Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chilled Late Summer Squash Soup

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with my good friend Neelima Pandit. It's always such a joy to hang out with her! We went out for Persian cuisine (yum!), saw a fascinating documentary (The Queen of Versailles - I highly recommend it!), chatted over a wide range of subjects (beads, gardening, our kids, home renovation, our continuing education and postural health - don't you wish you were there too?!). Finally, Neelima served up a delightful bowl of a chilled vegetable puree soup that she blessed with a splash of coconut milk. OMG!!! I want to have this every day as long as the summer zucchini keeps putting out!

Neelima served her soup with some coconut milk for added creaminess. Then we talked about what we would to for variations on this theme. Regretfully, I didn't write Neelima's recipe down at the time, but this is what I made this morning from memory...

2 Tbs. Spanish extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 summer squash, roughly chopped (Any combination of zucchini and summer squash will do. I didn't use any of the seedier parts.)
8 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped
Organic chicken or vegetable stock, just enough to cover the vegetables.
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Coconut milk as a garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Stir it around until is just starts to soften. Add the celery to cook until just starting to soften. Add all the squash and cook that, stirring occasionally, until that softens slightly as well. Next, stir in the tomatoes and let that cook in for about 5 minutes. Pour in the stock until it just covers the vegetables and add the bay leaves. Turn the heat down to simmer and let the soup simmer for about 40 minutes, until all the vegetables are nice and soft. Add the parsley once the vegetables are cooked soft and squeeze in the lemon juice. Fish out the bay leaves. Turn off the stove and let the soup cool for about 10 minutes.

Puree the vegetable soup in with an immersion blender right in the pot. (If you don't have one of these, for heaven's sake, what are you waiting for! Go get one! SO MUCH EASIER AND CLEANER than running this soup through a food processor or blender.) Let the soup cool to room temperature, then taste it for seasoning. (When it's cooled, that's the best time to decide how much salt and pepper it really needs.) Then transfer it to a pitcher and chill it in the refrigerator.

When you're ready to serve, pour the soup right from the pitcher into your bowl. Garnish the soup with a healthy tablespoon of coconut milk swirled around in the bowl.

*Options: The recipe, as it stands, makes a very Mediterranean-flavored soup. To give it a more Asian twist,  add some ginger and lemongrass to the oil, add a few chilies in the pot, maybe a Kafir lime leaf with a bay leaf, use cilantro instead of parsley, lime instead of lemon.

You might wonder if your family would like this. I just fed it to my finicky eater for breakfast this morning. He's got a head cold and wanted soup. He wanted chicken noodle soup from the can, but I made this instead. And he just asked me for a second helping!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Oven-Roasted Spinach

Last week I received a HUGE portion of greens in my CSA box, both spinach and Russian kale. And then there were three big heads of lettuce, the tops on the beets and turnips, etc. I barely touched the spinach when I got another share of veggies that included even MORE spinach.

If only I were dating Popeye...

This is how I like to cook spinach lately. It's soooooooo simple, yet just fabulous!

Big bunches of spinach, well washed and picked through
Garlic cloves, chopped - up to you how many...I'm not dating anyone soooooo...
Olive oil
Sea salt

Turn your oven on to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the spinach with the garlic, a good pinch of sea salt and about 3 Tbs. olive oil. Toss them all really well until the spinach shines a bit from the oil.

Evenly spread the whole mess onto a baking sheet, like a jelly roll pan so the olive oil won't drain out and mess up your oven. Pop the pan in the hot oven and set your timer for 3 to 5 minutes. Depends on how much spinach you're working with. When you take it out, give a good mix, making sure the spinach from the edges of the pan gets moved to the middle and the middle moves out to the sides. Bake for another 3 minutes, or until the outer leaves start to dry out just a little.

It's ready to eat! The depth of flavor and texture or roasted spinach is really wonderful. I want to eat it like this all the time! Great as a side dish for dinner, but also good as a base for poached eggs or a filler for omelets.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Zucchini roasted with bruschetta sauce

I found some lovely little pots of piquillo and artichoke bruschetta at World Market a few weeks ago. I let it sit and marinate in my pantry for a bit. Wasn't sure what to do with it since I'm not eating bread these days. But I'm happy to report that I've found what to do with it and now I'm going back to World Market to clean them out of this product! The bruschetta has sunflower oil in it, no soy (yeah!) or dairy or gluten or preservatives.

