June 19, 2009

Quick Turkey Curry

I adapted this recipe from the July 2009 issue of Prevention magazine. Their version called for ground lamb, which the grocery store I stopped in on the way home doesn't carry. Ground turkey worked wonderfully. I added a bit of ginger and hot pepper sauce for extra spice.

Very tasty and only takes about 15 minutes to put together.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a large skillet or saute pan, heat a tiny bit of oil and saute the ginger for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  2. Add the turkey, curry powder, and hot pepper sauce. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the turkey is cooked through.
  3. Add the water, marinara sauce, and spinach. Stir the spinach carefully into the mixture until it starts to wilt down.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with rice or naan or whole wheat pita.

Makes 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 07:56 PM

February 01, 2009

Pork and Tomatillo Chili

I'm on a quest to use up a collection of stray bottles of leftover beer that have accumulated from various parties we've thrown. As a first experiment, this turned out really well.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown it in a dutch oven or large ovenproof pot, working in batches if necessary. Remove from the pot and set aside. Pour off any excess fat.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, chilies, and tomatillos, and cook over medium-high heat until the onions start to get soft.
  4. Add the pork, the beans, and the beer and bring to a simmer.
  5. Cover the pot and stick it in the oven for about 3 hours.

When it's done, the beer will have cooked down to a thick, delicious broth, and the pork will be tender enough to eat with a spoon. Mmmm. Oddly, though, I think the tastiest part of this recipe might have been the beans - I think I'm going to try just cooking a big pot of pinto beans with chilies and beer.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 08:23 PM

April 27, 2008

Bean and Herb Soup

This recipe derived from having a bunch of stuff I needed to use up: some shallots, some bottled garlic pesto, chicken stock, carrots, celery, and fresh dill. I improvised the following soup, which manages to be hearty and (nearly) vegetarian at the same time. (You could easily make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock.)

This soup would have been extra fabulous with a bit of grated pecorino romano or parmegiano reggiano on top, but we didn't have any.

Since this was an improvised dish, measurements are highly approximate.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Saute the shallots, celery, and carrot in olive oil for a few minutes, until they start to soften.
  2. Add the vermouth, bay leaves, sage, herbes de Provence, and fennel. Cook, stirring, until most of the vermouth evaporates.
  3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the dill and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  6. Stir in the pesto. Taste, and add salt, pepper, pesto, or herbs as needed.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:27 PM

Avgolemono Soup

Mr. Spaceling and I have been feeling under the weather. When you're under the weather, it's hard to beat chicken soup. Avgolemono soup is the queen of chicken soups. I used the recipe from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, with a couple of tweaks. To make the soup slightly more substantial, I poached some chicken thighs in the soup, and shredded the meat to put into the soup. I also used bulgur wheat instead of rice or orzo, because it was what I had on hand. It was nice, although I think bulgur doesn't expand as much during cooking as rice or orzo, so I think next time, I would add more.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat the broth to a gentle simmer in a pot. Add carrot, celery, rice/orzo/bulgur, and chicken thighs. Cook everything gently for about 20 minutes, or until the rice and chicken are cooked.
  2. Turn the heat under the pot to low. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate. Let them cool a bit, and take the meat off the bones and shred it. Stir the meat back into the soup.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Still whisking, slowly add about half a cup of the broth to the eggs. Add about another cup of broth, and keep whisking.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the soup, and stir well. You can very gently reheat the soup a bit, but don't let it boil, or you'll get bits of cooked egg floating in your soup instead of the smooth egg emulsion.
  5. Taste, and add salt, pepper, or more lemon juice as needed. Serve with a bit of chopped dill on top.

Serves 4 to 6.

Posted by spaceling at 08:21 AM

January 06, 2008

Spanish Daube

This is another recipe from the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Cooking Light. They call it "daube", I might call it pot roast - but what an elegant pot roast it is! The combination of sherry, smoked paprika, and saffron makes for a particularly delicious broth.

