Monday, January 27, 2014

Flavorful Vegetable Broth inspired by Ottolenghi

Sometimes you read a recipe and it sounds like Shakespeare: you know it has to be good. This happened to me when I read Ottolenghi’s recipe for a vegetable broth as a base for Thai soups or a Vietamese pho. It has all types of ingredients and in the original UK version it also includes dried plumes. I think they are essential for this flavorful broth. Enjoy!

Flavorful vegetable broth (for 4 people);
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into large pieces
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
6 sticks celery, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 inch ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Vegetable oil
2 lemongrass stalks, very roughly chopped
8 prunes
1 red chili, roughly chopped
2 star anise
2 tbsp soy sauce
In a large pan, char the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and ginger in a tiny amount of oil. Cook for five minutes, or until the edges begin to colour. Add 2 quarts of water, the lemongrass, prunes, chillies, star anise, soy, lime leaves and coriander root. Cook on a low simmer for at least 45 minutes, to infuse. Strain the stock, and discard vegetable. Fill in a container and chill.
For a Thai soup (1 serving)
2 enoki mushrooms
5 shitake mushroom
handful rice noodles
1/4 red bell pepper, cut in thin stripes
a few edamame
Toasted sesame oil, to finish

Bring 2-3 laddles of the stock to a low simmer.  Add the enoki and sbitake mushrooms and the rice noodles and cook for 3 minute. Add the remaining ingredients apart from the sesame oil, and heat through for a minute. Taste, adjust the seasoning as needed, and ladle into warm bowls. Finish with sesame oil, not more than a few drops in each bowl, and coriander leaves.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Best basic tomato sauce ever

It is Sunday, finally a day off from thinking about work and just lingering, shoveling some snow, not too much, 3 inches, not too cold, just 15F, and sunshine. Getting the remaining groceries I did not get yesterday while shopping at the grocery store with the shortest path from Starbucks. This the morning I started cooking a long, slow cooked tomato sauce with San Marzano tomatoes (RedPack seem to be the best, but no avail around the woods of Maine). It called for ‘put together the ingredients and then slowly cook for 1 hour for the flavors to fuse.” This is key --- the long, slow cooking to bring out the flavors, make the sauce denser and sweet. Typically I would rip the sauce off the stove after 10 minutes cooking. --- Long slow cooking, so worth it for this sauce. It would be great also cooking in a slow cooker.

It was bubbling away while I shoveled snow. In the evening, I made meatballs, a combination of lean beef and lean turkey, and an eggwhite slushy mixed up in the Vitamix with a garlic clove, a bit of sweet onion, cilantro, some salt and pepper, pan fried and then cooked in the sauce for another hour. Quite right for a Sunday evening meal --- spaghetti and meatballs. Now, what to watch on TV? The Grammys? Downton Abbey? The Kardashians? The Housewives of Atlanta? or some Bachelor who actually for once made it to his wedding? Decisions, decisions…. 


Best simple tomato sauce ever (with meatballs)
Makes 4-5 servings:
  • 1 large can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 regular can tomato sauce
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1/2 sweet onion, small diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ts butter
  • 1/4 cup red wine or beef broth and 1 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2-1 TB turbinado sugar (raw cane sugar)
In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and fry the onions on medium heat until they slightly brown.


Microplane 2 garlic cloves and add to the pot.



Add a teaspoon of butter at this point, and melt in.


Gently fry the garlic (make sure it does not burn) and add the red wine (or beef broth) to the onion mix. Use a wood laddle and scrap the brown, caramelized bits off from the bottom of the pot.

Cook off the liquid until the onions are almost dry again.
In a blender, puree the tomatoes (or break up by hand or with a potato masher if you like a chunky sauce).
Add  1 can of tomato sauce (not pictured) and 2 TB of tomato paste.
Stir the tomato sauce in the pan to mix all the ingredients well. Crush fresh ground pepper over the sauce. Bring to a simmer, cover with a heavy lid, and simmer on medium low heat (barely bubbling) for 1h.
Meanwhile, make meatballs (if you like). Otherwise, finish off the sauce with some fresh basil and a half tablespoon turbinado sugar. --- Done.
  • 5oz lean beef
  • 5 oz lean turkey
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 garlic glove, peeled
  • 1/2 peeled sweet onion
  • 1/2 ts salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • frew branches of cilantro
  • 3 TB  of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
In a blender, mix together the eggwhite, the garlic clove, sweet onion, salt,  pepper and cilantro, and make a slushy. It makes sure that the flavors distribute through the meatballs.
Mix together the meats, slushy and bread crumbs.
From small balls in your hands, and fry in a pan from all sides (my seem to always come out at triangles).
Once browned at to the sauce, and cook for another 45h min. (Just imagine how the meat infused tomato sauce will taste).
Now, make pasta of your choice, and dinner is ready.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Beef broth in the slow cooker

According to Marcella Hazan beef broth is best made when cooked at a bare simmer for more than 6 hours. To take an endlessly cooking pot on the gas stove out of the equation, the slow cooker is the next best thing. On one of the last farmers markets in the fall I had bought a soup bone, basically a piece of relatively tough meat with a big bone in the middle. I placed it in the slow cooker in the evening, with boiling water, the necessary other broth herbal and spice ingredients and cooked it for 24 h. It looked and tasted already perfect after 12h, but even the beef was cook after 24h. Best way to make beef, chicken or seafood stock --- the slow cooker!