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and diced (Probably nice to do this with eggplant, chayote, green beans or, for those so inclined, okra.)(I know, not a fan of the okra, but the sauce is good enough to mask it!)
1/2 jar Cucina & Amore Piquillo and Artichoke Bruschetta

Heat oven to 350-degrees F. Mix the zucchini with the sauce and pour it into a baking dish. Bake for an hour.

Really, that's it. So tasty! Would be lovely served with a piece of salmon or chicken. In fact, you could put your meat in the baking dish about 30 minutes into the baking, spoon the sauce over the top and let it finish baking.

I'm thinking a glass of Van Ruiten Double Barrel Chardonnay would be nice with this too!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The classic French omelet - Paleo-style

I'm not going to tell you how to make the omelet. I'll leave that to the expert below, Jacques Pepin. But to make it Paleo, here are the ingredients:

1 tsp. rendered duck fat
3 pastured eggs
chopped chives
filling of your choice

Damn! He's good! I need more practice.

Chilled Cream of Leek and Zucchini Soup

Another recipe to use up those ever-invading zucchini. I have found lots of leek soup recipes that involved potatoes, but since I'm not eating those things right now, I had to substitute something to help add veggie-volume, and the zucchini that I got from the CSA last week were screaming, "Pick me! Pick me!" It worked!

This recipe serves, as a first course, six slightly inebriated hungry middle-aged Mermaids who are watching their figures...

Leeks, 4 cups, chopped
Zucchini, 2 to 4, chopped
1 Tbs. olive oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, low sodium
2 cups half and half (*but to make it strictly Paleo, use Aroy-D Preservative-Free Coconut Milk)
Zest of one lemon, finely minced
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pot, heat the oil to medium heat. Add the leeks and stir around for about a minute, till it starts to soften. Then add the zucchini, also stirring into the leeks and oil. Put a lid on the pot, turn the heat down a little, and let the vegetables cook for 7 - 10 minutes (depending on how much zucchini you used), until soft. You'll need to pick up the lid and stir everything around a few times to make sure it doesn't burn.

Add the stock, put the lid on the pot and let the whole thing simmer for another 10 minutes. Take it off the stove and let it cool enough so you can work with it. In small batches, run the soup in the blender (or use a stick blender right in the pot - my favorite method) until it's quite smooth. It's important to run small batches in the blender so that your soup doesn't explode through the lid!

Return the soup to the pot. Add the half and half plus the nutmeg, stirring in well. Taste for seasoning. I added about 1/4 tsp. white pepper, but black is fine, and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Add the lemon zest. Pour the soup into a container and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least four hours to chill properly.

You can serve this from a pretty clear glass pitcher and pour it into shorter clear glasses, or even martini glasses. Garnish with chives or dill and a lemon slice. You could also top it with just a little chopped smoked salmon or some caviar.

*If you make this soup with the coconut milk, skip the nutmeg, add some ginger slices and lemongrass sticks to the pot while it's simmering (but remove them when ready to blend), add lime zest instead of lemon, and garnish with cilantro sprigs and a few drops of chili oil.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cucumber Pineapple Salad

My cook in Indonesia used to make a salad similar to this for lunch at least once a week. The traditional recipe calls for adding sugar in the dressing, but I always found the Indonesian pineapple was more than sweet enough. Pineapple from the US isn't as sweet, but I still don't add sugar. It's up to you.

By the way, this is spicy! The recipe is Sumatran in nature, so chilies are required!

2 cucumbers
1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or canned
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped coarsely
1 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
Juice of a lime
2 Tbs. safflower oil
salt and white pepper to taste

Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut them in half again, lengthwise, then dice into 1/2" pieces. Put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add to that the pineapple, green onions and cilantro. In a small container, blend the Sriracha, lime juice and oil. Pour over the salad. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour for flavors to meld.

Serves 4 to 6

Friday, August 12, 2011

Zucchini Yogurt Dip

I just worked this recipe out today. Not very Paleo-diet with the yogurt, but I live in 2011 and I needs me some dip sometimes!

(Thanks to Sheri, Ramona, Alyce, Sharon, Eileen and Jill for being the brave tasters.)

This is a delicate-tasting dip, so you don't want to serve it with anything too powerful. Good for dipping veggies, but crackers or toast would be okay. I imagine it would be good on a baked potato too!

3 medium-sized zucchini, trimmed and shredded
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I used the full-fat kind, but I supposed you could go with a lower fat, if you're into that)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet at medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add shredded zucchini and saute for a few minutes, just until soft and barely cooked through. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt to soften. Fold in zucchini, then walnuts. Add oregano, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.