keito potato


Marinated Mushrooms
August 14, 2012, 11:03 am
Filed under: recipes, starters | Tags: , , ,

Marinated mushrooms are a breeze to make and taste much better than store bought.  You can spice the marinade with a pinch of hot red pepper flakes and some balsamic vinegar, and sent it with just about any herbs growing in the garden.  The mushrooms are ready to eat when they have soaked up enough marinade to flavor them fully.  An hour is sufficient, but overnight is best.  This recipe comes from Viana La Place’s cookbook Panini, Bruschetta, Crostini:  Sandwiches, Italian Style.  These marinated mushrooms can be used as an appetizer or side dish, and sliced marinated mushrooms can be tucked into panini sandwiches.

MARINATED MUSHROOMS

1 pound button mushrooms, all about the same size, if possible

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup

1/3 cup water

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thick slices

4 fresh thyme sprigs

2 fresh sage leaves

1 bay leaf

small pinch hot red pepper flakes, about 1/8 teaspoon

a few black peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, optional

METHOD

Wipe the mushrooms clean with damp paper towels.  Trim stems if necessary.  Cut any very large mushrooms in half.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add mushrooms and saute over lower heat until just tender.  Transfer to a bowl.

Place the remaining olive oil, lemon, water, garlic, herbs, hot red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, and salt in saute pan.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Pour over the mushrooms in the bowl.  Stir in the optional balsamic vinegar.  Let mushrooms cool in marinade.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  To serve, lift out of marinade with a slotted spoon.

Makes 2 cups marinated mushrooms.

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Roasted Zucchini and Mint Salad
August 5, 2012, 8:30 pm
Filed under: recipes, salads | Tags: , , , ,

This is a new favorite salad, and a fresh way to handle a profusion of zucchini during summer.  It’s light and refreshing with the crunch of almonds and croutons, and the brightness of mint and lemon.  What’s not to love?

This recipe calls for halving the zucchini lengthwise, and roasting it briefly at a high heat without any oil.  The technique works well to sear the zucchini without burning it, and the interior is perfectly tender.  The amount of lemon juice in the original recipe was a bit excessive (in my mind) because the extra lemon juice sat in a pool in the bottom of the serving bowl.  In the future I will reduce the amount from 3 lemons to 2 lemons.

The recipe comes from the Osteria cookbooks by Rick Tramonto and Mary Goodbody, which features rustic Italian food from Tramonto’s childhood.  This salad can be served as an antipasto, or as a side salad.

ROASTED ZUCCHINI AND MINT SALAD

8 zucchini, halved lengthwise

4 sprigs fresh mint

about 2/3 cup croutons (homemade, if possible)

about 1/2 cup toasted almonds

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

juice of 3 lemons (or 2 lemons)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

fresh mint leaves for garnish

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 500F.

Lay the zucchini on a baking sheet, skin side up, and bake for about 8 minutes, or until the zucchini are golden brown on the flat, fleshy side.  

Let the zucchini cool slightly and then slice into half-moons.

In a bowl, mix the zucchini, mint sprigs, croutons, and toasted almonds.  Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, toss, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with fresh mint leaves.



Italian Arugula and Fennel Salad with Basil Dressing
August 4, 2012, 11:12 pm
Filed under: recipes, salads | Tags: , , , , ,

This salad was one of the show-stoppers at a recent vegetarian cooking group meal.  My friends Nina and Tim planned an Italian menu, and this flavorful salad was phenomenal.  I have become addicted to it in the last two weeks, and have probably made it five times in that period of time.  I normally love the black-pepper-spiciness of arugula salads, and this one is unique with refreshing fennel slices, and the thick basil dressing.  The green opaque basil dressing is as thick as pesto, but with more flavor and less oil.  I would love to use this in other dishes where I used to use pesto.  The lemon, fennel fronds, and touch of honey all lift and brighten the basil flavor.  It tastes like the essence of summer.


You will need a sharp vegetable peeler to shave the fennel bulb.  I tried making this one time by slicing the fennel, but the slices were too thick and crunchy.  The fennel really needs to be shaved, so that it is fluffy and feathery. Many stores sell vegetarian parmesan (without animal rennet).  Trader Joe’s has a handy guide about various types of rennet in their products, and their vegetarian parmesan is shredded and comes in a bag.

