Thursday, September 30, 2010

"A Quiet Soup" from Orangette

A very pretty but mostly-retired blog, Orangette, had a post the other day for a "quiet soup" I had just the ingredients to do myself.

The link above will take you there. It features red lentils (really orange), lemon, tomato paste, chicken broth, onions and garlic, a bit of heat, and cilantro.  It can probably take further nutritarian adjustments (like veggie broth instead of chicken, and dry or wet sauteing of the onions instead of with oil), but I increased the lentil content a bit to use up the amount I had on hand, and I used only two tablespoons of olive oil instead of the four called for. It is very nice, excellent, even, and I think it will be even better tomorrow.

To the left is the cookbook it comes from.

In other news, I haven't posted much lately, but I've been doing a lot of nutritarian-friendly things in the kitchen, mostly dehydrating tomatoes, with this:

The romas are the prettiest. I peel them by plunging them into boiling water for about two minutes, then into cold water, then slipping the skins off. I then slice them into pretty rounds and arrange them on the trays. They take a good 18 or more hours to dry.

Beefsteak tomatoes work, too, but they need a good squeezing after peeling to get out the excess liquid and seeds before arranging the pieces on the dehydrator trays.  A better technique with the beefsteaks is just cooking them down for hours on a low burner in a big pot, stirring occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom.  The result is something between a puree and tomato paste, intensely flavored and sweet, with a kind of smokiness, perhaps from caramelization in the long, slow cooking.  I used some of this "reduced puree" in place of the tomato paste in the lentil soup recipe, and it is lovely.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Vroom Vroom Vitamix!

I guess I've entered the ranks of the crazy folks -- I bought a Vitamix! I didn't get exactly the one in this ad, but similar, and I paid less (remanufactured) at the Vitamix site.  For $400 I was expecting a lot, so I couldn't help but be a bit concerned at the plastic container, after the nice glass one on my Oster Fusion (RIP). But I've decided to give it a chance and so far I'm getting more optimistic.


In the instruction booklet they advise that you start with their recipes and branch out after that.  So I made their version of salsa, which consists of only tomatoes, a bit of tomato paste I omitted, cilantro, jalapenos, and some salt.  It was okay for what it was, but the machine didn't process the slightly leathery peppers I dropped in without getting to the point of liquefying the tomatoes, so I just picked out the big hunks of pepper afterwards.  I then used the chopping feature to do some onion and garlic since we like that in our salsa, then I did another batch (2 cups) of their recipe. Mixed all together, it's very nice.


This morning I tried my first smoothie, with a frozen banana, about 1/3 cup frozen peaches from a local farm (our trees didn't bear this year), an orange, and about one medium windfall apple (Gala type) from down the road. I added a bit of water to get the right consistency, and then I added flax seed meal to my glass afteward. That was nice, too, and I saved about a third of it as a smoothie starter for another time. This was not their recipe, but quantities as in the Vitamix booklet recommendation.

After following the instructions for cleaning the container with warm water and a couple of drops of dish liquid, then running it on high for 30 seconds, I could still detect some apple residue (I'm guessing) on the sides of the container, so I'm a little concerned about getting it really clean between uses.

(My reduced-fat variation)

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan, grated
3 cloves garlic
2-3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons toasted walnuts

We have a big crop of basil and I was looking forward to making some pesto once I had some kind of workable machine in the house. (My wedding-gift Sunbeam food processor has only the shredding/slicing attachments functional now, so it's limited, and the Oster Fusion blender died, so I was READY for a Vitamix!)  Of course I discovered that I didn't have any pine nuts left, but I did have walnuts, and they work just fine.  I reduced the oil and parmesan in the Vitamix booklet recipe by 30% or so and increased the basil, and the result was EXCELLENT, with no need for the salt and pepper in the recipe.  The texture is very smooth, which is fine with me, and the flavor is nicely balanced.  Now, to increase the nutritional value, I want to cut back even more severely on the oil and cheese and see how little I can get away with.  I have in the past frozen a basil puree that I use as I would pesto in some applications. 

I saved about a quart (four batches) of the Vitamix (but reduced-fat) pesto in four snack-size Ziploc bags in a quart-size Ziploc bag in the freezer. I hope to use it in those quantities or even clip the corner of the bag and squeeze out what I need--I expect that's going to be messy.  I even saved a little in the fridge so we can use it in the next few days.

I was concerned that I couldn't get all the pesto out of the container beneath the blades, and the Vitamix people want me to remove the blade assembly only if absolutely necessary (and they'll then sell me a tool to do it with). To be fair, since I used less oil I created a bit more of a problem for myself. But I solved it in part by adding water to the container at the end and swishing it around by hand, then dumping it into a bean/pasta soup I was making for my lunch. It was perfect!  After the soapy cleaning routine I thought I could feel a bit of oil residue, so I'm not crazy about that.

This afternoon I need to start processing some other produce--mostly tomatoes and green beans. I'll report back if I decide to use my Vitamix for any of it. :-)  I also had fun browsing through the 3-ring recipe book they included--some good things in there!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moosewood Eggplant Scallopini Marsala (or Sherried)

This afternoon I kept pretty close to the recipe for Mollie Katzen's "Eggplant Scallopini Marsala" from this cookbook.


Someone has posted a pretty close list of the ingredients here. Katzen offers the substitution of sherry for marsala, so I did that, not having any marsala around the house. However, this list reads "2 teaspoons" of oil while the original calls for 2-3 tablespoons of oil. I might have skimped except I was making it for a church potluck and felt that 2 tablespoons of oil (plus another tossed in the pasta) was not too much for a good dozen servings.  The recipe says it's for six, but those are giant servings, a one-bowl meal each.

It was a joy to work with the gorgeous small, shiny, firm eggplants my husband has grown this summer, plus his peppers, onions, tomatoes, and basil. I did use canned mushrooms--alas. This is a delicious meal--recommended!