Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grilled Asparagus with Olive Oil, Lemon and Parmesan from Jamie Oliver

Looking for a quick, easy, just-a-few-ingredients kind of dish for your grill or grill pan? Jamie Oliver's Grilled Asparagus with Olive Oil, Lemon and Parmesan is the answer. I used fresh, local Waialua asparagus and my stove top grill pan, and with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the dish was on the table in minutes. Simple to make and incredibly tasty--just the way I like it.

You can find this recipe online at Jamie or in Jamie at Home

Jamie says, "There are many different types of asparagus available these days – thick ones, thin ones, baby, green, wild, white and even absolutely huge ones! Apart from their visual appeal, the real difference between them is their taste. They range from firm and nutty to soft and silky. Here’s one of my favourite ways of cooking asparagus to serve as a side dish or starter."

Grilled Asparagus with Olive Oil, Lemon and Parmesan
From Jamie Oliver
(Makes 4 Servings)

You will need to wash 2 big handfuls (or 800g) of whichever kind of asparagus you’re using, with their woody ends snipped off.

This is a great combination. Parmesan, olive oil and lemon are wonderful with asparagus.

Heat a large griddle pan and dry-griddle the asparagus spears on both sides until nicely marked. As soon as they're ready, put them on to four plates and dress with a good squeeze of lemon juice and three times as much olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, then take a block of Parmesan to the table and either grate or shave some over the asparagus wtih a speed peeler.

Notes/Results: A winner of a recipe. Grilling asparagus brings out its flavor and the other few ingredients just enhance it. Because the dish is so simple it benefits from your best ingredients. In addition to the local asparagus and Parmigiano-Reggiano, I used a crisp, light extra-virgin olive oil, some freshly ground pink Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. This makes a great starter salad, side dish or even a light lunch dish--easy enough for everyday but nice enough for company. So good! I have a feeling I will be making this dish a lot this summer. ;-)

Our theme is Fire Up the Grill! at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. You can check out how everyone got grilling with Jamie by going to the post and following the links.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Reviews & a Recipe: Three Novels of Love and Loss & Warm Chocolate and Banana (Cup)Cakes

I seem to have gotten into a bit of a theme this month with the books I have been reading. With these three novels (two sent to me for review and one I selected myself), they are centered around love and loss. Sure, there was sadness in reading these books and there were plenty of tears shed over them, but at their heart these are well-told stories about strong women, hope, and the power of love and how it helps us get through the toughest times we can imagine. All three are great summer reads

"The Summer We Came to Life" by Deborah Cloyed, follows Samantha, who joins her childhood friends--Isabel, Kendra and Mina every summer on a fabulous vacation along with Isabel and Kendra's mothers, Jesse and Lynette. This year is different as Mina has passed away from cancer six months ago and Samantha, who is especially close to her, struggles to face a life without her best friend and can't imagine their annual trip without her. Still, the group shows up in Honduras where Samantha is waiting for her "artist in residence" to begin at the university. Bringing along Mina's father Arshan, and Kendra's father and Lynette's husband, Cornell, they head for a Honduran beach house.

The group's stories are told and the past and present are interwoven as Samantha searches for a way to go on without Mina and tries to decide what direction her life should take. She looks to a journal, given to her by Mina before her death, and where the two friends have communicated back and forth about the afterlife and theories about trying to contact each other when Mina is gone. At first I found this back and forth and particularly the discussions of different physics theories to be a little distracting from the rest of the book but Cloyed manages to pull it all together for a touching and absorbing story that lingers in the mind long after the book is finished.

The five women in "The Art of Saying Goodbye" by Ellyn Bache don't have much in common other than the neighborhood they live in. Julianne is a divorced nurse who seems to have a second sense that allows her to "feel" when a patient is dying--an ability she does not want. Ginger struggles to balance her family life with her desire for a career. Andrea has spent the past 10 years worrying about her daughter who battled kidney cancer as a young child and it has taken a toll on her marriage and her life. Iona, older than the rest of the group, lost her beloved husband in a tragic accident and struggles with her anger and bitterness. Paisley, a beautiful young wife and mother, is the center of their group, the one that brought them together and who adds the spark of life to the group.

