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.

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

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

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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

 

SOMEBODY STOP ME!

I simply cannot help it. I’m about to share yet another recipe for cauliflower-in-disguise. But, believe me, this one will change your life. Have I ever promised to change your life with a recipe? No. So trust me, because I never lie. Cross my heart, etc etc. The whole thing starts as 99% of the cauli-rice recipes do: process the florets into bits.  But then, the twist: instead of boiling or simmering it, you will roast the riced cauliflower. Yes, straight into the oven with a delicate coating of coconut oil. And here I am, salivating just by the thought of how great this recipe turns out. Every. Single. Time Perfection, my friends. Perfection. I am so in love with cauliflower that Phil could be a bit jealous of it.

Cauli-Rice with Asparagus and Almonds

BAKED CAULI-RICE WITH ASPARAGUS AND ALMONDS
(adapted  from  The Clothes Make the Girl)

1 head of cauliflower, any color you like
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3/4 teaspoon of salt
ground black pepper to taste
sautéed asparagus
toasted slivered almonds

You will basically process the cauliflower into bits, then roast it with the coconut oil in a 425 F oven. For all the details of the recipe, click here

Meanwhile, prepare your asparagus using any favorite recipe and mixture of spices. Toast some almonds lightly seasoned with salt.  When the cauli-rice is baked, transfer it to a serving bowl, top with the asparagus and almonds, and serve right away.

ENJOY!

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Comments:  The difference this method makes in the final product is hard to imagine. The cauli-rice gets all loose and with the exact amount of moisture, not soupy and lifeless. The coconut oil will be barely noticeable. I suspect that even if you don’t care for its taste in this preparation you won’t object. Perfect marriage.

You can take this dish into so many different directions: make it Mexican with the right mixture of spices, add a nice home-made salsa on top. Make it Indian with a curry blend, make it Italian, Brazilian, Korean, it is truly a superb blank canvas to work on.

I’ve made it several times so far, and also used a yellow-orange cauliflower for a show-stopper of a side-dish. I love it. Love it. Period.  Here it is, next to a roasted chicken leg made with a marinade that included a certain ginger syrup of my past.

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I say goodbye with the firm intention of not blogging on cauliflower for at least a week!. I’ve got will power, I’ll nail this. Although….

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ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini Pasta with Cilantro-Cashew Pesto

TWO YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Take Two

THREE YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mogo Mojo

FIVE YEARS AGO: Slow-Roasted Chicken Thighs: an Ice-Breaker

 

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MINI-QUICHES WITH DUXELLES AND BABY BROCCOLI

It seems like FOREVER since we’ve had a Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, but finally here we are, having the greatest time together…  My assigned blog for the first month of 2015 has such a cute name, makes me smile:  A Calculated Whisk… Becky, the cook behind the blog is a teacher of English to young Spanish-speaking kids, and next year will be starting to work on her master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology. Impressive!  Her site focuses on Paleo-friendly recipes, but is  not restricted to them. For those interested in the Paleo life-style,  I recommend reading her series of posts starting in January 1st, 2014, in which she shares her experience doing the Whole30 thing and blogging daily about it. That is endurance on several levels!  ;-)   Becky has two incredibly cute cats, Cupcake (a butter-addict) and Furpaws (prefers to hang inside the kitchen sink hoping for a sip of water straight from the faucet).  I say we pet lovers have our share of idiosyncratic creatures to deal with…    I am quite fond of Paleo recipes because they are usually moderate in carbs and high in protein, which is my preferred way to eat, so I had no problem finding stuff in her blog that pleased me. In fact, I intend to enjoy in the near future her Chicken Meatballs with Garlic Kale Marinara, her Chickpea Mushroom Spread (this one not Paleo), her Pumpkin and Pecorino Souffle (pretty intriguing gluten-free version), and her Spicy Cocoa Chili.  But this recipe won my heart to share with you today: Mini-Quiches with Duxelles and Broccoli.  As I expected, they were cute and absolutely delicious!

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MINI-QUICHES WITH DUXELLES AND BROCCOLI
(slightly adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

makes 12 mini-quiches

for the duxelles:
2 tablespoons ghee
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup minced mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

for the mini quiches:
2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
4 whole eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 cup coconut milk, full fat
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil, for greasing the pan

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 12-cup muffin pan with olive oil.

To make the duxelles, melt the ghee in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of it is gone, about 10 minutes. Season the duxelles liberally with salt and pepper, then set aside on a plate to cool.

Return the skillet to medium and add the chopped broccoli. Cook, stirring frequently, until bright green and crisp tender, about five minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Stir in the duxelles and broccoli. Divide the mixture among the 12 greased muffin cups, filling each one about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until just set in the middle.

Gently run a knife around the edge of each quiche, and carefully scoop them out with a spoon. Enjoy hot or warm. Leftover quiches can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheated.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I turned this recipe into a Neolithic version by adding feta cheese, my apologies to all modern cave men out there.  But some pieces of leftover feta were staring at me from the fridge JUST as I was grabbing the eggs, and they actually screamed when left behind: “Please, take us, take us!”. I could not ignore them, I’m sure Becky will forgive me for the tweak.  Those of you on a strict Paleo kick, simply omit the feta, but adjust the salt accordingly.

These were so tasty and convenient both as a side-dish at dinner or as a snack. Of course, you can think of all types of goodies to add to the mixture, keeping it Paleo with diced roasted butternut squash, shredded zucchini, or stretching a bit its limits with a little Roquefort or other yummy cheese.  However, this version joining broccoli with mushrooms is going to be hard to beat.

