BISCOTTI FOR A BABY SHOWER!

Biscotti Baby ShowerToday I have a special post for you!  We are throwing a virtual baby shower for a great food blogger I got to know through the Secret Recipe Club, Tara,  from Tara’s Multicultural Table. We are all baking biscotti for this party. Why biscotti, you may ask? Well, it is her second baby, and these are twice baked cookies: a natural choice!  Wanna see what I came up with? Here they are:

MapleWalnutBiscotti

I was quite excited to participate, because – believe it or not – I’d never made biscotti from scratch. But first, let me share a story. My first time enjoying biscotti was in 1991, during a visit to Italy. The best possible place to get acquainted with this delicacy, if you ask me.  I had given a seminar in a big vaccine biotech company, and they took me out for a fantastic dinner later that evening. After dinner, where vino was flowing freely, someone insisted that we should all head to a bar so that I could try biscotti dunked in grappa. I knew nothing about either entity, but quickly realized that they complement each other perfectly. The biscotti are hard, but the grappa softens it. And the sweetness of the biscotti masks quite well – maybe too well –  the alcohol in the grappa. Of course, after dunking, you’re supposed to drink the leftover grappa with the little tiny bits of biscotti that found their way to the bottom of the glass. Great food, vino, grappa, all framed by the beauty of Tuscany! Good thing I had already given my talk at that point, and was in full “dolce far niente” mode. At any rate, it was a magical evening. I remember a complete sense of awe as I walked back to my hotel under the most amazing full moon shining over the streets of Siena.  One of those perfect moments that stay with you forever. Since biscotti are so dear to my heart, I spent quite a bit of time debating which kind to bake for Tara’s baby shower. Of course, keeping it all baby-friendly, I’ll ask you to skip that dunking in grappa.  Unless there’s a full moon outside, then all bets are off… ;-)

tray

MAPLE WALNUT BISCOTTI
(from Susan Russo, for NPR)

Makes about 36 biscotti

for the biscotti:
2 cups unsalted walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing tops of loaves
3 tablespoons maple extract

for the icing:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Set aside.

In a large bowl, hand mix toasted walnuts, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder and flour. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Add maple extract and whisk until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times. Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Shape as a ball and divide it into 4 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough, and using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4 of an inch high. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with remaining three pieces of dough. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing, using a large serrated knife. Cut 3/4-inch-thick slices, using a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. Each loaf should yield 9 to 11 cookies.

Place slices on their sides back on to the baking sheets; place in the still warm oven with the temperature off and the door closed for 30 to 60 minutes. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

To make the maple icing, mix the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup in a small bowl and whisk briskly until the icing is smooth and opaque and clings to the back of a spoon. Dip a teaspoon into the icing and drizzle the spoon back-and-forth over the biscotti. Allow to dry completely before storing. Store biscotti in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I was a bit nervous about this baking adventure, because I know that biscotti can be tricky to make, and that very few things are worse than bad biscotti, right?  I fell in love with the flavors of this recipe because anything with maple makes me all warm inside, and walnuts only make it better.  I suppose most people go crazy for chocolate, but I usually opt for other flavors in sweets.  The recipe called for maple extract, because it has a more concentrated flavor, so I was “forced” to place an order for some. It smells amazing!

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One of the tricky things about biscotti is slicing them after the first bake. You are supposed to wait for 20 minutes, and use a good quality serrated knife for the job. Worked great, I had no problems. By the way, I made half the recipe, and ended up with 18 biscotti, some quite small, cut from the edges. They are also called “sacrificial biscotti”. Honest. Not making that up.

I went for a double type of icing, the maple called for in the recipe, and then a drizzle of chocolate for cosmetic purposes.  But, after tasting them, I do think the chocolate drizzle did more than beautify them. The taste complements the maple and walnuts quite well.

dunking

Now that I am older, not necessarily wiser, I dunk my biscotti into a steaming hot cup of cappuccino… Great way to start any day!

