Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lentil Soup with Moroccan Flavors

I'm clearly on a soup kick as my Kidneys need support and today I really felt like making a hearty main dish soup and that usually means using pulses or beans, so I used lentils since Martin likes them so much. He also loves Moroccan flavors so that's how this soup came to be. I usually make lentil soup that has Italian flavors and that's already been posted. So, what constitutes Moroccan flavors?  For me, it is the combination of ground Coriander, Cumin and a hint of Cinnamon. They are warming spices and mixed with lentils, lots of different vegetables and a big squeeze of lemon, it's delicious! This soup is easy to prepare and cooks in one hour.  Martin loved it so this recipe is a keeper.

Lentil Soup with Moroccan Flavors

2 cups of dried Lentils
2 cups diced onion (1 medium)
2 cups diced carrots (about 3)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 14.5 oz can petite diced Tomatoes
8 - 10 cups Broth or more if needed (Chicken or Vegetable) - I ended up using 12 cups
1 - 2 teaspoons Salt
Fresh ground Pepper
4 cups washed Spinach leaves (grab by the handful)
Juice of 1 large Lemon (about 1/4 cup)

In a large soup pot, heat Olive Oil and add the Onions, Carrots and Garlic.  Cook until onion softens.  Then add in the spices and cook until they darken slight.  Then add in the Tomatoes and 8 - 10 cups of broth and lentils -  cook for 50 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Add additional broth or water if needed to thin the soup down so check every 15 minutes. Then add in the Spinach and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Soup by its very nature is a Water food, so this definitely has the Water Element present. But, Lentils are an Earth food and the carrots add even more Earth.  The Onions, Garlic and Spices contribute the Metal Element and the Tomatoes bring in the Fire Element.  The Spinach, Lemon and Chicken Broth add plenty of the Wood Element too.  You might have guessed that this was a balanced soup because it contained so many colors and you'd be right!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hungarian Goulash

Goulash Soup is one of the first things I ever cooked. Of course, the first time I made, it wasn't exactly like this recipe as I have refined it over the years.  But how and why I made it are actually a funny family story.  When I was 7 years old (yes, you read that right), I told my mother that I wanted to cook dinner. She asked me if I knew what I wanted to make and if I knew how to make it and I said yes, she just needed to take me to the grocery store.  She took me and I proceeded to buy the ingredients to make Hungarian Goulash.  

Now, don't ask me how I knew how to make it, but I did.  And, I remember being very upset at the grocery store, because they didn't have Hungarian Paprika and I had to use regular American Paprika instead. And, I proceeded to make a very simple version of Goulash using Beef, Paprika, Campbell's Canned Beef Consomme that I diluted, Onions and Carrots.  When my father came home, he was astonished because he thought my mother had made it and she only cooked Chinese food.  When she told him I had made it, he was horrified to think that she had let me use sharp knives and cook a hot soup by myself.  But, he liked it and then proceeded to ask me how I knew how to make it. I answered that it was something that I just knew it inside my head.  He asked me if I read about it and I said no or if I had seen someone make it on TV, another no. He kept asking, How did you know how to make it?  I simply didn't know how I knew, but I just knew that I knew and by the way, it was good.  My mother very nonchalantly told him that I was probably Hungarian in my past life, which made my father laugh out loud.  Years later, I was told by a psychic that I was a Hungarian Opera Singer in my past life and lived and worked in Vienna.  I don't know if that is true, but it is an amusing thought and I will admit that I do love Hungarian food and I love Vienna.  

Anyway, this is a soup that I love to eat whenever I am in Austria as I haven't been to Hungary yet to have it there. I especially like eating eat after skiing. It is not something I make very often and I don't know why because I still love it.  So, I am sharing my updated version with you. I now like to add some Red Pepper and Tomatoes to freshen the taste and I love parsnips, so I throw those in too.  I personally like to add Caraway, but it's a spice that's not popular in my house so I usually leave it out.  Goulash is warming and nourishing and rich in flavor.  It's perfect for a cold winter day.  I hope you enjoy my grown-up version.

Hungarian Goulash

2 pounds Beef Chuck Roast, cut into small pieces about ¾ inch square
2 Onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons Oil
5 Tablespoons Hungarian Sweet Paprika
4 cups Beef Broth
2 cups Water
2 teaspoons Salt
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
1 small Red Pepper, stem removed and cut into small pieces
2 Tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, chopped
3 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into small rings or halved or quartered
3 Parsnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into small rings or halved or quartered (Optional)
2 medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
Optional: Caraway Seeds

In a large stew pot, heat oil and add onions. Cook until soft and translucent. Add beef and cook without stirring until beef is slightly browned on one side, turn and cook pieces on their other side.  Then add in garlic and Paprika (and Caraway if using). Cook until the Paprika starts to brown slightly (this happens fast).  Add the broth and water and cook for one hour.  Then add in the Red Pepper, Tomatoes, Carrots, Parsnips and Potatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 30 – 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Serve over noodles or with some crusty bread.

