Tag Archives: one pot wonder

curried sweet potato and chicken soup with peas, pepitas, and yogurt

curred sweet potato and chicken soup with peas, pepitas, and yogurt

Earlier this week James and I came down with something fierce; a quick and dirty bug, most likely of the I-ate-something or 24-hour persuasion, that snuck in quickly and silently on Monday afternoon and had us sidelined feeling badly for ourselves for the better part of two days.

curred sweet potato and chicken soup - sweet taters

I’ll (of course) spare you the details, but as I am sure you well know, thinking about cooking or eating (or talking, walking, thinking, sitting, laying…simply existing….) is completely unbearable when one is in said sad state.

curred sweet potato and chicken soup - frozen peas!

And the remedy for nursing oneself back to health is something the experts call a BRAT diet; that is, a very slow and steady intake of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast to appease angry stomachs and hopefully encourage what goes down to stay down.

curred sweet potato and chicken soup - curry powder

I happen to have a husband who is a complete and utter bananaphobic, and – I don’t know about you – but the thought of bland plain rice and dry toast isn’t really appealing to me, ever. I won’t even try and pretend that in my misery I hopped up spryly and rushed to the kitchen to make this soup for us (no…I was wimpering like a five year old while pouring myself a bowl of peanut butter Puffins after 36 hours of eating zilch), but I will tell you I wish I had someone around who would have made it for me.

And apparently Pugs cannot be trained to do so?

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from pauper to prince: boeuf bourguignon with buttermilk white sweet potato smash

boeuf bourguignon with buttermilk white sweet potato smash

In a departure from some decidedly puritan vegan brown rice bowls, It’s high time to defer to something a bit more hedonistic.

boeuf bourguignon - seasoned beef

It is November – the thick of it – after all, and with the covers of this months cooking mags plastered with the most perfectly burnished and shellacked turkey specimens one has ever laid eyes on, it’s only natural that my gears are wont to shift over and down from virtuous vegetables and principled brown rice to a massive crock of something rich, dark, and utterly savory.

boeuf bourguignon - crisped up edges

Totally outside of how this boeuf bourguignon tastes (I’ll get to that in just a minute), the way it instantly cozifies your house with an absolutely intoxicating scent is almost reason enough in itself to get ye to thine grocery market to procure the items necessary to get on your merry way to Bourguignon Nirvana. (I can assure you there is such a place.)

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for that marine layer: zucchini, basil, & parmesan soup

zucchini, basil, and parmesan soup - simple and deliciously perfect

These past few weeks, for most of the country, have been HOT. This I know by the plethora of Instagram snaps of car temperature gauges zooming up into the hundred-teens, Facebook postsof popsicles melting something fierce poolside, and conversations with friends detailing massively frizzy hair do’s (don’ts), complaints of back-sticking cab rides endured from downtown-up, and the heavy sighs of electric bills bolstered skyward by the incessant hum of every AC unit in All Of The Land set on turbo.

zucchini and basil soup - ripe whole zucchini

Brutal.

zucchini and basil soup- perfect, ripe, zucchini

But not here. Nope, not in San Francisco. Here, I walked to work this morning in a maxi dress, wearing a cashmere sweater – and a canvas jacket — and a scarf – and was still putting some blustery pep in my step, as my chilly exposed toes were sign enough that low booties would have been a better choice than strappy flats.

a mound of fluffy parmesan cheese ready to melt in the soup

As Mark Twain most famously never said,* and seemingly every person delighted in telling me when I informed them of my decision to relocate to the Bay area, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” — and, that has proven at least in these past few weeks, to be mostly true.

*Nerd Alert & to set the record straight: There is no evidence that Mark Twain actually said those words; in one letter, he is recorded as expressing similar displeasure with the weather in Paris – not San Francisco.  So there.

sauteeing up chunks of zucchini for zucchini and basil soup

It’s not that it’s actually cold; the mercury steadily reads somewhere in the 50’s at night, and in the low to mid 60’s during the day – a treat, as far as most warm-blooded humans are concerned. It’s just that this time of year, in the height of the Summer months when the majority of the country is seeking respite from the sun, we are endowed with a thick blanket of heavy fog – the “marine layer” – that makes things feel much chiller than they really are.

zucchini and basil soup simmering away...

