Broccoli Bean Soup

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In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I usually feel a bit deceptive whenever I record one of my own recipes on this blog (so about 95% of the time).  Recipes are ontologically systematic, and if anything, the way I cook is the opposite of systematic.  I rarely use measurements and I am usually taste-testing everything throughout the whole process and adding spices or throwing in onions according to what my taste buds deem necessary.  The only problem with this is that I am now accountable to a blog, and I cannot just give out a nebulous recipe comprised of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of love all thrown together in a pot.”  I am slowly getting better at self-discipline and training myself to pay attention to the amounts I am using, but I am far from perfect in this regard.  I feel I owe it to people to offer this as both a disclaimer and an encouragement to think a little outside the box and adjust your ingredients to match your gustatory preferences.

That said, this wonderful soup was made in a haphazard fashion, and while I think the measurements of the ingredients provided will yield a most satisfactory result, I cannot be too sure.  So exercise your freedom and edit as you see fit should you decide to stir up this delicious soup in your own pots.

Ingredients

1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
2/3 cup carrot juice (simply puree 3 large steamed carrots with a bit of water)
1/2 cup brown rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cup cooked kidney beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Use a food processor to blend together the broccoli with the milk, onion, garlic and parmesan cheese. Pulse until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a medium size pot over low heat. Add the carrot juice, beans, rice, salt and pepper. Cook for an hour and serve hot. Enjoy! Tastes great with a side of tortilla chips.

Serves about 4
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Sesame-Seared Salmon with Spinach

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There is something fishy going on.  My pictures keep getting erased from my phone.  I actually have a whole slew of beautiful food that I can no longer account for, and in this day and age, you can’t just put up a post without photographic evidence.  So I guess I’ll have to make everything all over again, or at least re-evaluate and figure out which recipes tasted the best anyway.

This salmon was a winner, but it seems this fish just does not like all the attention, or maybe it’s the camera itself that is sick of my new-founded picture snapping habits.  I’ve had to re-create the meal three times over and I’m starting to get pretty suspicious.  Good thing there’s always Elvis to remind me that my relationship with salmon is worth the time and effort.  Love requires commitment, and it finally paid off to persevere through my suspicions.  Plus it afforded me the opportunity to eat more salmon and work on anger management– a clear win-win situation.

Thanks to BBC Food for the recipe, which I tweaked to match my ingredients. Thanks to all the recent salmon sales that have ensured me with a freezer full of expectant pink fillets.  This particular preparation leaves the kitchen smelling wonderfully similar to a sushi bar.

Ingredients:

1 lb fillet of salmon (or a similar amount)
4 lemons
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 large handfuls of spinach

In a large pan, heat the sesame oil. Coat on side of the salmon in sesame seeds and lay seed-side down in the hot oil. Let it brown over medium-high heat. Flip it and begin to brown the other side. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the side with the sesame seeds. In a bowl, combine the juice of four lemons with the soy sauce and stir. Pour the mixture over the salmon, cover and reduce heat to low until salmon has been cooked through. It won’t take too long, as the lemon alone can “cook” the salmon. Remove from heat and wilt the spinach in the extra juices of the pan. Serve hot. Enjoy!

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(^^By this point I had run out of cilantro, but it was just fine. I ate it with little sweet peppers instead.^^)

In Which I Decide That Veganism Is Not For Me

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There are weeks when I can set myself in the center of such a smorgasbord of plant-based dishes and consider the veganist manifestos of documentaries such as Forks over Knives, and contemplate the horrors revealed in Meet Your Meat or Food, Inc, and for some shining moments think “If I stop eating animal products, maybe I can help the crux of the problem.” And with my steaming bowl of hearty bean chili in hand I think, “Who needs meat anyway?”  Then my brother Joe will do something like bring home this enormous bowl of seafood soup and share half of it with me and I’ll think “Well pescatarianism is a worthy compromise.”

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But then, alas, on the following day Joe (who clearly doesn’t know what it means to give away your seafood soup without expecting anything in return) will request my culinary services. I will recall the fact that I have a big fat skirt steak sitting in my possession, and as I lose myself to its peppery perfection and red wine garlic butter sauce I sigh and realize, again, that veganism will always be a noble aspiration that I will never subscribe to as long as my meat-loving heart shall live.

Ingredients

1 grassfed skirt steak (mine was about 1 lb. and was quite enough for 2 people)
1/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground peppercorn
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp walnut oil

Rub both sides of the steak well in salt and pepper. Set in a pan on medium heat in a tbsp of walnut oil. Cook until one side has browned and flip to continue on the other side. In a small separate pot, simmer all other ingredients into a sauce. When the steak has cooked to your liking, serve with the sauce spooned over. I also served mine with SMASHED!! potatoes. (Doesn’t that sound way more fun than mashed potatoes?) Enjoy!

