March 6, 2013 § 2 Comments
The only on-the-package-recipe you should ever make is Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. Truly. It’s a proven recipe and makes a darned-good cookie, a cookie you will experience from the first years of your life to your last. It’ll even be served at your wake. Every other recipe found on a package—whether it’s a box of Velveeta or a fancy grain—should be embarked upon with hesitation and doubt. A dingy full of doubt.
I love what wheat berries do for me for breakfast. I’ve also included them in bread recipes and sprinkled them on a green salad. So when I grabbed my bag of Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Berries and noticed the Wheat Berry & White Been Salad recipe on the back I thought, “Why not try something new today?” “New,” I am reminded now, means a learning experience and not necessarily a guarantee of something awesome.
The salad is simple—wheat berries, white beans (I used chickpeas I had on hand), scallions, celery and tomato with a vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is what I regret here. Following the recipe as I did, the ratio of vinaigrette to salad ingredients was way too much. It was more of a thick soup than a salad because it was so heavily dressed. I had to fill out the salad somehow.
Reconstructive salad making ensued. Wheat berries went from 1 cup to about 1 3/4 cup (all of what I had just cooked). I had no more chick peas, and no more lentils, which are my usual go-to filler for salads like this. Bulgar would have been too fine of a texture to add into the salad. In the end I cooked up a batch of black beans and added to the soupy salad until it was soupy no more. I must have added close to 2 cups, no kidding.
Wheat Berry and Bean Salad (adapted from Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup cooked wheat berries
1 cup chick peas
2 cups black beans (or some sort of bean or lentil)
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced (makes for a nice crunch)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
Vinaigrette:1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
2 tbs. white wine vinegar
2 tbs. chopped parsley
1 tbs. honey mustard
2 tbs. minced shallot
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4. tsp. black pepper (or 5-6 grinds from a pepper mill)
1. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients together. I chose to emulsify with an immersion blender. I then added the vinaigrette to the bottom of a large bowl.
2. Add the salad ingredients to the vinaigrette and combine. If it looks overdressed to you, add something to it! Soggy salad is not something you should put up with, really and truly.
3. The recipe says to chill overnight to blend the flavors. Perhaps over that period the beans and berries are supposed to soak up some of the vinaigrette? I didn’t want to leave it to chance. Serving suggestion is to serve on a bed of leaf lettuce. Again, I didn’t want my greens to be soaked, so the additional beans were necessary.
Eat and enjoy—and let me know what you think about the amount of vinaigrette here, please! Too much? Not enough? Just right in a Mamma Bear sort of way? Comments are not just appreciated—they’re anxiously awaited!
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 8, 2012 § 1 Comment
We’re nearing the end of Hearty Soup season. And I feel like it got short-shrifted this year. Bone-warming broths, stews and soups weren’t really needed so very much this winter. And it’s too bad—hearty soups are my favorite to make.
We were able to squeeze in a batch of Potato & Kale Soup earlier this week. Thank goodness, because a winter soup season shouldn’t go by without this cooking on the stovetop at least once.
Jennifer and I tag-teamed this recipe. I chopped and prepped late in the afternoon, then she came home and cooked, giving it her special touch while I lunged and downward-dogged and shavasana’d. The potatoes and kale really satisfied a hungry yogini.
Full disclosure here: Full credit goes to Jennifer, who got this recipe from a soups class she took back in the late ’90s. We’ve adjusted a bit here and there. But not spectacularly so.
Potato & Kale Soup
- 1+ tbs evoo
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thin (we omitted, used extra onion)
- 6 cups water (we used 4-6 cups leftover chickpea broth – remember that from the chickpea stew and hummus?) PLUS 2 additional cups water/broth
- 4 medium potatoes, cut into medium-sized cubes (~4 cups)
- 2 tbs minced fresh parsley
- 3 carrots, trimmed but whole
- 3 celery stalks, trimmed but whole
- 2 bay leaves
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 lb kale (we used an entire bunch of kale as bundled by the local neighborhood grocery)
- sherry vinegar
-Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions (and leeks if you have them) and sautee until soft and translucent.