The recipe calls for braising the meat for 2 hours. I found that the beef was not quite perfectly tender in the center, so I think I'd go for slightly longer braising, or cut the roast into smaller chunks to help it braise through more.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Coat a large Dutch oven or other pot with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add beef to pan, and cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef and set aside.
  2. Add the onions to the pot and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the salt, thyme, paprika, fennel seeds, pepper, and saffron. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the sherry and the hot pepper sauce, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to get up all the browned bits. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half (~4 minutes).
  5. Add the beef and broth to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours or until beef is tender. (As I noted above, 2 hours wasn't quite enough to get the beef perfectly tender all the way through.)
  6. Remove the beef from the pot and slice into thin slices across the grain.
  7. Add peas, parsley, and sherry vinegar to the pot and cook 5 minutes.
  8. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Add to the broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute.
  9. Add the sliced beef back to the pot. Cook for 1 minute or until beef is heated through.
Makes 8 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 08:48 PM

Lentil and Farro Stew

This stew was a perfect for an evening of keeping cosy warm indoors while the rain poured down outside. Of course, since I hadn't been out to the grocery store in a few days, it was also a bit of a "let's scrounge through the fridge and the pantry and see what we can throw together" kind of recipe. (For example, I don't think it's really necessary to use two kinds of lentils, or both chicken and beef broth, but I was using up odds and ends that were on hand.)

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Pour off any excess fat.
  2. Add the onion, peppers, and carrots, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to get soft. (About 5 to 7 minutes.)
  3. Add the farro, and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
  4. Add the lentils, white wine, and herbs and spices. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any browned bits.
  5. Add the tomatoes, broth or water, and the bay leaf. Stir. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the lentils and farro are tender. (About 25 to 30 minutes.) Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.
Makes...a lot. Maybe 6 to 8 servings?

Posted by spaceling at 10:09 AM

December 30, 2007

Ropa Vieja

I made this recipe, which comes from the January/February issue of Cooking Light for dinner tonight. It fulfilled a culinary ambition of mine, which is to become more familiar with braising. As a braised dish, it takes a couple of hours to prepare, but almost all of that time can be spent lounging around with a book, enjoying how good the house smells.

Braising really ought to be done in a proper dutch oven. I only have a biggish soup pot, which is a bit too tall. I improvised by putting a layer of aluminum foil just over the surface of the stew, and then putting the lid on the top of the pot. It seemed to work fine. I certainly had no complaints about how the dish came out.

We folded the beef and peppers into warm tortillas, and then ate the broth with a spoon.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the flank steak for about 2 and a half minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, peppers, and garlic to the pot, and cook, stirring, until tender (about 7 minutes).
  3. Stir in the olives and the spices and cook for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the vinegar and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve any browned bits. Cook for 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates.
  5. Stir in broth, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Add the steaks and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1.5 hours or until steaks are tender.
  7. Remove the steaks from the pan and shred with two forks. Stir the shredded beef and cilantro into the pot. Serve in shallow bowls with warm tortillas on the side.
Serves 6-8

Posted by spaceling at 08:21 PM

December 27, 2007

Vaguely Asian Chicken Soup

I'm not dead! And to prove it, I made chicken soup. It was tasty, although I think the next time I make it, I may increase the amount of 5 spice powder ever so slightly.


The Steps

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot, and saute the vegetables and aromatics until the onion starts to get soft and everything smells good. (Maybe 5 minutes or so.)
  2. Add the five spice powder, the bay leaf, and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken thighs and poach them at a simmer until they are cooked through, perhaps 15 minutes or so.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred it. Put it back in the pot, taste, and add soy sauce and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  5. Finish off each serving with a squeeze of lime juice.

Posted by spaceling at 09:57 PM

July 21, 2007

Mushroom, White Bean, and Summer Squash Ragout

This recipe is a riff on the Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil that I blogged a few months ago. It was inspired by my coming across some itty-bitty bite-sized baby pattypan squash at Whole Foods, and by having ~3/4 lb. of shiitake mushrooms in the fridge that really needed to be used up.

It was very tasty, and this time Mr. Spaceling ate all his mushrooms instead of picking them out. (Perhaps Mr. Spaceling like shiitake mushrooms better than crimini mushrooms? Maybe it's the magic of parmeggiano reggiano cheese? I dunno. Further experimentation warranted.)


