Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas are a weeknight meal sure to please. With protein from rich, dark kidney beans, these satisfying quesadillas can be on the table in less than an hour. Served up with a quick, fresh guacamole, it’s the answer to “What’s for dinner?”

This is casual dining in the best tradition. Just as a great falafel sandwich will ooze down your hand as you eat all of its yummy goodness, so too do these quesadillas. Do NOT eat this wearing your favorite silk blouse or shirt!

I came across this recipe while watching a lovely Australian vlogger living in Tuscany. While we may not have been able to travel during the pandemic, I get my “fix” watching this lyrical vlog. As soon as I saw Kylie Flavell make these Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas, I knew that I had to try them. And because most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it didn’t require a major excursion to the market. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe so if you need to swap out one ingredient for another, your results will likely still be delicious.

This recipe easily would feed four people, but it could also be doubled or halved. While I did use cheese, making my quesadillas vegetarian, it is vegan-friendly. Just leave the cheese out or use a vegan cheese as an alternative. The cheese does act as a kind of binder, holding everything together, so I personally recommend it. I have successfully made this with goat cheese and with a “Mexican” blend of cheeses.

And though you could use any kind of tortilla, by choosing a whole-grain option, you are increasing the nutrition quotient, while adding some additional flavor. My tortillas were 7.5-inches in diameter, but smaller or bigger ones can be used. Simply adjust how much filling you put inside. While tempting to overstuff these – don’t. The final quesadilla is surprisingly filling and too much filling will completely ooze out.

Now you could use a different bean, but dark red kidney beans are readily available, very nutritious, flavorful, inexpensive and have just the right amount of heft to give these a great mouthfeel.

Almost any cheese would work as long as it is one that gets melty. And while I used a sweet potato for added color, flavor, heft and nutrition, you could easily use butternut or other winter squash in its place. So the next time you are looking for something quick, delicious and nutritious to make in about 45 minutes or less, consider these great quesadillas.

Recipe

Delicious Nutritious Veg Quesadillas

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 medium red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 teaspoon each: salt, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, paprika (preferably smoked Spanish paprika)

Generous pinch of ground cinnamon

About 3 Tablespoons of EVOO or Canola

1 large bell pepper – red, orange or yellow, diced (You could use green – I just am not partial to them)

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

15 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes with their liquid, preferably fire roasted

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

About 4 to 6 ounces of shredded or cut up cheese or to taste, if using

For fresh guacamole or avocado smush

2 large ripe avocados, with the flesh placed in a bowl and mashed with a fork

Juice of 1/2 to 1 fresh lime, depending on taste

kosher or sea salt to taste

freshly cracked black pepper

8 whole wheat or other type of tortillas

Directions

Heat the oven to 420 degrees F. and place the oven rack about 6 inches from the top. Drizzle about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of oil across the bottom of a sheet pan. (I only needed a quarter sheet pan this time. It should be large enough to hold all of the diced sweet potato in a single layer without crowding.)

Place the diced sweet potato on the pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the cinnamon and using your clean hands, mix together the sweet potato, oil and seasonings. Place in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes. The sweet potato should be cooked, with some browning, but not dried out.

Meanwhile, place 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté until the onion begins to soften and turn translucent. Add the remaining spices and mix through, blooming the spices, for about 30 seconds.

While the onion cooks, lightly mash the drained kidney beans. You don’t want a puree. Some beans can even be left whole. Add the beans, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, diced bell pepper and about 3/4 cup of water to the onion mixture. Stir well and allow to cook on simmer while the sweet potato roasts. This can be done ahead if you wish. Just gently heat it through when you are ready to assemble the quesadillas.

When you are ready to assemble, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a clean frying pan, place either a little neutral oil like Canola or spray with a cooking spray. Heat the pan and add the tortillas one at a time. Heat until both sides have become warm and speckled with brown spots. Turn once. Place the tortilla onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Spoon 1/4 of the bean mixture over one tortilla. Then place 1/4 of the sweet potato chunks on top of that and add your desired cheese. I tend to use a light hand with the cheese, but it’s personal preference. Place a second tortilla on the top of everything and gently press down with the flat of your hand. Drizzle lightly with EVOO.

After you make all of the tortillas, place the pan in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Carefully remove the tortilla to a cutting board and using a large knife, cut each tortilla into 4 pieces. Don’t worry if a little filling oozes out. Just shove it back in!