Beef broth in the slow cooker
  • 1 pound of beef and bones (or specific soup beef, typically an inexpensive cut,  but the bones are crucial for a deep flavor)
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 stalks of celery, cut in 5 inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut in 2 inch pieced
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ca. 10 juniper berries
  • 1 TB pepper corns
  • 1 TB dried thyme
  • 1/2 teas spoon of salt
  • Optional: dried porcini mushroom
Set the slow cooker to low. Add the beef, and all the ingredients, fill it up with boiling water, and let cook for 24h.

Discard the vegetables and bones. Decide if you want to feed the beef to a dog or discard. Chill the stock and remove the fat, which will harden on the surface after 12h. Pour the stock into glass containers and chill in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 month in ziplock bags.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hot and Sour Mushroom Soup

It is cold and sunny, and the week is almost over. Not that the weekend will change much because with more snowfall on the way I will still be pretty much locked into the house instead of visiting nice places and leaving the routine behind. Ah, January. I cannot say that I am particularly well-versed in Chinese cooking, i.e. I can’t make a single dish, but this hot and sour mushroom soup reminds me of the take-out at Panda Express, just much much better, and it my first foray in the Chinese cuisine.


Hot and Sour Mushroom Soup  (ca. 2 servings)

2 ts roasted sesame oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 inch minced ginger
4 cup vegetable broth
3 TB soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice vinegar)
2 TB sugar
1 TB srirachi hot sauce
1 TB cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
8 oz  sliced cabbage
4 oz sliced shitake mushroom and/or mini portabellas
1 oz rice noodles or udon noodles  Heat toasted sesame oil and sautee the garlic and ginger for 1-2 min. Immediately add the vegetable broth to prevent it from burning. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add all the other ingredients besides the cornstach. Simmer the soup for about 10-15 minutes until the noodles are cooked. Now, add the cornstarch mixed in the water, and simmer for another 5min until the soup has slightly thickened. Serve!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Black bean, corn, and bell pepper salad

It is clear, sunny and cold outside. The year is off to its real full start, no more breaks until March. We will be churning away at classes, homework, learning, projects, meetings, half way through the semester. To bring my own salad to work more often I made a sub-salad (not a Subway salad, but a salad that is part of a salad) --- I cooked a cup of small black beans in the pressure cooker for 25 min which leaves them with a nice, firm texture, and cooled them. For the salad, I added 1 half diced red bell pepper, 1/2 cup of frozen corn sauteed with a half jalapeno pepper and 1 garlic clove, some salt, added them to the salad with the juice of a half lemon. Bright and spicy!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Land of Lemon

About exactly a year ago I bought a Meyer Lemon container tree, in a beloved store in Belfast, ME. I removed all my table top photography set up from the biggest window and move the Meyer lemon tree there instead. With the good care of plenty of light, water, organic fish fertilizer feed, it blossomed soon with the most fragrant, intensely sweet, perfumed blossoms.

In the summer, the Meyer Lemon tree enjoyed a warm, fertilized, sunny life outside on the deck and the tiny blossomes developed into tiny green lemons, which grew and grew over the summer.
By October the remaining lemons had grown all the way to industrial strength lemons and could be take for super limes.
They moved back inside the house for the winter, and since have been spending again at a place in the light and close to the woodstove. Over the months, they turned from green to yellow. I’ve heard you know when you walk into the house and you can smell them then they are ripe. So, far I am waiting and enjoying the splendid sight of my Meyer Lemon land of lemon in the middle of winter in Maine,
(Don’t mind me kissing the lemons.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pesto Gnocchi Soup

Winter put on a new layer of make-up. A 2-3 inch layer of fresh snow, and the world looks like primetime again. The rest of the week will be arctic cold, winter is back, a light version at least. Last week Isa’s new cookbook arrived in my mail and yesterday I read through the recipes. The soups alone are worth it. The pesto gnocchi soup immediately captured my attention. A creamy soup made with pureed cauliflower and basil leaves to give it a spring green, and with gnocchi, Swiss chard and beans. --- I made it with frozen basil and I think it is better to make it with fresh, which makes the soup look much brighter. My soup is more on a muddy winter color. Otherwise, I am sure I’ll make it again.