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(^^PS. It looks like Cora woke up with a nightmare. Maybe it was all that Vampire talk yesterday. She was ok after I sang to her a little. ^^)

Lola’s Chicken Adobo and Brown Rice

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(^^One of those times where I was too busy stuffing my face to worry about silly things like good photos^^)

I have lived in 7 different houses throughout the course of my childhood, and it just so happens that I have had the same set of neighbors in pretty much all of these locations. We haven’t tried to figure out the chicken-or-egg of who was following who around, but it does seem rather fishy how my family always ended up around the block or down the road or across the street from this family. Anyway, they also happen to be my godparents and I happen to be good friends with their kids, so its a win-win situation. They are half Filipino.

The other night I ate in their home for dinner, as I tend to do, and we ate a prince of a meal called chicken adobo. I was sitting there in awe of what was entering my mouth (and it wasn’t even the first time I had partaken of this delicate masterpiece), when Lola, the little grandmother chef-of-the-night came in. I asked her for her recipe and the gist of the whole thing is simply: Buy a chicken and cut it up and then stick it in a pot with equal parts soy sauce and vinegar. Throw in an onion and some garlic, bring it to a boil and then let it simmer away until the meat is falling off the bones and the chicken has had time to sit in the savory juices and absorb it all up unto itself. Then it’s your turn to absorb the chicken into your lucky little stomach. And in my case, as it was made by Lola, I know there was a lot of love thrown into the pot as well. Lola is quite an amazing woman with an unmistakable laugh that escapes her with (no joke) every sentence she speaks. She’s this steady, faithful and strong woman with a generous heart of gold. You’re lucky to have her recipe.

It is with utmost reverence to Lola and her years of cooking up delicious things that I present to you this Chicken Adobo.

Ingredients:

1 free range organic chicken, cut into parts
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup vinegar
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic

2 cups basmati rice

Put everything in a pot (except the rice), bring to a boil and then let it simmer for about an hour. In a separate pot, cook the rice with 4 cups of water on low until moisture is fully absorbed.

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When you can’t find the garlic cloves, look behind Marcus’s fishbowl. He’s sneaky like that and loves to hide the garlic. When everything is finished, the chicken will be extremely tender and well-marinated, and there will be lots of extra sauce in the pot. Serve the chicken over the rice and spoon extra juices on top.

Cauliflower Zucchini Curry

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The weather has been calling for lots of soups and stews lately, with all this dampness hanging in the air and making everyone sick. Luckily, this curry happens to be a great defense for the immune system, in large part because of its spices. Cumin and turmeric are well known for their healing and fortifying properties. The carrot juice provides the vitamin A, while the kale is chock-full of wonderful vitamins. Both the cauliflower and zucchini are anti-inflammatory vegetables with B vitamins. Cauliflower also contains stores of omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin K.
I like using cauliflower because of my impossible weakness for the underdog in every situation. It seems cauliflower doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and if there’s anyone who will side with the losing team, its me. Cauliflower is making a slow come-back these days, as it should, because it is extremely versatile and can be incredibly tasty when treated properly. I like to think that I am playing my part by making this warm toasty curry. This dish is packed with flavor, spice and color, and it’s just the thing to chase away the blues that can come with too many rainy days.

Ingredients

2 medium yellow zucchinis
1/2 head cauliflower
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
2/3 cup pure carrot juice (about 2 large carrots steamed and juiced)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ginger
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In a medium size pot, simmer together the tomatoes, carrot juice, and half of the minced garlic on low heat. Stir in one tsp of curry powder along with the cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander and ginger. Dice the zucchini and divide the cauliflower into small florets. (I used blended cauliflower that I had on hand from my cauliflower pizza crust, which also worked fine). Heat olive oil over a stove top and saute the zucchini for about 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oil and add to the pot with the tomato curry sauce. While oil is still hot, add the onion. Saute for about two minutes, then add the cauliflower to the pan and saute for about 8 minutes. Lightly salt, then add the garlic and saute together for a few more minutes until brown. Add to the tomato curry. Stir everything together and add the second teaspoon of curry powder, the rest of the salt, and the chopped kale. Simmer on low until kale has wilted. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Serves 4
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Winter Ratatouille

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I say winter ratatouille because of one key distinction between this dish and the alternative I might make in the summer.  I used canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes, and because of this, I also altered the technique for the layering of the vegetables.  If you know me well, you know that I love and respect tomatoes too much to disgrace their good name by buying a fresh tomato in the winter.  The winter offers tasteless mealy pale imitations that come from God knows where.  Don’t do it.

