Apr 25, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away

It rained here all day Saturday and we were cooped up inside. I had a bag of dried chickpeas in the pantry that I’ve been meaning to turn into something for forever, so I used them to make this soup. If you don’t have a rainy afternoon to spend at the stove you can certainly use canned chickpeas – just add an extra cup or two of stock and little more water to your soup to thin it.

Creamy Chickpea Soup

A trip in the food processor and a little bit of coconut milk turn protein-rich chickpeas into a thick and creamy soup. The recipe makes enough for 6-8 small cups or 4 big bowls.

What You Need:
2 cups dried chickpeas
3 TB salt
1 TB peeled and chopped ginger
1 clove peeled and chopped garlic
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 tea garam masala spice mix
5.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1-2 TB hot chili sauce (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

How you make it:
Place chickpeas in a big pot, cover with 8-10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and partially cover pot. Cook until beans are tender (45mins-1hr), add 3 tablespoons of salt, replace lid and continue to cook until beans are soft, adding more water as needed to keep the beans covered.

Place garlic and ginger in the bowl of a food processor and chop until they are finely minced. Working in two or three batches, add beans with their cooking water, cilantro, and garam masala and puree until a smooth paste forms.

Place bean paste, coconut milk, water and stock in the same large pot over medium heat and stir well to combine. Add chili sauce, if using, and continue to stir until soup is thinned out and all lumps are gone. Since the cooking water was well salted you may not need to add any more salt, but take a taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. 

NOTE: If could take as long as three hours to cook the dried beans - it will depend quite a bit on how old they are. So don't start the process unless you have a long afternoon to work, or cook the beans the night before, refrigerate them in their cooking water and continue the soup the next day. You can also pre-soak the beans, but that only really cuts thirty minutes or so from the cooking time.

Apr 19, 2010

Great minds...

I really thought I had invented this dish. I was at a friend’s for dinner and we realized we didn’t have enough food for the number of people who had showed up. I hit the pantry looking for options and came up with a box of regular couscous, a can of chicken broth and a bag of golden raisins. A plan became to take shape and very soon after we set a beautiful bowl of couscous with raisins & mint out for dinner. It was a big hit that night and I’ve made it a few times since, always adapting the dish to fit what I have on hand.

Imagine my surprise then when I flipped open the March issue of Food Network Magazine (I wasn’t an early fan, but it’s getting much better) and saw a recipe for Israeli Couscous with Raisins. I had a bag of Israeli couscous so I decided to give it a try and ended up blending my recipe with theirs…enjoy!

MAKE THIS: Sweetly Spiced Israeli Couscous

I love sweet and savory dishes and this is an endlessly adaptable one. It makes a great side dish for a summer BBQ, or turn it into the main event by adding cubed, grilled chicken. Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main salad.

What you need:
2-3 TB olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
.25 tea ground cinnamon
1 8oz. bag of Israeli couscous
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1 large handful of fresh mint, chopped
1 handful of pine nuts, toasted

How you make it:
Heat olive oil and saute onion and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat until onions are softened and translucent. Add couscous and stir to coat in oil. Add water and broth, put lid on pan and simmer over low heat for 8-10 minutes until liquid is absorbed. You may need to remove the lid for the last minute of cooking to help the last bit of liquid to absorb or evaporate. Add raisins in last 1-2 minutes of cooking and stir to combine.

Remove couscous from heat, add mint and pine nuts and fluff with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

No raisins? Try diced dried apricots.
No mint? Parsley works well.
No pine nuts? I usually use toasted slivered almonds.

Apr 11, 2010

Get Rolling!

Looking for a fun way to jazz up Girls’ Night? Try this hands-on and figure-friendly idea: Make-Your-Own Sushi Party!

Individual bottles of sake (they come with little cups!) and Japanese beers
Miso Soup
Green Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing
Make your own sushi hand rolls
Coconut, green tea and/or mango sorbet

You can go two routes with the edamame - either toss them in boiling water for a few minutes, drain and serve with salt for dipping or make them the way my friend Cheryl does: boil & drain then toss into a big frying pan with olive oil, minced garlic and red chili flakes. They’re a little messier but way more delicious.

Unless you’re a health nut, you probably don’t keep a jar of miso paste in your fridge. If you don’t want to invest in one, look for packets of powdered miso – they’re just as good. Making the soup is crazy easy: Heat as much water as you’ll need in a small saucepot until hot but not boiling. Add a few spoonfuls of miso and taste it. If it tastes good, you’re done. If it’s not strong enough, keep stirring in miso until you like it. Add small cubes of firm tofu and sliced green onions to the pot and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir before serving.

The salad is just as easy: These days you can find great bottled sesame ginger dressing that’s just a good as homemade, so save yourself a little time and grab some from the store. Iceberg lettuce is what you’ll get a most sushi restaurants but you can use any salad greens you like. Assemble little bowls of greens and let everyone grab one and dress it themselves.

Before everyone arrives, prep and chop the rest of the ingredients. Make a pot of white or brown rice. When it’s done I like to stir in a spoonful or two of seasoned rice vinegar, but that’s completely optional – just make sure you keep the rice a little sticky. This is one time you don’t want perfectly fluffed & dry rice!

You can use anything as filler for your sushi, but I like to cut carrots, cucumbers, peppers, white radishes and green onions into matchsticks and add shredded napa cabbage, avocado slices, cilantro leaves, toasted sesame seeds and sriracha chili sauce. If you want to include fish, ask for the freshest fish at the grocery store (or a local fishmonger if you have one!) and try tuna, salmon or yellow tail – which are all crowd pleasers. Be sure to give your fish a sniff to make sure it’s fresh – if it smells really fishy it’s probably best not to serve it raw to your friends! Keep it very cold and slice into domino-size pieces. Imitation crab meat sticks are another popular option for making California Rolls and are easy to find at most grocery stores.

Lay everything out on a pretty platter or cutting board with a stack of toasted seaweed sheets (they come pretty big, cut them in half for the right size) and let guests assemble their own sushi rolls. Cone-shaped hand rolls are the easiest to make but invest in a sushi-rolling mat if you’re so inclined and make pretty rolled and sliced sushi as well.

Give everyone a plate with a little dish of soy sauce, a pile of pickled ginger and a dab of wasabi paste. This is really hand-held food but put out a few sets of chopsticks for anyone who needs them.

Heat sake in a water bath over medium heat just like you would heat a baby’s bottle. Give everyone a warm sake or a cold beer and gather around a low coffee table to dig in!


p.s. - I heart Mark Bittman, I swear we share a brain. See his article on homemade sushi: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/dining/05mini.html?ref=dining

Apr 9, 2010

Make These Tonight!

No. seriously. Get some kale on your way home and make these tonight. You'll thank me.

No doubt you've heard about these. I'm not sure where the idea originated, but I've read about them in a few places and the consensus was that they're fabulous. And, boy, were they right. These rock.  

So simple. Start with a full head of kale. Trim the stems off and rub a few tablespoons of olive oil into the leaves. Lay out in a single layer on two large cookie sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or until leaves are dark green, starting to turn brown, and crispy all over.

Remove from the oven and lay on paper towels to cool. If you can wait that long.

I dare you not to eat a whole pan all by yourself. But if you can restrain yourself, serve these to your friends as a cocktail snack and watch them freak out with joy.