Pesto Gnocchi Soup (my version)
Makes 3 servings
  • 1 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 0.5 regular sized head cauliflower, leaves removed, cut into florettes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 cubes frozen basil or a cup fresh basil
  • ca 10  frozen gnocchi, partially thawed (to separate them)
  • 0.5 cups chickpeas, cooked
  • 0.5 cup frozen edamame
  • 2 large swiss chard, stems discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • optional: fresh grated parmesan, sliced almonds
Preheat a medium sized pot over medium heat. Saute garlic in olive oil for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn. Add cauliflower, 3 cups of broth (only 3 of the cups! the last cup is added in  a bit), salt, thyme and several dashes fresh black pepper. Cover pot and bring to a boil, stirring every now and again for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.  Mix the final cup of broth and the cornstarch until dissolved. Lower heat a bit so that the soup is at a slow boil. Mix in the broth/arrowroot and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes until slightly thickened. stirring often. Add the basil leaves, and remove from heat (don’t cook the leaves!). Use a submersion blender to puree until smooth*. Adjust for salt.  Return soup to the stove over medium heat and add the gnocchi, chichpeas and frozen edamame. Cover and let cook for 3 minutes . Add the Swiss chard cook until greens are completely wilted (1-2 minutes). Be careful as you stir not to crush the gnocchi or beans. Serve with parmesan and sliced almonds.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Butternut Ravioli with Kale

It was a long day at work (yes, that happens to Sundays and a deadline), and dinner became a simplified yet upscale concept, the butternut ravioli are store-bought and the kale with fresh mushroom and some garlic and sauteed butternut squash cubes directly from the produce section.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Black ice and red tapioca

Global warming: the gift that keeps on giving. Today I had a date with my hair dresser, which is overdue looking at my locks. She called me to say “it is treacherous outside. Black ice. Be VERY careful. But I am here at the salon.” I got ready to leave and investigated the driveway. While it looked like warm rain thawing the last remnants of our winter wonderland, it actually just covered everything with a thin layer of ice. I jumped into my car anyhow, but realized there is no sand on the streets, no salt, the pure ice conditions are everywhere. Once I stepped on the brakes, slightly, I felt the car becoming a projectile, going straight in a direction it was going before, sliding like the cars in an action movies. No traction. Hmm. I very carefully turned around, made it safely back into my driveway and cancelled my appointment.

The alternative program for this Saturday involves baking, a fireplace and eating coconut tapioca. I must say I have never cooked tapioca before and I had to google what it actually is. Not rice, nor a grain but some exotic South American starch (root). I had found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and made a few changes: using regular coconut milk (the one in the carton instead of the canned version) to cook it, add some rum, and eat it with strawberry compote. Very good!


Monday, January 6, 2014

Three mushroom and a garlic clove

This must be one of the best sandwiches I ever had. And the idea just came to me right then when I was hungry: toast a slice of Ezekiel low sodium sprouted bread in the pan (dry), rub a garlic clove over the toasted surface, add one tablespoon of Veganaise (vegan mayo) and top with a few rows of freshly sauted baby portabella mushroom slices with salt, pepper and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg. Serve with sliced almonds.


Bread potato dumpling lunch

A perfect lunch for slushy slayers: a German bread-potato dumpling, sauted spinach and mushrooms with some salt, onion and a dash of fresh grated nutmeg.
Take that back: they are only bread dumplings.

Here is a recipe of how to make them from scratch.


Sunday, January 5, 2014


It’s a heatwave! Temperature rose to a pleasant 28F today, the snow was plenty and soft, the sun out. Beautiful. Tomorrow? It will rain. Rain? No more skiing after that until, well, the next snow storm which can’t be too far off. The food was also sunny: onion, quinoa,mushroom, peanuts, orange juice, spinach, calamondia, and some corn. In that order. All sauteed, some salt. Good!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Garlic Balsamic Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Cooking is a little bit like fashion: it serves a basic need (you need to eat, you need to dress) but it is more enjoyable and fun if you change it up ever so often or try out a new style, so that it feels like it is a new experience --  you have to stay interested. --- After recently questioning if I still have new ideas for vegan cooking, I looked through some cookbooks, and came across this lovely book called “Winter harvest”, with new recipes for vegetables that are available during the winter season, such as sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms, leeks. The best way to prepare them? In the oven, roasted.

What I also found is a new series on Netflix streaming: Bletchley Circle. A PBS series about 4 women who worked as code breakers during WW II, and get together to solve a murder in postwar London.


Garlic Balsamic Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into wedges
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, sliced in sliver
  • 4 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic slivers. Flavor the olive oil with the garlic for a few minutes. Remove the garlic and toss the sweet potato wedges in the garlic oil. Arrange on the baking sheet, and bake for 35 min.

Mix the balsamic vinegar, the soy sauce and sugar and heat in the microwave for 1 min. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Baste the sweet potatoes in the balsamic vinegar mixture and bake for another 15 min. Add salt to taste.

(separately, I did the same to frozen asparagus and brussels sprouts).