Monday, January 31, 2011

Red Lentil Soup with Diver Scallops - serves 4 with leftovers

On my quest to serve less meat during the week, I came across some organic red lentils and decided to concoct a soup.  Now, I didn't want my husband to venture off to the refrigerator, where he'd only find umibushi plums, apples, olives, hummus and maybe a few squares of Italian chocolate, to do any late-night snacking. Therefore, I decided to add a whopping jumbo sized scallop on top.  Surely, that would fill him up. And speaking of venturing, when he can't get anything out of the refrigerator, he resorts to his garage closet, which is filled with snacks dating back to the end of time, i.e, Lil' Debbie's, Ding Dongs, Twinkie's and those oatmeal cream cookies.  All that was left to find were those candied cigarettes we used to get that when you puffed on them, powdered sugar would come billowing out. After all that, who wouldn't need a fake cigarette, right?

Anyway, hence the vegetarian soup.  You can omit the scallop if you choose, but I have to tell you, it's pretty amazing.  Just season both sides with salt and pepper, place in a hot skillet with a little olive oil, pan sear on each side for about 3-4 minutes and you're done.  You can do it as fast as you can say Twinkie.


1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 baking potato (6 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 rounded cup red lentils (8 ounces)
1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock or broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the celery and carrot and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the potato, lentils and stock; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 40 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches and return it to the saucepan. Add the cumin, cayenne and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Five Spice Asian Pork Shoulder - serves 4 with leftovers

I actually posted this recipe nearly a year ago, except I didn't know how to put pictures on my blog (don't roll the eyes).  I have a group of girls that I see twice a week for an early morning workout.  Aside from not being able to recognize each other when we're out and about, fully dressed to kill with biceps the size of cantaloupes, there are some who discuss what latest crock pot recipe they've either tried or want to try.  So, I post this recipe that has tested quite well with my family.  I use all organic ingredients where I can, as I do with most of my recipes, even though my husband could care less.  If you don't want the meat, skip the whole crock pot thing and marinate tofu in the sauce, then pan sear it and toss with the sauteed veggies. You can enjoy the dish either dressed to the hilt as your family ooo's and ahhh's over the meal, or, go without a stitch of makeup and in workout clothes.  They will think you worked hard to prepare such a wonderful meal, either way.

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 to 2 tbs chili-garlic sauce
1 tbs grated fresh ginger
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (at Whole Foods or Central Market)
Kosher salt and pepper
2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup long grain white or Basmati rice
1 medium head of bok choy, thinly sliced, about 8 cups
2 scallions, sliced

1. In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the soy sauce, sugar, chili-garlic sauce, ginger, five-spice powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the pork and toss to coat. Cook, covered, until the pork is tender, on high for about 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

2. Twenty-five minutes before serving, cook rice according to package directions.

3. Meanwhile, trim off and discard any fat from the pork. Gently fold the bok choy into the pork and cook, covered, until heated through, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with the rice and sprinkle with scallions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When Life Gives You an Earthquake, Make Pretzels - makes 8

I consider myself pretty organized.  My kitchen, obviously, is the tidiest and cleanest room in the house, next to the rest of the rooms.  I try to maintain order within our walls and when things get too unorganized I can actually hear the fault lines begin to rumble.  I truly believe that my daughters room could quite actually split the state of California in half, her room is so messy.  We've begun to rank her room according to the Richter Scale, 10 being the worse.  If you actually look under the scale dimensions of the Richter Scale, you would see that 10 has so far, not been reached.  Well, come to my daughters room.  It appears it has hit and there are all sorts of debris scattered amongst the floor.  Stuffed animals look as if they've been crushed with their eyes gazing helplessly for medical attention.  Clothes strewn across the room as if a tornado whipped its way through, flinging pants, dresses, shoes in every direction.  And the socks.... I have yet to find them their mates, lost forever in a sea of clutter, never to be found again.  I stare at the rubble in disbelief, wondering how we will get these things back to normal again, not knowing where to start.  Then, out of nowhere, a man we'll call my husband, leaps over soccer balls and beheaded dolls, saves the day (roughly 4 hours of it) cleaning it all up.  EVERYTHING.

I shut the door and go and make pretzels.  Unlike the twisted mess in my daughters room, they can certainly put a smile on my face and serve up as a nice snack to my red-caped husband.

 3 3/4 cups bread flour (20 ounces), plus more for dusting
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup baking soda
2 cups boiling water
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt, for sprinkling

 In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 3 3/4 cups of bread flour with the warm water, yeast, kosher salt and butter and knead at medium speed until the flour is evenly moistened, 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms around the hook, 8 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Cover loosely with a dry kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and form each one into a ball. Cover the dough balls with the towel and let rest for another 5 minutes.

On an unfloured surface, roll each ball of dough into an 18-inch-long rope, tapering them slightly at both ends. To shape each pretzel, form the rope into a U shape. Cross the ends over each other twice to form the twist, then bring the ends to the bottom of the U and press the tips onto it. Arrange the pretzels on 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper and let stand uncovered in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until slightly risen. Refrigerate the pretzels uncovered for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Dissolve 1/2 cup baking soda in 2 quarts of boiling water. Boil the pretzels for 30 seconds, then drain on wire racks before salting and baking.

Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt and bake on the top and middle racks of the oven until shiny-brown and risen, about 17 minutes; shift the pans halfway through baking. Let the pretzels cool slightly on the baking sheets before serving.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Black Bean Vegetarian Chili - serves 6

What a terrific weekend.  I had the LUXURY of having a house, all to myself, for 3 whole days.  I wasn't sure what to do with myself but I quickly snapped out of that dream to prepare for a few catering gigs.  In my spare time, I whipped up the above for a dear friend of mine for her birthday to enjoy as we sat on her couch enjoying really, bad, bad movies.  She actually turned down lobster mac and cheese due her sudden diet dilemma as she had birthday'd herself into week-long gluttonous festivities.  After putting my cravings aside, this dish proved itself as a simple, flavorful dish that was ready to go in 30 minutes.  If only the movie we had watched had only been that long.....


1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 2/3 cups coarsely chopped red bell peppers (about 2 medium)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained, 1/2 cup liquid reserved
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
8 oz can chopped green chilies

Chopped fresh cilantro
Diced avocados
Grated MontereyJack cheese
Chopped green onions

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne; stir 2 minutes. Mix in beans, 1/2 cup reserved bean liquid, diced tomatoes and chilies. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and chili thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle chili into bowls. Pass chopped cilantro, avocado, grated cheese, and green onions separately.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Garbanzo Beans and Kale Stew - serves 4

It's still cold however still a great reason to prepare stews and soups.  My husband has once again started his yo-yo dieting stint and I feel the need to assist him in eating as healthy as possible.  I can't control, unfortunately, what he eats outside the home, but I can sure regulate what he eats inside the home.  Therefore, it is with great joy that I prepare the above, using a vegetable that he only uses for landscaping, the great and mighty kale.  I have grown to love it as have my kids. We even have kale shakes for breakfast.  This dish is great for those who are weary as the spices even out the boldness of such a powerful vegetable.  And, it has more vitamins than broccoli and as much calcium as nearly two cups of milk.  Imagine that.  Of course I have to wait for my husband to have a bite, say "wow, this is really great stuff", then tell him I pulled the green stuff out of his clients yard.  With that, he actually went back for seconds.  I guess you really can eat what you sow.


2 center-cut bacon slices (optional) (use 3 tbs olive oil if not using)
1 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth OR vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 (15 oz) cans organic chickpeas (garbanzo), rinsed and drained
4 cups organic chopped kale
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced fat Greek yogurt
4 lemon wedges

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp (or heat olive oil until shimmering).  Remove bacon from pan using a slotted spoon, drain over paper towels and set aside.  Add carrot and onion to drippings (or olive oil) and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, cumin red pepper; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in broth, 2 cups water, and beans; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add kale to bean mixture.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until kale is tender, stirring occasionally.  Ladle into bowls and top with yogurt and a squeeze of lemon.  Sprinkle with bacon and serve.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Risotto with Orange Zest and Rosemary Oil - serves 4

Hello 2011.  After celebrating Christmas and enjoying a fabulous cruise to the Eastern Caribbean Islands, I believe I am ready to get this year started.  Of course, coming from wonderful temperatures ranging from 70 - 82, it's hard to handle this bitter cold we are suffering through in Texas.  It could be worse, we could be on the east coast.  But then again, the temperatures there, feel to us, like the temperature here.  Calling all comfort foods.....

Winter inspires me to cook warm comfort foods that well, make you want to wrap up in a blanket, sit on the couch, requires one utensil, one bowl/plate, fireplace roaring and The Bachelor.  Not that I ate this doing such a thing, but you know what I'm talking about.  Moving my traditional Thursday night girls night to Tuesdays for the month, I chose to try this dish from my recent Christmas gift, La Cucina Italiana magazine.  I love risotto of any kind and not to sound like a lush, it goes fabulously with the right kind of wine.  It's a simple dish to make and it's perfect to prepare as you sip wine and chat with a girlfriend and/or significant other, or The Bachelor.


2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
7 tbs of very good extra virgin olive oil
1 leafy sprig fresh rosemary
2 navel oranges
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Combine broth and water in a medium saucepan; heat to a very gentle simmer.
Meanwhile, combine 5 tablespoons oil and rosemary sprig in a small saucepan; heat over low heat until oil reaches a bare simmer, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes, then remove rosemary oil; reserve oil.  Remove and reserve leaves from toasted rosemary, discarding stem.
Finely grate zest from 1 orange; put zest in a small bowl or ramekin and cover with plastic wrap.
From the remaining orange, using a sharp pairing knife, cut zest in long strips, avoiding the white pith.  Thinly slice zest strips lengthwise.  Wrap sliced zest in plastic wrap; set aside zest and strips.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion; cook, stirring frequently with a long handled wooden spoon, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add rice, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add 1 cup broth mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is almost absorbed.  Add about 1/2 cup broth and orange zest.  Cook, stirring constantly, until broth is mostly absorbed.  Continue adding broth in 1/2 cupfuls, stirring constantly, and allowing each addition to mostly absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender yet firm to the bite (you may have broth leftover).

Remove risotto from heat.  Stir in cheese, 1 to tablespoons reserved oil and salt.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve risotto immediately, sprinkled with reserved zest strips and rosemary.