Five Element Analysis

Beef is an Earth Food and it is cooked long and slow with the onions so they sweeten and become Earthy and the carrots, parsnips and potatoes add even more Earth. So, this is a fundamentally Earthy dish. The Paprika, Red Pepper and Tomato contribute the Fire Element.  The Metal Element is only represented by the small amount of Garlic and the Caraway if you use it.  The Water Element is only represented by the fact that this is a soup, although a thick one, so this element needs support in this meal or some other time during the day.  The Wood Element is missing so it is advisable to serve this with some crusty wheat bread, green leafy vegetables or some pickles.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rainbow Chard with Indian Flavors

In my quest to eat more green leafy vegetables, I've been experimenting with flavors to go beyond the usual steamed or sautéed versions. Last night I decided to make Rainbow Chard and use Indian flavors to give it some pizazz.  It worked!  It was a delicious combination of flavors. I used garlic, onion and ginger as the main flavor components along with Cumin and Coriander.  I also added some Tomatoes to help make the sauce.  The Rainbow Chard was cooked in the sauce and it ended up being a big hit on the dinner table.  It was easy and fast and will definitely become a ongoing way to cook Chard.

Rainbow Chard with Indian Flavors

2 bunches Rainbow Chard cut into small pieces (about 4 cups), stems and leaves separated
3 Tablespoons Ghee
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
2" piece of Ginger, grated
1 small Serrano Chili, seeds removed and diced
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
3 - 4 Tomatoes diced (nearly 2 cups)
1 teaspoon Salt

Melt Ghee in a large frying pan and add onion.  Cook until it begins to brown. Then add in Garlic and Ginger and the Spices.  Cook until the Spices darken (this happens quickly.)  Then add in the Tomatoes and the Serrano Chili.  Cook on medium heat until the tomatoes start to break down and become a thick sauce. Add in the Chard stems and cook for 5 - 6 minutes, stirring occasionally until almost tender. Add in the stems and stir until the wilt.  Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

Five Element Analysis

Chard is considered a leafy green and a very healthy one too.  It is full of vitamins and minerals and is very good for the liver. The ancient Chinese considered it a good vegetable for the skin.  It is considered a Wood food so that element is covered.  The Ghee, Onions and Garlic contribute the Metal Element as do the Spices.  The Serrano Chili and Tomatoes bring in the Fire Element and the Ginger contributes the Earth Element and there is a slight bitterness to Chard that makes it a bit Fiery too. Only the Water Element is missing so this would be a good side dish to a Water food like Eggplant or Fish to make a balanced meal.  

Japanese Restaurant Salad

Back when Sushi first became popular, there was a salad dressing that I had at every Japanese restaurant that I loved. I remembered that it had ginger and grated carrot in it and I haven't had it in such a long time. I thought about it the other day and decided to try to recreate it. After a bit of online research, I found a recipe on Saveur's website that was the starting point for this salad.  The Salad Dressing recipe came from Chef Tadahi Ono and was made to be used with only Iceberg lettuce. I tweaked the recipe for the salad dressing to make it more gingery and used Tamari instead of Soy Sauce and Red Onion instead of Yellow, and then served it on Red Cabbage mixed with Green Cabbage and Iceberg Lettuce for some beautiful colors and some wonderful textures  I finished it off with minced Scallions and Black Sesame Seeds.  Not only was it beautiful, it was also delicious. I made a huge bowl of it and loved every bite!

Japanese Restaurant Salad

1/2 cup light tasting Oil (I used Safflower)
1/4 cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Tamari
2 inch long piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and grated
1 large Carrot, trimmed, peeled and grated
1/3 cup minced Red Onion
Sprinkling of fresh Ground Pepper
1 heaping cup shredded Red Cabbage
1 heaping cup shredded Green Cabbage
2 cups shredded Iceberg Lettuce (about 1/2 head)
2 - 3 Scallions (green onions), trimmed and minced
2 teaspoons Sesame Seeds (I used Black Sesame Seeds)

Combine Oil, Rice Vinegar, Tamari Ginger, Carrots and Onion in a food processor or blender (I actually used a hand blender).  Process until smooth and add in salt and pepper.

