Thursday, April 21, 2011

Martha's Tofu with Snap Peas and Scallions

A few weeks ago my friend Brian brought over some back copies of Everyday Food and Whole Living.  After thumbing through the pages I saw this recipe for Tofu with Snap Peas and Scallions and decided to go with it. The dish was so unbelievably easy to make and it was very flavorful.  I rarely use sugar snap peas, but since they are in season I took it as a sign.  I'm trying to get into the habit going dairy-free one day a week.  This probably sounds easy to most people, but I have been afflicted with an intense need-to-put-cheese-on-everything disease.  This is my attempt to change least for one dinner.
Enjoy this light, simple, dairy-free and delicious dish.  The recipe says it serves 4, but I liked it so much that it only served 2.    
Tofu with Snap Peas and Scallions (Courtesy of Martha Stewart, Whole Living, May 2011)
Serves 4
1 14 oz block soft tofu, quartered
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 oz sugar snap peas, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced, greens and whites separated
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce (I used a little bit more)
1/2 tsp cane sugar
Coarse salt (I added a little bit more soy sauce, so I didn't use any salt directly...)

  1. In a medium pot, cover tofu with water and bring to a gentle simmer.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add peas and scallion whites and sauté, stirring, until peas are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Mix in scallion greens, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and 1 Tbsp water.  Season with salt (I didn't need any salt.)
  4. Drain tofu and divide among plates.  Top with pea mixture.

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An Earth Day Celebration That's Easy 'Peasy': Fresh Pea Soup with Garlic Croutons

Every day should be Earth Day (hooray!), but April 22nd is the designated day on the solar calendar.  In celebration of Mother Earth, I've decided to make a seasonal dish that is chock-full of fresh, local ingredients: leeks, onions, peas, mint, scallions...three cheers for the spring's bounty!  

Fresh Pea Soup (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)
Yield: 6 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade (I made homemade stock, but you can use a good store-bought too.  The original recipe uses chicken stock.)
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives
Garlic croutons, for serving (recipe follows)
Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.

Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed.  With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full.  Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning.  (I actually added the chives and continued to puree the soup.  Then I added the creme fraiche.) Serve hot with garlic croutons.

A Note: I made two batches of this soup-- using different peas in each.  You can use fresh or frozen peas.  My suggestion is to get sweet peas (fresh peas at the right time of season or sweet frozen peas).  They go really well with the mint. Enjoy! 

Garlic Croutons (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)
Makes 2 cups
1/2 loaf good bakery white bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick (I used some left over French baguette and removed the crust with a bread knife.)
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the crust from the bread slices and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
Crush the garlic and discard the peel.  In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic.  Cook for about 1 minute, until the garlic starts to brown, and then discard the garlic.  Add the bread cubes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until browned on all sides. 

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Heidi's Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Croutons

I'm an addict when it comes to buying cookbooks. I'm starting to run out of room on my kitchen shelves and I know I should probably stop making cookbook purchases…but I had to have this one. Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day made it to my apartment just before any cookbook-intervention could take place. Thank goodness!

Super Natural Every Day is fast becoming my favorite cookbook. Its recipes feature whole and natural ingredients, there's a focus on seasonal produce, and the photographs are great too. The instructions are straightforward and easy enough well, for every day. I’ve already posted the recipe for wild rice casserole, and below I included the recipe for Heidi’s soup.  It was the dish that started off our dinner club and it set the perfect tone for the meal. Cauliflower soup with mustard croutons is rustic, flavorful, healthy and delicious. I top the bowl of soup with some croutons, a sprinkle of cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.  Enjoy!

Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Croutons (Courtesy of Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen)
Serves 4-6
The Croutons: (I had a lot of leftover croutons, so I put them in a Ball jar and used them in my daily salads.)
6-ounce chunk artisan whole wheat bread, torn into little pieces, less than an inch in size (I used French baguette)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
The Soup:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, clarified butter or extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
Fine-grain sea salt
1 large potato, peeled and cut into tiny cubes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 1/2 cups of vegetable broth or water (I'll be posting my vegetable stock recipe next week. You can use a good quality store bought.  I always go with low-sodium broth if I don't have homemade in the freezer.)
12 ounces cauliflower, cut into small florets
2/3 cup/1.5 ounces freshly grated aged Cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle of the oven.  
To make the croutons, put the torn bread in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk the olive oil, mustard and salt into the butter and pour the mixture over the bread.  Toss well, then turn the bread onto a baking sheet.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the croutons are golden and crunchy. Flip them once or twice with a metal spatula along the way.

While the croutons are toasting, start the soup. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallots, onion, and a big pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions soften, a couple of minutes. Stir in the potato, cover, and cook for about 4 minutes, just long enough for the pieces to soften up a bit. Uncover, stir in the garlic, then the broth.  Bring to a boil, taste to make sure the potatoes are tender, and if they are, stir in the cauliflower.  (This took a little bit of time.)  Cook, covered, for about 3 to 5 minutes, just until the cauliflower is tender throughout.

