Author Archives: amybisson

About amybisson

I taught second, third and fourth graders. Teaching was my passion and joy for 30 years. And it didn't hurt that they called me "mom" sometimes.

11 June 2017: “Best” Pea Soup Recipe

2017-Jun-11_FourNightsAWeek_0910One of the best things about travel for me is getting ideas about ramping up our food game. Last week, we were in New York City and landed a reservation at Bar Boulud. The prix fixe for the night included a bowl of chilled pea soup which was simple, fresh, and stunning. And no, that’s not the wine talking! This recipe from Mark Bittman reaches back to when he wrote the Diners Journal for the NYTimes comes very close; the flavoring at Bar Boulud was rosemary infused, but either rosemary or tarragon as suggested in Mark Bittman’s recipe makes this a great summer-time soup to start off a meal, or on its own.

Our reason for traveling to NYC this time was to see the Irving Penn Centennial exhibit at the Metropolitan. If you have a chance to get to NY before the show closes on July 30, 2017, by all means go! It is an amazing and inspiring show of Penn’s personal projects and more commercial endeavors.

Possibly the Best Pea Soup – Mark Bittman, NYTimes

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound shelled fresh sweet peas (I used WFM frozen; not a fan of shelling peas)
  • 1/2 TBSP chopped fresh tarragon*
  • 1/2 TBSP salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 1/4 cup half and half or light cream

*If adapting for Bar Boulud version, experiment with fresh rosemary here

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in soup pot. Add shallots and garlic and cook over medium heat until shallots are just wilted. Add 3 1/2 cups water, bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for 1/2 hour.
  2. Add peas, tarragon, salt and pepper and bring back to boil. Turn down heat and let simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cook to room temperature. Puree in a blender in batches until very smooth. Force through fine sieve into clean pot, discarding small amount of pea skins left in sieve. (I used my handy stick blender and left the skins in. They were pulverized and added a bit of texture to the soup)
  3. Stir in half and half and add salt if necessary to taste. Can be reheated and served hot or chilled and served cold. (Top with a dollop of creme fraiche and chives if you want to fancy this up)

11 May 2017 Tomato and Roasted Cauliflower Curry with Paneer

2017-May-11_Fournightsaweek_0685Long ago, I received Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone as a gift. It became one of my essential go-to cookbooks. So I was particularly excited to hear about Deborah Madison’s new book In My Kitchen. Because this is a brand, new publication, I have not included the recipe – trust me, you will want to purchase this book.

This new cookbook is also an excellent source of vegetarian recipes and cooking. In writing the book, Deborah Madison explains that some of the included recipes have changed because it is easier to obtain “unusual” ingredients.

That was somewhat true tonight, as we sampled Tomato and Roasted Cauliflower Curry with Paneer. As a curry dish, some of the ingredients – ghee, gara2017-May-11_Fournightsaweek_0703m masala, paneer –  are found of course in Indian markets, but they also can often be picked up in regular food stores.

The end product was a warming, vegetarian curry based in tomato sauce. The
combination of spices, onions, garlic not only made for a delicious meat-free meal, it filled our home with a beautiful, spicy aroma.

 

 


17-April-2017 To Go Breakfast Bars

2017-Apr-17_FourNightsAWeek_0638_edited-1Last week I was reading a NY Times food article on the subject of vegetarian and vegan cooking (The Hippies Have Won). In the middle of the article, was a reference to a blog and cookbook series, Thug Kitchen. No kidding, this was one of the most fun cookbooks I ever browsed through and since all the recipes were plant-based, well… it was a win for me. If profanity is a hang-up, you might want to just follow the sanitized version below, but if you want some real kitchen coaching, buy the damn book, cook from it and learn to eat healthier.

