Sunday, August 2, 2009

caramelized zucchini soup with mint

(okay, I get it. The color isn't great. But it was good!)

When I offered to cook for my sister's family, I thought to myself, "hmm, what could be yummy, easy, and impressive all at once?" My sister and her husband had prepared these amazing gourmet meals every day, and while I definitely could make a feast for them, I also didn't want to wreck the kitchen, which I do when I'm not sure where everything is...

Hence, soup. Yes, it was warm outside (but not that warm; we were in a freaking Swiss village), and I had learned a great way to make soup from the Traveler's Lunchbox awhile ago, so I decided to make a caramelized zucchini soup. Last time, I made it with rosemary, but my sister had some fresh mint around, so I figured it would go well.

Then I did it. (Prepare yourselves, people) I used...bouillon. I know, Ina Garten is convulsing in the background (use good ingredients! i buy $100 an oz Madagascar vanilla! you can too!) Usually, I'm a pretty big fan of bouillon, despite its heart-attack inducing properties, because the flavor can be a lot more condensed, and I can 1) save money and 2) use it sparingly (like half a bouillon at a time) to cook.

And, for once, it turned out SALTY (goddamn you, Ina!). So my brother-in-law added some white wine. And it was all good.
Carmelized Zucchini Soup with Mint

About 2 onions
3-4 Zucchini
5-6 cloves garlic unpeeled
About 3/4c walnuts
boullion (or stock)
1/2 c milk (optional)
white wine
olive oil
salt-pepper-any other dried spice you might like (I added oregano and basil).

Chop onion and zucchini. Salt, pepper, and spice them to taste. Place in roasting pan, with unpeeled garlic. Roast at 425 degrees for about half an hour (mixing in between) or until the zucchini and onion have a light caramel color. While roasting the veggies, toast the walnuts over medium-high heat in ungreased pan. Once the vegetetables are out of the oven, pop the garlic out of its peel, and discard the peel. Allow vegetables to cool slightly, then place in large soup pan with walnuts (reserve some walnuts if you'd like for garnish) and boullion (and 3-4 c water) or stock. Once mixture comes to a boil, add mint and splash of white wine. Blend using an immersion blender until creamy. Add milk (if desired). Serve with a dash of olive oil and walnuts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

switzerland happenings...

About a week ago, I got back from a nine day trip to Switzerland. My sister lives there, in this true, Swiss village. She moved there after meeting her German husband in Tennessee. Yes, I know, sounds a little crazy. She's lived all over the world and on three different continents, and she's settled in a beautiful small town/village. It is very cute, her daughters (my nieces) are very cute, and the house is literally the best house in the world for taking pictures. There are huge windows everywhere and light just pours in!

I mean, look at this:

These are eggs. Normal, hard-boiled eggs. And they look like the most delicious, picturesque eggs you have ever eaten. Is this heaven? No. It is my sister's kitchen, which is a pretty awesome place anyway.

Apples look like they could be in a painting by Cezanne:

We ate lovely meals outside and enjoyed some really great weather. My brother-in-law and sister are both pretty trendy and artsy for Switzerland, so we of course had gourmet, whole-flour thin-crust pizza with adorned with fresh veggies and olives. My brother-in-law is of the shellfish eating sort, so he put prawns on it.

Overall, it was a lovely trip to visit my awesome family!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spinach Salad with Grapes

This is not really a recipe, but more of a technique my friend Lindsay showed me a few years ago that makes any salad look instantly gorgeous.

Instead of chopping long vegetables like carrots and cucumbers, one peels shavings off each. As in, you peel long strips of carrot and leave them like that! Seriously, it always looks beautiful and instantly aesthetically elevates any salad.

Spinach Salad with Grapes

1 6 oz bag Spinach, chopped
1 Carrot, peeled into long strips (see above)
1 medium Cucumber, peeled into long strips (you may use less depending on how watery your cucumber is)
1/2 One medium red onion
bunch white or red grapes (to taste)

Combine ingredients above.

zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
grated ginger (about 1/2 inch)
one or two garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for oil. While whisking ingredients, slowly stream in olive oil (probably about 1/4 cup, to taste) until mixture emulsifies.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

apricot and white chocolate scones

I was, unfortunately, sick all this weekend. So, despite my lofty plans to try out some new Indian recipes, I was stuck in bed, watching reruns and trying to sleep as much as humanly possible...

...which worked! I woke up the next day feeling 100% be
tter, and also ready to venture out to Target and buy some basic foodstuffs (yes, I realize I just used the word "foodstuffs")...and it was scone time!

I've used this recipe several times, mostly, ironically,
while studying abroad in Jordan--for some reason, I eschewed all traditional Middle Eastern recipes and went on a baking scones/bread kick. I've made several iterations using this as a basic recipe, except always substuting the yogurt for the sour cream. I know 1) these turn out sweeter/moister than traditional scones and 2) I don't care :). I think they always turn out yummy which is the most important part. I also use a wine glass/small glass to shape the scones into small circles, rather than "wedges," which never turn out "even" for me.

My roommate Nancy in Jordan first suggested I use apricot and white chocolate, a recipe which she used to serve while working in a tea house in CA. I am greatly indebted.

Apricot and White Chocolate Scones. Adapted from Epicurious.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons grated tangerine peel

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh tangerine juice
1 large egg
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons raw sugar* (I did not have this on hand, so I used regular sugar, which adds flavor, but doesn't exactly give the same "crunch.")

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, 1/3 cup sugar, peel, baking powder, and salt in bowl to blend. Add 1/2 cup chilled butter. Using fingertips, rub in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in cranberries.

Whisk yogurt, tangerine juice, and egg in medium bowl to blend. Gradually add to flour mixture, using fork to toss until moist clumps form. Knead dough briefly on lightly floured surface until smooth. Pat dough into flat circle, about an inch thick. Cut out circles using wine glass or regular glass. Transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made up to 1 month ahead. Cool completely. Wrap in aluminum foil; freeze. Serve at room temperature.)

* Also called turbinado or demerara sugar; available at natural foods stores and most supermarkets.