-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots, whole celery, bay leaves and 6 cups water or broth, and season with salt and pepper (several good pinches of salt/twists of the pepper grinder). Cover. Simmer on low to medium low for about 45 minutes.
-While the soup is simmering, wash the kale and remove the thick ribs. Tear the kale into a size that won’t annoy you – i.e. not too big. You’re going to steam/cook the kale in about a cup or two of water/broth in a high-sided skillet with a lid. Boil that water, add the kale, cover, and let it cook for not that long – 4-5 minutes. You want it tender but not melty-mushy. Drain out the water and set the kale aside.
-When the soup base has simmered 45 minutes, remove and RESERVE the carrots. And remove and DISCARD the celery. Puree by using a light touch with an immersion blender—you want part of it pureed but you still want some chunks of potato in there. OR, just puree half of the soup in a food processor and return it to the soup pot.
-Stir in kale. Chop the reserved carrots, add them back in there, too. Heat until nice and hot. Give it a taste – add salt and pepper as necessary.
-Here’s the last bit that is Jennifer’s touch and it’s completely optional: Add a tad – let’s say a 1 tbs – of sherry vinegar. Not so optional, uh? That’s good stuff, that soup is.
A nice “creamy” soup—and absolutely no cream! And now that I think about it, it’s vegan. Bonus.
What’s your favorite hearty soup recipe? Drop in a comment and let us know.
October 4, 2011 § 2 Comments
Interesting article in the Boston Globe this morning about how, for some (many, actually) being vegan is easier said than done.
No kidding. I would never, ever suggestion doing it cold turkey (cold tofurky?). If you’re going to give up all animal products, I don’t suggest doing it after a night of burger binging.
Why all the interest in becoming vegan?
- It’s trendy. Just like chocolate-covered bacon is trendy. The interest will pass.
- Hollywood stars are doing it—and they are losing weight. Look at that skinny guy from Spider Man. (Yo, you are way too skinny for a dude.)
- “Meat” is bad for the environment. To the people who give that as a reason I say this: Put down the Big Mac, stop eating at the places where the Sysco truck stops, and go get yourself some meat raised locally and sustainably. Same goes for the McFish sandwich.
- It’s better for your health. I’m no doctor, but from what I hear, I tend to agree that a diet with fewer animal products is likely better for you. For me, I feel better. Really. If you think about the way humans evolved, we “gathered” food – seeds, nuts, plants and such – until someone in the clan could come back with a mastodon. Then it was eaten slowly over a period of time. I.e. they didn’t gorge themselves on mastodon and then go out and get a double mastodon with special sauce and a super-sized side of fries. HOWEVER, there’s certain vitamins and nutrients you need and gain easily from a diet that includes meat and dairy. No meat and dairy? You have to work a little harder at obtaining those nutrients. And, popping pills isn’t the best way to go about it.
I’ve written about being “veganish” before; i.e. two out of three meals without animal products (yes, fish are animals). I started this back in March or April, fell off the wagon a bit during the summer, and have started the veganish thing again about four weeks ago. And you know, it’s not all that difficult. I stick with a vegan breakfast and lunch and add some fish/dairy protein at dinner – a sensible addition of cheese to a dish, or some fish or shrimp. Last week I was about to eat my arm off before I could grab lunch – usually my indicator that I am in desperate need of protein – so I grabbed a boiled egg. I made up for it with a vegan dinner.
Longtime vegans will say I’m not a vegan. And they are absolutely right. I’m not.
On the other hand, some folks may say I’m not taking into account the environmental impact of raising animals or fishing the oceans, and the animal’s own welfare. And to that I say, I’m working on it. For example, we just signed up for a CSF share—that’s Community Supported Fisheries—through Cape Ann Fresh Catch. No more shrimp from Thailand. We’ll be supporting our local fishing industry. That means local communities and local people. And we are getting more and more localized when purchasing our dairy, too.
One last note: This whole veganish thing? Out the window once we get our farm and can raise the animals ourselves.
September 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Leaves falling from trees, temperatures dropping, plants succumbing to the elements, days shortening … The world as we’ve known it these last few months is coming to an end. We must eat as many fresh tomatoes and as much basil as possible.
