Archive | August, 2010

purée of romaine soup

30 Aug

I had a couple romaine hearts that were a little less than fresh — unsuitable for a caesar, but also a pity to toss. As with all veggie leftovers, I reached for a soup pot. Lettuce soup? Yeah, why not!

Inspired by Bittman’s French-style chilled lettuce soup recipe, I concocted this surprisingly delicious vat of sauteed, then puréed romaine. You’ll be stunned at how much flavor comes from these simple leaves seasoned only with onions, garlic, and stock — plus an old Italian secret ingredient: parmesan rind.

Instead of cold, I decided to serve my soup warm using cooked rice to create an extra thick and creamy texture — almost like a cream of broccoli. A zip of lemon juice finishes things off, or you could toss in croutons or crispy bacon bits to fancy up your lettuce soup. Fancy or not, you’ll be ecstatic to discover this deliciously clever way to use up old greens.

purée of romaine soup
because older greens are wiser greens

* 1 tablespoons butter
* 1/2 medium onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, chopped
* 3 stalks of green onion, chopped
* 2 cups good chicken stock (half-water, half-broth would work, if using the parmesan rind)
* 1/4 cup cooked rice
* 2 large hearts of romaine, chopped into 1/2-inch strips
* 1 parmesan rind (recommended, if you’ve got one)
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* 2-3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

In a saucepan cook onion in butter over medium heat, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, green onions, and parmesan rind. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until garlic and onions are soft, but not browned. Stir in romaine and cook, stirring, until wilted. Stir in broth, rice, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer soup 10 minutes.

Remove parmesan rind. In a blender or with an immersion blender (off heat), purée soup in batches until smooth. Stir in lemon juice.

Garnish with croutons or bacon bits.
Serves 2 – 3.

the great indoors: zucchini with mint and red pepper

11 Aug

While running on Lake Street this evening, I passed by a couple tending to their petite sidewalk garden. The white-haired man wore a khaki vest with too many pockets and posed quite contently with a hose in-hand over his trough of flowers.

It reminded me of my grandpa and how he’d spend hours every afternoon watering the yard — the front yard, the back yard, the court yard, the orchids, the vegetables, the strawberries, the ferns, the protea, the bonsais, the cacti, even the ditch (an old irrigation ditch we grew marigolds in). I never thought of it as odd, but that was a serious amount of time spent on plants!

How much time do I spend on plants? Only as long as it takes me to cook them. Someday when I live in a city that actually experiences summer, I will have a garden and spend ridiculous hours tending to my plants. Until then, I will celebrate summer from the great indoors.

zucchini with mint and red pepper
grill pan makin’ it happen… real grill, even better!

* 5 medium-sized zucchini
* 1/2 cup olive oil, divided in half
* 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
* a dozen large mint leaves, finely sliced
* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like)
* salt & pepper

Preheat your grill to medium.

Cut each zucchini in half crosswise and then cut each half into 1/8″ planks. In a very large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Lay the zucchini on the grill and cook for about four minutes per side, keeping the heat moderate so you’re sweating them and not really giving them a ton of color. Turn the heat up to high and grill for about a minute more on each side to mark them. Depending on the size of your grill, this may need to be done in batches.

Remove the zucchini to a large platter. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with the vinegar, mint and red pepper flakes. Drizzle this over the zucchini, being sure to evenly distribute the pepper flakes, sprinkle with salt & pepper.


5 Aug

Working from home can be fun at first, but gets old fast.
My best imaginary work day:

roasted red pepper, eggplant & feta salad

3 Aug

On special occasions, I like to blow a small fortune on cheeses for a fabulous spread… who doesn’t? For everyday cheese eating, I love venturing for a slice of fresh feta from the Mediterranean grocery near my house. Unlike the plastic container of crumbles you normally get, this feta is sold by the pound — delicately sliced to order from a giant brick soaking in brine. It’s perfectly creamy, mild, and not too tart…. perfect to nibble or toss into a salad.

Speaking of cheese, Monday night marked the Bachelorette season finale and we couldn’t have been more excited for “the most dramatic rose ceremony ever.”

The gals and I got together to scream obscenities at the TV and enjoy an equally colorful spread of bites — a leafy salad studded with ripe peaches, point reyes blue cheese and homemade candied walnuts, a DIY platter of grilled bread, steak, onions, fennel and homegrown (!) yellow squash, plus an eggplant and roasted red pepper salad made with my favorite fresh feta. We were bored by the bachelorette’s predictable choice of Latin lover, Roberto, but not disappointed by our fab feast!

Roasted Red Pepper, Eggplant and Feta Salad
adapted from Small Bites

* 2 red peppers, quartered, seeds and stems removed
* 3-4 small eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
* 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* salt and freshly ground pepper
* 1 small red onion, sliced into half moons
* 6 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 1 tsp cumin seeds
* small bunch of mint lives, roughly torn

* 1 small garlic clove, crushed
* juice of 1 lemon
* 3 tsp pomegranate molasses
* 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tsp each salt and pepper

Preheat the broiler to high. Place the peppers skin side up on a nonstick baking sheet. Place under the broiler, cook until blackened, then transfer to plastic bag, seal, and allow to steam 5 minutes. When cooled, peel off the skins and discard.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan, set aside.

Brush the eggplant with the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook under broiler until crispy on both sides.

To make the dressing, place all of the ingredients in a jar and share to combine.

Arrange the eggplant and pepper, sprinkle with onions, feta and cumin seeds. Spoon on the dressing and garnish with mint. Serves 4 as a salad course.