Saturday, November 27, 2010

"(Almost) Zero Point" Curried Tomato Soup

This one goes out to all my Weight-Watching friends and anyone else who needs to make up for holiday overindulgence...This is the best tasting super-low calorie soup I've come across so far. (Blows the WW "Zero Point Soup" out of the water!) I like to make some small pasta and add to the soup to bulk it up for those around me who need more calories or for myself if I need it...

2 tsp. olive oil
2 c. diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tbspn. freshly zested orange peel
3 14.5-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
5 c. water
2 c. chopped bell pepper
2 c. chopped celery
1 1/2 tbspn. lemon juice

Put oil, onions and garlic in soup pot on low heat. Cover and gently saute until onions are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often. Add spices and orange peel and saute for another minute or two, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil and add peppers and celery. Simmer until veggies are done, but not mushy. You want the celery to still have a little "crunch" to it. (While they are simmering, you can cook pasta in another pan, rinse with cold water and drain.) Add lemon juice to soup and serve by putting a scoop of pasta in the bottom of the soup bowl and ladling soup on top.


From Liz' Kitchen


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tunisian Pumpkin Soup with Spice Swirl

At the catering job/party last Friday night, I believe I promised someone this recipe. I'm sure that it had NOTHING to do with the great wine at the gig.. :-)

Tunisian Pumpkin Soup (modified from my favorite soup cookbook, Moosewood Daily Special)

3 c. chopped onions
2 tbspn. oil
2 c. sliced carrots
2 c. sliced parsnips
2 tsp. salt
6 c. water
1 c. apple juice (unsweetened)
1 c. tomato juice -OR- 3 tbspn. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. paprika
1 29-oz. can pumpkin

Saute onions in oil, with a sprinkle of salt, over medium-low heat until translucent. Add carrots, parsnips, and salt, and cook for 5 more minutes. Add water, apple and tomato juice and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer until veggies are soft. Remove from heat, add canned pumpkin and use my FAVORITE kitchen implement, an immersion blender, to puree the soup. (If you don't have one, well, get one! Or better yet, have your best friend buy you a red one for your birthday like me --Thanks Joanie! Or put the soup in a regular old blender, messy and boring...)

Now, for the magic part: the Spice Swirl...

3 tbspns. olive oil
1 tbspn. pressed or minced garlic
2 tbspn. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. cayenne
3 tbspns. lemon juice
1/2 c. packed cilantro, stems and leaves
1/2 tsp. salt

Saute spices and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for approximately 2 minutes. Be careful not to scorch spices or brown garlic - just cook until bubbly, thick and fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Put cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and spice saute in a small food processor (or use the immersion blender!) and puree.

There ya go...Serve the soup with a spoonful or spice swirl on top. But keep it on the table because you WILL want to add more. Vegan, warm, and the spice swirl is just addicting! Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Catering is Hard Work!

We (Cafe Solstice) catered our first event, a womens clothing swap, on November 19th...Here's a pic of the spread:

On the menu:

Veggie Tray with Beet Hummus Royale
Sandwich Wraps - Hummus-Olive and Pesto-Cheese
Tunisian Pumpkin Soup
Garlic-Potato Soup
Farinata (Rustic Italian) Soup
Cheesy Herb Scones
Mayan Spice Brownies
Cherry-Chocolate Cookies

What I learned from this experience:
Catering is expensive for a reason. It's tough to make food for 30-ish, from planning (guessing) how much to make, to transporting it all to the event, to cleaning up afterwards! Also, women trying on clothes don't eat a lot. :-)

Here are a few more pictures for your enjoyment...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Veggie Stew

As a long-time vegetarian, I often get asked, "What do you do for Thanksgiving?" Some years we have done the whole vegan Tofurky spread, like this, our 2009 dinner:

Other years, we have eaten Indian food. As in, what Thanksgiving food would be if Columbus had actually found his way to India.

This year, I think I am going to make Three Sisters Stew in honor of all the awesome foods that the "New World" supplied...(where would we be without tomatoes, I ask you?!?)

(p.s. This soup is another good vehicle for "Magic Green Paste"!)

1 tbspn olive oil 

1 large yellow onion, chopped (~2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed, ~5 cups)
1 small fresh jalapeño, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander5 cups water
2 cans undrained diced tomatoes (14.5 oz. cans)
1 can black beans, rinsed2 cups chopped red and /or green bell peppers
2 cups frozen corn kernels (10-ounce package, frozen)
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat and add onion, garlic and salt. Saute until onions are translucent. Peel, de-seed, and cube butternut into 1/2 inch cubes. (This is the hardest part. You need a large sharp chef's knife and patience...I usually chop the top half off and do it first, because it is so much more satisfying without the seed mess, lol.)