I’ve taken up that challenge, gladly. Who wouldn’t? Fresh tomatoes and bright bristly green basil is the ultimate garden combination, really perking up the mouth with the pairing of acid and mellowness. I don’t have to describe it—you know all too well how delectable the two are together.
Maybe one of the simplest pairings of tomato and basil is in a sandwich. I know, it’s not really a recipe. It’s more of a lunch suggestion. And if you’re like me and disregard the miniscule amount of Parmesan cheese in pesto, tomato and pesto on toasted sourdough becomes a vegan meal. The tomatoes—homegrown. The pesto—homemade, with the added “yeehaa!” of the basil being homegrown. The sourdough—made by my own two little hands.
Want to share lunch with me? There’s enough here for at least five more sandwiches.
Your favorite tomato—basil combination? Do tell. (please! feel free to share below!)
April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Several weeks ago I attempted my first-ever Indian-spiced meal. Cauliflower masala. Turned out pretty well—read about it HERE. That was then followed by a chana bateta from the Brooklyn Eats blogger, not blogged about here but really tasty. That one includes potatoes in a homemade tomato-based curry. From those two recipes I figured if you have some mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and a touch of heat—and a whole bunch of other stuff—you can whip up a curry.
Last night’s meal is what I’m calling Dainty’s Concocted Curry. I had 2/3 cup of coconut milk I needed to finish off, and I didn’t have all the ingredients for either of the above recipes, so I kinda/sorta combined the two. Believe me, it can be tweaked here and there, especially in the heat department. But I’m pretty proud that I even attempted getting jiggy with these East Asian flavors.
Dainty’s Concocted Curry
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3-ish garlic cloves, minced
0.5-1.0 TBS grated ginger
1-2 TBS oil (I always use olive but you can use canola)
1 tsp mustard seed
1.5-2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
0.5-0.75 tsp cayenne (Would have added a touch more if we had it.)
1 tsp tumeric
couple pinches fenugreek
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
2 big dollops of tomato paste
2/3 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper
-Heat oil in a fairly deep fry pan, medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Move ’em about in the pan now and then and you’re looking for them to be a bit translucent or, better yet, wilted. At this point I just grate the ginger right on top of that, guesstimating a tablespoon’s worth.
-While this is happening, put the mustard seeds in a small skillet with a slight amount of oil and heat on med-high. Cover! These seeds will start popping when they are ready – not long, about 3 minutes.
-When shallots/onions/ginger are done, add mustard seeds and all the spices to the mix. Stir about – it’ll be kinda pasty. You just want to get some heat on them to begin releasing their aromas. Doesn’t take long – a minute or two.
-Now, this can of whole tomatoes—one recipe called for one diced tomato, the other for a 14 oz can diced tomatoes. Other than a handful of cherry tomatoes, all I had was this 28 oz can of whole tomatoes. Open the can, reach on in there and grab one or two tomatoes, hold it over the pan and squeeze—carefully, otherwise it’ll squish tomato juice all over you. Do this for the entire can, then add the juice. And also add the tomato paste‚—that’ll help thicken it. Add coconut milk and stir. Give it a taste and see if you need to add salt or anything extra. Since I added way more tomatoes than I needed, I gave the mix a few extra shakes of all the spices except the cayenne (no more left) and the mustard seeds. Bring to just about boiling, then turn down to simmer and thicken. We had this on low while our brown rice was cooking for 45 minutes. Stir now and then and check up on it.
We’re pretty much done at this point. We did a take-out sorta thing with this when it came to assembling the meal. I roasted some broccoli and also baked some marinated sliced tofu. We put a big spoonful of brown rice in a salad-sized bowl, added some of the broccoli and a few tofu slabs, and then spooned the curry on top. Not too bad, I have to say.
You? You can add some cubed potatoes (as in one of the original recipes) and let those cook away while the curry is simmering. Or, maybe add some mushrooms. Maybe some stir-fried chicken. Steamed veggies. It’s a curry, and you can use it to add a little East Asian flair to your Wednesday evenings without leaving the house.
