Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Roasted tomato soup

This is a five-ingredient recipe and the oven does most of the work roasting the tomatoes. All you do to finish the soup is take a stab blender and whiz it all up. The apartment smelled delicious with the aromas of tomato, balsamic and garlic wafting around.

Roasted tomato soup

21 roma tomatoes
two cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
a handful of fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In the bottom of a big roasting pan, add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and crushed garlic. Tip: It's good to crush the garlic (not mince it) so that it stays in large pieces and doesn't burn in the oven.

Wash the tomatoes and quarter them, adding them to the roasting pan. When all the tomatoes are in the pan, toss them around in the marinade. I just use my hands for this.

Put in the oven for 50 minutes.

Transfer to a stock pot. Blend with a stab blender and reheat. Ladle into bowls and top each with a pinch of basil chiffonade.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Banana bread

One of my goals while on maternity leave is to teach myself how to bake. I had a massive fail with chocolate chip cookies the other day. I thought it wasn't possible to screw up chocolate chip cookies but if anyone will find a way, it's me. Anyways, the banana bread I made on Wednesday turned out really well! It's a Joy of Cooking recipe and has walnut pieces and lemon zest. It has renewed my confidence in baking. Not sure yet what my next effort will be but I'll keep you posted!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Salade niçoise

The other day I watched an episode of Poirot where he ate a salade niçoise to "nourish the little grey cells" (The Tragedy at Marsden Manor for all you fans). I had to make it! I assembled it on Saturday morning and we ate it for lunch.

It saves time if you already have hard-boiled eggs and cold cooked potatoes in the fridge. I tossed almost every ingredient separately in some of the vinaigrette before composing the salad.

Salade niçoise is a composed salad, meaning ingredients are placed beside each other instead of tossed. I think it's a more interesting way of eating because it turns the salad into a more tapas-like experience. Composed salads have also been the subject of some very engaging culinary writing. I found this article in The Guardian and this one in the NY Times

It might be hard to tell by the picture but it was a very big salad and we surprised ourselves by eating the whole thing in one sitting!

Salade niçoise
serves two

two handfuls green beans, topped and tailed
10-12 cold cooked little red potatoes, halved
two tomatoes
half a red onion, sliced
two eggs
handful quartered marinated artichoke hearts
handful marinated Kalamata olives
four anchovies from a jar
flaked tuna from a jar
one Boston lettuce head, leaves lightly torn

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
a pinch of Dijon mustard
one clove garlic, minced
a shake of cracked black pepper
100 ml olive oil

Mix the vinaigrette and set aside. Fill a big bowl with ice and water.

Blanche the green beans for two minutes in boiling water until bright green. Remove from the boiling water with a sieve spoon and put in the ice water to stop the cooking process. Set the beans aside.

Using the same pot of boiling water, skin the tomatoes. Cut a small "X" in the skin at each end. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water for 30 seconds. Then put them in the bowl of ice water for a minute or two. Peel away the skins. Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Set aside.

Hard boil the eggs. Peel and halve. Set aside.

Wash the lettuce and dry the leaves, tearing the big ones in half.

Put some vinaigrette in a bowl. Add the salad leaves and lightly toss. Place the leaves in the bottom of a shallow serving dish. Toss the beans, then the potatoes, and lastly the tomatoes and onions together in the vinaigrette before placing each ingredient on top of the lettuce. Finally, arrange the remaining ingredients on the leaves: tuna, olives, artichokes, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies. Serve with crusty bread.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Minestrone soup

This is the first time I've made minestrone. The highlight for me was the cannellini beans. I'd like to keep working on this recipe and make it with no potatoes next time so I can freeze it. I freeze my bacon strips so it's easy to slice them into a paper-clip size when needed. I have to remember to make this in summer when the vegetables will be in season!

Minestrone soup

2 onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2-3 strips of bacon, sliced into paperclip-sized strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
one bunch Swiss chard or kale, ribs discarded and leaves chopped
one can of white beans
one can of chickpeas
piece of parmesan cheese, diced
8-9 cups of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
chopped fresh herbs - thyme, rosemary, parsley
two cups of small new potatoes, halved
two cups of rotini pasta
olive oil for frying

Fry the bacon in the bottom of a stock pot on medium heat. Drain off and discard all but one tablespoon of the fat. Add a bit of olive oil to the pan. Add the mirepoix - celery, carrots, onions - and garlic and fry seven to 10 minutes until softened but not browned.

In the meantime, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with some of the chicken stock. Set aside.

When the mirepoix mixture has softened, add the Swiss chard, whole beans, chickpeas and potatoes, stirring for a couple turns around the pot after adding each ingredient to combine. Add the chicken stock, blended beans, parmesan, bay leaves and herbs. Bring to a boil and let simmer bout 45 minutes. Add the pasta at the beginning of the last 12 minutes of cooking.

Discard the bay leaves before eating.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chicken fried rice

This is a dish from my childhood. My mom used to make it for dinner all the time when I was growing up. I didn't appreciate it enough back then, but now I crave it. Here's our family recipe, which is simple and delicious. I try to remember to make extra rice with the previous day's meal in order to have some cold cooked rice ready to be crumbled in.

A note on the amounts — these are really approximate. Feel free to increase the chicken, mushrooms and rice if you want to feed more people.

Chicken fried rice with egg on top

serves two

1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
a few leaves of Napa cabbage, chopped into small strips (optional)
4 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of shredded cooked chicken
soy sauce
hot sauce (my mom uses Louisiana; I use Sriracha)
a few handfuls of cooked rice
olive oil for frying
fried egg for topping (optional)

Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Fry garlic and onion until glassy. Add the hot sauce and chicken and stir. Add cabbage and/or green onion and stir. Add mushrooms and stir. Crumble in the rice and stir. Turn the heat down (around 3.5). Add soy sauce, salt and pepper and stir. Serve topped with a fried egg.

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