Hot and Sour Soup

I love how recipes pass from person to person, often with some tinkering to take into account personal preferences or regional ingredients.  This recipe, as I understand it, came from 101 Easy Asian recipes and began with Joanne Chang (one of my favorite chefs).  It was then adapted by the Smitten Kitchen blog.  That is where I found it and Kate and I adapted it further last week to suit our own tastes.  It is  one of the best hot and sour soups I have ever had–clean and bright tasting! It is also an amazingly easy and quick soup to put together, making it truly perfect for a weeknight meal when time is short.  Rice or veggies as a side would be all you would need to make the meal complete.

Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

2 T. canola oil

1/2 lb. ground pork

1 T. minced garlic

1 T. minced fresh ginger

1/2 cup sliced scallions

5-6 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thinly

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (the 365 brand from Whole Foods is the one we use)

1/4 pound (about 1/3 of a typical package) of firm (not extra firm) tofu, cut into small dice

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

3 T. soy sauce

1 t. sugar

1 t. black pepper

1 t. sesame oil (preferably toasted)

1 T. Sriracha (or the hot sauce of your choice)

2 eggs, beaten

6-8 pea pods sliced thinly on the bias

a handful of pea shoots or microgreens, washed (definitely optional)

PREPARATION:

  1.  In a saucepan (or pan with straight sides that is deep enough to hold soup), heat the oil over medium heat and add the ground pork breaking up with a spoon, then the garlic,  ginger and scallions and cook, stirring frequently until the pork is fully cooked and the garlic and ginger are fragrant (3-5 minutes).
  2. Add the chicken broth, mushrooms, tofu, vinegar, soy sauce,  sugar, pepper, sesame oil and Sriracha and bring to a simmer.
  3. Check the seasonings and add more soy sauce or pepper if needed (extra Sriracha or hot sauce can be served on the table).
  4. Stir constantly while slowly drizzling the eggs into the soup (it helps to have two people for this step) and cook until the eggs coalesce into small distinct strands (this happens in just a minute or so).
  5. Top with the pea pods slices and pea shoots or microgreens, if using, and serve.
  6. Extra Sriracha and soy sauce are good to have as condiments on the table.

 

Sunburst Tart

This is a adaptation of a recipe that I found on the Smitten Kitchen blog.  It can easily be used as an appetizer, snack or desert–just change the filling and sprinkling on top. I have made it with tapenade and pesto as fillings and Kate has made it with Nutella and cocoa.  All were a hit!

The recipe below is for tapenade but any filling that you make that is relatively dry (so it doesn’t leak out)  will work.  For the prettiest presentation, the filling should be dark enough to contrast with the puff pastry when it is cooked. You can use a range of options for dipping sauces (see below the main recipe for ideas).

INGREDIENTS:

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed for 6 or more hours in the fridge. [I like Dufours but it is really expensive and requires two packages.  Pepperidge Farm–which has 2 sheets in one package–works just fine.]

4-6 oz. of black olive tapenade [you can buy this at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods or make your own]

a big dollop of tomato paste (1-2 T) or up to ⅛ cup of sundried tomato pesto or spread

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese(or more if the tapenade is too loose to spread easily)

splash of lemon juice or vinegar (for brightness)

black pepper to taste

1 egg

1 T of water

Sesame seeds for sprinkling

PREPARATION:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.
  3. Make the filling:  combine the tapenade, tomato paste/pesto, cheese, lemon juice/vinegar and black pepper in a bowl.  Mix thoroughly using a spoon [the consistency should be pretty thick, although lighter and more spreadable than peanut butter].
  4. Open one puff pastry and roll out so that you can cut a round that is 11″ to 12″ across (you can use a plate or a circle cut out of paper as a guide, having a close to perfect circle is really important).
  5. Place the first circle of puff pastry on the baking sheet.
  6. Spread the filling over the puff pastry circle leaving a 1″ border all around.
  7. Roll out the second puff pastry and cut to a circle identical to the first.
  8. Using a finger, wet the border of the bottom pastry with water.
  9. Place the second circle on top and gently press down to seal the edges.
  10. If possible, place the pastry back into the fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes to get cool again.
  11. Place a juice glass or small cookie cutter in the middle of the pastry (about 2 ½” across)–DO NOT PRESS DOWN!
  12. Using a sharp knife (and a small plastic ruler that has been thoroughly washed, if you have one) make radiating cuts from the glass to the edge to divide the tart into 32 rays.  [The easiest way to do this is to make cuts on opposite sides, first to divide into 2 parts, then 4, then 6, etc., until you have 32.  NOTE:  the end of the ray closest to the center will be fairly small, so consistency is important.]
  13. Remove the glass or cookie cutter.
  14. Placing a finger gently at the top of the ray, hold the bottom and twist the ray three times.  Do the same with each until all are twisted. [Sometimes it is easier to twist all the rays twice, get them placed, and then go back to make the third twist.]
  15. If the dough seems soft at any point, or when you are done, place in the fridge or freezer again for a few minutes.
  16. Gently beat the egg with the water.
  17. Brush the top of the tart gently with the egg wash.
  18. Sprinkle sesame seeds (or theory sprinkling) on top.
  19. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and then reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes until the tart is golden and the pastry is clearly cooked and crisp on the edges. [NOTE: You may want to rotate the tart halfway through this last time so it browns evenly.]
  20. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes then gently, using the parchment as a support, slide the tart onto a serving plate.
  21. Pull off one ray at a time and dip into sauce and enjoy!