Add jalepeno and spices to oil and saute for about two minutes, being careful not to scorch the spices. Add squash and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add tomatoes, beans, and bell pepper. I like to use the immersion blender to pulverize the tomatoes first, mostly because I think it looks prettier that way. When peppers are just tender enough (10 minutes or so), add corn and cook for 3 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add a dollop of Magic Green Paste or sour cream or both, and enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Espresso and Self-Esteem

I am knee-deep in soup-making at 10 a.m. when the phone rings...
Thanks for calling Cafe Solstice, this is Liz speaking.
I'm looking for a coffee shop. That is open right now. Are you open?
Yes, we are open.
Do you have espresso?
Why, yes we do.
What kind of coffee, and what machine do you have?
We use Lavazza Tierra espresso, and let me go see what the machine is...It's a "La San Marco."
Oh good - a real espresso machine! Do you have a barista who knows how to use it?
Well. I guess by your laugh that you don't.
I have been trained, but I am open to any suggestions you might have for me.
So, what, you don't like coffee?
Actually, I love coffee.
You must not really, if you had to go look to see what kind of machine you use.
Well, my personal preference is a cup of French press.
Interesting. I'll be in soon to torture you.
I am recounting this conversation to Erin and Michelle moments later when the caller walks in. He grills the three of us collectively and after I answer a question correctly about crema, he says:

You could be a barista, but you need some confidence. You must have a self-esteem problem. There are stacks of books that can help with that issue. I used to be that way - but now I love myself! I think I’m great!

(Yeah, buddy...I bet you do!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Name Contest for "Magic Green Paste"

I had a moment of inspired experimenting in the cafe yesterday. The roots included a conversation about the Chow Truck's Cilantro-Chili Pesto*, the arrival of a bunch of beautiful home-grown Italian parsley from Erin's dad, and the memories of the two previous tastebud-popping recipes this week, The Tunisian Spice Swirl and Cilantro Chutney.

Here's what I made - not quite a spice swirl, not quite a chutney, not quite a pesto - but whatever you call it, it was a spicy kick topping the soup of the day (Spiced Butternut Squash Stew) and even delicious plain on brown rice (of course, I'm the one who ate cilantro chutney straight on Sunday, so who am I to judge?)

2 tsp. Olive oil
1/2 jalapeno, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbspn. fresh ground coriander 
1 tsp. salt

1 cup parsley leaves
2 cups coarsely chopped cilantro, stems and leaves
1 whole jalapeno, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice

Saute the minced garlic and jalapeno in the olive oil over medium heat in a small pan, for about two minutes. (Be careful to NOT brown the garlic.) Add the coriander and salt and saute for two minutes more, or until the mixture gets really thick and smells awesome - scientific, aren't I? And seriously, grind the coriander seeds right before you use them. They are definitely one of those spices that quickly loses its ooomph after grinding...

Set aside to cool, and move over to the food processor. Put parsley, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic and pepper in, and 1/2 the lemon juice. Puree, and scrape down sides, and puree some more, adding lemon juice to ease the trouble. Then, add more salt if needed, and there you go: addicting green spicy goodness!

"Magic green paste" just doesn't do it justice. A batch will go to the inventor of the best name - even if I have to overnight it in a cooler to Colorado (you know who you are)!

Eat well and often,

*If you haven't encountered the Chow Truck, you MUST!

** Here's a pic of the green paste in action: dolloped on the spiced squash stew...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Tale of Two Chile Verdes

I'll never forget the first time I ever made Chile Verde. We were having a cowboy-themed chili dinner for the volunteers at my work, and I was making the vegetarian option. I followed the recipe from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons (see My Favorite Cookbooks) to the letter. I soaked navy beans overnight and cooked them for hours. I roasted three kinds of chili peppers on my barbecue grill. Husked and chopped fresh tomatillos...

I couldn't think of anything better than getting my boss to pay me to make chili, and to manage a party. It was awesome!

And the results were pretty amazing, too. At the end of the evening, I was excited to see about three cups of verde left in the bottom of the crockpot - since I hadn't stopped 'managing' or socializing long enough to eat any myself. Then my boss decided to be helpful cleaning up the kitchen. She scooped the verde into a container, and then poured the leftover beef chili ON TOP. I almost cried.

Anyway, I've never followed the recipe so meticulously since...but it's still damn good chili. I like to tell people it is award-winning. Because it is. It came in third place at the Utah Hispanic Democratic Caucus Chile Verde Cook-off a few years ago. I placed behind the organizer's father's entry and Peter Corroon's - but Peter's wife made his entry and she told me she liked mine better, ha ha!

So, here is the Liz' Veggie Verde "Shortcut Version"
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped finely
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 29-oz. can of white mexican style hominy, drained and rinsed well
2 15-oz. cans of small white beans, drained and rinsed well
2 7-oz. cans of diced roasted green chiles
2 fresh annaheims
1 fresh jalepeno, seeds removed
2 cups frozen corn
2 small zucchinis, chopped
1 28 oz. can of tomatillos
1 bunch of cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat about ten minutes. Add cans of hominy, beans, and chiles. Chop and add annaheims and jalepeno, if using. Add  just enough water to cover everything. Simmer about 45 minutes or until the hominy is edible :-) (The canned hominy has a chalky texture until it is cooked well enough.) Add corn and zucchini and cook until done, about five minutes (until they are no longer frozen and/or crunchy).