April 26, 2011 § 3 Comments
Will spring ever get here? Until it does, one of the ways to deal with cold and damp weather is with hot soup. Hot, hearty soup. This is one of our favorites in the hot and hearty category. It’s “double” mushroom because it uses both fresh and dried mushrooms. Adding the dried gives the soup its earthy heartiness.
This is another recipe Jennifer acquired from a soup class several years ago. Note on the bottom says it’s from the Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure book. Ah, yes, “under pressure.” This is made in a pressure cooker! Have no fear, people—pressure cookers won’t explode on your stove top. And if you don’t have a pressure cooker, just cover and simmer for … well, I’m not sure. Just keep checking to see if the barley is toothy.
As before, the recipe below is with our adjustments
Double Mushroom Barley Soup
- 2-3 tsp olive oil
- 2-3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 cups chopped onions or 2 thinly sliced leeks (I use onions here)
- 6 cups boiling stock (see note in recipe)
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms, white buttons are fine
- 1/2 oz. sliced dried mushrooms
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1.5 tbs dill weed
- salt and pepper to taste
-Put dried mushrooms in a medium bowl. Add about 2 cups boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for 15 minutes.
-Now, for the “6 cups boiling stock” – set a pot of about 4 cups stock (veggie is good, chicken is okay if you don’t have veggie) to boil. You’re going to add the mushroom liquid to it when those are done steeping.
-While the mushrooms are steeping is a good time chop your veg.
-When mushrooms have steeped, drain the liquid into a measuring cup. You should have a bit less than 2 cups. Just add water to fill up to 2 cups. Add to the pot of stock. Reserve mushrooms.
-Heat oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker (or soup pot if not using a pressure cooker) to medium-high. Add garlic and onions. Cook for 1 minute, stirring so they don’t stick. Add the stock and then invite everyone else into the pool!
-Lock the top onto the pressure cooker. Bring it up to high pressure, then lower heat to maintain that pressure. Let it cook away for 18 minutes. Then, remove pressure cooker from the heat and place it under cool running water to bring the pressure down quickly. Remove the lid, being sure to face it away from you. You don’t wanna get hit with a cloud of steam!
-IF you’re not using a pressure cooker, bring the soup to boil, cover the pot but leave a little crack, and then turn it down a bit to simmer. Let it bubble along for … let’s say 35 minutes and then check every 5 minutes or so until you feel the barley is cooked.
-Discard the bay leaves. Add a bit more salt and pepper. In my opinion it needs more salt than you’d think.
-With barley in there, it’s going to thicken up, especially after being in the fridge for a day or two. Just be aware. If you want, add some stock or water to thin it out a bit. I kinda like the soups that turn into stews the next days.
It’s one of those soups that is dinner-worthy if you pair it with a salad or suitable for lunch with some toast. In fact, it’ll be my vegan lunch in about 3 hours.
April 11, 2011 § 3 Comments
Dainty’s been back from California a week, but still hasn’t gotten in the groove. Catching up on work, volunteer meetings, dinners out, etc, have given me zero fodder for posting. And you’d think with a weekend just behind me, I’d have plenty to write about. I think maybe I made a batch of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast—that’s about it. And a loaf of bread, but it was a workhorse kinda loaf—nothing spectacular.
I spent the weekend working on a homey project—painting the window well in the bedroom. Sure, I saved several hundreds of dollars doing it myself, but I sacrificed several million brain cells in the process (just say no to paint fumes). It’s a project that’s been on my list for about a year and I’m glad I got it done. And while I was scraping and painting, Jennifer was making a big batch of vegan soup to weekday lunches. And this is a good one.
Potato Kale Soup
- 1 tbs evoo
- 2 cups onions, chopped
- 2 leeks, washed and sliced thinly (chuck the dark green parts)
- 6 cups water
- 4 medium potatoes, cubed
- 2 tbs parsley, minced
- 3 carrots – whole
- 3 ribs celery – whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 lb. kale, washed, torn and ribs removed
-Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions and leeks until soft—abou 10-15 minutes.
-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots and leeks, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Boil, cover and simmer over medium low for 45 minutes.