Tara, I hope this virtual Baby Shower brought a big smile to your face, we certainly had a great time planning and making sure it was kept secret until today…

And here I share  the collection of biscotti from all virtual secreters who joined this party:

Biscotti Bites from Nicole at I am a Honey Bee

Blueberry Pecan Biscotti from Renee at Magnolia Days

Cinnamon Biscotti from Lauren at Sew You Think You Can Cook

Cranberry Pistachio biscotti from Stacy at Food Lust People Love

Dark Chocolate Orange Biscotti from Amy at Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Green Tea Biscotti Cookies from Rebekah at Making Miracles

Jam-Filled Mandelbrot from Kelly at Passion Kneaded

Maple Walnut Biscotti from Sally at Bewitching Kitchen

Nut-Free Anise Biscotti with Chocolate Chips from Susan at The Wimpy Vegetarian

Orange and Dark Chocolate Biscotti from Lynsey at Lynsey Lou’s

Orange, Date, and Almond Biscotti from Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories

Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscotti from Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Spa Water from of Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious

Biscotti Baby Shower

ONE YEAR AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

TWO YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

THREE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

FOUR YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

FIVE YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB: HERBED GOAT CHEESE SOUFFLES

 

Herbed Goat Cheese Souffle
Last Monday of February, a month that used to be my favorite. Summer in Brazil, carnival (not that I was that much into it, but still, a big break from work in the height of the summer was always well-received). That all changed 23 years ago, when I first moved to France and then, a couple of years later permanently to the US.  February is now a month I do my best to survive. I count the days for it to be over to get some hope of life percolating back into my veins. ANYWAY, I am sure you are not here to read me whine and pout. Instead, you are here for the reward of a revelation: which blog was my assignment for this month’s adventure with The Secret Recipe Club: it was the The Wimpy Vegetarian!  I literally screamed with joy when I got the email notification, because as a regular reader of Susan’s blog, I felt totally at home “stalking” it.  You should visit her “About” page, but let me just say that when she decided to become a vegetarian, or as she put it “to focus more on a plant-based diet“, her husband was not exactly thrilled. He went along with it for a while, but at some point started referring to “farro” as “horse food“. No bueno, folks. But Susan fought back using all the culinary skills accumulated from her classes at Tante Marie Cooking School, and turned veggie dishes (horse food included) into concoctions her husband could not resist. She succeeded big time, and her blog is there to show us how. There were so many dishes I bookmarked as tempting possibilities, but I narrowed them down to these:  Rustic Cauliflower and Tomato Gratin, Arepas Rellenas (I even have the special flour to make them, so I must get to this recipe at some point), Skillet Baked Corn Pudding, Farinata (another recipe I’m always dreaming about), Sweet Potato Biscuit Pillows (excuse me, I need to wipe drool off the side of my mouth), Broccoli-Cheddar Quinoa Casserole Tart. Susan is a fantastic cook and often enters – and wins – cooking contests, so pretty much anything on her site feels quite special.  Pay her a visit, and become a subscriber, even if you are not a strict vegetarian.

For my assignment, I went with very elegant Herbed Goat Cheese souffles. They turned out amazing!

baked

HERBED GOAT CHEESE SOUFFLE
(from The Wimpy Vegetarian)

1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
zest from 1/2 medium lemon
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces fresh soft goat cheese
1 ounce ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup low-fat milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (I used 4)
butter for the ramekins

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prep the ramekins by smearing them with butter and sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on the bottoms and around the sides. Set aside.

Rub the dried lavender between your fingers to reduce as much as half of the buds to a powder. Combine this with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, ricotta, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, thyme, honey, egg yolks, milk and flour together. Stir well to completely combine. Add to the reserved lavender mixture.

In a small bowl, whip the egg whites just to a firm peak. Be careful not to get them too firm, or they’ll be difficult to fold into the cheese-yolk mixture. Fold the beaten egg whites into the cheese-yolk mixture in thirds using a large spatula. It’s fine to have lumps of egg whites in the mixture – it will not be smooth. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and fill the dish with hot water one-half the way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully spoon the cheese-egg mixture into the ramekins, filling them 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned on top and springy – firm to the touch. Remove and allow to cool in the ramekins for 15 minutes. The souffles will collapse and start to pull away from the sides of the ramekins. Run a knife around their edges and turn the ramekin upside down. The souffle should slide right out.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: What I loved the most about the recipe was the inclusion of lavender. It gave the souffle a sort of unusual component, Phil could not guess what it was, but once I told him it was lavender he could detect it. You need to add just a small amount, it is quite potent, don’t go crazy with it.  I was also surprised by the method of preparing the base, as I always make a bechamel type sauce. For this recipe, you mix it all and do not pre-cook, it goes straight into the oven, in a water-bath environment. Because I was afraid the mixture was a bit too liquid, I added double the amount of flour.  Not sure it was necessary, but they ended up with a very nice texture, and un-molded easily.

