Archive for January, 2009


PPN has a new edition, and a new addition! The Skinny Gourmet, who is hosting this week’s edition of Presto Pasta Nights, went into early labor today, but found her inner blogger to still post this week’s best pasta party on the net from her laptop in her labor room. How special is that?!? Congratulations to her and her brand new bouncing baby boy!!

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This is a Roman dish, and while it is traditionally made with potatoes, I subbed yams for half of the potatoes to lighten up the carb load. A friend of mine recommended this recipe, and we really loved it. I subbed nondairy creamer for the half and half, plus I used a little less than what was called for. The crushed amaretti was the perfect finishing touch. Enjoy!

Asparagus and leek soup with crushed amaretti

3-4 leeks, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

4 tablespoons margarine

1 cup peeled, diced potatoes

1 cup peeled, diced yams

1 bunch asparagus, tender parts only, cut into 1″ pieces

1 1/2 quarts chicken broth

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup non dairy creamer

olive oil for frying leeks for garnish

4 amaretti cookies, crumbled

Cut leeks in half and wash well. Drain and cut them crosswise into thin slices. Reserve about 1/4 cup of leeks for frying.

In a large saucepan, melt margarine and saute leeks lightly. Add potato and yam cubes and saute about 4 minutes. Add asparagus, broth, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Use your immersion blender now to puree. Add nondairy creamer and simmer until mixture is warmed.

To serve, heat some oil in a small saucepan and fry leeks until crisp. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with crumbled amaretti and leeks. Makes 6 servings.

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I took the inspiration for this recipe from this post. It looked like the perfect dish for dinner tonight, and one that I could easily adapt and expand on, too. I didn’t have any mint leaves handy, so I used fresh basil instead. I subbed the parmesan cheese with soy parmesan, of course. And I added some grilled chicken. All in all, a five-star pasta dish. Enjoy!

Spicy roasted eggplant penne

1 eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1″ cubes

1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes

6 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

1 pound penne pasta

1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 boneless, grilled chicken breasts, sliced into bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts1/2 cup grated soy parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spread the vegetables on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Roast in oven until the vegetables are tender and eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water. Return pasta to pot.

Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor. Add the torn basil leaves and the olive oil. Pulse until the vegetables are pureed, but still somewhat chunky. Season to taste, as needed.

Transfer the vegetables and the chicken to the pot with the pasta, and heat gently to make sure everything is warmed through. Add the pasta cooking liquid as needed to thin the sauce. Serve with the toasted pine nuts and soy parmesan sprinkled on top. Makes 4-5 servings.

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A really delicious warmish salad to enjoy on a cold winter’s night. Adapted from Bon Appetit. Enjoy!

Eggs Benedict salad

5 thin bresaola slices (I had some leftover, although the recipe called for prosciutto)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 teaspoons white wine vinegar

9 ounces fresh spring mix salad (original recipe calls for frisee, but I had a 7 ounce bag of spring mix greens, to which I added some leftover baby spinach leaves)

1 1/4 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed

8 radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

4 large eggs

Hollandaise sauce  (1/2 the recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange bresaola slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool on sheet, then coarsely crumble.

Whisk oil and vinegar in a small bowl for the vinagrette. Season with salt and pepper. 

Combine the spring mix salad, edamame, and radishes together in a large bowl.

Prepare your hollandaise sauce.

Meanwhile, pour enough water into a large skillet to reach a depth of 1 1/2″. Add 1 teaspoon coarse salt and bring to a simmer. Crack 1 egg into each of 4 custard cups, keeping yolks intact. Gently slide eggs into simmering water. Cook just until whites are set, about 3 minutes.

Toss salad with the vinaigrette. Divide among 4 plates; sprinkle with the bresaola. Using a slotted spoon, carefully place an egg on each salad. Drizzle with hollandaise. Makes 4 servings.

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I liked this salad, but didn’t love it. I thought the combinations of flavors and textures would really “work” – this salad tasted good, but it just didn’t wow me like I thought it would. May have to work on it a little. I did make a couple of modifications from the original. Enjoy!

Asian pea salad with honeyed bacon (adapted from Food & Wine)

6 thick slices of turkey bacon

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

3 tablespoons pure olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce

1 tablespoon chile oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 pound snow peas, julienned

2 ounces snow pea shoots

1 cup edamame beans, shelled

2 tablespoons torn basil leaves

2 tablespoons torn mint leaves

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 8″ from the heat. Arrange the bacon slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. In a small bowl, stir together the honey, soy sauce and five-spice powder and brush liberally over the bacon. Broil for 10 minutes, turning once, until the bacon slices are browned and crisp. Transfer the bacon to a work surface and cut into 1/2″ slices. Let the bacon cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the lime juice, lime zest, fish sauce and chile oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the snow peas, pea shoots, edamame beans, basil, mint, and bacon and toss. Serve right away. Makes 4 – 6 servings.


