Monthly Archives: March 2010

Store-Bought Spotlight: Moroccan Chickpea Bisque



Every once I’ll pass by the minuscule section of Meijer that has interesting vegan soups, power bars, etc. and have something jump out at me. On one recent day, it was this box of Imagine Bistro‘s Organic Moroccan Chickpea Bisque.

The first time I had it, I ate it plain and it was good. I wanted it to be thicker for some reason (I have no idea), but it was really flavorful. Loaded with veggies, cumin, chipotle peppers and many more spices it was a little exotic (for lack of a better word) and I really liked it.

When I went back for round two a couple of days later, I noticed the box’s suggestion to add raw chopped onion, lemon juice, a bit of olive oil and fresh cilantro to kick it up a notch. I didn’t have any cilantro on hand, but added the others (though it seems red onion is preferred if the photo on the box is any indication and I only had white). This changed the flavor of the soup quite a bit but was really, really good. (I had horrible onion breath afterward though!)

I think this soup would make a great base for an even heartier chunky soup you could make at home with it. According to its Web site, the company makes all kinds of soups and broths, including Cuban black bean, chipotle corn bisque and creamy butternut squash. I can’t wait to try more of them!

You can check out all of the nutritional info for the soup here.

Brown Butter Linguine

Flipping through my squeeze’s most recent copy of Esquire, I actually came across a delicious-sounding recipe in the “Eat Like a Man” feature. I’m not sure how bucatini with brown butter, spinach, walnuts and capers is necessarily “manly” — maybe because the recipe comes from Chef Joey Campanaro of New York’s The Little Owl.

I chose whole wheat linguine instead of bucatini, but maybe next time I’ll look a little harder. Other than that, I followed Chef Campanaro’s directions as best I could!

Ingredients:
3/4 lb. salted butter
1 lb. pasta
1 lemon
1 Tbsp. drained capers
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
4 oz. baby spinach
4 sage leaves
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook pasta to al dente according to directions in heavily salted water.

2. In a small stockpot with tall sides (I used my trusty enamel pot that I use for everything now), melt 3/4 lb. butter over medium heat (three sticks!). According to Campanaro, all of the water has to be cooked out of butter for it to brown, but you have to make sure you don’t let it burn.

3. The butter will get really foamy as it cooks. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir the butter in a wave-like motion to help the foam subside. Do this for eight to 10 minutes, until the butter is a nice amber color.

4. Keep cooking the butter for a few minutes more. You’ll notice it looks kind of “sandy” as it browns and some bits may start to stick to the bottom of the pan, which is OK.

Campanaro says “once you get the butter where you want it” add the juice of one lemon to stop the browning. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to want it to be, but when it seemed sufficiently brown, I added the lemon juice. This made the butter foam like crazy, then quickly reduce to a calm brown pool.

5. Lower the heat and add capers and walnuts, letting their flavor infuse the butter for a minute, then turn off heat completely. Maybe he didn’t want the tangy capers to overpower the dish, but we love capers and have decided next time I’ll add a lot more.

6. Immediately add 5 oz. baby spinach (I threw the whole 10 oz. bag in though…) and four torn sage leaves, tossing to wilt.

7. Add drained pasta and cheese, then toss to coat. Season with pepper.


Cooking Club: Cilantro Lime Dressing and Tahini Dressing

I decided to bring salad to Cooking Club S01E02, but couldn’t decided on one recipe (and heaven forbid I only make one and someone not like it!). Aside from half my silken tofu oozing down the drain when I was getting my ingredients together, I think they both turned out well! Two totally different dressings, obviously, but I think the tahini was my favorite of the two.

I got cilantro lime dressing from MarthaStewart.com:

Makes 2 cups

  • Half of a 10-ounce container of soft silken tofu, drained
  • 1/3 c. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 c. chopped shalots
  • 1 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper In a blender, combine tofu, lime juice, 1/3 cup water, shalots, mustard, vinegar, and half the cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Stir in remaining cilantro.
There were several tahini recipes online, and, honestly, I don’t remember where I found this recipe. But here it is!

I think the only thing I did differently was that I added extra spices — garlic powder, powdered ginger, that kind of thing, in addition to the fresh that I had (because I was running low on fresh ginger). The directions said these proportions are a guide only and all ingredients are optional.

