January 29, 2013 § 3 Comments
I’m a fan of tofu. Not a crazy fan, but a fan nonetheless. And I’m not sure how it happened. Omitting red meat and poultry from my diet accounts for some of my fandom, I guess. Quite honestly, I am just going to let me fondness of tofu exist for what it is. Why bother explaining, right?
The best tofu I ever had was in a take-out dish from a Chinese restaurant in Ithaca, New York, about 18 years ago. The name, the flavorings, the accompaniments all escape me now. The one piece of the dish that remains in my memory is the tofu. Crispy on the outside. Soft on the inside. The closest thing to a McDonald’s french fry this side of the Golden Arches. I want that. I crave that even.
In the absence of that crispy tofu dish, I’ll take this tofu noodle soup. Soy sauce is in there, but it’s not too salty. And the hoisin gives it that … umami. There, I said it. Umami, that fifth and most flavorable of the basic tastes. A bowl of this broth will satisfy me for lunch. The tofu and noodles make it a real deal meal.
I’ve adapted this recipe – and I keep adapting each rendition of it – from a VegNews Magazine newsletter. I found that the original recipe had too little broth and way too many noodles. A halving of this and a doubling of that with on-the-fly adjustments takes care of that problem.
1 thinly sliced yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger (about an inch or less)
4 tbs hoisin sauce
4 tbs soy sauce
9 cups vegetable broth (or water)
1 15-oz. package extra-firm tofu, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 8-oz. package rice noodles, cooked and drained
4 tbs rice vinegar
4 tsp Asian hot sauce
Scallions, bean sprouts and cilantro to sprinkle, if desired
- In a large pot, saute the onion in about 1 tbs of oil over medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 30 seconds or so.
- Stir in hoisin, soy and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Stir in tofu, noodles, vinegar and hot sauce. Now, here’s an embarrassing thing: I have JUST NOW realized the recipe calls for cooking the noodles FIRST, then adding them to the pot. This explains a lot. Well, adding them at the end is fine, too—just simmer them in the broth for about 5 minutes or so.
- Serve soup in bowls and sprinkle with scallions, sprouts and/or cilantro if you so choose.
Next time, I’ll boil up the noodles beforehand THEN add them to the soup and report back to you if there is a major difference. Meanwhile, enjoy!
March 19, 2012 § 4 Comments
Hearty soups … yes, I love them. And the ones I make are nearing the definition of stew. But every once in a while I will be in the mood for something light, breathy and brothy.
This Asian-Inspired Soup is a riff on something Mark Bittman published in March 2011. He gave three simple (very simple) recipe suggestions in each of four categories: creamy, brothy, earthy and hearty. The second and third recipes are slight twists on the first in each category. By the end of making the twelfth, he says, you’ll never need to follow another soup recipe.
With a package of firm tofu and some leftover chickpea broth (remember that from Pressure Cooker Basics?), I twisted Mark Bittman’s own Asian twist on brothy soups.
- 8 cups water, in this case chickpea broth and water
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions (about 3-4)
- 1 package firm tofu, drained and cubed
- 4 oz oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs sesame oil
-To a large pot add the water or broth, scallions, tofu, mushrooms, soy and sesame.
-Heat over a medium-high flame to just boiling, them bring to a quiet simmer, partly covered. Let simmer for … 15 minutes? 20 minutes? It’s up to you and how tender you like your oyster mushrooms. Check it at 15, then check the mushrooms every few minutes.
-Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a few chopped scallions. You might enjoy a crispy baguette to dunk.
Seriously, I tried to make this soup sound difficult/complex/sophisticated/finicky. But that’s just impossible. This soup is just way simple. And delicious.
Any Asian-inspired and simple soup suggestions or ingredient ideas? Leave a comment and let me know.
March 1, 2012 § 9 Comments
If you don’t like cumin, step away. You’ve made up your mind about the spice, and no amount of my praising it will change the way your taste buds feel. So, I’ll see you another day, okay?
