Tomato-Bulgur Soup

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By Freya Bellin

Ripe, fresh tomatoes are elusive this time of year, but good quality canned tomatoes do the trick in this hearty winter-time soup. They can be just as sweet as the ones you find in the middle of August, and you get to skip over the washing and chopping step. Plus, they break down a little faster than the fresh kind.

I used half stock and half water for the liquid, but the broth was still quite flavorful from the onions, celery, and garlic cooked at the beginning. I especially liked the celery, which was subtle, but noticeable and appreciated. With the addition of bulgur the soup becomes heartier and more of a standalone meal. As mentioned below, the starch lends a surprising creaminess, making this soup seem much richer than it is. Unlike most soups, I found that I really preferred this one on day 1, so try to serve it all at once if possible. It shouldn’t be too hard to find willing eaters. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce

Challah!

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Makes: 1 large loaf

Time: At least 3 hours, largely unattended

The traditional Sabbath bread of European Jews is rich, eggy, and very, very tender.  There is enough dough to make a festive braided loaf, which is easy to make and fun to shape. However, unless you have a large food processor (one with at least an 11-cup workbowl), you will have to make this by hand or with a standing mixer. Leftover Challah makes excellent French toast or can be used in bread pudding. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Baking, Middle Eastern

Many Ways to Skin a . . . Chestnut

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I’m not sure which I find more annoying: peeling chestnuts or peeling fava beans. With the last of the decent chestnuts lingering (I had these in my fridge for weeks) and the first of the favas not yet here (soon!), I didn’t have to choose.

The chestnut thing is really a hassle, but it’s always worth it. You can get those skins off any way you want: simmering, roasting, even deep frying. The issue is that they must be peeled while they’re still hot, and that is a definite Ouch! I roasted these: slashed the flat side, threw them in pan in a hot oven for 15 or 20 minutes, and started peeling; the towel helps. Some came out of their shells in whole pieces, which are gorgeous; some, of course, did not.

Then I sauteed them in butter, with leeks. Worth it? Seriously.

Posted in Recipes

Roasted Carrots with Scallion-Ginger Glaze

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By Freya Bellin

As we approach the end of winter, I must express gratitude for carrots, one of the few vegetables still in season this time of year. Perhaps it is their seemingly eternal availability that causes us to overlook them, or their presence in our elementary school lunchboxes, but carrots are truly the kind of vegetable that can be made special with a little help. The mix of garlic, ginger, and scallion in this recipe enlivens the sweetness of the roasted carrots. By pouring hot oil over the seasoning mix, you create a quick and simple sauce, melding together the flavors of each component and lightly cooking the scallions for a sweeter, milder onion taste. You might even have all or most of the ingredients needed on hand, especially carrots, which will stay fresh and crisp for a long time in the fridge. I found I needed less oil than called for, so go light on it and add more as needed.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Baking, Produce

Good Old Fashioned Corn Bread

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Makes: About 6 servings

Time: About 45 minutes

Corn bread is indispensable, especially to a vegetarian diet, where its full flavor and slightly crunchy texture are welcome at any meal. And few dishes deliver so much for so little work.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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Posted in American, Baking

Perfect for Winter: Stir-Fried Lentils, Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions

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By Freya Bellin

Thanks to the combination of hearty lentils and mushrooms, this vegetarian dish tastes uniquely meaty. Plus—perhaps the best thing about stir-fries—it’s a quick one-pot meal. Even if you don’t have pre-cooked lentils on hand, they cook in just 30 minutes, so it’s easy enough to have those ready by the time you’ve finished washing and chopping the other ingredients. You won’t need the lentils until the end of the recipe anyway. If you opt not to use (or can’t find) the dried porcinis, consider adding an extra handful of fresh mushrooms to keep the proportions balanced.

The seasoning for this dish is simple, which allows the caramelized onions to really come through. Onions cooking in olive oil always smell great, but once they break down and release their natural sugars, they transform into something other-worldly. As is often the case with foods this delicious, you must be patient with them. I used a heavy pan and probably had the heat a touch too low when cooking this recipe, so my onions took closer to 25 minutes to fully caramelize. Rest assured that it is worth the wait. While the recipe below calls for the onions as a garnish of sorts, I eventually ended up mixing mine into the rest of the stir-fry. The dish makes excellent leftovers, either reheated as is or served over a green salad.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Middle Eastern, Produce

Saffron Olive Oil Cookies

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Makes: About 3 dozen cookies

Time: 40 minutes

Another not-too-sweet cookie (perfect for glazing), only this time a hint of saffron gives the cookies a gorgeous gold color, and their cakey texture will remind you of an elegant vanilla wafer. The olive oil is a fresh-tasting alternative to butter, even if you’re not looking to cut down on saturated fat. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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Posted in Baking, Recipes

The Involuntary Savory Breakfast

I spoke at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston last night, and – because I finished late – went out to a nondescript restaurant that had a kitchen that, in theory at least, stayed open until 10. I could complain nonstop about this entire experience but that’s not the point; I’m going to complain about something else. I will say that the best part of the meal were some semi-fried Brussels sprouts, so I took the leftovers back to my hotel, where there’s a fridge.

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Posted in American

Stir-Fried Bok Choy, Daikon, Crisp Tofu

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By Freya Bellin

February is a time when one must get creative with seasonal produce, much of which is some form of root vegetable. I’d been seeing daikon radish a lot lately, so I figured it would be worth checking out. Turns out that it’s pretty versatile: when raw it has the texture of jicama and the flavor of a mild radish.  When cooked, as in this recipe, it becomes tender and a little sweeter. It was a really nice addition to this stir-fry and an ingredient that will definitely remain in my winter veggie arsenal.

If you cook a lot of tofu, you’ll know that it really does need to be patted dry, as the recipe instructs. The more water you can squeeze out of it, the crispier it will become when fried. That crispy tofu is a great contrast to the bok choy stems, which get soft and creamy. There’s no need for anything more complicated than the super simple sauce used in this recipe—just a bit of soy sauce to bring everything together. I served it with brown rice for some heft, but it could stand on its own too as a light tofu dinner. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Japanese, Recipes

Snack Time? Try Marinated Celery and Carrots, Chinese Style

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Makes: 4 appetizer or side-dish servings

Time: 10 minutes, plus time to marinate

An easy and surprising little nibble, crunchy and ultra-savory.  Substitute any vegetable you can eat raw or try this marinade with parboiled and shocked vegetables like broccoli or snow peas. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Chinese, Produce