Tuesday, January 29, 2008

0 Recipe #27: Cabbage Borscht

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Here's another borscht recipe, this time with cabbage as its predominant ingredient. If you're having a challenging time wrapping your head around the concept of borscht, just think of it as a tangy "vegetable soup," because that's basically what it is. :) The thing about borscht is that you just have to ignore the way it looks. :) In general, borscht typically isn't a pretty-looking soup. This soup is all about taste, so don't be too quick to judge a book by its cover. Trust me, if you like cabbage, you'll want to give this soup a chance. :)

Cabbage Borscht

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion
1 large bay leaf
1/8 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground anise seed
1 medium-sized cabbage head, finely shredded
1 c. baby carrots, sliced into small rounds
1 c. red-skinned potato, scrubbed, peeled, & shredded (about 1 medium-sized potato)
3 1/2 qts. (16 c.) water (or vegetable broth)
1/2 c. fresh (curly leaf) parsley, finely minced
1/2 c. fresh dill, finely minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
juice of 1 lemon
lowfat sour cream or nonfat plain yoghurt

Directions: In a large soup pot, sauté onion in olive oil on low heat until soft. While onions are cooking, add bay leaf, & season with chili pepper flakes, allspice, & anise. Mix thoroughly. Next, add cabbage, carrots, potato, and vegetable stock. Turn up heat to high & cook until the soup reaches a rolling boil. Then turn down heat, add parsley, dill, salt, & pepper. Simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in lemon juice. Let cool & transfer soup to a nonmetal container. If serving cold (instead of hot), refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Immediately before serving, add a dollop of lowfat sour cream (or nonfat plain yoghurt) to each bowl. Serve & enjoy!

Yield: 6-8 servings.

Friday, January 25, 2008

0 More Salad Recipes, Upon Request.....

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One of the recent commenters on this blog asked if I had any more salad recipes. Well, yes, I do have several, but other than the two lone recipes for Gimesamwata Sarada & Mesclun & Baby Spinach Greens with Gorgonzola, Pear, & Candied Pecans, I haven't posted any more of them yet on this blog. I guess the way I look at salad is that most salads are so basic & easy, that I usually don't bother with writing up recipes for them.

However, some salads are something special, & require a tad bit more effort than just cutting up veggies, throwing them into a bowl, et le voilà -- which is why I made an exception to that rule. And yes, I do have some more interesting & sophisticated salad recipes that require more than the above efforts & dropping in some salad tongs. ;-)

So, to honor this commenter's request, I've decided to post some of the more interesting salad recipes over the next few weeks/months. Look out, it's going to be salads galore.

Now mind you, my definition of a salad actually does require raw veggies, so you'll never see any of those "faux" salads -- potato salad, egg salad, tuna salad, or pasta salad -- type of recipes from me. I'm a purist when it comes to salad. Plus, those types of so-called salads are NOT salads in my book. That really takes the definition of salad & stretches it far past its true definition. ;-)

Plus those types of recipes usually require lots of mayo & therefore aren't the most healthy of "salads." Anyhow, enough ranting about some of food pet peeves, & onto the salads!

So stay tuned for some salad recipes.......

5 Recipe #26: Try A Savory & Refreshing Yoghurt Drink! (Homemade Doogh)

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This drink recipe ("doogh") is a favorite concoction of mine. It's refreshing and simply delicious! I first tried it several years ago at a Persian restaurant, & I've been hooked every since.

In fact, at the local Moby Dick's eatery around the corner from me, I'm unofficially known as the "Doogh queen." ;-) (Yes, I know, strange name for a restaurant, but they have great food!) They always smile & chuckle a bit when they see me coming; I think it's probably because they are amused that a non-Persian likes this drink so much and also knows how to correctly pronounce all of the names of the dishes. Or, let's certainly hope that's the reason! ;-)

No, I didn't study Farsi or anything, but I've certainly have overheard enough of my Persian friends chatting amongst themselves to pick up a smattering of the language here & there. ;-) I also happen to have prior knowledge of other Semitic languages as well, and in general, enjoy speaking and learning foreign languages, so that certainly helps as well. I've also done a lot of international travel, and enjoy studying about and immersing myself in different cultures and environments, etc., etc.

