Monday, September 30, 2013

Milk & Honey Reisbrei (Rice Pudding) with a Bienenstich ("Bee Sting") Inspired Topping for Cook the Books: The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

In 1945 in the midst of World War II, Elsie Schmidt, on the cusp of turning seventeen, has been protected from seeing and experiencing the worst of the war by the Nazi Lieutenant Colonel who wants to marry her. That all changes Christmas Eve when Elsie makes the decision to help a young Jewish boy, putting herself and her family at great risk. In 2007, in El Paso Texas, journalist Reba Adams ends up at Elsie's German Bakery looking for a story for the Christmas issue of a local magazine. The Baker's Daughter, a novel by Sarah McCoy, takes us back and forth through time, telling both of their stories and, it is our August/September Cook the Books pick, hosted by my pal Heather of girlichef.

A moving and beautifully written book that pulls you into the lives of both women and their families, this novel is a page turner. I found myself wanting, needing to know how things were going to be resolved for everyone but, at the same time, not wanting the stories to end. I admit with the amount of work-related reading that I need to do, sometimes I want to read something completely mindless--that doesn't require me to think. The Baker's Daughter is not that novel. It takes the reader back in history to some very dark days and made me consider what my own choices and decisions might have been. It also gave me some glimpses into parts of World War II that I wasn't familiar with, especially The Lebensborn Program that turned young "racially pure" German girls/women into breeders for Nazi Germany. Being so blown away by the thought, I did some additional reading on it--chilling. Present day, there are the morally-confusing decisions that Reba's boyfriend/fiancé Riki must make as a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas to consider. Author McCoy did an excellent job of weaving the stories together and moving back and forth in time and place. I liked how well the characters were written and how deeply nuanced they were. For the most part, as in real life, no person was one dimensional--neither truly good or bad. Elsie captured it best in a letter to her mother saying. "No one is good or bad by birth or nation or religion. Inside we are all masters and slaves, rich and poor, perfect and flawed."

The Baker's Daughter will appeal to many--fans of historical fiction--especially books set during WWII, foodie fiction lovers, and anyone who enjoys a well-written and haunting novel that will be remembered long after the final page is turned. 

With a book titled "The Baker's Daughter" there was plenty of foodie inspiration--from German baked goods, to American staples and Mexican traditional foods--and even a dozen recipes provided at the end of the book. I ended up taking inspiration for my dish from the mentions of milk and honey in the book. In the Prologue, a night in the Schmidt's bakery is described as "In the kitchen, bundled dough mounds as white and round as babies lined the countertop and filled the space with the smell of milk and honey, and promises of a full tomorrow." Later Elsie describes her mother as "she smelled sweetly of dried herbs and honey milk"--wishing it "would wash over her and through her." Elsie misses the honey milk soap and other products made by a merchant family sent to the camps. Reba smells the honey glazes in Elsie's bakery and denies herself anything made with milk (at least in public) as part of her vegan persona--something I found very amusing. Reba also thinks back to the summers of her childhood, before her father's death where "...all her memories dripped with honey and sunshine."

Cinnamon reisbrei--or German rice pudding was a favorite dish of young Elsie, although faced with an unwelcome engagement, a nasty encounter with Major Kremer--a German military officer, and beginning to truly experience the atrocities of the war, starting with the treatment of a young Jewish boy, she finds she has little taste for it at the Nazi holiday party. Rice pudding is both a comfort food and transcends so many cultures--you can find variations all over the world, so I could even imagine Riki enjoying a bowl of aroz con leche growing up in El Paso. 

I decided to combine my milk and honey musings with the reisbrei for a different twist on a classic dish. I topped it with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a drizzle of honey and a small mound of sliced almonds cooked in a mix of honey, butter and brown sugar that might be found on top of a Bienenstich Kuchen or "Bee Sting" Cake, another German classic.  

