Monday, December 31, 2012


Several days ago, I made this French Onion Soup. It was delicious. It was so yummy I decided to use some of the leftovers as a basis for a hearty Ribbolita. Ribbolita is a thick, hearty Tuscan vegetable soup, rife with vegetables. Perfect with rustic, thick bread. 

There are tons of Ribbolita recipes on the web. Here's a good one to start with: Bon Appetit Ribollita. I barely followed this recipe, since I had slightly different vegetables (celery, kale, carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, canellini beans). I went heavy on the spices (thyme, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano). And I added liberal amounts of red wine. And of course, all that is in addition to the French Onion soup base. 

The verdict? YUM. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snow Day: Whole Wheat Baguettes and French Onion Soup

This year's Christmas gifts included two new cookbooks, baguette bread pans, a pizza stone, and a gift certificate for the Artisanal Bread class at the Culinary Institute of America. Since we are (still!) snowed in on the east coast, I decided not to waste a minute and put the bread pans and cookbooks to good use. This is what we're making:

Whole Wheat Baguettes

2 cups (500 ml) warm water (110 F/43 C)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
5 to 5 1/2 cups (780 to 860 g) all-purpose flour. I substituted whole wheat flour for 25% of this total amount.
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

  • In a bowl, combine the warm water and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves.
  • Add the yeast and stir gently to mix. 
  • Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with dough hook, combine 4 cups (625 g) of the flour and salt and bean on low speed just until combined. 
  • Slowly add yeast mixture and beat on low until incorporated. 
  • Increase the speed to medium low and beat for 10 minutes, adding more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is elastic and pulls away from the side of the bowl. 
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. 
  • Form into a ball, dust with flour. 
  • Sprinkle a little flour into a bowl. Set the dough into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (45 to 60 minutes).
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few seconds. 
  • Form the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl. 
  • Cover with plastic. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (25 to 30 minutes).
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. 
  • Cut into two equal pieces and shape each into a ball.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Line French Bread pans with a kitchen towel and lightly flour the towel.
  • Roll each ball into a log, about as long as the bread pan.
  • Place each into the bread pan and cover with the edges of the towel.
  • Let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  • Position rack in lower 1/3 o oven.
  • Place a shallow baking dish filled with boiling water on oven floor.
  • Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
  • Gently lift the towel holding the loaves out of the bread pan, being careful to not to let them touch each other. 
  • Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Lay each loaf into the bread pan.
  • Using a sharp blade, score the loaves on the diagonal.
  • Brush with egg mixture.
  • Bake until the bread sounds hollow when tapped, 30-35 minutes.
  • Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the bread cool in the pan to room temperature.

Meanwhile, while the dough is proofing...there were all these onions laying about...

French Onion Soup

8 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon flour
8 cups of stock - the recipe called for beef stock, but I substituted vegetable stock instead
1 cup dry white wine
Several thick slices of course country bread
2 cups shredded Emmentaler cheese

  • Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Stir in the onions and saute until translucent (4-5 minutes).
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the onions are lightly golden (about 15 minutes).
  • Uncover and sprinkle with the sugar and salt. 
  • Raise heat back to medium and cook uncovered, stirring often, until the onions are deep golden brown (30-40 minutes)
  • Sprinkle the flour over the caramelized onions and cook, stirring until flour is lightly browned. 
  • Don't worry if the flour sticks to the pan - that is "free flavor"!
  • Slowly add the stock, stirring constantly. 
  • Raise the heat to high, and bring to boil.
  • Add the wine, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
  • Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until onions begin to fall apart (45 minutes).

Because I have no oven-proof bowls, I improvised the next steps:

  • Place the fresh baked whole wheat baguette bread slices on a broiling pan, and top with cheese.
  • Broil in the oven or toaster oven until the cheese bubbles.
  • Ladle hot soup into bowls.
  • Place the toasted bread with melted cheese onto the soup.
  • Add additional shredded cheese to the hot soup. 
  • Serve at once. 

