Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mushroom Risotto (from the Gorgeously Green Diet)

Risotto. It's earned the reputation of being difficult to make and, truth be told, I've mucked-it up more times than I care to mention. Before trying this recipe, my little arborio rice dish never came out right. It was always far from the creamy dish it should have been. Without fail, it would come out pasty and goopy, and quite frankly, not very edible. The outcome was always the same: hot mess.
But my dear friend Charlotta put me onto this recipe, one that she said was fool-proof. And indeed it is. It comes from The Gorgeously Green Diet and I've made it three times...successfully! Whooo-wee. The white wine and the dried mushrooms give the dish so much flavor-- and I just top it off with a little olive oil, shaved parmesan and lemon juice.
Like many risotto dishes, this recipe uses dried mushrooms instead of fresh ones. That's because the water used to rehydrate (reconstitute) the dried mushrooms adds so much flavor to the dish (I added the mushroom-infused water toward the end of the cooking process). I used porcini, portobello, hen of woods and "forest blend" so far, but next time I think I'll add some fresh chantarelles as well. 
You can make this risotto with confidence and without fear that your culinary efforts will result in a mushy mess. Then pour yourself a nice glass of chilled white wine and enjoy. 
Bon Appetito.

Mushroom Risotto (Courtesy of The Gorgeously Green Diet)
Serves 4-6
1-ounce package mixed dried mushrooms
About 1 quart vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups risotto rice 
2 wineglasses (dry) white wine 
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grade Parmesan cheese

Put the mushrooms in a measuring cup and cover with 2 cups of hot water. Set aside.
Pour stock into a medium saucepan and heat gently. Keep warm over low heat. 
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the rice, turn up the heat, and stir until the rice looks translucent (mine never got completely translucent--but close). Add the wine and stir until almost evaporated.
Now you are ready to add your first ladle of stock (you never leave a risotto- it needs to be nursed!). Keep stirring as you add more and more stock, waiting until each addition is absorbed until you add the next ladle. After 15 minutes, taste to see if the rice is cooked; if it needs more time (and mine did), add a ladleful of the water that the mushrooms have been soaking in. The risotto is cooked when the rice is slighly al dente. Take it off the heat and stir in the mushrooms and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste, spoon into bowls, and top with a generous dusting of cheese (I added a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of lemon juice too). Enjoy! 
Follow Me on Pinterest

Friday, January 27, 2012

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup (Shorbet Ads)

This past week marked the one year anniversary of the revolution in Egypt. Back in 2011, the excitement was palpable and you could just feel the energetic optimism that comes with the prospect of change. That said, I sincerely hope that some sort of progressive and inclusive democracy takes root in that country. 
The first Egyptian dish I ever made was Koshary (or Kushary or Kushari) from a Saveur Magazine article written by Anita Lo. That specific recipe came from an eatery in Cairo's now-famous Tahrir Square.  This one for Egyptian Lentil Soup, or Shorbet Ads, comes from Food & Wine magazine and I first spotted it on My German Kitchen (though clearly the dish is not Germanic in origin). 
Now, what do I like about this soup? Well, for starters it's a "one-pot meal"- it's incredible easy to make and there are only a handful of ingredients, all of which I had on hand. The soup also has some nice heat and a bit of acid from the lemon. And, it's healthy.
Serve this beautifully-hued soup with warm pita...and Bil hana wish shifa'! بالهنا و الشفاء 
(Bon Appetit.)
Egyptian Red Lentil Soup  (Adapted by My German Kitchen from Food & Wine...and tweeked a bit more by me!)
Yield: 8
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (I used olive oil)
  • white medium onion, chopped
  • carrots, copped finely
  • celery ribs, chopped finely 
  • 3 garlic gloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 pound tomatoes, seeded and diced (I went with organic, BPA-free canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 8 cups water
  • salt
  • yogurt
  • lemon wedges
  • warm pita 
  1. Melt the butter in a big soup pot on medium heat and add the vegetables (onion, carrots, celery, garlic). Cook until softened for about 5 minutes.        
  2. Add the spices ( cumin, coriander, ancho chile) to the veggie mixture and cook for another few minutes until fragrant.               
  3. Add the tomatoes and let them cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and water, season salt and cook the soup over lower heat for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are very soft.
  5. Puree your soup with a stick blender. Add some more salt to taste and serve with yogurt, lemon wedges and warm pita.     
Follow Me on Pinterest

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Clyfford Still Museum

When the Clyfford Still Museum opened in Denver a few months ago, I was elated. I was positively giddy. Have I mentioned how much I love Abstract Expressionism?! 
Clyfford Still was an important 20th century artist and he's often associated with Rothko and de Kooning, two of my favorites. But, if I can be truthful, I hadn't actually seen any of his pieces in person. There's good reason for this.
With the exception of the 1979 retrospective at The Met in NYC (when I was 3 years old), most of his work was sealed off from public and scholarly view, remaining with his estate after his death. 

