This simple stew draws on the characteristic flavors of Provence: tomatoes, basil, olives, olive oil, and garlic. An inexpensive meat variation was traditionally prepared by French peasants in an earthenware casserole dating back centuries ago, but it’s delicate, easily adaptable flavors have remained popular today. This hearty stew pairs well with some grilled bread or can be poured over your choice of pasta. It works very well with almost any vegetable, making it a popular vegan dish in my house!
RUSTIC PROVENCIAL VEGETABLE STEW
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 large red onion, sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
1 lb vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly diced
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
2/3 cup pitted nicoise olives
2 Tbs parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Hear the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic, coriander, and thyme and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fennel and pepper and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomatoes, olives, vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 30 minutes. Top with fresh parsley and serve warm!
Brunch for four turned into a child safari this past weekend as we hosted our first “adult” brunch in over a month – meaning, we made something with garlic and put out cloth napkins. As per our usual start to Sunday mornings, we began with a pot of strong coffee and Deadmau5. After herding our two boys to the table, we actually managed to eat food on plates, remain in our chairs and share complete stories for about seven blissful minutes. And then abruptly, there was more food was on the floor than on anybody’s plates as Asher announced he was DONE and Everett stubbornly stood up in his high chair after unbuckling his safety belt and my husband and I scrambled around alternatively picking up each child, wiping oily fingers, and placing them at enticing toy stations in hopes that they would entertain themselves for just a minute without choking on a Lego or making stabbing motions with their plastic Chefs knives from the toy kitchen. How dare we adults enjoy ourselves and sit on our butts when there is so much wreckage to be done?
And so, with an apologetic smile and a good-natured laugh, we respectfully invited our brunch guests to join us upstairs to play in Asher’s room. And thus began the two-hour process of slowly upturning and investigating every room of the house which included; playing in Asher’s circus tent while Everett took a nose dive into the empty bath down the hall, settling in small uncomfortable nooks in the hallway as the kids practiced walking backwards, watching in horror as Asher threw all our dirty laundry out of the hamper, playing catch with a bouncy ball in the master bedroom, changing several diapers in the middle of the floor, and nestling in the den to watch three episodes of “Batman”. And throughout the madness of it all, our very dear and very patient friends Adam and Alexia never politely excused themselves with an undertone of “… NEVER AGAIN…”
And so today I am grateful. Grateful for friends. Grateful for flexibility. Grateful for my husband who is willing to listen to our toddler scream all day long that he ONLY wants mommy, and grateful for pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company which makes it all worth while. So come join us for our next Child Safari brunch, or host your own with today’s simple recipe for Bruschetta Pasta!
1 pound of linguine pasta (my photo depicts angel hair)
1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes soaked in water for 15 minutes
4 large Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 cup medium green olives, pitted
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until blended but still chunky. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook 8 minutes. Drain well then combine with tomato mixture and toss until the pasts is coated.
I’m all jazzed up this week because I just purchased the Breville JE98XL and am delving into the wonderful messy world of juicing. My goal is to increase my family’s nutrition intake, beat off the winter blues, and fight off this plague that has kept me on antibiotics, nasal spray and an inhaler for the first time since I was in grade school.
Weeeeell this morning I made the mistake of making beet juice for my 3-year-old. At the same time that the bright red substance projected through Asher’s straw onto the floor, Everett fell backwards while pushing his plastic shopping cart, biting his tongue hard enough that blood poured out of his mouth. At that precise moment our house alarm went off. Our unfortunate nanny had opened the front door, unbeknownst that we had changed the alarm setting to the “silent for 10 seconds then all hell breaks loose”, which then caused the fattest of our three cats to jump the baby gate onto the stair landing, knocking over almost everything within a two-mile radius.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m kind of digging soups and juices this week. I am especially proud of this Cashew Tomato Basil Soup I created based on a simpler recipe that called for cream and chicken stock. Boo! The rich creamy cashew puree and the fresh pop of thyme combined with the roasted tomato basil base is simply put – spectacular. Spectacular enough to take my mind off the beet stain. For now.
