Monday, November 24, 2014

Roasted Squash Chestnut Soup

Those four little butternut squash had been sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter for two months.  I inspect them often to see if they're ready. The farmer said they weren't ready to eat when I bought them and had suggested I let them ripen for a while. I don't know about them, but today I was ready for roasting things, for throwing stuff in a big pot.  I wanted soup!

So here it is, a delicious combination of roasted chestnuts, squash and onion with warming spices and zesty tomato paste.  If you have any room for soup on your Thanksgiving menu, this one will spice up your table nicely.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Roasted Squash Chestnut Soup

8 cups Chicken stock (see recipe below)
3 lbs Butternut Squash, peeled, and roasted (substitute with your favorite)
8 chestnuts, roasted and peeled
1 onion, sliced and roasted
3 tbsp tomato paste ( I used homemade paste)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp sea salt ( I use Real Salt brand, which is a mild flavored salt) - adjust up to your liking
1 tsp dried marjoram
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground fennel, or crushed if you have seeds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder

Peel butternut squash, discard seeds and slice.  Place slices on a baking tray, cover and roast in a 400˚F for 20-30 minutes or until soft to touch.  Add the chestnuts in the oven at the same time. Also peel and slice the onion and place on a small tray in the same oven too until soft with a little color.
In a heavy duty blender, place 4 cups of stock with the roasted squash, and blend until pureed and smooth.  Pour in a large pot.  Pour the rest of the stock (4 cups) with the chestnuts and the onions in the blender and also blend until pureed and smooth.  Pour over the pureed squash.  Add the other ingredients into the pot and stir well.  Bring the soup to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes, taste and adjust salt/pepper to your preference.  

Chicken Stock

10 cups filtered water
Roasted chicken bones (one chicken worth)
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried lemon (found at Indian or Mediterranean stores)
4 lemon verbena leaves, dried (substitute with a few sprigs of parsley)
8-10 peppercorns, whole
2 inch fresh ginger, sliced

Bring water to a boil, cover and reduce heat so liquid can slowly simmer for at least an hour and a half.  Turn off heat and leave covered to cool down for 20 minutes.  Strain liquid, discard bones and aromatics and reserve the stock. This can be made in advance.  The stock will last in the fridge for 4 days. 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Pot Meals are the best

Happy Spring to you.  I'm happy to be here sharing another one of my recipes.  It's been a busy couple of months working on a cookbook fundraising project for my kids' school.  I took on the food photography for the book and I was a blast!  I fell in love with so many of the pictures.

One of the my favorite foods are beans.  I have not had any in three years since they're still on the forbidden list due my leaky gut issue.  But I recently found out that I can have pole beans and Romano beans.  A favorite dish for hot days is Romano beans in tomato sauce which I will share later with you.  This recipe today is simple, filling, and it's in one pot.  You can't beat a one pot meal!

Pole Beans and Brown Rice with Beef Shanks

3 beef shanks, preferably grass-fed (other cuts work too )
1 1/2 lbs Pole beans, cleaned and snipped in half or thirds 
2 cups brown basmati rice, cleaned 
1 large can organic tomato sauce 
4 cups water (for stock), plus 4 more (for rice and beans) 
1 yellow or white onion, diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 cinnamon stick 
3 cardamom pods, cracked 
1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes (add more to your liking) 
2+ tsp sea salt  
Freshly cracked pepper to taste 
Olive oil for sautéing about 3 tbsp. 
Juice of one lemon to finish
Dried Mint to Finish 

In a heavy bottom large pot, drizzle the olive oil and place over medium heat.  Add the beef shanks and sauté on both sides for about five minutes each side.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add tomato sauce, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and water.  Cover pot and bring to a simmer for about one hour or until the shanks are tender.  If you use a different cut, simmer time may change.   
Remove shanks from pot and place in a bowl.  Let cool a little, then carefully pick the meat and set aside, and discard the bone and membrane. To the pot, add the pole beans, rice, pepper flakes, pepper, salt and additional water.  Cover and bring to a gentle boil.  Stir occasionally and simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until rice is done.  After 30 minutes add the cleaned shanks. Taste rice to check for doneness, add water 1/2 cup at a time if needed.  Adjust salt if needed and finish with lemon juice and dried mint.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tamarind-Marinated Hanger Steak and Salad

If you've never bought a hanger steak before, you should.  Last weekend we had a glimpse of Spring with a fantastic Saturday weather than begged for grilling.  I was chatting with the butcher about different cuts and decided to throw in a hanger steak in the mix.  All I can say is 1) Yummy, I was surprised with its tenderness and bold flavor, and 2) I can't keep a secret!

These come one to a cow, and back in the days, used to be what the butcher took home, also called Butcher's steak.  It's lean, flavorful, and works great for marinades.  The steak weighs between 1-2lbs, and has a thick inedible membrane that runs in the middle of it, which you have to cut out.

I think it's a great cut for Shawerma (Lebanese gyros), Fajitas, Stir-fry, etc. A definite addition in our family kitchen.

Kale and Avocado Salad

1 small bag of organic baby kale, washed
2 organic avocados, sliced
1 organic tomato, sliced
3-4 Armenian cucumbers, sliced
2 organic green onions, sliced

Mint Lemon Dressing

1/4 cup freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil ( I use Seifan, a Lebanese olive oil)
1/2 tsp organic dried mint, finely ground 
1/2 tsp + pinch sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until well blended, or place in a glass jar, close lid and shake like mad.  You can keep the leftover in the fridge for one week.

