Thursday, February 13, 2014

Heart-Healthy Valentine's Day Soup: Borscht

I love chocolate, but I'd be really psyched if someone made me this lovely version of Borscht for Valentine's Day!

Borscht, the classic soup made with beets, potatoes and cabbage, is delicious and fabulously good for you!  Beets are full of antioxidants, think anti-inflamatory, and both beets and cabbage, particularly the red variety, are packed full of Vitamin C.  Both help the body detox, so this is an anytime soup. I used a small heart-shaped cutter to create heart shapes out of the beets and potatoes and then diced the rest and included them in the soup.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and healthy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day Borscht:

1 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
3 medium beets, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 red cabbage, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
sea salt to taste
apple cider vinegar to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and saute the onion for 5 minutes. Using a small heart-shaped cutter, cut heart shapes out of the beet and potato slices.  Dice the remaining extras.  Add the beets, cover and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Add the potato and some salt and cook for 3 minutes. Add the red cabbage and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and water and bring to a boil (uncovered). Turn down to a low simmer and cook until beets and potatoes are just tender (10-15 minutes). Adjust salt and add apple cider vinegar as desired (I used 2-3 tsp).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Asparagus, Lentil & Mushroom Soup

I love this simple Asparagus, Lentil & Mushroom soup! I've made it 5 or 6 times in the last month, varying the spices, and the amount of heat.  It makes a wonderfully satisfying winter lunch - the lentils provide a low-fat protein and fiber hit, the asparagus offers a contrasting freshness, and the mushrooms round out the flavor with a warm earthiness.  Considering the 10 inches of rain we've had over the past 5 days here in Marin County, this soup delivers comfort without a lot of calories, perfect for a few quiet days indoors.

I've made it with and without fresh thyme, and used a variety of spices - ground cumin and coriander, a Bengali spice mix called Panch Phoron (cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard and Nigella seeds),  cumin and mustard seeds. I've added heat with chili-garlic sauce, jalapenos, and cayenne pepper. I've used Trader Joe's steamed lentils and also cooked dried lentils.  In the picture above, I used the tiny black "caviar" lentils (simply boil in water for 25 minutes until almost tender).

My staples for this recipe are lemon juice, sherry vinegar, tomato paste (I keep a tube by the stove for soups) and a couple of chopped olives to add richness.  Fresh spinach would also be a worthy addition.

I love the combination of asparagus and lentils. For a salad version see my Lentil & Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts. Enjoy!

Asparagus, Lentil & Mushroom Soup:

1 TBS olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 glove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin (or try combinations discussed above)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp butter (or fav vegan substitute)
1 cup asparagus (thick ends removed, chopped into 1/2 inch rounds)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I used cremini)
1 cup cooked lentils
24 oz vegetable stock
1 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
3 olives, finely chopped
1 tsp sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook the chopped shallot and minced garlic for 2 minutes. Add the ground cumin and coriander and cook 30 seconds, stirring well.  Add the butter, melt, and add the chopped asparagus with a couple of grinds of salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms, stir well, cover and cook 2 minutes.  Add the cooked lentils and vegetable stock, partially cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and add the tomato paste, chili garlic sauce, chopped olives and sherry vinegar. Let the soup cook for 8-10 minutes over low heat, so it is just bubbling. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Noodle Soup with Tofu, Broccolini & Chard Stems

Rainbow chard is a lovely product and I highly recommend using it to make the delicious French Chard & Potato Gratin.  But don't throw away those intensely colored chard stems!  The very pretty and colorful chard stems are excellent candidates for soup or a stir fry. Yes, they do loose some of their dramatic coloring with cooking, but I think this Noodle Soup with Tofu, Broccolini & Chard Stem Soup is an excellent example of how you can repurpose a potential throw-away into an attractive and tasty ingredient.

This simple soup uses a refrigerator packaged fresh noodle soup with spicy flavoring and adds onions, garlic, soy sauce, a little toasted sesame oil, and fresh ginger to the prepackaged broth to give it a home-made taste. Add the chard stems a few minutes before the tofu and broccolini and cook until just tender. You'll end up with a delicious Asian soup that accents the lovely color and taste of the chard stems, with the textural profiles of the broccolini, silky tofu and comforting noodles.


Saturday, February 01, 2014

Albion Cooks Celebrates 8 Years!

It's been such a blast to write this blog for the last 8 years!  I've learned so much!  Thank you for sharing in my culinary journey.

To celebrate, I've chosen some favorite recipes from 2006-2014.  Enjoy!