Sunday, September 30, 2012

Madhur Jaffrey's "My Cream of Tomato Soup"--A Classic Made Indian Style (& Dairy-Free) For Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I didn't really eat tomato soup until a few years ago and I never went through that whole childhood grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup phase. I found canned cream of tomato soup to be gross and so "sick day" soup meal of choice was a grilled cheese sandwich paired with chicken noodle soup. Tastes change and when I was exposed to really good tomato soup, the creamier the better--say a tomato bisque, I began to develop a strong like for it. My 10-Minute Vita-Mix Thai Creamy Tomato Soup is my go-to, and I wanted to try Madhur Jaffrey's "My Cream of Tomato Soup"--with some similar ingredients, but more of an Indian-style version of the classic.

Madhur Jaffrey is the new chef that we are cooking along with over the next six months at I Heart Cooking Clubs. This week we are welcoming her and I find nothing more welcoming that a bowl of warm soup. The recipe comes from my first Madhur Jaffrey cookbook and one of my oldest cookbooks; Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. Published in 1981 and picked up used, sometime in the late 80's, this book has traveled from Portland to Seattle to Honolulu with me. Jaffrey's recipe is vegetarian, I made mine dairy-free/vegan with a few simple substitutions--Earth Balance spread instead of butter, cashew cream in place of dairy cream and light coconut milk in place of regular milk. The result is beyond creamy with a nice hint of spices.

Jaffray says, "Cream of tomato soup has been adopted by India with a passion. The same small coffeehouses that offer the most traditional dosas and vegetable pakoris also have, to the surprise of many Americans, tomato soup on their menus. When cooking tomato soup in their homes, most Indians cannot resist putting in a few spices or herbs. My sister-in-law, for example, puts in fresh curry leaves from the tree that grows just outside her kitchen door. The soup becomes immediately aromatic. In New York, I put in dried curry leaves, more for the aroma I remember than for the limited flavor provided by the dried leaves, as well as ginger, ground roasted cumin, and a few other things besides. Here is my tomato soup, which can be had hot or cold."

My Cream of Tomato Soup 
From Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking
(Serves 4-6)

1 1/2 lbs red-ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp dried, sliced lemon grass
1 Tbsp dried or fresh curry leaves
1 quarter-sized slice of fresh ginger
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance spread)
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used cashew cream)
2 1/2 cups milk (I used coconut milk)
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp lemon or lime juice
1 Tbsp minced fresh Chinese parsley (cilantro)

Combine the tomatoes, lemon grass, curry leaves, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water in a 2 1/2-quart pot and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Uncover, turn heat to medium, and simmer  little more aggressively for another 15 minutes. Put the tomatoes through a sieve. You should have about 2 cups of thick tomato juice. Bring this juice to a simmer and keep on a very low flame.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour. Stir and cook the flour on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let it brown. Now pour in the hot tomato juice, stirring all the time. Add the cream and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Add all the other ingredients except the Chinese parsley. Stir to mix. Heat over a medium flame. As soon as the soup is about to come to a boil, turn off the heat. 

Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls and serve garnished with a little minced Chinese parsley. If you wish to serve the soup cold, stir in occasionally as it cools so it does not form a thick film. Then cover and refrigerate. 

Notes/Results: Probably one of the creamiest tomato soups I have eaten/made between thickening the mixture with flour, the cream and milk (or in my case cashew cream and coconut milk). All of the flavors come through--the sweetness of tomatoes, the ginger and lemongrass, the smokey spice of the cumin and the little bit of heat from the cayenne. As Jaffrey says, the curry leaves add more to the aroma (this one smells delicious while cooking), so add them if you can find them. I buy curry leaves when I come across them in the Indian market and Whole Foods and keep them in a Ziploc in the freezer--ready to be tossed into a dish. I liked it best warm, but this soup does work well cold--I added another squeeze of lemon to the cold version. Served with some garlic nan bread, it was a satisfying dinner. I would make this soup again. 

I am a day early for our Welcome Madhur Jaffrey! theme, but I will be linking this up when the post goes up over there. You'll be able to check out how the other IHCC participants welcome Madhur by going to the post and following the links.

Let's stop by the Souper Sunday's kitchen for the roundup of this week's dishes.