When Paisley is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer the women come together to support her and all are changed by the experience of losing a friend and realizing the beauty and promise in their own lives. Told from the point of view of each of the characters, it's a touching, well-written book that illustrates the meaning of friendship and love.

Callie, the central character in Jane Green's "Promises to Keep" is adored by everyone. A beloved wife, mother of two, an older sister, a daughter and a friend, she is happy and settled into her comfortable life until the breast cancer she thought she had beaten reoccurs and her prognoses is grim. Her husband Reece adores her but is focused on his busy travel-filled career and is rarely home for any length of time. Callie's younger sister, Steffi is a (mostly) vegan chef and free-spirit who has avoided any form of settling down. Her best friend Lila has finally met a wonderful man and is fond of his young son but very resentful of his demanding ex-wife. Callie and Steffi's parents, Honor and Walter are long-divorced but still struggle with being in the same room together. They are brought together to support Callie and her children in an emotional year that changes all of them in ways they don't expect.

Green is a prolific chick-lit author but "Promises to Keep" has an emotional pull that her other books lack, probably due to the fact that it was inspired by Green's best friend, Heidi, who lost her life to breast cancer a few years ago. This one really tugs at the heartstrings.

Books that make me emotional call for comfort food and definitely chocolate. ;-) I didn't have to look too far for a recipe as "Promises to Keep" ends its chapters with recipes, as Steffi is a chef. Many of the recipes sounded delicious and I will likely try more than a few of them, but the one that caught my eye and stomach first was the Warm Chocolate Banana Cake. Apparently a family recipe from Jane Green's mother, it is a fudgy cake, moist with ripe bananas. Because cakes are a bit unwieldy for me and I either toss them, share them, or eat them all, I chose to make it into cupcakes instead--portion control and the leftovers can be given away or frozen and enjoyed in moderation.

Warm Chocolate and Banana Cake
Adapted from "Promises to Keep" by Jane Green

1 cup plain baker's chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Pre-heat oven to 350º F.

Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie (or my lazy way of VERY, VERY slowly melting in a microwave.)

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale. Add the eggs gradually while beating. Stir the flour, baking powder and cocoa together and fold into the wet mixture. Add the bananas and melted chocolate. Mix well.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Notes/Results: This is a simple to make and delicious cake--full of chocolate goodness. In addition to making cupcakes from the recipe and dusting them with a mix of cocoa powder and powdered sugar, I made two small changes based on the ingredients I had on hand. I didn't have any plain sugar in the house so I used some coconut palm sugar (more like a brown sugar with caramel notes). Also, I only had white wheat flour so I used that. I don't think either made a major difference in the taste and texture with all that chocolate. ;-) Speaking of chocolate--you could whip up a ganache or frosting to top them, but these do stand really well on their own without any extra sweetness. I love how moist these cupcakes were with the fudge-like texture and bits of mashed banana. Wonderful warm and pretty great cold too--I would make them again.

So what are you reading this summer?

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: Copies of two of these books were provided by the publishers however I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fusilli in Saffron-Chive "Cream" Sauce with Pistachio-Basil Pesto for Food 'n Flix: No Reservations

Where did the month of June go?!? I swear I just announced I was hosting Food 'n Flix this month and now I am sneaking in just a few days before the deadline with my dish inspired by the foodie chick-flick, No Reservations. A sweet little movie about Kate, a workaholic perfectionist chef whose life is turned upside down when her sister dies and Kate takes custody of her young niece, Zoe. Add to the mix, sexy, relaxed Nick, brought in under Kate's protests to handle the kitchen of the restaurant, and Kate's world spins out of the careful control she keeps it in.

In coming up with a dish, I wanted to throw a little of each character into whatever I came up with. Kate is known for her saffron cream sauce--Nick even begs her for the recipe. Zoe doesn't eat (Kate's fancy, restaurant dishes are a bit too much for her), until Nick tempts her with fresh basil and makes a bowl of simple spaghetti. So... in honor Kate, Zoe and Nick, we have a bowl of Fusilli in Saffron-Chive Sauce with Pistachio-Basil Pesto. Slightly sophisticated but still approachable and I think Zoe would like the curly fusilli noodles.