served2

This is the type of recipe that would be perfect for entertaining, or for that special dinner for two, candlelight and all… a first date, a first year anniversary, you catch my drift.  Any meal will be special when these are part of the menu!

Susan, it was a great pleasure to indulge a little more deeply into your blog, I hope you also had a blast with your assignment this month…

For my readers, the usual reminder to poke the blue frog at the end of my post. She will take you to plenty of great recipes made by my fellow virtual friends at The Secret Recipe Club.

ONE YEAR AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

TWO YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo (one of the best breads I ever made!)

 

 

OTTOLENGHI IN BRAZIL?

Was he really there?  Not that I am aware of, but his salads were part of my niece’s meals every single day we stayed there last Thanksgiving.  My youngest niece Raquel is a fantastic cook and has a ton of energy: with three young kids, she still finds time to make bread, bake all sorts of sweets (cakes included, she’s got the right genes), and exercise on a regular basis. Phil and I stayed with her, her hubby Celso and the kids during part of our last visit, and we were treated like royalty! She also hosted a lunch for our whole family that consisted of Brazilian classics like feijoada, pastéis, mandioca frita, farofa, mashed plantains, and a chocolate mousse with cachaça that swept Phil off his feet.  Almost literally. Not the type of dessert appropriate for kids, mind you…    Knowing that my goal was to leave Brazil with the exact same weight I had upon my arrival, she prepared several salads from Plenty, so that I could resort to a light meal every once in a while. My favorite was a salad with dates and chèvre, so when I arrived back home, I sat down with Jerusalem, Plenty, and Plenty More to be properly inspired.

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BABY GREENS SALAD WITH DATES, ORANGES AND ALMONDS
(modified from Ottolenghi & Tamimi Jerusalem cookbook)

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 ½ ounces pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
2 large navel orange segments
2 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sumac
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces baby greens
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt

Put the vinegar and dates in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and toss mixing well. Leave to marinate for about 15 minutes, then drain and discard any of the residual vinegar. Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, add the slivered almonds, season lightly with salt, and cook until dark golden.  Place them on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with sumac and red pepper flakes. allow it to cool.

When ready to serve the salad, place the baby greens in a large bowl. Add one tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat the leaves with dressing. Add the oranges, and dates, tossing it all gently again. Top with the almond mixture and the sesame seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  if you have Jerusalem, this version was a departure from his spinach salad with dates and toasted pita bread.  I am sure it is even more delicious, but I kept it simple this time, and used a nice coating with sesame seeds, plus orange segments which I think go very well with the dates.  I love the unique flavor that sesame seeds impart to dishes.  We have an Oriental grocery store in town that sells HUGE bottles of plain, toasted, and black sesame seeds from the Middle East for a great price, so I make sure to never run out of them.

And now, time to share a few shots of that wonderful lunch that joined my whole family: two sisters, one brother-in-law, four nieces (two with their respective husbands), 5 of my 6 grandnephews, and of course, my Mom presiding like a Queen over all of us.

FeijoadaFeijoada, a Brazilian classic…

All the “usual suspects” that are mandatory to go with it…

FeijoadaStuffOrange segments, shredded “couve” (similar to kale), farofa, white rice…

MandiocaFritaMandiocaServedMandioca frita, to die for!

PasteisPastéis, of three kinds: ground beef, cheese, and hearts of palm…
Choose your ticket to paradise!

Plantains2My first time enjoying this delicacy:  mashed plantains… very very tasty!

SaladOne of Ottolenghi’s salads….  nice counterpart for so many rich dishes!

MousseChocolateLa pièce de resistance…. Chocolate Mousse with Cachaça….
a complete dream in chocolate form!

