Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pumpkin Soup

Happy Pumpkin Day!

One favorite Halloween tradition chez moi is to eat pumpkin soup from a pumpkin bowl. This pureed soup is warming, but not too heavy, spiced with a little curry powder, coriander, and plenty of ground cumin. In addition to the pumpkin puree, I included onions, leeks, winter squash, potatoes, and carrots.

Chock full of healthy veggies, this soup is this week's contribution to Sweetnick's Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday (ARF=Antioxidant Rich Food).


Pumpkin Soup:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
1 leek
1 large carrot, diced
3/4 cup winter squash, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp butter
8 oz vegetable stock
8 oz water (or as desired)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/2 can pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup of half & half (or milk)

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook the onion for 4-5 minutes over med-low heat. Add the garlic, potatoes, leek, carrot, squash, and butter. Stir well, cover, and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Uncover and add the vegetable stock, water, cumin, coriander, and curry powder and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Add the pumpkin puree, season, and stir well. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the half & half. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Serve in a small cleaned out pumpkin (after removing the insides, wipe with a little olive oil), topped with sour cream and cilantro (or mini marshmallows for the kids).

Monday, October 30, 2006

What Am I?

OK....that was obviously way too easy! Yes, indeed, they are fried squash blossoms and they were as yummy as last time! I used the same batter recipe, but this time filled the blossoms with goat cheese studded with chopped red jalapenos. Both the squash blossoms and red jalapenos came from the San Rafael Sunday Farmer's Market. The market was hopping as ever and the greens were lush and plentiful (so stay tuned!).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Potato, Chard & Tofu Gratin with Garlic & Brie

Potatoes and chard are another of my favorite pairings. This delicious, garlicy gratin featured purple and white potatoes, rainbow chard, tofu, and a little creamy brie.

Inspired by the potato and chard terrine in The Vegetarian Table: France by Georgeanne Brennan, I lowered the fat and pushed up the vegetable content. (BTW, I've followed the original recipe to fabulous results!)

This was a tasty and easy end-of-a-long-week meal. Satisfying and full of color!

Potato, Chard, & Tofu Gratin with Garlic & Brie:

7-8 smaller potatoes, purple and white, scrubbed
I large bunch rainbow chard
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
2-3 oz brie
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp half & half
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.

Put the potatoes in a saucepan. Cover with water and boil until almost tender (about 5 mins). Drain and cover with cold water. Peel and slice into 1/4 " thick slices.

Take the chard, remove the stems and wash carefully. Tear the leaves. I added the chopped stems to my gratin after boiling them gently for 2-3 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the garlic over gently heat (you don't want it to brown) for 1-2 minutes. Add the torn chard leaves, stems (if using) and saute until tender and bright green.

Cover the bottom of an earthernware dish with half of the potato slices and dot with half the butter and brie. Season. Add the chard on top of the potatoes and dot with remaining butter and brie. Season. Add the final layer of potato slices on top of the chard layer and top with half & half.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Baby Kiwis

So look what I found at Trader Joe's — baby kiwis!

I'd never heard of these before. They're tiny grape-sized kiwis with an smooth, edible skin.

That's a red grape in the top right for scale.

I have to say they're delicious, very sweet, and a lot less work that regular fuzzy kiwis.
According to Specialty, baby kiwis (a.k.a. hardy kiwi, dessert kiwi, or cocktail kiwi) are grown in Oregon and available in Sept./Oct. Originally from New Zealand, Hurst's Berry Farm in Oregon was the first to produce these commercially in the U.S. According to the International Society for Horticultural Science, baby kiwi vines "have the reputation of being difficult to manage, (because) the fruit ripen irregularly on the vine and the storage life and shelf life of the fruit is limited." Bravo to Hurst's Berry Farms for their tender hand-harvesting of these yummy fruits!

While these are fabulous to eat just as they are, Hurst's Berry Farm provides some baby kiwi recipes on their website. They also produce red currants and gooseberries! Is there a gooseberry fool in my future?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Apple Cheddar Muffins

Apples and cheese are one of my favorite food pairings and here they are together in a fall breakfast muffin. Chucks of diced fresh apple with a topping of grated cheddar — yum!