The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat, and add the leeks. Saute for a few minutes until they start to get soft.
  2. Add the garlic, sage, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just starting to look cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the water or broth, and then arrange the squash in an even layer on top of the mushroom/leek mixture. Cover the skillet and let the squash steam until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cannelini beans, stir everything together, and cook for just a couple of minutes to heat through and blend the flavors.
  5. Ladle the mixture into bowls. Drizzle each serving with a bit (~1/2 tsp. or to taste) of white truffle oil, and top with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Makes about 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 05:26 PM

May 20, 2007

Sweet and Sour Chickpeas and Sausage

Mr. Spaceling and I went out to Half Moon Bay today - had a great time walking on the beach and drinking coffee in a local cafe. When we arrived back home it was after 8:00pm, and I hadn't been grocery shopping all weekend. I threw this recipe together from some stuff I had in the fridge and the pantry. It was good enough to be worth repeating.

The recipe uses tomatoes and sherry vinegar to give a kind of sweet and sour effect. (It's not super sweet.) It also uses lots of Spanish smoked paprika, which continues to be one of my favorite ingredients for giving a simple dish an extra flavor boost.

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. Cook the sausage in a deep skillet until lightly browned.
  2. Add the vermouth, and let it cook down for a few minutes.
  3. Add the chick peas, the tomatoes, the paprika, and the Tabasco sauce (if using).
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down to a slightly saucy consistency.
  5. Stir in the vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Serves 2.

Posted by spaceling at 09:42 PM

January 16, 2007

Chorizo and Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika and Sherry Vinegar

This soup was inspired by my coming across some apparently Spanish-style chorizo while shopping at Mollie Stone's. I'm not sure what made me decide to throw in rutabaga, because as far as I've been able to tell, it doesn't feature at all in Iberian cuisine. However, the Portuguese do make a stew that includes kale and potato, so perhaps the rutabaga is subbing for the potato. In any case, it tastes quite good.

This soup is very quick for something that tastes as rich as it does. I'll definitely be making it again.

I added the vinegar at the end of cooking because the soup tasted like it needed just a little something to pick up the flavors. It worked wonderfully. Something I need to keep in mind the next time a stew tastes a little blah - add some acid.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Brown the chorizo in a soup pot. If a lot of fat has rendered out, you might want to tip some off before proceeding.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, stirring, until it gets fragrant.
  3. Add the rutabaga, kale, beans, chick peas, broth, paprika, and saffron. Simmer until the rutabaga is tender, about 20 minutes or so.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the sherry vinegar. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.
  5. Posted by spaceling at 09:48 PM

    November 03, 2006

    Lentils with Red Wine and Sausage

    One of the things I love about food blogs is the way it lets you see variations on an idea or recipe. Bloggers will pick up ideas from each other, or just from the general culinary zeitgeist, and run with them. It's fun to see all the variations.

    The other day, I came across this post from the wonderful food blog I'm Mad and I Eat, describing a delicious-looking lentil and sausage dish inspired by this even more delicious-looking lentil and sausage dish from Becks and Posh.

    So, I made my own version for dinner tonight. I followed Sam's recipe from Becks and Posh relatively closely, except that I couldn't find any Toulouse sausages. I used Whole Foods' lemon, thyme, and herb sausages. These worked fine, but next time I'll go for something with a more smoky/garlicky taste. I also substituted canned diced tomatoes for fresh, because that was what I had on hand, and threw some thyme into the lentils because it was already in the sausages.

    This was really good. (Quoth Mr. Spaceling, "Can we have this again? Please?") The wine, tomatoes, bacon, and chicken stock combine to make a nice smoky rich-tasting sauce for the lentils. It's a perfect fall meal. Read on for the recipe.

    The Ingredients

    • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup French green lentils, picked over
    • 2 bay leaves
    • dried thyme, to taste
    • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juices
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 1.5 cups red wine (I used a Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti)
    • 1 lb. pork sausages (I used Whole Foods lemon, thyme, and herb sausages. Toulouse sausages would be faithful to the original recipe.)
    • 4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces

    The Steps

    1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft.
    2. Add lentils and cook for a minute or two, stirring to coat with the oil.
    3. Add bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, stock, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer covered for about 45 minutes.
    4. A bit before the 45 minutes are up, cook the bacon in a skillet until it is lightly browned. Add the bacon and the fat that has rendered from it to the pot of lentils.
    5. Cook the sausages in the skillet until they are browned. Cut them up into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot.
    6. Simmer everything together for an additional 15 minutes or so.

