Monday, October 17, 2016

Indian Tomato Soup

I'm still trying to recover from traveling and teaching and one look at the dark circles under my eyes this morning made me very aware of how much more I need to nourish my Kidneys! Recovering takes longer these days....That means I need a more rest, more sleep and more soup!  Since I'm staying at a friend's house, I'm using ingredients from the cupboard and refrigerator instead of my usual major grocery shopping and planning of meals. What I was craving today was Tomato Soup. I grew up with Campbell's Tomato Soup and loved it, but now my tastes run to slightly more exotic flavors. And so I made Tomato Soup with warming Indian spices. I didn't have a stick blender and still couldn't find the big blender so I left the vegetables in chunks and have to admit that it was wonderful to have the texture in this delicious soup. It features canned Italian tomatoes, which are often better than the fresh hothouse kind and the usual Mirepoix of Carrots, Celery and Onion.The warming seasonings included Ginger, Cumin and Cayenne. I thought briefly of adding a touch of Cream to the soup and I think it would be wonderful that way, especially if the soup was pureed, but instead I just used extra butter as it adds a richness and creaminess that makes the Tomato flavor pop. This is a grown-up version of Tomato Soup and is going to be a favorite in my recipe box!

Indian Tomato Soup

1 14 oz can of Whole Tomatoes 
4 Tablespoons Butter or Ghee, divided
2 Carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 Celery Stalks, trimmed and cut into small pieces
1 small Onion, minced
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 inch slice of Ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground Cumin
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

Melt Butter in a soup pot and add in the Carrots, Celery, Onion, Garlic and Ginger. Cook until the Onions are soft and just beginning to brown. Then add in the Cumin and Cayenne Pepper. Pour in the Chicken or Vegetable Broth and add the Whole Tomatoes. Mash up the Tomatoes with a Spatula. Let cook for 20 minutes. Then add the rest of the Butter and stir to blend in. Puree if desired.  Serve with a sprinkling of toasted Cumin Seeds and Cilantro Leaves.

Optional: add in 1/4 cup of Heavy Cream right before serving

Five Element Analysis

As a soup, this is naturally part of the Water Element. However, this soup also has a lot of Fire because of the Tomatoes and the Cayenne Pepper adds a bit more. The Wood Element is represented by the Chicken or Vegetable Broth and the Celery. The Earth Element is brought in by the Carrots and the Metal Element is found in the Butter, Onion, Garlic, Ginger and Cumin. This then is a delicious and balanced Five Element bowl of soup! 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Quick Kohlrabi Slaw

My friend Deirdre is a very creative cook and I love cooking with her. I often focus on one part of the dinner, while she focuses on another. The other night, she was in charge of the side dishes and she made Kohlrabi Slaw that was quick and delicious! Kohlrabi tastes much like Broccoli Stalks, which is one of my favorite vegetables, so I knew I would love this salad. She peeled and grated the Kohlrabi and then dressed it lightly with Lime Juice, Olive Oil and Salt and Pepper.  Kohlrabi has a natural sweetness and we had just been discussion in class that Lime Juice is good for regulating blood sugar so we also knew that this Slaw was very good for us, but more importantly, it was so delicious!  I could have eaten the whole bowl, but I did have to share. This slaw would be great as a side dish for a BBQ or a Steak. This Slaw recipe is a keeper!

Quick Kohlrabi Slaw

2 large Kohlrabi, peed with a paring knife 
1 bunch of Cilantro leaves, stems removed and washed
Juice of 2 Limes
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon of Salt
Pinch of fresh ground Black Pepper

Grate the Kohlrabi and then place in a serving bowl with the Cilantro. Mix together ithe Lime Juice, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper to make a Vinaigrette. Add to the Kohlrabi and Cilantro toss to coat. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors meld. 

Five Element Analysis

Kohlrabi belongs to the Wood Element and so does the Lime Juice, and Olive Oil so that Element is fully represented and this Slaw becomes primarily a Wood food. The Cilantro Leaves contribute the Metal Element. So, this dish would be great as a side to Pork or Beef.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Moroccan Pumpkin Soup

It was a cold grey day yesterday and I was holed up writing, but I was in the mood for soup and I was definitely wanting something creamy. I noticed my friend had some little pumpkins from the Farmer's Market and I decided to make Pumpkin Soup. I was going to make a previously posted version of Curried Butternut Squash Soup, but there wasn't any Curry Powder here. So, I improvised and used some spices that together gave the Pumpkin Soup a Moroccan flavor. I roasted the Pumpkin first and then mashed it together with some browned onions and some Vegetable Broth (Vegetarian Bouillon Cubes and Water). I couldn't find the blender, but the Pumpkin mashed up well and the pieces of Onion gave it a great texture. It was warm and comforting and delicious and warmed me from the inside out!