Remove the plan from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in half the Cheddar cheese and the mustard. Add more broth or water if you feel the need to thin the soup at all. Taste and add more salt, if needed.  Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese, some croutons, and a drizzle of olive oil.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's All Greek to Me: Spanakopita with Tzatziki Sauce

I love Mediterranean cuisine and Greek food is at the top of my favorites list. Spinach pie, or spanakopita, is what I usually order whenever I go to a Greek restaurant. It's in the burek (or 'borek') family and if you know me personally, you know that I am crazy for all things burek! 
I made this spanakopita for "The Food Club" dinner (see previous post) and I really liked it. I served it hot with a side of tzatziki sauce: about 1 1/2 cups of Greek yogurt, 1 cucumber (seeded and pureed), 2 cloves of garlic, salt to taste, 2 tablespoons of dill, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, juice from a few lemon slices and a dash of white vinegar. You can adjust the saltiness of the sauce to your liking. I just throw all the ingredients together, except for the yogurt, in my mini-hand-held blender. When I get the consistency I want, which is pretty liquidy, I add the mixture to the Greek yogurt.(This recipe is an amalgamation of the tzatziki from and
I've made this recipe twice, and on the second go-round I added a teaspoon of nutmeg, used organic frozen spinach (because I had it in the freezer) and chopped up 1 leek in addition to the onion and scallions. 
Also, I learned (the hard way) that you need to thaw out the dough...completely. I guess this is obvious to most people, but for some reason I didn't do it the first time around. I was so anxious to get the pie in the oven before my company arrived, that my patience suffered. The dough broke off in pieces instead of being whole sheets.  But not to worry, the taste wasn't compromised. That said, don't forget to let the phyllo thaw out first would have made things easier.
This is really pretty easy to make and it tastes great. As they say in Athens and the Peloponnesse,  Καλή σας όρεξη!

GREEK SPANAKOPITA (Courtesy of with a few optional adaptations mentioned above) 
4-6 Servings (more if you used a bigger pan and had a thinner pie)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped (I used 4 scallions)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds spinach, rinsed and chopped (I used baby spinach and didn't chop it)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
8 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9x9 inch square baking pan.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach and cheese mixture into pan and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Heidi Swanson's Wild Rice Casserole

My best friend, his husband, yours truly and my husband are going to sit down for dinner tomorrow night. I'm really looking forward to our dinner party. The "Pappies" (as my best friend and his husband have been called for years) have busy schedules and I'm usually homebound by 8 p.m. due to Otis's sleep schedule. The solution: some advanced planning for dinner at our place. So the pressure is on! What will I cook? 
I'm thinking the menu should be delicious, flavorful and light-- nothing too heavy. I want my guests to leave feeling sated, but not overstuffed. I need whole and natural foods...stat! 
Then my doorbell rang. I was elated to see that the delivery was my new, pre-ordered copy of Heidi Swanson's (of 101 Cookbooks fame) cookbook Super Natural Every Day. “Fantastic!” I thought to myself. The delivery came at the perfect time.
In an effort to have dinner ready at a sane hour, I decided to prep ahead of time. The recipe was straightforward and the prep was seamless. The dish looked and smelled so good that I had to have a taste. Yes, just a little taste. It was so good. I almost ate the whole damn pan (before the company arrived). I loved the combination of wild rice, cremini mushrooms, mustard, thyme (or tarragon) and cheese. There isn't too much dairy, just the right amount. It's very subtle.  
If this is any indication of how delicious the rest of the recipes will be then I'm really excited...and hungry. 

Wild Rice Casserole (Courtesy of Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson)
2 large eggs
1 cup/ 8 oz cottage cheese
1/2 cup/ 4 oz sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon-style or whole grain mustard
Fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups cooked wild rice (see below for cooking instructions), at room temperature
1/3 cup/ 0.5 oz freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or thyme
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the top third of the oven.  Rub a medium-large baking dish with a bit of butter or olive oil.  (I used a 9 x 13-inch dish.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
In a large skillet over high heat, combine the olive oil with a couple pinches of salt.  Stir in the mushrooms.  After the initial stirring, leave the mushrooms alone until they release their water and the water evaporates, about 5 minutes.  Continue to cook and stir every couple of minutes until the mushrooms are browned.
Add the onion and cook until the onion is translucent, another 2 or 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, cook for another minute, and remove from the heat.  Add the rice to the skillet and stir until combined.
Add the rice mixture to the cottage cheese mixture, stir well until combined and turn into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with two-thirds of the grated cheese and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the casserole takes on a lot of color.  
The finished casserole should be hot throughout and golden along the edges.  Serve sprinkled with the chopped tarragon or thyme and the remaining grated cheese.

Cooking Wild Rice: Use a ratio of 1 part wild rice to 3 parts water, plus a good dose of salt. {2 cups dry will yield 6 1/2 cups cooked. I make 2 casseroles at a time.} Bring water, salt and rice to a boil and then simmer for about 50 minutes.  All of the water should have been absorbed and most of the rice grains should have split open.  
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