Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another soup recipe...

I apologize for my lack of blog participation lately, but i couldn't help but contribute one of my favorite "under the weather" soup recipes, or techniques really.

I started making this soup for myself when i was working at a vegetarian restaurant. I was really into (and still am) very simple japanese food at the time, and this was just something i came up with out of necessity. A small piece of kombu seaweed, a knob of ginger, some dried mushrooms, scallion whites, a little water, tamari or shoyu, makes an excellent broth for soba or udon noodles, or is great just poured over some brown or steamed rice, with fresh scallions and togarashi chili powder on top. you could make a basic dashi and add bonito flakes to the kombu broth, but i almost prefer this vegetarian version when im not feeling well.

Kombu Broth with Soba

1 2 inch piece of kombu seaweed, scored with a sharp knife once or twice.
1 1 inch knob of ginger, smashed with the flat of your knife
2 - 3 scallion whites (greens reserved for garnish) smashed with the flat of your knife
5 good quality dried shitake mushrooms, or fresh shitake stems (if using fresh shitakes, gently cook in the finished broth while the noodles cook.)
3 cups of cold water
tamari or shoyu soy sauce to taste

For garnish:
Cooked dried soba noodles
Thinly sliced fresh or reconstituted dry shitake mushrooms (from making the broth)
Scallion greens, thinly sliced on the bias.
Sesame oil
Very finely julienned fresh ginger
schichimi togarashi (japanese 7 spice chili powder)

in a small sauce pan combine the kombu, ginger, scallion whites, mushrooms and water.

Slowly bring to a simmer, and remove and discard the kombu before the water starts to boil, otherwise it will give off a funky odor. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the dried shitakes are soft and the broth tastes like it has fully extracted the flavor of the aromatics. remove from heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the reconstituted shitake caps (remove and discard the woody stems), and discarding the rest of the spent ingredients. Thinly slice and return the mushrooms to the broth, and season to taste with the shoyu or tamari. keep warm on the stove while you prepare the garnishes and cook the noodles.

Serve in warmed bowls garnished to your liking.

Hope you feel better!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chicken Soup to the Rescue

D, say it ain't so! I'm sorry to hear that you're under the weather. Here's my go-to recipe for a basic, no-frills, hearty and delicious chicken soup - you can improvise with whatever you have on hand (celery, onions instead of leeks, vegetable instead of chicken stock, etc.) I'm eating it as I type this very moment. Oddly enough, I find that a healthy squirt of hot sauce in my chicken soup is strangely satisfying when I'm sick - but you can also leave it as is, or grate some cheese over it, whatever strikes your fancy. If you're going to be eating it over a couple of days, you may want to keep some of the cooked chicken and pasta aside in the refrigerator so that you can make the soup quickly whenever you want. Feel better soon!

Chicken Soup with a Secret Weapon
Adapted from Orangette

2 large, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme (about 4-5 sprigs)
2 quarts chicken broth (I used Imagine brand Organic Free Range), plus a bit more broth or water for thinning if needed
2 large carrots, cut into rounds roughly ¼-inch thick
2 medium leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed thoroughly, and cut into rough 1-inch pieces 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind, roughly 2 inches square
1/3 cup small soup pasta (I use whatever's on hand; pipette, elbows, etc.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and dry chicken breasts, and place them in a single layer on a baking dish or cookie sheet. Rub them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and roughly 3 sprigs’ worth of thyme leaves. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, or until it is cooked through and the skin is golden. Set the meat aside until cool enough to handle; then shred the chicken from the bone in large flakes, discarding the skin. [Note that most of the seasonings are stuck to the outside of the skin, so as you remove it, you might consider rubbing it, seasoning side down, against the meat.]

Pour chicken broth into a large pot, Dutch oven, or stockpot. Add the carrots, leeks, cheese rind, and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook about 25 minutes, until vegetables are tender and broth smells lightly of the cheese. Add the leaves of 7 or so sprigs of thyme, and let cook another five minutes. Add chicken and pasta (and a bit of additional broth or water, if you feel the mixture is too thick), return the soup to a boil, turn down the heat, and let the soup simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Retrieve and discard the cheese rind. Ladle into bowls. Serves a lot.