MomNailsMy Mom’s 91-year-old hands…
I guess it’s clear where my fascination with nail polish comes from…

Mom&Me2One more visit that went by too fast… Until next time, Keep Calm and Carry On…  

Before I say goodbye, a little note to tell you that I just started a Facebook page for the Bewitching. It is a bit strange to start a page for a blog that is almost 6 years old, but I joined a Facebook group of bloggers and they advised me to do so.  If you want to like the Bewitching on FB, just click on the link on the right side. Thank you!

ONE YEAR AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

THREE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

RED VELVET CUPCAKES

If you are not completely overwhelmed by the influx of sweets, chocolates,  strawberries, and heart-shaped things in the blogosphere, you could be now, because I am adding one more shockingly red item to the 26.2 mile-long list. But, how could I resist joining this party, when I baked a batch of these:

RedVelvetCupcakes1
Aren’t you absolutely amazed?  Aren’t they cute? Did you notice the icing? Can you believe “I” made them? So many questions, I know… but you have to be amazed. Because I certainly am. Granted, this baking adventure was not drama-free.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(from Kristine’s Kitchen)

**recipe makes 24 cupcakes, I halved all amounts for a batch of 12**

for the cupcakes:
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 ounce) red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

for the cream cheese frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese (straight from refrigerator do not soften)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 – 3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, red food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Mix on medium speed until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat first on low-speed and then on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners, filling each a little over halfway full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 16-18 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in pans for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Beat together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and mix on low-speed until incorporated, and then medium-high speed until frosting reaches desired consistency, about 3 more minutes. For a stiffer icing, add more powdered sugar. Beat in the vanilla extract. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes as desired. Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

baked

The stunning paper linings were a gift from our friend Cindy. I decided to trim their tops after baking to make it easier to frost the cakes. I know my limitations.

iced
Everything was going on well, until it was time to frost the cakes. I was set on doing a good job on these, so I bought myself a pastry bag. Not a fancy one, but a disposable, single use plastic type. I filled the bag with the cream cheese frosting,  took a deep breath, and went to work.  All went smoothly for the first two babies, then all of a sudden, I squeezed and squeezed, and nothing came out of the pastry bag’s tip.  I told myself – you are a P90Xer, you can certainly squeeze harder than that! – and that’s when I felt a moist, cold, sticky feeling on my wrist, the consequence of frosting that had found its way up instead of down, and not satisfied to reach midway through my arm, was now splashing on the floor.

Not sure if you ever had to deal with this type of situation, but there’s only one word to describe it: messy.  Very messy.  The bag gets slippery, the frosting refuses to compact down, and the Jack Russell gets overly agitated from the sudden intake of sugar. Chaos in the Bewitching Kitchen. Still, only one little cake was lost in that battle, due to jerky movements on my part and the merciless Law of Gravity.

These cupcakes were moist, tender, and the frosting complemented them quite well. The only problem was the decoration added on top. It turns out that those sugar pearls were rock hard.  I thought they would more or less melt in the mouth, but… not the case. More the dental filling destroyer kind. I will use a different type of sprinkle next time.  Because obviously there will be a next time. And when that next time arrives, I intend to do as pros do, and twist the top of the pastry bag. It’s all in the details, my friends.  :smile:

BuckBoy

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

ONE YEAR AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

TWO YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

THREE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

 

 

BLOG-WORTHY ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Normally I would refrain from blogging about such a simple recipe. Hard to even call it a recipe, actually. Most people know too well how to roast ANY veggie. Cut it, coat pieces with olive oil, season lightly and into the oven it goes. But, I feel that this version is worth talking about as it exceeded my expectations.  All you have to do is use coconut oil as the fat, and add some Southwest spice mix from Penzey’s or make your own version mixing the usual suspects listed in the ingredients. For my taste, this was 2 logs above the level of deliciousness of your regular roasted squash, demanding the exact same amount of work and time. That’s blog-worthy in my book!