But you cumin fans, lean in a bit closer—I have something to tell you. This stew … it’s awesome. Awesome as in delicious. Really. Super. Delicious. And it’s all due to the cumin.
It being from Bon Appetit may explain why it’s so delectable. Theirs is a meaty version. I’m sure the addition of chicken thighs is nothing but fabulous. I didn’t have them on hand—plus I’m doing a no-meat kinda thing currently. Still, this rocks with out the cluck factor.
- 4 tbs olive oil, divided
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs—optional
- 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
- Kosher salt
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbs ground cumin—yes, that much
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained OR 1 lb. dry chickpeas cooked to firm
- 1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar (I just roasted a whole large red pepper myself)
- 2 tbs (or more) fresh lemon juice
- country-style bread
- 3 tbs coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
-IF you’re going the chicken route, heat 2 tbs of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
-IF you’re not using chicken, heat 2 tbs of oil to medium low, add onion and garlic, and saute for 5-6 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.
-IF using chicken, add it back into the pot along with bay leaves and 4 cups water and dislodge any of the brown chicken bits that might be on the bottom of the pot.
-Just a quick note: I used dry chickpeas and cooked them in a pressure cooker with 9 cups water, kosher salt, a celery stalk, a carrot, 2 bay leaves and 3 whole garlic cloves for 28 minutes. When I drained the chickpeas, I reserved the liquid and used that in place of 4 cups water. Mmmmm … more flavor.
-Bring everything in the pot to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, with occasional stirring. IF using chicken, let it simmer until chicken is tender (20 minutes). Sans chicken, 10 minutes is enough to get the flavors to meld.
-Transfer chicken to a plate (if it’s in there). Add chickpeas to pot and bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Shred your chicken off the bone and add it in there. Otherwise, skip it. Add in the red peppers and stir in remaining 2 tbs of oil (but only if you want – you don’t need to).
-Don’t skip this part: Give it a taste. Good, right? Yummy power-packed cumin flavor. Okay, now add in 2 tbs of lemon juice (or about half a lemon). Let it simmer for a minute. Now give it another taste? Better, huh? Yup, that lemon is a major major plus here. Adjust seasonings with salt and maybe more lemon if you think it needs it.
-Serving: Bon Appetit says to cube crusty bread, put it in an individual bowl, and ladle the stew on top. DO NOT even attempt. All you get is soggy bread. Bleck. But DO enjoy a nice slice alongside, dipping it to your liking. Oh, and sprinkle some parsley on top, too.
Good, good stewy stuff. There’s no room for cumin haters here.
February 6, 2012 § 2 Comments
Chocolate. I knew I’d hook you with that ingredient. And yes, there really is chocolate in this version. Two types of chocolate, actually. But first …
Vegetarian … yeah, vegetarian. We’re pretty much completely meat-free now. Seafood being the exception. And chicken stock, although we have been doing a good job of keeping ourselves supplied with homemade vegetable and seafood stocks. The reason for ditching the fowl – the last remaining terrestrial flesh I ate – was simple. I just don’t trust where it comes from and what’s in it. Sure, I could purchase meat from Whole Foods or a retailer that sources only organic and local foods. News alert: That stuff is expensive.
Local fish and seafood is, too. I get that. But somehow I feel the seafood is a better value for the protein we get. And we use it all—from tip to tail (or claw). And we enjoy being members of our local Community-Supported Fisheries. I guess that’s a big part of it, too—it makes us feel good to support the local folks who definitely could use our dollars.
Okay, back on track. We’re talkin’ veggie chili here. I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t. This is one of Jennifer’s signature dishes (one of many). I have made it now and then, but she does it justice. And Jennifer, if you see anything wrong with the recipe, please correct me in the comments section.
- 1 tbs oil (olive will do)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 peppers, whatever color you prefer but red is nice
- 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t like it so spicy)
- 1 bag of frozen soy crumbles
- 1 28-oz. can of whole chopped tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you squish with your hands)
- 1 15-oz. can of red kidney beans
- 1 15-oz. can of black beans
- 1 cup (or small can) of whole kernel corn
- 1 tbs chili powder
- 1 tbs cocoa powder
- 1 tbs lime juice
- 1 tbs cumin
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 small block (2 oz?) of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 tbs chopped cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil to medium and add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until translucent.
