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25 October 2009

Roasted Red Pepper and Raspberry Soup

Last summer Lovemuffin and Pricklypear were lucky enough to go to Paris with his Parental Figures. They had heard about this amazing restaurant that they really wanted to go to. I wish I could remember the name of it, because it was truly amazing and I would like to recommend it to everyone I know. They served dinner in 4 courses, but it was a fairly casual place. One of the things that Lovemuffin got was this soup, Roasted Red Pepper and Raspberry Soup, and for some reason it is the only thing I really remember, probably because the combination seemed so unlikely, and yet it was so incredibly delicious. It was a vivid red color, kind of tangy, kind of sweet, and I could actually taste both the rasberries and the peppers, and they really complimented each other. I have thought about this soup on and off ever since then, fully intending to make an imitation. I did try it once, but I wasn't satisfied. The other night I tried again, and this time I think I succeeded. I'm sure it's not exactly the same as the one in Paris, but it's the same idea and it is very good.

Roasted Red Pepper and Raspberry Soup
3 red bell peppers
2 tomatoes
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
4 c. water
1 c. vegetable stock
1/2 tsp. dried oregano, or 1 tsp fresh
approx 6 oz. frozen raspberries
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the bell peppers in half, remove seeds and stem, place on a broiler pan, skin side up and broil for about 10 minutes, until the skins are black and charred. Keep an eye on them, you may need to rotate them or the pan to char it as evenly as possible. Remove from broiler and immediately drop into a paper bag, close bag and let the peppers steam and cool. Place the whole tomatoes on the broiler pan, broil until the skins begin to blister and char a little, turn them over, and repeat on the other side. (More on charring peppers and tomatoes in another post.) The tomatoes will go faster than the peppers, and their skins don't need to become very black, mostly just blistered. Remove to a bowl, let cool, and slip off the skins. Peel the charred skins off the cooled peppers. Chop the peppers and the tomatoes into smaller pieces, don't worry about making them even sizes or shapes, they just need to be smaller. Chop the onion into smaller pieces, and crush the garlic cloves.
Place the peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic, water and vegetable stock in a medium size pot. Bring to a boil, let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the onions and garlic are both soft. Add the oregano near the end of the cooking time. Let cool for a few minutes, then puree the soup in batches in a blender. Place the frozen raspberries in the blender, ladle some of the soup over them, enough to cover, and then puree both together. Strain this to remove the raspberry seeds, then put the strained liquid back with the rest of the soup. At this point you can either serve the soup right away (it may need a little re-warming after adding the cold raspberries), or chill and serve it either warm or cold later. Serves 4, with some leftovers.
*Note--if you have leftovers and keep them for a couple days in the fridge, the flavor becomes super intense.*

23 October 2009

New vegetables

Today my landlord gave me some vegetables from his garden. He loves gardening. Today he gave me some beets and swiss chard, as well as some apples, yellow pear-shaped tomatoes, some fresh herbs: parsley, oregano, lemon thyme and regular thyme, and even a bunch of flowers. I put the flowers in this vase that I made in my pottery class. It's the first time that I've used it, and I think it looks pretty good. Anyway, I am very excited that he gave me the chard and beets, because I keep on seeing recipes for them, but I don't think I have ever had chard before, and I've only had beets in borscht, and I've only had borscht once in my life. I have been wanting to try these vegetables, and now I will have a chance to do so without actually having to buy them!

Tonight we had the missionaries over for dinner, and I sauteed the chard stems/ribs and added them to rice. My landlord told me to clean them really well, so I was doing that, and all of a sudden I realized that there were little bugs on the backs of all the leaves that look like ticks, and that kind of freaked me out. I nearly through the whole lot of it away. But I perservered and scrubbed off all the buggy things and dirt and pulled off all the bad spots on the leaves and then cut up the stems and ribs. I didn't do anything with the leafy parts yet, because I guess it needs to be cooked, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around cooking something that looks like a green salad. The rice and chard ribs together was pretty good, but kind of weird. They have a strange flavor. I might try them again.