RoastedButternutSquash

 

OVERVIEW OF THE  RECIPE:  cut a butternut squash in 1/2 inch to 1 inch chunks. Add to a large bowl.  Melt 1 to 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil and drizzle all over. Sprinkle a nice amount of Southwest spice, a little extra salt, some freshly ground black pepper.  Quickly toss it all together, the coconut oil will solidify and turn white again, do not worry about it.  Place it as a single layer on a baking dish, and roast at 400 to 425 F until nicely brown, it should take a maximum of 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces of squash, and your chosen temperature. Adjusting seasoning with salt right after roasting. If you had issues to distribute the coconut oil evenly, move the pieces around a few minutes into the roasting.

ENJOY!

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Since this was actually a non-recipe, I will include a bonus goodie by sharing the recipe for the pork tenderloin I served with it. Same approach as the basic 7-6-5 method  blogged about years ago, but with a new type of marinade.

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH MAPLE-BALSAMIC MARINADE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder (or fresh garlic, minced)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon

Prepare the marinade by combining all the ingredients, whisking well. Place the tenderloin in a bag or shallow dish, pour the marinade all over, and place in the fridge for 2 to 12 hours. Overnight should be ok too.

Remove the meat from the marinade, place the meat on the grill, close the lid and grill for 7 minutes. Turn the pork tenderloin over, close the lid again, and grill for 6 minutes.  Don’t open the lid, just turn off the heat and keep the meat inside for 5 minutes. The internal temperature should be 145 F to 150 F. If not, close the lid and leave the meat for a few more minutes.  Remove the meat to a serving platter and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

servedDinner is served!
Pork tenderloin, roasted butternut squash & coleslaw.

Come to think of it, this is a meal that could be on the cover of The Modern Cavemen Magazine. :smile:  Paleo or not, I could enjoy it anytime without complaining. Flavorful, light and filling at the same time.  The coconut oil is really spectacular on the butternut squash, but of course, if you prefer a more classic take, stick with olive oil. Coleslaw is a concoction that doesn’t get enough attention. When prepared from fresh ingredients with a home-made dressing it’s a fantastic side dish.  Goes well with all types of main dishes, beef, poultry, seafood.  Refreshing, crunchy, it’s got it all…

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

TWO YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

FOUR YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain

SILKY GINGERED ZUCCHINI SOUP

For the last couple of months I became interested in the Paleo nutritional system, as most people who follow it appear to be very fit. It got me curious. It also did not hurt that Dr. Loren Cordain,  the man behind the Paleo approach is now part of our extended family: Phil’s sister recently married his uncle-in-law. Small world! Anyway, fully aware of my self-inflicted moratorium on cookbooks in 2015, I did what a sensible food blogger would do and bought some Paleo-oriented publications last November. As you can see, I have an amazing ability to outsmart myself.  If you have any interest in the subject, I highly recommend Well Fed2, The Frugal Paleo Cookbook, and Nom Nom Paleo Food for Humans. Don’t worry, the Bewitching won’t turn into a Low-carb, Paleo, Vegan, or “insert any diet system here” blog.  There will be bread, pasta, rice, couscous, a lot of meat, and sweets. Omnivore, and loving it! –  has always been my motto, and that isn’t changing. But the truth is that one can cook a ton of tasty stuff under the Paleo approach. Plus, it’s all reasonably low in carbohydrates and high in protein, a kind of eating I’ve favored for the past 4 or 5 years. This soup is a perfect example of deliciousness that is low in fat, low in carbs, and keeps me satisfied from lunch until dinner.  As you may notice,  I included a cheese crisp that would not be blessed by Paleo folks.  It would make this version Primal, I suppose. Still hanging around caves, but with a little more pizzazz, sipping the occasional wine from a coconut shell.

ZucchiniSoup

 

SILKY GINGERED ZUCCHINI SOUP OVERVIEW

The secret for this smooth and delicious soup is the use of ginger and coriander as background spices. The soup starts with a simple saute of onion and garlic, then ginger and coriander in powdered form are added, releasing their flavors in the hot oil. Next, zucchini pieces join the party, and the whole thing will be simmered for about one hour in your favorite type of broth (chicken, veggie, or beef).  When the zucchini is super tender, the soup is blended and ready to be enjoyed.