I am always delighted to have my pal Stephanie The Happy Sorceress at Dispensing Happiness here at Souper Sundays. This week she has a 'quicker and easier" version of Italian Wedding Soup that she made in both a carnivore and veggie version. Stephanie says, "For something that came together quickly & with so few ingredients, it was surprisingly good. Matt & I prefer to brown our meatballs before adding to anything liquid, but despite a short cooking time, they came out nicely-done. Results were flavorful, but not overwhelming.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes made a delectable Creamy Potato Soup with Bacon Vinaigrette this week and says, "This was the best potato soup I have ever eaten or made.  Seriously.  I don’t think I’ve ever used rosemary in my potato soups – it was wonderful.  But really the show stopper…the bacon vinaigrette.  I love the addition of vinegar to soups and keep a bottle of chili pepper vinegar just for stirring into your soup at the table, everyone adding as much or as little they like. So this was beyond amazing."

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina made this pretty Rice Salad with Paprika and Chives and says, "September is the time of year when there are still summer harvests, and I have already started planning what to grow next spring. This light and tasty rice salad is representative of this period, because it uses fresh harvested chives and cucumbers, and a variety of paprika purchased at the market, which I hope to grow next year."

Finally Janet of The Taste Space is sharing a she salad made into a roll--these creative Quinoa Wraps with Sweet Potato, Tofu Feta and a Sweet Tahini Dipping Sauce. She says, "Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint."

Thanks to Stephanie, Pam, Graziana and Janet for sharing their dishes this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Creamy Almond-Rice Cooler (Horchata de Almendra) and My Top 5 (+ One More) Rick Bayless Recipes for I Heart Cooking Clubs

It's time to say ¡Adios y Gracias, Rick! to Rick Bayless as I Heart Cooking Clubs switches to our new chef Madhur Jaffrey next week. I am saluting Rick with a tall glass of Horchata de Almendra--Creamy Almond Rice Cooler. This recipe has been on my list to make/try for ages so it seemed like a great way to end six months of cooking some delicious Mexican (well mostly Mexican) dishes. Bayless calls this drink "the Coke of Mexican street stalls" due to its popularity. I call it cool and refreshing.

Creamy Almond-Rice Cooler (Horchata de Almendra)
Adapted from Fiesta at Rick's, Rick Bayless

(Makes about 1 1/2 quarts--about 6 or 7 12-Ounce Glasses with Ice)

6 Tbsp raw white rice
6 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) blanched almonds  

2-inch cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
1 cup milk or canned evaporated milk (I used coconut milk)
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar (I used agave to taste--about 3 Tbsp)

ice cubes (you'll need about 2 cups--smaller ones are best)

Soak the rice and the almonds: In a medium-size bowl, combine the rice, almonds and  cinnamon stick. Stir in 2 1/2 cups water, cover and let stand at least 8 hours or, preferably, overnight.

Blend and strain: Scrape the mixture into a blender jar and blend for several minutes, until a drop rubbed between your fingers no longer feels very gritty. (If you have access to a high-speed Vitamix blender, you'll get the smoothest results.) Add 2 cups of water, then blend for another minute. Set a medium mesh strainer over a mixing bowl and line it with two layers of dampened cheesecloth. A cup or so at a time, pour in the almond-rice mixture, gently stirring to help the liquid pass through. (Or, easier, pour it all into the strainer and let gravity pull it through, about 20 minutes.) When the liquid has passed through, gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and twist them together to trap the dregs inside. Squeeze the package firmly to expel all remaining liquid.

Finish the Horchata: Add 1 1/2 cups of water and the milk. Stir in enough sugar to sweeten the drink to your taste. If the consistency seems thicker than whole milk, stir in additional water. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Pour over ice in tall glasses, stirring before pouring. 

The agua de horchata can be made several days ahead, tightly covered and refrigerated.

Notes/Results: I was worried the texture would be too powdery for me but it actually works--especially ice cold. The almond flavor comes through nicely and I added extra cinnamon, including a sprinkle on top. I used agave in place of sugar and made it dairy-free with unsweetened coconut milk so it was still thick and creamy. Can't wait to make this into the Coconut Horchata Colada and Horchata-Banana Daiquiri recipes Bayless has in the book, but it is plenty good on its own too. I will make this again.

It's going to be tough not cooking with Rick Bayless every week--we had a great run. ;-) I actually didn't find a dish I tried that I didn't enjoy. Here are my Top 5 (+ 1 extra) Favorite Rick Bayless Recipes from the past 6 months. The dishes that I loved, craved for days afterward and will most definitely make again: 

Zucchini with Roasted Peppers, Corn, and (Cashew) Cream: I was surprised just how much I loved this creamy comforting recipe but it was so good that I practically licked the container after scraping the last bits of my leftovers out of it. Very rich and delicious. 