    Serve with a green salad and the rest of the bottle of red wine. Makes a bunch of servings.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:37 PM | TrackBack

    October 28, 2006

    Meatball and Butter Bean Stew

    Premade sausages or meatballs are a great way to throw together a quickie dinner. Since they're usually highly seasoned, you start with a lot of flavor, and they cook quickly. If you read labels carefully, you can usually get chicken or turkey sausages/meatballs that aren't ridiculously high in fat. (Do read the label, though. Just because it's turkey doesn't mean that it's lean.)

    This was an improvised quick supper that I threw together a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Spaceling liked it enough to request that I make it again sometime. Hence, it goes in the blog for posterity.

    The canned butter beans called for in the recipe are very large white beans that have a nice flavor and a creamy texture, but if you can't find them, I think cannelini beans would work.


    • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
    • 1 package Aidell's sundried tomato meatballs, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 can butter beans (a.k.a Spanish beans), rinsed and drained
    • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
    • 3-4 handfuls fresh spinach leaves (I didn't chop them, but I think next time I would)
    • 8-10 pitted kalamata olives
    • ~1 tsp. oregano
    • A few dashes of thyme

    The Steps

    1. In a deep saute pan or sauce pan, brown the meatballs. Remove to a plate.
    2. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent.
    3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, butter beans, olives, herbs, and the browned meatballs. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the meatballs are heated through and the tomato juice has reduced a bit.
    4. Stir in the spinach (you may need to do this in batches) and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Serve.

    Posted by spaceling at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

    August 06, 2006

    Summer Chili

    This chili sort of came about serendipitously. On Friday, I was in the grocery store, and came across some habanero and green chile chicken and turkey sausages. I thought, "Hey, I bet this would be good in a chili," and bought them.

    Yesterday, I was at the Willow Glen Farmers' market, and bought some ears of white corn. And I thought, "Hey, corn is good in chili."

    Today, I decided it was finally time to make that chili. It came out really good. Spicy enough to clear your sinuses, but not overwhelmingly spicy, and tasting very summery with the corn and tomatoes and peppers. Quoth Mr. Spaceling, "It's good to be Mr. Spaceling."

    (The fresh tomatoes were an accident, too. I was planning on using canned, and then realized in the middle of the recipe that I didn't have any canned tomatoes. So I grabbed a pint of grape tomatoes that I had been planning on using in salad.)


    • 1 package Aidell's Habanero and Green Chile Sausages, diced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • kernels from 3 ears of white corn (I think it amounted to about 2 cups of kernels)
    • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
    • 1 chipotle chili, minced
    • 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
    • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
    • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
    • 1 can black beans
    • 1 can white beans
    • 1 can pinto beans


    1. In a large pot, saute the sausage over medium-high heat until it starts to brown.
    2. Dump in the onion, pepper, tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, and chipotle powder. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
    3. Add the corn and the beans, and about 1 can of water. Bring to a boil.
    4. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning, and serve.
    Makes a bunch of servings. (At least 6. Maybe more.)

    For a little extra punch, serve with a bit of shredded habanero jack cheese on top. (I seem to be on a habanero kick lately. I'm still too scared to actually buy and cook with the raw chilies, but if it's habanero flavored, I'll probably buy it.)

    Posted by spaceling at 08:57 PM | TrackBack

    April 09, 2006

    Chicken, Meatball, White Bean, and Fennel Soup

    I was puttering around the house this morning, mentally composing a grocery shopping list, and I decided that I wanted to have chicken soup for dinner. And I remembered that I had a bulb of fennel sitting in the crisper that I needed to use. So, I went to the store and started grabbing things that I thought would go well with fennel and chicken. The resulting soup is kind of a riot of vegetables and chicken and stuff. But it's very tasty.