You can find the recipe in Melissa’s site with a click here.
It is also in her cookbook Well Fed2.

simmering

I’ve made this soup almost as many times as I made Mike’s Creamy Broccoli Soup. Sometimes I used chicken broth, sometimes a mixture of chicken broth and water.  A squirt of lemon juice right before serving is a nice touch too. Cheese crisps pair very well with the zucchini. To make them I followed the method that Mike described in his original post for the broccoli soup.  On the first photo of this post, I used a Cheddar type cheese, and in the photo below I went with Parmigiano-Reggiano.  I like Parmigiano better, because it releases less oil as it bakes, and has that unique sharpness that contrasts very well with the silky soup.

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I confess I was afraid of making the crisps from scratch, due to traumatic experiences of a distant past. At that time I tried making them on a non-stick skillet on the stove top, and ended up with a complete mess, pretty much inedible.

But preparing them in the oven was a totally different experience. First, place parchment paper over a baking sheet (or use Silpat).  Then add small amounts of shredded cheese of your choice separated by about 1-inch.  They won’t spread too much, but better safe than sorry.

cheese

Watch them carefully, because they will go from perfect to burned in a matter of seconds….

crisps

Carefully transfer them to a rack, so that they get crisp. You can use them right away, or store for later.
crisps_rack

You will find all sorts of uses for these crisps… This beautiful Mexican-Caprese was made by my beloved husband…  and embellished by the crisps…

TexMexCapreseDressing was avocado oil infused with basil (he used the handy cubes from Dorot), a little lemon juice for good measure.

But back to the zucchini soup: a real winner of a recipe. I normally make a batch in the weekend, and it becomes my lunch for three days in the following week. If I don’t  have cheese crisps I top it with toasted almonds, or a diced hard-boiled egg. Simple, and quite nutritious.

Before I leave you, I want to share the best text I’ve seen in a long time concerning healthy-eating. It is a well-written satire on the state of nutritional advice these days. Hilarious, but unfortunately quite close to our reality these days.  Enjoy it with a click here. A little quote as a teaser:

The ONLY way to eat is seasonally, locally and sustainably.  If you live in a place where snow falls and kills crops and animals starve you should eat snow and only snow.  To do anything else will cause immediate and untimely death”.  
(from Sarah Yates, A Little House in the Hills).

:-)

ONE YEAR AGO: Sweet Fifteen!

TWO YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flaxseed Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

FOUR YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

FIVE YEARS AGO: White Bread

 

 

IN MY KITCHEN: FEBRUARY 2015

It’s time for another virtual tour around our kitchen, following the ever-growing crowd of bloggers who participate in the event launched by my dear Celia, from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  As usual, I like to start my posts with gifts, and they are very special this time!

Marky’s Caviar, a gift from one of our graduate students when he came back from his trip to visit his family
compositecaviar11

By far the best caviar we ever tasted… smooth, very delicately flavored, not at all fishy. Perfect texture, a real delicacy!

From another graduate student in our lab, a special sweet brought all the way from India, called  Ladoo. Many types of ladoo are common in India, this one is a Boondi Ladoo, made with lentils, in a complicated process that results in total Nirvana. Trust me, this is the stuff that makes you think you took off on a magic carpet.  I wish I was brave enough to try to make it from scratch. The shiny covering is edible silver. It is not too sweet, with a subtle taste of saffron. I could eat these every day…

Laddu

The vacuum sealer we had for over 10 year died a painful and loud death a month ago. My beloved husband gave me a new one so I can go on with my sous-vide adventures without a glitch.

FoodSaver

And now, la pièce de resistance… From a reader of my blog, who insists on remaining nameless, I received a package by mail. Inside, a bottle of white truffle oil, a nice truffle shaver, and… ready for this?  A huge fresh black truffle, carefully packed in rice.  Ok, go ahead and hate me, I know you want to.  Never in a million years I would imagine such a special gift. Thank you, my secret friend! Of course, I’ll share with all of you soon my culinary adventures with this amazing ingredient.

compositeTruffles

In our kitchen…

BreadbasketA plastic bread proofing basket, I haven’t used it yet, but I learned from Karen that this type of plastic banetton works very well. The bright orange color is like a burst of sunshine in our kitchen, making me forget the frozen tundra outside. That is a good thing.