(Opah & Ahi) Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro and Green Chile: One of the best and most unique ceviches I have tried. With all that lovely avocado it is light but so creamy and good. 

Rick's Lime-Cilantro Dressing (Aderezo de Limon y Cilantro) has become my go-to salad dressing. It is tangy and herby and goes on everything--but drizzled on this salad I tossed together with blueberries, avocado, radishes and goat cheese it made an over-the-top dinner. 

Tangy Green Guacamole with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa: The homemade Tomatillo Salsa with Serranos, Roasted Onion and Cilantro was excellent to scoop up on its own, blended into guacamole it was positively ADDICTING.

Classic Mexican Rice Pudding with Cinnamon and Dried Fruit: Full of dried pineapple and papaya and drizzled with homemade Mexican Raw Sugar Syrup, this velvety (but slightly chewy in a good way when made with brown rice) pudding was a delight. 

Honorable Mention:
Great Tortilla Soup: OK, I can't say that this was the best tortilla soup I have ever made or eaten but, it is super simple and full of flavor and I love how cool it turned out with the fun tortilla shapes (if I do say so myself) ;-) so it wins an honorable mention on appearance points. 

Happy Weekend!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bruschetta Topped with Apricot, Melted Brie, and Pomegranate Seeds for the "Muy Bueno" Cookbook Spotlight & Cook-Off

Are you one of those people that are already prepped by holidays by the time October hits? Gifts purchased or homemade, family newsletter written, cookie list made, menus for the main holiday meals written? If so, I salute you! (I do find you truly annoying but I salute you.) ;-)  Or are you like me? The holidays just seem to come out of nowhere, intentions to plan fall by the wayside and the scrambling for what to bake/cook/serve for parties begins. Whichever holiday style fits you, do yourself one big holiday planning favor and bookmark this recipe for Bruschetta Topped with Apricot, Melted Brie, and Pomegranate Seeds to make for all those parties you host or are invited to. It's quick, easy, pretty and delicious. Not that you have to wait for a holiday to enjoy it. 

Or, you could also treat yourself to an early holiday present--a copy of Muy Bueno - Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangeline Souza. As part of the Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off, sponsored by Hippocrene and hosted at girlichef, I am cooking from and reviewing the book, along with some other wonderful bloggers. With last week's delicious Mushroom, Jalapeño, and Cilantro Salsa, they are now two-for-two with winning recipes.  

(I owe trying this recipe to my friend and co-worker Julie as I was flipping through the book, trying (scrambling) to find a fast, low-effort, no-meat kind of recipe. (It's been that kind of week... month...year...) This recipe caught my eye early on but I had dismissed it thinking there was no way I would find pomegranates in the store right now. Julie became fixated on the recipe and bummed that I wasn't going to try it. I remembered seeing packages of frozen pomegranate seeds at a local store so it was game on. Jules, these little treats are for you!)

Bruschetta Topped with Apricot, Melted Brie, and Pomegranate Seeds 
From Muy Bueno
(Makes 24 Pieces)

1 large pomegranate
2 cloves garlic sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 French baguette
1 cup apricot preserves
4 oz soft-ripened Brie cheese (recommended: goat Brie)
rosemary sprigs for garnish

Break open the pomegranate in a bowl of water to free the seeds. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the rest will float to the top. Discard the white membrane and put the seeds in a separate bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the seeds and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place garlic slices in olive oil and microwave for 1 minute to infuse the olive oil with garlic. Cut the baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Brush infused olive oil on one side of baguette slices. Lay bread slices on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes. (The bread does not need to brown, just have a toast-like crust on the top surface.)

Spread apricot preserves on toasted bread. Microwave brie cheese for 10-15 seconds to soften the cheese. Cut the brie in half and spoon or drizzle the cheese on the toasted bread. Place a teaspoon of pomegranate seeds on each slice.

Serve while warm and garnish plate with rosemary sprigs.