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Becky, as soon as this post is public, I am going to subscribe to your blog, as I don’t want to miss any of your future recipes. I truly enjoyed secretively exploring your site, and look forward to more…

As usual, my readers are all invited to go poke a blue frog. There is one waiting for you at the end of the post, and once poked, you will be able to see what all my fellow Secreters have been up to in the first month of 2015! And if you are curious about who had my blog, take a look at this beautiful post by Tara.  She made brigadeiros!  Clever girl!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa and Sweet Potato Cakes

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Bolo de Fuba’ Cremoso

THREE YEARS AGO: Citrus-crusted Tilapia Filets

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, not just for Hippies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

TWO APPETIZERS FOR THOSE WHO LIKE IT HOT

These appetizers would be great for a tapas party or to share with guests before a Tex-Mex meal.  They are very simple to prepare and both can be assembled in advance. Conveniently, both recipes are baked at the same temperature, 375 F.   When your guests arrive, stick the dishes in the oven, and they will be done by the time everyone is settling down, getting ready to enjoy the evening. I cannot decide which one I liked more, but chorizo has been a favorite ingredient these days, so maybe I lean towards the stuffed mushrooms as the winner. The recipe I’m sharing with you today came from Melissa’s blog,  “I Breathe I am Hungry“, which is a great site for those into low-carb and gluten-free nutrition. Even though I don’t fall into any strict category, whenever I  host a dinner party I like to include options that are lower in carbs, especially when it comes to appetizers because carbo-loading before a full meal seems a bit excessive.  The second recipe I won’t be sharing with you, but you can get it by ordering Melissa’s e-book The Gluten-Free Low Carber, which is a fantastic source of recipes, many of them not available in her blog.  Remember that  even if you do not own an iPad or Kindle, e-books can be assessed from your laptop.

ChorizoStuffedMushroomsCHORIZO, SPINACH & MANCHEGO STUFFED MUSHROOMS
(very slightly modified from I Breathe I am Hungry)

12 – 15 button mushrooms
6 ounces (about 3 links) chorizo
1 shallot, chopped
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese (or sharp Cheddar)
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
salt to taste (you will need very little)

Remove chorizo from its casing and saute in a medium frying pan for a few minutes. Add the chopped shallot and cook for about 3 minutes until translucent. Meanwhile, clean off the mushrooms and remove the stems. Place the caps on a large plate and microwave for 2 minutes to soften.

Add the cream cheese, shredded cheese, and baby spinach leaves to the chorizo mixture. Stir well and cook for a minute or two until the spinach wilts. Remove from the heat. Stuff the mushrooms with about a tablespoon each of the filling. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 375 F oven for about 10 minutes. Longer if you like your mushrooms really soft. Remove and cool for a few minutes before eating.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: These are addictive. Now, Melissa herself warned about how hot they are once baked. Be careful and give them a little time to cool down before you bite into these babies. If you are serving them to company, I suggest offering small appetizer forks, so your guests can cut them in half with the fork.  It is hard to keep your composure if you bite into these and find out that the center feels like molten lava on your tongue. Please, don’t ask me how I know… (sigh)

And now the second appetizer: a Jalapeno Popper dip, creamy, spicy, truly delicious!

JalapenoDip

Of course, you could send the low-carb for a walk and dive into this dip with crackers, toasted baguette rounds, and tortilla chips.  But if that’s not acceptable think about slicing jicama very thinly and using the slices as a chip.  Whatever rocks your boat.

For the full recipe get Melissa’s e-book, The Gluten-Free Low Carber. I highly recommend it!   Her recipes are very creative, and even if you don’t worry about carbs and gluten, you will find plenty of stuff to drool over. Some of my favorites: Spaghetti Squash Carbonara (a happy accident in her kitchen). three versions of Flax Crackers, Buffalo Balls (don’t worry, it calls for ground chicken… ), Ham and Spinach Calzones (yes, gluten-free, very interesting dough using cream cheese), Faux-lafel with Tahini Sauce (creative twist on a classic) and of course I absolutely must make her Brazilian Chicken Pies. She also offers recipes for gluten-free pie and pizza crust, as well as low-carb ketchup, barbecue sauces, and salad dressings.

ONE YEAR AGO: Baked Ricotta, Take Two

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Uncanned

THREE YEARS AGO: Pork Ragu

FOUR YEARS AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celery and Apple Salad

 

GUEST POST FOR COOKIE MONDAYS: LINZER COOKIES

I am so excited because Prudy, the gorgeous hostess of the blog Butter, Basil, and Breadcrumbs invited me to write a guest blog post on her series entitled “Cookie Mondays”.   If you don’t know Prudy’s site, stop what you’re doing and pay her a visit right now!  One of the things I love about her blog is that she shares bits about herself that are incredibly fun to read, and often quite touching and profound.  There will always be a great recipe going along with it, but it’s definitely not just about recipes.  For instance, in a post about fruit sushi, she tells this story about having lunch with her boss when she did not know him very well. I quote:  “Have you ever tried to eat a whole chicken with chopsticks?”  Priceless… Another example, in a post about filled donuts, she shares her experience with the dreaded senior discount (I can totally relate! Me? Old?  You must be kiddin’ me!). One more: imagine a post about peas and carrots that makes you consider a choice between becoming fluent in all languages or able to play any musical instrument… Yeah, only Prudy can pull that one ;-)

Anyway, I am honored to be part of the list of lucky bloggers invited to compose a post for her site, and it’s my turn to invite you to read about our adventure making Linzer Cookies! Our adventure, you might ask? Yes, this was a project Phil and I tackled together on a chilly Sunday morning. Fun, fun, fun… and mighty tasty!

Now, without further ado, click here for the full post.

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