I began with Julia’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking simply because she throws each group of vegetables over some hot olive oil and sautes them slightly before putting them together in the stew, thereby calling forth the separate flavors of each before they are combined together.  I like that, and it certainly worked for me here. After that, I kind of did my own thing, not because I think I can do it better than Julia, but because my amateur self is still bad at following directions.

Disclaimer: I did not use parsley.  Can you call it ratatouille without the parsley? I’m not sure.  I didn’t have any, but to be fair I did use lots and lots of thyme in its place, and in my book you can never go wrong with thyme.  In fact, it might taste even better this way. I’ll try to remember to do a taste comparison at some point.

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant
2 large zucchinis
1 orange bell pepper (any bell pepper works; I chose orange for aesthetic purposes)
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 head garlic (you can douse it with olive oil, slice off the rough end of the head, and stick it in the oven at 400° for 10 minutes and then the cloves will slip right out of their casings)
7 tbsp olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 handful fresh thyme
1 tbsp salt

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(^^Hannah helped slice even with her Hulk arm. What a trooper.^^)

Preheat oven to 350.° Slice the vegetables into thin circles and separate them. Toss them with a light sprinkling of salt, basil and oregano. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on a stovetop. Taking one bowl at a time, lay the vegetables over the hot oil and brown them slightly on both sides. Add more oil to the pan as needed, and heat before sauteing. Use a deep baking dish (its actually a casserole dish but I hate the word “casserole”) and layer the vegetables into it, starting with the eggplant, the zucchini, the tomatoes, the peppers and then the onions. After the first layer, top with whole roasted garlic cloves. Slice them once or twice if they are very large. Remove the thyme leaves from half of the sprigs of thyme and sprinkle over the top. Repeat the entire process. Cover the dish and set in the oven for 40 minutes. Enjoy!
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(^^Before it’s been cooked^^)
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(^^Also good over salad^^)

Valentine’s Day and Salmon

Valentine’s Day is pretty much all we have to hold us over until St Patrick’s Day, which can get us through till spring, so it needs to be the gift that keeps on giving.
That said, hopefully everyone got their fair share of flowers and oysters and wine and love this week. My Valentine’s Day included salmon, chocolate and dancing.  Salmon is wonderful because its oemga-3 fatty acids and rich mineral content make it a very good meal to eat during the winter, and yet for me it is associated with summer and the ocean.

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(^^Notice how even my attire is salmon-colored^^)

So not only is salmon is breath of summer during the cold months, but it also happens to be an apt Valentine’s Day meal.  Its blushing color, soft meat and inviting taste make it a love of a fish. Plus it is very versatile. It is delicious with the simplest of ingredients; a squeeze of lemon and some pepper over a stove top are enough to turn it into a proper meal, and if yet you play around with spices and cooking methods you can easily render it a whole new dish. I like to simply pepper the salmon, poach it in lemon juice and top it with lots of fresh cilantro and garlic. My mom uses it to make fish tacos alongside a black bean and salsa blend. This week we were out of lemons, so my dad prepared a filet of salmon with butter, oregano and the citric juices of an orange. The orange added a pleasant zest to the meal. We ate it with some roasted asparagus. Don’t even get me started on asparagus….it was one of my first vegetable loves along with the tomato and I remain smitten to this day.

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May this year be full of lots of fiery loving.

Red Lentil Soup

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To all those practicing Catholics out there, welcome to lent.  To everyone else, today is the annual “Find People With Black Spots On Their Foreheads Day.”  Happy hunting!

While I am not of the opinion that lentils should be reserved for the lenten period, I do believe that lent is a great excuse to make absolutely delicious heartwarming bowls of steaming goodness. When my iron levels dropped dangerously low in Lebanon, my adopted Lebanese family made sure I ate lots and lots of lentils. It wasn’t hard to do, because Lebanon is a genius in the lentil department, and I was soon introduced to many different dishes. Lentils have lots of iron as well as high levels of fiber, folate, and magnesium. They also contain potassium and calcium and are generally great all around.  This red lentil soup is so comforting and tasty that you should try it even if you aren’t a big fan of the more traditional hearty lentil soups.

