help you jog farther with less effort.

"The 4-Hour Body" says that it isn't a "diet book or a fitness book." Ferris writes that instead. "It's a manifesto, a call to arms for a new mental model of living: the experimental lifestyle. It's up to you to learn what your body best responds to."

Does it work? Good question! As you know, I am not a doctor myself and I am also not one to put much stock in quirky tips and special diets and promises for quick results as I think it is hard to sustain them for a healthy long-term lifestyle. That being said, there are parts that do seem to make sense while some are a little (or more than a little) out there. Remember I said that this book sat on my shelf for many weeks? Well, I finally pulled it back out after a good friend raved about needing to buy new jeans after a couple of weeks following just some of the rapid fat-loss tips from the book. She was pretty sold, and that made the "Rapid Fat Loss" section of the book the part of the "buffet" that I took a closer look at.

Some of the rules and tips were already things I was doing (at least part of the time) -- like avoiding "white" carbohydrates, and not "drinking your calories." Others like not eating fruit (due to the fructose/sugar) and eating the same few meals over and over again (difficult for a food blogger), aren't so workable for me. I think eating within 1 hour of waking, preferably within 30 minutes makes sense. Taking daily cold baths and cold showers and putting an ice packs on the back of your neck for 30 minutes a night... well that just makes me cold and kind of grumpy! ;-) I didn't end up being committed enough to follow things through for a complete test but the book (or at least sections I covered in the book) is interesting and gave me some things to think about and possibly try. It doesn't seem like there is anything in it that would be especially harmful, but I will likely stick to my current ongoing healthy lifestyle plan to continue to reduce those extra "blogging pounds" that creep up occasionally. Still "The 4-Hour Body" is entertaining--just reading about the experiments Ferriss went through in his quest is fun and some are pretty fascinating, so it was worth a "buffet-style" read.

There are a handful of recipes in the book from Ferriss and others. Since I like to cook something related to the book to accompany my book reviews, I chose the "On the Go Hummus." I have my basic favorite hummus go-to recipe but found the lack of olive oil and addition of tamari (fermented soy sauce) in this one were interesting.

"On The Go Hummus"
From "The 4-Hour Body" by Timothy Ferris
(Serves 6-8)

3 cups garbanzo beans
3 Tbsp tahini
3 Tbsp tamari
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup lemon, lime or orange juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 -1/2 cup water

Process all ingredients except water in blender or food processor. Add a small amount of water at a time to keep ingredients moving in blender or processor, as needed.

The book says, "Great with tortillas or pita and laced with kalamata olives for trailside lunch on those long runs. For a great sandwich add slices of red bell pepper, tomatoes, and choice of salad greens."

Notes/Results: It won't replace my favorite hummus but it was still pretty tasty. I did add a bit more cumin to it, and some extra lemon (I used orange juice for my quarter cup of juice, but ended up adding about 2 extra tablespoons of lemon juice to the mix), to give it a bit more flavor but the consistency was creamy and you do cut down on calories omitting the olive oil. As a veggie dip or sandwich spread it worked well.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: I was sent this book free of charge from the publisher but was not obligated to review it and my thoughts, experience and opinion of the book are entirely my own.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chickpea, Leek and Parmesan Soup: Something Soul-Filling for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays and to Welcome Jamie Oliver

...Ahh, soup... it can be so warming, soul-filling, and welcoming. I am all about that soupy goodness. I realized as I was typing up this post that this is 150th soup recipe that I am posting here at Kahakai Kitchen. Pretty amazing, right?! 128 of them for Souper Sundays and 22 before I started up this weekly soup (and salad & sandwiches too) event. So since soup is "my thang" -- it seemed only fitting to usher in our newest chef at I Heart Cooking Clubs, Jamie Oliver, with a hug in a bowl. Sure, I am a day early as Jamie's six-month reign at IHCC actually starts on Monday, but a warming bowl of Jamie's Chickpea, Leek & Parmesan Soup is an excellent way to kick off his welcome.

