Sunday, January 11, 2009

Comfort Food

It's a balmy 25 today with a windchill of 15. Nothing says lunch on a cold day like tomato soup and grilled cheese. None of that high fructose corn syrup laden junk that comes in those iconic red and white cans for us!

In all honesty, this is probably better if you simmer it longer. Or wait a day and eat it. Or soak good quality dried beans overnight and use them instead. And make your own stock.

But, like I said, it is really cold outside. My husband is leaving on a week-long business trip to SF.* And I felt compelled to send him on his way with a warm home-cooked meal in his belly. The upside - I have leftovers to feast on while he's away. I poked around in the fridge and the pantry and came up with this:

Tomato White Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Lemon Oil

1 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (red or white)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 gloves of garlic, crushed
1 15 oz can white kidney beans and liquid
1 28 oz can diced stewed tomatoes
3 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 3" sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
Lemon infused olive oil or good quality olive oil and a splash of fresh lemon juice

  • Heat oil over high heat in a heavy bottomed pot.
  • Once it is shimmering add in the onion and celery and saute until the onion starts to become translucent.
  • At this point add in the garlic, give it a go around in the heated oil but don't allow it to brown.
  • Add in the beans, tomatoes, stock and herbs, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes - longer is fine, too.
  • Remove bay leaf and rosemary and puree soup (I use an immersion blender. You can use a standard blender but be careful - the soup will be very hot - be sure to leave the top slightly ajar). Add in additional water or stock if you feel the soup is too thick.
  • Adjust seasoning if desired.
Serve with a drizzle of lemon-infused oil or good olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Grilled cheese sandwich (we had grilled mozzarella), optional.

* Poor guy will really be suffering at the St. Regis with a personal butler.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Plagiarizing Myself

I started out posting some recipes on my Facebook page and eventually decided to start this here blog. I still don't know what I'm doing here, really. But, if I must say so myself, I do know my way around the kitchen. Here's a recipe I created last Fall in an effort to use some things in the pantry (I stumbled upon a bag of organic pearl barley that I must have bought while in a daze because I honestly didn't remember purchasing it) and in desperation for a side-dish for dinner one night.

For me, side dishes (or main dishes) with a high fiber content are great - especially on Weight Watchers (note to self: now there's a source of blog posts!). Imagine my delight to learn that a cup of cooked pearl barley has only 193 calories, 1 gram of fat and 6 grams of fiber! It also delivers 12% of the RDA of iron and is a great source of Niacin, Manganese and Selenium.*

I scrounged around the fridge and came up with this recipe. It will work with any variety of vegetables and aromatics and is incredibly easy to make. Leftovers are delicious added to a leafy green salad.

Mushroom Barley Pilaf
Yields 4 very generous side servings

1 generous TBS olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 or 6 large button mushrooms, halved then thinly sliced
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 3/4 cup chicken stock (preferably low sodium or sodium free so you can control the seasoning yourself)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh chives (for garnish)

  • Heat the oil over high heat in a pot large enough to accommodate the finished product (3 quarts is ample).
  • Saute the onions and garlic until fragrant and the onions are translucent - 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Allow the mushrooms to release their liquid and shrink slightly in size.
  • Add in the barley and stir to coat with the oil and allow the barley to toast for about a minute.
  • Pour in the chicken stock, add in the bay leaf, and adjust seasoning. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer.
  • Simmer for 45 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff and top with the fresh chives.

*Thank you

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

I don't make resolutions. I used to. But once I broke them, or never got around to them, I felt guilty and, trust me, I don't need any help in that area. So I guess I am going to sound like a hypocrite when I ask you to make one resolution this year. I want you to resolve to cook more. I promise you will get a lot out of it.

Everyone gets his or her own pleasure from cooking. I know my greatest pleasure is sharing the fruits of my labor with people I love. There is nothing more satisfying for me than to watch people enjoying something I've created. It can be something as simple as Saturday morning pancakes with perfectly crisp bacon and a great cup of coffee (recipe coming in January) or a meal that takes days to pull together. Sitting around, enjoying the company of dear friends and family, is only enhanced by good food.

Cooking also slows you down. It makes you take stock. Think. Read. Contemplate. Plan. And we all need the excuse to slow down once in a while. It's what I love most about cooking and what I hope to share with you here and in my new series of cooking classes. Stay tuned please.

I hope the New Year brings you whatever it is you seek. I just want to get everyone into the kitchen.

Be well.