The color red

I’m very blue.  I can’t discuss why but my blue demeanor is why there has been no activity on this blog for a while.  I’ll just leave it at that. No sense making everyone sad and worried.


Let’s talk about red.  Red is happy.  I made a sanguine risotto tonight.  I also sort of messed up on the recipe.  I bought the ingredients last Tuesday(!) and I was too upset to cook all week.  I didn’t grocery shop this weekend and when I went to figure out what there was to eat, I was amazed that the beets and basil I bought almost a week ago were in really good condition.  I was so excited that I didn’t let the food go bad that I didn’t follow directions.  I was using the recipe for Beet Risotto with Greens from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.  When I went shopping I made my first mistake.  I read the recipe as needing chard or the greens from the beets (I read an “or” not an “and”).  I was going to get both anyway but the chard looked bad.  I decided that the bunch of beets I got had more than enough greens for the recipe.  Then tonight, I misread that I was supposed to add chard (or ½ of those beet greens) with the rice and the rest of the beet greens towards the end.  The beet greens cooked down to a silky soft consistency that was really a pleasure to eat, but I can see where she was going with the recipe.  It might have been nice to have some greens with a chewy texture too.  Either way, this dish was super healthy and really satisfying to eat.


Beet Risotto

Accidentally adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison


5 ½ to 6 cups vegetable stock


1 tbsp butter


2 tbsp olive oil


½ of a large yellow onion, diced


1 ½ cups Arborio rice


½ cup dry white wine


2 tbsp chopped parsley


2 tbsp chopped fresh basil


3 – 4 medium beets peeled and grated in a food processor (about 2 cups)


4-6 cups beet greens (washed well to remove sand), chopped finely


Salt and pepper to taste


Grated zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon


½ cup parmagiano reggiano


Chive blossoms (optional)


Bring the stock to a boil and then leave simmering on the stove.  Heat the oil and melt the butter in a deep, wide pot.  Add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes until softened.  Add the rice.  Cook for one minute stirring to coat.  Add the wine.  Simmer until the wine is absorbed.  Stir in half the parsley, the basil, the grated beets and the beet greens.  Add 2 cups of stock.  Simmer, stirring until most of the stock is absorbed.  Add more stock ½ cup at a time stirring until the stock is absorbed.  Repeat the adding of stock, stirring and absorbing until you use up most of the stock.  When ½ cup of stock is left, taste the risotto to see if the rice is al dente.  If so you may not need more than 5 ½ cups of stock total.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the juice and zest of the lemon.  Serve dusted with cheese and garnished with the remaining parsley and chive blossoms if you have them.



Soufflé on a weeknight… are you nuts?

Am I nuts?  Well maybe.  But until I got to the cleanup part, it really wasn’t that bad.  Really.


How on earth did I manage to get the idea in my head that I could make a soufflé on a weekday during a time when I am working harder during the day then I ever have?  It all started last night.  No scratch that.  It all happened on Sunday if you really think about it.  But then again, it was probably Michael Pollan’s fault.  Who is that?  You mean that guy who wrote the Omnivore’s Dilemma?  That guy?  Well yeah.  I bought his new book:  In Defense of food: an eaters manifesto.  While not as engaging a read as OD, his new book was full of factoids.  Facts I know already because I read everything.  Facts that should make me a healthier person, that is if I paid any attention to the facts.  But I don’t.  This book opened my eyes to the fact that although I buy a lot of veggies, I am not so successful at getting them into my body before they melt down to a little smear in the bottom of my refrigerator’s crisper.  The fact that I am perfectly happy to cook healthy meals at home and then supplement these meals with god knows what at a restaurant.

Well.  I am trying to be better.  So I bought beets on Sunday.  I bought beets because beets are a bargain.  You get two veggies for the price of one (as long as you don’t let them melt in the fridge)!  You’ve got your sweet orbs of red, orange or yellow root for cooking or crunching up raw.  You’ve got your vitamin-enriched greens to eat like chard or kale.  This is a spectacular veggie that nobody is eating. 


Last night, I suddenly remember that I need to cook the greens before they melt.  I know how to make cooked greens taste pretty good but I wanted some inspiration.   I started leafing through the stacks of cookbooks.  I picked up Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  Yes!!  This has got to be the right book.  I found the recipe that would do it:  You boil beet greens for a couple of minutes and then sauté them in olive oil, sliced garlic and tomatoes.  Add a touch of dried oregano and top with Asiago (which I didn’t have so I used Parmesan).  I Plopped this ethereal mixture onto the top of a warm piece of leftover cornbread and I was in heaven.  It was the best thing I put in my mouth in a long time.


While I was looking for the beet recipe, I stumbled onto her soufflé section.  Ms. Madison has this recipe for Goat Cheese Soufflé with thyme that she follows with a half dozen veggie infused variations.  I couldn’t stop obsessing over the possibilities.  As you know, I am a sucker for the bonus meal, the meal you make that comes about from the serendipity of having just the right things in your kitchen that aren’t on a shopping list that becomes something really amazing.  I thought about this recipe all day while I was at work.  You see, I never thought I could make a soufflé because I don’t own the right dish to cook it in.  Deborah Madison cooks soufflés in a gratin dish.  I have a gratin dish; I could do this!!  I could finish up that little bit of cream from last week.  I have plenty of eggs.  I can substitute Rosemary for the thyme and green onions for the white onion slices, etc, etc.  My mind kept rewriting the recipe to suit my needs.  This would work!