In our kitchen…

squarespan

A new pan to bake individual type brownies. Got it at amazon.com, it’s very sturdy. I used it to make a Brazilian delicacy that should be in the blog soon. Stay tuned.

In our kitchen…
A bottle of coconut aminos, a product that can be used exactly as soy sauce, but it has less sodium, and is soy and gluten-free, in other words, a Paleo-friendly ingredient.

In our kitchen….

avocadoOilI’ve been flirting with avocado oil forever, finally went for it.  Very flavorful, but not heavy at all. Drizzled on top of tomatoes, mozzarella and avocado slices for a Mex version of Caprese, it is delicious.  It makes great salad dressings too.

In our kitchen…

LinzerCutter

As you might remember from a recent guest post, we didn’t have the right cookie cutters to make heart-shaped Linzer cookies.  As Valentine’s products started to show up at our grocery store, I stumbled upon this little box, and of course, had to bring it home. We see Linzer cookies re-visiting our kitchen in the near future!

In our kitchen….

Rawhoney

Raw honey, which means it is obtained straight from the beehive with very little processing afterward. One of the things I’ve been trying is taking a teaspoon before bedtime to see if it improves my sleeping. For some people, it stabilizes blood sugar during the night, which is one of the most common reasons for waking up many hours before sunrise…

In our kitchen…

A new product by Penzeys Spices, Roasted Garlic powder. I was placing an order for two of their blends that we use a lot, Southwest Seasoning and Pasta Sprinkle, and the website advertised this newly introduced product.  I decided to give it a try.  Very flavorful, not too potent, just right.

In our kitchen…


Another product I’ve been flirting with forever, vanilla paste.  Looking forward to using it soon. It smells terrific!

In our kitchen…

almondbutter

A bottle of almond butter with coconut in it.  I have a recipe in mind for this one, it starts with a C and it ends with OOKIE.  Can you guess it?

In our kitchen….

AlmondMilkI know that a respectable food blogger makes her or his own almond milk.  Not happening in my world anytime soon. I’ve been trying all sorts of brands, and this is so far my favorite, it seems to be the one closest to homemade, as far as addition of extra ingredients is concerned. Very nice almond flavor,  smooth texture.  Love it!

In our kitchen….Pure Irish Butter… A special product that is much better than the regular brands sold at the grocery store.  Plus, the wrapping is adorable… Recommended by Dorothy, from Shockingly Delicious.

And now, it’s time that we allow our adorable four-legged friends to say hello and share their views on the beginning of a new year…

Chief is in heaven because he got a new bed.. Come to think of it, by the time this post goes live, he will be just a couple of days shy of his 16th Birthday!  Sweet Sixteen…
ChiefNewBed
Super fluffy, probably feels very comfy on his aging body.  Perfect for his afternoon nap. His morning nap. And his evening nap. He does get some serious competition, though…

competition

He also got a special gift from Aunt Cindy,  a pair of booties that are helping him a lot, as our wood floor is too slippery for his arthritic legs.

Thank you, Aunt Cindy!

Oscar is a bit jealous of all the attention his brother is getting, but he knows that Mom cannot resist his begging eyes, and will end up giving him the cookie she is holding behind her back.

OskyCookieMay I have that cookie now, Mom?

Thank you… now I’m ready for a belly rub, it helps me digest that cookie…

NirvanaOsky

 

Buck and his favorite activity: chewing a tennis ball until it’s totally bald. A ball used to last a couple of days, but now he can be done with it in a few hours. (sigh)

BuckPuffynoseWhat do you mean “you are ruining this ball?”

BuckyPurple

My second favorite activity is to relax with Mom by the fireplace when it’s too cold to go outside. See how handsome I am? Not only that, but I am also conquering some of my fears, as you can see in a short video by clicking here.

 

DoubleTrouble

That’s all for now, folks!  We’ll see you again soon… in the mean time, enjoy Mom’s cooking…

Celia, thanks for hosting this fun event!  For my readers: if you want to take a virtual tour of kitchens all over the world, visit Celia’s site and look at the list of posts on her right side bar.

ONE YEAR AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

THREE YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version