But anyhow, back to the drink recipe. It doesn't taste anything like salt lassi, if you are used to drinking those, although it is a salty beverage. I actually like doogh much better than most of the salt lassis I've tried. (It does taste a bit more like mint lassi, however.) Doogh usually has a refreshing, cool, minty taste, (OK don't worry, it's NOT anything like toothpaste! Hahahaha!), and as a result, you'll probably feel much revived from drinking it! I'd particularly recommend drinking it on a hot summer's day. The drink has excellent health properties, so you can really enjoy it anytime, & also feel great about the fact that you're putting something good into your body as well!

I bet that many of you are probably already familiar with the "yoghurt & mint combination" typically found in many Mediterranean. Middle-Eastern, and Indian foods and beverages. Sometimes cucumber is also added to the mix, as in the case of many soups and standard dipping sauces. For instance, consider raitas (Indian food) and Tzatsiki sauce (Greek food), etc. However, cucumber is not traditionally used when making "doogh," although it would probably taste quite delicious & refreshing to dip a cucumber spear into this drink & then take a bite! ;-)

But enough about this. Let's get down to it, & give you that recipe!

This is the recipe I came up with after much trial & error, in order to get the perfect balance of savory & salty flavors. Enjoy!

Homemade Doogh (Persian Yoghurt Drink)

1 c. nonfat yoghurt
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint (If unavailable, substitute with a dash of crushed, dried mint flakes.)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 1/2 c. club soda or springwater (Bottled dough in restaurants will usually be either carbonated or non-carbonated. I like both, but make whichever you think you might like best! You might want to start with non-carbonated if you're not quite sure.)

Directions: Pour yoghurt, mint, salt, & pepper into a pitcher. (I actually think it's easiest to pour all of the ingredients into one of those empty gallon milk/water jugs, put the cap on tightly and just shake it vigorously, putting your free hand on top of the cap & pressing firmly while shaking. IMPORTANT: PLEASE do NOT use this technique if you are using club soda!!!! Or you might find yourself wearing your dough instead of drinking it!)Add club soda or springwater gradually, stirring constantly. Add 3-4 ice cubes and mix again. Serve chilled.

Chef's Notes: You might also want to add more mint, pepper, or salt, to taste to the final product, depending on your own personal preference. If you do decide to add more of these ingredients, I'd highly recommend adding them gradually, and tasting after each addition, to make sure that the taste is balanced. I typically like to add a few more scoops of mint and a touch more salt to the finished product, but that's just me. ;-)

If this is the very first time you'll be making this drink, you might want to stick to the recipe the first go-round, and then start getting creative after you've gotten a sense of the essence of what it tastes like. Of course, you can do as you wish. But don't say I didn't warn you! I'll admit to many a "doogh disaster" -- either because I'd shook the container a bit too vigorously (Hey, it feels really good give that thing a good, hard shake, OK!?! ;-) ), or had over-salted, over-peppered, and yes, even over-minted this drink (if that's even a word!). Well, they don't call it "trial & error" for nothing! I'm certainly not afraid to admit to making these mistakes, as the end product has turned out even better as a result. If you don't try, and if you don't experiment, how will you ever know what works best?!

Also, I usually double , triple, or even quadruple (!) the recipe, and put the drink mixture into a gallon jug (or two!). What can I say, I really like this drink (!), and drink it regularly throughout the summer. Hope you'll like it as much as I do too! Who knows, maybe it'll even become one of your new favorites!

Monday, January 21, 2008

0 Recipe #25: Gimme a Gimesamwata Sarada :) (Japanese Salad)

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Sarada ( サラだ ) is the Japanese word for salad. Gimesamwata sarada is the salad you will typically find in Japanese steakhouses. You know, those delicious salads topped with ginger dressing that you secretly wish you had the recipe for? ;) Well, you're in luck there, because I just created a recipe that closely resembles those very same steakhouse salads.