Notes/Results: These are wonderful little bites of sweet and savory flavor. You bite into the crisp baguette slices and get a little hint of garlic, then the sweetness of the apricot preserves hits, along with the slightly sharp creamy brie and the just-tart-enough pomegranate seeds. Perfect. I love how simple they are to throw together--prep the bread slices and the pomegranate seeds ahead of time and you can have them ready it a few minutes. Be sure to have plenty of extra Brie though--melted, it is hard not to spoon it up and eat it instead of drizzling it on the bread. My one complaint is not about the recipe, it's just that frozen pomegranate seeds are quite as pretty as fresh ones--they loose some of their looks in the defrosting process. I will make these colorful little pupus all season long. 

Check back next week for my final review of this cookbook and a chance to win a copy of your very own!

 *This post is part of the Muy Bueno Cookbook Spotlight & Cook-Off sponsored by Hippocrene and hosted at girlichef

Note: I received a copy of this cookbook from the publisher, however I received no monetary compensation to review it. As always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Book Tour Stops Here: "The Cutting Season" by Attica Locke & a Southern-Inspired Peach Crisp Smoothie

Somehow I missed Attica Locke's first book, "Black Water Rising" when it came out in 2010, but after reading her second book, "The Cutting Season," I am going to go back and read it and anything else she writes. "The Cutting Season" is a tightly-woven mystery/thriller, smart and atmospheric. The story is set on the old antebellum plantation of Belle Vie in Louisiana, now a tourist attraction hosting events and weddings, tours of the restored slave quarters and historical re-enactments.

Caren Gray, single mother and the estate manager grew up on Belle Vie--her ancestors were slaves, her mother worked as a cook and Caren has returned with mixed emotions but a commitment to her job and the estate. When the body of a young female migrant worker is found on the estate grounds it soon has Caren doubting the way the police investigation is headed and launching her own search for answers-including whether this murder is related to the disappearance of a slave one hundred years previously, and one of Caren's ancestors. Caren finds herself deeper and deeper into discovering the killer, long-buried secrets about the estate and her own past.

Locke's descriptive writing had me caught up in the gloom of Belle Vie from the first page and that creepiness never lets up throughout the book. There is so much covered in the book--history, slavery, politics, corporate greed, family, and emotions, but it adds to, rather than bogs down the story. The almost 400 pages pass quickly and had me guessing about "who done it" until very close to the end. "The Cutting Season" is a great choice for lovers of history, the south, and taut, intelligently written mysteries.

A native of Houston, Texas, Attica Locke now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter. She is a member of the board of directors for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Locke has spent many years working as a screenwriter, penning movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, and Dreamworks. She was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

For my dish inspired by the book, although food is not a key player in this mystery, there was certainly some Southern cooking sprinkled in throughout the book. I took my inspiration from a menu for 85 guests that Caren is discussing with the kitchen staff toward the beginning of the book--mushroom soup to start and "gator, grits rolled with smoked gouda, spinach, and bacon; chad out of the garden with garlic and lemon; potatoes creamed with butter and drippings." Ending with peach cobbler--perfectly sweet and Southern. 

Peach cobbler stuck in my head but rather than making one and slapping it directly on my hips, I chose a slightly healthier route and decided to make a peach smoothie. I am a crisp rather than a cobbler girl--loving that oat topping, so I made a vegan take on a Peach Crisp Smoothie. Good mysteries are always chilling--so a cold, creamy smoothie layered with a crunchy cinnamon oats and almond mixture seemed to be a good fit. ;-)

Peach Crisp Smoothie
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2)

Oatmeal-Almond Crisp Topping: 
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg 
1 Tbsp Earth Balance or butter spread 

Pulse almonds and oats in a food processor until very coarsely ground. Mix in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat butter spread in a small pan over medium heat. Add almond-oat mixture and cook until lightly browned, stirring often. Set aside

Peach Smoothie Base:
3 cups frozen peaches
1 medium banana
1/2 cup yogurt (I used a vanilla coconut milk based yogurt)
1/2 cup (or more if needed) coconut milk
2 Tbsp peach jam or preserves (Or honey)
1 tsp cinnamon

In blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Add additional coconut milk as needed to make it a pourable texture.

To Serve: Layer smoothie and topping into large glasses. Serve immediately with a large straw and a spoon. 

Notes/Results: Mmm... this totally hit the spot. With the peach jam, the flavor and sweetness of the peaches really came through. The banana and yogurt made it thick and creamy. The bigger the better in terms of a straw here--the topping gets a little stuck but you can always spoon it up. Sure there is some vegan "butter" and sugar in this but I am counting it as my fruit servings for the day and therefore it is health food. ;-) I will make this again. 

