Monthly Archives: February 2010

Mmmmmm, Mmmmm Good!

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This week’s adventure in “Cooking through My Bookshelves” takes us to an oldie but goodie:   Tomato Soup.

I know this might not be everyone’s favorite, but I used to love having a bowl of this soup along with a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch on a rainy Saturday.  Yeah…. while watching cartoons…..     Mmmmm, mmmm good.

This version, though, is not from the red and white labeled can.  My adaptation is of a recipe from The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook —  Classic Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese Swirl.   It’s an adaptation because the recipe’s author used 4 pounds of fresh tomatoes (which I refuse to peel), a leek (which I refuse to de-gritify), and fresh chervil (which I believe is some sort of rodent, isn’t it?   😉

My version is as easy as possible.

In a soup pot I sauteed in a few tablespoon of olive oil the contents of a container of Trader Joe’s mirepoix, which is about 2/3 of a cup each of finely chopped onion, carrots, and celery if you want to do it yourself.

While these veggies were cooking, I opened a can of Trader Joe’s Plum Tomatoes (no, I’m not working for TJs — I just shop there a lot).  I pureed the tomatoes in a food processor and when the veggies were softened, I added the puree to them.  (I’m thinking now that a can of San Marzano tomatoes would have been even more awesome.)

After mixing the puree and veggies, I added about 2 1/2 cups of broth.  I meant to use vegetable broth, but after I dumped it in the pot, I realized that I had opened a container of chicken broth.   Not bad, but vegetable broth would have been better.

I made a garni bouquet in cheesecloth of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (yes, just like the song) and added it along with some salt and cracked black pepper to taste to the pot.

I brought the mixture to a boil, covered the pot and reduced the heat.  I let it simmer for about a half hour.

I turned off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before pureeing it in a blender in small batches (after taking out the cheesecloth bag of course).

After spooning a serving into a soup bowl, I added a half inch slice of goat cheese (yes, TJ’s goat cheese) and then swirled it around until it melted.   Add more pepper if you think it needs it.

Surprisingly, considering the soup is mostly vegetables, a bowl was quite satisfying and filling.   This version makes about 4 good sized servings.

Lori G (c) 2010

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Spring Planting

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Ladybug in the Parsley

It’s spring planting time, and I’m going to give this another shot.  After several months of manure and rain, plus the presence of my new best friends, the earthworms, I decided that I would plant again.

A few weeks ago I planted string beans.  As you can see below, they’ve gotten a good start.  Last week,  we sowed seeds for  radishes, beets, two kinds of squash, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.  I set out new plants of basil, lemon thyme, and Italian oregano.  The two Italian parsley plants that I put out last August are still thriving,  and this afternoon I noticed that they were nearly three feet high.   These parsleys have become the home of a number of ladybugs which, like the earthworms, tell me that life is returning to the backyard.

So in a couple of months, God willing and if the rains stay steady, I’ll be harvesting again.   If not, I’m going to toss out some grass seed and call it quits.

String beans and radish sprouts

More radish sprouts

Lori G (c) 2010

PS:  Don’t forget to go to my main blog, Into the Blue, and subscribe to that one if you haven’t already.  Thanks.

How to Celebrate Mardi Gras: More Thoughts on Flexitarianism

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about “Flexitarianism” and some of you complimented me on coining this phrase.  Let me set the record straight by saying that I did not.  In fact, if you are interested there is a whole article about this topic at Wikipedia.

There are some vegetarians who hate flexitarianism because they claim that “one cannot be an occasional vegetarian.”     Respectfully, I say to those vegetarians,  “oh lighten up”.      Vegetarianism is a pattern of eating, not a cult.***

And just to be ornery about it, I am offering here a recipe that epitomizes carnivorism.    If you don’t like red meat with lots of fat you may want to forgo this recipe, but if you are of the camp that observes Lent and want to celebrate this Fat Tuesday in the most literal way, give it a go.

Lori’s Short Rib Recipe

Start with 2.5 pounds of beef plate short ribs. (This same recipe works well with just about any tough piece of beef).

Into a large plastic ziplock bag, mix 1/2 cup all-purpose flour with salt and pepper to taste. Coat each piece of meat with the flour mixture in the bag.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet on high heat.  When the oil in the pan starts to shimmer, carefully put each piece of meat into the skillet.  Don’t move the meat around once you lay it in the pan and try not to overcrowd the pan.   After about five minutes, turn each piece and do the same.  Don’t be afraid to let the meat get brown.