Soup Recipe

Nene (or anyone else for that matter): I'm pretty sick right now, so I was hoping you might have a good soup recipe for me. I have some home-made vegetable broth in the freezer, and i'm fiendin for some old fashioned chicken-noodle, or something. Let me know!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekend Bounty

So far today has been a day of bountiful productivity in the kitchen: I've made Molly's berry pound cake and Deb's chocolate chip cookies, and frozen yesterday's chicken stock in various quantities (ice cubes, 1-cup ziploc baggies, etc.). Now I'm contemplating what to eat for dinner but must do some actual work first (and I'm not yet hungry since snacking on the pound cake and the cookies). Potato gratin? Chicken soup? Patricia Wells' winter pistou with Gene's pesto? I forgot to get butter and milk when I was at the store earlier, and am debating whether to go out again. Is it absurd to go to Whole Foods twice in one day?
Breakfast: Kashi cereal of oat flakes and wild blueberry clusters (I add frozen blueberries), coffee, half a sesame bagel with cream cheese.

Lunch: Black forest ham and Swiss cheese on ciabatta with spicy mustard. Water, apple cider.

Snack: teeny slice of berry pound cake (warm) and two warm chocolate chip cookies.

Dinner: TBD

Saturday, January 24, 2009

That's What I'm Talking About

Since reading this article, I have been making this soup almost non-stop. It's quick, super tasty, wonderfully aromatic, and very easy to adjust or improvise the ingredients. It's kind of a fun game to play around with the proportions, depending on how much of each component you want to taste in each spoonful/forkful/bite. You can make and keep various ingredients (cooked, shredded chicken, cilantro, lettuce, scallions, etc.) in the fridge and simply toss them into the broth at the last minute. I attempted to eat this with chopsticks without much success, and promptly switched to a spoon.

There have been so many blog-worthy culinary moments of late that I don't even know where to begin trying to catch up. In New York last weekend, the wierd music fan club (minus one) hit up two spots that were both new to me: Veselka, Ukranian food in the East Village, and Le Gamin in Soho, which I've wondered about ever since I became devoted to Robert Arbor's cute, kitschy storybook about French food and lifestyle, Joie de Vivre. Veselka was heavy on the meat, although with lots of vegetarian options, it doesn't have to be - but I ordered the meat combination plate, which included meat-stuffed cabbage and an array of pierogi as well as a cup of winey red borscht (which was a bit on the sweet side for me - when I had it in Russia, I seem to remember it had a bit of cream added to the broth to cut it and give it some unctuous body). V looked like he was about to pass out over his goulash, and we decided that he needs a stomach expansion. H's Christmas borscht with mushroom dumplings looked tasty.

Le Gamin was a totally unexpected surprise and a huge hit (we missed you H & T!) Small, super laid-back with a neighborhood vibe, the food was straightforward French corner bistro and perfectly executed. By happy accident, they made us the wrong crepe and so we got to try two. V had a simple and delicious omelet of ham, mushrooms and cheese with a lightly dressed green salad on the side, and I had a poached egg atop a latke with ratatouille. Then we shared a ratatouille crepe and a crepe with fresh butter and sugar. The coffee was strong, the atmosphere calm and friendly, the food was scrumptious and affordable - if you're in NY and looking for a breakfast/brunch/lunch/study spot, you should check it out.

This morning has been devoted to making stock and reading, sitting at my kitchen table with tulips and a bowl of blood oranges before me. Later will be attending Culinary Nirvana at la casa de Jazione - will report back with full details and photos - ciao amici!

New Schedule, New Diet


Breakfast: Spent so much time in a flurry about what to wear on the first day of my internship, that I didn't eat at home. Found a clementine in my purse (I am such an old lady). At internship, with nothing to do, snuck absolutely disgusting "vegetable" Wheat Thins out of a half empty bag that I ALSO had in my purse. They contained MSG. Not the best way to start the day. Water.

Lunch: My first foray into the Conde Nast cafeteria. Delightfully surprising. I opted for the Korean bar, where I was served up a big bowl of brown rice, sprouts, kimchee, something fresh basil-like, tofu, and a fried egg, which I topped with chili paste, soybean paste, and sesame seeds. More water.

Dinner: To exhausted to even heat anything up. Sandwich on whole wheat white bread (which still confuses me) of salami, cheddar cheese, organic mesculun lettuce. Handful of Terra Cotta vegetable chips. A few almonds, I think. A few sweetened dried cranberries. A few penguin shaped gummies from Trader Joe's.

Before bed: Mug of chamomile tea.


Breakfast: Much better attempt. Mug of organic granola with 2% milk. Banana.

Lunch: Something called a mezze (I think) in the cafeteria. A small container with a sizable block of feta adorned with fresh rosemary, pitted greek olives, cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, two stuffed grape leaves. A mealy apple. Water.