I also made a roasted red pepper and raspberry soup for dinner, and I must say, it turned out quite well. I'll have to write that recipe up later, because it is so awesome, it deserves it own little page.

17 October 2009

Vegetarian Burgers

I have been noticing vegetarian patties at the store that you can grill and eat like hamburgers, and I've wanted to try to make some veggie burgers for a while. I mentioned in the previous post a recipe for a pumpkin and white bean burger that I wanted to try because I had fresh pumpkin on hand, I did make that. Also, a while ago I made a spicy black bean burger recipe that was pretty good, but I would do things a little different with it. And yesterday my boss mentioned to me a way to make patties with lentils and cracked wheat, so maybe I'll find a recipe for that, or we'll start making it at work and it will be good.

I tried the recipe with pumpkin and beans.  I read several comments where people said that they added bread crumbs and eggs and they held together better throughout the entire process. So I tried that, but I forgot to add the oats that it calls for. I think the oats instead of the bread crumbs would have been better texturally, and I would definitely keep the egg as well. I also patted bread crumbs on to the formed patties, to try to give it a nice crunchy exterior, and it worked! The exterior browned nicely and was firm and crisp. But overall I was a little disappointed with the finished product. It was very starchy, so much that I couldn't stand to eat it on a bun, and I couldn't even taste the pumpkin. I ate it with an avocado instead of a mayonnaise sauce, and I liked the avocado a lot. Here's what I would do with this recipe if I make it again: 1) Use the recommended amount of oats, not bread crumbs 2) Add an egg to the original recipe 3) Use a very flavorful squash puree, drained so that the patties won't be so juicy, they will be easier to form 4) Coat the formed patties in bread crumbs to help them stay together during cooking and for a nice crunchy outside.

The spicy black bean burgers I tried were pretty tasty, but difficult to make. They didn't hold together very well, so I kept adding more bread crumbs. When I chopped up the onion and green pepper in a food processor, they became very very juicy, so I think that's why it needed more bread crumbs. If I was making it again I would either chop the veggies by hand instead of in the food processor, or I would drain the processed veggies very well to keep the mixture from becoming too soggy and unmanageable.  Also, the author says that if you are grilling them, to put them on a piece of foil, and then put them on the grill. It almost makes sense to use foil, because veggie burgers don't hold together as well as ground beef and they would probably fall apart and slip between the bars of the grill rack when you try to flip them, or even just place them on the grill. However, the burgers stuck to the foil, even though we had sprayed it with non-stick spray, and they didn't seem to actually get cooked all the way through. So we found a rack to put on the grill with small holes, like something you might use for fish, and used that instead of foil, and that got the job done. I think it would also be easy to cook them on the stove with some oil on a cast iron griddle. Overall, these burgers were quite good. They had a nice texture, not like meat, but you can't have everything. Even with all the extra added bread crumbs they weren't too starchy, and they were spicy and very tasty. I had used cayenne pepper instead of hotsauce, and they had quite a kick to them.

The other day we bought these veggie burgers, and they are quite good, but I think they have way too much salt in them. Also, there are chunks of something, probably the bamboo shoots, that are way too fibrous and hard to chew. When I bite into a piece of the bamboo shoot, it reminds me of trying to eat cardboard, or maybe styrofoam. I don't like that. And they use soy protein; I'm still not sure how I feel about soy products, and I generally stay away from them. But I do like that they are uniform in shape and size, that they have chunks of vegetables, they hold together, even on a grill and that they aren't made of mostly beans.

I guess that is my goal for making a veggie burger now: something that holds together without needing a ton of bread crumbs, I figure, if I'm going to put these on a bun, I don't need bread already in the patty. And it needs to have other vegetables in it besides beans, and I probably won't be doing tofu of TVP anytime soon. So if I find something that works and I love, I will put it up here!

08 October 2009

Pumpkin Puree

I made my very own pumpkin puree for the first time today. We bought a small pie pumkin a week ago, and I've been trying to figure out what to do with it. I have all sorts of pumpkin recipes on top of the usual pumpkin pie. I am thinking of doing a different kind of custard with it, and I thought about cutting it into cubes for a soup or curry. And then I found a recipe online today for bean and pumpkin burgers that only calls for 1/2 cup, so if I made that I would probably still have plenty left over for some kind of dessert as well.

