Category Archives: Food

Garden Fresh Lentil Soup

Yesterday I wrote about how excited I was to find fresh veg to harvest after our vacation. To recap, I harvested a zucchini, one pound of purple potatoes, some celery, 4 carrots, and even pulled up an onion (not very big yet, but it was starting to bulge out!).

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I had a package of Trader Joe’s steamed lentils in the fridge so I decided to make lentil soup. I had 10 minutes to do it before needing to pick up my big kid at preschool. That gave me just enough time to get the soup started before heading out. Making this soup is incredibly easy. Just chop your onion and sauté over medium heat with some olive oil. You can add some chopped garlic here too. I didn’t because I didn’t have any, but I would have. Then add chopped celery. Then carrots and potatoes. Now add enough water to cover all the veg. Next dice up the zucchini and throw it in too. Add a few pinches of dried thyme (maybe you have some dried from your garden!). Then just break up the pre-steamed lentils into the soup pot and bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so (until the carrots and potatoes are cooked through but not mushy). I didn’t add any salt to this soup because I planned to feed it to baby girl for lunch. Instead I just seasoned it at the table. Really, there are no rules to lentil soup. Just use whatever fresh veg you have at your disposal. It’s great and hearty enough for lunch. Maybe with some crusty bread (or English Muffins?). We had ours with a strawberry, boysenberry and kale smoothie.

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When food is fresh from the garden, it really doesn’t need much to be delicious. Baby girl ate her bowl all up like I had never seen her eat before. I guess she missed mama’s homemade food while we were on vacation.

I wonder what will be ready to harvest next!

NYT No Knead Bread Recipe with Photo Tutorial

I absolutely adore this bread recipe. It was featured in a NY Times article back in 2006, which has probably received billions of hits by now. I still go back to this recipe often and change very little. Occasionally, I’ll add a bit of chopped up fresh rosemary or thyme, but really it’s so so good on its own.
Last weekend, we celebrated the impending arrival of my dear friend’s new baby. I asked how I could participate in the shower preparations and she asked me to make what she always asks me to make. Pesto and this bread. I decided to make two loaves for this party of 30 people and took pictures along the way to share the process with my readers.
I suggest you read through the whole process before starting. It takes about 20 hours start to finish, so I usually start it around 2-3 pm the day before I need the bread to be finished. I promise, this is quite easy to pull off. It just takes a lot of time and a little planning.


First, the ingredients:
– 3 cups of flour (all-purpose or bread. I prefer to use bread flour, for higher gluten content)
– 1 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp yeast
– 1 5/8 cup room temp water (the water doesn’t need to be as warm as it usually needs to be for bread, since this dough will sit for 18 hours on the counter).

Directions:

1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then add the water and mix it all up with a spatula or wooden spoon. I would usually use a kitchen aid for making bread, but not for this. It’s way too simple to justify washing the kitchen aid after. Just mix until the ingredients are well incorporated. It would be smooth. That’s fine, though. Now cover with plastic wrap and wait 18 hours. The original recipe says 12-18, but I really think 18 is best for full gluten development. After 18 hours, it looks like this. Kind of bubbly. No Knead Dough - 1

And here’s what it looks like when try to pull it off the sides of the bowl:

No knead dough - 2 2. Put some flour on your countertop and remove dough from the bowl onto the floured surface. I have to use a spatula to get the dough out of the bowl. It’s a sticky mess otherwise. Cover with the plastic wrap and allow to rest 10-15 minutes. No Knead Bread - 3 3. Now put plenty of flour (original recipe says cornmeal or flour. I prefer to use flour) on a clean kitchen towel and transfer the bread onto it. IMG_5237 Sprinkle more flour  on top of dough and cover with the kitchen towel. Let it rise for another 2 hours. IMG_5240 4. At least 30 minutes before the 2 hour rise is finished, put a cast iron dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. The cast iron needs to be really hot to get a nice crust on your bread. When it’s time, carefully remove the dutch oven and gently flop the dough in. Quickly put the lid back on and put it back in the oven. (And don’t forget, the handle on the lid is very VERY hot!! I have made this mistake before and it wasn’t pretty. I suggest leaving your hot pad on the lid so you don’t forget). IMG_5241 IMG_5242 5. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes, until the bread is nice and golden. Place on cooling racks and try to hold yourself back from cutting into it right away. Maybe go out and get yourself some nice cheese to eat with the bread. Or olive oil. Or pesto. Really, there are many good options here. Enjoy! IMG_5256