CASHEW TOMATO BASIL SOUP
1 1/2 cups whole raw, unsalted cashews
3 lbs Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise (or any tomatoes you find on sale!)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced (approximately one bunch)
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
Place 1 1/2 cups of cashews in a bowl of water and soak for at least 12 hours. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread tomato halves onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast tomatoes for about 1 hour. During the last 3 to 4 minutes, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler to get a bit of roasted char on the tomatoes. While tomatoes are in the oven, add a generous dollop of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and basils, then season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Pour 2 cups of water and then roasted tomatoes into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Drain cashews from their water and add to the soup. Using a hand blender, puree the soup for 5 or 6 minutes until a rich creamy consistency.
I never thought to pair the strong flavour of spicy cinnamon with tangy lemon, let alone in a savory soup dish. But since discovering this zesty recipe for Red Lentil and Chard Soup from Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi, I am now a believer. Ottolenghi intrigues me as a chef because he is known as a champion of vegetable-based dishes even though he is not a vegetarian. He blends the ingredients of his native Israel with unexpected flavours from the Middle East and East Asia in a very unapologetic and bold way, and many of these recipes can be made with 10 ingredients or less which I especially love. One simple pasta recipe in his famed vegetarian cookbook “Plenty” calls for the home cook to “roughly tear” mozzarella into the pot rather than the traditional “dice” or “cube”. Now that’s my kind of cooking!
This surprising dish can easily be made in one soup pot and a saute pan, and I have changed it up from the original recipe to remove the butter as I didn’t find that it made a huge impact on the overall flavor of the soup, and I thought it would be best showcased as an upscale vegan dish. I have also removed a few steps from the original recipe to simplify the preparation. I imagine you can spend $15 for a bowl of this soup at one of his upscale London restaurants, but you can make a huge pot for the same price at home and it would be a great dinner party opener.
RED LENTIL CHARD SOUP
7oz Red Lentils
8 cups water
2 Red Onions chopped finely
1lb Swiss Chard, leaves roughly chopped and stalks chopped the same size as the onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
scant 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, whole or crushed
Juice of 3 lemons
A handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Rinse the lentils well and place in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 25 minutes; removing any scum that rises to the surface. While the lentils are simmering, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a sauce pan and add the garlic and coriander seeds and saute for 3-4 minutes. I like the crunch of whole coriander in a dish, but crushed seeds would probably be more palatable. Then add the red onions and chard stalks and cook until they start to brown. Add theis mixture to the pot of lentils. Using a hand blender, pulse the soup in the pot for 20-30 seconds until it is partially pureed but still has some nice chunks from the chard and onions. Add about two handfuls of chopped chard leaves and stir well, then add the cinnamon and cumin and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Gently heat the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Finally squeeze in the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the soup infuse with the flavours for another few minutes before serving with a lemon wedge and some cilantro leaves. It is best served with a side of sourdough bread.
Two things happened this week. It snowed. And Asher had his first haircut. Both were unpleasant experiences, but mercifully short-lived and the results were admittedly delightful!
As a result of the cold weather, I decided to make a Thai coconut soup with fresh spring rolls for dinner and was blown away at how EASY the spring rolls were to make. Seriously. They had a lovely freshness from the mint and basil, balanced with the crunchy colorful vegetables and the flavorful dipping sauces.
I just stocked up on chili garlic sauce ($2), plum sauce ($2), rice paper rolls ($2), extra firm tofu ($1.50) and some crunchy fresh veggies totalling my cost at under $10 for several night’s worth of spring rolls. My only gripe is the prep work in julienning and dicing, but it was a one-time task while Asher and Everett played in their toy kitchen and now my little Virgo heart is singing at all the organized containers in the fridge for the week!
