Archive | Recipes RSS feed for this section

Recipe: Creamy Double Mushroom Soup with Green Onions

5 Mar

Mother Nature is really letting us have it this winter; we have been hit with yet another snow storm. The government has shut down and so has my office: today is an official snow day. Being home on a day such as this, my thoughts turned to warm and comforting things such as soup. Specifically, to an earthy soup featuring two types of mushrooms and lots of green onions–hence the name. I might have called it quadruple mushroom soup because it features mushrooms four ways: dried (and soaked) mushrooms, sautéed sliced mushrooms, fresh chopped mushrooms–and sliced raw mushrooms as a garnish. This is definitely a soup for mushroom lovers, of which I am one. But it is also a good soup for anyone needing some flexibility (that would be me, too). Not enough dried mushrooms on hand? Add more of the fresh ones. Don’t like (or have) button mushrooms? Substitute portabella or another type. Use one, two, or all three of the broths suggested below. Make it vegan, or not (see below). This is a forgiving soup perfectly suited to an unforgiving day.

Mushroom Soup

Creamy Double Mushroom Soup with Green Onions
Serves 4-6

2 oz. dried mushrooms (porcini, shitake, etc.)
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
20 oz. white button mushrooms–slice half the mushrooms, finely chop the other half (save two mushrooms to slice later for garnish)
2 bunches green onions/scallions, trimmed at both ends, rinsed clean, and thinly sliced (save one green onion to slice later for garnish)
3 cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground pepper, to taste
dash of dry sherry or splash of white wine (optional)
5 c. beef broth (or veggie broth or miso broth, or combination of broths)
1 tbsp. soy sauce (optional)
pinch of sugar (about 1/2 tsp.), to taste
1 c. heavy cream (or unsweetened coconut milk or soy creamer)

Preparation
1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over them to cover; soak for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat, add the sliced white mushrooms, and sauté until they start to turn golden; remove the mushrooms from the pot and reserve.
3. Add  the remaining olive oil to the soup pot and sauté the green onions until soft. Add the minced garlic and pepper; cook for another two minutes. Add the sherry/wine (if using) and reserved sautéed mushrooms. Turn heat to low.
4. Strain the soaked mushrooms through a fine sieve, saving the dark mushroom liquid. Rinse the mushrooms twice in a small amount of water, adding the first rinse to the dark mushroom liquid and discarding the second rinse. 5. Add the rinsed mushrooms to the soup pot. Strain the saved mushroom liquid and add it to the soup pot, along with the broth, soy sauce (if using), and sugar. Turn the heat back to medium high.
6. Using an immersion blender, blend the contents of the soup pot (or blend in batches in a blender and return to pot).
7. Add the chopped mushrooms to the soup and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the heavy cream (or coconut milk/soy creamer). Check seasonings, adding more pepper, soy sauce, or sugar as desired.
8. Serve soup in individual bowls and top with a few thin mushroom slices and a sprinkle of sliced green onions.

Recipe: Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

28 Feb

Last night, we ended up with an abundance of blueberries, due to my lack of attention to the contents of our refrigerator. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some items for dinner and of course bought a number of other things not on my shopping list, including fresh blueberries. I was pleased with this impulse purchase since the blueberries were for my husband, who likes to sprinkle them on top of his yogurt in the morning. I was sure he would be happy to have them, and he was indeed quite happy to have blueberries–the blueberries he himself had bought the day before. Argh. How had I not noticed them? All I can say is, it was the end of a long work week and my powers of observation were obviously not  very powerful. There was only one way out of this dire situation: we would have to make blueberry coffee cake. The best thing was that my husband made the cake, which was so good I may “accidentally” buy extra blueberries more often.