Serve with the guacamole and have a napkin on hand! Enjoy!

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup is the cure for the autumn drears that I need NOW! Easy comfort food in a single pot. Fall can be the most beautiful season. The trees are sporting their colorful adornment before the leaves dance off until the spring. The days can be beautifully crisp and clear, making walks in forest preserves a delight. OR, it can be grey, dreary and damp like it has been this whole week, making getting out of bed a major achievement.

These are the days that make me hunker down, burying my head in a good book with a pot of delicious soup bubbling on the stove. This easy Lasagna Soup gives me everything I need to conquer the drears. And it can be vegan or beefy and cheesy or something in between, made with ground turkey. With just a few swaps (included below) this comforting soup can make anyone happy. I mean, who doesn’t love a good lasagna – in a fraction of the time?!

I love a good lasagna and my mother made one of the best. But even with the no-boil lasagna pasta now available, it’s still a bit of a production. This soup won’t replace lasagna when I have the time and inclination to make it, but it definitely gives me a lot of that satisfaction in a much easier, quicker format.

When deciding to make this soup, I checked out a bunch of different recipes. It’s one of those things that wasn’t there a week ago and now is EVERYWHERE. Since most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it’s the kind of thing that can be made without a run to the grocery store. And thanks to the pandemic, don’t most of us have great pantries and a few things like ground beef, turkey or vegan crumbles in our freezers?

So if you are ready to rise above the autumn drears or simply just want a bowl of warming comfort, give this a try.

Recipe

Lasagna Soup

Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients

Lasagna Soup

1 Tablespoon of EVOO

1 large yellow onion, peeled and medium diced

2 to 4 garlic cloves (I use 4), peeled and minced

4 cups of broth (Vegan, chicken or beef)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

24-ish ounces of marinara sauce OR 24 to 28 ounces of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

1.5 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil, onion powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or to taste

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

13 ounces (390 g) soy veggie crumbles or vegan ground “meat” or 1 pound of ground beef or turkey

About 3 cups of roughly diced fresh mushrooms (button, baby bellas or cremini (They lend umami and great mouthfeel, especially if you are going with the vegan version.)

8 to 10 ounces of dried lasagna or Gigli pasta

About 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach (Optional but recommended) or thawed frozen spinach with extra liquid squeezed out

Lasagna Soup

Optional Garnishes

If you are not making this vegan, you can add a dollop of ricotta cheese or parmigiana before serving.

Ribbons or torn fresh basil leaves or chopped flat-leaf parsley

A few chili flakes if you want this spicier

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until just becoming golden, about 7 minutes. If the onion seems to be sticking you can add a splash of water or red wine to deglaze.

Once the onion is golden, add the garlic, tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. (If using, you could also add the chili flakes here instead of as a garnish.)

Next add the ground meat or meat substitute along with the mushrooms, if using and cook for about 5 minutes or until much of the mushroom moisture evaporates. The mushrooms add a “meatiness” of their own. My mushrooms were very fresh and actually had almost no additional moisture, so I cooked them down enough to just begin to soften.

Lasagna Soup

Add the marinara sauce or canned tomatoes, vinegar and the broth. Bring everything to a boil and then add the noodles. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the noodles are al dente. Stir in the spinach until wilted, if using. Remove from the heat, garnish and enjoy! A great crusty garlic bread or focaccia and some nice red wine wouldn’t go amiss.

NOTES:

This recipe will produce a wonderful cross between a thick soup and a saucy pasta. If you have left-overs, you likely will need to add some liquid when you go to reheat it. We are not vegan so I did serve the soup with some real cheese. However, I have been googling and there are a number of pretty simple recipes for all kinds of vegan cheeses should you wish to go that route and they are not readily available in your local stores. Some are made with cashews and others with soy milk. Some day, simply out of curiosity, I may try one or two.

Tuna Puttanesca

When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Well, we had four easy winters so I really can’t complain – too much. But this winter has seesawed between a polar vortex and just plain dreary and wet. So going shopping – even when it is from my garage to the supermarket’s – holds little to no appeal. This pasta tuna puttanesca is the perfect answer because it is made almost entirely from pantry staples. And the best part is that it can be thrown together in under an hour.

Good for Your Health and Your Budget

We all know that it is healthier and more budget-friendly to cook at home than to order in or go out. This dish is so flexible and so quick to prepare that it can feed a crowd or a couple. There is no need to buy fancy canned tuna, although it’s certainly fine if you do. Use what you have on hand or would normally buy. Whether you like tuna packed in olive oil or water – chunk “light” or albacore – it all works.