Milk & Honey Reisbrei Rice Pudding with a Bienenstich ("Bee Sting") Inspired Topping
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(4 Generous Servings)

1 cup medium grain rice
1 quart whole milk + about 1 cup extra milk or cream
1/4 cup honey + extra for drizzle
pinch of salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract 
raisins (optional)
ground cinnamon 
Bienenstich ("Bee Sting") Inspired Topping (recipe below)

In a medium-large saucepan, place rice, 1 quart milk, honey, salt, almond and vanilla extracts and butter. Cook slowly over medium-low heat until rice grains are tender but have not lost their shape (about 45 minutes),  stirring occasionally and adding more milk or cream as needed if mixture gets too dry/solid. Mixture should be thick and very creamy. If using raisins, stir them in for the last 0-15 minutes of cooking time.

To serve, place in individual dessert glasses or bowls. Drizzle lightly with honey and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Place a small scoop of the Bienenstich ("Bee Sting") Topping in center of the bowl. 

Bienenstich ("Bee Sting") Inspired Topping
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen 

3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Place butter and honey in small, non-stick pan and heat over medium-high, stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for a few minutes (continue stirring so mixture doesn't burn) until mixture darkens slightly. Add almonds and stir to evenly coat. remove from heat and cool until just warm. 

Notes/Results: Creamy, homey rice pudding goodness--the ultimate in comfort food. Of course milk is a given in a rice pudding, but the honey flavor really came through in the dish giving it extra flavor. I used a medium-grain white rice for this one and it sucked up the milk. To keep it creamy, I added the additional cup, about 1/3 cup at a time as it cooked. The topping was fun--sweet and nutty but it does get a bit sticky/clumpy the longer it sits. That wasn't totally bad--it was kind of like an almond candy--but, if you want it softer either add more butter and less honey or top the warm pudding at the last minute. I would make this again when I get my occasional rice pudding cravings. ;-)  

Since (as usual), I am ducking in under the wire for today's deadline, if you haven't entered this round of Cook the Books already, join us for our October/November pick: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in the Life of Food by Barbara Kingsolver. (Hosted by Rachel, The Crispy Cook). Heather will be rounding up the entrees for this round shortly at the CTB site


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Donna Hay's Red Lentil, Lemon and Yogurt Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I bought my first Donna Hay cookbook shortly after moving to Hawaii and, deciding that I wanted to be a better cook--spending countless exploring the cookbook section of the bookstores. I stumbled across Flavours (mine is the 2000 Canadian-published version), and was entranced by the beautifully-styled photos and simple recipes of this powerhouse Australian cook, food-stylist and author. Total foodie porn--I was hooked! I know have 16 Donna Hay cookbooks and all of her monthly magazines but sadly, at last count I only had 9 of her recipes posted. That's about to change as we welcome Donna Hay to I Heart Cooking Clubs, the weekly virtual foodie event that I co-host. Finally, I'll have 6 months to pour through those books and magazine stacks and make a weekly Donna Hay recipe. 

One of my goals is to post at least one recipe from all of her books in my collection during the 6 months. To that end, I opened up Modern Classics Book 1, which has a pretty healthy soup chapter. I like to "welcome" the new IHCC chefs in with a warm, nourishing bowl of soup, figuring if a chef and I click on a soup recipe, we are destined to cook well together. Even though Donna and I have already clicked on soups (Creamy Potato and Smoked Salmon Soup, Udon Noodles with Tofu & Asparagus in Miso Broth & Cannellini Bean and Fresh (Roasted) Tomato Broth), I thought I would keep with the practice. There were plenty of soups but I was drawn to the simple Lentil, Lemon & Yogurt Soup since I have been craving lentil soup and I liked the sound of the yogurt/cilantro topping.

Lentil, Lemon & Yogurt Soup
Adapted From Modern Classics Book 1 by Donna Hayes
(Serves 4)

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups red lentils
3 cups (1 1/2 pints) vegetable stock
4 cups (1 3/4 pints) water
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon rind
300g (10 oz) roughly chopped baby spinach, optional
sea salt and black pepper

1 cup (8oz) thick Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro 

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, onion, cumin and ground coriander and cook for 6 minutes or until the onion is well browned. Add the lentils, stock, water and lemon rind and bring to the boil.

Cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Stir through the spinach, if using. 