    The Ingredients

    • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    • 1 package Aidells chicken and turkey meatballs with sundried tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 medium bulb of fennel, sliced
    • 2 medium carrots, diced
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved, thinly sliced, and well-washed
    • 1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
    • 2 15 oz. cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • small handful of mixed fresh sage, rosemary, and marjoram, roughly chopped.
    • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
    • 10 cups chicken broth or water (I used 8 cups broth + 2 cups water)

    The Steps

    1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the fennel, leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, and herbs and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to get translucent and everything smells amazing.
    2. Add broth/water. Bring it to a slow simmer. While the broth is heating up, trim excess fat from the chicken thighs and season them with pepper.
    3. When the broth is simmering, add the chicken thighs. Poach them for 20 minutes, being sure to keep the broth at a simmer and not letting it get to a full rolling boil.
    4. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate. Add the tomatoes, beans, kale, and meatballs, and bring everything back to a simmer.
    5. Shred the chicken. Return it to the pot and continue to simmer until the kale is fully cooked. (Perhaps another 15 minutes.)
    6. Adjust seasoning, and serve

    Makes a whole bunch of servings. It's a good thing I like this soup, because I have enough leftovers to last a while.

    Posted by spaceling at 12:04 AM

    March 19, 2006

    Okra and Shrimp Stew

    I'm catching up here - I made this dish nearly two weeks ago, when I picked up that okra at 99 Ranch. It was tasty enough to be recorded for future reference, so I scribbled down a few notes, but I didn't get around to putting together this post until today.

    One nice thing about this recipe is that it's really quick. It only takes about 20 minutes to put together.

    I adapted this recipe from a recipe in Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love. She had a recipe for an okra and red pepper stew. I beefed it up into a main dish by adding shrimp and tomatoes, and spiced it up with a little Cajun seasoning.

    This makes a fairly brothy stew. I just served it up in shallow bowls, but it would be terrific over rice or couscous.


    • 6 oz. medium-sized shrimp

    • ~3/4 lb. okra, cut into 2 inch lengths

    • 1 15 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

    • 3 medium-sized roasted red peppers, cut into strips

    • 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

    • 1/2 cup of chicken stock

    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

    The Steps

    1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the okra. Cook, stirring, until bright green, about 4 minutes. (The okra really does turn a nice bright green. Pretty neat.
    2. Add roasted peppers, tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, broth, and shrimp. Stir everything together.
    3. Bring to a boil, and cook until the okra is tender and the shrimp are cooked through. Maybe 4 to 5 minutes.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:13 PM

    March 18, 2006

    Lentil, Mushroom, and Spinach Soup

    I came up with this recipe to use up some stuff that I had in the fridge. I had a half a bunch of spinach left over from making the salad, and I had 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms that I'd intended to put in said salad before the salad took a turn in another direction. I also had some fresh thyme.

    My first taste of this soup made me say, "Wow!" It is amazingly rich and hearty tasting, even more so than most lentil soups I've had. I'm not sure if the key is the red wine, or the mushroom bouillon that I used, or what, but it's good. And completely vegan. (Well, if your wine is vegan. I didn't check mine.)

    The Ingredients

    • ~1 Tbsp. of olive oil
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 large carrot, sliced
    • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used ordinary white mushrooms, but the soup certainly wouldn't be hurt by anything more exotic)
    • 1/2 bunch baby spinach, washed (Next time I'll probably use a whole bunch. More spinach wouldn't hurt.)
    • 1 cup brown lentils, washed and picked over
    • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
    • ~1 Tbsp dried herbes de Provence
    • 3/4 cup red wine
    • 6 cups vegetable broth (I used reconstituted Harvest brand mushroom-flavored vegetarian bouillon, which is flavored with shiitake mushrooms. Purchased at 99 Ranch.)

    The Steps

      Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to get translucent.
    1. Add the mushrooms, and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to get tender.
    2. Add the red wine, and cook until it's reduced down considerably. (By at least half, I'd say, maybe a bit more.)
    3. Add the broth, lentils, and herbes de Provence. Strip the leaves off the fresh thyme sprigs and drop them into the pot (the leaves, not the stems). (Alternatively, you could just toss in the whole sprigs, and fish them out again before serving, but I like having the thyme leaves in the soup.)
    4. Bring the pot to a slow boil, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes (or longer), depending on how long it takes the lentils to be done.
    5. About 5 minutes before the lentils are done, stir in the spinach.
    6. Just before serving, taste and add freshly ground pepper and/or salt (salt probably not necessary if you used reconstituted bouillon) to taste.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

    February 23, 2006

    Curried Tomato Yogurt Soup

    So, I've been busy trying not to come down with a cold for the past couple of days. So far, it's hard to tell whether I'm succeeding - I have a perpetual sore throat, ameliorated only by large quantities of hot beverages, and I'm tired as heck. Under such circumstances, anything I cook has to be simple to prepare, and easy on the throat.