ITALIAN ARUGULA AND FENNEL SALAD WITH BASIL DRESSING

2 bunches of arugula

1-2 fennel bulbs

1/2 bunch fresh basil

1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

5 tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon honey parmesan or pecorino cheese

METHOD

Zest the lemon.  With a sharp knife, remove the white pith.  Put the inner part of the lemon into a food processor.  Add the basil, fennel seeds, the fluffy fennel greens from the stalks, 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Puree.  Gradually add the 5th tablespoon of olive oil, if needed.  Now add the lemon zest, honey, salt, and pepper to the dressing.  Puree again to mix.  You can make this a few hours ahead of time, and chill in the refrigerator, if needed. Grate the parmesan or pecorino cheese.  Arrange the gratings onto a lined baking sheet into little flat 2-inch circles.  Broil these in the oven until they melt and turn into little disks.

Arrange the arugula in a large bowl or a wide platter.  Use a sharp vegetable peeler to shave the fennel bulb.  Add the fennel shavings to the salad.  Top the salad with the dressing and disks of broiled cheese.



Thyme-Infused Lemonade
June 3, 2012, 12:30 pm
Filed under: drinks, recipes | Tags: , ,

During warmer weather, I like infusing herbs and other aromatics into lemonade and limeade (for instance: mint, basil, rosemary, lemongrass, ginger).  I was recently pondering the possibility of infusing thyme into lemonade since my thyme plants are going crazy in the backyard, and there are other savory recipes that pair lemons with thyme.  I did a quick bing search, and the first item that popped up was a Martha Stewart recipe for thyme lemonade.  Martha says it has an “unexpected grown-up flair.”  I decided to go for it, since Martha approves.  If a different herb sounds good to you, feel free to follow this process and substitute another herb in the thyme’s place.

This recipe makes a concentrate which will create 4-5 pitchers of lemonade.  To save space in the fridge before a party, I make a concentrate which consists of the lemon juice and infused simple syrup.  Then right before serving, I dilute a small portion of the concentrate in a with water in a pitcher.  My ratio is 1 part concentrate to 4 parts water, but you can adjust that per your own taste.  You can use flat water or sparkling water, your choice.  If you want to turn this into a cocktail, gin would be a complementary option.

The thyme in my backyard is a fluffy and fuzzy sort of thyme.  It’s fun to use, but the regular variety of thyme will look more delicate and dainty floating in the lemonade pitcher.

THYME-INFUSED LEMONADE – makes 4-5 pitchers

4 cups of freshly-squeezed lemon juice

grated zest of 2 lemons

2 cups sugar

1 cup loosely-packed fresh thyme branches

1 cup water for the simple syrup

water or sparkling water to fill the pitchers

gin, optional

METHOD:

Juice the lemons.  If you have an electric citrus juice, this will go faster.  

Make the infused simple syrup by combining the sugar, lemon zest, thyme branches, and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Bring to a full boil, then remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Combine the infused simple syrup with the lemon juice in a pitcher or large tupperware, and chill in the fridge until ready to use.  Leave the thyme branches in the lemonade so that they can continue their infusion.  The thyme will be more pronounced the next day, but not overpowering.

To serve, I combine 1  1/2 cups of this concentrate with 6 cups water in a pitcher.  That is a ratio of 1 part concentrate to 4 parts water.  Adjust this ratio for yourself depending on the size of your pitcher, and the size of your sweet tooth.  I like this proportion because it is less sweet and more refreshing, but you might like it a bit more concentrated.  You might also want to adjust the concentrate itself in terms of the balance of sugar to lemon juice.  You can add a shot of gin to your glass, if desired.



Belgian Herbed Carrot Soup
May 5, 2012, 1:05 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , ,

A lovely soup, flavored with the classic Belgian trio: leeks, thyme, and bay leaf.  This was the first course at the Belgian meal with my vegetarian cooking group last weekend.  We started by making a simple vegetable broth (the one I previously posted), and then built this soup following the recipe from Ruth Van Waerebeek’s Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook.

These days, it’s common to make pureed carrot soups with ginger and curry flavors, but I tend to prefer pairing carrots with fresh green herbs.  Apparently, traditional Belgian cuisine highlights the best of Medieval European cooking skills.  This means that they utilized fresh local European herbs before the spice trade.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

BELGIAN HERBED CARROT SOUP

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 medium leeks, white and light green parts

1 large onion

6 cups vegetable broth (you can use my easy basic broth recipe, or used boxed broth)

1 – 1/2 pounds carrots

1 large baking potato

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 – 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 cup milk

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

METHOD

Wash and thinly slice the leeks into rings.  Slice the onion.  Peel and slice the carrots into 1-inch slices.  Peel and cube the potato.  You don’t need to be precise in your chopping, since you will puree the soup at the end.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks and onion.  Cook, stirring until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth, the carrots, potato, thyme, and bay leaf.  Simmer, covered, until the vegetables are very soft, 35-40 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool a little.  Discard the bay leaf.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

Puree the soup with a stick immersion blender.  Stir in the milk.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reheat the soup and serve sprinkled with minced parsley.  



