Thursday, October 23, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Seattle has been very rainy these last few days and it has made me crave soup, but I wanted a soup that was rich and creamy without the cream. I was out of potatoes, but I did have a head of Cauliflower and so decided to make it into a soup. But I decided that I wanted the richness of flavor that comes from roasting it.  Because the Cauliflower browns and even creates little burnt bits, the color of this soup becomes a lovely shade of tan and the caramelization of the Cauliflower really enhances the flavor. I don't think I'll ever make plain Cauliflower soup again as this was so much better!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

1 head Cauliflower, bottom stem an leaves removed and chopped into large pieces
2 Tablespooons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Butter
½ large Yellow Onion chopped
1 Garlic clove minced
4 cups Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional for Serving:  1/2 cup minced green onions and 1/2 cup cooked Ham sautéed in a small amount of oil.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.   Put Cauliflower in a Bowl and toss with the Olive Oil, then put onto a baking sheet.  Roast for 30 minutes and remove from the oven.
Melt the Butter in a pot and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion softens.  Add in the Cauliflower and the Chicken Broth.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Take off the heat and puree with a stick blender (or in batches in your Cuisinart or Blender).

Serve with minced Green Onion and small pieces of  Ham if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is a Water food, but this soup is thick and creamy so it becomes Earthy too.  Cauliflower is one of the few vegetables that belong to the Metal Element, but roasting it brings in some Fire as it ends up with little charred bits.  The onions add more Metal and the Chicken Broth and Olive Oil contribute the Wood Element.  Serving it with ham adds more of the Water Element so the only element that needs support is the Fire Element so the meal becomes balanced when you add a lettuce and tomato salad. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Curried Tofu Burgers

If you remember the heyday of Vegetarian Burgers, you will remember the ones made of Tofu. I always liked them in their various incarnations and decided to make some again for the first time in many years. I based this recipe loosely on the classic Moosewood Restaurant version, but I used Sunflower Seeds instead of walnuts and changed the seasoning. They turned out to be incredibly delicious and my son liked them so much that he wanted me to post the recipe.  They are really easy to make, the only thing that takes time is pressing the water out of the tofu and you can do that in 30 minutes at any time ahead of making them. Then, it's just a matter of using your food processor or doing some chopping, grating and mixing and then baking them in the oven.  You will be amazed at how tasty these Tofu Burgers are - you can serve them as is or put them onto a bun and dress them with mustard, ketchup, pickles and lettuce.  

Curried Tofu Burgers

1 carton of Firm Tofu in water, drained (mine was a 19 oz carton)
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2  - 3 Tablespoons Tamari
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Curry Powder (I used McCormick and Schmicks)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Place the tofu on several paper towels on a plate or cutting board. Put more paper towels on top and place another plate or cutting board on top and then put a heavy pot or book on top of that to press the extra water out of the tofu. Leave for 30 minutes

Heat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Place Sunflower Seeds in the Cuisinart and grind until they are in very small pieces (or use a Mortar and Pestle to grind them.  Add in the Tofu, 2 Tablespoons of the Tamari, Sesame Oil, Salt, Pepper and Curry Powder.  Mix together and taste, adding more Tamari if desired.  

Heat a frying pan and put in the oil. Then add in the onion, carrot, red pepper and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft and the moisture that comes out of the vegetables is mostly gone - 4 to 5 minutes. Then add to the Tofu Mixture and blend together. 

Shape into 6 patties and put onto the baking sheet.  Drizzle oil over the top and cook for 30 minutes.  

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to the Water and Metal Elements and the Onion, Garlic and Curry Powder add even more Meta. The Tamari and Sesame Oil add even more Water. The Carrots contribute the Earth Element and the Red Pepper and the tiny bit of Cayenne bring in the Fire Element. Only the Wood Element is missing, so serve on a Whole Wheat Bun or with a green vegetable or pickles to create a Five Element balance. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Blanca's Cilantro Potatoes

I was traveling most of the last month and in the few days I got to be home, I cooked my old favorites so no interesting new recipes to post.  But, I've finally gotten a chance to be home for longer than a few days and my desire to cook is overwhelming! And I went to the grocery store and bought everything that looked good - so now I have to cook.

Last week when I was in Mexico City, I got a recipe for potatoes that I knew that I had to come home and try. I met a lovely older Mexican woman named Blanca who took me shopping. Over lunch at the Anthropology Museum we were talking about how much Danish people love new potatoes- simply boiled with butter and she gave me her Mexican version.  It's a really simple recipe, but if you like Cilantro and browned Onions, you will love this recipe! Cilantro is considered a blood purifier and is considered good for cleaning heavy metals out of the body. It has also been used for centuries in both Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine for a number of health problems and is considered a digestive aid. For those of you who don't like Cilantro, it can also be made with Parsley. I served it with Roast Chicken and a salad and it made the perfect meal.  The potatoes can be cooked ahead of time and then reheated in the sauce to save time, making this a wonderful dish for a dinner party! 