1 Tbsp. of tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 medium sized cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated or crushed
1/2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp. sesame or peanut oil (optional)
2 Tbsp. of water
salt & pepper to taste

1. Put everything in a bottle or container with a lid and shake it vigorously for about 30 seconds or until it’s all mixed.

2. Use it liberally! This makes about half a cup – at least enough for a big salad, and any leftover will keep in the fridge, just shake it well before use.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Green Curry Tofu

I have been craving Thai food for weeks, but, for one reason or another, it hasn’t worked out. Dinner plans changed, I was too whipped to make the effort to even pick up carry out (much less look up a phone number), or couldn’t decide where to turn after becoming disillusioned with our (former) go-to Thai joint in Royal Oak (any suggestions???)

So, today I picked up some green curry paste for the first time (finally!) and even getting stuck in a traffic jam until 8 p.m. couldn’t stop me from making it when I got home. Those who are industrious could certainly make their own green curry paste (it includes things like Thai ginger, lemongrass, green chilies, coriander, garlic, onion, cumin and so much more). I generally let Thai Kitchen do the work for me when it comes to curry paste. (They make a ready to pour sauce too, but I prefer doing it this way for this type of curry).

It turned out great, if I do say so myself. I loosely followed some recipes, but here’s what I ended up doing (which is about double any normal 2-person serving. I had high hopes and decided to load us up for dinner and lunch for the next couple of days. Good thing it worked out!)

I’m not preachy when it comes to being vegetarian (and I even like to have meaty options for guests depending on the situation), but for those who wonder, “What in the world does someone who’s vegan possibly eat?” — this recipe is a fine answer to that question. And it tastes way better than any old grilled chicken breast** (I’m just saying).

2 14 oz. cans coconut milk (I happened to have one lite and one regular)
3 Tbsp. green curry paste (I’ll see tomorrow if it gets spicier overnight, but next time I might go with 3 1/2 or 4)
1 pkg. extra firm tofu, cubed
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. vegetarian oyster sauce (I get mine from Kai Sun Oriental Market in Troy. If you can’t find any, some recipes say you                                                                   can use 1/3 of the amount of soy sauce instead.)
1 8 oz. can bamboo shoots
1 c. frozen peas
1 small onion chopped
1-2 peppers sliced (I went with 1 red and 1/2 an orange – next time I’ll do more)
2/3 c. vegetable broth

1. In a large saucepan or pot, blend the coconut milk and curry paste and heat to medium heat.

2. I then eyeballed roughly 3 Tbsp. each of brown sugar and oyster sauce and blended.

3. Add tofu, onions and peppers. I thought I would add this first, so it would have the most time to cook (in the case of the veggies) and to soak up the curry goodness (in the case of the tofu). It’s science.

4. I then threw in the bamboo, peas and veg stock. I kind of feel like it could do without the stock, but I’m thinking maybe it cuts the thickness of the coconut milk. Either way, it came out tasting really good, so I guess I’ll leave it in!

5. I let it hang out over medium/low heat for about 20 minutes, just to get the spices blended and the onions and peppers a little soft. I think you could put just about any vegetable in this and it would taste good. I just tried to keep it simple and included the things I think of when I think “green curry.”

6. Serve over rice (I went with brown) in a bowl and it’s kind of soup like if you ladel in tons o’ sauce like me. Enjoy!

** That being said, meat-eaters could easily substitute chicken for the tofu in this recipe. 🙂

Cooking Club: Vegan Pot Pie

Here’s a take Michelle did on Chef Roberto Martin’s Vegan Pot Pie after he was on “Ellen” for our second Cooking Club gathering at Grace’s abode.

She called it a “pile o’ pie problem,” but even though it may have been a bit messy it was DELICIOUS. This recipe must be easier than any meaty version, and I imagine a meat-eater wouldn’t even miss it.

Michelle’s version, below, is only slightly different from the original recipe (which includes “Gardien” chicken scallopini).

1.5 T olive oil
2 c. diced onion
1 c. diced celery
5 tsp. minced garlic (I love garlic!)
4 Tbsp. flour
1 ea. 10 oz. bag frozen peas and carrots (or whatever you like)
2 c. veggie broth
2 Portobello mushrooms sliced length-wise
1 pkg. Pillsbury pie crust (2 crusts)
Melted vegan butter as needed

Preheat oven to 420

1. Using a small stock pot, heat oil and saute onion and celery until translucent.

2. In a separate pan, saute the mushrooms with garlic and olive oil until well cooked.

3. Add garlic to celery/ onion mixture and sauté two minutes more.

4. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.