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A friend offered two Portuguese soup recipes, the first caldo verde and the other was the one I made, caldo duarte. I know that verde means green, but I’m not sure about duarte. I do know that the verde soup was made with potatoes, and I wanted to go instead with the duarte, which used mainly sweet potatoes. In fact, mine used all sweet potatoes. I’ve made a few more modifications to the original, using bresaola instead of chorizo, and I also used baby spinach instead of the collard greens that the original recipe calls for. But a delicious soup, nonetheless. Enjoy!

Caldo duarte soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces sliced bresaola, cut into slivers

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise into slices 1/4″ thick

6 cups broth

2 cups water

freshly ground pepper to taste

10 ounces fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

(Note – I did not add salt to this soup, as the breasole is salted meat. Check flavors before salting)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over moderately low heat. Add onions and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes, until glassy. Add sweet potatoes and cook, stirring now and then, about 15 minutes or until nicely glazed.

Add broth, water, and pepper, bring quickly to a boil, then adjust heat so liquid barely bubbles. Cover and cook until potatoes are soft – about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Using a potato masher, mash the sweet potatoes right in the pot – they should be lumpy, not smooth. Add the bresaola to the pot, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach, cover and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes more. Adjust seasoning as needed. Makes 8 servings.

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At Cook Almost Anything blog, another edition of Presto Pasta Roundup is going strong. It looks so good, I can virtually taste it!

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I’m not a big fish eater, although I do enjoy occasional shellfish and I always like salmon. One thing I don’t care for is fish in soup. I know, call me crazy. But this recipe, from a friend, sounded too good to pass up on, so instead of fish I used TVP (texturized vegetable protein), which provided protein and a wonderful fullness that really completed this easy to make and hearty soup. Enjoy!

Vegetarian fish soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small fennel bulb, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

2 teaspoons fish seasoning

1 can diced tomatoes

2 small cans spicy V-8 juice

1 cup textured vegetable protein

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion in the olive oil til soft. Add the garlic and fennel, and continue to saute until softened. Add the wine. Then add the V-8, tomatoes, and fish seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and add the TVP. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve 4-6.

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I was lucky enough to find Meyer lemons in the market this week, and immediately started rummaging through my cookbooks and recipes to find something good to make with them. This recipe is an adaptation from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa At Home. I used lemon soy yogurt where real yogurt was called for, and I think it really added a lovely lemony taste – light and delicious. My cake sunk in the middle after I removed it from the oven. I tested it with my cake tester, which came out clean, but after I cut it (see photo below), it was ever so slightly not done in the very center. Not enough to ruin the delightful and sunny experience of this lemony cake in the middle of winter. Enjoy!

Lemon yogurt cake

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 containers of soy lemon yogurt, for a total of 10.5 ounces in this recipe

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 x 5 x 3″ loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Add in the poppy seeds and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/4 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.


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Courtesy of the NYTimes, this soup was surprisingly wonderful. It gets creamy, and yet has an extremely low fat content. No pureeing or mashing, just cook the zucchini down. Adding the egg is like magic – the soup takes on a beautiful, delicate thickening and body. The only modification I made was to use grated soy parmesan instead of the real thing. Enjoy!

Zucchini egg-lemon soup

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1/4 cup short grain rice

2 or 3 medium zucchini, shredded

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

2 eggs

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste

1/2 cup grated soy parmesan cheese

Put oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 2 or 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with oil, then continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add zucchini along with a light sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, until zucchini starts to wilt and release its liquid; add about half the parsley. When mixture starts to stick to bottom of pan, stir in 6 cups of water. Bring soup to a boil, and reduce heat so mixture simmers steadily. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until rice is tender and vegetables start to melt into soup.

Beat eggs in a 4-cup heat-resistant bowl, then whisk in the lemon juice. Take a ladle of broth from pot (be careful not to include too many vegetables) and slowly add broth to eggs, a few drops at a time at first, whisking constantly so eggs do not curdle. Repeat once or twice more, until egg mixture is thick, smooth and very warm.

Adjust heat so that soup bubbles gently. Slowly add egg mixture, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice, salt and/or pepper as needed. Serve immediately, garnished with remaining parsley and, if you like, cheese. Makes 4 – 6 servings.

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