I got a lot of requests from family & friends asking me to create/post this recipe, so they could make it in their own homes, and so, by popular demand, here it is:

Gimesamwata Sarada (Japanese Salad)

1 c. iceberg lettuce, sliced into chunks
1/3 c. green cabbage, roughly chopped
1/3 c. red/purple cabbage, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp. scallion, sliced crosswise into thin rounds (about 2 large scallions)
1/3 c. red onion, sliced into long, thin crescent-shaped slivers
2/3 c. cucumber, peeled into alternating striped pattern & diced (about 1/2 a medium-sized cucumber)
1/3 c. mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. celery, shredded
1/3 c. baby carrots, shredded
3 Tbsp. daikon (or red) radish, shredded
1/3 c. mung bean sprouts (optional)
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely minced
3/4 c. silken tofu, sliced into 1/2" cubes
2 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted
Japanese ginger dressing (see recipe)

Directions: Add all ingredients to a large salad bowl & toss. Serve & enjoy!

Yield: 4 servings as a side salad, or 2 servings as a main course.

Serving Suggestions: If you're having this salad for lunch, you can add 4 oz. sliced chicken or tofu cubes for your protein source.

0 Recipe #24: Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing

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If you've ever wanted to replicate the seriously delicious & addictive ginger salad dressing served at Japanese restaurants -- you know, the kind that's drizzled over starter salads preceding the main meal -- guess what? You're in luck, because I'm going to post that recipe right here, right now. :) No joke, this recipe is an EXACT replica -- We're talking freshly-made, restaurant-quality, Japanese ginger salad dressing. Tangy & slightly creamy, and mmmm-mmmm good. :)

This dressing recipe is also really quick & easy to make; you basically just toss everything into a food processor & blend until smooth; it can't get much easier than that. :)

I like making my own ginger salad dressing, fresh, from scratch, versus buying it in a bottle, because it's made from 100% whole foods -- It sure tastes a whole lot better than its bottled counterpart, not to mention that it's a whole lot healthier for you as well. There are zero additives, unlike bottled dressings. Bottled salad dressing often contain Xanthan gum, which is made from corn syrup, as well as other chemical compounds that aren't found in nature. Many of these chemical compounds interfere with the way that your body processes and responds to food (i.e., satiety signals, etc.).

By the same logic, I don't want to eat a fat-free potato chip if the chemicals in it only make me crave more of them. Excess, unexpended calories end up in the same place (i.e., they are eventually stored as fat), whether they start out as fat calories or something else. ;) And I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have their final destination be my hips and rear end. :) Where would be the sense in that?!

On that note, it probably wouldn't come as a surprise if I were to reveal that I don't typically consume very many processed or factory-made foods. However, when I do buy manufactured food products, I generally like to use a guideline similar to the one mentioned by Jamie Oliver in last week's episode of his TV show, "Food Revolution": If there's a long paragraph of complex-sounding ingredients not found in nature (i.e., man-made chemical compounds), I won't purchase those products. However, if the list of ingredients is only a few lines long, and is comprised of mostly whole foods, I will be more inclined to buy those products.

Anyhow, enough dissertation on the merits of fresh food, & onto the recipe. :) Enjoy!

Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing

1/4 c. baby carrots, shredded
1/4 c. red apple, peeled, cored, & chopped (preferably a Fuji apple or something comparable)
1/4 c. silken tofu
1/8 c. (2 Tbsp.) celery, roughly chopped (about 1/2 large celery stalk)
1/8 c. (2 Tbsp.) yellow onion, roughly diced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled & roughly chopped (about a 1" piece)
2 tsp. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. garlic, peeled & roughly chopped
1/8 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
4 Tbsp. orange juice
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice (if unavailable, substitute lime juice)
1 Tbsp. sesame seed oil
1/2 tsp. honey

Directions: Toss all ingredients into a food processor & pulse until smooth & creamy. Pour dressing into a glass dressing bottle with a closed lid. Serve immediately or refrigerate dressing for future use.

Yield: 1.5 cups (liquid measure).

Friday, January 11, 2008

0 Recipe #23: Mesclun & Baby Spinach Greens with Gorgonzola, Pear, & Candied Pecans

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As promised, here's another tasty, eye-catching, & fiber-rich salad recipe to delight the senses -- it's got texture & tanginess, with just a hint of sweetness. The various textures, flavors, & colors play off each other quite nicely. This is a sublime salad, one with both balance & body. Enjoy!