Ingredients

2 cups red lentils
6 1/2 cups water
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt (or more if you prefer)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper

*The measurements for the spices are not very exact. I added a lot of cumin, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper. You can adjust according to your taste.
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Pour the olive oil into a pot and add the onion. Stir over medium heat until the onion is almost translucent. Mince the garlic cloves and add them along with the spices. Add the water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about half an hour. Use an immersion blender to bring the pot to a smooth, creamy texture. Serve hot.

Serves 4 generously

Lentil Patties with Sesame Seared Eggplant and Cauliflower Pesto

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This hearty meal with a glorious nutritional profile is best reserved for a day when you have a voracious appetite.  There is something about those days.  It’s the feeling of hunger, the tantalizing smells wafting from the oven, the ticking of the clock as everything is preparing itself for your plate…and finally the moment when you can sit down and eat till you are satiated and content.  Hmm…sounds familiar.  I will be heading to the kitchen right now!

Ingredients

*If you wish to make this a vegan recipe, simply use the substitutes I posted and omit the parmesan cheese.  You will probably need to add some salt if you leave out the cheese.

Sesame Seared Eggplant

1 large eggplant, sliced
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 eggs/egg subsitutes
2 tbsp butter/coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425°  Combine parmesan cheese and sesame seeds in a small bowl.  Whisk eggs together in a separate bowl.  Melt butter in frying pan.  Submerge eggplant slices in egg and then in sesame parmesan mixture.  Fry on both sides until seeds are crusted onto the eggplant.  Lay the slices on a cooking tray and roast for 10 minutes.

Cauliflower Pesto

1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 large handful thyme sprigs
1 cup whole milk/ almond milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425° Cut the cauliflower, rub with olive oil, and lay on a cooking tray to roast in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to food processor.  Add the thyme, garlic, milk and cheese.  Blend until smooth.

Lentil Patties

1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp butter/ coconut oil
2 eggs/ egg substitutes

Cook the lentils and rice together with the broth in a pot on low for about an hour or until the moisture has absorbed.  Add the eggs and stir until everything has thickened.  Form into patties and brown with butter in a frying pan on both sides.

Place each patty on a slice of sesame seared eggplant and top with cauliflower pesto and some spinach leaves if desired. Top with a second slice of eggplant.  The roasted cauliflower pesto also makes a delicious dip or sandwich spread.  Just be sure not to leave out the thyme because in my opinion, it’s the key to the whole dish. Enjoy!

Serves 6 generously

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Quinoa Pilaf

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A note about the presentation of food: Prior to starting this blog, I didn’t give all too much thought to the aesthetic appeal of my plate unless I was dining with company. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that good quality takes a bit of mindfulness. I remember being on vacation with my family a few years ago in New Hampshire. It was probably one of the last years where all twelve children were present. My dad came up with the idea of doing a cook-off every night. The kids were divided into two teams, and for about 4 nights we had to cook dinner for everyone. We could prepare anything we liked as long as both teams used the same elements for the main dish, the starch, and the vegetable (a true American dinner plate balancing act). The judges were my parents, my uncle, and my grandmother. We were graded on taste, creativity and presentation. We learned a lot about the importance of all three aspects, as we lost points if our delicious dinners looked like sludge or lacked color, or if our beautifully presented plates were subpar on the taste buds…or if we always opted for familiarity instead of exploring outside the boundaries of our culinary comfort zones. It was a memorable, fun and educational experience. Although in my case, I distinctly remember my younger brother taking over our whole team and barely trusting me to so much as crack an egg. Oh well.

In any case, a little touch, be it as simple as the addition of a placemat, goes a long way. Food offers itself as one of the chief pleasures of life if it is treated as such. Or so I am learning. The ritual of mealtime is utterly ordinary, and yet it is the very thing that brings friends and family together and often becomes the medium that binds us to each other. Of course Mary Fisher (who I realize is rapidly becoming the muse here) has something to say on this: “It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and the richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and then it is all one” (excerpt from the Forward to The Gastronomical Me).   If, in the busyness of our days, we can be a bit more mindful of all the invisible yet sacred things taking place in the tedium of the ordinary, and honor them, our lives will be all the better for it.

I meant to write about quinoa but got off-topic.

Quinoa Pilaf

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 medium onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp thyme

Pour the water into a medium size pot and add the quinoa. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, and then add the diced tomatoes, undrained. Stir in the oregano and thyme. Let everything simmer for about 10 minutes. Chop the peppers and onions and saute using the olive oil. When they are just beginning to brown, add the garlic and salt. Stir for 5 minutes, then add everything to the pot of quinoa. Let it simmer on low for around 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and most of the moisture is absorbed. Enjoy!
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