Toss your salad with the dressing, grill your steak to desired temperature, let rest for a few minutes while you're working the salad, then slice and serve.

Tamarind marinade

1/2 onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced/grated
2 tsp tamarind paste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp vinegar
5 or 6 mastic pearls, powdered*
1 tsp raw honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice, ground
1/2 tsp cracked pepper flakes 
2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
One grass-fed Hanger Steak

Grate the onion and garlic on a microplane or pulse them in a food processor until paste.  In a bowl, mix all ingredients well to form a paste. If too thick, add a splash of water.  Place your cleaned hanger steak in and rub marinade well all over.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  You can prep this the night before, the meat will be so much more flavorful.

* To grind mastic, freeze pearls briefly, then remove and pound gently in a mortar.  The reason for freezing them is because they tend to be sticky and won't grind easily. 
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Best and Easiest Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta with Kale Pesto

Can you smell Spring in this plate? Seriously love this dish! It's fresh, filling, healthy and full of delicious mediterranean flavors.  I couldn't pass up the beautiful basil I saw at the market yesterday morning, came home with one thought: Pesto Pasta!

This is one of my go-to dinner when crunched for time and it's also my favorite way to use up all the miscellaneous veggies I have on it. And it makes for a great leftover just out of the fridge.
For the pesto, I like to add other greens like watercress, spinach or kale in this case, and I use almonds for the nuttiness instead of pine nuts for sensitivity issues.

Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta

1 lb local shrimp, deveined and rinsed
1 package gluten free pasta (I use Tinkyada Brown Rice)
1 shallot, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano 
1/4 cup olive oil
2 organic zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 pint baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
4-5 green onions, sliced
1 can organic artichokes, quartered
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 cup asparagus, trimmed and cut in 1/2 inch pieces (about 10 stalks)
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 1 or 2 lemons)
1 tsp sea salt (adjust to taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Crushed pepper flakes (optional)

Clean the shrimp, rinse and set aside in a colander to drain the extra liquid.  In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and begin sautéing the shrimp for a minute and set aside.  Do them in batches if the pan is not large enough.  Set aside.  Add the rest of the olive oil, sauté shallots and garlic until softened.  Add zucchini and asparagus and sauté for another minute.  Then add shrimp back, oregano, salt and pepper.  With a wooden spoon, toss around until well blended.  Add 1/4 cup of the pesto, artichoke quarters, olives, and tomatoes, and toss around in sauce. Leave to simmer for a couple of minutes, turn off heat, add lemon juice and green onions.  Serve with the pasta. 

Kale Pesto

2 bunches basil
2 cup baby kale
1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp almond flour
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth paste.  Stores well in refrigerator for 4 days.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Stuffed Chard Leaves with Tahini Sauce

It's hard to figure out which recipe to share today in my attempt to distract you from the fact that I haven't been here in over a year.  Well, I've been hoarding recipes, and not on purpose.  I can't really pinpoint any one reason for my absence - there were many.  I guess it's not important now.
If you're here reading this, then it's all good.

I was browsing through a Lebanese cookbook a while ago, and was inspired to adapt a recipe that included cabbage leaves, chickpeas and onions.  I love swiss chard and quite often, I simply sauté it in some olive oil, garlic and lemon, and work it through any meal.

Stuffed Chard Leaves

2 bunches swiss chard/rainbow chard
3/4 short grain rice
1/2 lb ground bison meat
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 cup cooked chickpeas, roughly chopped and skin removed*
1 tbsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp sea salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
Freshly ground pepper

To soften the chard leaves for easier rolling, boil about 3 cups of water in a large pot. When boiling reduce to simmer and dunk swiss chard in the water just to soften.  Remove, rinse under cold water and let dry on a rack.
Meanwhile, sauté the bison in a skillet with one tablespoon of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp of  the sea salt, the allspice and some freshly ground pepper.  When all pink is gone, place in a mixing bowl, along with raw rice, shallot, garlic, parsley, chickpeas, lemon juice, rest of salt and cumin.  Adjust salt as needed.  You want this to taste strong of salt and lemon, it will mellow out in cooking.
Mix until well blended.  
On a large cutting board, cut alongside the stalks of the chard and save stalks for later use. Depending on how large the leaves are, cut the chard strips in 2 or 3 rectangles.  Lay flat on the cutting board, place a tablespoon of the mixture in a row on the cut leaf, leaving space at the edges so the mixture doesn't fall out, tightly roll.  You don't have to worry about closing the ends, they will collapse closed in the cooking process.  Line the rolls tightly in a casserole.  You may have to go a second layer depending on how large your chard was.  Once finished with the rolls, fill the casserole with water just enough to cover the rolls, add some slices of lemon and a sprinkle of salt, cover tightly and place in a 400˚F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.  The water should be all evaporated at that point.  Serve hot or room temperature with sauce below drizzled over.

*To remove the skin, just rub the chickpeas between two towels.
You can also make this with any kind of leafy veggie as long as you can roll it.  I used some cabbage here.

Sesame Butter Sauce (Tahini Sauce)

2 tbsp tahini
1/3 cup hot water
3 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried mint
Sprinkle Chili Pepper (optional)

Place the tahini in a small mixing bowl. Bring the water to a boil and pour carefully over the tahini, whisk until blended and let it be for a couple of minutes.  Then Whisk in the rest of the ingredients. Done.

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