To serve, stir through the salt and pepper , then ladle the soup into mugs or bowls. Combine yogurt and cilantro and spoon on if desired. 

Notes/Results: Satisfying, soothing and flavorful, a tasty little bowl of soup. Cumin and coriander are two of my favorite herbs and they always work well with lentils. The lemon zest brightens things up--as does the additional lemon juice I squeezed in. The spinach is listed as optional but I say add it--both for the color and the nutrition.The topping is good and adds a tangy taste and creamy mouthfeel when stirred into the soup. Fast, easy and delicious, I would make this soup again.  

We officially kick off cooking with Donna tomorrow and I'll be linking this up to the "G'Day Donna Hay" post. You'll be able to see the dishes that the other IHCC participants welcome Donna with by following the links on that post. Or, join in and cook along with us! 

There are fall-friendly soups and a salad in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week--let's take a look!

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food brings us Fresh Shiitake Mushroom Soup and says, "For a quick-cooking soup like this, fresh mushrooms is usually my preference compared to the dried version.  The fresh variety has lighter flavors compared to the intense dried shiitake mushrooms which is often a better use in braised or stewed dishes, or typically in longer-duration cooking to develop the deep savory flavors from dried mushrooms."

Janet of The Taste Space shares a vegan version of a classic Vietnamese dish, this Wild Mushroom and Minted Brussels Faux Pho. She says, "The ingredient list is daunting, but it is a fairly simple soup to whip up. The abundance of vegetables creates a flavourful soup without too much of a soup base. The broth is nicely flavoured with ginger, star anise, tart lime juice, salty tamari and aromatic toasted sesame oil. Fresh mint adds a beautiful brightness. For the vegetables, seared Brussels sprouts, baby bok choy and meaty mushrooms make up the bulk of the soup."

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog was also feeling the lentils this week with a hearty Easy Red Lentil Soup. She says, "Are you ready for the change of season? This easy red lentil soup is a perfect fall soup. Red lentils are hearty and taste very different from the more traditional brown lentil. They have the consistency of split peas but with a milder and sweeter taste. These rich orange legumes fit perfectly into the fall color theme, providing a nutritious soup for a chilly fall evening. Eat it with salad and a sandwich for "on the go" meal."

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes shares this Beet and Orange Salad with a Citrus-Cumin Vinaigrette and says, "First of all I had purple beets, which lovingly spread their purpleness to my hands, face and all over the oranges.  I was also supposed to julienne the beets, but my new fancy mandoline hadn’t arrived in the mail yet, so I used the shredder dish from my food processor.  So, even with all these caveats that I have thrown at this recipe, it was still wonderful.  A fresh, tasty, happy salad."  

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 my side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pan-Roasted Monchong with Green Tahini Sauce & Pomegranate Seeds + a Recap of My Dozen Favorite Ottolenghi Recipes

It's so hard to say goodbye! You'd think that after over four years, cooking along with eight different chefs at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I would get used to saying goodbye to the current chef and moving onto the next one. But, six months of making a weekly recipe from a selected chef, you begin to bond with that person. This time I more than bonded with Yotam Ottolenghi--he gets me! His recipes are exactly what I want to eat--unique combinations of ingredients and flavors with an emphasis on fresh vegetables. I truly have not had a recipe of his that I did not at least enjoy, if not totally love. Still, next week kicks off six months of Donna Hay's beautiful food and simple, elegant dishes... so say goodbye to Ottolenghi I must.

To send him off with love, I am once again opening my recently-purchased Ottolenghi: The Cookbook for our final weekly recipe together. There are some delectable fish recipes in the book and I was especially pulled toward the description of the Panfried Sea Bass with Green Tahini & Pomegranate Seeds. I am choosing to call the dish Pan-Roasted rather than Panfried since it is drizzled with olive oil (which I significantly reduced), and then baked/roasted in the oven--I think it is a more appropriate description. 

I try to buy/eat local fish whenever possible so I switched out the sea bass for a local choice-- monchong (aka sickle pomfret, a firm, white, somewhat mild and oily fish), which was about half the cost per pound of sea bass--so a win all around. Served with a rice blend of red, brown and wild rice and a salad of local baby greens, sweet little "currant" tomatoes, Big Island goat cheese and toasted pine nuts, it makes for a colorful (and very visually crowded I am afraid!) ;-) plate and a fabulous send-off dinner for a great chef.

Ottolenghi says, "This is a quick dish that can be assembled in a flash. The only hard work is getting the seeds out of the pomegranate--and even that isn't so bad. Have the tahini and seeds ready in advance (but not chilled) and the rest should be done in 10 minutes." 

Pan-Roasted Monchong with Green Tahini Sauce & Pomegranate Seeds
Adapted From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
(Serves 4)

4 fish (sea bass or fish of choice) fillets, any pin bones removed
4 Tbsp olive oil (I cut this to about 1/2 Tbsp TOTAL--see Notes/Results below)
1/2 recipe Green Tahini Sauce (recipe below), at room temperature
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
grated zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup (100 g) pomegranate seeds (about 1/2 of pomegranate
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 lemon wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. / 200 degrees C.  Line a baking sheet with waxed/parchment paper. Season the fish with plenty of salt and pepper and lay it, skin side down, on the pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and then bake for 6 to 7 minutes. The fish should be firm and "bounce" back when you poke it with a finger.

Place the fish on individual serving plates and spoon the tahini sauce generously on top. Garnish with the chopped parsley, lemon zest, and pomegranate seeds. Place a lemon wedge next to the fish and serve at once.


Green Tahini Sauce
(Makes about 1 & 1/2 Cups)

Ottolenghi notes that "The sauce should be thick but runny, almost like honey. Once chilled it will thicken, so you will need to whisk it again and possibly add more water.

2/3 cup / 150 ml tahini paste
2/3 cup / 150 ml water (adjust amount based on tahini consistency)
5 Tbsp / 80 ml lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup / 30 g flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (if making by hand)

In a bowl, thoroughly whisk together the tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. The mixture should be creamy and smooth. If it is too thick, add more water. Stir in the chopped parsley, then taste and add more salt if needed.

If using a food processor or blender, process together all the ingredients except the parsley until smooth.  Add more water if needed. Add the parsley and turn the machine on again for a second or two. Taste for seasoning.

Notes/Results: Look how moist and gorgeous that monchong is! The tangy, nutty, complex tahini sauce is an excellent compliment to the fish, adding loads of flavor. Then, you get the brightness of the lemon zest, the herby parsley, and bursts of tangy pomegranate--making the whole dish pretty spectacular for not a lot of effort. The recipe calls for drizzling 1 tablespoon of olive oil each on four fillets--big overkill! I used my pastry brush to lightly brush each fillet with olive oil, using about 1/2 tablespoon total for all 3 fillets. Since there are 119 calories in a tablespoon of olive oil, this saved about 100 calories per serving--not to mention all that fat. I suppose if you were using a very dry fish you might need a little more but, an entire tablespoon of oil is extra fat and calories that you can put somewhere else--like towards dessert! ;-) Another Ottolenghi winner, I will definitely make the tahini sauce and this recipe again.

Selecting my top favorite recipes from our I Heart Cooking Clubs chefs is never particularly easy, every chef has given me some memorable dishes. Yotam Ottolenghi raised the bar however, I pretty much loved every recipe of his I made. Below are my picks, a dozen of the very best--the Ottolenghi recipes I not only loved but have made again or craved long after the last bits were eaten.

My first IHCC Ottolenghi recipe remains a favorite, gloriously green Herb, Chard, and Feta Soup. The soup works those oh-so-healthy greens (Swiss chard and baby spinach and fresh herbs) into the diet and the yogurt, lemon and feta keep the flavors balanced and prevent it from being too green tasting. Tangy, herby and pretty wonderful. 

I made several of Ottolenghi's soups and definitely the Garlic Soup with Harissa was a stand out. 25 garlic cloves make it full of flavor--sweet, garlicky, and very tasty on its own and I threw in chickpeas for a protein boost. Once you stir in the (homemade) harissa paste and yogurt, it becomes even better. Speaking of the harissa--Ottolenghi's version is spicy and easy to make--another winner.

Ottolenghi also knows his salads--starting with this Zucchini & Hazelnut Salad. This simple combination of the grilled squash with toasted hazelnuts, basil and shavings of Parmesan with just enough balsamic to give flavor but not overpower the rest of the ingredients is sublime. One of the best ways to use up a bounty of zucchini. 

The Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds was popular with a lot of our IHCC participants and for good reason--sweet dates, crunchy sumac/chile-dusted almonds and croutons, and red onion (mellowed by a soak in white wine vinegar), all work together in a sweet and tangy combination. Unusual and fabulous for entertaining--but simple enough to make every day.  

I have made the Asparagus and Samphire (Sea Asparagus) salad twice since last week. I am lucky to get local asparagus and sea asparagus most of the year here because I am in love with this salad/side. Something about the combination of the salty with the sesame and the unusual punch of fresh tarragon. I have been eating it in homemade poke bowls--sprouted brown rice, spicy ahi poke, this salad and sesame seeds--it is addicting I tell you! If you can ever find fresh samphire where you are at--grab it and make this. 

Appetizers and starters are another area Ottolenghi and I bonded--although for me, most of these ended up being dinner rather than a starter. These Baked Tomatoes with Baguette were fabulous for summer--the tomatoes burst with flavor, the sauce is lightly creamy and full of the flavor of the garlic and herbs, and it all is perfectly soaked up by the bread while the crispy topping adds good texture. A keeper recipe.

I saw these Spiced Garam Masala and Rosemary Nuts for purchase on Ottolenghi's website and decided to take the ingredient list and make my own at home. Can I call it an offical Ottolenghi recipe? Maybe not--but the mix of garam masala, celery salt, garlic salt and cayenne with fresh rosemary is amazing and it is another indication that the man knows how to combine flavors. Mixed with dark chocolate chips, it makes a fabulous trail mix. I will be making these to give out for the holidays. 

Labneh was one of our Optional Monthly Community Recipes and I put mine to very good use in Labneh with Olives, Pistachio & Oregano. The creamy yogurt cheese topped with the briny olives, fresh herbs and toasted nuts was a excellent combination of flavor and texture. I liked it best slathered on seeded flat bread crackers. 

Ottolenghi is the master of assembling different components to make a recipe sing. Case in point, his Butter Bean Purée with Dukkah & Egg. On its own, the purée is mild and nice but not anything really special. When you top it with the grated egg, lemon zest, smokey paprika and the nut and spice dukkah mix, it elevates this hummus-like appetizer to a higher level. 

Another dish where the different components came together magically was the Fish and Caper Patties with Burnt Eggplant and Preserved Lemon. Each part was fabulous on its own--tangy-savory little fish cakes, pungent sweet/sour preserved lemon (Ottolenghi's Quick Pickled Lemons) and my absolute favorite--the burnt eggplant sauce/spread, but together, they made for an amazing plate of flavor. 

To me, Ottolenghi's Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta was an ingenious mix of flavor and texture. The chewy-in-a-good-way barley had a rich and complex tomato flavor with a delicious combination of aromatics and spices--garlic, shallots, lemon peel, thyme, smoked paprika, chile flakes, and oregano. Topped with the creamy feta, marinated in caraway and olive oil, it is a dish I keep thinking about and drooling over.

Speaking of drool-worthy dishes, the one Ottolenghi dish that is never far from my mind was his one dessert recipe that I made over the past six months, the Almond/Walnut & Blueberry Crumble CreamI switched out the fruit on this combination of a fool and a crisp to make the most of a bounty of on-sale organic blueberries and added sliced almonds to the cookie-like crumble. The result was beyond fantastic. The thick and decadent spiced cream--a mix of heavy cream, Greek yogurt and mascarpone cheese--was like a pillowy cloud of yum. This would be great with any seasonal fruit. 

I was going to throw in a few honorable mentions (Shakshuka, the Fried Tofu and Chilli Oil topping Ottolenghi's Red Lentil Soup, Grape Leaf with Herb & Yogurt Pie, even this week's Green Tahini to name a few) but, since I have listed almost half of the recipes already as my favorites, I thought it borders on overkill. ;-) Suffice it to say, Ottolenghi and I really clicked and know I will continue to happily cook with him and discover even more favorite dishes!

You can check out what dishes the other IHCC participants made for their Oh, Ottolenghi! good-by dishes and/or their favorite Ottoelnghi recipes by following the links at the post. 

We will be kicking off cooking with our newest IHCC chef Donna Hay, starting this coming Monday, 9/30. Drop in and cook along with us!

Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nigel Slater's Hot Cheese Muffins & Apples with Butter & Brown Sugar: Comfort Food for Food 'N Flix September: "Toast"

Toast, (based on the autobiography Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger by British Chef Nigel Slater), is our Food 'N Flix movie pick for September, hosted by Anne-Marie of This Mama Cooks. Toast is the ultimate in foodie films, telling of the journey of a young boy who "never ate a vegetable that didn't come out of a can" to a talented and award winning chef. Slater's mother was not a good cook, boiling most every (canned) dinner item in a pot on the stove and relying on toast when meals inevitably did not turn out. As much as she loves him, neither his mother or his gruff and closed-off father, understand Nigel's obsession with cookbooks and the fresh cheese case at the local grocery. Nigel's mother's asthma and lung disease cause her death while he is young and his father finds solace in the chain-smoking, pie-baking house cleaner, Mrs. Potter. He marries her and Nigel divides his time between loathing his new stepmother, trying to figure out the recipe for her lemon meringue pie, and battling her--through cooking--for his father's love. 

The movie has humor--mostly from the always over-the-top Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Potter. It's also moving--I found myself wanting to give young Nigel (Oscar Kennedy) and teenage Nigel (Freddie Highmore) a big hug throughout the movie, and his father, a big kick.  The Dusty Springfield soundtrack and retro food and costumes create the perfect 1960's setting, and Slater himself even appears at the end as a chef at the Savoy Hotel who hires teenage Nigel for the hotel's kitchen. This is a film any foodie will love. 

"No matter how bad things get, it's impossible not to love someone who made you toast. Once you've bitten through that crusty surface, to the softer underneath and tasted the warm salty butter, you're lost forever."--Young Nigel Slater

There is plenty of food inspiration in Toast like--buttered toast, cheese on toast, mincemeat, apple and lemon meringue pies, meat pies, ham, veggies and other things that do not belong in a can, young Nigel's failed cooking attempts like spaghetti Bolognese and broiled smoked haddock, fun retro British party foods and the scones, shepherd's pie and trifle teenage Nigel cooks in "Domestic Science" class (Home Ec.). I looked to the handful of Nigel Slater cookbooks in my collection for inspiration and found my dish in Real Fast Food: 350 Recipes Ready-to-Eat in 30 Minutes by Nigel Slater. 

In the recipe notes for Hot Cheese Muffins, Nigel Slater says, "My mother died when I was quite young. My father was left with the daunting task of feeding a somewhat finicky child. Apart from vast quantities of fruit and vegetables (even spinach), there was very little I would eat. His greatest and possibly only, success was this simple dish. Needless to say, he soon gave up and installed a housekeeper, of whom I shall say no more." It captured the "toast is love" angle as well as a way to give comfort to young Nigel with a cup of tea after school. The Apples with Butter & Sugar from the same book were an add-on, simply because it is fall and nothing says Autumn comfort like warm and sweet apples. 

Hot Cheese Muffins
Real Food Fast by Nigel Slater
(For 2 as a Snack)

a walnut-sized piece of butter (I used just about 1 tsp of butter)
the whites of 2 small scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 hot, toasted English muffins, split

Melt the butter in a small heavy-based pan over a low heat. Add the chopped scallions and fry until soft and slightly golden in color. Stir in the grated cheese and let it melt slowly over a low heat. Slide the whole lot onto toasted muffins and eat while still very hot. 

(Slater adds that you can also: Spread the muffins with homemade pickle relish or chutney before you coat with the molten cheese or Sandwich the muffins together with crisp bacon.)

Apples with Brown Butter and Sugar
Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater
(Per Person)

2 medium apples
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used 1/2 the amount)
1 Tbsp white or brown sugar (I used a heaping 1/2 Tbsp)

Peel, core and slice the apples into 8 pieces. Melt the butter and add the apples and sugar as soon as it starts to foam. Cook the apples until they are soft and golden, about 5-7 minutes. 

Notes/Results: Cheese, butter, sugar--what's not to like?! This is just basic comfort food or "nursery food" (comfort food you ate as a child growing up) as it is often called in the U.K. The Hot Cheese Muffins are rich and gooey with the cheese mixture melting into the little nooks and crannies of the English muffins. I used just a bit of butter to saute the green onions and it was plenty (the Tillamook cheddar I used was rich on its own) and I tossed a little of the green scallions on top for a bit of color contrast. These are best eaten piping hot and just picked up and eaten by hand with lots of napkins for the extra cheese and buttery liquid that comes out. I also reduced the butter and sugar in the apples, feeling like the tea/snack was indulgent enough already. For both flavor and appearance, I topped the sauteed apples with a blob of non-fat Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Served warm they are a lovely little treat for fall. With the tea, it all makes for a good lunch or afternoon snack when you are in need of a little comfort and indulgence--not something to eat often but nice on occasion! ;-)  

The deadline for this month's Food 'N Flix is Monday, September 30th. If you missed this round and love food, movies and foodie movies, join us for October when we will be viewing A Good Year with Russell Crowe, hosted by Tina at Squirrel Head Manor.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Simple Chickpea Soup: Sometimes Simple is Best for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

This week I wanted a chickpea soup--both because brothy bean soups are my favorite kind and there may be slightly too many cans of chickpeas in my pantry at the moment. I looked on line for some inspiration, perhaps a different kind of chickpea soup but instead I found myself going back to Michael Pollan's Simple Chickpea Soup. Made with just a few ingredients--nothing different or special, but it was exactly what I was craving.

I did make a few changes--I reduced the olive oil because saving a few calories and fat grams is never a bad thing. I also added a sprig of rosemary from my herb pots because I love how it pairs with beans and used both water and a couple of cups of veggie garlic broth I had in my freezer. Sometimes simple is best.

Michael Pollan says, "This is a simple recipe made with simple ingredients. It was featured in a story about the food writer Michael Moss and I making lunch together in New York Times Dining Section on April 30, 2013."

Simple Chickpea Soup
Adapted from "Cooked" and 
(Serves 4-6
Total cook time about 1 hour 15 minutes
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
3 Tbsp olive oil, more for serving (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 clove garlic, slivered
2 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
Salt and pepper
Parmesan, optional

In a soup pot over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil until onion is translucent and has lost its bite. Add garlic and cook until slightly colored.

Rinse chickpeas in cold water, then add to pot. Add water to pot until chickpeas are covered to the depth of 1 inch.

Cook over medium heat (soup should bubble, but not come to a full boil) for an hour, or until the chickpeas are soft and silky. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with grated Parmesan or a drizzle of good olive oil if desired.

Notes/Results: Just a perfectly lovely bowl of soup made out of a few basic ingredients. The chickpeas are tender and creamy, the lemon brightening without overpowering, and the rosemary complementing everything nicely. I didn't use the Parmesan on my first bowl but, I tossed some on the leftovers and it is a nice addition. Beyond chopping up the onion and slicing the garlic, the soup does the rest of the work itself, bubbling away on the stove for an hour. Perfect to start on a rainy afternoon while relaxing and reading a book, smelling the delicious aroma, then tucking into it for dinner with some crusty bread. I will make this soup again. 

We have a great group of friends here with soups and salads in the Souper Sundays kitchen, let's take a look.