I wanted a healthier version of a saffron cream sauce and have had the recipe for Saffron-Chive Sauce in "Conscious Cuisine: A New Style of Cooking From the Kitchens of Chef Cary Neff," tagged to make for a while now. Instead of cream and butter, this vegan sauce uses a surprise ingredient--potatoes to thicken it. (Cool huh?!) I wanted something to compliment and enhance the creamy yellow saffron sauce so I came up with a simple garlicky, basil pesto with pistachio nuts.

Chef Cary Neff says, "Saffron is made from the stigmas of a beautiful purple crocus found in Spain and the Middle East. Each flower has only three stigmas, and each stigma is hand-picked, which makes saffron very expensive. Its pungent smell, bitter flavor, and yellow color have been used throughout the ages in magic, medicine, and cooking. This recipe creates all of the pleasures of a wonderful saffron cream sauce without the use of cream or butter. Pureed potatoes thicken the sauce and provide a creamy mouth feel. The flavor is as good as its counterpart without the extra calories and fat--Conscious Cuisine at its best!"

Saffron-Chive Sauce
From "Conscious Cuisine" by Cary Neff
(Makes 2 1/2 Cups)

1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1 large)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp saffron threads
1 cup white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup diced, peeled potatoes (about 2 medium)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Stir in the onion, garlic, and saffron and cook until the onion has softened and the saffron has released its color, about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced and the pan is almost dry, about 3 to 5 minutes, to concentrate the flavors of the sauce. Add the stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

Carefully ladle the potato mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Strain the blended mixture through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. Pour the strained sauce back into the sauce pan and bring to a low boil. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Stir in the chives.

Use the sauce immediately of cool quickly by setting in a bowl of ice and water. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze for about 1 month.

Nutritional Info: Per 1/4 cup: Calories: 45, Protein: 1g, Total Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Carbohydrates: 7g, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 40mg


Pistachio-Basil Pesto
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup pistachios, shelled
2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
3 gloves garlic, chopped
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more to blend if needed)
salt and black pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor, adding additional olive oil as needed to get it to the desired consistency.

Notes/Results: Excellent! The saffron sauce was thick and creamy--although it is hard to see that in the pictures as it coated the pasta so well. The pesto brightened up the flavor of the dish and added a satisfying nuttiness to it. I was a little worried that the saffron would be too bitter and overpowering in the sauce but it was actually fairly mild and lightly sweet. This is a healthy vegan dish that tastes decadent and I like the bright colors of the sauce and pesto. I would make it again.

If you would like to join in the Food 'n Flix fun, the deadline for this month's film is this Thursday, June 30th. I'll be rounding up the entries here at Kahakai Kitchen shortly after.

I am also sending this curly-noodled dish to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder, Ruth. Ruth will be rounding up a plethora of wonderful pasta dishes on Friday.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Zucchini & Rice Soup: Easy Comfort for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

The day here was gray, breezy and a little drizzly--still warm, but perfect for soup and it called for a simple homey bowl of comfort like this Zucchini & Rice Soup from the "Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special: More Than 275 Recipes for Soups, Stews, Salads & Extras" by The Moosewood Collective." This one gets a lot of flavor from Moosewood's garlic stock and I added a can of cannellini beans--because I love beans in my soup and to make it more substantial.

The Moosewood Collective says, "If you have cooked rice and Garlic Stock on hand, this soup is a snap to prepare. If not, you can cook the rice in a separate pot while you prepare the soup--minus the rice. By the time the soup is prepared, the rice will be tender and ready to stir in. The rice adds body and rounds out the texture of this simple and flavorful soup: we offer a range, so make the soup as thick as you like.

Zucchini & Rice Soup can also be pureed and served as a luscious, smooth soup. Either way, it's perfect for a light lunch or full-course meal when paired with a sharper-tasting salad."