THAI VEGETABLE SPRING ROLLS
Rice paper rolls
English Cucumber, julienned with skin on
Romain lettuce, thickly shredded
1 bag carrots, peeled and julienned
1 bunch cilantro, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch mint, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh Thai basil (or regular basil), washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 container of Extra Firm Tofu (prepared as per my earlier post Roasted Tofu Special Treat)
Lay out a clean dish dowl on the counter. Soak once rice paper roll in a bowl with warm water for 30 seconds, then remove and lay falt on the dish towel to rest for 30 seconds. Evenly distribute a medium pinch of lettuce, mint, basil, and cilantro in the middle of the square. Top with carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts and tofu – but don’t overfill! Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed from one end to the other leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the left and right sides inward like a burrito, then fold bottom over and complete rolling the remaining half. I found that the rice paper rolls tend to stick to counter tops, so it was helpful to peel them off the dish towel and try to get a tighter roll. These can also be made a day ahead, just wrap in fridge and cover with a wet paper towel to keep moist overnight.
Also, for those that are following Weight Watchers these are only 2 points each. Can I get an “Oh yeah”
Well folks, it happened. Asher turned 3! The day before his birthday party we decided to visit the Kohl Children’s Museum where within the first hour he stumbled off one step from an exhibit, grabbed his leg crying, and screamed all the way downtown to the hospital. Where we strapped him down for x-rays. Where we learned that he had fractured his leg. And bandaged him up amongst a sea of doctors. While my mother stayed in the ER waiting room with our 8-month old, Everett. Then we found out we would need to give him sponge baths for a month. And I cried. And then we debated whether we should continue with the birthday celebrations. When I decided that a $70 pre-ordered cake is reason enough to continue with the partry. And then the next day, despite his pain and exhaustion and our lack of sanity, we celebrated anyway with a glorious Curious George-themed birthday party complete with cake, decor, party favors, and all of Asher’s favorite people in the world at his favorite playroom Kid City. Well it was a huge success, and Asher was so happy!
I will joyfully bookend this story with the fact that they now make water-proof casts.
When my mother arrived from Los Angeles that weekend I had to throw together a quick post-airport arrival dinner, and I opted for this delicious and easy Asian Salad which can be made up to a day in advance without the dressing. I opted for the Trader Joe’s Asian Dressing but you can also make your own salad dressing.
1 head Napa cabbage, roughly diced
1 bunch cilantro, roughly diced
1 bunch radishes, quartered
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 bag frozen shelled edamame, thawed
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
Pinch of salt
Birthday morning snuggles
After four hours of a naked toddler “potty party” as raved about on the internet, which included an obscene amount of salty toddler snacks and apple juice last Friday, we finally managed to get Asher to pee in his potty! It took three accidents on the carpet and an episode of “Curious George” while he sat naked on the potty for 26 minutes, but hey it’s a step in the right direction. He still talks about our little “potty party” which was enjoyed by exactly no one, and when we ask if he wants to have another party he simply says “NAH, maybe after tomorrow.”
So today’s recipe I share NOT because it is impressive or even original, I share it because it is easy to prepare when you are having a day of insurmountable exhausting tasks like my whole weekend felt. You’ll be grateful because it lasts in the fridge for a few days, and it’s a healthier dinner option that tastes like deep dish pizza that your whole family can enjoy.
2 medium eggplants
32 oz tub of part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded skim mozzarella
1 bunch of chopped basil
1 bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 jar of marinara sauce
Olive oil spray
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the two ends off the eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange on two baking sheets, then spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt to remove moisture and bitterness from the eggplant. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, in large mixing bowl add ricotta, mozzarella, basil, spinach and garlic and about 1/3 jar of marinara. You can use a hand blender to smooth the texture of the cheese stuffing or leave as is. Place 1 tablespoon of cheese stuffing onto one end of an eggplant slice and roll in your hand. This might be messy! Line them up immediatly after rolling in 13 x 9 casserole dish, then top with remaining marinara and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes.