|Five-Spice Beet Soup|
Jan 11th, 2009
To complete the transformation of this blog into a Soup-of-the-Month forum, I'll follow up last month's Roasted Eggplant Soup with - yes - another pureed vegetable soup. Now that I think about it actually, the two soups would make a stunning duo - contrasting the smokey orange of the eggplant soup with the velvety violet of the beet.
The impetus behind wanting to make both of these recipes was same as well. There are some vegetables that have admirable nutritional profiles, yet always end up languishing in my vegetable drawer. Beets and eggplant both belong to this category of vegetable - those that, to be honest, I just don't love and have to struggle to come up with ways to eat them that sound good. But it's becoming clear to me that just about any vegetable will be delicious when cooked up with some broth and served as a soup. What an easy way to eat your vegetables!
This beet soup recipe caught my eye because the combination of ginger and Chinese five-spice sounded like just the thing to liven up a puree of sweet steamed beets. Plus I had everything I needed to make it hanging out in my fridge (always a plus). The one thing I was out of was vegetable broth, so I tested Mark Bittman's assertion that throwing some carrots and onions in a pan with some water and simmering for ten minutes will give you a better vegetable stock than anything you could pick up in the grocery store. Since canned vegetable stocks tend to be pretty gross, this isn't really a high bar - but I'd have to agree with Mr. Bittman. I didn't have much onion, so I added some leek trimmings from my freezer to some rubbery old carrots and the skin from the onion I was using for this recipe, and indeed in about ten or fifteen minutes of simmering I had a sweet, aromatic stock.
After pureeing the soup and adjusting the seasonings, I felt it needed just a little more tang, so I put in a squeeze or two of lemon juice. This was my only change from the original recipe. The combination of the tang from the lemon juice and the yogurt I stirred in on serving proved to be a great counterpoint to the spicy ginger and sweet vegetables, and the five-spice powder adds an unexpected complexity of taste. Pretty good for such a quick to prepare recipe - plus all the purple stuff covering your blender is sure to freak out the kids if you have any.
Five-Spice Beet Soup4 2- to 2 1/2-inch-diameter beets, scrubbed, trimmed, unpeeled, each cut into 6 wedges (about 3 1/2 cups)
3 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced (2 cups)
1 celery stalk with leaves, stalk chopped, leaves sliced
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 tsp (or more) Chinese five-spice powder
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice (to taste)
Sour cream or plain yogurt
Place beet wedges in 4-cup glass measuring cup. Add 2 cups broth; cover with paper plate and microwave on high until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and chopped celery stalk; cover and cook until almost tender and translucent, stirring often, about 12 minutes.
Add beet mixture and 1 cup broth to onion mixture; cover and simmer 4 minutes. Mix in ginger and 1/4 tsp five-spice powder. Transfer to lender; cover and puree. Season soup to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and additional five-spice powder, if desired; rewarm if necessary.
Serve and top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and sliced celery leaves.
-Bon Appetit February 2009
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|Roasted Eggplant Soup with Saffron Mayonnaise|
Nov 8th, 2008
In August we took a road trip to a family wedding in California. We drove down the Oregon coast, through the Redwoods and Sonoma, with stops in San Francisco and Santa Cruz. There's something about driving through little towns and discovering small independent bookstores that renders me completely powerless. I must buy. I mean, what if I were to be caught in a motel somewhere with nothing to read? Unthinkable.
Most of my purchases were used mystery novels, perfect for quick summer reads, but I love prowling the used cookbook sections as well. You never know what you'll find tucked in between the Microwave Cookery manuals and the old Sunset recipe books from the '70s. In Florence, Oregon this year, my find was a copy of The Greens Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine From The Celebrated Restaurant by Deborah Madison. Deborah Madison is one of my favorite cookbook authors, and I was thrilled to fill this gap in my collection.
When we got home it was high summer and our new garden was flourishing. It was the perfect context to break open this book, full of ideas for vegetables picked at the peak of ripeness. I went on a bit of a Deborah Madison cooking binge, and this is the recipe I wanted to share. To be honest, for all the vegetable goodness included in this soup - it's the tangy, wondrous, goes-great-on-anything Saffron Mayo that really makes this dish.