Zucchini & Rice Soup
Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special (pg 59)
(Serves 4-6)

2 cups chopped onions
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped zucchini
6 cups Garlic Stock (see recipe below)
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (2 tsp dried)
salt and ground black pepper -- to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
chopped fresh parsley (optional)

In a soup pot, saute the onions in the oil on medium-high heat until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and saute until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the stock and cooked rice, cover, and bring to a simmer. Add the fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve topped with grated cheese and, if desired, a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Nutritional Info: Per 12.5-ounce serving: 126 Calories, 4.6 g Protein, 3.8 g Fat, 19.4 g Carbohydrates, 1.4 g Saturated fatty acids, 4 mg Cholesterol, 296 mg Sodium, 1.8 g Total dietary fiber


Garlic Stock
Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special (pg 19)
(Makes about 8 cups)

3 whole heads of garlic cloves
10 cups water
2 or 3 bay leaves
8 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp salt
2 potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
2 or 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme or 4 fresh thyme sprigs
4 fresh parsley sprigs

Remove the loose, papery outer skins of the heads of garlic and break them apart into cloves. (There is no need to peel the cloves.) Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 hour.

Strain the stock and use it right away, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 6 months.

Notes/Results: A simple soup with layers of flavor. I made the garlic stock and brown rice (I used the remainder of a bag of brown jasmine rice in my pantry), in the morning and then prepared the soup that evening with some zucchini from the farmers market and herbs from my garden. I do recommend adding the beans to this--they add great texture. You can keep it vegan by leaving off the cheese, but the Parmesan is so good with the other ingredients that it is hard to resist. This hit the spot for a light dinner and I would make it again.

Let's take a look in the Souper Sunday kitchen and see who is here this week.

Janet from The Taste Space made Spicy Indonesian Yam and Peanut Soup and says, "While browsing through Love Soup, I spotted this curious soup: it featured a host of vegetables including carrots, parsnips and yams (yes, I had a monster yam that weighed 900g and even another that weighed 1100g!), flavoured with earthy tones from cumin and garam masala, spiced with garlic, ginger and chili flakes, lightened with sourness from both tamarind and fresh lemon juice, and coming together with a hint of lusciousness from the peanut butter. My mouth is watering as I write this… This soup has a great mix of flavours – warm yet spicy, creamy yet light, zingy and sour. Soups get the shaft in the summer, but I think they are great any time. Share this with friends, because it makes a lot of soup."

Janet also put together this colorful Blueberry Mango Quinoa Salad with a Lemon Basil Dressing. She says, "There is something about meals with mango that makes me want to share the recipe right away. Adapted from Veggie Belly, this is savoury use of fresh mango in a beauty of a salad. Red quinoa is combined with fresh blueberries, chopped mango and dried cranberries and chopped snow peas for crunch. It is then tossed in a subtle lemon-basil dressing and topped with toasted pecans. Nothing is overpowering, nothing screams at you. Everything works well for a simple, yet flavourful salad. A great way to highlight different summer produce in a healthy salad."

Michelle from Ms. Enplace has a dish she says you can enjoy as a soup or a salad, this versatile Goat Cheese & Tomato "Soup" or Salad. Michelle says, "Then there are people like me who take those perfect scoops and stir and stir and stir them until their bowls hold what my brothers and I always called "ice cream soup." It's how I always eat ice cream. And this is also how I like to eat the Goat Cheese & Tomato "Soup" below. You can, however, leave the ingredients in their original form and call it a salad. Your call. I know you'll make the right one."

Carol from There's Always Thyme to Cook has a cold noodle salad to share this week, these Hot and Sour Soba Noodles. She says, "It's very easy and uses a different technique to cook the soba noodles from the other recipe for cold soba noodles that I normally use. Soba is pretty easy to overcook when you don't pay attention to things. That's me, there was that time I served a bowl of mush noodles :) Miss Picky got a little taste while I was making it and then proceeded to eat the dressing by the spoonful. Raved about it. OK, where is my Miss Picky and what did you do with her? She is never that excited by food."