Janet of The Taste Space shares an exotic curry dish curry and says, "Fresh black eyed peas were new to me. I’ve tried dried black eyed peas before but trust me, there is a reason they call them black eyed peas. And no, I am not talking about their cute black mark. I am talking about the pea business. THEY TASTE LIKE PEAS! I never captured that flavour from dried or canned varieties. Not entirely sure whether this was a seasonal fresh bean, I snagged a bunch and ultimately decided to try this Goan Black Eyed Pea Curry. The tomato-coconut milk infused broth was tantalizing, spiced with ginger, coriander, cumin and tamarind with a bit of sweetness from maple syrup (use jaggery for a more authentic flavour). Exotic yet light, I served it with brown rice."

Sandra of Meadows Cooks is here with a hearty Turkey and Ginger Carrot Stew. She says, "I know what you're thinking: Is she insane, posting a turkey leftover recipe... in mid-September?? Well, you don't know my husband. He is crazy about roasted turkey. So much so that as soon as it got a little bit chilly he was buying a 20 pounder and roasting it up. Needless to say, we had some leftovers. Always the way with turkey. Just can't get around it, no matter how much you love the stuff. No family of three can consume an entire one in one sitting... at least I hope not. So, here we have an early way to use those turkey leftovers. You'll thank me in about a month... or three.

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina brings this satisfying Roasted Vegetables Chowder with Basil and says, "I have frozen a lot of basil for the winter, and I stored fresh leaves in the fridge chopped and covered with a little olive oil. This simple basil sauce should be used within a few days, and is perfect for pasta dishes, sandwiches, salad dressings, and hot or cold vegetable soups. I roasted some vegetables for this chowder, then added other ingredients and blended into a puree."

Shaheen from allotment2kitchen is back with a spicy Jamaican Butternut Squash Stew and says, "Oh my it was really flavourful. I really liked the gravy and the heat imparted from the scotch bonnet.  If the thought of Scotch Bonnet frightens you, then please feel free to exchange it for a milder red chilli. The stew was served with some plain white rice. The runner beans are my own addition (and probably not authentic in Caribbean cuisine)  I only added it to the stew as an afterthought because I had them and thought they would make a lovely addition.

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food shares a healthy salad and says, "Though red kale is similar in taste and texture to green kale, there is still a subtle difference in my opinion. Red kale smells so perfumy! Or maybe it is this bunch of organic red kale I bought? I am quite sure it does not smell bad, just too good to be true. Anyway, I made this Red Kale Mango Grape Salad sometime back when we were doing outdoor grilling quite often. It is a great accompaniment to grilled food - fish. ... As there are bountiful of grapes at the farmer's market now, why not make it again?"

Joyce of Kitchen Flavours made her version of and Ottolenghi dish, a Baby Spinach Salad with Cranberries and Almonds. She says, "This salad is so delicious! All the ingredients blends so well together. Crispy delicious tortilla seasoned from the sumac spices, nutty crunchy almonds, crispy onions, sweet dried cranberries which has softened slightly from soaking with the white wine vinegar, fresh green Spinach, a hint of sourness from the lemon juice, and the wonderful spicy taste from the flaked chilies and of course Sumac, a beautiful spice which I'm just learning to use. I just can't seem to stop eating this salad, before I know it, the whole plate is clean! Haha! I will definitely make this again. Yum!"

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes accompanied salmon with a colorful New Potato and Corn Salad with Basil Dressing and says, "I made this a little while ago, when fresh corn was at it’s peak.  It’s probably too late for fresh corn, but where I live right now the abundance of tomatoes, new potatoes and basil makes this a perfect option.  Just use frozen corn in place of the fresh and you are good to go. As I said on Monday, I am ready for fall and this dish is another perfect transition.  With it’s tomatoes and basil vinaigrette it has one foot in summer, but the potatoes and the corn give it more of fall-ish flair to me."

From Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog, a golden Fresh Peach and Sweet Potato Salad. She says, "I recently unexpectedly discovered that freshly sliced peaches and cold cooked sweet potato go great together. The sweet tartness of the fresh seasonal peach combined with some leftover cold sweet potatoes was a great surprise. I had made sweet potatoes the day before and had a few left in the refrigerator. When I saw the peaches, I just knew the flavors were  going to be a match. I wasn't disappointed!"

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week with their fabulous soup and salad creations. 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!