It's cold and rainy out today, but I felt a little bit of summer oozing out of this picture and this recipe.
Roasted Eggplant Soup with Saffron MayyonnaiseServes 4 to 6Soup:
1 to 2 firm, shiny eggplants, weighing in all 1 1/2 lbs
About 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large red or torpedo onion, halved but not peeled
1 large or 2 medium red peppers, halved and seeded
2 medium ripe tomatoes
4 to 5 thyme branches or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
7 cups water or stock
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup diced bread tossed with 2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg yolk, room temperature
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt, preferably coarse sea salt
1/2 cup light olive oil or peanut oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp saffron threads dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
Lemon juice or vinegar to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wipe the outside of the eggplants, halve them lengthwise, and brush the entire surface with olive oil. Salt and pepper the cut surfaces, set the halves on a baking sheet and start them baking. Brush olive oil on the cut sides of the onion, both sides of the peppers, and the tomatoes, and add them to the pan with the eggplant after it has baked 20 minutes. Continue baking another 20 minutes or so, until the eggplant is soft and is beginning to collapse, and the skins of all the vegetables are loose and wrinkled. Remove the vegetables from the oven and cool briefly. Take off what you can of the pepper skins and peel the onions; then roughly chop all the vegetables into large pieces.
Slowly warm 2 tbsp of olive oil with the thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and dried basil. After several minutes add the baked vegetables, salt, and the chopped basil. Pour in the water or stock, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer slowly for 25 minutes.
Cool the soup briefly; then puree it in a blender at a low speed, preserving some texture and small flecks of the pepper and eggplant skins. Return it to the pot and season to taste with salt and lemon juice. Thin with additional water or stock if needed.
Prepare the Saffron Mayonnaise. Just before serving, toast the croutons in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown. Serve the soup with a spoonfull of the mayonnaise in each bowl, along with a handful of croutons. A scattering of chopped basil leaves will give additional color and freshness to the soup.
If the egg is cold from the refrigerator, set it in a bowl of hot water for a minute or so to warm it up.
Pound the garlic with the salt in a mortar until it forms a smooth paste. Add the egg yolk, and stir briskly for about a minute with the pestle. Whisk in the olive or peanut oil, drop by drop at first, then adding it in larger amounts as you go along. When all the oil is incorporated, add the cayenne and the dissolved saffron. Season to taste with lemon juice or vinegar.
Thin the mayonnaise by stirring in hot water by the spoonfull until you have the consistency you want. If it is not to be used right away, cover and refrigerate until needed; then bring it to room temperature before serving.
-Deborah Madison, The Greens Cook Book
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|Dinner with Jay: Salmon|
Sep 5th, 2008
Okay, I'll admit Jay didn't really pick out this recipe as much as I cajoled him into it. Salmon is one of the few types of seafood that Jay enjoys, so when I came across some nice salmon at the store I decided to see if I could find a simple, easy preparation (ideally involving lots of butter) and talk him into helping out.
We actually made this a few months ago when Copper River salmon were in the stores here in Seattle. Despite the fact that I live in Seattle, salmon has actually never been one of my favorite fish, in fact I usually find it kind of boring. I haven't done a lot of taste tasting between types of salmon, and I wasn't entirely sold on the idea of shelling out gold bullion for a few fillets of fish just because it had the title 'Copper River - wild caught' on it. So I bought a smidge of the expensive stuff, and more of your basic farm raised Atlantic salmon, figuring I'd be lucky if I could force this stuff down my kids gullets at all, let alone pause to enjoy the subtle delights of expensive fish.
But you know what, when all was said and done, I would have been better off just buying as much of the Copper River as I could afford and leaving it at that. The difference in color and texture between the two was quite impressive - the Copper River being firm with an actual salmon color while the farmed salmon was an anemic pink and kind of squishy. And the taste - alright I'll admit it - the Copper River was so much better. And I should know because I was the one forced to eat up the rest of the farmed salmon for lunch the next two days. There were no leftovers of the wild-caught fish.
The preparation itself was super easy, and definitely kid-friendly. If you've got some picky eaters who you think might be ready to try seafood, I would recommend buying a small quantity of the best quality salmon out there, and giving this recipe a whirl.