Jamie with leeks ;-)

This soup is from "Soup Kitchen"--edited by Annabel Buckingham and Thomasina Miers, which is a collection of soup recipes from famous chefs (most are from the UK--although several International chefs and restaurateurs are in the book too), like Nigella Lawson, Jill Dupleix, Donna Hay, Delia Smith and of course Jamie Oliver. The soups are arranged by season and there is also a section on "all-year-round soups" where this one can be found. It's a very simple soup--chickpeas, leeks, garlic, thyme and potatoes simmered in chicken stock and topped with a bit of freshly-grated Parmesan. I did make a few changes, in red below.

Chickpea, Leek & Parmesan Soup
by Jamie Oliver from "Soup Kitchen"
(Serves 4)

2 medium leeks
15g (I Tbsp) butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped (I used 3)
1 handful fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 (400 g / 14 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used 2 cans)
600 ml (about 2.5 cups) chicken stock (I used a quart of stock)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used 3 smallish Yukon Golds)
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan

Trim the outside of the leeks back then cut off any coarse green tops and discard them. Cut the leeks in half lengthways and slice the halves into fine shreds. Put the chopped leeks in a colander and rinse thoroughly under running water, removing any dirt.

In a large saucepan, gently heat the butter and add the garlic, leeks, and thyme leaves. Put the lid on the pot and slowly cook until soft without coloring.

Add the chickpeas to the leeks with the chicken stock and potatoes. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for half and hour or so until the potatoes are well cooked. If the soup is too thick, loosen it with a little boiling water.

Break up the chickpeas and pieces of potato to thicken it slightly. Season carefully with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and pour into hot bowls. Top with a splash of olive oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes/Results: Hearty and delicious--the simple ingredients work really well together with the thyme seasoning the vegetables and complementing the slight sweetness of the leeks. It's "dead good" as Jamie Oliver would say. ;-) It goes together easily, just a little chopping and simmering and the kitchen smells heavenly while it's cooking. I did add extra broth, garlic, chickpeas and potato to the soup but kept the basic flavors the same. Jamie instructs breaking up the chickpeas and potatoes to thicken the soup so I took a couple passes through with the immersion blender. You could of course use veggie stock to make a vegetarian version but I had homemade organic chicken stock to use up anyway, which adds so much delicious flavor.

To serve, I made Spanish-inspired pan con tomate (tomato bread) by brushing some slices of seeded baguette with olive oil and toasting them in the grill pan. Next, I rubbed the toasts with a cut garlic glove and then the cut side of a ripe tomato and sprinkled them with a little sea salt. The brightness of the tomatoes add a nice contrast to the soup and the toasts are perfect for dipping. A simple, rustic dinner. Welcome Jamie!

(BTW: It is even better warmed up the next day. I am eating it for breakfast now. ...Yes, I eat soup for breakfast too--told you I loves me some soupy goodness) ;-)

I'm linking this soup to the "Let's Get Naked!" (Welcome Jamie Oliver post) at IHCC here. Stop by and you'll see what dishes everyone made to welcome the Naked Chef. ;-)

Now let's see who wandered into the Souper Sundays kitchen this week and what delicious dishes they brought with them.

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a healthy Napa Cabbage Hulled Barley Soup this week and says, "Currently, we are experiencing wintry weather as a way to welcome Spring. What a damper! And staying home to cook a hearty soup is my way to welcome the rain, winds and Spring. ...Practice makes perfect. I think I am getting better at creating tasty vegetarian dishes. Nah, vegetarian dishes are not bland. In fact, they can be flavorsome and delicious...ahem...speaking from this non-vegetarian here."

Lovely Corina of Searching for Spice is here with a Asian Style Potato and Coriander Soup. She says, "The weather might be getting a little warmer but it’s still quite cold in the evenings here. Not quite time to swap soups for salads and this soup is filling enough to eat as a main meal. You could even add some beans to bulk it out a bit and add protein. One of the reasons I love this soup so much is all the fresh coriander it contains. Yes, I’m still loving fresh coriander."