Bourbon Butternut Squash Risotto

Bourbon Butternut Squash Risotto, huh? Isn’t risotto Italian? Isn’t Bourbon…deep south? Well, yes on both counts. But that doesn’t mean they cannot be amazing together. I thought of this combination when I decided that we were going to have Butternut Squash Risotto the other night. That much was certain. We grew butternut squash last summer and have been getting them weekly in our CSA. I try to keep up, but I think we have about 10 butternut squash in our garage right now. They must be used up! We also had arborio rice in the pantry that was just waiting to be made into risotto. And being the beginning of the year, I’m newly motivated to clean out our pantry, use up stuff that has been in there too long, etc.

As I gathered my ingredients I realized that we didn’t have ANY white wine in the house (not even a bottle of 2 buck chuck chardonnay). It was cold, rainy, 5pm. All factors to make me not want to leave the house with my toddler to buy a $2 bottle of wine. I wondered if risotto could be made with any other kind of alcohol and immediately thought bourbon would be pretty tasty with butternut squash. I did a quick google search and found out that I wasn’t the first to think of this (dangit…you mean this isn’t an original idea?!). Then I texted my foodie friend to make sure I wasn’t crazy. He approved of the experiment and off I went a-cookin’.

The end result was delicious. Probably the best risotto I’ve ever made. I highly suggest you try it if you have some extra butternut squash laying around. And if you don’t want to use bourbon, I’m sure it would be very delicious regular butternut squash risotto without (or with the more traditional white wine)…this was just a very fun twist.

Ingredients:
1 Butternut squash
Olive Oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup bourbon (note: most risotto recipes call for 1 cup of white wine. I reduced it to 1/2 cup of bourbon…figured a cup of bourbon would be a bit much).
6 cups chicken broth (you might need more…keep an extra couple cups on hand)
Creme fraiche (about 1/4 cup…you can omit it, or substitute cream cheese. As much as it pains me to type that.)
A good handful of shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash in half. Remove the seeds. Lightly coat a baking dish with olive oil and place the butternut squash face down on the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, until a sharp knife pierces and goes into the squash easily.
2. Heat a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat (I used my Le Creuset). Lightly coat bottom of pot with olive oil. Sautee onion until it begins to “melt.”
3. In a separate pot, pour all 6 cups of chicken broth. Heat broth until it begins to simmer. Then turn down so that it stays hot, but doesn’t boil.
4. Add butter to the onions and allow it to melt.
5. Add arborio rice and stir to coat the rice with butter. Stir continuously until the outside of rice grains start to become translucent. The inside will stay white.
6. Add bourbon. Stir until bourbon cooks down to about half. Start to slowly add hot broth, one ladle-full at a time. Make sure to stir fairly continuously, but especially right after each ladle of broth goes into the rice.
7. Continue until you have no more broth. If you’re not serving immediately, save one ladle of broth to add right at the end.
8. Scoop butternut squash out from skin and roughly chop. Mix into the risotto.
9. Mix in creme fraiche and parmesan cheese. If you’ve reserved a ladle-full of broth, add it now. Crush the dried thyme over the risotto with your fingers.

Serve and enjoy!

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Pulled Pork with Homemade BBQ Sauce

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for you for quite a while now. My problem is that I keep taking pictures of the process, and then never get a picture of the plated pulled pork. It’s too good and gets eaten immediately. I’ve given up and decided to write up the post with the pictures that I have. You’ll have to use your imagination, or make it yourself to see the final reveal 😉
The recipe for the pulled pork spice rub was sent to me by my aunt from The Joy of Cooking, which I’ve adapted a bit. The recipe for the BBQ sauce is my own. I’ve been tweaking it over the years and have pretty much perfected it, in my opinion. It always gets rave reviews, so now I am sharing it with you. Just a note, I like my BBQ sauce tangy and not so much on the sweet side. I’m told this is Texas style BBQ. If you prefer a sweeter BBQ sauce, you may need to make adjustments. If you do make it, let me know what you think and if you changed it to suit your tastes.
Pulled Pork Spice Rub: (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
  • 3 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground red pepper
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup ground black pepper
  • A few pinches of cayenne pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir it all up. I like to double the recipe and keep it in my freezer to have spice rub at the ready when I need it. I also sometimes do half regular paprika and half smoked paprika to add some extra smokiness.
Once your spice rub is ready, it’s time to rub a generous amount of it on your pork. Did I mention the type of pork to use for this? Any sort of pork roast will do. I use pork shoulder, usually, but I’ve used loin before.Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of a dutch oven, and put your rubbed down pork on top. Cover it with the lid and keep it in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