The recipe is one of many variations listed for Apple Muffins in The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough. It's a wonderful book, boasting over 600 muffin recipes, from Earl Grey Tea Muffins to Honey Muffins to Margarita Muffins! There's a muffin for every occasion: Matzo Brei Muffins, Sugar-Free Spelt Muffins, and tons of low-fat muffin recipes. And, then there's Stilton Muffins — hold me back!

Apple Cheddar Muffins (adapted from The Ultimate Muffin Book):

3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small chunks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
2-1/4 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
grated cheddar cheese to top the muffins (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine the apples, sugar, and oil in a bowl and set aside (authors say 45 mins - I cheated, 10 mins). Add milk and beaten egg and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

Mix all the dried ingredients together in a large bowl and pour in the apple mixture. Stir with a spoon until just combined.

Line a muffin pan with paper cups or spray with nonstick spray. Fill the cups 3/4 full. Top with plenty of grated cheddar.

Bake just until a toothpick comes out clean (20-25 minutes).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Halloween Cupcakes

Here's a little inspiration for Halloween cupcakes! These were made for our school's recent dessert auction. A friend made the spider ones and said it took her and her two daughters all day. They do look intricate. I'm not sure who made the black cats, but they're awfully cute.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Food Blogger's Welcome Dinner Invitation

Honestly, I love the idea of hosting some local food bloggers in my home for a fabulous meal. And when the kids are grown, maybe I will.

And what would such a dining experience be like? A buffet, certainly. I love the freedom of the buffet. Take your plate outside and sit at the picnic table and enjoy the view, sit at the bar, or luxuriate on a comfy couch! And eat dishes in any order or mixture that appeals to you.

I'm strangely uncomfortable with the formality of sitting around the dinner table. Something about it takes me back to a trapped, uncomfortable feeling from childhood. Which is odd because I don't recall any "trapped at the table" incidents, just silently crying with laughter with my cousin at breakfast as an elderly relative loudly slurped his breakfast (of prunes). And then there's the "Dinner with the American" scene from Brideshead Revisited, where Charles' (English) friend is trapped at the dinner table with his eccentric father who insists on treating him as a visiting American.

Being bicultural (Oxfordshire, England and Northern California), the menu would have to reflect the best of both the traditional and the new and fresh. You'll see there's a lot of pastry and cheese and lots of fresh veggies to offset any heaviness. And, some French accents to reflect my francophilia.

And, I'd do everything I could in 2-3 bite sizes so you could try everything without getting too full.

Many thanks to Amy for inviting me to blog on this topic.

I'm inviting Susan V. of Fatfree Vegan, Alanna of A Veggie Venture, Fiber of 28 Cooks, and Sam of Becks & Posh to participate.

So, without further ado...the menu:

Cheese Sables
Cheese plate with Humboldt Fog, Tintern, and Manchego, grapes, halved fresh figs, baguette slices, and crackers
Vegetable Crudite with Blue Cheese Dip
Cerignola Olives
Mixed Olives

Asparagus & Cilantro Soup served in tiny cups

Salad with Feta, Blueberries, and Almonds
Beet, Ginger & Spinach Salad
Caprese Salad
French Potato Salad

The Fun Continues:
Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza
Tomato & Cheese Tarts
Enormous roasted vegetable platter with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, onions, and garlic
Miniature Stilton & Watercress Tarte
Small English Sausage Rolls with Coleman's mustard
Portobellos Stuffed with Lentils & Stilton

Pinot Noir (I like Mirrasou, but I'd probably ask Derrick)
Fuji still water
San Pellegrino fizzy water

Bakewell Tarte with heavy cream (unwhipped)
Gooseberry Fool in tiny cups
Best Chocolate Cookies
Coffee & Tea

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Roasted Winter Squash & Apple Soup

Want to fill your home with the most wonderful fall fragrance? Make this Roasted Squash and Apple Soup! The smell of roasting squash, onion, apple, and garlic was total heaven and the soup was good too!

I found the recipe in the October 2006 Body & Soul magazine, originally from Eating Well for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil, M.D.

The original recipe calls for 2-1/2 lbs of squash, but mine was only 1-1/2 so I reduced the proportions of most ingredients. But at the point of adding the vegetable stock, I forgot all about that, and put in the full 4 cups of stock. So I added a little half & half and my version certainly wasn't thin. I cooked the stock and vegetables together for 5-10 minutes (because I wanted to use my immersion blender, not a food processor), while the original recipe simply has you puree the roasted vegetables with the broth and then reheat.