The artist's will stipulated that "his estate be given in its entirety to an American city willing to establish a permanent museum dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study." (CSM) The city of Denver won the bid, beating 21 cities who had also been vying for the museum, and it's been a cultural boon for the Mile-High city ever since its opening.
The inaugural exhibition (on display till September 2012) chronicles the progression of his work and it's one of the best collections I've seen in a long time. I took some photos of the boys at the museum (a building which has a great minimal architectural style)-- with my phone and without flash. There's one picture that Otis took too--a budding artist, perhaps? Enjoy.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Big Pot Udon Curry and a little tour of South Broadway and Historic Baker

This is a great dish from Heidi Swanson's first book, Super Natural Cooking. It's the second recipe from that book that I've posted on this blog. And I love this dish. 
For this creamy curry bowl, I used a flat Udon noodle, a green Thai curry paste (the original recipe uses red curry paste), lite coconut milk (because I'm trying to cram myself into a teeny-tiny dress for my friend's upcoming nuptials in about 4 weeks) and a good quality extra-firm tofu. You could probably play around with the ingredients too-- maybe substituting chick peas for tofu and adding some wilted greens? There are endless possibilities. 
So go ahead, ladle out a big ol' bowl of curry noodles and enjoy! 

Big Pot Udon Curry (Adapted from Heidi Swanson)
8 ounces dried whole-grain Asian-style wide noodles (like Udon)
2 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
1 onion , chopped
1 1/2-2 teaspoons green curry paste (original uses red)
12 ounces extra firm tofu , cut into thumb-sliced slices
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons shoyu sauce
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar
1 lime, juice of
2/3 cup peanuts
1/3 cup slivered shallot
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Cook noodles in plenty of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, then stir in garlic, onion, and curry paste and mash the paste around the bottom of the pan a bit to distribute it evenly. Cook until nice and fragrant - just a minute or two.
  • Add the tofu and gently stir until coated with the curry paste.
  • Stir in the coconut milk, stock, turmeric, shoyu and sugar. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice, and add the noodles, jostling them a bit if they're sticking.
  • To serve, heap big piles of noodles into individual bowls and top with a generous ladle or two of the curry.
  • Top with peanuts and finish each bowl with a sprinkling of shallots and cilantro.

In addition to eating a big pot of udon curry, we also explored  the "SoBo" (South Broadway) neighborhood in Denver-- specifically, Historic Baker District. The houses are so quaint in this part of town, and there's a huge inventory of Queen-Anne style homes in the district, most of which were built between the 1880s and early 1890s. Broadway, the main thoroughfare, is home to the Mayan Theater, which has a gorgeous design and some great Native-American images on the façade. The theater was built in 1930 and was saved from demolition in the 1980s. There's also St. Augustine Orthodox Chrisitan Church, which was built in 1912. And my favorite modern-merchantile, Hazel & Dewey, on S. Broadway too. 
This is a great neighborhood to walk around and there are some fantastic places to eat in case you get hungry!
Follow Me on Pinterest

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stock and Crock: The National Western Stock Show and 2 mini-Crock soups (Onion Soup au Gratin and Roasted Tomato)