Note: A review copy of The Cutting Season was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wonderful Lentil Soup for Cook the Books: "Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

A whole lot of soup gets made on this blog--over 220 so far. With all that variety, picking a favorite soup or kind of soup out of all of them isn't easy. In my top five at least is lentil soup. I look at lentil soup as the tee-shirt and worn, faded blue jeans of the soup world. Cozy, easy, comfortable--what you want to have around to relax and bring comfort. Lentil soup isn't fancy or pretentious--it is unassuming, down to earth. It's much like the writing of Laurie Colwin, food writer and author of five books, including Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, our August/September Cook the Books selection. 

I had read about Laurie Colwin before I came across her books in a used book store a couple of years ago. Tragically she died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 48 in 1992 depriving the food world and the world-at-large of an incredible talent for warm and funny writing. Both Home Cooking and her follow-up More Home Cooking, sit on my bedside book stand, ready to be pulled out and the essays inside enjoyed anytime I need a little comfort and a little warmth to relax at the end of the night. Colwin captures so many ideas about food that exist in my mind and articulates them so well. Like this paragraph on soup:

"There is nothing like soup. It is by it's nature eccentric; no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup from cans. Soup embraces variety. There are silken cream soups that glisten on the spoon and spicy bisques with tiny flecks of lobster. There are broths in which float tiny tortellini and bouillons served in teacups on cold days, or, in the case of my great-aunt Julia Rice, ladled from silver punch bowls and served in punch cups to the conductors on the old Fifth Avenue streetcar during snowstorms. There are cold soups, soups that resemble stews, but when I think about soup, I mean something you eat with bread and butter and call a meal--meat soups and bean soups: thick, warming and consoling, and also a good way to deal with leftovers." 

So, of course it had to be soup for me when it came to making a dish inspired by the book. And lentil soup. Colwin says "It was not until I was a teenager that I tasted lentil soup which became my lifetime companion. There have been periods of my life when I have lived on lentil soup..." There is a longer essay on 'Wonderful Lentil Soup in More Home Cooking' along with a recipe sketch--taking it from simple to all fancied up, that I used for my inspiration. 
Wonderful Lentil Soup
Adapted from Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
(Makes about 6 Servings)

"The most minimal lentil soup calls for a cup of lentils; a quart of water or stock of any kind; one sliced carrot; one or two cloves of garlic, minced; one small diced onion; and there you are. This makes a nice plain soup to which no hungry person can object. 

The next step is to add on potato , diced up (I love lentil soup with potatoes in it), one rib of celery, one bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, another clove of garlic, and you have a more varied potage that is actually a vegetable soup with lentils.

...You cook this gently on the stove. You will have soup in a hour. You will have a better soup if you wait a little longer. ... The point is, you can't mess it up. Lentil soup is there for you . With a loaf of bread, a salad, and some cheese, and something or other for dessert,  you have your midday or evening meal without much trouble on your part. 

Notes/Results: I kept this soup very simple--just the basics. Unfortunately I did not have a carrot in the veggie drawer as I had assumed, but I just added extra celery. In addition to the thyme in Colwin's recipe sketch, I added some fresh rosemary. I like to add  brightness to the earthy lentils with a shot of balsamic vinegar or lemon added at the end. Or, in this case, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard--it just adds a little something. That's all you need. It's a vegan soup, but I didn't make it a vegan meal as I had some decadent and irresistible locally-made feta spread with garlic and herbs, picked up at the farmers market spread on sliced seeded, multi-grain loaf. With some rain pouring down last night, it was a perfect dinner. Lentil soup is even better the next day--although if you like a lot of broth, you'll need to add more--it sucks it up like a sponge. ;-)

I am not sure why it took me so long to pick Home Cooking as one of my Cook the Books selections, but I am glad I did. If you want to join in--we are of course right at the deadline of Monday, September 24, but consider joining us for October/November, when Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food is hosting Nora Ephron's Heartburn.  

Now, let's take a look at who is in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week and see what they brought.

Ana from Sweet Almond Tree has a smooth and creamy Corn, Herb and Vegetable Soup to share this week. She says, "I make this corn soup at the end of every summer, and I love it.  You could say it's my farewell to summer dish.  Soup is filling and satisfying if you're watching calories like I am.This soup features sweetcorn in a creamy broth, with lots and lots and lots of vegetables. I think it's the fresh herbs that make this soup as delicious as it is. They just take it over the top."

