Archive for November, 2015

Marcella Hazan’s Green Beans with Yellow Peppers, Tomatoes, and Chili Pepper

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I was invited to join a cookbook book club last year and being a fan of books, cooking, baking, and meals with friends I was delighted to join. It has been a fun experience this past year to be introduced to different cookbooks and to be challenged to cook and find recipes from a variety of places I otherwise might not know about. We meet every few months to bring together a potluck of our favorite recipes we have tried from the cookbook and talk about everything from the matter at hand (food), to the travels we have taken, life moments we have experienced, our jobs, movies and books. In this first year we have cooked, baked, devoured, delighted, and shared from the recipes of Smitten Kitchen (a favorite), Food 52, Ottolenghi, David Lebovitz, America’s Test Kitchen Vegetarian (one of my new favorite cookbooks!), Root to Leaf, Seven Spoons, and most recently Marcella Hazan.

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I was familiar with Marcella Hazan, her recipes, and her great impact on cooking (as influential to Italian cooking as Julia Childs was to French cuisine) but I had never really delved into her cookbook. The joy of the cookbook book club for me is it makes me look deeper at the cookbooks we select and not just at a favorite recipe or 2, but to read the book and find the recipes that I want to try. And the Essential Italian Cookbook was the perfect cookbook for this I could try pasta and sauces, and vegetables, salads, (someday I may try to make my own focaccia), I even tried a little sweet baking.

One of my favorite recipes that I found myself making more then a few times was for Green Beans with Yellow Peppers, Onion, Tomatoes and Chili. It was easy to make and the flavors elevated it in a perfect combination to a dish that felt like so much more then any of its parts.

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Marcella Hazan’s Green Beans with Yellow Peppers, Tomatoes, and Chili Pepper

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh green beans

1 sweet yellow bell pepper, cut into long strips less than 1/2 inch wide

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion sliced very thin

2/3 cup canned tomatoes chopped coarse, with their juice, or fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut up

Salt

Chopped hot red chili pepper (or chili flakes) to taste

Snap both ends off the beans, soak them in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Put the oil and onion in a sauté pan, turn the heat on to medium, and cook until they become translucent. Add the strips of yellow pepper and the chopped tomatoes with their juice. Turn all ingredients over to coat them well, and adjust the heat to cook at a steady, but gentle simmer until the oil floats free from the tomatoes (approx. 10 – 15 min).

Add the raw green beans, turn them over 2 to 3 times to coat them well, add 1/3 cup water or less if you are using fresh tomatoes, salt pepper, and chili pepper. Cover and cook at a steady simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes, adding more liquid as needed. 

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25

11 2015

Roasted Kabocha Soup

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Its fall here in New York. The air is turning crisp and promising of the changes soon to come. I love fall – I love pulling out my sweaters and wrapping myself in scarves, I love watching as the world around me changes and leaves turn colors and the light in the sky shifts; while I miss the longer days I love the way the night slowly creeps and encroaches on the daylight; and I love the bounty of the harvest that is hard to miss at the farmers market – apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and pumpkins. I love pumpkins/squash in all variations – muffins, breads, cakes, soups, salads, even on toast!

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When I went to Germany after my mom died for a friend’s wedding I stayed in Berlin with friends. The night before the wedding two friends made a large pot of pumpkin soup laced with spices and velvety soft. We sat around a warm wood table in the Kreuzberg neighborhood with views of rooftops and church steeples and the night sky filled with stars above. As we ate soup and talked that night I started what was possibly the beginning of my road of grief, weeping as my friends talked and told stories of their time in San Francisco and with my mother. The night has stayed with me long since then, it felt at once like an ancient memory of many times before that, moments as people have gathered around soup in their kitchens and grieved. And it was only a year later when I sat with one of these friends around the very same table and talked after the sudden and tragic death of her brother. Soup heals the soul, it comforts and reminds us of the love we have been shown in this life.

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It has been six years since that pumpkin soup but I still remember it fondly and recall the way the spices warmed me and my spirit. This Roasted Kabocha Soup is the closest I have ever found to the impromptu soup that was made that night. I love the simplicity and complexity of it – simple with only a few ingredients that create a rich and exotic flavor. Warmed by fresh ginger and curry powder and earthy from the Kabocha Squash this soup feels like a comforting hug and in today’s world we could all use a comforting hug.

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Roasted Kabocha Soup – adapted from Goop

Ingredients:

1 medium kabocha squash, cut in half and seeds removed – if you can’t find a kabocha squash butternut could be used in its place

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon garam masala or curry powder

3 cups vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 400°F. Season kabocha halves generously with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and place flesh side down on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned and tender, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat coconut oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced onion and a pinch of salt, stir, then turn the heat down to medium low. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and sweet.

Add the garlic, ginger (I like to use a microplane directly into the pot) and ground spices, turn the heat back up to medium high, and sauté for 1 minute. When the spices are fragrant but not burned, add stock, and another big pinch of salt. Simmer gently until the squash is ready.

 When the squash is cooked, let it cool slightly, then scrape out the flesh and add it to broth. You should have about 2 cups cooked squash. Bring the soup up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and slowly cook for 10 minutes.

Blend soup, taste for seasoning and enjoy!

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18

11 2015

Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cake

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I have a sneaky recipe its a bit of a chameleon and a bit of an individual; it came about years ago when people were swapping applesauce for oil in their baking recipes. It got me to thinking about chocolate chip cookies and if I could swap applesauce for the butter? But the thing I never liked about applesauce recipe swaps was it felt deceptive, the applesauce was being hidden and only there as an impostor. But what if instead the applesauce was celebrated for its difference, what if it became part of the main event as opposed to the healthier interloper? What if I made a cake that was both applesauce and chocolate chip cookie?

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It’s an easy recipe and one I have made for years since my first cake. I only swap in equal portions applesauce for the butter in the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, add a little cinnamon and clove to make the applesauce shine, (omit a little sugar as we are trying to be healthier) and voila! Its soft and light from the applesauce, not too sweet, slightly apple kissed with spice, and studded with chocolate chips. I love to keep it in the fridge and pull out slices with a cup of tea!

Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon clove
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° F. Butter or spray a 8×13 inch baking dish.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and clove in small bowl. Mix applesauce, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in bowl until creamy.

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Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared baking dish.

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Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clear. Cool in the pan on wire racks.

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05

11 2015