Place the Green and Red Cabbage and Iceberg Lettuce in a salad bowl.  Drizzle on the salad dressing and sprinkle with the Scallions and sprinkle on the Sesame Seeds. Serve immediately.  Any leftover salad dressing will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Five Element Analysis

Carrot and Cabbage and Ginger all belong to the Earth Element so this is fundamentally an Earthy Salad.  The Scallions add a bit of the Metal Element and the Red Onion adds even more so that element is covered. The Water Element is represented by the Tamari and the Sesame Seeds. The Rice Wine Vinegar contributes the Wood Element and the Iceberg Lettuce and sprinkling of Pepper make sure the Fire Element is present too. This then becomes a balanced Five Element Salad!  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Green Minestrone alla Genovese

Happy New Year!  After a night of celebrating, it is good to have a healthy and mild tasting soup to nourish the body and recover the fluids that your body desperately needs after drinking too much champagne....  So today I made Green Minestrone.  It's a subtle tasting soup, full of all kinds of green vegetables.  I basically looked for anything green that I could find in my vegetable bin that wasn't Asian.  I found Cabbage, Zucchini, Celery, Green Beans and some Parsley and Basil.  I used Chicken Broth as the base, but you could just as easily use Vegetable Broth to make it vegetarian. I called it alla Genovese because of the herbs, especially because I used Basil. I decided not to add any small pasta or cubes of potato or Cannellini Beans as I wanted it to have more broth, but all or any of those ingredients would also be very good additions. This soup would also be good if you added Leeks, Fennel, Spinach or Swiss Chard.  I think it is one of those soups that can vary a lot based on what you have on hand and I assure you that it will always taste delicious!  It came together quickly and I drizzled it with a high quality Olive Oil and sprinkled Parmesan Cheese on it when I served it. My son also sprinkled it with Red Chili Flakes.  This is a nourishing and restorative soup - just perfect after a night of revelry!  

Green Minestrone alla Genovese

8 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
5 cups cut up vegetables  (I used 1/4 of a cabbage, 1 large Zucchini, a Handful of Green Beans and a large stalk of Celery)
1/4 cup chopped Parsley
1/4 cup chopped Basil
1 teaspoon Salt, if needed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, grated Parmesan Cheese and Red Pepper Flakes for serving

Optional:  1 large potato, peeled and cut into small pieces or 1 can drained Cannellini Beans or 1 cup small Pasta like Orzo added for the last 10 minutes. 

Bring the broth to a boil in a soup pot.  Put in all the vegetables and the Parsley.  Return to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Then stir in the Basil and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, grated Parmesan Cheese and Red Pepper Flakes

Five Element Analysis

Soup by its dry nature is a Water Food and this is a broth based soup, so that Element is present by default. If you make it a thick soup, be sure to serve some other Water Foods. Chicken Broth belongs to the Wood Element as do the Green Beans and Celery. The Cabbage and Zucchini contribute the Earth Element.  And, the Onions, Garlic, Parsley, Basil and Parmesan Cheese make sure that the Metal Element is represented as well. Only the Fire Element is missing, so the Red Pepper Flakes help with that. But, it would be wise then to serve this soup with another Fiery food, like a Tomato Salad to achieve a Five Element balance. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Eggplant and Zucchini Oven Fries - Gluten Free

I had some amazing Eggplant Fries in San Diego a few months ago and I really loved them. I've been thinking about making some ever since, but I wanted to make them Gluten Free. There has been a package of Glutino Bread Crumbs languishing in the pantry waiting to be used and I have various Gluten Free Flours, so I ended up using the King Arthur brand of flour to coat the cut up slices of Eggplant and Zucchini, then dipping them in egg and then coating them in Glutino Bread Crumbs mixed with Parmesan Cheese. Of course you could use All Purpose Flour and regular bread crumbs instead. Once coated, I put them in an oiled baking pan and drizzled olive oil on top. I popped them into a hot oven and in 10 minutes they were browned on one side and I turned them over and they only took another 5 minutes to crisp up. They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and simply delicious!  I heated up some Ariabiata Sauce from Trader Joe's to use as the dipping sauce and was happy with my healthy vegetable fries. My son used Ranch Dressing as his dip and my husband made some Pesto Mayo - mostly Pesto - for his. They were so good that you might want to try making them too.