So here's the story. I decided to just puree the pumpkin instead of trying to do cubes or anything. But it's so hard to cut open squashes in a reasonable amount of time without injuring myself and making a huge mess. I know, because I just struggled with one the other day. So this time, as per a helpful hint (thank you Jenny, thank you Whitney!), I cooked it in the microwave for a few minutes before cutting it. I poked a bunch of holes it it first with a fork, just in case it's one of those things like an egg or a potato that explodes in the microwave if left whole. I nuked it for 4 minutes, which was probably a little long, but it was definitely effective; it was very easy to cut into quarters and remove the stem. The seeds came off of the stringy fibery stuff that they are attached to, but the stringy stuff was slipperier (is that a word?) than usual and it was hard to get it all out. I cooked it the rest of the way in the microwave because I read that it is fast and energy efficient, and I don't have to think or pay attention at all. I put it in a shallow dish with a little less than 1 cup of water, and covered it with plastic wrap. After 12 minutes on high power, it was very soft and falling off the skin. So far so good. I let it cool, and then I tried to puree it in the blender. That was a bad idea. The pumpkin didn't move up and down through the blender to puree all of it, it just sat in the same place. I added some of the cooking water, but that didn't help at all. It just sat there. I'd heard that you can make very smooth puree by pushing the pumpkin pulp through a sieve. So I did that instead. It took forever. Next time I want very smooth puree I will use a food mill. But that isn't even necessary to turn the pulp into a puree. You can pretty much just mash the pulp with a fork, until it is smooth enough to work in any recipe. So after 20 minutes of squishing pumkin through the sieve, I had a decent amount of very nice looking puree, but then it was very juicy, from all the water I'd used in the blender. I drained it in a sieve lined with a paper towel; now it looks quite nice. I think I'll have to freeze it until I find the recipe that I really really want to make.

Here's the bottom line: I'll use the very fine, smooth stuff for some kind of dessert, and the rougher stuff that I didn't put through the sieve because I got tired of it I will use for the burgers. The whole project was too tedious and time consuming, for such a small output. If I decide to do it again, I think I will do several pumpkins at once and freeze the puree. But if the burgers or any other pumpkin projects turn out exceptionally well, I will post them here!

06 October 2009

Peach and Ginger!

I finally got some great looking peaches and fresh ginger root and combined them in a pie, like I've been wanting to do for a long time. It was fabulous! I cannot describe just how much I liked it, so instead I'll give you the recipe and you'll have to try it, too. I hope you like it as much as I do. Sorry, no pictures this time.

Sensational Peach and Ginger Rustic Pie
4 large peaches
juice of one small lemon
1/2 inch chunk fresh ginnger
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch

chilled pie crust dough for a 1 crust pie

Poach the peaches in boiling water for a minute, then dunk in ice water, now the peels should slide off easily. Peel the peaches, cut into 8 pieces and place in a bowl with the lemon juice. Cut the ginger into pieces small enough to fit in a garlic mincer, mince it into the peach bowl. Mix the ground ginger with the sugar and mix with the peaches. Let set for at least 15 minutes, drain any accumulated juices into a small saucepan. Bring the juices to a boil, swirling them gently until they have reduced and carmelized somewhat. Meanwhile, gently mix the cornstarch through the peaches, making sure there are no clumps. Pour the reduced juices back over the peaches and mix again.
Now to assemble the pie: place the chilled pie crust dough on a lightly greased baking sheet. Arrange the peach slices in the middle of the crust, and fold the edge over so that there is about 2 inches of crust over the filling, and a you can see the filling in the middle. Seal the folds well so that the crust won't relax and fall apart as it bakes. Pour the juices into the middle of the pie. Chill the pie in the fridge while the oven preheats to 450, at least 30 minutes. If desired, you can brush the crust with milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar before baking, to make a shiny and sparkly crust. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is quite brown. Let the pie cool for at least 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.