Brunching on Easter

My sister is a pretty amazing cook.  Like really amazing.  I’m staying with her in Portland for a couple of weeks as I transition from Peace Corps back to real, fast-paced American life.  Just thought I’d share this meal we ate recently for Easter morning brunch.  Bacon-wrapped Eggs with Polenta and Spring Greens with Sherry Vinaigrette from Bon Appetit magazine.  Yum!

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Japanese…..y Soup!

The other day I found miso paste in my refrigerator.  I obviously forgot about it because normally I use those type of things right up!  It was unopened and something I picked up from an Asian market not too long ago.  Instead of making ol’ traditional miso soup, I cooked up this asian inspired sauté with miso broth.  It was so delicious, I ended up making it the very next day for a dinner guest.  It’s quite fast, healthy, and tasty!  And no really obscure, hard-to-find, asian ingredients required.

Japanese-Style Chickpeas and Vegetables in Miso Broth

2 Tbsp oil
1 very large green onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
I large carrot, sliced diagonally
1 large bell pepper, cut in 2-inch strips
1 16-oz can chickpeas
2 heaping Tbsp miso paste
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp Five spice powder*
Couple dashes of hot sauce
¾ cup white wine
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups water

In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the green onion and garlic, sauté 3-5 minutes over medium-low until the onion is soft.  Add the carrot and bell pepper, sauté another 5 minutes.  Add the chickpeas, sauté another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the miso paste, hoisin sauce, dried basil, five-spice powder, hot sauce, white wine, and salt and pepper.  Simmer on low until the wine reduces to about 1/3 of a cup and the mixture is coated in a thick liquid, but not too liquidy (the carrots and bell pepper should be slightly crunchy and al dente).  Add the water and simmer on low uncovered 15 minutes or until steaming hot.  Add more salt and pepper if desired.

*An asian spice whose main ingredients are star anise, cloves, cassia, Szechwan pepper and fennel seeds.  Can be found in most stores that have a good variety of spices.  This is one brand:


Whole Wheat Zucchini Twists and Drunken Tomato Jam

It’s been another one of my experimenting days.  I’ve been into that a lot lately.  I must be going through a phase in my life…everything I do lately in the kitchen is about experimenting!  I never used to be this way.  It’s been fun though, and keeps things fresh and interesting.

Though, honestly this invention isn’t that unique or interesting.  It is however, delicious, hearty, versatile – both the jam and and the mini loaves can be paired in a number of different ways…not just together as I have them posted.

I was inspired by a recipe for tomato jam I saw recently, and so with the plethora of cherry tomatoes from my garden I had to put them to good use!   I added my own little touch of red wine when I opened the fridge to grab something and old bottle of red wine I had stashed in the fridge for cooking was staring right back at me screaming, “USE ME UP!”  So, I did.  I think it turned out quite delicious!  And baking fresh yeast bread is one of the easiest things – if you can read, you can do it.  So read on.  And furthermore, kneading fresh dough is quite a meditative process!  So meditate on!

First, the tomato jam recipe:

Drunken Tomato Jam

2 pints cherry tomatoes
3 large sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 tsp salt

Place everything in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer until thick about 30-40 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Now for the bread recipe:

Whole Wheat Zucchini Twists

1 medium zucchini, grated
2 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour

Shred the zucchini and place in a colander with the salt to drain excess water.

In a large bowl mix yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup water, stir to dissolve.  Set aside 5-10 minutes until quite bubbly.

Add flour, zucchini and remaining 1/4 cup warm water to yeast mixture.  Mix well.  Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes until elastic, adding flour as necessary.  Place in a greased bowl, turn to coat all sides.  Cover with a towel and set aside 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

When doubled in size, punch dough down with one fist and turn onto floured surface again.  Divide dough into 4-inch long (or larger if you want larger loaves….these ones are small, like mini, personal loaves), skinny logs.  Then take two logs and pinch to top together.  Twist together (one log over the other) creating a twisted loaf.  Pinch the other end together.  Repeat with the remaining logs until all used up.  Set loaves on a baking pan, covered, in a warm place to rise another 45 minutes.

Whisk egg white well in a small bowl.  With a pastry brush, gently brush egg on the risen loaves, being very careful not to flatten them.  They will be fragile so don’t brush too hard!  The egg white will allow the loaves to have a nice golden, glossy finish.

Place in preheated oven at 325.  Bake about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Watch these carefully because the time may vary…(my oven does clearly register temperature, so I kind of have to guesstimate this one).

When finished serve warm with the slightly cooled  tomato jam.  Bon Appetit!


Something savory….soup!

When it comes to food, everyone has their tastes.  Savory, sweet, bitter, you name it.  And on that spectrum of tastes, people seem to lie far to one side or the other.  On my spectrum, I have a propensity to be faaaaaar beyond the sweet end.  It’s true, I crave healthy sweet treats – honey in my tea, marmalade on my toast, a bite of organic, dark chocolate here and there, and home-baked sweets constantly, and I’m known to always have some home-baked goods on hand (great for those unexpected visitors).  Every breakfast of mine includes something sweet like honey, marmalade, cereal, smoothies.  Give me oatmeal and pancakes over eggs any day, unless of course they include a sweet, creamy cheese.

I’ve realized that nearly every post on this blog thus far has been something sweet, breakfasty, desserty, snacky.  So, for this post, I’m going to give you a bit of my savory side of life…something I create daily for lunches and dinners, but never quite feel the urge to post.  A friend inspired me to do so.

I know we’re coming into Spring and most people aren’t thinking about soup – frozen life is no longer blanketed in snow, the flowers are beginning to bloom, the sun is showing its face after being in-hiding for 6 months, the birds are singing, and drops of rain may be falling here and there.  But I am thinking about soup these days.  I love soup any time of year.  It is pure comfort food that warms the body and soul.  So, I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do.

Ginger Red Lentil Soup with Basil Cream

20 large basil leaves, very finely minced
1/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
pinch of salt

To make the Basil cream, mix all in a small bowl, let sit, chilling until ready for use.

2 cups red split lentils
7 cups water
2 vegetable bullion cubes (for 4 cups of H20)
3 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium carrot minced

2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small can tomato paste
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

Rinse lentils until water until water is no longer murky.  In a large saucepan brings lentils and water to a boil.  Add bullion, ginger and carrot and reduce to a simmer, covered for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in separate pan, toast curry powder until fragrant over medium-low heat.  Set aside.  Add butter to same skillet, add onions and garlic and saute until translucent.  Add tomato paste, then toasted curry powder.  Mix well.  Add yogurt until thoroughly mixed.

Add onion mixture to soup.  Stir well. Can add more water to your liking (I liked it rather thick).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Top with a dollop of basil cream, and enjoy with warm crusty bread.