Janet of The Taste Space has a lentil soup variation, this Greek Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and Rosemary. Janet says, "This Greek red lentil soup is very simple, yet tastes great. The soup stock is based from sauteed onions, garlic, carrots and bay leaves which are simmered with red lentils infused with rosemary and oregano for the touch of Greek. The soup is finished with lemon juice and zest to bring it up a notch and complement the herbs. The entire recipe makes a big pot of soup, so I encourage you to freeze half for a rainy (or snowy) day."

Janet also has this pretty Kasha Salad with Roasted Beets and Green Beans in a Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette. She says, "Kasha is buckwheat that has been hulled and roasted. As such, it is a darker brown than raw buckwheat. Kasha can be tricky to cook as it can absorb lots of water and turn into mush. Here, I opted to toast it in the oven first, and then cooked it in a 1:2 ratio with water. While the kernels still seemed to explode slightly, they reminded me of coarse bulgur in this salad. Kasha has a slightly nuttier, stronger flavour but pairs well with beets and dill. I combined some garden-fresh green beans and roasted beets with a lemony dill vinaigrette for a bright early fall salad. Or late summer salad?"

We have two sandwiches this week. First, Graziana of Erbe in Cucina is back with a sandwich offering this week--a hearty Salmon Bagel with Sorrel. She says, "I bought some fresh bagels, garnished with poppy seeds and sesame seeds, and I prepared the classic bagels with smoked salmon. I harvested a bunch of fresh sorrel, and its tangy taste was a perfect match with salmon."

Tigerfish of Teczcape-An Escape to Food made these Bell Peppers Omelette in Pita PocketsShe says, "When time is short, what is lunch and where is dinner? Sometimes, meals prepared/made in advance can save a later part of the day. Make an omelette out of onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and come dinner time, just heat up pita bread and "pocket" the omelette with your favorite raw greens e.g salad greens or fine juliennes of organic Persian cucumber."

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 Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mushroom, Jalapeño, and Cilantro Salsa for the "Muy Bueno" Cookbook Spotlight & Cook-Off

It's Cookbook Spotlight time again. This time I am lucky enough to be reviewing Muy Bueno - Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangeline Souza--a blogging trio made up of a mother and two daughters, cooking up Mexican-inspired family recipes. 

This Cookbook Spotlight will be happening over the next 3 weeks. Week One we had a choice of making a unique Mushroom, Jalapeño, and Cilantro Salsa and/or a decadent Capirotada (a Mexican-style bread pudding). Beings as my butt certainly did not need bread pudding, I went with the salsa. I have made plenty of traditional salsas and fruit salsas but never would have thought about a mushroom based one.The recommendation is to use it as a topping for fish or meat or to scoop it up with tortilla chips but I was thinking the meaty mushrooms would pair well with some grilled bread. (OK, maybe that makes it more of bruschetta but it certainly tastes delicious--whatever you call it!)

Mushroom, Jalapeño, and Cilantro Salsa  (Salsa de Hongos y Jalapeños)
From Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Mexican Flavor
(Makes About 3 Cups)

16 ounces fresh white mushrooms, finely diced
Small red onion, finely diced
2 jalapeños, finely diced
Handful of fresh cilantro, diced
3/4 cups fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

Dice mushrooms, onion, jalapeños, and cilantro. In a bowl combine the diced ingredients above with lime juice and olive oil. Toss gently. Salt to taste.
Let it sit to absorb the flavors. Serve it at room temperature. 

Serve as a topping on fish, chicken, grilled steak, or as an appetizer with a basket of your favorite tortilla chips.

Notes/Results: Simple, fresh and pretty addicting. I love the way the mushrooms change texture as they sit in the lime juice and blend in with the other ingredients. They become softer and less chewy--so if you are not a raw mushroom fan, don't worry--this is completely different. I thought the recipe might have a bit too much onion and jalapeño for me and that it would overpower the earthy mushroom flavor but, it was perfect--a great combination of flavors. I will make this salsa again.

Check back next week for a recipe that I will pick from the book and the following week for the cookbook review and a chance to win a copy of your very own!

 *This post is part of the Muy Bueno Cookbook Spotlight & Cook-Off sponsored by Hippocrene and hosted at girlichef

Note: I received a copy of this cookbook from the publisher, however I received no monetary compensation to review it. As always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own.