Simple – Split Pea Soup

I like simple. Simple pleasures, simple life, simple food. Simple is flexible. Go with the flow. Simple is something you can make when it’s 2am and you just got home from a late night at the bars and, suddenly, have this weird craving for soup. Yes sir, simple is my friend.

Split Peas

Take this recipe as a gentle suggestion on the path towards deliciousness; with many side trails to take and trees to climb. Don’t like the green color? Go with yellow, or half and half (I tossed in some leftover yellow). Tarragon not your thing? Go with thyme, or rosemary, or whatever fresh leftover herbs you have sitting in your fridge, otherwise destined for the trash. Go nuts. Hooray simple.

Split Pea Blend

Simple Split Pea Soup

1 onion; chopped
1 large carrot; chopped
1 celery stalk; chopped
1 russet potato; chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups split peas; rinsed and drained
4 or more cups of stock (or water)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
salt to taste

Heat your pot medium and sweat the onion, carrot and celery until the onion is transclucent. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until everything is soft and smells (tastes!) delicious. Remove from heat and let cool a bit and either blend with an immersion blender or in a standard drink blender a few cups at a time. Enjoy.

Second Time’s a Charm – Tempeh Curry Salad

It’s funny, with there being so many different dishes out there, more than one could ever hope to cook or eat in one lifetime, it’s easy to forget about the ones you’ve tried before.  You find an interesting recipe, maybe you make some improvisations, maybe you don’t.  Maybe it comes out great, maybe it comes out decent and you have some thoughts for “next time”  Then you forget about it, lost forever in the past.

Tempeh and Peas

This is one of those dishes.  I made a curry dish from Totally Vegetarian and, well, I was not knocked over by it’s awesomeness.  It wasn’t bad, but if I was a restaurant, I would not come back to me and order this (if that makes any sense).  SO, back to the drawing board.  Whole Foods has this awesome curry tempeh dish they have sometimes at their hot bar and apparently if you add mayonnaise it becomes a salad, which blows my mind.  I shall be calling club sandwiches salads from now on.  I gotta say, I was quite happy with how this came out.  It was delicious and the whole wheat couscous I paired it with worked quite well.  I encourage you to try this and next time someone tells you to eat healthier, whip this sucker out.

Curry Tempeh Salad

Tempeh Curry Salad
For the curry, I used one teaspoon hot, two teaspoons sweet and for me it was perfect. However, I am quite the spice-wuss.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion; chopped
2 garlic cloves; minced
1 teaspoon ginger; minced
1 tablespoon curry; any kind
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 cup tamari (soy sauce in a pinch)
1 cup fresh peas (or thawed and drained)
8oz tempeh; chopped into small quarter inch pieces
1/2 cup mayo (I used vegan, but any should work)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

Under medium high heat, saute your onion in a large pan with the olive oil until translucent and slightly browned. Reduce the heat to medium and add your garlic, ginger, curry and mustard; stirring to mix well and prevent burning. Once fragrant (1-2 minutes), add your tempeh and tamari. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the tempeh has been heated up and the liquid has either mostly been absorbed or cooked away.

Add your remaining ingredients and stir to mix well. Cook for a few minutes and remove from heat. Serve immediately or cold; both ways are delicious. Enjoy.

I do, on occasion, try to eat a meatless dinner. Flipping through Giada De Laurentiis’s Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites always helps to make me feel good about veggies again. Italian cooking has a lot of great vegetables and healthy things about it, but in restaurants the food just seems to get so bogged down with cheeses and oil. Giada unearths the good food under all the excess.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese1

I was drawn to her Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Pamesan Crust recipe… but with a few changes, of course!

I traded in the new potatoes for two small to medium sized Russet potatoes. I also added in two yellow squash in addition to the zucchini, and I used a bit of shredded Vermont White Cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan. Instead of buying fresh herbs (which are wonderful, but just not that accessible for a quick weeknight dinner) I used dried. I thought the result was pretty awesome.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese2

Since I had more vegetables than the original recipe, I added in a little more unsalted butter to cook them in. So that I didn’t turn a relatively healthy meal into a butter fiesta, I used 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons of Smart Balance butter. I would also recommend that you cook the veggies in batches in your skillet; I had a giant skillet to use and even with that things were just a little too crowded. The vegetables taste great, with a tiny bit of salt, cheese and butter giving it just enough zip to turn a veggiephobe into a new friend for life.