This week I said something I never thought I would say out loud. I said, "C'mon on Otis, C'mon Theo, we're going to the Stock Show!" It might seem like an odd place for a vegetarian, but The National Western Stock Show has deep roots in Denver (106 years) and I thought it was something that we should see, even if it's not exactly my cup of tea.
There were tons cowboys and cowgirls. And I'm talking about the real deal. Like, classic fringe jackets and spur-heeled boots. People that know how to lasso and are comfortable riding horses. They don wide-brimmed hats...and they're not worn ironically. No, these are not the kind of cowboys you'd see in Madonna's 'Don't Tell Me' video. These are real American cowboys.
There were show horses and and shiny belt buckles. And there were black Angus cows and bulls-- being sold for their exceptional blood line and lineage. There were endless rows of vendors selling belts and farming machinery. There's a lot of money, history and livelihood tangled up in this stock show, the second largest in the United States (not surprisingly, Houston hosts the largest show, though I heard a report on Colorado Public Radio that said the mile-high show was the biggest). And while I haven't eaten meat in about 25 years (a purchase of goldfish for my 10th birthday started that ball rolling), I can accept that humans have consumed meat for (many) thousands of years, and the farmers and ranchers involved in this show are the real deal. No Con-Agra, no big factory farms here (at least that was what I was told). Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention the petting zoo-- llamas, alpacas, pot-bellied pigs, goats, sheep and ducks-- who made their journey from a farm in Medford, Oregon. Otis had a blast! 
After leaving the stock show, it was time to head home. I made a great Onion Soup Au Gratin from a recipe that my mother-in-law passed on to me, which I adapted only slightly. I also came across a Roasted Tomato Soup recipe from Smitten Kitchen that I made a few months ago-- in a mini crock-- which I had neglected to post. So here it is, better late than never! 

* * *

Traditional French Onion soup uses veal or beef stock, but here I went with a good quality vegetable stock and a 1/2 teaspoon bouillon cube. I cut a few slices of Udi's French Baguette and topped the bread with a really nice Gruyere that I picked up from our local cheese shop.
Onion Soup Au Gratin (Adapted from my mother-in-law's recipe)
Serves 6
3 medium onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
6-8 cups of vegetable broth
Salt + Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon vegetable bouillon cube
1/4- 1/3 cup of Sherry (the original recipe used Brandy. Use what you have.)
Toasted white bread, to fit crock (I used French Baguette)
2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Saute onions in butter and oil, on a low flame, stirring occasionally so that the onions caramelize. This took me well over 1/2 hour (but that might have to do with the high-altitude here). The onions should be the color of caramel. If they don't get soft and caramelized here, they will be kind of tough when served (that's not very good!). 
3. Add broth, salt, pepper, bouillon cube and simmer for about 12-15 minutes.
4. Add Sherry and cook for another 5 minutes
5. Toast bread slices (I used 2-3 per crock) and cover with Gruyere cheese. Heat it in the oven until the cheese begins to melt. This will only take a minute or so.
6. Ladle onion soup mixture into the crocks, filling about 3/4 of the way.
7. Stir about 1-2 tablespoons of Parmesan into each crock.
8. Float toasted bread with melted cheese on top of each crock. Add more cheese if desired.
9. Put the crocks on a baking sheet, just in case they bubble over during baking.
10. Put the crocks in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is melted and bubbly.

* * * 

I made this recipe a few months ago and never got to posting it. It's from Smitten Kitchen and was loosely adapted from an old Bon Appetit recipe. I went a step further and put a shakshukah-like twist on the dish by topping it with a fried egg.
Roasted Tomato Soup (Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)
Serves 4 (though closer to 6 if served in mugs)
3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 4 small cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) dried crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock


4 1-inch slices from a large loaf of rye bread, whole wheat sourdough or bread of your choice (or 16 1-inch slices from a baguette), toasted until hard and lightly buttered on one side
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 cup coarsely grated cheddar (or more to taste)

Make soup: Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap garlic cloves in a tight foil packet. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper (I used 1 full teaspoon of Kosher salt). Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Add foil packet of garlic to tray. Roast until tomatoes are brown and tender (garlic will be very tender), about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Unwrap garlic packet and peel cloves. Transfer cloves, tomatoes and any accumulated juices to a blender or food processor and pulse machine on and off until tomatoes are a chunky puree. Transfer tomatoes to medium pot and add thyme, crushed red pepper and stock and bring to a boil Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste.

Create cheddar lid: Preheat oven to 350. Arrange four ovenproof soup bowls, crocks or large mugs on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Stir grated onion into the warm soup. (I love this last-minute suggestion of onion.) Float toast slice(s) in each bowl, buttered side up and divide grated cheese generously over top. (If you’re using a wide bowl, you might find that you want more cheese to create a thick, broiled lid.) Bake soups on tray for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese on top is bubbling and brown at the edges. If you’d like it even more bronzed on top, preheat your broiler and finish soups for a minute or two under it. Serve immediately.

Do ahead: Soup can be prepared one day ahead, and kept covered in the fridge. Rewarm before serving, or before finishing with cheddar crouton.
Follow Me on Pinterest