-While that is simmering, cook kale in 2 cups boiling water in a skillet. Cover tightly and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
-After 45 minutes, remove carrot, celery and bay leaves from soup. Reserve the celery and carrots but chuck the bay leaves. Puree half the soup in a blender. OR, an immersion blender is awesome for this—just whirr up (who says that? Jamie Oliver?) half of it right in the pot. Stir in cooked kale. Chop up the carrots and celery and return to the pot. Heat the soup through again. Salt and pepper it if you need to.
Tada! A vegan alternative for lunch. Sounds like this could use some bread. I think I’ll do that right now.
March 21, 2011 § 6 Comments
So, about that two-thirds vegan diet … Oh, no worries, we’re still on it and still successful. Yay us! There is one small side effect, however, that I need to address. I get a vacant-minded, mad-hungry feeling around lunch time, and no matter how much I eat, I’m still kinda not all there. I’m thinking I may need more protein around then.
I’m no nutritionist, but I do know that a not-so-magical combination of certain beans and grains form a perfect (or close to it) protein. Do red beans and rice stave off the protein cravings enough so you don’t go chasing the nearest cow? I’m pretty sure they do.
In search of a protein-packed lunch option, two recipes found their way to me. The first just happened to be one of many Turkish recipes found in last Wednesday’s Boston Globe. Middle Easterners boy, do they know how to make huge flavors in vegan meals. Below is the recipe with a few changes as noted.
Turkish Red Lentil Soup (Ezogelin in Turkish)
- 2 tbs butter (I used a couple swigs olive oil)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tbs tomato paste (what to do with the rest of the can? freeze it)
- 1/2 cup bulgar wheat
- 2/3 cup red lentils
- 7 cups chicken stock (we used veggie stock)
- 3 tbs dried mint (couldn’t find any! so we used minced fresh, about 3tbs)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- salt & pepper to taste
-In a soup pot over medium heat, heat up butter or oil. Cook up onion until softened, about 5 min. Stir in tomato paste until blended in – 30-60 sec.
-Add bulgur, lentils and stock. Boil then simmer on low heat, pot covered. Let it simmer for about 30 min until lentils and bulgur are tender.
-Add mint, thyme, red pepper, salt and black pepper and simmer a few more minutes to meld the flavors.
Use RED lentils, not green. Red lentils tend to break down further than green, creating more of a mush or, when in a soup, it’s more of a thickener. You can use green but, well … I wouldn’t, not for this soup.
We actually had this last night for dinner, served with hunks of fresh bread (I’m still baking!) and a side of lentil-bulgur salad—another high-protein dish. I’ll give you that recipe tomorrow. That is a seriously tasty salad.
March 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
It turns out—now that we are paying attention—a number of our on-hand recipes are vegan. While it’s nice to cruise online looking for appropriate recipes for our new two-thirds vegan lifestyle, we need only turn to our own recipe collection to find something without meat, fish, dairy, etc.
Jennifer’s Red Lentil Soup with Spinach, for example. She collected this recipe from a local adult-ed class on soup making she attended 10-15 years ago. She just recently found it again, after I had made a batch of the Moosewood lentil soup. Lentils are pretty friggin’ amazing, if you ask me. It’s my favorite dry bean, if only because you don’t have to soak it any more than 30 minutes, which you can easily incorporate into the cooking process (see below). The addition of the spinach is inspired, tasty and I am sure, good for you, as well.
- 1-2 TBS evoo
- 1 onion
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed (I guess green would be fine, too)
- 4-5 cups water
- 1/2 tsp EACH of thyme, oregano, basil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lb. spinach or Swiss chard, torn into pieces
-Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and saute another few minutes until just soft.
-Add the herbs, lentils and 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. If it’s too thick for your liking, add up to a cup of water.
-When lentils are soft, add the salt and spinach. Stir. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Jennifer likes to add a swirl of sherry vinegar on top of her bowl of soup. I add a dash of balsamic vinegar. Try it without the vinegar first, then with the vinegar. The addition really pulls out the flavor of the lentils and adds an acidic brightness. You’ll also want to keep a slice or two of fresh bread on hand for dunking.
You may want to double the batch. This soup is even better in subsequent days, and is nice as your vegan lunch dish.