And so I have soup. Not exactly what conjures visions of a perfect Summertime meal, but I promise you that this soup – a light but intensely flavorful puree of zucchini, basil, and Parmesan cheese with a touch of lemon and hint of garlic – is just the thing to warm your AC-froze bones midday at the office. You turn the oven on exactly zero times, and you can suffer through the painlessly quick preparation virtually sweat free, stocking yourself with a big pot of leftovers that you can heat quickly and goes perfectly alongside a crunchy salad or light sandwich. This soup manages to be intensely creamy without actually using anything of the sort; the silkiness of zucchini simmered in vegetable stock till tender makes a fine (and bikini friendly) swap, and creates a super-charged flavor whose whole totally belies the simplicity of the ingredients.

topped with pea shoots for crunch and freshness

Summer soup – you’ve just got to trust me on this one.  And in other news, I’m well aware that things have been a bit (OK ALOT) quiet around here…I’m working on a new project (unrelated to the blog – or kitchen, even) that’s been sapping up a good bit of my side time, and I’m very sorry I’ve let things here dwindle down to cricket chirps as of late.  (Such bad form!)  I’m excited to share more with you as the weeks go forward, and I pinky-swear I have some yummy things to share with you here on a much more regular schedule.

Onward – and upward!

Zucchini, Parmesan, and Basil Soup
6 servings (makes about 8 cups)

A dollop of cool Greek yogurt would be great on this soup (and add a shot of protein), and though I haven’t expressly tried it this way, I suspect it would also be great served chilled (with my suspicions mostly confirmed after licking a serving spoon when heating up the leftovers….).

1.5 lbs (24 oz) fresh zucchini (about 6 medium), roughly chopped
1 medium sized white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon
olive oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
pea shoots or fresh arugula, for garnish (about 1/4 cup per serving)
a few wispy shreds of Parmesan, to serve (totally optional)

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat; if you have dutch oven, this is the perfect time to use it. When the pot is hot, add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add in the onion and a good pinch of salt, and saute, stirring occasionally,, till the onion is just tender and translucent on the edges, about 5 minutes (you do not want it to brown at all, just to cook and soften). Add the chopped zucchini and minced garlic to the pot, and stir; let it cook for 2 minutes, just till the garlic is tender and fragrant and the zucchini appears to wilt and look slightly tired. Add the stock and another good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and raise the heat to high. Let the stock come just to a boil, and then reduce the heat down to medium. Simmer the vegetables for 15 minutes, till the zucchini is fork tender.

When the zucchini is tender, take the soup off of the heat, and set it to the side. Stir in the roughly chopped basil, the parmesan cheese, and the lemon zest. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, carefully working in batches, until it is completely blended and silky smooth. (You can also puree the soup using an immersion blender – either way works fine.) Taste the soup and adjust salt and pepper levels if necessary.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into a bowl, and top with a small pile of the pea shoots (or fresh arugula). Top with a few additional wisps of Parmesan (if so inclined), and enjoy!

pickle magic: pickled red onions (garlic, black peppercorn, star anise, and california bay leaf)

pickled red onions, inspired by zuni cafe - delicious on everything!

I happen to be married to someone who L-O-V-E-S all things vinegar, and I swear years ago when I first saw his hand stray over to the malt vinegar as we shared our first platter of fish’n’chips (sappy who?), my heart went all aflutter.

red onion waiting to be sliced

I, too, love the stuff, and especially when there are various vegetables and spices bobbing about inside of it. I’ve long been a fan of pickles (in college I grossed out a roommate or four by standing in front of an open fridge and housing pickled pepperoncinis, hand to mouth), and truly adore them in any form: cornichons on a well-dressed cheese tray, kimchi over a bibimbap, juicy slices of pickled watermelon rind in the Summertime, and even spicy pickled okra – something I was introduced to by my friend Kerri, who craved it somethin’ fierce when she was pregnant with her son.

pickled red onions - star anise, garlic, cali bay, and pepper

(I’ll admit, I was skeptical, but that stuff is g-o-ooooood!)

sugar

But anyway, the Husb likes him some vinegar and he likes him some onions, so naturally when I first made these pickled red onions for him, to say they were a hit is the understatement of the century. He literally loves them, and puts them on anything and everything. Suddenly it’s no longer a tuna sandwich for lunch (womp…), its a tuna sandwich WITH-THOSE-PICKLED-ONIONS! We’ll never have grilled cheese (womp womp…), it’s grilled-cheese-WITH-PICKLED-ONIONS!!!!