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese3

Broiled Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Potatoes, Lightly Herbed & Sprinkled with Cheese
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 small/medium size Russet potatoes, cleaned and quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter + 2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch pieces
2 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch pieces
Pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Vermont white cheddar

Boil a medium pot of water on high heat. Add quartered potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into 2 inch pieces when cooled.

Over medium heat, place a medium saute pan with butter, garlic, thyme and rosemary – heat until the butter melts. Meanwhile, lightly salt the cut surfaces of the zucchini, squash and potatoes. Place the cut side down in the melted butter and cook for about 15 minutes when golden brown.

Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the sheet with the cut side facing up. Sprinkle with Vermont cheddar. Broil until cheese melts (about 4 minutes). Serve while hot!

Not Quite Rice Noodles – Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry

The massive snow storm of 2010 appears to have abetted, finally. Forecast predicts a wee bit more snow (argh) but we should returning to normal soon. Have I mentioned that I hate winter? I hate winter. At least there’s squash.

Spaghetti Squash Broccoli Wokly!

Another adventure with spaghetti squash! At 89 cents a pound it’s rather hard to pass up. I didn’t feel like going pasta style and had a hankering for stir fry. I think broccoli is my favorite vegetable. I kinda just ran with this one not knowing where it’d end up. Overall, pretty happy; though I’d leave out the bean sprouts next time. They just didn’t add anything, and took away a bit. Still, quite proud and I shall do it again!

Steamy

Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry With Broccoli

1 small spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large onion; quartered and sliced
1 green bell pepper; cut into slices
4 cloves garlic; minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 jalapeno pepper; diced
8 ounces broccoli; cut into small florets

Sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Pierce the squash several times and cook at 350° for an hour. Once done, let cool and cut in half lengthwise. Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Cook the onion and green pepper with the peanut oil in a large wok under high heat for several minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper and cook, constantly stirring until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, add 1/3 cup of water and the broccoli. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until all the water boils away. Add the remaining ingredients and toss, mixing well, and serve.

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I am so over this whole snow thing. DC got blasted with another round and rumor is we’ve hit a new record in snowfall. Whoopie. Things got pretty clear by this afternoon, fortunately, and with any luck we’ll begin the slow, gradual return to normalcy around here. Fingers crossed.

Before the Bake

Didn’t have a whole lot of ingredients in the kitchen yesterday during this apocalypse, but I did have more eggplant. This another recipe that calls for roasting, which is nice to take away the eggplant’s natural bitterness. I’ve always liked tomatoes with onions, and this is no exception.

Baked Eggplant

Baked Eggplant with Tomato and Onion

1 eggplant
1 onion; cut into quarters and sliced
2 tomatoes; chopped
3 garlic cloves; minced
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°. Cut your eggplant in half, lengthwise, sprinkle with salt and set aside to weep for five minutes. Rinse well, dry and set in a baking dish; flesh side up. Combine the onion, tomato, garlic, herbs and salt in a small bowl. Make a small slice down the middle of each eggplant half and heap your topping on. Bake for 30-40 minutes, pressing the topping down 2-3 times with the back of a spoon. Serve and enjoy.

Remembering [Food From] College

So back in college I was heavily involved in a co-ed community service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega (APO). The mission and the people really blew my mind and made my college experience what it was. There are a lot of awesome things I could talk about with APO but, you know me, I’m going to talk about food.

marinating shrimpspinach

I don’t remember the reason, but one evening during our normal meeting time we had a pot luck. One person made the most delicious shrimp and pasta dish that I’ve ever had. That’s right, I’m still thinking about it to this day.

It wasn’t a cream sauce or fettuccine type dish, it had angel hair pasta, lightly spiced shrimp and a nice amount of kick. I’d ask for the recipe, but last I heard this person was on a fishing boat in Alaska?