Blanca's Cilantro Potatoes

1 pound small New Potatoes, washed
1 small white or yellow Onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 bunch Cilantro, washed, large stems removed and chopped fine, about 1/2 cup
2 Tablespoons Butter
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large pot, cover the potatoes and boil until a knife can pierce them (about 20 minutes).  Drain and hold in a bowl (this step can be done ahead). In a large frying pan, heat butter and add onions. Cook until lightly browned (about 4 - 5 minutes), then add in the Cilantro and cook until Cilantro begins to wilt (this happens fast). Pour sauce over the potatoes and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes belong to the Earth Element while the Onion and Cilantro contribute the Metal Element. It's missing the Wood, Fire and Water Elements (except for the very small amount of salt) so it's a good side dish for a meal that's composed mostly of those kinds of food and that's why I served it with a Fiery Salad and a Wood main dish - roast chicken.  And, I served soup first to bring in the Water Element to create a balanced Five Element meal.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pan Seared Shishito Peppers

I fell in love with grilled Padron Peppers in Tapas bars and I have had trouble finding them.  So, I decided one day to try to use the Japanese cousin of those peppers instead.  They were much easier to find in my local Uwajimaya store.  And they were wonderful! I make them pretty regularly now. In Tapas bars, they cook the Padron peppers very simply - they are usually placed on the grill until they are blistered and then they are sprinkled with salt.  Padron Peppers are not very hot, but once in a while you get a really hot one.  In contrast, the Shishito peppers are almost always mild, which is better for me as I love the pepper flavor but not the heat.

Since I wasn't in the mood to start up the barbecue, I used my cast iron skillet instead and turned the vent over my oven on high. I put some olive oil in the pan and heated it so the peppers hit the very hot pan. Then I let them cook until they started to brown before beginning to toss them.  I cooked them until they were blistered on at least one side and salted them.  They were amazing! I may like them even better than the Padrons.  

It's such a simple recipe that I almost didn't post it, but thought there might be enough of you to enjoy making these. They are a great addition to a Tapas assortment or can be served as an appetizer or a lovely side to grilled meats. I hope you try them!

Pan Seared Shishito Peppers

1 pound Shishito Peppers
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Heat a large cast iron skillet or carbon steel wok on high heat on the stove. Turn on the vent and add the peppers. Let sear on one side until they brown. Turn over until the other side browns.  Start tossing until the peppers begin to soften and they start to blacken on at least one side.  Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Pepper of all kinds belong to the Fire Element and blackening them adds even more fire. The Olive Oil adds a hint of the Wood Element. As this is a one ingredient dish that is basically Fiery, it is good to add it to a meal that has the other elements present. So, it is wonderful for Tapas when there is also an assortment of Spanish ham or sausages, good bread, olives, potatoes and more.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arugula Salad with Chicken, Dates, Walnuts and Jicama

I had a restaurant salad in Denmark that had cut up dates and walnuts in it and I was delighted with the taste and texture of it. So, when I came home, I decided to create a similar salad. I love salads with meat in them for lunch, so I used some cut up leftover chicken breast and I had a jicama rolling around in my vegetable drawer and decided to add it for the crunch. I used Arugula as I love the bitterness and made a dressing out of Shallots, Champagne Vinegar and Sunflower Oil. It was a divine combination with lots of taste treats and textures. The dates impart a wonderful sweetness and softness and then the walnuts and jicama give lots of crunch. It was so wonderful that I will be adding it to my repertoire of salads from now on.  I hope you try it too! 

Arugula Salad with Chicken, Dates, Walnuts and Jicama

4 cups of Arugula washed and dried
1 cup of cooked Chicken Breast cut into a small dice
1 small Jicama (or 1/2 large one), peeled and cut into a julienne slice (about one cup cut up)
1/2 cup of Dates, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup of Walnuts, toasted in a frying pan

Place Arugula on a Serving Plate.  Sprinkle Chicken on top. Then add Jicama, the Dates and the Walnuts.  When ready to serve, drizzle on the dressing.


3 Tablespoons Champagne (or White Wine) Vinegar
1/4 cup Sunflower Oil
1 small Shallot clove, minced finely
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients and whisk together. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more sugar or salt as desired.

Five Element Analysis

Arugula belongs to the Fire Element, whereas the Chicken and the Vinegar brings in the Wood Element.  The Water Element is represented by the Walnuts.  The Shallots and Dijon Mustard contribute the Metal Element and the Dates and Jicama add the Earth Element. This then is a balanced Five Element Salad!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pronto Pasta Sauce with Prosciutto

Once in a while, I get a serious craving for pasta. This has especially been true since I visited Bologna the last two years.  As I am avoiding wheat, I have found some wonderful gluten free substitutes like DeLallo's corn and rice pasta and recently I found some fresh gluten-free pasta from a company called Manini's that takes only minutes to cook. Be sure to salt the water. My friend Camillo says the water should taste like the sea.