Debbi of Debbie Does Dinner... Healthy & Low Calorie tried a Southwestern Creamy Chicken Soup and says, "Everyone loved this soup. Loved, loved, loved. It was thick, warm and creamy. 95 degrees, humid and in the sun and I would still enjoy this soup. I can't wait to make it again!" And believe it or not, it's diet-friendly, Debbie says "1 1/2 cups of Southwestern Cream of Chicken Soup = 396 calorie dinner."

Umm from Taste of Pearl City has a beautifully-hued Curried Pumpkin Soup to share this week and says, "This is a bit of different soup to my usual ones. I always go for English style of soup with just vegetables and stock. This time I made with a combination of lentils and pumpkin with some mild spices. I would have left just with lentil and pumpkin and made it like a Indian style sambhar, but since I was looking for a rich smooth consistency, I pureed it after cooking .The type of lentils which I have used is moongdhal. Moongdhal marries well with pumpkin, particularly when it is pureed, the consistency of the soup is perfect with crusty rolls and you'll love the flavours in it."

We have three new faces to welcome at Souper Sundays this week. First is Aruna from Veggie Paradise... and joining us all the way from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Aruna brings a Creamy & Cheesy Cauliflower Soup and says, "Cheesy,Creamy Cauliflower Soup as the name says this is definitely a delicious soup. Undoubtedly the kids will love this a lot as we are adding grated cheese in it :). This is a simple soup which has a rich taste. ... Sprinkle some pepper and enjoy :)" Welcome Aruna!

Our second newbie is Krista from The Beet Reporter, blogging from Washington, DC and here with a Ginger-Infused Egg Drop Soup. She says, "I’ve been feeling a little under the weather lately (and the weather itself has been gloomy and rainy) and for me soup is the ultimate comfort food. ... I prepared a big batch of the ginger soup broth to store in the fridge and heat up on the stove as I needed it throughout the week. Once it’s lightly simmering, crack an egg over it and stir in the egg whites for one minute and it’s good to go." Welcome to Souper Sundays Krista!

Our final first-timer is Pattie from St. Louis, blogging at Olla-Podrida. Pattie made a Spicy Sausage and Potato Soup and says, "It's hard to imagine waking up near the end of March and seeing five inches of snow on the ground, at least where we live, so inasmuch as springtime normally doesn't have me thinking about thick, hearty soups, today certainly did. In digging through the fridge I found the remainder of a package of andouille sausages that we'd bought for making jambalaya and remembered that I'd printed out a recipe for an andouille and potato soup, so decided to give it a try." Welcome Patti!

Three salads this week. From Janet at The Taste Space, Symphonic Bean Salad, (read her post for the fun origins of the name!), made to avoid eating out on a recent trip. Janet says, "I really liked it. It is not your typically sweet, oily bean salad. It is light and fresh. It travels well, through US customs without problems. If it weren’t for a slightly leaky lid, it would have been fool-proof. No worries since I wrapped it in a plastic bag to spare my clothes. And who thought food porn in a hotel, with their plates, would look so gorgeous?"

Kim from Stirring the Pot is working on getting into short and tank top shape for spring and finding lighter, healthy recipes like this fruit-filled White Rabbit Salad from Mollie Katzen. Kim says, "...I really enjoyed this salad, both deconstructed and in it's parfait form. It's got a very nice contrast of flavors and textures and makes for a wonderful and healthy snack or breakfast. The first time I served the salad somewhat deconstructed on top of a cantaloupe wedge. The second time I mixed it all together, following the recipe, and served it in parfait glasses. Loved it!"