Put the cilantro, including stems, and tomatillos in a food processor or blender. (Adjust amount of cilantro according to your cilantro addiction.)

Add cilantro nectar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Stir well and serve with guacamole, sour cream, cheese and tortillas or tortilla chips

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Miracle Childhood Baby Food Trauma Reversal? You Decide...

I have an aversion to winter squash and pumpkin. Even pumpkin pie - no likee. (I know, I know.  I, too, am beginning to sense a theme in my posts already..."I used to be picky about this food and now I like it! Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster, RAmen!")

I've thought about this particular pickiness, and I've decided that it is the similarity to baby food that turns me off. It's ridiculously deep-seated and irrational, but there it is. And often the flavorings in most, even savory, squash and pumpkin-based recipes don't help: mild and sweet rule the day. Yet I encounter squash and pumpkin soups all the time - other people must love them.

I arrive for my shift at the cafe yesterday and the soup of the day I'm to prepare? Tunisian Pumpkin Soup. Okay. I don't actually have to love everything I make, right?

The soup itself (from Moosewood Daily Special, see My Favorite Cookbooks) was the standard vegan pureed pumpkin soup. Not spectacular, but not nasty either. But then the MAGIC ingredient: The "Tunisian Spice Swirl" dolloped on top of the soup. HOLY TASTY, Batman! As a result of that flavor, I ate the soup for lunch AND dinner yesterday, and have been pondering other recipes that could use a dose of the swirl.

I don't have the exact recipe here at home, because my copy of the cookbook is happily in foster care at the cafe, but here's what went into the spice swirl:
Olive Oil
Minced Garlic
Fresh Ground Coriander Seed*
Fresh Ground Caraway Seed*
Cayenne Pepper
Fresh Cilantro
Lemon Juice

*PLEASE see My #1 Cooking Tip about spices!

Eat well and often,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thank Goodness: No More Pesky Vegans in My Soup!

Spotted on a package of Instant Miso Soup at one of my favorite places to shop, SouthEast Supermarket (see Where to Buy in SLC)...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Newsflash: I Can't Say "I Hate Beets" Anymore!

I have believed for over thirty years that beets are a scourge upon this earth. Ancient peoples would have been better off eating the dirt straight instead as far as I'm concerned.

Enter Erin (of Cafe Solstice) and her "Hummus Royale." It's simply her hummus recipe with beets substituted for garbanzo beans. And it's simply, ridiculously, delicious. I feel like the world has turned upside down. It's just not right! But it tastes too good to be wrong...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Cilantro Chutney That Rocks My World

I made homemade cilantro chutney for book club tonight (after buying frozen bake-yourself samosas from  Shop 'n' Go - a.k.a. the "Salt Lake Quik-E-Mart" -  at their new location on the corner of 300 South and 600 East.) I've never found a bottled or frozen chutney of any green variety that comes even close to the vibrant flavor of fresh. And I have a confession to make. When I got home, the kids stole the last samosas, and I was left with about two tablespoons of chutney. I ate it with a spoon. Plain. True story. It's just that good!

Since I love you, I'm going to share the recipe:

1/4 c. fresh lime juice (lemon will work as well)
1/4 c. water
1/4 lb. fresh cilantro stems and leaves, washed and coarsely chopped (~2 c. packed)
1/4 c. fresh or dried grated coconut (preferably unsweetened)
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp. finely chopped chili (jalepeño)
1 tsp. sugar (omit if coconut is sweetened)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Puree in food processor until mostly smooth!

(I owe this recipe to a very kind family who hosted me in Maryland when my friend Cinnamon was ordained a UU minister there in 2002.)

p.s. This post reminded me of that factoid about cilantro dislike being a genetic thing, so I decided to look for where I got that idea on the interwebs, and came up with this great article from the NY Times: Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault. This article provides a possible answer as to why I love cilantro now but hated it at first...YAY!

Peach Lavender Smoothie

I am ashamed to admit that after two months of employment at the cafe, I am still learning to make smoothies. As in, I nearly have a panic attack every time a customer orders one. So, I have to take a deep breath and tell myself to act confident, and to add an extra little scoop of ice (my smoothies have tended to come in undersized). On Thursday, a lovely older lady ordered a Peach-Lavender smoothie, which I had never made nor even tried before. I ended up with an extra half-cup (thanks, extra ice!), which I decided to try for myself. I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was.

Then I took out the lady's lunch plate and overheard her say to her companion, "This smoothie is great - I feel like I am taking a bubble bath!"

And from then on, my brain decided the lavender made the smoothie taste like soap. Damn!