NOT QUITE MOQUECA

Moqueca is one beloved dish in Brazilian cooking. Several ingredients are mandatory: coconut milk, dende oil, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. The main protein can be shrimp, fish, or both. It is spicy, luscious, quite filling, and always served over a simple white rice. I have already messed up with this classic before, but with this recipe I shall infuriate my fellow native Brazilians a second time.

MOQUECA-STYLE SHRIMP AND CHICKPEAS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1.5 pounds large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (14.5 oz)
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon harissa (or to taste)
1.5 cups crushed tomatoes with their juice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
fresh cilantro to taste
juice of half lemon

Heat the oil on a large sauce pan. Add the fennel, shallot and bell pepper, saute everything together seasoning with salt and pepper until translucent and very fragrant.

Add the crushed tomatoes, harissa, and chickpeas, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the shrimp and  coconut milk, simmer gently until the shrimp is cooked, 5 minute or so. Add the cilantro, lemon juice and serve over white rice.  If you like, add some hot sauce on the plate.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Moqueca originated in one of the hottest states of Brazil, Bahia. Even though it is a kind of stew, it is enjoyed the whole year, even at the height of the summer. I like to bring this up because those of us living in the Northern hemisphere are headed to very warm days. Don’t twist the nose to a nice serving of moqueca for that reason. This will please you no matter how hot it is outside.

I completely forgot to get fresh cilantro at the store, so I added a couple of Dorot frozen cilantro cubes together with the coconut milk/shrimp mixture. But don’t make this mistake, fresh cilantro not only looks great but it adds a lot more flavor, especially if added right before serving the meal.

I committed many sins with the recipe, but served it over white rice as any good Brazilian would. I hope this helps restore my reputation.

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PARSNIP, COCONUT & LEMONGRASS SOUP

Inspired by a recipe from Mary Berry, this soup is simple and flavorful. I don’t think parsnips receive the attention and praise they deserve. There’s something about their slight sharpness that can be quite pleasing. Maybe for some it might be an acquired taste… Come to think of it, when I was a teenager, I would march out of the house if my poor Mom would dare serving parsnips in any type of preparation. I was difficult. I got better… At least in some aspects…

Back to soup. Make it. If you are not lucky enough to have friends who give you a gorgeous lemongrass plant, search for those cute little plastic tubes at the grocery store.  They are actually not that bad if you cannot have the real thing. I confess to always having the ginger kind in my fridge. And once our lemongrass goes into hibernation, that version will be joining us too.

PARSNIP, COCONUT AND LEMONGRASS SOUP
(inspired by Mary Berry Everyday)

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
3/4 pound parsnips (about 8 medium ones), peeled, cut in chunks
1 medium shallot, minced
2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
2 tsp honey
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock  (or water)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 lemongrass stalk, bashed to release flavor
salt and pepper to taste
yogurt and black sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallot and parsnips, and saute for a few minutes, until they start to get a golden color at the edges.  Add the ginger, red curry paste and honey and saute for 30 seconds, then add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce and lemon grass.

Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through, very tender. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste, then remove the lemon grass and discard.

Process the soup in a blender or food processor. Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt and black sesame seeds, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Loved this soup. Lemongrass, fish sauce, coconut milk, ginger, red curry paste, they do make a fantastic fantasy of flavors in your mouth, but oddly enough, you can still detect a bright and clear taste of parsnip. I had it for lunch several times in that particular week. Phil tried some and enjoyed it, but he prefers to have his smoothie – Wasa cracker/nuts/jam combination so I was left alone to savor this comforting soup day in, day out.  It gets a bit thicker each day, but adding a bit of water brings it back to a perfect consistency. I also like to squirt a little lemon juice right on the bowl.  Have I ever told you that we never, absolutely never run out of lemons in the fridge?  I get nervous if I see only one in there. Use them all the time, not only for cooking but in my carbonated water and that evening tea.

Soup weather is approaching fast. Too fast.
Grab a pin to be ready for it!

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CREAMY BROCCOLI AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE

One more time I am sharing a recipe from the super athlete Mike, who runs the blog The Iron You. For those who like to experiment with a lower carb or Paleo nutrition, eggs are a fundamental ingredient. Great source of protein and fat, they are so versatile: you can make a nice omelette, frittatas, egg muffins, egg bakes, adding all sorts of ingredients from meats to veggies. I eat a lot of eggs each week for lunch, usually sunny side up or scrambled, sometimes hard-boiled, but at dinner time I opt for more elaborate uses, souffle’ being a favorite when I don’t mind splurging a little.  This casserole is quite low in carbs, but feels like splurging. Satisfying without making you feel uncomfortably stuffed. Perfect side dish, if you ask me…

Broccoli Casserole1

CREAMY BROCCOLI AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE
(slightly modified from The Iron You)

1 ½ pounds broccoli florets
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fine grain salt
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup full fat coconut milk

Heat oven to 350°F  and place a rack in the middle. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil.
Place an inch of water in a saucepan with a steamer and bring to a boil. Steam the broccoli for 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Remove from the heat and let cool.

While the broccoli cools, melt coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the shallot and celery and sauté until translucent and fragrant, about 5 minutes.   Add mushrooms, thyme, salt, paprika, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Sauté until mushrooms have browned a bit, about 8 minutes.