2. Add both types of peppers and cook until tender – about 5 minutes. Add the bag of frozen soy crumbles just so it thaws out a bit before adding other ingredients. It’ll take just a couple of minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, chili powder, cocoa powder, lime juice, cumin and oregano—and a general sprinkle of salt— stir thoroughly, and let it come to a boil. Turn heat down a bit and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. During that time it will thicken a bit.
4. Add in the 2-oz. block of chocolate and stir it around, helping it to melt and incorporate into the chili. Add the cilantro, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, guacamole, grated cheese or straight up. Give it a taste. Good, right? And you know that flavor that’s right on the edge of being familiar? It’s the chocolate. Serve it to guests and when they ask what that ingredient is, don’t tell them. It’ll be our secret.
1. Feel free to soak and use dried beans of any kind. I would use 1 cup of two different types of dried beans—we’ve used pinto, cranberry, garbanzo.
2. Want to speed up the cooking? Use a pressure cooker. It’ll shave off 10-15 minutes from the simmering time.
October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.
Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.
Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.
October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Normally, if you let produce sit around for awhile, bad things happen. Soft spots. Wilt. Mold. Eyes sprouting. Ooze. Fruit flies. Rot.
Okay, I’ll stop with the grossness.
But sometimes, if you let produce sit around, good things happen. Like what? Like ripeness, for one.
This time of year, you just never really know what’s gonna happen in the garden. And I speak specifically of the summer hangers on—the zucchini and yellow squash, the basil, the peppers, the tomatoes. Especially the tomatoes. Less sun, cooler weather means they take a way long time to ripen on the vine. And the frustrating part is a tomato could be green and happy one day, and then the next day it could be on the ground, fodder for the ants.
So, I pick them up and bring them home. Or I pick them when they’re just turning orangy. Or I pick one or two whenever I visit the garden, which is about twice a week this time of year.
What to do with green tomatoes? Orangy tomatoes? Let them sit on the counter—they’ll ripen. Kinda. Not a nice and juicy vine-ripening experience, but they’ll turn red. Ish.
With a mix of tomatoes in all stages of ripeness, I turn to a recipe from Emeril Lagasse I pulled off the Food Network website. The original calls for pancetta and three different types of hot peppers – jalapeno peppers and Anaheim and pasilla chiles. And, it calls for just green tomatoes.
Is it spicy? Oh yeah, it’s spicy. Feel free to add a dollop of sour cream to cool it down. Me? I like to add a spoonful of pesto. Tomatoes and basil – a perfect match.
Spicy Tomato Soup(this is a double batch)
1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
- 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 bay leaves
- 5-6 hot peppers, whatever type you want to cook with, diced (I used jalapeno and Hungarian wax)
- 3.5 lbs tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
-Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion until just translucent – 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
-Add garlic, bay leaves, garlic, and peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock, then adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are soft.
-Time to puree!! But remove the bay leaves first!! You can puree in batches in a blender. Or, we have an immersion blender that does a terrific job. Sure, you’ll get a bunch of tomato skins getting kinda caught in the blendery parts. Just remove, or put back into the soup—whatever your preference. If you’ve pureed in batches in a blender, pour the soup into a separate bowl.
-Add the lemon juice. Give it a taste. Spicy? That’s what it’s supposed to be.
Try with a bit of sour cream. Or shaved parm. Or the runny part of your stash of pesto. Be sure you have some crusty bread. You’re gonna want to sop up that goodness.
You know, this would be a great soup to make for the Homegrown Food Challenge. Luke, give this a try—I know you love spicy stuff!
September 20, 2011 § 3 Comments
You’re going to think I’m a bit crazy, but I actually really like this two-thirds vegan kick I’m on. Now, let me clarify:
1a. Two-thirds vegan means two meals out of three meals each day are non-dairy, non-poultry, non-animal products. Not even a boiled egg on my lunchtime salad – and I love a good boiled egg, too.