    Oddly enough, this kind of state tends to lead to improvisational cooking. For some reason, when I'm tired, following a recipe seems like too much effort.

    Tonight for dinner, I improvised this soup, which is both of those things.

    The Ingredients

    • 1 onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • small knob of ginger, minced
    • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
    • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • 1 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1 tsp. garam masala
    • 2-3 tsp. curry powder (I just kept adding it until it tasted about right)
    • Dash of cayenne pepper
    • 7 oz. 2% milk Greek yogurt
    • chopped cilantro, for garnish

    The Steps

    1. Sautee the onion in a bit of oil until soft.
    2. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Sautee for about 1 minute.
    3. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and broth.
    4. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    5. Turn off the heat, and stir in most of the yogurt, reserving a little bit to dollop on top of the soup at serving time.
    6. Serve soup garnished with cilantro and reserved yogurt.

    This was pretty darn good. It had enough spice to it to clear your sinuses a bit, but they were balanced out by the creaminess and tang of the yogurt. Next time I make it, I'd like to tinker with the spices a bit - I think the soup would have a little bit of extra zip if I took the time to intelligently blend more individual spices, rather than just dumping in a bunch of curry powder that's probably been sitting in my spice rack for a bit too long, if truth be told. But this was not an "intelligently blend spices" kind of night.

    I served this soup accompanied by cheese toasts, which were absolutely amazing. I think all of that comes down to the quality of the cheese: I took a couple of ounces of grated Dubliner cheese, spread it on top of two slices of whole wheat bread, and toasted it under the broiler until it was bubbly and slightly golden on top. The Dubliner cheese is terrific, and this was the first time I'd ever had it. It's kind of like a cross between a cheddar and a Swiss. A really good cheddar and a really good Swiss. It more than made up for the bread I used being decidedly mediocre. (Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat "Carb Counting" bread. I picked it up because it doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup as its second or third ingredient, as so many whole wheat breads do. Meh. It's not bad, but it's a bit dry. The quest for the perfect 100% whole grain bread continues. So far, the leader of the pack is Alvarado Street Bakery.)

    Posted by spaceling at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

    January 07, 2006

    "Hoppin' John" soup

    I was in the grocery store one night last week, and I spied some bags of fresh black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas are of course traditional to eat on New Year's day, for good luck, and one very traditional dish to eat them in is Hoppin' John, a mixture of black-eyed peas and rice, usually flavored with salt pork, or smoked ham hock, or something of the kind.

    Even though it was a few days after the start of the new year, I decided that a little belated luck was better than none. I created the following soup, loosely based on the Hoppin' John concept. It turned out really great - it had a nice slightly spicy, smoky flavor and makes a good, hearty one dish meal.


    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 ribs celery, diced
    • 2 medium red bell peppers, diced
    • 1 11 oz. package fresh black eyed peas
    • ~3 cups vegetable broth
    • 2 links Cajun andouille-style sausage, diced
    • 1 14.5 oz. can Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes
    • 1.5 tsp Cajun seasoning blend
    • Tabasco sauce to taste

    The Steps

    1. In a soup pot, saute the sausage over medium-high heat until it is cooked through and beginning to brown a bit.
    2. Add onion, celery, and peppers. Cook until onion is translucent. (And be sure to lean over the pot and take a good whiff, so you can smell while Cajun cooks call onion, celery, and bell peppers the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking.
    3. Add tomatoes, broth, black-eyed peas, Cajun seasoning, and Tabasco. (I gave it 3 or 4 good dashes from the bottle, and I thought the soup was pleasantly spicy but not fiery.)
    4. Simmer until the peas are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.
    Mmmmm. Not just a yummy dish, but a pretty darn easy one, too. Perfect for a weeknight dinner.

    How yummy was it? Mr. Spaceling had some of the leftovers the next day for lunch. Most of you probably can't appreciate the significance of this the way I can. Let's just say that Mr. Spaceling doesn't do leftovers. Except for this soup.