Moroccan Pumpkin Soup

1 - 2 small Pumpkins (about 2 cups when mashed)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Onion chopped
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger
pinch of Cayenne Pepper
2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1/2 teaspoon Paprika for Garnish

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the Pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side up in a roasting pan and drizzle with the Olive Oil and Salt.  Bake for 30 - 45 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from the oven and cool. Then scoop the flesh away from the skin and mash (can be done ahead).

In a soup pot, melt the Butter and add in the Onions. Cook, stirring frequently until the onions are browned.  Add in the Cumin, Cinnamon, Ginger and Cayenne and then add in the Pumpkin and Broth. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Serve in a Soup Tureen and sprinkle the top with Paprika. This soup tastes even better the next day, so if you want to store it in the refrigerator, you may need to add a bit more water when you heat it up.

Five Element Analysis

Pumpkins are obviously from the Earth Element because of their bright orange flesh and sweet flavor. It's also good for nourishing the spleen, warming the stomach, regulating your blood sugar and helps clear the skin of rashes!  The Chicken or Vegetable Broth contributes the Wood Element and the Onion, Cumin, Cinnamon and Ginger bring in the Metal Element. The Fire Element is represented but the Cayenne Pepper and Paprika and the Water Element is present because this is a soup. This then is a balanced little bowl of soup!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hungarian Chicken Soup

I am staying with a friend in Europe instead of being in a hotel, so luckily I also get to cook. Today I decided that the most nourishing I could do was to make myself some soup. Yesterday, I bought two Roasted Chickens at the Grocery store, as I was too tired to cook and the Chickens were cooked with a coating of Paprika.  We ate a lot of the Chicken for dinner with a Salad, but I ended up having just enough meat left over today to make a Chicken Salad for lunch and Soup for dinner.  I had already taken all the meat off the bones when I served it and refrigerated them to get ready for soup. This morning, I threw all the bones in a big pot with an Onion, a large Carrot and a large Celery Stalk with enough Water to make stock. I do this almost every time I buy a Roast Chicken but usually I make a stock that I have to add Bouillon to or I also add some canned Chicken Broth to make enough for a pot of soup. This time I had enough bones for a big pot of soup and I refrigerated the stock after it cooled off until I was ready to use it later in the day. I personally love the smell of Chicken Broth cooking on the stove and later can’t wait to make soup our of it. 

Because the Chicken skin had so much Paprika on it, the stock already had the flavor of Hungarian food, so I decided to go fully into making a Hungarian style soup. What I did was to make a mixture called Lecsós – a combination of Peppers with Onion and Garlic, Tomatoes and Paprika, which became the flavor base that I added to the Stock. I used an Orange Pepper as I find them really sweet when cooked and they are also a beautiful color. Then I added in some Carrots, Celery and Cabbage and some Potatoes. I also felt like dumplings should be in this soup so I boiled up some chewy Gluten Free Gnochi and added that in too. It was the perfect Fall Soup!  It was rich in flavor with lots of different textures from the ingredients. I loved it and will be happy to eat it again tomorrow!

Hungarian Chicken Soup

2 Tablespoons Butter or Oil
1 large Orange or Red Pepper
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 large Tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 – 3 Tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
8 cups of Chicken Stock (see recipe below) or canned Chicken Broth
2 Carrots, trimmed, peeled and chopped into small pieces or coins if narrow
2 Celery Stalks, trimmed and chopped into small pieces
4 – 5 cups chopped Cabbage
2 medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups Leftover Chicken Meat cut up or 2 Chicken Breasts cut into small pieces
fresh ground Pepper to taste

Optional:  2 cups cooked Gnocchi (I used a Gluten Free Brand)

Pour the Chicken Stock or Broth into Soup Pot and heat until boiling. In a large frying pan, melt the Butter and add in the Onion, Garlic, Peppers, Carrots and Celery. Cook until the Onion and Peppers soften. Then add in the Tomato pieces, Tomato Paste and Paprika and stir to combine.  Add to the Chicken Stock. Then add in the Potatoes.

Return to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Add the Cabbage and Chicken an cook for an additional 10 minutes. To serve, spoon some precooked Gnocchi into the bowl and then ladle the soup on top.  Sprinkle with fresh ground Pepper to serve.