Dinner: At Grand Central sushi bar called Masa, which is suprisingly good. I've avoided the fish because it's in a train station, but I've gotten the vegetarian "Track 5" several times now. It comes with two pieces of inari and three three-piece rolls. One of them has cucumber and plum paste, one pickled (yellow) radish, one cooked squash (the best). Half a decent red bean bun. Water.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Culinary Nirvana

Today the snow is fallen and a bitter wind laces through New Haven like another outbreak of Dutch elm disease. On Saturday, something is going to change. Not this Saturday and not Tuesday's momentous inauguration (although click here to get Barack's reaction)
but on Saturday, January 24th…

Delicious Vegetarian Cooking Class

Inspired by the flavors of India

You can be the next KamaChefra. No more need to rely on restaurants for that curry fix. We've got the open sesame to get past the waiter's smile and reveal what is going on behind the doors of that kitchen. We can teach you the authentic elixir to reground you in warmth, strip away economic worries and break the cycle of samsara.

Our Indian Vegetarian Cooking Class is your solution to learning how to prepare delicious, healthy, vegetarian Indian dishes from scratch using the freshest ingredients. Our recipes incorporate vegetables from different colored vegetable groups that taste as fantastic as they make you feel. This class will show you how fulfilling and satisfying a freshly-prepared Indian meal can be.

So sign up and embark on a culinary adventure!

The Menu

Baked samosas: We'll be making potatoes and peas-filled samosas, baked instead of deep-fried.

Spinach with tofu curry: How about the spinach and tofu curry and the spiced ginger and garlic cauliflower to complement the rice for a satisfying winter meal?

Cauliflower with potatoes: As an added bonus, take home the immeasurable benefits that eating cancer-preventing vegetables offer.

Spiced Basmati Rice: Learn to make the classic Indian staple, spiced Basmati rice.

Coconut and mustard-flavored buttercup squash: Our quick buttercup squash infused with coconut, mustard seeds and red peppers will dazzle your palate and is an unusual, home-made recipe that you will never find in an Indian restaurant.

Our class will also highlight an in-depth description of essential Indian spices and teach you to identify, purchase and grind them yourself.

The Details

Admission is $17. You'll learn how to cook the whole menu, plus learn about the origin and health benefits of each dish. Also, as a special bonus, you'll take home copies of each recipe for you to use in your own kitchen.

All proceeds go to Anmol, a non-prophit organization devoted to raising orphaned street-girls in Mumbai, India and the education of African daughters.

It all goes down at 5pm, Saturday January 24th beneath the shadow of New Haven's better rock, at 838 Whalley Avenue, Apt #3.

If you're interested but cant make this one, email a better date and we can try to accommodate a second round. Class size is limited, please RSVP by Tuesday the 20th so we can purchase the right amount of food.
Feel free to tell your friends.

The Instructors:

Carrol D'Sa, a native of Mumbai and Mangalore, India, grew up learning cooking the traditional way, i.e. at the side of her mother, grandmother and sisters. Carrol is also a scientist who has fleshed out her recipes to include the most up-to-date nutritional research.

Her cooking class partner, Jason Buezning, contributes to this food blog and is New Haven's residential arbiter of taste. He is an artist who specializes in eating and washing dishes afterward.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Eatin' Good in the [Guatemalan] Neighborhood

So it's been exactly a week since I got back from Guatemala, where I spent 10 days including xmas and New Year's--time to blog about it! I was staying with my good friend Rodrigo, whose family splits their time between Guatemala City and a SICK beach house in the south, very close to the border of El Salvador. The food they ate on xmas was very western-traditional though unusually abundant: turkey, ham, AND pork leg with stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. It was pretty good but what really excited me was the traditional Guatemalan cuisine.

  • Corn tamales, two types: one savory, seasoned with a tomato sauce and whole green olives, the other sweet, seasoned with some kind of chocolate sauce (sort of like mole but sweeter) and raisins. Both with a big chunk of delicious pork in the center.
  • Chicharrines, or pork skins, fried into bubbly/crackly oblivion, accompanied by AMAZING refried black beans (no idea what they do to them), guacamole, tortillas, lime, Gallo beer (the national cerveza).
  • Guatemalan fried chicken at Pollo Campero, the most popular (native) fast food chain, accompanied by french fries, coleslaw, full-calorie soda (they didn't have diet, which I thought was very interesting).
  • Insanely fresh ceviche, on the beach: some kind of white fish, chunked (is that a verb?) and tossed in lemon juice, cilantro, chopped tomato, salt and pepper, and plenty of hot sauce for me. We had this every day as the first course of lunch--it was followed by fresh tortillas, guacamole, pickled cabbage, Guatemalan sausage.
  • The same white fish, fried with very simple seasoning (a little paprika, maybe? something orangey and tasty), with potato salad and green salad.
  • Rosa de jamaica--a very popular drink (all over the world, apparently) made by boiling hibiscus leaves in water and adding sugar to the liquid. Rodrigo's mom gave me a big package of the leaves to take home.
The beach house

Rodrigo and our friend Ashby, post-Pollo Campero

My trip was great for many reasons, but food figured prominently in the fun. In an ironic twist, I almost wasn't able to eat it--I got some kind of stomach bug the day after I arrived. Luckily, it is very easy to obtain drugs in Central America--almost everything is over the counter--and Rodrigo's mom's friend suggested some weird antibiotic I'd never heard of .... Hey, it did the trick! It probably took five years off my life, or something, but it was worth it.