    Some notes on the ingredients: If you can't get fresh black-eyed peas (and I'm not sure if I can get them outside of the New Year's season), then you can probably substitute canned or cook some up from dried beans. If you don't want to use (or can't find) the Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, you can use regular canned tomatoes - I think the fire-roasted ones contribute a nice hint of char and smokiness to the dish, but I don't think it's critical.

    Posted by spaceling at 02:43 PM

    January 03, 2006

    Minestrone Soup

    Minestrone soup is a comfort food for me. A very twenty-first century kind of comfort food, perhaps, because for me the canonical minestrone, the one I have all the fond childhood memories of my mother preparing for me, comes out of a can: Progresso minestrone. (This shouldn't be taken to imply that my mother wasn't one hell of a home cook. She was, and I've got many fond memories of her homemade dishes. But she never, as far as I can recall, made minestrone from scratch.)

    Progresso makes a fine canned soup, as canned soup goes. (I always keep a can of their lentil soup in my pantry for those nights when I'm too brain-dead to cook, too tired eat out, too starving to order in.) But sometimes, one wants something a little bit fresher. So, I started looking around for a minestrone soup recipe. I found quite a few. Some were too gussied up. (I'm sure a minestrone with pesto, or with butternut squash, would be fantastic, and I'll probably try those recipes at some point, but neither fits my canonical conception of minestrone.) Some were too stripped down. (A good minestrone needs to be a riot of beans and vegetables in a bowl. Anything less, and it might be a good vegetable soup, but it's not minestrone.) Many eschewed pasta. (One recipe disdained the use of pasta in minestrone as a poor man's way of stretching the soup. That may be true. Pasta in minestrone may not be authentic. Screw authentic, though - I've just admitted that the minestrone nearest and dearest to my heart is made by Betty Crocker. I say minestrone needs pasta.)

    So, here's what I concocted.


    • 1/4 lb. pancetta, cut into small pieces (or you could use bacon)
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 2 carrots, diced
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 yellow summer squashed, halved and then sliced.
    • a good big handful of string beans, trimmed and cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths
    • 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes in tomato juice (do not drain)
    • 1 15 oz. can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
    • 1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced (I don't think mushrooms are usually part of minestrone, but I had some leftover from the previous night's dinner, so I used them, and they were good.
    • 4 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne rigate, or other pasta (Ideally, you'd use something a bit smaller than penne rigate, like ditalini, or elbow macaroni, or small shells. I wanted to use whole wheat pasta, and the only two whole wheat varieties I could find on short notice were penne and spaghetti.)
    • 4 cups chicken broth. (Actually, I think this needed a bit more liquid - the leftovers I put away ended up being more of a minestrone stew, without much liquid. Perhaps 6 cups next time. I used Imagine organic chicken broth.)
    • Dried oregano, thyme, and dried pepper flakes to taste.

    The steps:

    1. In the bottom of a stock/soup pot, cook the pancetta over medium-high heat until it is browned and crispy. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and place on paper towels to drain. Try not to eat all of the wonderful, salty, crispy pancetta as you complete the rest of the recipe.

    2. If there is more fat rendered from the pancetta than you need to cook the vegetables in, pour some off. Add the onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add squash and green beans, and cook for a few minutes more.

    3. Pour the juice from the tomatoes into the pot. Tear the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces with your fingers and throw them into the pot. (Or you can coarsely chop the tomatoes if you prefer. I find it easier to tear them.

    4. Add the broth, chick peas, and cannellini beans, and pancetta. Add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of oregano and thyme. Stir well.

    5. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and simmer to let everything blend together, stirring occasionally. I simmered for about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes before simmering is done, add the pasta.

    6. Taste, adjust seasonsings, and serve.

    This is an easy soup, though not necessarily a quick one. (It takes a fair bit of time to chop all those veggies.)

    It turned out well. (Mr. Spaceling ate 4 bowls, always a good sign.) It satisfied my definition of a minestrone. The only major changes I would make for next time would be to add a bit more broth (the final servings of soup were a bit thick), and to add the pancetta back to the soup only at the end, since the long simmering robbed it of its crispiness. And of course, I'll probably tinker with the vegetables a bit: this is a great "let's throw in whatever we've got in the crisper soup". But, on the whole, this hit the spot.

    Posted by spaceling at 04:06 PM