Monday, May 27, 2013

market day special: strawberry-rhubarb soup

I volunteer at the Headhouse Farmer's Market, one of my favorite places to be on a Sunday morning in Philadelphia. The volunteer stand is directly across from one of the vegetable stands, and I have spent the past three weeks staring at a table heaped high with asparagus, lettuces, string beans, pints of strawberries and stacks of tart rhubarb. I brought an armful of rhubarb stalks home with me last week and made a pie, and with my leftover rhubarb, I started a compote. Misreading and ignoring directions galore from multiple recipes, I ended up with a liquid-full substance that refused to gel. But it was delicious. Really, really delicious. And so, I turned it into soup. This can be either a sweet first course or a cool dessert for a warm spring night.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup
makes 4 larger bowls or 8 smaller ramekins

the soup ingredients:
8-10 stalks of rhubarb (about 4 cups), diced into half-inch pieces
1 pint of strawberries (2 generous cups), sliced
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest and juice from an orange
3/4 cup of water

suggested garnishes:
whipped cream
mint or basil
toasted almonds
balsamic vinegar

Mix all of the ingredients together, except for the water. Let the strawberries and rhubarb soak up the sugar for about 30-40 minutes, tossing occasionally.  After a good long soak, add water and turn the heat on. Bring the mixture to a boil, then let it simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and let it cool. Once cool, either use an immersion blender or a food processor to mix the soup. Strain through a sieve if you don't like finding chunks of strawberry seeds in your soup, or not for a homier consistency.  Serve the soup either chilled or at room temperature with the garnish of your choice - I choose homemade whipped cream and cinnamon every time. Sip slowly and savor spring turning into summer.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

10 simple spring suppers

Ever wish you had a dinner fairy? A shimmering apparition to cook your food and whip up sauces? If such a creature existed, I would gladly import him or her into my kitchen, but in the meantime, I've compiled a list of my I-don't-want-to-cook-dinner-right-now healthful-easy recipes. Since it's spring time, I've stuck to spring-y foods, things you can get cheaply in season right now, and alternated between hot and cold dishes, since the fickle evenings are alternately cool and sweltering. Look for a summer list in a month or two!

1. Asparagus Scramble: mix up eggs, cream, and salt in a bowl. Cut up asparagus and scallions and saute for 1-2 minutes in butter - they should still be crispy fresh when you add the eggs. Add the egg mixture and cook slowly over medium heat, constantly stirring in slow circles to get fluffy eggs. Dollop with goat cheese.

2. Mock Pad Thai: mix peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, salt, and sugar together. Toss in chunks of vegetables (cucumber, cabbage, broccoli, onion, peas, whatever's on hand) and chicken or shrimp (or not, if you prefer to be vegan for the evening), and serve over lettuce or pasta.

3. Ethiopian lentils: boil red lentils in a 1:3 lentils:water ratio (ie, 1 cup of lentils and 3 cups of water) for 30 minutes. Add berbere spice mix and a little salt and cook for 10 minutes more. If you don't want to toast the spices, don't worry - mixing them together without toasting works just as well, and you can leave out a spice or two if you're missing it (I almost never have fenugreek). Serve with injera or naan.

4. Slice an eggplant in half lengthwise. Make diagonal cross-hatches in the eggplant flesh, and salt the eggplant. Go read a book for 30 minutes (I'm reading As Always, Julia and just finished Salt Sugar Fat). Come back, squeeze out the eggplant juices. Cut up a clove or two of garlic and slip the garlic into the eggplant cross-hatches. Put some olive oil and rosemary or thyme on top of the eggplant flesh, flip the eggplant flesh side down onto a baking dish, and roast at 400 degrees for an hour. Once out of the over, let cool for a bit before you serve. Eat a green salad with it!

5. Green eggs, ham optional: boil green lentils in a 1:2, lentil:water ratio (ie, 1 cup of lentils to 2 cups of water) for approximately 45 minutes (stick a bay leaf in if you have it). Add salt, olive oil, and either some lemon juice or vinegar. Add a fried egg on top. If you're feeling porcine, dice up some ham, bacon, or pancetta to go with it. Or, crumble some feta on there for a kick.

6. Caesar with a Twist: cut Tuscan kale into bite sized pieces, and top with parmesan, anchovies, olive oil, lemon wedges, and bread crumbs.

7. Root Vegetable Rockout: roast some beets (and see my first blog post from last year!), once cooled, toss with cleaned and cut radishes and carrots, olive oil, salt, and vinegar. Add some feta if you're feeling fancy.

8. Sweet Potato Swoon: roast sweet potatoes at 425 degrees for about an hour, or til you can stick a fork easily in the potato. Pull out of the oven and let rest about 5 minutes. While it's resting, saute a green vegetable (broccoli, spinach, snap peas, kale). Cut open the potato, and top with the greens. If you have cheese or leftover chicken in the fridge, top it up. Or, if you're feeling saucy, add salsa to the potato and greens for a Mexican flavor.

9. Italian Stallion: arugula topped with shaved parmesan and olive oil. Add prosciutto for a "kick."

10. Bean Bonanza: if you're super well prepared, stick black beans in water before you go to bed. If you forgot, stick them in cold water before you go to work. Come home, drain the beans, and boil them for an hour or so. Once they've finished boiling, heat a saute pan with olive oil and get some onions and garlic going. And the boiled beans and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. Grate some cheddar on top, grab salsa and an avocado, and dig in.

Cherry Blossoms sing "SPRING!"