While the meat is browning, in a small bowl mix together

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon worchester sauce
1 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika (or a 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder if you are really brave).
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Set the mixture aside for the moment.

When the meat is thoroughly browned on both sides, remove the meat from the skillet and put it in a slow cooker.  Turn the heat down to low and carefully pour in 1 can beef broth.

Be careful of the steam and spatter.  Scrape up all the brown bits from the pan.  Turn off the heat and then add 1/2 cup of red wine and the brown sugar mixture to the skillet.   Toss in 2 bay leaves.  Stir the mixture and then turn the heat back on to medium and let it come to a boil.

Turn off the heat and pour the mixture into the slow cooker over the meat.  Add 1 medium sliced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cover the slow cooker and leave it on LOW for 6 hours.  At hour 6, put in 8 ounces of small white or cremini mushrooms (sliced or whole)  and heat for another hour.  Turn off the cooker and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  The meat should be very tender and falling off the bones.

Serve the meat with the starch of your choice.  Egg noodles, spaghetti, mashed potatoes all work well with this.

In my honest opinion, this is comfort food at its finest.

Bon Appetite, Flexitarians.

***Yes, yes, I know there are religions wherein vegetarianism is a component but I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about those people who think the rest us are ruining the planet because we like an occasional pork chop.

How Empathic Are You?

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Have you ever heard someone say “I could just feel the negative energy in the room!”  Or have you ever sensed feelings or emotions from someone else?  I was channel surfing one day and I came across one of those paranormal investigation shows —  either on SyFy or A&E — I don’t remember.    Anyway, one of the people on the show was talking about being “an empath” and that she could channel the emotions of of others.

So being the good researcher I am, whenever a topic intrigues me, I go agooglin’ for information on it.  I  came across this quiz that gauges the level of one’s empathic awareness.   So just for fun, I took it.

My results came up as:

You Scored as Human Empath
As a Human Empath, you possess the ability to connect with other people on an empathic level, allowing you to feel their emotion as though they were your own.

 

Hmmm.  So the next time someone complains that I’m grouchy, I’ll just say I’m channeling Ernie across the street.
Just for fun, here’s the link so you too can find out how empathic you are.

Feel free to share your score in the comments section.

Flexitarianism

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I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian.  I love my meat and eggs and cheese.  But I am a realist and I know I can’t eat those things at every meal.  So whenever I can find a vegan meal that doesn’t taste like styrofoam packing material (and don’t ask me how I know this), then I like to give it a go.    So you could say that in terms of eating, I am a “flexitarian.”    Meat, no meat, as long as it tastes good and is healthy.

A couple of vegan relatives of mine came to town last week and offered to cook dinner.   Given that I’m a culinary Indiana Jones, I did not pass up the chance to explore the wonders of authentic vegan cooking cooked by an authentic vegan.

I halfway expected to have some sort of sprouted whole grain type of thing with blue algae and sea vegetables.   Instead, my relative prepared spaghetti bolognese — that is,  old fashioned ‘sketty and meat sauce.   However, instead of the meat, she used textured vegetable protein, otherwise known as “TVP”.  

Now before you go “ewwwww” or “yuck” and say “that must taste like styrofoam packing material,” let me assure you that this time it did not.    I’ve tried TVP before and I must say that that perception has been accurate, but this time, not so.  It tasted just like meat… actually better than real meat. 

So when my chef-relative wasn’t looking, I went digging through the trash bin to see what brand of TVP she used.  I found the wrapper for Yves Ground Round.   No fat, no cholesterol, low calorie, high protein.  Wow!  (Okay, it’s a little high in sodium but one can compensate by using low sodium tomato sauce.)

So a couple days later, I went to Whole Foods Market and bought a 12 ounce pack.  When I got home, I saute some chopped onion and cremini mushrooms in olive oil and garlic, added a “galugg” of red wine, a can of chopped tomatoes, a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste, some of my favorite Italian seasoning and the package of “meat”.   I served it over high fiber pasta (Smart Taste by Ronzoni if you want to know).

Lest you think I am going to turn vegan, I’m not, but I am going to be a little more flexible and open to trying products like Yves. 

Now, if I could only find a good non-meat alternative to Chorizo that doesn’t taste like the stuffing out of my sofa.   (Don’t ask about that either).

Text:  Lori G.  (c)  2010

Image courtesy of Morguefile.com