Mesclun & Baby Spinach Greens with Gorgonzola, Pear, & Candied Pecans

Salad Ingredients:
2 c. baby spinach & mesclun greens (mixture)
1/4 c. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (can substitute Maytag Blue Cheese)
1/4 c. red onion, sliced into thin slivers
1/3 c. mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, finely minced
1 firm, ripe pear, peeled, cored, sliced into thin slivers (preferably Bosc or Bartlett)
1/4 c. strawberries, washed, hulled, & thinly sliced

Candied Pecans Ingredients:
1/3 c. pecan halves (or if unavailable, substitute walnut halves)
1 egg white
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (or ground black pepper for less heat)
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
1/2 tsp. red onion, grated
1/2 tsp. garlic, finely minced
1/8 tsp. ground mustard
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions: Toss salad ingredients in a large bowl, & set aside.

Prepare candied pecans: In a separate bowl, beat egg white with an electric mixer at the highest speed until stiff white peaks form, about 30-60 seconds. Fold in balsamic vinegar, honey, & spices, & gently mix until well combined. Add pecans & stir until pecans are completely coated with mixture. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil, and pour pecan mixture onto foil.  Be sure to use a spatula to completely extract all of the syrup from the bowl, in order to drizzle the remainder on top of the pecans. Spread coated pecans out on the baking sheet, rearranging them so that they are evenly spaced.  Also, you might have to use a spoon to scoop up any syrup that's travelled across the baking sheet, which can then be poured on top of the pecans. Bake pecans for 30 minutes. Stir mixture twice while baking.

While pecans are baking, prepare dressing: Combine dressing ingredients in a salad dressing beaker (or something comparable), place lid on top & with one hand firmly on top of the lid, shake vigorously until well-blended. Put in fridge to marinate.

When pecans are done, let them cool until sticky coating has solidified. When ready, peel off pecans (from the aluminium foil), add to salad, pour in dressing, & toss. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings as a side salad; 1-2 servings as a main course.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

0 Finally a Blog Post, Albeit a Brief One....

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OK, I've just about had it up to here with this repeated blog template corruption problem. Arrrghhh! Sometimes the title photo shows up as a cropped, cut-off image & other times it slides across the page. It's not that I can't fix the problem, which I assure you I can, but rather it's just that I'm absolutely NOT about to redo my blog template for the 5 zillionth time. Wordpress, anyone? ;-)

I do realize that it's been "all quiet on the Western front," with regard to this blog. Just been fantastically way too busy to cook much of anything lately, let alone write about it! ;-) It's been lots of simple whole foods lately. When things quiet down (which'll hopefully happen in a few weeks or months!), I hope to get back to cooking, dreaming up original recipes, & cookbook writing. So please bear with me, as I struggle to juggle just way too many projects, plans, & aspirations. ;-)

Also, I just want to let all of you know that I do appreciate your comments & have read them all, & plan to respond at some point soon, whenever I can find a moment.

As I've mentioned numerous times before, you're welcome to visit my other blogs if you're starved for content. Right now, the blog I most regularly contribute to is my running blog. I also contribute in dribbles & drabbles to my WFD Jewelry & Ferlanti Couture blog, as well as to my JCrew blog. And of course, you're welcome to visit my other two blogs (Ladybug Tea Company: A Cheeky Little Blog & Music Unbound. Lately, I haven't contributed as much to these last two blogs, but if you haven't visited them in the past several months or at all(!), you might find something new & interesting there as well. Enjoy!

(You might notice that some of these other blogs are suffering from the same template corruption. What can I say, it's an epidemic. OK, it's not that bad, & at some point, I'll probably get around to fixing these issues. The page is still readable, & the corruption doesn't really affect the page layout, other than the title graphic & a missing third-column. I did move all of the content out of that third column, so all of the content is, in fact, still there. If you have any suggestions for a more permanent & far-reaching solution to these annoying blog template issues, other than moving over to Wordpress! ;-), I'd greatly appreciate your insight to attain such a higher state of blog nirvana. ;-) Thanks so much!)

Hope you all had a great holiday season, & I wish you a very blogalicious 2008! ;-)


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