Roasted Salmon with Garlic ButterServes 42 Garlic Cloves
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Butter
1.5 Pounds Salmon, Cut into 4 Pieces
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Fresh Minced Parsley
Lemon Wedges for Garnish
Preheat Oven to 400 F. Mash the garlic into a paste witht the salt and pepper on a cutting board. Add butter and mash into the garlic paste.
In a baking dish, arrange the salmon in a single layer and top it with the garlic butter. Drizzle with the lemon juice. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the salmon is cooked.
Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.
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|Italian Bread with Roasted Vegetables|
Sep 5th, 2008
I'm not sure why this recipe gets all coy and calls itself 'Italian Bread' rather than Focaccia, but it's a nice easy recipe and a good way to introduce some veggies into what is usually a pretty nutrition free dish (white flour, oil, and salt!).
I think you could easily play with the types of vegetables you use in this recipe - just keep an eye on the moisture content. You don't want it to get too high. As it is, the dough gets really slimy and disgusting when the roasted vegetables are kneaded into the dough, but if you perservere and get the mess into the baking dish it still bakes up golden and tasty.
This bread is great with tomato soup and a sprinkling of feta.
Italian Bread with Roasted Vegetables1 cup water
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 sweet onion, 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peel on
6 sundried tomato halves, in strips
1/16 tsp sea salt, kosher or ground
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl and let set until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the oregano, basil, and salt. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix thoroughly, adding more flour until you have a nice medium-firm dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and spring, at least 5 minutes. Place the dough in aan oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Peel and chop the onion and pepper, and crush the garlic. Toss the onions, pepper, and garlic with 1/2 tsp of oil in a baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp of salt. Bake 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the garlic is soft. Cool before using. Peel the garlic and cut into small pieces.
Spread the dough into a large rectangle. Scatter the vegetable mixture evenly over the top. Add the sun-dried tomato pieces and fold in the sides. Knead the vegetables into the dough until they are well distributed throughout. Pat the dough into a greased 10.5-inch skillet or pie pan. Allow it to rise about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Make deep dimples in the dough with your fingertips. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 tsp oil over the top and sprinkle with the kosher salt. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack before cutting.
-Graham Kerr, Day-by-Day Gourmet Cookbook
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|Dinner with Jay|
Jun 4th, 2008
I've been in a bit of a cooking funk lately, so I decided a new project might help perk me up. Jay, my eight year old, has become a bit more culinarily adventurous lately as well so I thought the time had come for a joint dinner project. The idea is that Jay will pick out one recipe a week, help me make a grocery list, and then help make the dinner.
I gave Jay a Rachel Ray cookbook to look through, and he quickly picked out this butternot squash mac and cheese. The recipe is very similar to recipes in the Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious --> cook and puree a mild tasting vegetable and stir it into the pasta with a bunch of cheese and cream. The little differences that I liked in this recipe were the step of grating the onion directly into the butter, which made for no onion chunks to scare off the kids, and the addition of fresh thyme. I actually left the thyme out of the recipe in the (fruitless) hope that the five year old would eat it, but sprinkled the herbs liberally over my portion, and they were very tasty.
This makes a ton of pasta, so we've got some tucked away in the freezer for a lazy day. Jay ate up all of his and gave it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. For a first try on our new culinary project, I think it went really well.
Boo's Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese1 pound macaroni with ridges
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1/2 medium onion
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 10-ounce box frozen cooked butternut squash, defrosted
1 cup cream or half-and-half
2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Freshly group pepper and coarse salt to taste
Cook the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil add the thyme and grate the onion directly into the pot with a handheld grater or Microplane. Cook the grated onions for a minute or two and then add the flour and cook together for a minute or two more. Whisk in the stock and add the butternut squash and cook until warmed through and smooth. Stir in the cream and bring the sauce to a bubble. Stir in the cheeses in a figure-eight motion and season the sauce with salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.
Drain the cooked pasta well and combine with the sauce. Garnish with thyme leaves and an optional sprinkle of cheese. (Boo is the author's dog.)
-Rachel Ray, 365: No Repeats
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