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes has a healthy new favorite to share this week, Watercress Salad with Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi. She says, "Just when you think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, something like this recipe arrives. See…I love beef salads. Give me a salad, add a perfectly cooked piece of beef, sliced enticingly on the top, and I am in heaven. So, it stands to reason, why have I never thought to do this with fish? Why, indeed. This is genius. A fish salad. Who knew?"

And one gorgeously decadent sandwich to finish up the round up, Giada's Chocolate, Brie and Basil Panini adapted by girlichef. She says, "This is a seemingly odd combination... chocolate and brie together. In a sandwich. With basil, I might add. ... So, which list do you think this panini made it onto? Actually, the "good" list. I would, however, cut back a bit on the suggested amount of chocolate...and add to the amount of cheese (which are reflected in the lower and higher amounts in the ingredients I listed, respectively). I may not make it all that often, but I have a feeling a craving could creep up on me from time to time."

Wonderful warming soups, three healthy salads and one unique sandwich treat this week. Thanks to everyone who joined in and welcome to our new faces. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar or tab under the header for all of the guidelines and details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Salmon with Lemon, Capers & Rosemary and Arugula-Walnut Pesto Fettuccine to Say "Arrivederci Giada!"

This week after six-months of cooking with Giada De Laurentiis at I Heart Cooking Clubs it is time to say "Arrivederci Giada!" as we move on to chef Jamie Oliver next week. Although not everyone clicked with Giada, she and I worked well together and turned out some pretty great dishes. (Just click on the Giada De Laurentiis label on my side bar to see what all we cooked.) I have been on a salmon kick lately (large Costco bag of wild salmon fillets in my freezer), and Giada has plenty of easy salmon dishes to choose from like this recipe that I can't believe I didn't stumble over before, Salmon with Lemon, Capers & Rosemary. Yep, it has my name written all over it and is the perfect Giada dish for me to end on.

This recipes comes from an episode of Everyday Italian called "Summer Beach Party" and Giada cooks the salmon in its individual foil packets outside on a grill. I chose to cook my little foil salmon packets in the oven. I decided to pair the bright, sunny flavors of the fish with a non-Giada recipe, Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Arugula-Walnut Pesto from a recipe I clipped out of Fine Cooking magazine. I had a good amount of leftover local baby arugula that I didn't want to go to waste and the peppery pesto sounded like a good match.

This is a quick and easy dinner to put together--put the salmon in the oven, the pasta on to boil and the pesto in the food processor and in less than 30 minutes you have a delicious meal chock full of those wonderful Omega-3's from the salmon and the walnuts. ;-)

You can find the salmon recipe at Food Network here.

Salmon with Lemon, Capers & Rosemary
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
(Serves 4)

4 (6-oz) salmon fillets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
8 lemon slices (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup Marsala wine (or white wine) (I used white wine)
4 tsps capers (I used extra capers of course!)

4 pieces of aluminum foil

Brush top and bottom of salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place each piece of seasoned salmon on a piece of foil large enough to fold over and seal. Top the each piece of salmon with 2 lemon slices, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of wine, and 1 teaspoon of capers. Wrap up salmon tightly in the foil packets.

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Place the foil packets on the hot grill and cook for 10 minutes for a 1-inch thick piece of salmon. Serve in the foil packets.

Note: I just cooked my foil packets on a pan in the oven at 400 F. for about 20 minutes and it was cooked perfectly for me.


You can find the pesto recipe at the Fine Cooking website here.

Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Arugula-Walnut Pesto
Courtesy of Fine Cooking April/May 2006
(Serves 4-6)

4 oz. arugula, washed and spun dry (about 3 lightly packed cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano; more for sprinkling
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
Kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 lb. dried fettuccine (I used whole wheat)

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, put the arugula, Parmigiano, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 tsp. salt into a food processor, and process until the mixture is finely ground, 30 to 60 seconds. In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil and walnut oil. With the food processor running, drizzle the oil through the feed tube, and process the mixture until mostly smooth.

Cook the fettuccine in the boiling water until it’s al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain. In a medium bowl, toss the fettuccine with enough of the pesto to generously coat the pasta. Serve sprinkled with extra Parmigiano, if desired.