Joanne from Eats Well With Others created a unique take on a classic Italian salad with her Spring Pesto Panzanella. Joanne says, "This panzanella was born of a need to create a dish that could double as a main dish for me and a side dish for my family on Father's Day. While most bread salads are just mixtures of bread and tomatoes, I bulked this up with asparagus, leeks, beans, lettuce, and tomatoes and seasoned it with my favorite flavor of summer - pesto. In the end, the bread cubes soaked in the glorious pesto and tomato juices, becoming deliciously soft bites of heaven with the veggies melting into that flavor burst. The perfect salad for father's day or any other spring/summer afternoon in the sun."

And we have one hearty sandwich this week from Elizabeth at The Law Student's Cookbook, this Red Onion Steak Sandwich. She says, "I rarely make sandwiches. I should more, because they can be SO filling. They can also be really tasty. This sandwich was "all of the above". ...these sandwiches were not neat in the slightest. I mean, I probably could have put less goodies on them, but the filled up aspect of it definitely made this a hearty meal. I don't think it would have been as good if there weren't a few onions and pieces of steal laying on my plate at the end. It was definitely a sandwich that creates an experience, that's for sure."

Such lovely dishes this week--thanks 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, June 24, 2011

Peanut Butter "Vice Cream"-Non-Dairy Ice Cream That's Creamy & Delicious

A quick little post with an easy ice cream, or rather "vice cream" as the author calls his dairy-free frozen treats. It's from a little book I bought last year but didn't get around to using, "Vice Cream: Over 70 Sinfully Delicious Dairy-Free Delights" by Jeff Rogers. If all of the recipes are as easy and good as this Peanut Butter one, I have a feeling I will be opening up this book up a lot this summer.

Peanut Butter "Vice Cream"
"Vice Cream" by Jeff Rogers
(Makes about 1 quart)

1 cup organic cashews or cashew pieces
2 cups purified water
1 cup maple syrup (I reduced it to 3/4 cup)
2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla flavor (I didn't have alcohol-free--see note below)
2 tsp alcohol-free almond flavor (omitted)
1 cup smooth natural peanut butter

Combine the cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla flavor, and almond flavor in a blender. Blend on high until silky smooth, at least 1 minute. With the motor running, add the peanut butter and blend until evenly distributed.

Place the blender in the freezer for 40 minutes to 1 hour or in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight, until well chilled. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight containers and store in the freezer until ready to serve.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: After the mixture has frozen, fold in 1 cup chilled organic vegan chocolate chips, chopped.

Notes/Results: Surprisingly creamy considering it is made out of ground cashews, with good peanut butter flavor. Since I did not have alcohol-free extracts (which the author specifies you use so as not to interfere with the freezing process), I was worried that my mixture would not freeze well. It was a little loose straight out of the ice cream machine but it firmed up just fine after a few hours in the freezer. The key to making this smooth and creamy is to blend the ever-loving heck out of the mixture, so that it is perfectly smooth going into the ice cream maker. My only complaint is that it was a tad sweet for me--even after reducing the maple syrup down from 1 cup to 3/4 cup. I would probably reduce it down further to 1/2 cup. Otherwise this was a great alternative to a dairy-based ice cream that I will make again.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Book Review & Pasta: "Tomatoland" and Jamie Oliver's Cherry Tomato, Caper & Balsamic Sauce with Pappardelle

You see it tempting you... that big, bright red, perfectly shaped tomato sitting in the produce aisle of the grocery store. You imagine biting into it, the sweet flavor exploding in your mouth and bringing you the taste of a hot summer's day, but when you finally do taste it you are bitterly disappointed--it is plastic in texture and somewhat tasteless. Investigative journalist and tomato crusader Barry Estabrook gives us all the reasons why that tomato you purchased doesn't taste or feel like a tomato should in his new book "Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit."