Roast Chicken Bone Stock

Bones and leftover Skin from two Roast Chickens
9 cups of Water
1 Onion, 1 Carrots, 1 stalk Celery or a chunk of Celery Root
1 Tablespoon of Salt

Place Bones and Skin into a soup pot. Add the Water and Salt and then the Onion, Carrot and Celery. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Cool and then strain broth, discarding the bones and vegetables and refrigerate until ready to use.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is a Water Element food so that Element is automatically covered. The Chicken and Chicken Broth contribute the Wood Element and the Celery in both the stock and soup add even more. The Peppers, Paprika and Tomatoes make sure the Fire Element has a presence and the Potatoes and Cabbage contribute the  Earth Element.  The Onions and Garlic round off the Five Elements and makes this a very balanced soup!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Simple Stovetop Fritatta

I'm in Germany right now after just having finished teaching and excited to finally start cooking some more exotic food now that I have some time. During my teaching days, I was often too tired to cook so I would go out but one night I decided to make dinner for breakfast - a family tradition. My friend Kelly suggested that I make a Fritatta that is part pan fried and part steamed rather than being partially baked in the oven. By covering the eggs with a lid while they cook, they puff up and become really tender. This is something she makes a lot and it was delicious! The best part was that I had some left over and a slice of it became the perfect breakfast the next morning with Toast.  

Any number of ingredients can be added to a Fritatta - this is where you can use your imagination. We added Onions, Mushrooms and Bacon. Next time, I think I will add a number of green vegetables - I'm thinking of ingredients like Leeks and Spinach and even sautéed Zucchini. It was a wonderful dinner and a great way to make a Fritatta - thank you Kelly!

Simple Stovetop Fritatta

6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons of Butter or Ghee
1 small Onion, minced
6 slices of cooked bacon, cut into small pieces
1 cup of Sliced Button or Cremini Mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon Salt

In a large frying pan with a lid, heat the butter until it is melted. Add in the onion and Mushrooms and cook until softened. Sprinkle with the Salt.  Then add in the Bacon and pour the eggs over.  Cover with the lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium low heat until the Fritatta is firm on the top but still soft when touched with your finger. Cut into wedges to serve.  

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element and the Bacon adds even more. So, this is a great dish when you are Kidney Deficient and tired.  The Onion contributes the Metal Element and the Mushrooms make sure that the Earth Element is represented. The Wood Element is missing, which is why adding a green vegetable like Spinach would be good and serve it with Toast and Tea or Coffee for breakfast and you will have a balanced Five Element meal.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Shallots and Parmesan


I know that we still have a while to go until it is Thanksgiving, but I start thinking about it months in advance!  I try out different recipes and then decide what I am serving.  Since Brussels Sprouts are a traditional dish, I get tired of having it the same way. The last few years, we have been eating a Brussels Sprouts Salad (a previous post) that is delicious, but I'm much more into cooked food right now so I wanted to find year another way to serve these delicious vegetables. Strangely, so many people don't think they like them, but that usually comes from having suffered from the boiled versions of their youth that was odiferous to say the least.  These days, there are so many wonderful ways to make them that are so far removed from the boiled kind. They can be so tasty especially when they are roasted or pan fried.  

Tonight, I decided to use two of my other favorite ingredients, Pancetta and Shallots. I once had a chef tell me that the secret to good restaurant cooking is in the use of Shallots.  Now, I don't know if that's true, but I do know they enhance the flavor of so many foods, particularly Thai dishes. I buy them almost every time I go to the grocery store. They do break down or soften easily to enhance sauces and to me, they are a lovely mild version of both the onion and garlic flavor that I love. I also buy precut Pancetta pieces from Trader Joe's.  

To make this dish, I first roasted the Brussels Sprouts with a bit of Oil and Salt.  Meanwhile, I cooked the Pancetta and Shallots and then when the Brussels Sprouts are nice and browned, I stir in the Shallots and Pancetta and top it with a sprinkling of Parmesan Cheese and then I pop it in the broiler until the cheese melts. My son, who is a connoisseur of all things involving Brussels Sprouts declared it the best version yet. So, this dish is definitely going to be on this year's Thanksgiving menu!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Shallots and Parmesan

1 pound Brussels Sprouts, stem sliced off, outside leaves pulled off, cut into quarters
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil plus an additional 1/2 Tablespoon
4 ounces Pancetta, cut in small pieces
1 large Shallot, chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place Brussels Sprouts on a large baking pan and sprinkle with the 2 Tablespoons of the Oil and salt, tossing to coat thoroughly.  Place in the oven and cook, turning every 5 minutes for 15 - 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook the Pancetta and Shallots in a small frying pan in 1/2 Tablespoon of Oil until the Shallot is soft and the Pancetta is just starting to brown.  Remove from heat and reserve.