Notes/Results: I think Salmon with Lemon, Capers and Rosemary pretty much says it all. ;-) Cooked in the lemon juice and wine, the salmon is tender and juicy and has excellent flavor--salmon and foil packets are made for each other. I was worried the pesto might be too peppery/bitter but between the Parmesan and the walnut oil, it mellowed out nicely, was quite tasty, and it paired really well with the salmon. Two healthy and satisfying dishes that I will make again.

You can check out how the other IHCC participants said Arrivederci Giada! by going to the post here and following the links.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Papaya-Banana Muffins with Pineapple Cream Cheese: Going Tropical for Cook the Books: "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"

Cook the Books, the best virtual foodie book club (and yes, as a co-host of the club and the host for this round, I admit to just a bit of bias), is setting sail for the tropics with author Ann Vanderhoof and her descriptive foodie-travelogue, "An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude." Of course since it is Cook the Books, we are stopping to enjoy some delicious Caribbean food and libations along the way.

In the late-1990's, Vanderhoof and her husband Steve rented out their Toronto, Canada home and set sail on their 42-foot sailboat, the Receta. They spent two years traveling to sixteen island countries in the Caribbean, enjoying the beauty of the islands, the people and the delectable food. Vanderhoof's colorful descriptions made me feel as if I were experiencing the journey with her and since I suffer from mild claustrophobia and I am not very "sea-worthy" this is the closest to two-years on a sail boat I will likely ever get. ;-) Although much of the trip is truly an escape to paradise, Vanderhoof doesn't avoid describing the challenges along the way from the weather, the boat, and other forces that come up. This is a fun, light read that will transport you from where ever you are to the Caribbean. The descriptions of the amazing island-style food and drink, along with the many recipes included, will have you drooling as you devour each chapter.

There were many recipes to choose from in the book but I kept going back to the Papaya-Banana Muffins. I am really a mango girl but they run to seasons, so I can't eat the local ones that are worth eating year-round. Local papaya on the other hand is usually readily available, but I never find myself doing much more than eating half with a squeeze of lime and sometimes a scoop of yogurt or cottage cheese for breakfast. I loved the idea of baking it, along with the banana into tropical muffins. I thought it would be fun to have some kind of fruity spread to smear on the muffins and found a recipe for Pineapple Cream Cheese in a Caribbean cookbook that I picked up on a business trip to Puerto Rico. With the papaya and banana in the muffins and the fresh pineapple and lime in the cream cheese spread, I had a heavenly tropical fruit fest going on--perfect for breakfast on the lanai or an afternoon snack.

Vanderhoof says, "This recipe is a solution to the problem of too much tropical fruit. These muffins have lovely color and flavor, and are nice and moist."

Papaya-Banana Muffins
by Ann Vanderhoof for "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"
(Makes 12) Actually made 9 for me ;-)

1 2/3 cups flour (I used light spelt flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (+ I added 1/4 tsp cinnamon)
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar (I reduced to 1/2 cup organic sugar)
1 cup mashed ripe papaya
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (1 large banana)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. and grease a medium-sized muffin pan or line it with muffin papers.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Beat egg with oil, sugar, and mashed papaya and banana in a large bowl. Mix in dry ingredients and walnuts (if using). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pan. Bake in preheated oven for 18-23 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Ann's Tips:
  • If the papaya is quite ripe, it will yield a lot of liquid when mashed. Drain off this excess liquid before adding the fruit.
  • You can make the muffins entirely with papaya if you like; just increase the quantity to 1 1/2 cups. The muffins will have a slightly moister texture and a flatter top.

Pineapple Cream Cheese
"A Taste of the Caribbean Cookbook" by Angela Spenceley
(Makes about 1 1/4 cups)

1/2 cup fresh-diced pineapple
just of 1 lime
1/2 tsp lime zest (I used the zest of the entire lime)
6 oz cream cheese (I used vegan cream cheese)

Fold the pineapple, lime juice and zest into the cream cheese with a pastry cutter or fork.