Well. Let me tell you! You need to make a soufflé.  Even if it is a weeknight and you are tired.  It was that good.  It was flavorful and it had a texture that was both fluffy and lightly bready.


Being the crazy gal that I am, I made a salad of two lettuces, thinly sliced yellow beets, radishes, grated carrots, green onions, avocado, and blood oranges.  I also made homemade buttermilk dressing.  Aren’t you jealous I didn’t invite you over?  Well, I’m kinda peaved I didn’t invite you over because the kitchen was grotesque and I could have used your help cleaning!


The moral of this story is, read in Defense of food.  It will make you a better eater.  Make sure you have a copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  It is one of the best cookbooks I own.


Broccoli Cheddar Soufflé

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison


Butter for greasing the pan plus 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan for coating the dish

1 ¼ cups milk or cream or milk and cream (which is what I did)

Aromatics:  Rosemary (or thyme), fresh bay leaf (or dried), 3 2” pieces of green onion

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground pepper

Dash of cayenne

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 cup steamed and then finely chopped broccoli

½ cup sharp cheddar, grated

4 egg yolks

6 egg whites

Minced parsley and cilantro for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Butter an eight-cup gratin dish and coat the butter with the Parmesan.  Heat the milk/cream with the aromatics until it just boils then remove it from the heat and let it stand 15 minutes.  Remove the aromatics.


Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat until foamy.  Stir in the flour and cook over low heat for a few minutes (it should get thick and aromatic but don’t let it burn!).  Whisk in the milk all at once, stirring vigorously for a couple of minutes until it thickens.  Add salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard.  Mix well and remove from heat.  Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until well blended.  Fold in the broccoli and the cheese.


Beat the egg whites with a dash of salt until they form stiff peaks.  Mix a quarter of the egg whites into the soufflé mixture to lighten it up.  Fold the rest of the egg whites into the soufflé mixture being careful not to over mix and deflate your egg whites.  Transfer the soufflé from the mixing pan to the gratin dish.  Put the dish into the center of the oven and lower the heat to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 25 minutes until puffed and brown.  Serve immediately garnished with parsley and cilantro.



A cure for what ails ya

Work is stressing me out bad!  I felt like I was falling behind after being gone for weeks.  Then my coworker left to have her baby and I have had to pick up her duties as well as mine.  I have been working long hours and I haven’t been eating as well as I should.  I’m still cooking but in amounts that haven’t gotten us through the week and I have been relying on a lot of restaurant food for the past few weeks.  Such bad habits I have and they are too, too easy to fall back on! 


It is such a vicious circle.  I am stressed so I eat bad things which makes me tired so I don’t get any exercise so I get more stressed and more tired and eat bad things and so on and so and so on.


Yesterday, I decided to slow the merri-go-round I have been on and do some simple baking to go with something that feels so restorative to eat.  I made a very whole-wheat version of my sourdough pitas to go with some sun dried tomato hummus.  The pitas contained the usual white flour starter I have cultivated but the dough was entirely whole-wheat flour aside from a half cup of white flour.  The bread came out very hearty but scrumptious.  The hummus was my take on a hummus I sometimes buy at Trader Joes.  The hummus from TJs is quite sweet.  Mine has a fuller flavor due to using the oil from the sun dried tomatoes and a healthy dose of Aleppo pepper.  Aleppo pepper is a Middle Eastern pepper that has a nice heat and a complex flavor.  It truly complements the sweet tomato flavor in this hummus.  If you can acquire some, make sure to use it in this recipe.  As an alternative, cayenne in a smaller amount will do just fine.


Eating these two homemade goodies together made me feel happy and very restored.  I’m not sure if it was the fiber and minerals in the garbanzo beans or calcium in the tahini or vitamin C from the garlic and lemon juice or the antioxidants in the olive oil or the lycopine from the sun dried tomatoes but this snack was definitely a cure for what was ailing me!


Sun Dried Tomato Hummus


2-3 cloves of garlic

½ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained

3 tbsp olive oil from the jar of sun dried tomatoes

1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans

Salt to taste

6 tbsp tahini

Juice of one lemon

½ tsp Aleppo pepper or a dash or two of cayenne to taste

Liquid from garbanzo beans as needed


In a food processor, chop the garlic.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and pulse until the tomatoes are finely chopped.  Measure out 3 tbsp of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and add the oil to the tomatoes and garlic.  (Add more olive oil to your jar of tomatoes to replace the oil you took and cover the tomatoes so that they don’t spoil).  Drain the can of garbanzos in a sieve over a bowl.  Reserve the liquid from the beans.  Add the beans, lemon juice, tahini and Aleppo pepper to the bowl of the food processor.  Process until mostly smooth.  Add liquid from the beans a tablespoon at a time with the processor running until the hummus is a smooth consistency.  I used about 5 tbsp of liquid.  You may use more or less depending on the texture you like for your dip.  Taste the hummus and add salt to taste, pulsing a couple of times to mix.  Enjoy with fresh pitas.