5. Pour in stock and stir. Simmer until filling has thickened.

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add frozen vegetables and mushrooms and stir.

7. Take pie crust, unroll and place in 9″ baking pan. Bake empty bottom crust for 5 minutes (so nothing gets soggy), remove from oven, add vegetable mixture and place other crust on top of pie. Cut a couple pie-holes for steam and bake for 15- 20 minutes.

Tomato Basil Soup with Feta

This one comes from Angela, who made it for Cooking Club Season 1, Episode 2. She made it with mini grilled cheeses. It was delicious!

From Angela:

Ingredients
3 ½ c. water or broth
1/3 c. soy sauce
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 tsp minced garlic
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (I have used fire-roasted and the kind with basil/oregano in them)
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp cornstarch
Cold water
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Feta cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot and add onion. Saute until softened and add garlic and red bell pepper. Saute 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add salt, pepper, diced tomatoes, and water/broth, soy sauce, and onion powder. Stir often, bring to a boil.

3. Reduce to low heat and add basil and vinegar.

4. Remove from heat and puree soup with immersion blender to desired consistency.

5. Return to low heat. Blend cornstarch into just enough water to dissolve without lumps and stir into soup.
Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes and remove from heat.

6. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice and feta cheese stirred into individual bowls.

This can easily be halved if you only want 2-3 servings.  As written, it makes 5-6.

Italian Bean Soup

I’m not sure what to call this soup, to be honest. I made it up! Here’s where it came from: Daniel’s dad drove us home from the airport after our trip to Nicaragua. It’s about 2 a.m. and I’m in the back seat of the truck trying to figure out how to close the windows that are cracked because I can take no more white noise after 3 hours on the runway and 3 hours in the air. I overhear…

Bobby: “It was amazing. She took celery and seasoned it and cooked it down. Then she added onions and seasoned it and cooked it down. Then she added beans….”

Daniel: “Sounds delicious.”

That’s literally all I remember from the conversation, but when I ran into Kroger on a mission to grab “a few things” Sunday in our race to get to the 2:45 showing of Alice in Wonderland, I grabbed the following, not really sure what I was going to make with it: celery, leeks, garlic, peppers, 3 different kinds of canned beans and a few other things not meant for dinner.

Here’s how it all shook down:

1. I diced about 6 or 7 celery hearts and sauteed them in a little (2 Tbsp.?) olive oil with salt, pepper and oregano and cooked over medium heat (using my trusty new enamel pot I got for Christmas) for about 5 minutes or until they looked soft.

2. I then added one diced leek and seasoned some more, along with smashing and chopping 2 big cloves of garlic and throwing them in. I’ve never made anything with leeks before, and I seemed to remember that they need to be washed really well. This may or may not be true. But I made sure they were well washed, cut one large leek in half, then diced it until the light green part. Seemed to work out. 🙂

3. I then did the same with a large red pepper and half of a large shallot. Again, seasoning a little       and cooking for about 5 or 10 minutes.

4. It’s at this point, I decided it was going to be a soup. I’m not sure why. It just seemed like a soup base. I took out my trusty tube of tomato paste* and added roughly 2 Tbsp., mixing it in well.

*I finally discovered tubes (like toothpaste tubes) of tomato paste about three years ago. Since you rarely need an entire can – even the little ones – of paste, this is great for using one or two tablespoons at a time, then you just throw it back in the refrigerator until you need it again.

5. Next came some chopped kale that was a little soft and on its way out — so I figured it was perfect for soup (I think any type of greens – especially spinach – would be good too). AND, one can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.

6. I let this all cook together for a 1-2 minutes then added 3 cups of vegetable stock (2 of which was low sodium, the other wasn’t). It wasn’t too soupy – more like a stew and looked good, like I actually knew what I was doing.

It turned out I did! It was too salty — had I known I would turn it into a soup and where I would go with it, I probably would have laid off the salt a bit, but really I should have taste-tested it more toward the end. But, it was good! I’ll just watch the salt next time. I added water to it for the leftovers and they were perfect today at lunch. A little spicy from the pepper and not too salty.

I served it with garlic bread and dusted it with a little Parmesan cheese for serving. (Curls would be a nice look too). I can’t wait to perfect this one, and figure out what the heck else I can get in there.