The book, an expanded version of Estabrook's James Beard Award-winning article for Gourmet magazine written in 2009, is a well-written exposé of the giant agribusiness system producing these industrialized tomatoes and robbing them of their taste as well as their nutritional value. The author was inspired to write his original article and subsequently the book, when he found himself behind a large truck on a Florida freeway, watching what he thought were green Granny Smith apples fly off the back. Instead of the expected apples, a closer look found tomatoes, "so plasticine and so identical they could have been stamped out by a machine."

Estabrook looks at the tomato (the second-most-popular produce item next to lettuce), from it's origins in the arid climates of South America to it's current industrialized state in Florida, where 90% of the tomatoes sold in the United States are grown. Along the way he looks at the way that the tomato has been stripped of flavor and nutrition as well as the atrocities of the environmental and human costs of this multi-billion dollar business, and how a few people are working against big business, much like David versus Goliath to fix the problems.

Estabrook keeps the book's 240 pages interesting and makes it approachable to the average reader / consumer. The message is clear, frightening and well worth reading if you are interested in sustainability, health, our impact on the planet and on others or even if just want a good tasting tomato and can't grow your own or don't have access to a farmers market.

I am "lucky to live Hawaii" where we can get wonderful locally grown tomatoes throughout the year. To celebrate the beauty of "real" tomatoes (these are baby cherry tomatoes from the North Shore Farms booth at the KCC Farmers Market that are so incredibly sweet and delicious, I eat them by the handful like candy), I wanted a simple, fresh sauce and I chose a delectable Cherry Tomato, Caper and Balsamic Sauce from Jamie Oliver.

Cherry Tomato, Caper, and Balsamic Sauce with Pappardelle
From "Jamie's Food Revolution" (page 267)
(Serves 4)

4 cloves of garlic
About 25 (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, mixed colors if possible
olive oil
dried oregano (I used about 1 Tbsp fresh oregano)
2 tablespoons capers, drained (from a jar, in brine)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a pat of butter
balsamic vinegar

Peel and finely slice the garlic. Halve the tomatoes. Put a frying pan on medium heat and add 2 good lugs of olive oil. Add your garlic, a big pinch of oregano, and the capers. When lightly golden, add your tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir. Add the butter and 2 big splashes of balsamic vinegar and stir again. Leave the sauce to bubble away for around 3 to 5 minutes. The tomatoes will soften and make a lovely rich sauce.

Serve hot, with your chosen fish or meat, or stir into hot cooked pasta.

Notes/Results: So simple and so incredibly good. The sauce with the balsamic and a bit of butter is heavenly with the juicy fresh tomatoes cooked in it, and the salty capers add a nice tang to the dish. Since we are "Getting Fresh with Jamie" this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I used fresh oregano from my herb garden instead of dried called for in the recipe. I served the sauce with some fresh pappardelle and it was perfect--and fast and easy too. This will be a definite repeat dish.

You can check out how the other IHCC peeps got fresh by checking out the post here and following the links.

I am also sending this to Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by the lovely Simona from Briciole this week. Simona will be rounding up a bunch of delicious pasta dishes on her blog on Friday.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher Andrews McMeel Universal and PTA Reader Rewards but I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Soup (& Pesto Pizza) for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

You have to love a laid-back houseguest, one who doesn't really have a set agenda, seems to enjoy a little down time not running all over the island, doesn't mind working a few of my errands into the day if needed, and especially one that understands and supports the often quirky behavior of a food blogger. ("Yeah, I made this plate pretty to take a picture, here's a another plate just help yourself while I take twenty-dozen photos of tonight's meal." Or "Is there any kind of soup that you would be interested in / willing to eat when you are on vacation in 88 degree Hawaii?) Thankfully my niece Laura is this kind of houseguest and listed Roasted Red Pepper Soup as one of her favorites.

This one is from "The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: Whole Foods Recipes for Personal and Planetary Health" by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, MS, CN. It is a simple soup to make. Roasting your own red peppers always makes it better, so I roasted a couple of big, plump peppers on top of my gas stove and then threw in a half-jar of prepared ones that needed to be used. The soup says it makes six servings--but the half-batch we made would serve at least four.