This pasta dish is low in fat, high in flavor. Make it as puttanesca-like and spicy as you like or add just enough hot pepper flakes to tickle your taste-buds. If you have fresh parsley – great. And if you don’t, it will still be good. However, you do need a flavorful pitted olive (I usually use pitted Kalamatas myself) and I personally think that briny capers are a must. Mario Batali said that you should never use cheese on pasta dishes with fish or seafood. It may be breaking one of the sacraments of Italian cooking, but
I happen to like cheese with fish. There is no judgment here. I leave that decision in your capable hands.

So Easy!

Don’t even measure. I will give you some measurements below, but please use them only as a guide. If you want more tuna, use more. More olives – go for it. If you really enjoy anchovies, they can be added when you are browning the onion and garlic. The anchovy will break down, again adding a bit of briny flavor.

Let’s Get Started

Ingredients for Dinner for 4-6 People

  • 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 12 ounces of canned tuna, drained
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 28 ounces (or 2 smaller cans) of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
  • 2 Tablespoons good quality tomato paste
  • About 1 Tablespoon, finely chopped garlic
  • About 6 ounces coarsely chopped, flavorful pitted olives
  • 1-2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2-3 strips of anchovy, drained (optional)
  • Hot pepper flakes and salt, to taste (you can always add more but you can’t remove it once added)
  • 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water
  • One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and divided in 2 parts
  • 13 ounces to 1 pound of a firm pasta like a penne or rigatoni, preferably rigate (with ridges)

Directions

  1. Heat a large pan and add the EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the edges are just beginning to brown. Add the anchovy, if using, It will break down, melting into the EVOO and garlic.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir through.
  3. Add all of the ingredients (half of the parsley) except for the starchy pasta water. Mix through and cook on simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. This can be made ahead and reheated or made right before eating while the pasta cooks.
  4. When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta according to directions. Just before the pasta is al dente, remove 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the puttanesca sauce. Stir through and continue cooking while you drain the pasta.
  5. Toss the drained pasta into the pan of sauce (if the pan is large enough) or pour the sauce over the pasta when you serve it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and grated Reggiano Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano or Asiago cheese, if desired. I like to serve a salad alongside, but if your fridge is bare, this will satisfy on its own.

Arroz Con Pollo – Chicken with Rice

img_2654I have eaten many wonderful versions of paella in my lifetime – those that others have made and paella that I have made. It was a favorite dish from my mother’s repertoire. But sometimes I want something just as good but a bit simpler – no seafood and no sausage. I turn to Arroz Con Pollo or Chicken with Rice. This is a dish that can easily be made for a weeknight dinner and the only exotic ingredient is saffron. Most everything else you would have in your pantry or could easily pick up at most grocery stores or a good bodega. When you think you have just about had as much chicken as you can stand, give this wonderful dish a try. To turn any weeknight special, serve this with a hearty Spanish red wine. It just might renew your love for that old clucker!

Arroz Con Pollo

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs, bone-in but skin removed (This is easily accomplished using paper towels to grab off the skin in one good pull.)

4 to 5 chicken drumsticks, skin removed

About 3 to 4 Tablespoons of EVOO

1 Spanish onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large Cubanelle pepper cut into large dice (If you cannot find this dark pepper you can use a banana pepper)

8 to 10 large green olives stuffed with pimento

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Kosher Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

About 2.5 cups of chicken broth or water

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

1 roasted red pepper from a jar, rinsed and thinly sliced into strips

Directions

  1. In a large heavy skillet with straight sides and a tight-fitting lid (I like my cast iron Lodge pan) that will hold all of the chicken pieces in one layer, heat the EVOO until it just begins to ripple but not smoke.
  2. Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces and brown them in the oil on all sides (about 8 minutes). Remove the chicken to a platter and keep nearby.
  3. Add the chopped Cubanelle pepper and the onion to the pan, adding more oil if necessary, stirring to soften. Add the cumin and cloves and the olives and some additional salt. (Remember that the olives have salt so go easy.) Once everything has begun to soften and the spices are giving off a lovely aroma, add the rice, tomato paste and the crumbled saffron, mixing well. You want all of the grains of rice to be coated with the oil and seasonings.img_2650img_2651
  4. Pour in enough liquid (stock or water) to cover the rice by a couple of inches. Add 1/2 of the chopped cilantro and mix through. Bring everything to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling rapidly, add back the chicken pieces, coating them in the liquid which has taken on the color of saffron. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes and then gently stir through the defrosted peas and garnish with the strips of red pepper. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes with the heat turned off. This will be enough to heat through the peas and red pepper without over-cooking them. Garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro. img_2652