So I did some searching and found Emeril’s Shrimp and Pasta with Chilis, Garlic, Lemon and Green Onions. Unfortunately I was pretty underwhelmed.

shrimpandpasta

Changes I made to it include leaving out the green onions and fresh parsley, adding spinach, replacing linguini with angel hair and steaming the shrimp rather than cooking them in a skillet. I thought steaming the shrimp would cut down on a little fat and also hold in the flavor more – maybe I was way off base?

What do you all think – Do you have a great pasta & shrimp recipe? Should I have stuck with the skillet instead of steaming? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’d really love to eat a delicious pasta & shrimp dish again 🙂

shrimpdish

You can find Emeril’s recipe by clicking here.

From Foe To Friend – Baked Tomatoes With Cilantro

I never really liked tomatoes as a kid.  Being a picky child growing up, unless it was in Heinz 57 or Ragu form chances were I would not be a fan.  To be fair, the tomato plant started this cold, unamaciable relationship when it decided to give me hives.  My mother had a small vegetable (and tomato) garden in our backyard and one day while my sister and I were playing we somehow ended up in the garden and next thing I know I’m breaking out in itchy bumps with absolutely no idea what’s going on.  Tomatoes fired the first shot.

Tomato Sliced Tomatoes

Fast forward to present day and the tomato and I are best buds; hanging out, making soups, playing catch (i like to throw ball-shaped food up in the air.  i usually catch it), having a good time.  I friggin’ love tomatoes now and do not mind saying that I will, on occasion, eat this noble fruit like an apple.  Oh, if only the old me could take a gander now.

Ready For Slathering!

This is a nice simple recipe that would work well as a no-fuss side dish.  You could easily be prepare this, set it aside, and pop it in the oven when the timing works with everything else on the dinner menu.  I opted for dried cilantro simply because I had it and I hate buying fresh herbs when I know I’ll only use a small fraction and the rest will slowly whither and die in my fridge (so much anger….).  Feel free to go the fresh route if so inclined; just use two tablespoons rather than two teaspoons.

Baked Tomatoes With Cilantro

Baked Tomatoes With Cilantro
Be sure to serve this directly from the baking dish, as the tomatoes will be very soft.

4 tomatoes (approximately 2 pounds; maybe a bit less); cut into 1/4 inch slices
5 cloves of garlic; minced
2 teaspoons dried cilantro
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (much less if you’re a spice wuss such as moi)
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Lightly oil a glass baking pan and layer your tomato slices as shown in the photograph above. Combine your remaining ingredients and spread/smother/slather atop the tomatoes. I recommend just using one of your (clean! you wash before cooking, right?) hands to mix and distribute. Simple with a bit of salt and pepper, then bake for 25 minutes. Serve in the baking dish and enjoy.

Growing up with an German mother, Bavarian dumplings were not an uncommon accompaniment to main courses of goulash, beef tips and rouladen.  To say I was quite fond of these suckers doesn’t really saw much, since I inhaled just about every dinner mom put before me (I was a…. healthy eater).  I never really understood how they were made growing up, existing in this nebulous state of origin; with characteristics from several directions.  A little potato, a little noodle, a little cake.  It was a delicious mystery.  Later I came to find out that mother (and her mother and probably her mother, etc etc) made dumplings from a box mix, killing that unknown with a dull thud.

Dumplings Minus the Filling

I have a few of those very box mixes in my cupboard, of course, because there’s just something about the food you grew up eating that takes you to a warm comfortable place, no matter what it is or how it was made.  I am amazed sometimes by the culinary geniuses at some restaurants, but it will never replace my mom’s home cooking.  Ever.

Dumpling Filling

That being said, I do love stretching my wings, throwing myself into an area of cooking that I have no experience with and very little business trying.  I’ve been reading a bit about cooking in the Middle East and Africa (thank you, local library) so I decided to try a dumpling inspired by this reading; not from a box (sorry Mom!).

African Inspired Rice Dumplings

African Inspired Rice Dumplings

1 onions; chopped
2 garlic cloves; minced
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup cooked long grain rice; strained well (press the water out a bit)
2 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper

Saute the onions with the butter in a large pan for five minutes then add the garlic and spices and cook for another five minutes. Mix with 1 cup of flour and set aside.

