Monday, January 24, 2011

Hot and sour cabbage soup

Cabbage is one of the only non-root vegetables that is available right now, and it's cheap, so I'm trying to get it into our dinner rotation more often. This weekend I wanted to play around with cabbage soup, and thought that the flavors of Chinese hot and sour soup would work really well. I've eaten hot and sour soup plenty of times at restaurants but had no idea what ingredients gave it its unique flavor, so it was fun to learn how to make it. It's really not that complicated - the ingredients are fairly basic, and the signature hot and sour flavor mainly come from white pepper and vinegar.

I started with a recipe from Gourmet Today and adapted it quite a lot, simplifying the ingredients (e.g. shiitakes instead of more obscure Chinese mushrooms), adding cabbage, using only 1 pot, and making it vegetarian. It came out really good - way, way better than the downright bland version I got last time I ordered Chinese takeout. How on earth did they make a bland hot and sour soup? I can't understand it. Anyway, I'm definitely glad I don't need to depend on restaurants anymore to get some!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Citrus salad with ginger-anise syrup

Isn't this salad pretty?? I was so excited to find both blood oranges and Cara Cara oranges at the grocery store today! Adding those to the grapefruit and navel oranges I bought at the farmers' market, I had such a gorgeous selection of citrus at home. I knew I wanted to make a simple citrus salad that would show off the colors of the fruits, and I found the perfect recipe on Epicurious. The segments of fruit are tossed with a simple syrup, which blends in with the citrus juices to form a sauce. The original recipe only uses anise in the syrup, but I added ginger, because I love ginger and thought the flavors would blend well. I also used a different selection of citrus fruits than the original recipe, to take advantage of what I had. The salad was delicious and really refreshing. I did feel that the anise and ginger flavors were not strong enough, probably because they were diluted too much by the citrus juice. Next time I'll use less of the juice - the recipe below is written accordingly.

Citrus salad with ginger-anise syrup
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 3-4

2 1/2 tbs water
2 1/2 tbs sugar
2 whole star anise
2 slices peeled fresh ginger, about 1/4 inch thick
1 large ruby red or pink grapefruit
1 large navel orange
1 Cara Cara orange
1 blood orange
(You can use any combination of the above citrus fruits)

In a small heavy saucepan, dissolve sugar in water over medium heat. Add anise and ginger and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove syrup from heat and let sit for 30 minutes (do not remove anise and ginger).

Using a sharp parking knife, peel fruits and remove all the pith. Cut out the citrus segments from the membranes into a large bowl. Squeeze out juice from membranes into a separate bowl.

Remove anise and ginger from syrup. Add syrup and 1/4 cup of citrus juice to the fruit, and toss gently. Add more juice to taste. Salad can be chilled for 1 day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

German potato salad

I'm not really a fan of American-style potato salad. It tends to be gloppy with too much mayo, which just kind of grosses me out. This German potato salad, though, is another story, totally different than the cold potato salad you might be used to seeing at barbecues. It's served warm, with a tart bacon and vinegar dressing and some fresh parsley. We both really enjoyed it, and I think it would make a nice accompaniment to a number of dishes.

I found this recipe when I was looking for something interesting to do with some Yukon gold potatoes that I got at the farmers' market (farmers' market! in the winter!). The recipe comes from The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. It's a great book - I love the descriptions of the extensive testing that goes into each recipe. It really helps me understand how variations in ingredients and cooking techniques can affect the final product. And I can always trust that the recipes will come out good!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pasta with lentils and kale

Okay, so this is definitely a dish to eat after a night, or weekend or whatever, of excess. You'll feel virtuous just by eating it. And lucky for you (and me), it also tastes good. The flavors are clean and simple, and everything blends together nicely. It's not fancy restaurant food, but it's good, healthy, tasty home cooking. And it has a short list of mostly pantry ingredients, which is great. I'll admit that I was a little skeptical about the recipe at first. I thought that it wouldn't be flavorful enough, so I added a cheese rind to the pot as the lentils cooked. It was a good addition, giving a flavor boost without overpowering the other ingredients. If you're looking for more (and I don't think the recipe really needs it), you could add herbs to the lentil pot or to the finished dish. Just don't go overboard - remember that the strength of this recipe is that you can really taste each individual ingredient.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

French onion soup

Happy New Year! Starting this blog was one of the best things that I did in 2010 (not the very best thing I did though - that would be marrying Andrew). It's been a wonderful experience so far - this space has truly helped me focus my interest in food, explore new recipes and ingredients, and develop my own ideas about responsible and healthful eating. I'm very much looking forward to this new year of cooking and blogging. I want to take a minute here to thank everyone that has visited this site. I was really nervous about putting myself out there in this way, and your comments and encouragement have meant a lot to me. I wish you all a happy and healthy year, filled with good things to eat.

There's no particular reason why this post is the first one of the new year. It just happens to be something that I made recently that is fitting for dinner on a cold winter night. Better make it a weekend night though, because it starts out almost 40 minutes of cooking's worth it though. This soup may not be much to look at, but it is gooood. The soup is tasty on its own, but the cheesy toasts on top really make it special. And locally grown onions are plentiful right now, so it's nice to let them be the star of the show for once.