Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Carrot and Coriander Soup

At last, the weather is cooling off a bit in the evenings (even though we are still in the 70’s during the day). Close enough - it’s “soup weather” as far as I’m concerned. Anything below 60 and I’m there. Time to start firing up the soup pot!

In my last post I mentioned a soup I had made the same evening as the Thai curry. It was very tasty and it works nicely served before Thai or perhaps Indian dishes, but this soup could really be eaten with just about anything. It’s pretty versatile.

The orange from the carrots makes it visually interesting and the addition of coriander, not just the ground spice but the fresh variety called cilantro, make for a nice combination of sweet and savory, one of my favorite.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Serves 4-6.

1 lb. carrots, preferably young and tender
1 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced, plus 2-3 pale leafy celery tops
2 small potatoes, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup milk (I used unsweetened coconut milk)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the carrots, peel if necessary and cut into chunks. Heat oil together with 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the onion over low heat for 3-4 min. until slightly softened but not browned.

Cut the celery stalk into slices. Add the celery and potato to the onion in the pan, cook for a few minutes and add the carrots. Fry over low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, and then cover. Reduce heat even further and sweat for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom.

Add the stock, bring to a boil and then partially cover and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are tender.

Remove 6-8 tiny celery leaves for garnish and finely chop the rest (about 1 Tbsp. once chopped). Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan and fry the coriander for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, add the chopped celery tops and fresh cilantro and fry for about a minute. Set aside.

Process the soup in either a food processor or blender, or use an immersion blender right in your saucepan, until the soup is smooth. Stir in the milk, coriander mixture and seasoning. Heat gently, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve garnished with the reserved celery leaves.

For a bit of extra zing, add a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thai Tofu Curry

Hi there. Miss me? 

I’m sorry. A lot has happened in the last few months. I started a new job in August (there’s so much to learn); my dog became sick and I had to put her to sleep; I came down with a case of digestive un-wellness that was the worst I have experienced to date; and in between all that I had family visiting for 5 weeks. 

I hope you was the last thing on my mind.

But I have been feeling better this week and I’ve regained a bit of my appetite. For weeks though I was eating minuscule portions and sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes just some bone broth or fresh pressed juice. But when I was ready for some food again, I craved something NOT bland for a change, something with some flavor, but that wouldn’t send me over the edge back into un-wellness. I was thinking Thai.

Thai food is some of my favorite stuff. In my opinion, their flavor combinations and the way they use different spices, herbs and coconut milk are heavenly. 

So while I was perusing my cookbooks I came across this recipe and modified it a bit. I didn’t use the whole berries and seeds when it came to the spices. I was too lazy for that. Plus, I have them ground, so why be wasteful? But if you don’t have them and want an even more extraordinary flavor, I do suggest you get the whole spice and first toast them in a pan, and then grind them yourself. You will not be disappointed.

Make sure to fry the tofu. Getting a bit of a brown crust on at least 2 sides gives it a little more texture but you don’t have to do this if you prefer it softer.

What I really like about this dish is the green paste. It should look like the photo on the left. It has a little tang from the citrus and cilantro and  just a tad heat from the jalapeño and together they make otherwise super-boring tofu a little less boring. And if you don't care for tofu, you could easily serve this sauce over chicken or shrimp. This paste is worth making! In fact, I was licking the food processor bowl with my fingers, so as not to waste a single drop.

We started our meal off with a Carrot and Coriander Soup. That was a good soup. I’ll post that recipe soon. But in the meantime, do try this dish sometime.

Thai Tofu Curry

Serves about 3-4.

2 packages firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
2 Tbsp. peanut oil or coconut oil

For the paste:
1 small onion (I use green onion)
2 green jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. grated lime rind (use an organic lime)
2 tsp. coriander berries, crushed (or ground coriander)
2 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed (or ground cumin)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup boiling water

For the garnish:
thin slices of fresh red chili or red pepper
fresh cilantro leaves

1. Toss the tofu cubes in soy sauce and leave to marinate for 15 minutes or so while you prepare the paste.
2. Put all the paste ingredients in a food processor and grind until smooth.
3. To cook, heat the oil in a wok or large skillet until quite hot. Drain the tofu cubes and stir-fry at high temperature until well browned on all sides and just firm. Drain on paper towels. 
4. Wipe wok clean. Pour in the paste and stir well. Return the tofu to the wok and mix it into the paste, reheating the ingredients as you stir.
5. Serve this dish over bowls of fragrant Thai or jasmine rice. The sauce will flavor the rice as well and be very tasty.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Curried Chicken Salad

Summer is the perfect time for lighter foods when it’s hot and we don’t want to turn on the oven. And chicken salads are ideal. They are also easy to prepare.

I’ve been making this salad for several years and I never tire of it because I really like the flavor combination of spicy and sweet. I came across the recipe this morning and am thinking about making it again this weekend since the weather remains hot and muggy where I live. There’s something cooling about this salad even though it has some spice from the chutney and curry. The spice is minimal, though, and is really just there to add flavor, not heat.

The salad's great served on a bed of Boston or Bibb lettuce. You could even use the lettuce leaves to sort of scoop up the salad with.

There is no substitute for the wine. If you leave it out it really does affect the taste, even though it’s only 1/3 of a cup. Trust me, I’ve tried. For the mayo, you can use a dairy-free variety if you’re lactose intolerant. I like Vegenaise from Follow Your Heart. I think it’s one of the best-tasting, healthy, dairy-free and eggless mayos out there. They make a variety of mayos to choose from. I usually get mine at the health food store where you’ll see a larger selection, but I’ve even seen 1-2 varieties at the regular supermarket.

Here’s the recipe.

Curried Chicken Salad

6 chicken breasts (depending on the size, you may need only 4)
1 1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise 
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup mango chutney
2-3 Tbsp. curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped celery (finely diced)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup raisins
a little grated fresh ginger

Roast the chicken breasts in a 350 degree F oven for 35-40 minutes. While those are cooking, puree the mayo through the salt in a food processor until smooth. This will be your sauce. 

Combine the celery through ginger in a bowl. When the chicken breasts are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-sized chunks. Add the sauce, toss, and chill for a few hours.

When you’re ready to eat the salad, add 1 cup of warm, salted toasted cashews, if you like. Pecans also work nicely.

Enjoy for lunch on a hot day!

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