The soup is sweet, but its very subtle. Pleasantly warming as an appetizer for a fall dinner, the smell will draw everyone to the kitchen.

Roasted Winter Squash & Apple Soup (adapted from Eating Well for Optimum Health):

1-1/2 lb winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2" chunks
3-4 small onions, peeled and quartered
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 2" chunks
1-2 tbsp olive oil (for roasting)
chili powder
3-4 cups of vegetable broth (I used 4)
2 tbsp half & half (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400. Place the squash, onions, garlic cloves, and apple in a large ovenproof dish. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables and stir until all are lightly covered. Sprinkle with salt and chili powder and bake for 45 minutes, stirring regularly.

Heat the vegetable stock and roasted vegetables in a large saucepan. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Puree with an immersion blender and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tomato & Cheese Tarts 2

My bro-in-law brought me an awesome bag of home grown tomatoes this weekend. So I just had to make my beloved Tomato & Cheese Tartes , this time with Gorgonzola and Feta with Red Onion. Both were exquisite. Hubby preferred the decadence of pure Gorgonzola, but I love the roasted red onion along with the roasted tomato and feta. Yum.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Three Cheese Pizza with Fig, Pear & Watercress Salad

Some recipes, I feel, are simply not meant to be.

I had a wonderful idea a week of so ago, to adapt a recipe for a sandwich of Brie, Fig, Pear, and Watercress (from Once Upon a Tart) to a pizza (I'm not a sandwich fan - too bready, except pita).
The first attempt found black specs of mold in the pizza dough, the second was a sudden, instinctive voice that, as I started to put the pizza together, told me "nope".

"What?" I said, confused.
"Tomato sauce with figs and pears - that's not going to work. But, they'll make a great salad with the watercress and some balsamic vinegar"

A simple, yet indulgent pizza with tomato sauce, Brie, crumbled Gorgonzola, and crumbled goat cheese, with slices of fresh Farmers' Market white mushrooms was, well, amazing....with the salad of peppery watercress leaves, fresh figs, sliced D'Anjou pear in a balsamic vinaigrette!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Japanese Vegetable Soup with Fresh Ginger (for a Sore Throat)

It's been so long since I've been sick, it took a while for the truth to dawn on me. Cranky, low energy, headache, but when I awoke at 5am with what felt like a golf ball in my throat...reality dawned.

But clearly I'm not that sick, because my mind immediately leapt to work, dreaming up healthy concoctions to rid me of this sore throat, stuffy nose, and out-of-character malaise. Beyond the requisite salt water gargles, of course...unpleasant, but effective, I think.

So here was my opportunity to try out the new Trader Joe's Organic Soy Ginger Broth I'd purchased. I had sugar snap peas, scallions, carrots, white mushrooms, and the enoki mushrooms I had forgotten to use with the Miso Tofu. So all I did was heat up the broth with the snap peas, carrots, and mushrooms. Towards the end, I added some chopped fresh ginger and garlic, and topped the soup with the scallions.

The soup certainly looked like good health in a bowl!

It was delicious, except I found the broth a little bland. I added a little miso, which really brightened up the flavor. The vegetables were wonderful, still firm. Go crazy with the fresh ginger and garlic - zingy, with plenty of sinus-clearing impact.

Verdict on the Broth: a little steep at $3 for a quart, and easily replicated, but nice to have handy in a pinch.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Skillet Seared Tofu with Miso Sauce

The finely sliced scallions and red pepper made this tofu beautiful, but grilling the tofu with a rich miso sauce made it taste divine!

I loved everything about this meal: the pretty tofu, the rice with black sesame seeds, and the green steamed snap peas and broccolini, topped with a hint of toasted sesame oil:

Another wonderful recipe from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, the Skillet Seared Tofu with Miso Sauce was easy to prepare and incredibly tasty. A great meal to impress guests! Here's my adapted recipe:

Skillet Seared Tofu with Miso Sauce:

16 oz block of extra firm tofu
2 tbsp olive oil
soy sauce

Miso Sauce:
1/3 cup white miso (shiro)
2 tbsp mirin
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated, minced, or chopped
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp mayonnaise

Scallions and red peppers, cut into tiny slivers

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Cut the tofu into 8 slices. Fry the tofu slices in the oil until browned on each side. Add the salt and soy sauce towards the end of frying each side.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a mini-prep and process until smooth.