Our trip to the farmers market Saturday morning had us craving pizza from the North Shore Farms Tomato booth but not wanting to wait in the extremely long line. Laura volunteered (or at least was willing--I may have "volunteered" her) to make her version of Pesto Margherita Pizza. With basil and tomato from the market, whole-wheat pizza dough and fresh mozzarella from Whole Foods, it was a good pairing with the soup and a relaxing dinner.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
From "The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook"
(Serves 6) (or more in my opinion)

2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 tsp sea salt
4 to 5 red bell peppers, roasted & chopped
4 cups chopped tomatoes, or one 28-ounce can
2 cans coconut milk
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced basil

In a large 6-quart pot saute onions, garlic, crushed chili pepper, and sea salt in oil over medium heat until tender. Next add coconut milk, vegetable stock, red peppers, and tomatoes to pot; simmer for 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

Puree the soup in blender in batches then return to pot. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Then add the minced parsley and basil, cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often. Taste, adjust salt and spices if necessary.

Notes/Results: Creamy, slightly sweet with a kick from the red chili pepper flakes, this was a delicious soup. The coconut milk blended nicely with the other ingredients, and I used low-sodium veggie stock to keep it vegan. The pizza went well with it (The crust made for good dunking), but it would also be great with some big freshly-made croutons on top or with a grilled cheese sandwich to dip in. I will make this soup again.

There are a bunch of delectable dishes waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look.

Denny of Oh Taste N See... kicks us off with some Sweet Corn Vegetable Soup and says, "As a kid, I never remember my mom making fancy soups at home, she would make a chicken soup, especially when we get a cold, and then an Indian version of tomato soup. So, our choice whenever we went to restaurants was to order soups. Made the dinner seem extra special. :) And, for me, it was always sweet corn vegetable soup. It was my favorite Chinese soup. I don’t see it here in Chinese restaurants, but it would be a quintessential offering in Indo chinese restaurants."

Carol from There's Always Thyme to Cook tried Jamie Oliver's Corn Chowder and says, "I admit it, I love convenience foods. ... Could be because I grew up with a mom who had zero interest in cooking. ... She had four staples in her home cooking repertoire, broiled rib steaks, frozen cream spinach, baked potatoes and cream of corn soup. The kind of soup where you buy two cans of creamed corn and just add milk. Heat and stir. We loved it. My kids love it, she still makes it for them. And especially my Dad loved it. So in his honor and because Pops is Tops at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I made a corn soup that I know he would have loved."

Joanne from Eats Well With Others made an African Sweet Potato soup with Peanut Butter and Black Beans that along with her physical therapist may have improved her running time. She says, "Three weeks ago, I ran a 10K at a 9:51 pace. This weekend...I dropped it down to 9:22. Which I then followed up by running an additional 3 miles at Team In Training practice. And I wasn't even limping the next day. Insane. Unheard of. Breathtaking. ... I'm pretty sure knowing that I had this soup waiting for me in the fridge also helped. There's nothing I love more than peanut butter. At least. That's what I thought until I mixed it with sweet potatoes and red curry in this soup. Now I'm not really sure I want to eat peanut butter any other way. Even in 100+ degree weather. Yeah. It's a pretty serious soup."

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food has two salads to share this week. The first is this Turmeric-Infused Quinoa Salad. She says, "It's time! Time for quinoa salad after using quinoa time and again for my power congee. Quinoa salad is a popular way to prepare (and use quinoa). Choose your favorite veggie(s) for your quinoa salad and you are halfway there. I chose my favorite (current) way of food preparation - Steaming!!! Yep! This Garlic-Steamed Broccoli made my first quinoa salad. Not the last definitely as I really enjoyed this quinoa dish - light and refreshing."