Here’s the recipe for a strawberry version which was posted on Thug’s website. My version was based solely on what I had in the house to use up. I’m pretty sure the Thugs would be okay with that.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup uncooked millet
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped mixed nuts or seeds (I used all almonds)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or similar dried fruit (I used half dates and half ginger – not the sugary stuff)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff, not corn syrup with maple flavoring)
  • 1/2 cup peanut or almond butter (I used Sunbutter)
  • 1/4 cup refined coconut oil or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white or brown sugar (I used brownish – Florida crystals)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grab a 9×13 inch baking dish and line with with parchment so some of the paper goes over the edge of the pan.  (Seriously, my mother reads this, so I’m leaving out the “good parts”).
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-low heat and add the oats, quinoa, and millet. Stir them all around until they start to smell toasted, about 3 minutes. While that is happening, combine the nuts and cranberries in a large bow. Pour in the all the toasted oat mix and the salt and mix together.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, peanut butter, oil, sugar and vanilla and warm until everything is melted. Make sure that the peanut butter is all mixed, and then remove from the heat. Pour this all over the dry mix and stir until everything is coated.
  4. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and press it down with a spoon (or a hand!) to even it out and make sure it is really in there. Throw it in the oven until it all looks toasted, 25-30 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature in the pan then throw it into the fridge. When it’s all nice and cold, cut into bars. They keep best in the fridge.

Now, go and buy the Official Cookbook and enjoy the ride and some great advice on plant-based.


10 April 2017: Mushroom Curry

2017-Apr-10_FourNightsAWeek_0619I love Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, really I do. And so, I when I came across a recipe on his website jamieoliver.com for Mushroom Curry, I decided to give it a whirl. I thought that navigating measurements in metric units would be my biggest challenge; however I have discovered that I don’t speak – and often don’t understand – the Queen’s English. Hob? Groundnut oil (according to Nigella Larson, that’s peanut oil)? 

The implementation of this recipe was a bit improvised. My local grocer did not have fenugreek or paneer. So I’ve left those out. What resulted was tasty if not true to the recipe which follows.

Ingredients

  • 500 g mixed mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 cm piece of ginger
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2-1 fresh red chili
  • 500 g ripe mixed color tomatoes
  • ground nut oil (I cook with coconut oil so that’s what I used)
  • 1 tsp Tumeric
  • 1 tsp fenugreek (left that one out)
  • 1 heaped tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped tsp medium curry powder
  • 1 TBSP mango chutney
  • 1 400 ml tin of coconut milk
  • 30 g paneer (left that out)
  • 400 g brown basmati rice
  • 2 limes
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F.
  2. Roughly cop some of the mushrooms, keeping the smaller ones whole and tearing up the rest. Tip into a large casserole dish and toast on the hob over a medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes until nutty and really golden. I interpreted this to mean toast in a large skillet (no oil) until the mushrooms are golden; no “hob” at this house.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the garlic, ginger and onion. Trim and finely slice the chili, then roughly chop the tomatoes.
  4. Add all of it to the pan except the tomatoes, then add 1 TBSP oil and all the spices. Toss for 2 minutes or until the spices are toasted and it’s smelling lovely, stirring continuously.
  5. Add the tomatoes, mango chutney, and coconut milk. Stir to combine and season well with sea salt and black pepper. At this point, I transferred what was in the skillet to a large casserole dish.
  6. Top with bits of paneer and place in the oven (no paneer so I just popped the casserole in the oven). Cook for 30 minutes or until all cooked through and gnarly.
  7. Meanwhile cook the rice according to package directions.
  8. Taste and season as required, adding a little lime juice as needed.
  9. Spoon the curry over the rice, then roughly chop the coriander leaves and scatter over the top. Cut the remaining lime into wedges for people to squeeze over the top.

02 April 2017 Yogi Tea

2017-Apr-02_FourNightsAWeek_0583I’ve become a huge fan of the site, Find What Feels Good and Yoga With Adriene over the winter months. If you haven’t discovered Adriene Mishler and her YouTube videos, I think you are really missing out on a great way to build a home yoga practice.  Adriene also shares “off the mat” tips and this morning her recipe for Yogi Tea popped up.  

While I enjoy an occasional cup of Chai, I like to forego the milk (or milk substitute) products and cut out sugars.  In my opinion, this tea was totally enjoyable as is without adding either milk or sweeteners. And it filled our home with a warm and spicy aroma. In the YouTube video, the explanation of why each ingredient was selected and how it might affect digestion is shared, but I just enjoyed the warmth and comfort from the brew.  I hope you do, too.