BCCC3

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
9  servings

Cake
1/4 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk

1 c. fresh  blueberries
2 tbsp. flour
3 oz. cream cheese, softened , and cubed

Topping
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cold butter

Preparation
1.Preheat oven to 375°. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.
2. Cake: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking powder, and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture; stir to combine. Add half the milk to the butter/sugar mixture; stir to combine. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk.
3. Toss blueberries with the 2 tbsp. flour. Stir the blueberries and cream cheese cubes into the batter (batter will be thick). Pour into the prepared baking dish.
4. Topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the batter.
5. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Recipe based on a Taste of Home recipe.

Recipe: Marinated Feta

14 Feb

A jar of marinated feta in the fridge will more than earn its place there, especially since it takes 10 minutes–at most–to prepare it. That doesn’t count marinating time, but once you’ve introduced all the ingredients to each other, you can step back and let the magic happen on its own. Marinated feta is good with bread and crackers, in sandwiches and salads (including pasta salads), and as that little something extra in many other dishes. And the leftover olive oil is fantastic in a Greek salad dressing or tossed with vegetables prior to roasting. Amazing to think that a mere 10 minutes of matchmaking leads to so many happy returns.

MF2
Marinated Feta

12 oz. feta
4 oz. sun-dried tomato halves, in oil
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. chili flakes (can add more if you like extra heat)
freshly ground black pepper
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation
1. If the feta is wet, pat it dry. Cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Cut each sun-dried tomato half into four pieces.
2. Transfer half of the feta and half the sun-dried tomato pieces to a canning jar or glass bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle the feta and tomatoes with half of the oregano, coriander seeds, chili flakes, and ample black pepper. If using a canning jar, place the rosemary sprigs upright around the edges of the jar; otherwise, scatter them about. Add the remaining feta and tomatoes and sprinkle with the remaining spices. Pour the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes over top, then add enough extra olive oil to cover the feta.
3. Tightly cover/seal the jar or bowl, and refrigerate the feta for at least a couple days (and ideally, for one week) to let the flavors marry–if you can wait that long. The olive oil will solidify, which is normal — it will return to liquid form at room temperature (allow the feta to reach room temperature before serving).

MF1

Recipe: Baklava

8 Feb

I have a thing for baklava. But I’m particular about it–though I’ve seen (and tasted) many, many versions of it, this recipe has always been my absolute favorite: made with walnuts instead of pistachios and with rose-scented sugar syrup (known as atr) instead of honey. Baklava is a bit labor-intensive, but in the past I had eager young assistants to help cover and uncover the filo dough, and to watch this sweet, crispy, buttery, nutty confection unfold–and then, to help eat it in no time at all. This time, I lacked the assistants but had guests willing to do the honors, so the baklava disappeared just as quickly. Unfortunately, I realized far too late that I had not taken any photos of just one piece of baklava on a plate.  I hope the other photos can do it some justice in conveying its deliciousness. The recipe is adapted from Lebanese Cuisine by Madelain Farah.

B9

Baklava

Sugar Syrup
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. rose water

Baklava
1 pkg. filo dough, thawed
2 c. chopped walnuts
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. rose water
3 sticks butter, melted

Preparation

Syrup
1. Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in sauce pan. Boil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until slightly viscous. Add rose water, remove from heat, and let cool completely. When cool, put in the refrigerator. The syrup must be cold when used later.

B1

Baklava
1. Combine nuts, sugar, and rose water; set aside.

B2

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 9×13 (or 10x 14) baking pan with cooking spray. Unwrap the filo sheets (seen below split into in two packages), keeping unwrapped filo covered with a piece of plastic wrap and a slightly damp kitchen towel. Have melted butter ready. (Note: some recipes call for clarified butter, but this one does not–and the results are equally delicious.)

B3

3. Remove two filo sheets from the stack, place in baking pan, and brush with melted butter. Repeat with more filo sheets, until you have used half of them. Do not brush the top two sheets with butter. Spread walnut filling on top of the unbuttered filo sheets, in an even layer.