1b. What about snacks, you ask? What am I gonna do, eat a meat stick? Almonds, an apple, hummus and chips if I feel the need.
2. I first mentioned the two-thirds vegan thing back in … was it March? April? Lest you think I’m Superwoman, I need to inform you that I haven’t been two-thirds vegan all the time. Vacations don’t count. Weekends away don’t count. And sometimes that boiled egg would find its way onto of my salad. And, last week … I had a whole mess o’ Old Bay-seasoned wings on my business trip to Baltimore. The only wings I’ll eat, and the only town I eat them in. There are rules about being two-thirds vegan, and I make them up as I go along.
3. And sometimes, you go away for the weekend and someone makes you a three-egg omelet. With mozzarella. And lobster. Just be sure there’s a veggie burger in your near future.
BUT! It’s a new season. And I have a renewed interest in sticking to the vegan thing. At least two-thirds of the time.
BUT! I need more protein. That’s what a recent doctor visit and blood test suggested. So, here come the beans, which are an
excellent source of protein and fiber awesomely tasty food. Rather than stocking up on cans upon cans of beans – they add salt and calcium chloride, which, by the way IS a salt! – we buy the dry. Oooo … I like the way that sounds, “buy the dry.” Plus, they are cheaper (I’m showing my frugal side).
Dry beans are NOT a pain in the ass to work with. It’s easy. If Dainty can do it, so can you. And you don’t have to wait around 24 hours while your beans soak, etc. etc. Invest in a pressure cooker and your beans will be done in 30 minutes, and that includes 5 minutes of prep time.
The recipe we use comes from Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. (Oooo … sassy.) Hey, meat lovers, there’s a roast chicken on the cover! That’ll assure you Lorna has added something for everyone inside. There are a bunch of bean recipes included – the one we use is for black beans with soft tortillas. We use just the first half of the recipe and add our own seasonings depending on what we’re using the beans for. Here, I’ll just go through the first process and produce a batch of pressure-cooked beans.
- 4-6 cups water (depending on how much bean broth you want)
- 1.5 cups dried black beans, pick over to remove icky ones, small pebbles, etc. and rinse
- 1 small onion
- 4 cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 TBS oil (apparently it prevents or controls foaming)
- 1/2 tsp salt
-Combine everything in a 4 qt. pressure cooker.
-Lock the lid in place. If you’re like me, you’ll do it three or four times, making absolutely sure the lid is on and won’t fly off. Seriously though, when it’s locked, it’s locked. No hardhat needed.
-Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure over high heat. READ YOUR PRESSURE COOKER INSTRUCTIONS! It will tell you how you can tell when it has reached high pressure. For our Fagor pressure cooker, high pressure is indicated when two red lines are visible.
-When it has reached high pressure, turn down the heat to a temp that will maintain that high pressure. For ours and on our gas stove, that means at a point between “lo” and “2”.
-Let the beans bubble away in there for 25 minutes. Then turn off the heat. Let them sit there as is – don’t open the lid! – and let the pressure come down naturally. READ your cooker instructions to find out how you can tell on your device.
-When the pressure has come down, open the lid AWAY from you. You don’t want to get a face full of super-heated steam, right? Always always always be careful.
-The beans should be tender. If not, lock it up, stick ’em back on the heat and cook for another couple of minutes. Repeat the heat coming down and all that.
What you have now are several cups of firm yet tender beans in broth. If you used 6 cups of water, you are halfway on the path to making a black bean soup. If you used 4 cups of water, you have a bit less broth. Letting it sit, the beans and broth will thicken slightly but not much.
We use 4 cups of water, and after the beans are pressure cooked, we typically add a touch more salt, some pepper, several shakes of red pepper and a diced small tomato. We then serve it over a bowl of rice. We’ve added other things, as well – roasted sweet potato, butternut squash, for example.
If you have any suggestions for what to add in to the black beans, I’d love your suggestions. We need to keep up the variety. Please leave your comments below!