Belgian Endive Tart
May 2, 2012, 12:01 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , ,

This tart is in the same family as quiche, but more exquisite.  Puff pastry is topped with caramelized Belgian endives, quiche-style egg custard, gruyere cheese, and parsley.  It was the main dish at my vegetarian cooking group’s Belgian meal this weekend.  Belgian endives are slightly bitter in a refreshing way.  When they are caramelized they are still slightly bitter, which is immensely pleasing and complex in combination with the buttery puff pastry and nutty gruyere cheese.

photo by Joel Weaver

I’ve adapted the recipe from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook by Ruth Van Waerebeek.  I’ve made the tart vegetarian by eliminating the ham, and have replaced the pie crust with a puff pastry crust, which makes it more special.  You can buy puff pastry in the frozen section of most grocery stores.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

BELGIAN ENDIVE TART

1 sheet puff pastry

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

4-5 Belgian endives

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

2 large eggs

1 cup half-and-half

freshly ground nutmeg

2 ounces Gruyere cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

METHOD

Defrost the puff pastry for about an hour.

Cut off the core end of the endives.  Thinly slice them into slivers. 

Melt the butter in a large heave skillet.  Add endives, salt, pepper, and powdered sugar.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice.  Cook, covered, over medium heat until the endives are soft and slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.  Stir from time to time to make sure they do not burn.

In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Then beat in the half-and-half.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a generous grating of nutmeg.

While the endives are caramelizing, you can pre-bake the puff pastry.  Your puff pastry will most likely come in a long rectangular shape.  If you are using a large round tart pan, you will need to use a rolling pin to roll the pastry into a square that will fit in the pan.  Place in the tart pan, and tuck the ends under the edges. 

photo by Joel Weaver

photo by Joel Weaver

 Pre-bake the puff pastry in a medium-heat oven for around 10 minutes, until it is starting to puff even in the middle a little.  If you won’t pre-bake the puff pastry, the custard will make it soggy.  Remove the puff pastry from the oven.  If the middle has puffed up, it will collapse a little when you pour the filling in.  You also might want to think about baking it with “weights.”  Arrange the caramelized endives over the bottom of the crust.  Pour the egg mixture over.  Grate the gruyere cheese, and sprinkle it over the egg mixture.  Top with the chopped parsley.

photo by Joel Weaver

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

Bake at 350F until the custard is set and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 18-25 minutes.

Let the tart set for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.  Cut into wedges and serve while still warm.  It is still wonderful at room temperature, if you are thinking of bringing it to a picnic.

photo by Joel Weaver



French Mushroom Soup
January 24, 2012, 12:10 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday’s rainy weather inspired me to make a pot of soup to warm up.  My mom has been making my Aunt Marty’s French Mushroom Soup for as long as I can remember.  Aunt Marty and her branch of the family have lived on communes over the decades, including the Hutterite variety, so it’s possible that this is a Hutterite soup.  Hutterites make fruit and grape wines, so I imagine they must cook with it as well.  This soup is quite similar to a French onion soup, except that it centers around mushrooms instead of onions.  Since I am a vegetarian, I have substituted vegetable broth for the other, and I like to make the vegetable broth from scratch when I have time, as I did today.  Yes, it’s indeed possible to make rich, dark, French-style soups totally vegetarian.   How could a soup made from white wine, meltingly-soft onions, mushrooms, parmesan, and herbs not be delicious?

I have improved on my aunt’s recipe by adding fresh herbs from my garden, as well as increasing the amount of white wine and garlic.  Aunt Marty’s recipe calls for white button mushrooms.  That’s what I used today, but I often substitute crimini mushroom instead, or use half-and-half.  It’s really quite easy to pull together, as long as you have an hour for simmering.

FRENCH MUSHROOM SOUP

2 lbs. (4 blue boxes) fresh mushrooms (button or crimini, or a combination)

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons tomato paste

8 cups vegetable broth (here is my recipe, but you can use broth from the store)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fresh parsley

3 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more for garnish

croutons are optional for garnish

METHOD

Slice the mushrooms thinly.  Cut the onion in half, then slice it thinly.  Mince the garlic.

Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic.  Saute until tender, about 10 minutes.

During this time, chop the parsley and remove the thyme leaves from the stems.  When the mushrooms are tender, add the herbs and tomato paste.  Simmer about 1 minute.  Add the white wine, broth, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer 1 hour, then serve with more parmesan as garnish, plus croutons if you like.