Notes/Results: Wonderful, moist and flavorful muffins--like a more complex banana muffin, and lightly flecked with the orange papaya. They are excellent on their own and topped with the Pineapple Cream Cheese they are amazing. I used up some light spelt flour that I had on hand in these and reduced the sugar since my papaya and banana (I used two smaller apple bananas) were very ripe and sweet. I left out the nuts and added some cinnamon because I like it with my nutmeg. One note--I filled my muffin cups about 3/4 full and only ended up with nine muffins instead of a dozen--so fill them less I guess if you want the full dozen. The Pineapple Cream Cheese is a revelation--the pineapple and lime are like a little party on the tongue--Yum! I had some leftover Tofutti vegan cream cheese so I used it and it was fabulous--soft and creamy and full of fruit flavor. Living here in Hawaii I like to have fun treats around when I have house guests staying with me--things like lilikoi butter for toast, mango jam, or different tropical fruits to try, so both of these recipes will be made again and again.

Our deadline for reading and posting a dish for "An Embarrassment of Mangoes" is this Friday, March 25th. As host, I'll be doing a round up of all the entries over the weekend at the Cook the Books site and then our judge for this round, our wonderful author Ann Vanderhoof, will be selecting her favorite entry. If you didn't get a chance to join in this round, our April/May pick is "Lunch in Paris" by Elizabeth Bard and will be hosted by Johanna of Food Junkie Not Junk Food.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Creamy Artichoke (& Potato) Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays & "Spud Week"

It's "Spud Week" over at I Heart Cooking Clubs and we are cooking up Giada recipes with potatoes in them. The artichokes hold the starring role in her Creamy Artichoke Soup but the potatoes are a strong supporting player--giving the soup its thick and velvety texture.

I did make a few changes to the recipe. Giada uses chicken stock and mascarpone in her soup but I felt like making my version vegan and used low-sodium veggie stock and vegan cream cheese instead. I also used three cloves of garlic instead of the one clove called for and swapped out the frozen artichoke hearts for the ones canned in water already in my pantry which work just as well.

You can find the recipe at the Food Network site here.

Creamy Artichoke Soup
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 4 Servings)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, washed well and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 (8-oz) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and the garlic and stir. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the artichokes, stock, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches, puree the soup. Add the 2 tablespoons mascarpone and blend again to combine. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/3 cup mascarpone to soften.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Dollop the top of each of the soups with a spoonful of the softened mascarpone cheese and top the cheese with chives.

Notes/Results: A very creamy and tasty soup. At the base it is a potato-leek soup but the artichoke hearts add a great tangy taste and the cheese (in this case Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese) adds a slightly sweet creaminess that gives it more a sophisticated edge. (BTW: Although I made this vegan, I doubt that anyone would be able to tell the swap outs--it is still a very rich and decadent-tasting soup and the chicken stock and mascarpone were not missed). This soup is very easy and quick to make--in less than 30 minutes you have a great starter to a spring dinner party or a light lunch. One note--I did find the soup just a bit too thick for my liking when I first pureed it--probably due to the size of potato I used--which was a bit on the medium-large size. An easy fix was about 1/3 cup of unsweetened coconut milk blended in and it was perfectly silky and satisfying. I would make this again.

You can check out how the other IHCC participants showed their Spud Week love by going to the post here and following the links.

Let's see who ended up in the Souper Sunday kitchen on this first official day of spring.

Debbi from Debbi Does Dinner... Healthy & Low Calorie made a warming Beef Stew with Butternut Squash & Chickpeas and says, "Have I mentioned my love of butternut squash and chickpeas? I'm sure I have. I now buy chickpeas in bulk. Is that wrong? I can't tell you how often I'm making something and it crossed my mind "I should add a can of chickpeas to this!" Just wait until I make chickpea cookies!"