IDEAS for VARIATIONS:  For the filling use basil pesto and parmesan cheese; or sundried tomato pesto (well drained) with herbs that have been run through a blender together; or Nutella with sweetened cocoa powder (sprinkle top with sanding sugar instead of sesame seeds); cinnamon, brown sugar and finely chopped (or ground) pecans (also use sanding sugar), ….

DIPPING SAUCE:  This is not absolutely required, but adds another dimension to the dish.  The easiest way to make a dipping sauce for the savory tarts is to combine cheese (feta, parmesan, goat cheese) and/or herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary) with a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese in a blender, then to mix in a little lemon juice or vinegar (or even hot sauce) to cut the richness.  If you are  making a sweet tart, whipped cream (flavored or not), hot fudge, caramel sauce, or pureed fruit  are all good choices. Note: the rays when torn off will not be very strong, so the sauce needs not to be too thick (a mistake I have made).

 

Apple Pancakes

This is a recipe for–mostly–traditional pancakes  with the addition of grated apple and amped up apple flavor.  Very nice on a cool fall or cold winter morning.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 T. baking powder

½ t salt

1 t. sugar

1 egg (preferable extra large)

1 ½ cups whole milk

¼ cup apple cider syrup (optional, see note below about purchasing – if you don’t have apple cider syrup and you do have apple cider simply boil down ½ cup until reduced to the needed amount).

2 T. melted unsalted butter, plus more for the pan or griddle

2 large or 3 small honey crisp apples, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater.

PREPARATION:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the 2 T. of butter in a small dish in the microwave.
  3. Measure the milk into a 2 cup container and add the egg, beating to combine.  Stir in the apple cider syrup, if using.
  4. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the dry ingredients and then add the melted butter.  Mix well to combine (a whisk works well for this step but a wooden spoon will work as well).
  5. Add the grated apple and stir just until the apple is distributed throughout the batter.
  6. Heat a fry pan or griddle with 1-2 t. of unsalted butter over medium-heat (butter should sputter but not burn).  When hot, pour about 1/4 cup servings of batter onto the hot pan at a time to make 3-4 inch circles, you may have to move them around a bit to get circles.
  7. Cook on the first side until bubbles appear on top and are set.  Turn and cook on the second side until both sides are golden.
  8. Serve with maple syrup or, if you really love apples, more apple cider syrup.

Carr’s Apple Cider Syrup is expensive, but definitely worth the splurge if you like apples.  It can be used in apple pies, crumbles and on roasted meat and vegetables.  If you don’t see it in a local specialty shop, you can buy it from mouth.com.

 

 

 

Butternut Squash and Sage Pizza

This is a white pizza that goes well with a hearty soup or a salad.  If you have leftover roasted butternut squash, this is an incredibly quick weeknight meal.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

½  ball of pizza dough (Whole Foods or any other store brand white, thawed if frozen)

1-2 t. olive oil

½ cup  whole milk ricotta cheese (mascarpone can be substituted if you can’t find a good ricotta)

6 oz. of thinly sliced cooked butternut squash (if you need to make this, take a peeled half butternut squash, slice into 1 ½” half moons, coat with oil, season with salt and roast in a 375% oven–a toaster oven will do–until tender, about 30 minutes).

3-4 oz. mozzarella, cut into thin half moons (about half a baseball sized fresh mozzarella) or you can substitute shredded mozzarella

4-6 good large sage leaves, sliced lengthwise and then across very thinly

2-3 T. parmigian, grated

Black pepper to taste

PREPARATION:

  1. Preheat the one to 425 degrees.
  2. On a lightly floured surface with hands and a roller that are also floured, roll the dough into a disc until it won’t continue to stretch, cover with a piece of foil and let rest for 5 minutes or so.
  3. While the dough is resting, shred the mozzarella, slice the sage leaves and grate the parmigiana.
  4. Re-roll the dough to make a large oval.  Cover again and let rest for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Take a cookie sheet or baking pan and lightly grease with the olive oil.
  6. Roll the dough one more time and transfer to the cookie sheet.  Reshape and spread the dough with your hands to achieve the thickness of crust you like best.  (I prefer a medium thin crust for this pizza.)
  7. Spread the ricotta thinly over the dough, working to make it even using the back of a large spoon.
  8. Arrange the slices of squash on top of the ricotta.
  9. Intersperse mozzarella slices with the squash.  (If using shredded mozzarella, sprinkle evenly over the top.
  10. Sprinkle the shredded sage over the squash and mozzarella and then sprinkle the parmigian over all. Top with a good grinding of black pepper.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is golden and the cheeses are melted and just beginning to take on color.

Maple Pecan Scones

Just a little change to my traditional scone recipe made these perfect for Christmas morning this year, although they would be good almost any time the weather is a little chilly.