star anise pods add a great flavor

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a last supper: crispy lamb & lentils with poblano peppers and yogurt

crispy lamb and lentils with poblano peppers and yogurt

And just like that — I am a bonafide resident of Cali-for-ni-a!

crispy lamb and lentils dried lentils

The past few weeks have been a blur of moving vans, paperwork, hardware stores, and stubbed toes, but after one twelve-hundred drive across half the country and about ten days spent feathering our new nest, I can now say I feel like I am actually at home.  And I absolutely love it.

crispy lamb and lentils ground lamb

You’d think that that many miles spent traversing the Northwest would give me a ton to tell you about, but as we saw Boulder turn smaller and smaller in our rearview mirror, I had no idea that our dwindling old hometown would literally be the last sign of civilization……until Reno, Nevada – one thousand miles later. Sure there were a few ramshackle towns here and there and the odd (sketchy looking) truck stop, but most of our journey was either across flat land for as far as the eye could see, or up over and around cavernous uninhabited landscape that quite literally looked like scenes from Mars.

crispy lamb and lentils poblano peppers

Our entertainment was limited to positively dull games of I Spy (….something that is brown. “A tumbleweed!!!”….womp womp womp) and debating the merits of Jimmy Johns over Subway as the best of the worst road-trip lunch fare options.

(Jimmy John’s always wins, IMO.)

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touchdown!: creole jambalaya with pulled chicken, sausage, and diced ham

creole jambalaya with pulled chicken, sausage, and ham

I’ll admit that in the days and weeks leading up to The Biggest Sunday of The Year, I was scheming and planning what Cajun-style fare to make as the Ravens unexpectedly (and somewhat unbelievably) notched their way up the Superbowl totem pole.

creole jambalaya peppers cut

I’ve alluded before to the fact that I am generally more enraptured with the food indulgences that come along with the big game (because really, when else is it morally sound to scarf buttered hot wings and beer at 11am on a Sunday?), but this year my excitement for the actual clash and crash of helmets was genuine.

creole jambalaya celery cut up

If it wasn’t for that pesky power-outage (seriously Beyonce?!) and the nail-biter of a second half that ensued, it would have almost been too easy — but thankfully, for my sanity and the sanity of every single person wearing black and purple, we managed to seal the deal. Superbowl 2013: nailed it!

creole jambalaya sausages whole and ready to cook

I woke up early on Sunday morning to start on a dish that I thought was worthy of being consumed on such a momentous occasion – inspired first because the game was being played in The Big Easy, and secondly because Fat Tuesday (and Mardi Gras!) are suddenly rightthere around the corner.

creole jambalaya cooked sausages

One of my favorite places to visit in the States is New Orleans, and though I believe it is to be fervently avoided during the two-week Mardi Gras celebration (have you ever smelled Bourbon Street even when it isn’t stuffed with thousands of tourists guzzling technicolor hand grenades?), the cuisine alone is enough to keep me coming back.

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just in time: late summer gazpacho – tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno, avocado

Butter.

And a whole lotta sugar.  That right there about sums up why I haven’t shown my mug ’round these parts in over two (two!) full weeks.

That I’ve been up to my earlobes in a bunch of the good stuff is an understatement; over the past two weeks, I transitioned from the cafe to the bakery, and for a good chunk of that time, I was cramming long shifts at both into days that suddenly came up much too short.

Starting my days at a chipper six-thirty in the morning and wrapping them up just before the clock turned me into a pumpkin is exhausting (to say the very least), and where on weekends I should have been catching up on my precious lost winks, I was entertaining out of town guests, dancing the night away at a wedding in California, and chasing one cheeky pug and her new BFF feline around as they terrorized and tornado’d about the house.

That all said, there are far, far worse things to be inundated with than cherry pies, blackbottom cupcakes, shortbread, and chocolate ganache, and the past few weeks have been a sugary whirlwind that would send my dentist scampering off for the hills.

Dough has been flying, bread has been rising, mixers have been whirring, and I have drank more double-shot macchiatos than I care to admit.  I’m finally almost (almost) past that awkward very beginning phase – the one where you still have to ask how to use the phone (so….do I need to dial a ‘9’?) and manage to be in the way of every baker who’s carrying a blazing hot tray of bubbling raspberry scones

The bakery is starting to feel like a warm, coffee-scented second home.

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