Eggplant and Zucchini Oven Fries

1 large Eggplant, stem end removed
2 large Zucchini or 4 small Zucchini, stem ends removed
1 1/2 cups Bread Crumbs (I used Glutino)
1 teaspoon each Seasoned Salt and Garlic Powder 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 - 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup Flour (I used King Arthur Gluten Free)
1 teaspoon Finishing Salt (like Maldon's or Fleur de Sel)

Cut eggplant lengthwise into 3/4 inch slices and then into 1/2 slices - then cut in half.  Cut zucchini into quarters.  Slice off a small portion of the seeds and then cut each piece in half or thirds (like thick-cut french fries). 

Set oven to 425 degrees. Oil a large baking pan with 2 - 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil.

Mix together the Bread Crumbs, Seasoned Salt, Garlic Powder and Parmesan Cheese in a wide bowl or plate with sides.  Put flour on another plate and eggs in a  wide bowl.

Then dredge eggplant and zucchini in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs and place on the baking sheet until all are done.  Place in the oven and cook for for 10 minutes.  Take pan out of the oven and turn the fries with a spatula.  Cook for an additional 5 - 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve with dipping sauces.

Suggested Dipping Sauces:  Marinara Sauce, Ranch Dressing, Flavored Mayonnaise - Pesto, Sriracha or Garlic added.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplant is a Water Food and so are the eggs so that element is covered. The Zucchini is an Earth Food.  The Glutino Bread Crumbs were made of Corn, another Earth Food and the Gluten Free Flour, made primarily of rice makes it a Metal Food. If you are using regular flour and breadcrumbs, you are using foods from the Wood Element. The Marinara Sauce adds the Fire Element, the Ranch Dressing adds the Metal Element from the milk and spices and the Pesto adds the Metal and Wood Elements. So these fries, with all the sauces end up becoming a rather balanced snack!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Persian Rice with Tahdig

I have been trying to make perfect Persian Rice for a long time and I just couldn't seem to get it quite the way that I wanted it. For those of you who are not familiar with this way of cooking rice, you end up with a wonderful buttery golden crust called Tahdig, which is crisp, crunchy and wonderful!  I decided to stop trying so many different recipes and go and ask my Persian friend. She told me how to do it step-by-step. And last night, I finally got it right.

So here's the keys to Persian Rice: it's important to use Basmati Rice and you treat it like pasta, cooking it al dente and then steaming it long and slow with butter so that wonderful golden crust develops. You also add Saffron as it perfumes the rice with it's special fragrance and taste.  It's actually quite simple to make this rice and I realized the trick is in what kind of pot to use to make that wonderful crust.  I used a cast iron pot and made a lid out of a cast iron frying pan sealed with a kitchen towel. It is important to both soak and boil the rice so the grains stay separate and fluffy. 

It's a wonderful side dish to so many other Middle Eastern dishes and everyone will be fighting over the Tahdig so make a lot. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Persian Rice

2 cups Basmati Rice
Water for soaking
9 cups Water
2 Tablespoons Salt
4 Tablespoons Melted Butter Divided
Pinch of Saffron
1/4 cup boiling water

Soak Basmati Rice in a Bowl with water to cover for 1 hour or longer (the longer you soak it, the less time it takes to cook). Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve and rinse lightly. Then bring the cooking water and salt to a boil in a pot on high heat. Add the rice and return to a boil. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until the rice is al dente. There should be just a little firmness at the center.  Drain the rice.

Put 2 Tablespoons of Butter in the bottom of a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan. Put the skillet on medium low heat.  Spoon the rice over the bottom of the pan and around until all the rice is piled in. Form into a mounded shape and open a hole in the center almost all the way to the bottom. Pour the Saffron water around and into the hole. Then take the remaining melted butter and drizzle over the rice. Place a clean kitchen towel across the top of the pot and put the lid on.  Pull the ends of the towel up over the pot.  Steam for 30 - 35 minutes.  Smell the rice for the last 5 minutes to make sure the rice doesn't start burning. 

To serve, use a spatula to separate the crispy rice from the pot. Then, put a plate over the rice and turn over carefully (using Oven mitts). Or, you can remove the top part of the rice to a plate and then remove the Tahdig and place on top.  

Five Element Analysis

Rice belongs to the Metal Element and so does Butter and Saffron, so this is a very Metallic side dish.  Saffron also has some wonderful medicinal properties according to Chinese Medicine.  It invigorates the blood and releases toxins and heat. Because the rice is boiled and steamed, it has been cooked in a Water Way and the salt increases the Water.  And, the crispy crust gives it a bit of a Fiery component.  It is a very good side for dishes with sauce and I like to serve it with other Middle Eastern foods containing Lamb - a Fire food or Chicken - a Wood Food, Eggplant  - a Water Food, Tomatoes - a Fire Food and Cucumbers - an Earth Food.