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Meanwhile, you can start making your BBQ sauce. Here is the recipe I’ve been tweaking over the years. I haven’t changed it in a while because we really like it this way, hence why I’m finally ready to share.
Ingredients: (Note- I almost always double this so that I have some to freeze)
  • 1/2 onion- minced
  • 6 cloves garlic- minced
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil + a splash
  • 4 Tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  • Liquid smoke- to taste
  • Hot sauce- to taste
Directions:
1. Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Coat the bottom with olive oil and cook the onions until they begin to be translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring the whole time.
2. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir well to incorporate tomato paste.

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3. Add remaining ingredients. The tamarind paste and soy sauce are what really deepen the color of the BBQ sauce. See the shot above and the two below for comparison.

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4. Let sauce simmer for 30 minutes or so. Taste for appropriate smokiness and spiciness often and add smoke or hot sauce as needed.

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5. Back to the pork now. Preheat your oven to 325. Take the pork out of the dutch oven while you heat the dutch oven over medium heat. When the dutch oven is hot, coat the bottom with olive oil and sear the outside of the the pork until it’s evenly brown.

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6. Put all the pork back into the dutch oven, cover it with the lid, and roast it in the oven for 3 1/2 hours.

7. While the pork is roasting, you can make hamburger buns if you really want to go all out.

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8. When the pork is done, remove it from the oven, allow to cool slightly and shred with a fork, or your fingers if you can stand the heat.

9. Spoon BBQ sauce over the shredded pork and serve with hamburger buns.IMG_1549 2

Moong Dhal

Even though I grew up learning to cook (and eat!) French food, I like to mix things up every now and then. Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines, so I’ve learned how to make a few simple Indian dishes. Moong Dhal is a staple of my limited repertoire of Indian recipes. I originally looked up lots of recipes online and adapted mine based on the balance of spices I prefer. My dhal is probably not as authentic as it could be, but it’s tasty.
Moong Dhal:
     Ingredients:
2 cups moong dhal (yellow lentils)
1 Tbsp Turmeric
2 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 chili pepper, finely chopped (I like to use fresh thai chilis if I have them. This time, I used dried thai chilis, and only 1, because the little guy was going to be eating it. Normally I would make it spicier)
8-10 whole curry leaves (I get them at the Indian grocery store and keep them in my freezer)
3 large tomatoes, diced
Salt to taste
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
     Directions:
1. Wash the dhal in a large bowl several times until the wash water is clear. Cover in water and soak for 20-30 minutes. Drain the water. Put the washed and soaked dhal in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover with lid most of the way and simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft.
2. While the dhal is cooking, prep the remaining ingredients. Dice the onion and chop the garlic. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Melt the ghee/vegetable oil. Cook the onions until they begin to be translucent, stirring often. Next add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ground cumin, chili pepper and curry leaves. Then add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Don’t let the garlic burn! The cumin and mustard seeds should start to pop. Remove from heat.
3. Stir the turmeric into the cooked lentils. Next add the onion and spices from the previous step into the lentils. Stir well.
4. Stir the tomatoes in and cook for a few minutes. Add salt to taste.
5. Serve with naan bread, chapati or rice, and garnish with cilantro.
The most recent version of dhal and homemade chapati (recipe and instructions here) were a hit in our house, little man included.

Coconut Lemongrass Soup with Tofu


I realize that many of my blog posts begin something like: “So I was at the farmer’s market the other day, and found some amazing _____, which inspired me to make ______.” But what’s a girl to do? The farmer’s market is my inspiration, so it’s only fair that my dishes be based on my local finds.

This post is no different. One of my very favorite vendors at the San Pedro Square market on Fridays in downtown San Jose has a variety of Asian vegetables and herbs. I almost always have to pick up some Chinese eggplant, which is a longer, less spongy version of eggplant. I love the eggplant cut into long slices, brushed with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs, and grilled. Last Friday though, I went for some stalks of lemongrass. I’d been craving coconut lemongrass soup with Thai flavors, and was determined to make some.