This recipe is the one I played with. It was posted on Organic Authority and adapted from Yoga Yoga. After you play with the recipe a bit, you can tweak the ingredient amounts suggested to suit your own taste.

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts water
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 20 whole cardamom pods (split the pods first)
  • 8 ginger slices (1/4 inch thick, no need to peel)
  • ½ teaspoon organic black tea leaves (I used 1 teabag)
  • Milk (dairy or non-dairy) to taste (my preference – didn’t use)
  • Honey to taste (my preference – didn’t use)

Method

  1. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil.
  2. Add cloves and boil for one minute.
  3. Add peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Cover and boil for 30 minutes (or longer).
  4. When ready, remove from heat, add black tea and let cool. Strain tea. (I added the teabag after boiling the spices together for about 3 minutes and then added the teabag, and steeped the tea at a low simmer for about 30 minutes).
  5. Add milk and honey to taste.

23 March 2017 Spinach, Tofu & Sesame Stir-Fry

2017-Mar-23_FourNightsA-Week_0522Recipe created by Martha Rose Shulman.

The New York Times Food and Cooking sections are a great resource for home cooks whether adventurous or not.  As a subscriber, I receive a couple of weekly newsletters from the Times and this one caught my eye for its simplicity.

This recipe, Spinach, Tofu and Sesame Stir-Fry, comes from Martha Rose Shulman, one of the Times regular contributors, popped up recently and turned out to be quite quick (15 minutes!) to prepare. (And a bonus for subscribers, the recipes can be stored online in a personal recipe box).

Ms. Shulman makes a couple of serving suggestions – one of which is to use the stir-fry as a pita filling. Next time, I’ll try that!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (I substituted coconut oil)
  • ½ pound tofu, cut in small dice (firm!)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  •  Soy sauce to taste
  • 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach, rinsed (use fresh, readily available)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

METHOD

  1. Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet or wok, and add the tofu. Stir-fry until the tofu is lightly colored, three to five minutes, and add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute, and add soy sauce to taste. Add the spinach and stir-fry until the spinach wilts, about one minute. Stir in the sesame seeds, and add more soy sauce to taste. Remove from the heat.
  2. Using tongs, transfer the spinach and tofu mixture to a serving bowl, leaving the liquid behind in the pan or wok. Drizzle with the sesame oil, and add more soy sauce as desired. Serve with rice or other grains, or noodles.  You may also use it as a filling for whole wheat pita bread.

Cornmeal-Lime Cookies

2017-Mar-12_fournightsaweek_0494Original Recipe found in: Chang, J. Flour: spectacular recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. (2010). San Francisco: Chronicle. p 118-119.

Joanne Chang says “Eat Dessert First” and frankly if my metabolism were a bit different, I would definitely follow that advice! Today I was looking for a cookie with a little bit of a spring hop to it (New England’s March weather is featuring 12-18 inches of snow starting in 24 hours). This delightful cookie has the crunch of cornmeal and the refreshing bite of limes.  I highly recommend Joanne Chang’s cookbook as Joanne offers lots of great baker’s tips to get things just right. And, if you’re in the Boston Metropolitan area, be sure to stop by one of the Flour Bakery’s cafe sites – be ready to be amazed.

Ingredients

For the cookie:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  •  2 TBSP finely grated lime zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup medium coarse yellow cornmeal (I used the polenta I had on hand)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

For Lime Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest

Method

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and paddle. Add the lime zest and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute to release the lime flavor. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. On low-speed slowly add the flour mixture and then mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.
  4. Drop the dough in scant 1/4-cup balls onto a baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment), spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes (I found I needed to pull the tray out at about 15 minutes, so keep your eye on the bake) or until the cookies are pale brown on the edges, still page in the center and just firm to the touch in the center. Be careful not to overbake the cookies and let the top brown. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool to room temperature or just a bit warmer before glazing.
  6. To make the glaze: while the cookies are cooling in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, water, lime juice and lime zest until smooth. Your should have about 1/2 cup.
  7. Brush the cookies with a thin layer of the glaze then allow the glaze to set for about 10 minutes before serving or storing.
  8. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 1 week (Trust me, bake the entire batch!).

Yield: 14-16 cookies


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