Monday, March 31, 2014

Sweet Potato Soup with African Spices, Sweet Potato Leaves & Chickpeas (Vegan)

Inspired by the rare find of sweet potato leaves at our local farmer's market, this warmly spiced, slightly nutty vegan soup combines African spices with potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, sweet potato leaves, red peppers and chickpeas. Both hearty and light, a little peanut butter highlights the nuttiness of the chickpeas and greens and adds a touch of creaminess to a warm tomato broth spiced with harissa, sumac, cumin, and chili. 

Sweet potato leaves look like this:

They have a faintly nutty taste and are best used in soups or stews.  They aren't easy to find, however, so feel free to substitute spinach or your favorite greens in this soup recipe.  (If you use spinach, you'll want to adjust the cooking time and add it right at the end of the cooking.)

Sweet Potato Soup with African Spices, Sweet Potatoes Leaves & Chickpeas:

1 TBS olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced small
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp harissa 
1 tsp sumac
1 TBS ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander

1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 carrot, diced
1 sweet potato, diced
1/4 red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
32 fl oz vegetable broth
2 TBS peanut butter
1 TBS tomato paste
7 oz tomatoes, petite diced
1 cup sweet potato leaves, chopped (or spinach or other greens)
7 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
10 olives, chopped
1 tsp chili-garlic paste
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the diced onions.  Cook for 3 minutes, stir well and add the minced garlic.  Cook for 1 minute and add the harissa, sumac, cumin, and coriander. Stir well and cook for 30 seconds. Add the diced carrot and potato, stir, and cover.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add the sweet potato and red pepper. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, cover, and cook 2 more minutes.  Uncover and add the vegetable broth. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the peanut butter. Stir until the peanut butter is dissolved. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, and sweet potato leaves (or other greens - if using spinach, don't add it until the last 2 minutes of cooking) and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chili paste, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.Turn off the heat and finish with the chopped cilantro.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Bite-Sized Spinach & Cheese Frittatas

These bite-sized spinach and cheese frittatas are ideal for picnics, parties, and lunch boxes.  Protein-packed and seasonally green, enjoy them as an appetizer or with a crisp, green salad.  Made in a mini-muffin pan, the possible vegetable-cheese combinations are endless, but spinach with sharp cheddar and grated parmesan is a great place to start.  This recipe makes 12 mini-muffins (half a pan).  For 24, simply double the recipe.

Spinach & Cheese Mini Frittatas:

vegetable spray
4 eggs
1/4 cup half-and-half
salt & pepper
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
2 TBS grated Parmesan
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 shallot, finely diced
1 cup spinach, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.  Beat the eggs and half-and-half together. Add salt and pepper and beat.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and fry the shallot for 2 minutes. Add the chopped spinach, cook stirring for 1 minute until spinach is just wilted and remove from heat.

Add the cheese to the eggs and stir.  Spray the mini-muffin pan with vegetable spray to prevent sticking.  Add the spinach to the egg-cheese mixture and stir.

Use a spoon to fill about half the mini-muffin cups, drawing from the bottom of the egg-cheese mixture to make sure all your frittatas get an equal amount of cheese (the cheese will probably sink to the bottom).  Then distribute the remaining mixture between the cups (four eggs will make approx. 12 mini-frittatas).

Bake in the middle of the oven for around 20 minutes, until the frittatas are firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Heart-Healthy Valentine's Day Soup: Borscht

I love chocolate, but I'd be really psyched if someone made me this lovely version of Borscht for Valentine's Day!

Borscht, the classic soup made with beets, potatoes and cabbage, is delicious and fabulously good for you!  Beets are full of antioxidants, think anti-inflamatory, and both beets and cabbage, particularly the red variety, are packed full of Vitamin C.  Both help the body detox, so this is an anytime soup. I used a small heart-shaped cutter to create heart shapes out of the beets and potatoes and then diced the rest and included them in the soup.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and healthy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day Borscht:

1 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
3 medium beets, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 red cabbage, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
sea salt to taste
apple cider vinegar to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and saute the onion for 5 minutes. Using a small heart-shaped cutter, cut heart shapes out of the beet and potato slices.  Dice the remaining extras.  Add the beets, cover and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Add the potato and some salt and cook for 3 minutes. Add the red cabbage and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and water and bring to a boil (uncovered). Turn down to a low simmer and cook until beets and potatoes are just tender (10-15 minutes). Adjust salt and add apple cider vinegar as desired (I used 2-3 tsp).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Asparagus, Lentil & Mushroom Soup

I love this simple Asparagus, Lentil & Mushroom soup! I've made it 5 or 6 times in the last month, varying the spices, and the amount of heat.  It makes a wonderfully satisfying winter lunch - the lentils provide a low-fat protein and fiber hit, the asparagus offers a contrasting freshness, and the mushrooms round out the flavor with a warm earthiness.  Considering the 10 inches of rain we've had over the past 5 days here in Marin County, this soup delivers comfort without a lot of calories, perfect for a few quiet days indoors.

