Saturday, January 04, 2014

Book Review: The Heart of the Plate

For Christmas, my sister got me a copy of The Heart of the Plate, by Molly Katzen, one of the authors of the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks. I've had a Moosewood cookbook for years that was given to me by a friend, and several of the recipes have become staples in my repertoire. I'm not a vegetarian, but I am trying to cut back on meat and incorporate more veggies in my diet, so I was very excited to get this new cookbook, with lighter vegetarian recipes. I've tried two dishes so far--eggplant with figs and blue cheese and pasta with rapini and a creamy walnut sauce--and they were both phenomenal. I have several more recipes bookmarked to try soon. Katzen has managed to come up with some really creative pairings and ways to present and season veggies, which is often a problem for me, because I have a tendency to revert to the salt-pepper-butter standard I learned in childhood. I highly recommend this book. I have the hard copy, not the Kindle edition, so I can't comment on whether it translates to an e-book well. Happy new year and happy vegetarian cooking!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Watermelon Popsicles

Last month my nephew and his mom visited me for 6 days. In anticipation of their visit, I bought a set of popsicle molds from Amazon, thinking that making frozen treats would be a fun food project for a 5-year-old boy. As I hoped, he loved it; I even had a set of molds sent to their house along with a recipe book so he can make his own concoctions. Since their visit, I've been experimenting with different recipes, including strawberry-banana-yogurt pops and lemon-lime-peach pops. The latest, and definitely the greatest, have been the watermelon pops.

I took Mark Bittman's recipe from the New York Times and tweaked it a little. First, I added a dash of salt. I love watermelon with salt. It really enhances the sweetness. Then I added some fresh mint and about a tablespoon of rum. The results are phenomenal--not too sweet with just a hint of tartness. Get yourself some popsicle molds and try this recipe. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fennel Orange Shrimp Salad

I bought a fennel bulb and then started looking through my cookbooks to decide how to cook it. I found several recipes that combined fennel with orange, so I figured it must be one of those classic culinary combos. This recipe was inspired by some of the ones I found in my books.

For the dressing:
juice of 1 orange
vinegar or lemon juice (optional)
3-4 T olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
dash of sugar
one minced shallot
salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
12 large shrimp, cooked and cooled (I used frozen ones and thawed them)
1 orange, peeled and sectioned
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly or shaved on a mandoline
2 T chopped toasted pecans

I find that some oranges are very sweet and not acidic enough, which is why I recommend having some white wine vinegar or lemon juice on hand. Mix up your dressing and then taste it. If it's too bland, add some more acid. If it's too acidic, add sugar or more olive oil. You could even add a dash of hot sauce if you like. Don't be afraid to experiment. Once you like the dressing, pour it over the salad ingredients and enjoy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Acorn Squash Bisque Recipe

This acorn squash sat in my fridge for almost 2 weeks because I couldn't decide what to do with it. I usually enjoy squash roasted in the oven or cooked on the stove and used as a substitute for mashed potatoes. This time, I decided to make a bisque with it. Here's the recipe.

1 acorn squash
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 large russet or Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
4 C vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
1 T butter (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

First, raw acorn squashes are almost impossible to peel successfully, so you're better off cooking it in the microwave and scooping out the flesh. Poke several holes in it using the tip of a knife. Microwave it on a paper towel until it's soft. The time will vary according to how powerful your microwave is. It took 20 minutes in mine. I cooked it on high power for 5 minutes, rotated it, then cooked it another 5 minutes, and so on until it was very soft and the sides collapsed when I touched it. Set that aside to cool a few minutes. Then cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Then scoop the flesh free of the peel and put in a bowl.

Cook the chopped onion in the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until softened and golden. Add the potato and broth. Bring to a boil. Add the squash and the herbs. Stir to break up the squash and distribute it evenly throughout the broth. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the potato is tender, 15-20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Use a blender to puree the soup, adding milk to thin it, if desired. I can't give you an exact amount of milk because it depends on how thick you prefer your bisque to be. Start with half a cup and go from there. I probably used an entire cup of milk to get my bisque to the consistency I wanted. Finally, if you want this soup to be really rich and decadent, add 1 T butter and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!