My good friend girlichef has two recipes to share this week--a soup and a sandwich (see her sammie entry below). About her Beef and Guinness Stew, she says, "Irish eyes are definitely smiling on me today. Skies are bright and clear with temps near 60° and heading upwards for tomorrow! I'm armed with a case of Guinness and a six-pack of Smithwick's...a pot of Beef and Guinness Stew...a half a loaf of rye...homemade corned beef...and spuds and cabbage galore. I'm off to track leprechauns and pots of gold...explore sparse patches of grass for four leaf a jig. I can feel that trickle of Irish blood that flows through my veins pumping hard today."

Please join me in welcoming Mary Katherine from MK's Kitchen who joins us at Souper Sundays for the first time this week. Here with a Roasted Cauliflower and Brussel Sprout Soup with Crispy Canadian Bacon, she says, "...I had a thought...I wonder what cauliflower and brussel sprouts would taste like together in a soup? I love them roasted together in the oven with some carrots and sweet potatoes, so why not pureed in a soup? I must say with the addition of the yogurt and the walnuts at the end, plus the added saltiness and texture from the canadian bacon - it made for a pretty tasty (and healthy) combination! Along with a simple salad, it provided a great hearty meal on a cold, rainy night."

Another new face to welcome is Shu Han from Mummy, I can cook!, who blogs from Singapore and London, here with Naked Broccoli Soup. Shuhan says, "I'm sure we've all had our own fair share of broccoli and stilton soups, and while I love the savoury richness of cheese with broccoli, I want to really celebrate the flavour of broccoli. This velvety soup has nothing but broccoli in it, no cream, no potato, no stock, no caramelised shallots. It really is just broccoli. But believe me, it's definitely not lacking in flavour or texture. I was doubtful too when I first saw Gordon Ramsay share this recipe, but I tried it, and I love it, and once again, he's a genius."

Shri from Tiffin Carrier Antic/que's! made a healthy and filling Simple Vegetable Soup packed full of good ingredients. Shri says, "This is a simple vegetable soup with thin Japanese Somen noodles. Simply toasted, leftover ciabatta became croutons. Boiled egg slices from breakfast added to this lunch bowl. Dried red chilli flakes and fresh coriander sprigs garnished this dish."

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes is back this week with a flavorful Balsamic Mushroom and Goat Cheese Salad and says, "This was amazing. Beyond amazing. One of those dishes where the output is exponentially greater than the work put into it. Make this. You will not be disappointed. Note: she calls for goat’s curd, which I have no idea what that is, so I just used goat cheese also she called for an assortment of mushrooms, I just used 4 portabellos that I had handy. Also, she tells you to toss the goat cheese, I didn’t, I scattered it on as I served it because cheese must be equally distributed in our house – it’s a rule."

Janet from The Taste Space has a salad in a sandwich this week with her Artichoke and Spinach Rice Paper Rolls with Lemon Rosemary Baked Tofu. Janet says, "So, the first day, I assembled the ingredients into fresh rice paper rolls. The next day, I deconstructed the roll into a salad. I just stuffed the spinach, red pepper, tofu and dip together in a container and brought it to work as a salad. The dip was silky enough to coat the spinach as a dressing. The tofu made it a satisfying main meal. And while I didn’t photograph it as a salad, that was probably my preferred, least stressful way to eat it. But really, do not fear the rice paper rolls."

girlichef cured her own corned beef and made her own bread for a delectable Reuben Sandwich and says, "This is my method of making a Reuben. I always do it the same way. It's the way we made them on our menu (using aforementioned corned beef in my restaurant days) way back and it's the way I've made them ever since. Because they're perfect. Mmmm Hmmm. I said it. Perfection. The only little thing I change up is the bread...using different variations of only rye or pumpernickel."

An excellent group of soups, salads and sandwiches this week. Thanks to everyone who joined in and shared a dish. 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.