Heat the oven to Broil. When you take out the Brussel Sprouts, add the Pancetta and Shallots and toss to mix thoroughly. Push all the Brussel Sprouts close together and sprinkle on the Parmesan Cheese. Place the pan back in the oven and cook until the Parmesan cheese is melted and just beginning to brown - 3 to 5 minutes.

Five Element Analysis

Brussel Sprouts, even though they belong to the Cabbage Family also grow on tall branches so they are a cross between the Wood Element and the Earth Element.  The Pancetta adds in the Water Element and the Parmesan Cheese and the Shallot contribute the Metal Element. Only the Fire Element is missing so be sure to include that element in the rest of the meal. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pad Kra Pao Gai with Thai Fried Eggs

This dish is classic Thai street food at it's best. I've posted a variation of this recipe before, but after speaking to a Thai friend, I learned a new way to make it. And, more importantly, I learned how to make Thai Fried Eggs, which are absolutely delicious! What's different about them? Well, for one thing, they are poached in hot oil which makes them crispy and the yolks come out perfectly runny. Drizzled with a little Kecap Manis or in my case, Tamari and Sesame Oil, they are just delightful - so different than the usual American versions of fried or poached eggs. They would be great for breakfast anytime and the lacy, browned bits on the edges taste so good!

The difference between this version of Chicken with Holy Basil and the one I posted before is in the use of Oyster Sauce to flavor the Chicken. And, you can make this dish Gluten Free if you use the Lee Kum Kee's Gluten Free version.  I have to admit that I like the regular Oyster Sauce better, so if you are using the Gluten Free kind, add a bit of Fish Sauce to round out the flavor. This dish tastes best if you use Thai Holy Basil leaves, but in a pinch you can also use regular Basil leaves and it will still be good.  Serve this with some steamed Rice and you will have a wonderful Thai meal!

Pad Kra Pao Gai with Thai Fried Eggs

4 Eggs
1/3 cup neutral tasting Vegetable Oil
1 pound ground Chicken or finely chopped Chicken Breast or Thigh meat
2 Shallots, chopped
3 large cloves of Garlic, minced
Optional: 1 - 4 Thai Chilis sliced into rounds or 1 red Jalapeño sliced into thin rounds
2 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce (if using Gluten Free, add 1 teaspoon Fish Sauce)
4 Tablespoons Tamari
2 teaspoons Sugar
2 cups loosely packed Thai Holy Basil leaves

To Serve: 1 Tablespoon Kecap Manis (sweet Soy Sauce) or Tamari and 1 teaspoon of Sesame Oil

Break each egg in a small bowl, being careful not to break the yolk.  Heat a wok on high and then add in the oil and heat until the oil starts to shimmer and move.  Add in one egg in the center of the oil (be careful, it splashes) and cook until a metal spatula pushed underneath releases it from the bottom of the pan easily. Then using the spatula, quickly splash some of the hot oil over the top of the egg and cook until the egg looks cooked (this happens quickly).  Take out the egg and repeat with the remaining three eggs. Remove the wok from the heat. 

In a small bowl, mix together the Oyster Sauce, Tamari and Sugar.  

Then pour out all but 2 Tablespoons of the oil. Place the wok back on the heat.  Then add in the Shallots and Garlic and Chilis (if you are using them).  Cook until the Shallots wilt. Then add the ground Chicken and cook, stirring often unit it is no longer pink.  Then add in the Sauce and stir to combine.  Then add in the Basil and toss until the Basil wilts.

Plate the Pad Kra Pao Gai with Steamed Rice and an Egg, drizzling each Egg with 1/4 of either Kecap Manis or Tamari and Sesame Oil.

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element and the Oyster Sauce and Tamari and Fish Sauce if you are using it add even more Water. The Chicken contributes the Wood Element and the Chilis bring in the Fire Element. The Metal Element is well represented by the Holy Basil and the Earth Element has only the tiny bit of Sugar to add. So, in order to have a balanced meal, it would be good to add another Earthy dish or even a dessert to make this a balanced meal. I served it with Coconut Ice Cream!