This makes 8 to 12 scones, depending on how big you make each one.

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 T. baking powder

1 T. white sugar

2 T. dark brown sugar

½ t. salt

½ t. freshly ground nutmeg

8 T. cold unsalted butter

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup of confectioner’s sugar

4 T. maple syrup

1 – 2 T. milk or cream

chopped pecans, optional

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. This recipe can be made in either a food processor or by hand.  Place the flour, baking powder, white and brown sugars, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor or in a large mixing bowl.  Pulse the food processor on and off to combine ingredients or mix with a fork or whisk.
  3. Add the butter cut into small pieces to the flour mixture and pulse 20 or so times in the food processor, or using a pastry blender or two sharp knives cut through the mixture, until the mixture looks like a coarse meal.
  4. Slightly beat the egg in a small bowl and divide into two portions.
  5. Add half the egg and the 1/3 cup of milk to the dough, and process briefly (10 seconds or so) in the food processor or mix by hand with a wooden spoon until the dough just starts to come together (it should have large clumps).
  6. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface  and fold over on itself several times until it comes together in a single ball (if you have wax or apartment paper under the dough you can use this to fold it by pulling the sides up and over).
  7. Roll or pat the dough to ½ to ¾ inch thickness.  Cut into rounds (2 inches or more) or into triangles, and place on a ungreased cookie sheet.  (The dough can be chilled at this point for 10 minutes or more to make certain the scones are fluffy – the butter solidifies in the fridge so it creates steam when cooked).
  8. When ready to bake, mix the other half of the egg with 1 T. or so of cold water, and brush over the top of the scones.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the tops (and bottoms) are a light golden brown, then cool on a wire rack.
  10. While scones are baking, make glaze.  Combine confectioner’s sugar and maple syrup and beat well with a fork or small whisk.  Mixture will be quite stiff.  Slowly add the milk until the glaze is just thin enough to drizzle over scones, but thick enough not to run off.
  11. When scones are fully cooled, drizzle glaze over them and sprinkle chopped pecans on top of the glaze.

 

 

Spaghetti Carbonara

Ingredients:

1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguine
1/4 to 1/3 lb. bacon or pancetta cut into very small pieces
2 T. butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
salt and pepper

Preparation:

1. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan but save 2-3 T of the fat. Wipe the pan clean.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Salt the water to taste like sea water.

3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it is just barely done (it will continue cooking a bit while you drain it).

4. While the pasta is cooking, heat the skillet or other a large pan over very low heat. Add the butter and the reserved bacon fat and heat until the butter is just melted. Keep warm over very low heat.

5. Break the eggs into a small bowl and mix to break up. Add the milk or half-and-half.

6. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the butter and bacon fat. Toss to coat the pasta.

7. Pour the egg/milk mixture over the pasta and toss to make certain the eggs are evenly distributed and do not scramble. Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta and toss until melted.

8. Top with freshly ground pepper and more grated cheese, if desired.

Serves 4.

Roasted Beets and Beet Greens

This recipe has something each of my daughters especially like.  For Kate it is beets, and for Sarah the greens.  For this reason (since lots of other  folks have similar tastes) it is a versatile recipe, as well as easy.

For four side dish servings (but can be doubled or tripled for a crowd)

Ingredients:

1 bunch of beets with healthy looking and full greens still attached (if you can’t find any with greens, swiss chard–especially red– can be substituted for the beet greens).

1-2 slices of bacon (optional)

1 T. olive oil (if not using bacon)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 T. of balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1.  Cut beets from greens.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (this can be done in a toaster oven–I usually do)
  3. Wash any dirt from the beets and shake dry.
  4. Wrap beets together in a packet of aluminum foil that is crimped closed.
  5. Roast beets for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on size, until a sharp knife inserted into the center of each glides in very easily.  Allow to cool until they can be comfortably handled.
  6. Using your hands, preferably in gloves or with a paper towel covering the beets, gently peel off the skin and trim tops and bottoms.  Set beets aside (in the refrigerator if it is going to be more than an hour or so) until ready to reheat and serve.
  7. While the beets are roasting, trim the beet greens from their stems and wash (they may be very sandy) and roughly chop.
  8. Place the bacon, if using, in a fry pan or Dutch oven large enough to hold all of the beet greens.  Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp and the fat has rendered.  Remove the bacon from the fat. If not using bacon, add olive to pan.
  9. Add the minced garlic to the fat in the pan and sauté until just fragrant (about 1 minute).
  10. Add the beet greens to the garlic and fat and toss quickly to coat.  Cover the pan and let the greens steam until just wilted.
  11. Uncover the pan and add the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, tossing to coat and allowing a little of the liquid in the pan to evaporate.
  12. Crumble the bacon, if using, back into the greens. Taste and add more vinegar, salt or pepper as needed.
  13. Slice the roasted beets and reheat briefly in the microwave or in a small pan on the stovetop, until just heated through.
  14. Place a portion of beet greens on each plate and top with sliced beets. If beets are not very sweet you can drizzle a little honey on top as a finishing touch.