I was going for Thai flavors, similar to Tom Kha Gai. But since I’d never made this before, I did a little research online, and based my recipe off of this site and this one. The soup I came up with is not a traditional Tom Kha Gai, because there are no Kaffir lime leaves, or galangal, but I did get a nice lemongrass coconut flavor, which was exactly what I was looking for. Even with the warm weather we’ve been having, this was a very satisfying meal.

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Carrots, cut into julienne
2 Anaheim bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 lb white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 head broccoli, cleaned and cut into florets
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans coconut milk
2 Serrano or Thai chili peppers, thinly sliced
2 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2-inch pieces and crushed
6 slices ginger
zest from 2 limes
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 package firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
juice from 2 limes
cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
1 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped (for garnish)

Directions:

  • Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan. Add carrots, and saute for 3 minutes. Turn heat to low, and add garlic. Saute for 1 minute.
  • Pour in broth and coconut milk. Stir in ginger, lemongrass, chili peppers, lime zest, brown sugar, fish sauce and Anaheim bell peppers. Simmer soup for 15 minutes.
  • Add tofu & mushroom slices and lime juice to soup and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • At this point, taste the soup to decide if it has enough heat for you. I used Serrano chilies (would have preferred Thai chilies), and the soup was not spicy enough for my taste. So I added about 1/8-1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. Make sure to only add a tiny bit at a time, and retaste. You can always add more spice, but you can’t take any away, so be careful!
  • Garnish with cilantro just before serving. Enjoy!

Rustic artisan bread made easy


And now for something completely different (i.e. un-paleo)- bread! I think when most people consider a no-grain diet/no-sugar, the thing that they think they could not live without is bread. And I agree that bread would be difficult to give up, especially as a French-American woman. However, at the risk of sounding snooty about French bread, it would be much easier for me to give it up while living in the US than while living in France. Here in California, I just cannot find bread that’s on par with the bread you can get at any boulangerie in France. I guess I’m just spoiled in the bread department. I’m told that things have vastly improved since my mom moved here almost 30 years ago, and I’m sure they have. Now you can actually find baguette, rustic loaves, and even pretty good imitation “Pain Poilane” at Trader Joe’s (called, “Pain Pascale”). For the most part though, the good bread can only be found at more expensive stores or bakeries. For example: the day after I returned from Paris, I decided to stop at the Santana Row bakery, Cocola, to pick up a baguette to have with all of the yummy cheeses I brought with me. The baguette that would have cost me 0.90 € cost $3.00. Even with a poor currency rate, this was over double the price of the French baguette. PLUS, it wasn’t good. Anyway, enough with the bready rant.

I have always been the type of person who tries to recreate things at home that would generally be left to the professionals (think, macarons). Bread is no exception. I’ve made many whole wheat sandwich loaves, but never thought it would be possible to make an artisan-type loaf without some serious research and time investment. Well the New York Times proved me wrong on this one. An article in November of 2006 featured a No-Knead bread recipe, adapted from a recipe used by Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery. I actually saw this article when it first came out, thought about trying it, and figured that this “no knead” phenomenon was probably too good to be true. So I never tried it out. I came upon it again in a William-Sonoma catalog and finally decided to take the plunge.

How can a loaf of bread be “No knead,” you ask? Well here is the short answer: Gluten development is one of the necessary components in making bread. There are 2 ways of developing gluten. The first is by kneading the heck out of the dough, and the second is by waiting a really long time for the gluten to develop on its own. Most bread recipes use a combination of the two, and this one simply chooses the second option.

Since the dough for this recipe must rest for 12-18 hours during the first rise, I suggest making it the night before. Basically, all this recipe requires is a little more planning than a kneaded loaf. I won’t repost the recipe here, since I really haven’t changed anything from the New York Times article. The only thing I would suggest, if you plan on serving the bread with a savory dish, is to add some chopped up fresh rosemary (or other fresh herbs) when you’re first mixing the dough. It gives the bread a nice flavor. Once you get a few successful loaves under your belt, try substituting some of the all-purpose flour with other types of flour such as whole wheat or rye.

Overall, I really must give a tip of the hat to Jim Lahey for sharing this amazing and incredibly simple recipe. My very first loaf came out perfect (a triumph I cannot claim for my other bread-making endeavors). He makes delicious bread accessible to anyone with a dutch oven and a little time, and for that, I say “Thank you!”