I've made it with and without fresh thyme, and used a variety of spices - ground cumin and coriander, a Bengali spice mix called Panch Phoron (cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard and Nigella seeds),  cumin and mustard seeds. I've added heat with chili-garlic sauce, jalapenos, and cayenne pepper. I've used Trader Joe's steamed lentils and also cooked dried lentils.  In the picture above, I used the tiny black "caviar" lentils (simply boil in water for 25 minutes until almost tender).

My staples for this recipe are lemon juice, sherry vinegar, tomato paste (I keep a tube by the stove for soups) and a couple of chopped olives to add richness.  Fresh spinach would also be a worthy addition.

I love the combination of asparagus and lentils. For a salad version see my Lentil & Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts. Enjoy!

Asparagus, Lentil & Mushroom Soup:

1 TBS olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 glove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin (or try combinations discussed above)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp butter (or fav vegan substitute)
1 cup asparagus (thick ends removed, chopped into 1/2 inch rounds)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I used cremini)
1 cup cooked lentils
24 oz vegetable stock
1 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
3 olives, finely chopped
1 tsp sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook the chopped shallot and minced garlic for 2 minutes. Add the ground cumin and coriander and cook 30 seconds, stirring well.  Add the butter, melt, and add the chopped asparagus with a couple of grinds of salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms, stir well, cover and cook 2 minutes.  Add the cooked lentils and vegetable stock, partially cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and add the tomato paste, chili garlic sauce, chopped olives and sherry vinegar. Let the soup cook for 8-10 minutes over low heat, so it is just bubbling. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Noodle Soup with Tofu, Broccolini & Chard Stems

Rainbow chard is a lovely product and I highly recommend using it to make the delicious French Chard & Potato Gratin.  But don't throw away those intensely colored chard stems!  The very pretty and colorful chard stems are excellent candidates for soup or a stir fry. Yes, they do loose some of their dramatic coloring with cooking, but I think this Noodle Soup with Tofu, Broccolini & Chard Stem Soup is an excellent example of how you can repurpose a potential throw-away into an attractive and tasty ingredient.

This simple soup uses a refrigerator packaged fresh noodle soup with spicy flavoring and adds onions, garlic, soy sauce, a little toasted sesame oil, and fresh ginger to the prepackaged broth to give it a home-made taste. Add the chard stems a few minutes before the tofu and broccolini and cook until just tender. You'll end up with a delicious Asian soup that accents the lovely color and taste of the chard stems, with the textural profiles of the broccolini, silky tofu and comforting noodles.


Saturday, February 01, 2014

Albion Cooks Celebrates 8 Years!

It's been such a blast to write this blog for the last 8 years!  I've learned so much!  Thank you for sharing in my culinary journey.

To celebrate, I've chosen some favorite recipes from 2006-2014.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chard and Potato Gratin

The beautiful rainbow chard I found at the Farmers Market was the only inspiration I needed to make this delicious, indulgent Chard and Potato Gratin with nutty Emmental cheese, butter, and a little half-and-half.

The recipe is from Georgeanne Brennan's The Vegetarian Table: France. It's quite a simple recipe, but the perfect way to use chard and enjoy a wintery, indulgent dish. I remember the first time I made this, I thought it was so involved, but it really only requires 15 minutes of prep and an hour to cook. And it's so worth the effort!  All you need is a beautiful bunch of chard, a couple of potatoes, Emmental of Gruyere cheese, butter and half-and -half.

Chard and Potato Gratin:

garlic clove
1 bunch chard, stalks removed, leaves chopped (save the stalks -see the next post for a recipe for the stalks)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced as thin as possible
3 oz Emmental cheese, grated
1/4 cup half-and-half (cream or milk can be substituted)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a oblong dish and rub the sides with a cut garlic clove.  Layer 1/2 of the thinly sliced potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Dot with butter. Season with a grind of salt and pepper. Add 1/2 of the chopped chard leaves and top with 1/2 of the grated cheese. Add a second layer using the other half of thinly sliced potatoes, dot with butter and season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining chopped chard and remaining cheese. Pour the half-and-half (cream/milk) over the top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Enjoy!