Heat the broiler. Place the cooked tofu on a baking dish and cover the top of each slice with the miso sauce (you'll have lots of sauce left over). Heat under the broiler until the miso topping starts to blister. Remove and serve topped with slivers of scallions and red peppers and extra sauce, if desired.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Zucchini Skillet Cake

Uniquely flavored with pine nuts, capers, and marjoram, these zucchini skillet cakes, with just a hint of lemon, were incredible!

The recipe comes from the awesome Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, which is filled with wonderful looking supper recipes.

I halved the recipe and made one large cake and two smaller. They were quite thick and hard to flip without falling to pieces. Although the large cake gave me a sense of satisfaction, I think I'll make 6 smaller cakes out of this quantity next time. We enjoyed this with a crisp romaine salad with cherry tomatoes and creamy blue cheese dressing.

Zucchini Skillet Cakes (adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen):

2 medium large zucchini, grated
1 egg, beaten (vegans can use 1/4 cup of pureed tofu, per Madison)
1-2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tbsp dried marjoram
grated zest of 1 very small lemon
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/8 cup capers
olive oil
s & p

Sprinkle the grated zucchini with salt and place in a colander to drain for 15 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the grated zucchini using your hands or the back of a large wooden spoon. The more moisture you can remove, the easier it will be to keep the cakes together when frying.

In a large bowl, mix together the beaten egg, chives, garlic, parsley, marjoram, and lemon zest. Add the zucchini, breadcrumbs, and capers. Season.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat some olive oil over med. heat. Spoon out desired amount of mixture and form into a round cake in the frying pan (I used a spatula to form the cake and it worked very well). Cook until you the bottom is firm enough that you can flip it. (I used two spatulas together for the bigger cake - I think I need a giant spatula!) Cook on the other side until firm. Keep warm on a plate in the oven until all the cakes are cooked.

Serves 2.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fall Colors Vegetable Stew

This hearty vegetable stew with beans and "sausage" was full of fabulous colors and tastes! Orange sweet potatoes and carrots, purple and white potatoes, and lots of rich dark chard and kale. Flavored with fresh oregano and Morningstar "sausage", this stew just disappeared!

Full of healthy vegetables and beans, lentils, and "sausage", this dish packs in the protein, fiber, and vitamins. It is, therefore, my contribution to this week's Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday (ARF=Antioxidant Rich Food).

Fall Colors Vegetable Stew:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
4 -5 smaller potatoes, purple and white, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 large carrot, sliced on the diagonal
12 oz vegetable broth (I used 8oz plus 4oz water)
1/3 cup red wine (optional, but good!)
3 tbsp red lentils
1 tbsp tomato pasta sauce
Shake of crushed red pepper
1/2 cup navy beans (cooked)
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch of dinosaur kale, stalks and ribs removed
1 small bunch of chard, stalks and ribs removed
sprig of fresh oregano, leaves only
S & P
4 Morningstar sausage links (or your fav.), cooked and sliced

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom large saucepan over med. low heat. Add the onions and cook gently until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potato, sweet potato, carrot, and butter and stir well. Cover, turn up heat to med., and cook about 8 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes to avoid sticking. Add the broth, wine, lentils, and pasta sauce and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 8 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper, mushrooms, kale and chard (torn into manageable pieces), and fresh oregano and season. Cover and cook until chard and kale are tender, adding the sausage for the last 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Greek Rice Salad with Feta Sauce

Feta sauce! Yes, and it was awesome on a rice salad with grilled veggies and olives.

I was looking for something tasty and substantial to serve with steamed artichokes. I really love artichokes and, as a twentysomething, went through a serious artichoke phase where I ate two for dinner every night for at least a month (they were dinner). I love that they take time to eat. I love to pluck each petal. I eat them with melted butter.

Hubby feels quite differently, which is why I was looking for something substantial to serve after the artichokes. Inspired by a recipe from Vegetarian Times for Greek Rice & Chickpea Salad, I decided on a Greek Rice Salad dish (mine was quite different). I grilled red onions, peppers, zucchini and tomatoes in my grill pan with a little olive oil and added them to some cooked white rice. But, just adding crumbled feta seemed too routine. I needed a feta sauce.

I found this recipe on Epicurious for Grilled Zucchini and Tomatoes with Feta Sauce. I made the sauce in my mini prep: feta, low-fat sour cream, lemon juice, olive oil, and two minced garlic cloves.

I folded the sauce into the salad and added black olives and chopped basil. It wasn't the prettiest dish, but it was absolutely delicious! The sauce would also make a great dip for fresh or steamed veggies and would be a treat on baked potatoes! If you like feta, you gotta try it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Rigatoni with Vegetables

So, what do you do when you planned a quick and easy pizza dinner, but at the last minute find the Trader Joe's pizza dough has black mold specs in it? Pasta!

This Rigatoni with Vegetables made use of leftover grilled eggplant from the recent Vegetable Towers and some leftover Potato, Bean & Gorgonzola Gratin. I also added some mushrooms sauted in butter and broccoli florettes (which I boiled with the pasta for about 5 minutes). A little red pasta sauce and crumbled feta and this was a tasty and original meal. The leftover gratin with rich and creamy Gorgonzola really made this special!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Potato, Bean & Gorgonzola Gratin

There's a chill in the air and a potato gratin with rich Gorgonzola was my supper vision. I had a bag of beautiful red, gold, and purple potatoes from Trader Joes that I couldn't wait to use, as well as some fine green and yellow beans.

As Sweetpea's soccer practice gave me a late start, I cheated and parboiled the potatoes until just tender. I tossed the trimmed green and yellow beans in with the potatoes for the last two minutes. I then drained the veggies and put them in my favorite gratin dish, along with a handful of cooked navy beans (enough to add a little extra protein, but not be too noticeable).

I made my basic Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, but added a large clove of minced garlic along with the grated cheese at the end. I poured the sauce over the veggies and topped with more grated Gorgonzola and walnut pieces. I baked the gratin at 375 for 20 minutes, then popped it under the grill for 2 minutes to brown the top.

It was rich and creamy and wonderfully comforting! The beans' fresh taste made a pleasant contrast to the creamy spuds. It was so good I ate two full servings. Serve with a big glass of your favorite red wine.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Broiled Vegetable Towers

A variant on Roasted Portobello and Polenta Towers, these Broiled Vegetable Towers included garlicy slices of eggplant, potato, tomato, and red onion topped with goat cheese and basil.

I parboiled the potatoes then finished them under the grill with the other vegetables. They took the place of the polenta in the original recipe. The thick veggie slices were brushed with a flavorful mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and chopped basil and cooked under the broiler for about 5 minutes on each side.

Served with a cheesy tomato pasta sauce, these juicy vegetable towers were simply outstanding.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Yves Barbecue Beef Skewers

While I'm not a big fan of "faux" meats, there are some really great products out there these days: Gardenburger BBQ Riblets and Chick'n Grills, Morningstar Bacon Stips and Sausage Patties, Yves Canadian Bacon and Pizza Pepperoni are all favorites.

With hubby not being a vegetarian, I am increasingly tempted to try some of the faux beef options. He loves Gardenburger's BBQ riblets, so last night we tried Yves new Meatless Barbecue Beef Skewers.

I was surprised on removing them from the package that they looked nothing like the kidney-shaped pieces on the front photo, but were instead a smooth and shiny single log on a skewer. Even more surprising, they had no smell when I removed them from the package. Described as "seasoned to perfection" and clearly in some kind of sauce, I expected a BBQ smell. I sniffed and smelled a dull seitan smell. Hmm...

The cooking instructions were also surprising: "lightly brush with oil, cook at medium heat for 12-15 mintues, browning all sides." 12-15 minutes seemed like an awfully long time - most other products are very careful to remind you to cook them for only a couple of minutes. I used my stovetop grill pan and grilled the skewers along with chunks of onions and green peppers. I then made up a big taco salad (beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole) as a substantial side dish.

Needless to say, we needed the substantial side dish. The skewers were rubbery, with a strong plain seitan flavor. I doused them in salsa, but we still couldn't eat them. They were also very visually unappealing. Maybe a very flavorful BBQ sauce would have worked wonders here, but we were too put off to keep trying.

If someone had a good experience with this new product, I'd love to hear about it. I should point out that Yves Barbecue Beef Skewers aren't vegan, as they contain egg ingredients.