B4  B5

4. Continue topping with remaining filo sheets, brushing every two sheets with butter, except the last two. Using a very sharp knife,  trim any bits of filo that hang over the edges of the pan, then carefully cut the top of the baklava into a diamond pattern, going only as deep as the walnut layer, not all the way down. Brush butter into the cuts, and across the baklava pieces. This will require a steady hand.

B6

5. Bake the baklava until golden brown–about one hour. Immediately upon removing from oven, spoon cold sugar syrup all over baklava. It’s important to use cold syrup, or the baklava will get soggy. Let cool completely before serving, then cut pieces all the way through and serve.

B7

Recipe: Walnut-Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

31 Jan

In the world of dips, hummus reigns supreme–but there is another Middle Eastern dip that also has lots of protein and lots of tang, and is equally easy to make. Although, now that I think of it, I realize it’s been a while since I made my own hummus; my local grocery store now devotes entire refrigerator sections to it and I have gotten lazy. This is a sad state of affairs–because hummus is really incredibly easy to make…. But back to the Muhammara. It gets its protein from the walnuts and its tang from pomegranate molasses, which you can find in Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stories and at a certain national, upscale grocery-store chain that shall not be named. Roasted red peppers also add to the slightly sweet undertones of this dip, which deserves a spot on any appetizer palette. This recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine.

Muhammara
Walnut-Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

1 c. walnuts
½ c. roasted red bell peppers from a jar, drained (reserve the liquid)
1/3 c. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

Preparation
1. Blend/process all ingredients until coarsely ground. (Add a bit more panko or walnuts if too thin, or roasted red pepper liquid or molasses if too thick.)

Food processor
2. Place the dip in a serving bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the top–or for extra tang, mix together a bit of olive oil and pomegranate molasses and drizzle that instead.

Note: This is what pomegranate molasses looks like, if helpful.

PM

Recipe: Easy Lahm bi Ajin (Lebanese Lamb Pizza)

5 Oct

In Arabic, lahm means “meat,” and ajin means dough or pastry. Many cultures pair meat with pastry, and while I like just about every iteration of that theme, this Lebanese version is one of my favorites. This recipe is slightly easier and quicker to make than some traditional versions because it uses a pita-bread base instead of one requiring home-made dough. These Lahm bi Ajin are pretty hearty, and go quite nicely with Tabouli or other salads.

lahm bi Ajin3
Lahm bi Ajin
Serves 4

1 lb. ground lamb
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. chilli flakes
1/3 c. tomato paste
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, or juice of 1/2 a small lemon
1/4 c. yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c. pine nuts (optional)
extra 2 tbsp. olive oil
4 medium-sized pitas, unopened
1 tbsp ea. fresh mint and parsley, or 1/2 tsp. dried mint and dried parsley

Preparation
1. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and cook the lamb until it is no longer pink, breaking it up as finely as possible. Remove the lamb from the pan, drain in a colander, and set aside.
2. Wipe the skillet, add the 3 tbsp. of olive oil, and when hot, add the onion and cook until translucent and slightly golden.
3. Add the garlic and spices, and cook for a few more minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the tomato paste and the pomegranate molasses/lemon juice; mix well to combine. Cook the lamb mixture for 5 minutes over low heat, mashing periodically with the back of a wooden spoon.
4. Turn off the heat, and add the yogurt to the lamb mixture in two batches, incorporating well after each batch. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the lamb mixture aside.
5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Take out one large (or two medium) rimmed baking sheets–to accommodate the four pitas.
6. Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet until they start to turn golden; remove from skillet.
7. To assemble: pour the extra 2 tbsp. olive oil into a very small bowl; brush the top of each unopened pita with the olive oil. Place the pitas on the baking sheet(s).
8. Divide the lamb mixture among the four pitas, patting it down and spreading it to the edge of each pita. Sprinkle each pita with the mint, parsley, and pine nuts, pressing the pine nuts into the lamb mixture. Drizzle the pitas with any remaining olive oil from the small bowl.
9. Bake in the oven until the edges of the pitas start to get crisp and the lamb topping begins to brown, about 15 minutes.
10. Eat immediately.