Pressed, dripped, or percolated?

Breakfast: drip coffee, croissant.

Lunch: Turkey sandwich, Salt and Vinegar Kettle Chips (booooring - this is what I buy from across the street when i forget my lunch in the fridge at home and feel too cheap to buy something more expensive)

Dinner: Cuban fricase de pollo (Inspired by my trip to the Carribbean. It has a bit of citrus in it as well as a few other unlikely ingredients, but when push comes to shove I think I prefer the French version.) white rice (yes, V, WHITE rice).

Side note: How do you all drink your coffee? i.e. what type of roast, method of brewing, add-ins, etc. I wish I could be swayed more by nene's tea confessionals - don't get me wrong, I keep a stash of PG tips at the office for those rainy afternoons - but that Pete's medium roast drip is too tempting to pass up sometimes!

Friday, January 9, 2009

You Feast on That Swine?!

Breakfast: oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins
Lunch: 2-hour monster lunch at Joey Shanghai. Scallion pancakes (Nene, you put me on!), pork soup-dumplings, crabmeat soup-dumplings, and pork and salted vegetable soup. Tea.
Dinner: 2 slices of pepperoni pizza and a few beers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Food Crush: Mark Bittman

Anyone who knows me knows that this is not a new thing; but here is yet another reason why I love Mark Bittman and his simple, humorous, down-to-earth approach to food.

Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen

Published: January 6, 2009

PERHAPS, like me, you have this romantic notion of shopping daily — maybe even a mental vision of yourself making the rounds, wicker basket in hand, of your little Shropshire or Proven├žal or Tuscan village. The reality, of course, is that few of us provision our kitchens or cook exclusively with ultra-fresh ingredients, especially in winter, when there simply are no ultra-fresh ingredients.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Welcome to 2009!

Welcome to the new year, everyone! I know that we've all been swept up in the holidays and their accompanying excesses, but now that we are entering a calmer moment I'm going to take the opportunity to post a little update from my life as it regains a semblance of normaliy. I am beginning to disengage from the feeding frenzy I've been on over the last few weeks, the kitchen intermittently brimming with roast tukey, roast chicken, roast beef, roast potatoes (gratin... bacon, potatoes, and cheese - yum!), a delicious baked egg and vegetable casserole, lasagne, fresh molasses bread, peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies, sugar cookies, ginger molasses cookies, seven layer bars, chocolate cream cheese brownies, Julia Child's Best Ever brownies, caramel chocolate cheesecake ... the list goes on. Shockingly, I gained a little weight.

I really will have to put Bill's potato & bacon gratin recipe up here one of these days soon, because it is so ridiculously rich and delicious, a perfect heavy, starchy, warming dish for winter, and wonderful eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or late night snack. New Year's Eve dinner was a delicious, drawn out evening of snacking on crackers and truffled goat cheese, olives, and wine while cooking chocolate mousse, no-knead bread, roasted vegetables, and roast chicken. We feasted, drank champagne, and then fell asleep right around midnight, all in the presence of some very lovely holiday red tulips.

Today was a working day and thankfully punctuated by a degree of normalcy ( = restraint) in terms of food.

Breakfast: coffee, fresh (plain) cinnamon raisin bagel.
Lunch: buffalo chicken pizza (Whole Foods, why do you torture me?? You know I can't resist you....)
Afternoon snack: cranberry walnut toast with peanut butter and fig jam, grapefruit, tea.
Dinner: Omelet with cheddar and mozarella, leftover roasted vegetables (delicious - reheated in the pan with some garlic and olive oil, kind of like rustic homefries revised to include vegetables)
Dessert: brownies. Plural, that's right. I didn't say I had abandoned all excess.

Also, I just gave someone Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" for Christmas. Do any of you who know this book have any favorite or recommended recipes, or any good vegetarian main course recipes in general? I'd love to hear it.

Welcome to 2009! Here's hoping it's filled with lots of laughter, joy, and great meals with family and friends.