Tigerfish also made this Dried Fruits Salad and says, "What am I doing with dried fruits in the start of summer? I should be indulging in juicy and plump peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, berries. Well I had this sometime back. Also, naturally dried fruits (without preservatives such as sulphur dioxide) can be a good alternative to using fresh fruits in salads. can roll (wrap) these little dried sweet gems with the arugula leaves and pop them into your mouth! Call it salad - snacking. :D"

It is nice to have Stash from The Spamwise Chronicles back at Souper Sundays after a long absence, and here with a Oyster Mushroom, Bacon and Heirloom Potato Salad, with Fresh Wild Turkey Eggs, Pea Shoot Flowers, and Herb Vinaigrette. Stash says, "Spring is such a lovely season because of the progression of produce at the farmer’s market. After months of heavy, stodgy, starchy meals such as hearty soups and stews, the things we eat change to lighter fare such as this salad which celebrates the height of the season in all its glory."

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina made this colorful and unique Indonesian-Style Purslane Salad and says, "Gado-gado is an indonesian salad, served with a dressing made with peanuts and lemon juice. I prepared a quick salad inspired by this recipe, using lettuce, fresh harvested purslane and sorrel.I used also an unusual ingredient for the dressing: onion shoots. They're delicate and fresh, and taste like shallots. A tip: Do you remember that I suggest you to not use sorrel stems in the sauce for the Chicken with Sorrel Sauce? I used them in this salad, and their tangy taste was perfect with the sweet indonesian dressing."

Lovely Lori from Fake Food Free is here with a refreshing Citrus Jicama Salad. She says, "I’m a little embarrassed to say that until this week, I had never had jicama. Embarrassed because while I’d read about it, recommended it as a new food to others, even saw it in the store, for some reason I never picked one up. On a whim, about a week ago, I decided to buy one. Then, of course, it sat for several days while I was trying to figure out what to do with. I knew from every description I’d read that I would love it, but what to do, what to do. ... I especially liked the sweet jicama with the juices combined with the savory garlic and spicy pepper."

Janet from The Taste Space shares a Mexican Salad with Black Beans, Tomato, Avocado in a Creamy Tomato Sauce. Janet says, "Sauces and dressings are what clinch a meal. Fresh, tasty produce helps, too, but oftentimes the dressing pulls it all together. And in this salad, the dressing is what really shines. It is a light, silky smooth tomato and red pepper sauce with a hint of cheese from nutritional yeast, smokiness from smoked paprika and zip from the chili flakes. Cumin and oregano keep this Mexican. You could add your favourite vegetables to the mix, to replace the cabbage, but I highly recommend the red pepper which conferred a sweet silkiness to the dish, almost as if it were roasted. I have never pureed my tomato sauces, but this dressing was so creamy because I used my immersion blender to make it smooth. The sauce was so good, I had to stop myself from gobbling it up straight from the stovetop."

Corina from Searching for Spice created this Potato, Egg and Anchovy Salad and says, "...I have actually become quite keen on potato salads. So keen that I now choose to make them whereas before I would have run a mile. I actually like the taste of new potatoes, still a bit warm with the olive oil, black pepper and lemon soaking in. I chose to pair them this week with anchovies – another ingredient I would have avoided like the plague a couple of years ago. I used the ones that are tinned in olive oil so I could use the anchovy flavoured olive oil in the dressing. Delicious – if you like anchovies. You could say this is a variation on a salad nicoise. A seared tuna steak instead of (or in addition to) the anchovies would have been equally delicious."

Spencer from Live2EatEat2Live Blog is back with more sea asparagus--this time it is featured in an Avocado, Tomato, Sea Asparagus Salad. He says, "Two tomatoes, two avocados, blanched sea asparagus, salt, sugar, and chili powder to taste, splash of rice vinegar, no oil since the avocados have enough fat, sprinkled with sesame The Cat gave both salads four paws up."

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes made alight and lovely Italian Rice Salad and says, "I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time breaking from the old …one protein, one starch, two veggies plates of the past. When I serve a meal without a starch, it feels like it’s missing something to me. Goodness knows, I love my pasta, rice and potatoes. So, when I find a side dish that gives me my starch, and my veggies, I am all over it. Like this, Italian Rice Salad, from Cooking Light."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week! If you have a soup. salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sunday logo on my side bar for all of the details.

***Note: Souper Sundays is posting early, a few hours before the deadline today as we are hitting the beach. If you have a dish to submit for this week, I will add it to the post tonight.

Happy Sunday!