Archive for January, 2009

Tortilla Soup

This is one of the few recipes I had made from this cookbook prior to the launch of this blog.  This is one of my favorite tortilla soup recipes because it is so easy and tasty and chock full of “stuff.”

My method for almost all chicken soups is a multi-day process, but with very little “active” time.  First, buy a whole chicken.  Take it apart, reserving the breast and thigh meat and discarding the skin and any extraneous large globs of fat.  Put the bones in a slow cooker along with one onion, a couple each carrots and celery, and other flavors if this is for a specific use.  For this stock I added a tomato and a jalapeno.  Season with salt, cover with water, and cook on low overnight.  In the morning, strain the stock and put it in the fridge.  This can be done up to a week in advance, or even longer if you freeze it.  (Don’t forget to freeze the breast and thigh meat too!)  Discarding the skin is an important step because it makes the stock nearly fat-free.  You will wind up with all of the flavor from the bones and remaining leg and wing meat, but there will be no need to degrease it before use.

For the soup:

Heat some veg oil in a large pot.  Saute 1 each red bell pepper, green bell pepper, jalapeno, medium red onion.  (Seed the peppers and chop everything.)  Season with salt and cook 3-5 minutes or until softened.  Add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp oregano, and 2-3 cloves of minced garlic.  Cook another minute, then add 1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes with their juices and the chicken stock.  Add the chicken breasts and thighs and simmer about 20 minutes or until just cooked through.  Remove the chicken and dice.  Return the chicken to the soup along with 1 can rinsed and drained black beans (I like the low-sodium kind) and 1 10-oz package frozen corn (no need to thaw).  Bring the soup back up to a boil and you’re done!

Serve with tortilla chips (blue corn is nice), avocado, monterrey jack cheese, chopped cilantro, and fresh limes to squeeze on top.  Place the chips, cheese, and avocado in the bottom of each bowl and then ladel the soup on top.  Sprinkle with cilantro and squeeze the lime.

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I forgot to take any pictures before we ate, and Dylan refused to smile for the camera.  But you can see from how little is left in the bowl how much he liked it!

Dylan Report: HUGE success with this one.  He didn’t want to use his spoon at all, but he had a great time picking out all the various ingredients and eating them separately by hand.  His favorite parts were the avocado and chips, but he also ate a lot of the veggies.  Score!

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Spinach and Pine Nut Quiche

This was simple and delicious.  The only thing that would have improved it is (wait for it)….bacon.  Yes, as usual, a Whole Foods Market Cookbook recipe is sadly lacking in salt and umami.

The spinach filling can be made a couple of days in advance – I wouldn’t recommend assembling it in advance because the crust will get soggy.  Heat up some EVOO in a big skillet.  Add 1 leek (not in the original recipe, but I had an extra leek in the fridge), a couple cloves of minced garlic, and 1 tbsp fresh minced sage, and cook until softened.  Then add 1 package of fresh spinach (baby or regular) and cook over low heat until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Add 1 cup toasted pine nuts, and let cool.

In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup each grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  In another separate bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 1 cup milk (whatever milk you have on hand).

Slice 1 medium or 2 small red potatoes and microwave covered in water for 2-3 minutes, or until just tender.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Prebake a frozen pie crust for about 10 minutes or until just starting to brown.

To assemble the quiche, lay down alternating layers of spinach, potato, and cheese, then *very slowly* add the milk/egg mixture on top.  You should probably have the pie plate on a sheet pan at this point, because it WILL overflow in the oven.  Top with any remaining cheese and bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.  Yum!

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Eggplant and Orzo Casserole with Ricotta

Last week was orzo week, this week seems to be pine nuts week.  This recipe bridges the gap.  It was Teh Yum.  (Once, naturally, I’d tripled the salt.)

Saute in a large skillet with EVOO 3-5 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 leeks, chopped (white parts only)

1 large eggplant, cubed

1 large red bell pepper

Add to a 9×13 baking dish along with:

2 large chopped tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, pressed

1/2 lb par-cooked orzo

1/2 c chopped fresh basil

1/2 c tomato juice

SALT & PEPPER

Top with dollops of ricotta cheese.  Then top THAT with a mixture of 1/2 cup each pine nuts, bread crumbs, and grated parmesan cheese.  Bake at 375F for about 15-20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

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There’s not a lot too this dish – pasta, vegetables, cheese.  But it’s got a good balance of ingredients, and was a nice twist on some familiar flavors.  Oh, and top each individual serving with some fresh chopped parsley.

Dylan Report: He mostly ate around the vegetables (in spite of happily snacking on some of the fresh chopped tomato while I was cooking), but otherwise this was a big hit.  It’s pasta and cheese – hard to go wrong!

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Lentil & Mushroom "Tagine"

Not much that’s “tagine” ish about this, really, except that we ate it over couscous.  The hot sauce should have been harissa, but was sriracha instead (it’s what I keep on hand).  The original recipe called for this to go in a dutch oven, I made it in the slow cooker instead.

In the food processor, make a mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) and pulse until chopped fine (not pureed).  Also chop a couple of red bell peppers, 16 oz button or cremini mushrooms, and a few cloves of garlic.  Add to the slow cooker pot along with 16 oz additional sliced assorted wild mushrooms (I buy mine presliced).  Spicing: 2 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tbsp cider vinegar, 2 tsp paprika, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp fennel seed, salt/pepper.  Also add 1.5 cups of water, 2 cups dried lentils, 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes.  Slow cook on high 3-4 hours or until lentils are tender.  In the last hour of cooking, add 3 sliced red/yellow/orange bell peppers.