When broccoli florets have cooled down a little bit, chop the larger ones into bite-sized pieces. Add broccoli to the skillet and gently stir until combined. Pour the broccoli-mushroom mixture into the prepared baking dish. In a bowl whisk eggs with coconut milk and pour over broccoli mixture. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden-brown.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you google recipes for low-carb egg bakes or egg muffins, you’ll end up with thousands of hits to choose from. For the most part, they can be divided in two categories: those that use just eggs to bind the ingredients, and those that rely on dairy (quite often heavy cream).  I am not too fond of recipes that use only eggs because they end up with a rubbery texture I don’t care for. As to the ones loaded with heavy cream, they feel overly rich for my taste. This recipe solves both problems, the texture is perfect, and it has just the right amount of naughty…   We enjoyed it back in December, actually.  Obviously, it’s taking me a while to share,  but the weather is still appropriate for casseroles. Make it and you will fall in love with it too. You can add different veggies, in fact soon I intend to try a version using carrots and zucchini. I might even get my spiralizer out just for fun, and a bit of added naughty.

Mike, thanks for all the great dishes you blog about, two thumbs up for this one!

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CREAMY ZUCCHINI MUSHROOM SOUP

Soup weather is here to stay. I should not complain, actually, so far things have progressed more or less smoothly. Anytime December catches me in my neck of the woods going for a morning run with no gloves, no hat, no growling, and wearing only a light long-sleeved shirt, I am a happy camper. Actually, happy jogger is more like it. But, let’s face it, things will get nasty soon enough and diving into a creamy bowl of soup feels like the right thing to do. I improvised this one using stuff I had in the fridge, not sure how it would turn out, but it was so delicious I had to share. The combination of zucchini with mushrooms might be a bit unusual, but worked very well… If you care to know, the soup is Paleo-friendly, low in carbs, and high in deliciousness.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup

CREAMY ZUCCHINI & MUSHROOM SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced
salt and pepper (I recommend using a heavy hand for the black pepper)
za’tar (optional)
3/4 pound white mushrooms, sliced thick
3 medium zucchini
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups water
fresh thyme
2 handfuls spinach
1/2 cup coconut milk
toasted coconut flakes for topping (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, when hot add the onion, season lightly with salt, pepper, and a little za’tar, if using.  Saute until onion is translucent, add the mushrooms, and cook them in medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. If the pan gets too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.  When the mushrooms are starting to get soft, add the zucchini, cook for a couple of minutes then add chicken stock and water. Mix well, cover the pan and let it simmer for about 12 minutes.

Turn the heat off, add thyme and spinach. Mix, transfer the contents to a blender.  Blend very well, being careful (hot stuff in a blender can be dangerous, do it in batches if necessary). Return the blended soup to the pan, add the coconut milk, warm it up in low-heat, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with toasted coconut flakes or any other topping you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments
: I am very fond of zucchini soup, and also love a nice creamy mushroom soup. Never thought of marrying both ingredients. When mixing zucchini with mushrooms you’ll enter a twilight zone of unappealing color that can be tricky to deal with. After all, part of the charm of zucchini soup is its beautiful green, but the mushrooms mess that up. That’s when the fresh spinach enters the scene. I use this trick often when I want to perk up the green color of a soup. The secret is to add it right before you blend the soup, and don’t add too much. You won’t be able to tell there is spinach in it because the zucchini and mushroom flavor is prominent. Use a nice blender, if you have a Vitamix put it to work for at least a couple of minutes.  You will have a gorgeous green soup, creamy, soothing, flavorful. It will be light but keep you satisfied, thanks in part to the fat from the coconut milk.  I had a bowl of this soup on a Saturday after running and felt like a million bucks after.  Two Aleve pills as a side dish probably did not hurt either.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup2
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CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH TOASTED ALMONDS

This soup was quite a revelation for me, because it tasted amazing even though it called for very few, humble ingredients. No need to search for black truffles in a jar to make it, although I must say the flavor was so complex that I wondered if truffles had been hanging out around that broccoli at harvest time. Nah…. Just my overly vivid imagination.  The inspiration came once more from Mike, the man behind The Iron You. I’ve been a reader of his blog for only a few months, but that is long enough to realize his taste in food matches ours quite well. On a side note, for those into special nutrition, this concoction is paleo-friendly and low-carb.

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CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH TOASTED ALMONDS
(modified from The Iron You)

1 ½ lbs broccoli cut into florets
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 leek stalk, thinly sliced
3 small celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fine grain salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (13.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk
dash of ground nutmeg
slivered almonds slightly browned in olive oil
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Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, celery, garlic, a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring every now and then, until softened, about 7 minutes.

Add broccoli florets, broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the broccoli florets are tender, about 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, give a good stir and cook for further 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and mix well.
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Transfer the soup to a blender and puree in batches, or use an immersion blender if you prefer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, maybe a little more nutmeg. If the soup is too thick add a bit of water; if instead it’s too thin cook until it reaches the desired consistency.
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Serve warm with sautéed almonds on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For some reason I don’t make soups that often, but whenever I do, I feel quite virtuous…  I prepared this particular recipe early in the morning and had it for lunch after running. It was a bright sunny day, but quite cold, maybe 40 F with a little wind.  The soup was like a warm hug, soothing and energizing at the same time. I highly recommend it after a workout. There’s something about the creaminess offered by the coconut milk that will make you feel on top of the world.  Vivid imagination, you say? 😉

Mike, thanks for the constant culinary inspiration!

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