Anyway, I came home so hungry and I wanted to make a sauce and I wanted to make it fast. So, I threw together some garlic, onions, prosciutto and tomatoes and made a sauce in about 5 minutes!  This of course, was after I cut everything up. Since the pasta was fresh and only took a few minutes to cook, I had a lovely bowl of pasta fast! It was so delicious. Of course, you don't need to use gluten-free pasta, but I do recommend a fresh pasta as it is so much more tender and cooks faster.  I usually overlook adding prosciutto to my sauce as I am so fond of ground beef and Italian Sausage, but this sauce was so good that I had to share it with you. It's wonderful! 

Pronto Pasta Sauce with Prosciutto

4 ounces of Prosciutto cut up (I used Applegate Farms with no nitrates)
1/2 cup chopped Onions
1 Garlic clove minced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
8 - 10 Basil Leaves, cut up
8 ounces of Pasta (I used macaroni)
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese for serving

Fill a pot with water and add salt until you can taste it.  Bring the water to a boil. Put in pasta and cook. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta while you make the sauce.

Heat a frying pan and add the Olive Oil then put in the Garlic and Onions.  Saute for about 2 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add in the Prosciutto and cook until it changes color - about another minute. Then add in the tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes or until the tomatoes just start to break down and turn into a sauce. Add the pasta to the pan and then add the reserved cooking liquid. Toss to coat the pasta and cook down the liquid for just a minute and then serve with Parmesan Cheese.

Five Element Analysis

Tomatoes belong to the Fire Element, so that element is covered. The Prosciutto, being a salted pork product contributes the Water Element. The Garlic, Onions, Basil and Parmesan all represent the Metal Element.  The Wood Element is seen in the Olive Oil and also the pasta if it is made with wheat. The one I bought has a lot of seed flour - amaranth and teff and millet, which add more of the Water Element and also has tapioca, sorghum and potato starch, which add the Earth Element.  So only the Wood Element was deficient, so I served it with a kale salad that had a lemon and olive oil dressing to create a five element balance. If you use wheat pasta, this dish will be missing the Earth Element so be sure to bring a food from that element in to balance out the meal and in that case, you can always seve a dessert.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

It is beginning, just a little, to feel like fall. There's that tiny nip in the air in the early morning now. I love fall and I love all the harvest foods. So when I went to the market, I bought an Acorn Squash. In Chinese Medicine, squashes relieve dampness and help remove phlegm - something quite useful after a humid summer.  So today, I baked it and then stuffed it and it turned out so well that I had to share it with you. I used a stuffing that is a slight variation of one that I use for Thanksgiving, only this time I used Udi's Gluten Free Bread instead of regular wheat bread. But of course, you can use regular white bread if you want.  You can also use any other cooked grain like rice or millet or a seed like Quinoa if you prefer. I also used Chicken Breakfast Sausage and some celery, onions and sage.  You could definitely replace it with pork sausage if you prefer. I almost made it vegetarian and used mushrooms instead. Use your imagination as I think it would be good with so many different things! The only trick is to bake the squash first before you stuff it and then bake it some more when the filling is added. The squash caramelizes and the stuffing adds a wonderful savory counterpoint to the richness of the baked squash.  I loved it - it tasted a bit like Thanksgiving and was nourishing and nurturing.  And it was a really beautiful dish too. I hope you'll try it. I'm definitely going to keep making it as it was simply delicious!

Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

1 small Acorn Squash, cut in half, seeds removed
2 Tablespoons Oil
2 cups Bread cubes (crust removed) toasted in the oven until lightly browned (I used Udi's)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/3 pound Chicken Sausage (removed from the casing)
3/4 cup chopped Onion
3/4 cup chopped Celery
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon dried Sage
1/2 teaspoon Salt and fresh ground Pepper

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Drizzle oil over the cut side of the squash and then turn face down on a baking sheet.  Cook for 30 minutes and remove from oven.

In the meantime, melt the butter and cook the Chicken Sausage, onions and celery until the sausage is no longer pink and the celery and onion is soft.  Pour into a mixing bowl and add the bread cubes, the sage and the salt a pepper.  Mash up the bread with a large wooden spoons (or your hands).  

Mound equal amounts of stuffing in each squash half.  Put in the oven and cook an addition 20 - 30 minutes or until stuffing is lightly browned.  If after 30 minutes, it is still pale, then turn on the broiler to brown it.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Squash with it's rich orange color and sweet taste belongs to the Earth Element.  The Chicken Sausage and Chicken Broth contributed the Wood Element along with the Celery. The Onions and Sage brought in the Metal Element as did the Udi's bread as it is made mostly of Rice Flour and Tapioca Flour. The Fire Element is missing, which can be added with a Fiery beverage like tea or wine or by serving with a salad.  The Water Element is also missing so be sure to serve another Watery Food with this dish like some dark berries for dessert or at another meal to create a Five Element Balance.