Mmmmm, melty goodness:

Melty goodness with fresh whole wheat baguettes, sea-salted olive oil for dipping, and a nice pinot grigio. Perfect meal for a cold, snowy evening!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Traditional Christmas Eve Taco Salad

This is a variation on Mama Bish's Taco Salad (thanks, Mary!) that we've adapted as a multi-purpose flexitarian meal. This is suitable for meals where different people like different combinations of veggies and flavors. 

1 box Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice
1 head romain lettuce, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeƱo pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 avocado, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 package taco seasoning
1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
your favorite salsa
Taco shells

Start with three things on the stovetop: 

1. Cook a box of Zatarains Red Beans and Rice. Follow the directions on the package.

2. Saute an onion, a red bell pepper, a green bell pepper, a jalapeno pepper and two cloves of garlic in one pan. Cook till the onions are translucent.

3. In another pan, brown one pound of ground turkey. Cook till it starts to brown, then add one packet of your favorite taco seasoning and a half cup of water. Mix, and cook till the meat is throughly cooked and the water has evaporated.

4. For people who like tacos in taco shells, they can add ingredients as desired.
5. For people who like salad, you can mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
6. Toss the romain lettuce, avocado, red and green pepper.

7. Add shredded mozzarella and salsa.

8. Add the ground turkey.

9. Mix well and serve.

10. Enjoy!

Tut, Tut, It Looks Like Rain

Earlier this year, we were fortunate to be able to spend 8 glorious days in the United Kingdom.  While food is not typically what England is known for, we completely enjoyed partaking of a number of typical British culinary experiences. First, afternoon tea:

 Bruce does the honors in Manchester.

Then, pub chow in London. First, pot pies and boiled vegetables.
 Then, fish and chips with mushy peas!
Although our waistlines would never allow this type of cuisine all the time, we enjoyed the exploration.

Catching Up...

So, anyway, I went to China a few times this year. 6, in fact. A total of 16 weeks. I'm back now and still catching up on all sorts of things including remembering how to cook for myself and how to eat something other than rice. It's a long story. 

Meanwhile, I'm on a mission. While I was gone, riding out a Category 5 Typhoon from the 20th floor of my 4 star hotel (see, I *told* you it was a long story!), my husband was weathering a 4-day power outage and trying to save the summer's worth of meals I had cooked and stored in our second freezer. Luckily he was successful. He also ate well whilst I was gone and I'm now on a mission to restock our freezer for the winter. Since there is no snow yet, ski season has not come into full swing, I'm back in the kitchen wreaking havoc. 

AND, I have new inspiration!! Mary gave me this for my birthday: 

It's a collection of recipes from 7 different areas of the world, all vegetarian and all can be done in the crock pot. And, well, if you're going to get out the cutting board and the good knife, you might as well chop everything you can get your hands on. Right now, the Lebanese Eggplant Stew is simmering in the crock pot. Recipe below.

And my own bastardization version of the Potatoes and Peas in Red Curry Sauce is on the stove. As you can see in the picture below, there are no peas, and the curry is Yellow. Ok, so I improvised. Recipe below. 

Lebanese Eggplant Stew

1 eggplant, cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
3 tomatoes, quartered
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1 cup Aunt Tobi's homemade tomato sauce, or water

  • Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, mix well, cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. 

Potato and Chick Pea Yellow Curry

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches of ginger root, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cans chickpeas, not drained
2 cups carrots, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups potatoes, cubed
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 can coconut milk
1 large sweet potato, baked, then mashed
2 heaping tablespoons Yellow Curry Paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

  • In large pot, heat olive oil, onions, garlic, ginger root and peppers. Saute till onions become translucent. Add small amount of salt. 
  • Add potatoes, carrots and celery. Mix well and turn heat to low. 
  • Add chickpeas. Stir.
  • In separate bowl, combine coconut milk, mashed sweet potato, cumin and yellow curry paste. Stir till well-mixed and smooth. 
  • Add curry mixture to vegetables. Stir well to mix.
  • Add chopped cilantro.  
  • Cover and cook on low till potatoes are soft. Stir occasionally.