Just before serving, stir in 1 lb fresh baby spinach and 1 tbsp grated lemon zest.  Serve over couscous with a spritz of hot sauce.

I was apprehensive about this dish when I tasted it halfway through cooking, but it actually turned out pretty well.  To be honest, it was a little too healthy for my taste.  I generally like my lentils with a little more bacon.  (ALL the recipes in this book need more salt than is called for.  It’s so much easier to eat large amounts of vegetables when they’re properly seasoned!)

I was a flake yesterday and did not take a picture of this.

Dylan Report: He didn’t hate it, didn’t love it.  I was very proud of him for being willing to try such an unfamiliar food.  And go figure – he preferred the stuff off Mommy’s plate with the hot sauce in it to his own mild version.

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Greek Style Meatballs

I thought these were delicious and would eat them again in a heartbeat.  To say that Dylan disagreed would be a massive understatement.  Let us never speak of it again.

Being meatballs, these were quite simple to put together.  In a food processor, chop:

a handful of parsley

half a handful each of fresh oregano and mint

12 oz roasted red peppers (drained if from a jar)

3-4 cloves garlic

Add to 1 lb ground round in a bowl along with 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, the zest of 1 lemon, and the juice of half that lemon.  Salt and pepper.  Form into golfball-sized meatballs (or a little larger) and bake on an oiled wire rack set on a jelly roll pan for 30 minutes at 350F.  The tops should just be starting to brown.  (The middles will still be very soft due to the peppers and cheese.)

Serve over orzo with a little olive oil.  Squeeze extra lemon on top if desired.  (You really, really, want to do this.  The lemon makes it sing.)

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Bell Pepper Quesadillas w/ Salsa Verde

The only real difference between these and the regular quesadillas I always make is that I had a cookbook open on the counter while I was making these.  Otherwise, the recipe is pretty standard.  (Ditto the recipe for the salsa verde.)  Still, they were very tasty and came together from fridge to table in under half an hour.

Heat some veg oil in a large skillet.  While the oil is heating up, thinly slice 2 poblanos, 3 bell peppers, and 2 small onions.  Add veggies to skillet.  Season with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and oregano.  Remove to a bowl.  Add 2 minced cloves of garlic (I use a garlic press) and 1 can of drained and rinsed white beans.  (The beans were not in the recipe, I added them because I like a little protein in my quesadillas.)

For the salsa verde, heat a little more oil in the same pan you used for the quesadilla filling.  Add 1 seeded & diced jalapeno, 1 diced onion, a few cloves of garlic, and 5-6 roughly chopped tomatillos (peeled and rinsed).  Don’t worry about getting a perfect dice on any of it since it’s all going in the food processor in a minute – the goal here is to soften the veggies and give them a little color.  Season them with salt & pepper while you’re at it.  Dump everything into the food processor with a big handful of cilantro and pulse several times until everything is nicely chopped and mixed together.  Chill in the fridge if you have time.

To assemble the quesadillas, spoon about 1/2 cup of the pepper & bean mixture onto a tortilla and top with monterrey jack cheese.  Fry in a skillet (more veg oil) until browned on both sides and the cheese is nice and gooey.  Serve topped with salsa verde and sour cream.

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Dylan Report: He was in a very goofy mood tonight and not much interested in eating.  Once I convinced him that there really was nothing he hadn’t eaten (and liked) before on his plate he willingly scraped off and ate most of the cheese and beans.  My son the health nut.

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Dylan Report: Thai Green Curry Chicken

I didn’t really expect to be doing a Dylan Report for this dish because green curries are usually much spicier than this one turned out to be.  But I decided it was worth a shot and offered him a small bite of the sweet potato.  He liked it and asked for more, so I heated some up in a bowl for him and called it dinner.  No rice because (a) we were all out, (b) he gets is everywhere but in his mouth, and (c) it’s not like his diet is otherwise lacking in carbs.  (Not to mention (d) sweet potatos are pretty darn starchy on their own.)  The chicken had gotten a little tough overnight, so I only gave him a tiny bit of that – his bowl was mostly sweet potato with one or two pieces of tomato thrown in.

Wow.  BIG hit.  I try not to be one of those people who only gives kids “kid food” but I was honestly shocked here.  He happily ate the whole bowl chanting “curry!  curry!” the whole time.  Note to self, kids weird.

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Thai Green Curry Chicken

I’m only slightly embarrassed to say, this reminded me of Trader Joe’s green curry simmer sauce.  And I mean that in a good way!  It was pretty darn tasty.

Cut 2 chicken breasts into chunks, then marinade in a mixture of fresh ginger, lemongrass, green curry paste, EVOO, salt, and garlic.  I took all the marinade ingredients for a spin in my mini-prep first, and then left the chicken to soak in it for about an hour.

Heat some veg oil in a wok, add the chicken.  Stir-fry about 5 minutes, or until chicken is opaque on all sides (no need to cook through at this stage).  Add 3 sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2″ slices), 1 can of coconut milk, a big splash of soy sauce, and the juice of 1/2 a lime.  Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

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Take the cover off and let the mixture continue to simmer and thicken up while you chop 2 medium tomatoes into wedges,  1/4 each of mint and cilantro, and slice 1 small red onion very thinly.  (Also add Thai basil if you can get it.)  Add these to the curry and cook another 5 minutes, or until the tomato is just warmed through and beginning to soften.  Serve over basmati (or jasmine) rice.  Reserve some of the herbs to sprinkle on top at the table.  You may also add some fish sauce if you like fish sauce on your Thai curries.

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Athenian Chicken Roll-Ups

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DH and I thought this was delicious – too bad Dylan was a big old crankaboo and decided to just pick at his rice instead.  It has cheese in it!  What’s not to like??

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