Recipe: Mousse de Mango

10 Sep

I love mangoes in any way, shape, or form–and so do my children, who used to line up for a chance to get the pit after I was done slicing the rest of the fruit. For years, I vowed to make mango mousse–but I always let myself be lured by the siren call of the chocolate version instead. Until recently, when I was making a Latin American dinner and wanted a Latin American dessert to go with it. And now I’ve been asking myself, why didn’t I try this sooner? This recipe, very slightly adapted from The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac, calls for fresh mangoes, and like many other mousses, includes raw egg whites (so use the freshest eggs possible). It serves 8 regular dessert lovers, or 6 serious mango lovers. Note: the original recipe suggests serving the mousse with a raspberry coulis, but I am a purist who prefers an unadulterated mango flavor.

Mango Mousse

Mousse de Mango

1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 large, ripe but firm mangoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (2 c.)
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. orange liqueur or rum
1 c. whipping cream
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Preparation
1. Place the orange juice in a small heat-proof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over top, and let soften for 5 minutes. Set the bowl in a small saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water and heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove the bowl containing the gelatin mixture from the saucepan.
2. Place the mangoes in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the sugar, liqueur/rum, and dissolved gelatin, and process again until smooth. Place the mango puree into a large bowl.
3. Whip the cream in a medium-size mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in another medium-sized bowl until soft peaks form.
4. Very gently fold half the whipped cream into the mango puree, followed by half the egg whites. Repeat, and mix gently until all the cream and egg whites have been incorporated.
5. Distribute the mousse among 6-8 dessert cups, cover, and refrigerate until thickened–about 30 minutes.
6. Enjoy!

Recipe: Peruvian-Style Peanut Chicken (Pollo Arequipeño)

31 Aug

There are two signature Peruvian dishes consisting of boiled potatoes topped with a spicy, creamy, cheese sauce:  Papas a la Huancaina and Ocopa Arequipeña. They both feature yellow chilies, cheese, and milk–and frequently, onions and garlic. An Ocopa sauce often contains nuts as a thickener, while a Huancaina sauce usually includes crackers (and an herb that is difficult to find: huacatay, sometimes referred to as black mint). However, I’ve seen Ocopa made with crackers, too…. Regardless, both sauces and their many variations are delicious!

The following recipe departs from the norm: it features an Ocopa-style sauce over chicken rather than potatoes, and it is broiled in the oven until the sauce begins to turn golden brown.

Peruvian Peanut Chicken

Peruvian-Style Peanut Chicken (Pollo Arequipeño)
Serves 8

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
juice of 2 lemons or limes
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

Sauce:
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2 scallions (green onions), trimmed and sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. aji amarillo (yellow chili) paste –add more if you like your sauce hot
1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts
1/2 c. grated Münster cheese (or feta or queso fresco)
3/4-1 c. evaporated milk
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste

chopped cilantro
Kalamata (or other black) olives

Preparation

1. Trim the chicken breasts and cut each into two pieces.
2. Combine the lime juice and olive oil in a glass container and add the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, mix well, cover, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the red onion and scallion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and aji amarillo paste (and huacatay puree if available/desired) and cook for another couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. Put the onion mixture into a blender along with remaining sauce ingredients; blend until smooth. If the sauce appears very thick, add a bit more milk. Place the sauce in a  covered container and refrigerate until needed. Set the skillet to the side on the stove; do not clean or rinse.
4. After the chicken has marinated, heat the skillet over high heat and cook the chicken (in two batches if needed) until the pieces are golden brown on both sides (no need to add extra oil to the skillet first, since the marinade contains oil). Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a baking dish, top each piece with an ample amount of the peanut sauce, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil, sprinkle Kalamata olives around the chicken, and broil until sauce begins to turn golden brown in spots.
5. Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.

Recipe: Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil

28 Jun

This year, I planted three tomato plants, which are beginning to completely take over the vegetable garden. If that weren’t enough, a fourth rogue plant sprung from the seeds of  last year’s tomatoes is giving them a run for their money. Which means I’m soon going to be faced with a bumper crop of tomatoes and the challenge of figuring out what to do with the ones I keep. This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for tomatoes, and I often serve it at brunches as an accompaniment to cold roasted meats. It is a very flexible recipe: it can be made ahead, served warm or at room temperature–and you can play around with the ingredients depending on what you have on hand. However you tweak it, it’s hard to go wrong with tomatoes, red onions, garlic, basil, and pine nuts.


Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil
12 servings

3 lb. roma tomatoes (other smaller types work well, too)
2 large red onions, cut in half, each half cut into eight wedges
30 cloves garlic /2 bulbs, peeled (slice large cloves in half)
2/3 c. olive oil
2 tsp. sambal oelek (or sweet chilli sauce)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. bottled pesto (or fresh, if you have it)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. shredded fresh basil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted

Preparation

1. Heat oven to 400º.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place tomatoes, cut side up, in large baking dish, then nestle the onions and garlic around the tomatoes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, sambal oelek, sugar, pesto, and salt. Pour over the vegetables.
4. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes, onions, and garlic are soft.
5. Meanwhile, dry toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat (watching carefully), until they start to turn golden. Remove them from the skillet and reserve.
6. Once the tomatoes come out of the oven, add the vinegar, herbs, and pine nuts, and mix gently. Serve warm or cold.

Banana Flowers and Other Edible Parts

22 May

Being a bit less mobile than usual, I thought I’d use the opportunity to choose a photo I’ve previously taken and see if I can learn more about the subject. What you see below is commonly called a banana flower or banana blossom (photo taken at the United States Botanic Garden). I’ve always been struck by this part of the plant, a deep-red appendage that dangles below the bunches of bananas. Though we like to think of the banana plant as a tree, it is technically a perennial herb, albeit a really big one; it dies down to the ground after the plant flowers and produces fruit. The inner part of the stem of the plant (which is actually a false stem consisting of leaf sheaths) is edible, as are parts of the flowers–they are considered vegetables and are popular in Asian and tropical cuisines, where they are used in salads, curries, stir fries, and other dishes.


The banana “flower” seen in the photo above is actually the lowest part of an inflorescence consisting of layers of bracts (the petal- or leaf-like parts) that cover rows of  flowers. The female flowers are higher up and can develop into fruit (bananas). Once that happens, the inflorescence elongates and produces a terminal male bud. Here, the redder (and tougher) outermost bracts of that bud have opened upward, revealing yellow-tipped male flowers underneath and paler closed bracts below.

Different parts of the banana flower (or bud) can be eaten: the innermost bracts, the florets (once the stamens and tough covers have been removed), and the inner core, or heart. The tougher outer bracts are often used as serving plates for dishes made with the other parts of the banana flower. I don’t have easy access to banana flowers, but if you do and want to experiment with them, here are some resources:

To read about the ornamental Golden Lotus Banana/Chinese Dwarf Banana, see this post. To read about the difference between Musa (bananas), Strelitzia, and Heliconia, see this post.

And here are some additional banana-related photos:

1) A banana leaf unfurling at the Eden Project in England. Each leaf emerges from the center of the banana plant in the form of a rolled cylinder. Once the last leaf has emerged, the plant produces the inflorescence, which starts off pointing skyward, but then falls over and dangles as it gets heavier and the female flowers develop into bananas.
2 ) Banana bunches on the plant (with the terminal bud having fallen off). Some bunches can contain 200-300 bananas each; the largest one recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records contained 473 bananas and weighed 287 pounds.
3) Banana transport in Rwanda.