Process the rice in a food processor for 30 seconds and transfer to a mixing bowl along with 1 1/2 cup of flour, milk along with salt and pepper to taste. Mix together, adding additional flour until not too sticky to work with (it will still be a bit sticky). Work into golf size balls and then flatten. Put 1-2 teaspoons of your onion mixture on your rice dough and wrap around to reform a ball. Boil in water for 30-40 minutes until dough is cooked through. Serve and enjoy.

Embracing The Fungus – Mushroom Barley Soup

The weather has been pretty nuts here lately.  Not that I’m complaining, with my absolute hate of the bitter cold.  But it seems a bit odd to me when the days of January are sporting temperatures in the 50’s and (low) 60’s; and that oddness is compounded when you’re eating stews and other wintry-themed dished.  Madness!

Mushrooms Pearl Barley

Heather and I have both been trying to expand our horizons this year; returning to ingredients that we have less than pleasant feelings towards.  One of the big ones for me is the mushroom.  It’s a friggin’ fungus!  As a friend of mine once said: “you might as well lick the bottom of your shoe.”  To be fair, I’ve been slowly coming around to these suckers.  The stock I made for Slow Cooker week was quite successful and Lost Dog Cafe has, by far, the best veggie burger I have ever had (WITH mushrooms).  So here I go, jumping into the world of mushrooms!

The Makings Of Soup

Barley is not an ingredient you see very often in recipes, which is a shame.  Pearled barley is simple, healthy grain to work with and has a nutty flavor with a chewy texture.  It serves as an excellent thickener too.  I used this to complement some white button mushrooms.  And the result?  A tasty mushroom soup I’ll actually enjoy eating!  The flavor is subtle, but delicious.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1 carrot; diced
1 stalk celery; diced
1 cup pearl barley; rinsed and drained
10 oz mushrooms; cleaned and sliced (I used white button)
6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 fresh chives
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a large stock pot under medium heat and cook the onion, carrot and celery with olive oil until softened; approximately 5-8 minutes. Add your remaining ingredients and simmer until the barley is soft but chewy. Serve and enjoy!

Take That Winter! Thick And Hearty Lentil Stew

Happy 2010 everyone! I hope you all had a joyous holiday and a fun (and safe) New Years Eve. I traveled to the windy and disturbingly cold Chicago for Christmas to see quite a few members of the extended family. Despite the shivering, it was a great time and well worth the twelve hour drive it took to get there (that’s right, we drove there).  My family, with our German roots, is not big on the vegetarian cuisine and the term “light” does not enter the vocabulary either (I believe the word is “licht”, in case you were wondering).  There will be much to make up for these following months.

The new year has started off wickedly cold up here in DC and the strong winds we’ve been getting lately have been so horrid I have given serious thought to becoming a professional hermit.  I suppose moving would be a little more realistic….  Regardless, I shall be cutting down on any non-essential trips out of my building and surrounding myself with whatever keeps me warm.

Ingredients

I’ve always loved meals with copious chunks of fruit or vegetables and this is because I’ve always been a picker.  I would always start munching on whatever Mom was making for dinner before it was ready until she kicked me out of the kitchen.  My sister HATED this (“he’s putting his hands in our food!”).  You can’t really “pick” a piece of biscuit or spaghetti.  You’re either going to get caught or burned.  But fruit salad, roasted vegetables?  Score.

ANYWAY, with winter in full swing I wanted something as well as filling, so I took a recipe from my hero Alton Brown and stewified it; making it heartier.  Next time, I shall add a potato, I believe, but the broccoli was a great addition as part of the soup and for picking potential (you can pick from soup.  it’s just harder).  Try this next time you’re looking for something to warm the deep chill out of your bones.

Thick and Hearty Lentil Stew

Thick and Hearty Lentil Stew
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions; chopped
2 medium carrots; diced
1 stalk celery; chopped
4 cloves garlic; minced
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
3/4 lb green lentils; rinsed and drained
1 head of broccoli; chopped into small florets
3 medium tomatoes; chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
12 cups water/stock
1/4 cup lemon juice
10oz spinach; roughly chopped

Sweat the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and cilantro until the onions have softened. Add the lentils, broccoli, tomatoes, spices and water/stock. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the spinach and lemon juice and simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!