Chicken Tortilla Soup

img_2423The weather this week has mostly been incredible – sunny, breezy and highs in the low 60s. It’s November – and this is Chicago! My husband and I took a 9 mile walk along the lakefront yesterday and ran into the New Zealand All Blacks and the Irish rugby team fans heading for a championship game at Soldier Field. Ireland won. Rugby. Who knew?

Today is another gorgeous day and I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, but I do want something to top off an incredible week. After a stunning win by the Cubs and an all-out citywide party something bland just wasn’t going to cut it. I decided to make a chicken tortilla soup. I had made one last week for the first time and while it showed promise, it just was lacking. So what follows is my version.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil like a Canola oil

2 small or 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped into a small dice

2 Tablespoons minced garlic

2 large jalapenos (about 2 Tablespoons) , finely chopped

6 cups of chicken stock

14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

26.5 ounce (or two 14.5 ounce cans) black beans, drained and rinsed well

15.5 ounce can corn kernels, preferably fire roasted or about 2 cups (you can use frozen or fresh corn if you prefer)

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 medium size breasts)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons chili powder (I like the one from Rancho Gordo)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

Juice of 2 fresh limes

1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

2 flour tortillas (I used whole wheat) cut into thin strips and fried in 2 Tablespoons of oil (I used Grapeseed oil because of its neutral taste and high burning point)

Lime wedges for garnish

Jalapeno slices from a jar or can (optional)

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Directions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium stockpot. Add the onions and cook until softened and just beginning to brown at the edges.
  2. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for another minute
  3. Add the tomatoes, spices and salt and stir through. Then add the beans and the stock.
  4. Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 25 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, carefully remove it from the pot. Shred it using 2 forks to pull the meat apart. This is much easier to do if the meat is hot. Once the chicken cools, it becomes more firm and shredding is more difficult.
  5. Add the lime juice and corn to the pot and add back the chicken. The soup can be prepared ahead up to this point. When ready to serve, heat everything all the way through. Garnish with the avocado, cilantro, cheese, tortilla strips and lime wedges. If you want a bit more heat, you can add some sliced jalapenos from a jar or can. img_2422

Shrimp and Arugula Avocado Pesto Pasta

We don’t tend to eat pastas that often, but when we do, we try to go for interesting flavors.  I’m always also looking for easy recipes that I can throw together in the evenings after work, and this concept was recommended to me by a friend at work.

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I came home to assemble it and it tasted like one of the healthiest pastas I’ve ever had!  Plus it helped that it had one of my favorite ingredients, shrimp!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for sauce, 2-3 tbsp olive oil for cooking shrimp
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 2 avocados

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook linguine according to box instructions (usually about 13 minutes).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, toss the shrimp with the paprika, about 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.
  3. In a large skillet, spread some olive oil and when hot, add the shrimp.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the shrimp has lost the translucent color.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor, add the arugula, avocado, and olive oil and pulse and puree until creamy.  Feel free to add more olive oil if you want a thinner sauce.
  5. Once the pasta has been cooked, drain and return to pot.  Add in the sauce and stir all together.  Add the parmesan cheese here, as well and stir.
  6. Serve onto shallow pasta bowls and place shrimp on top.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Vegan Stir Fry That Even Non-Vegans Will Like

img_2175Some nights even someone who likes to cook is just stumped. My car is in the shop, so I am limited as to how many groceries I can carry home. Since I almost always have a good supply of vegetables and some extra firm tofu around, I thought why not do a stir fry? I quickly looked online and found this recipe which I played with and decided for a little decadence to make some vegan coconut rice to go alongside. After speaking with Frances’ mother recently, I decided to mix my rice up a bit and added dried moong beans to the rice. This may be more South Asian than stir fry Asian, but I’m a big believer in not being totally bound by tradition, and am willing to mix it up a bit, taking the best from complimentary cuisines. And please don’t tell Frances’ mother, but I am not nearly as big a fan of sticky rice as I am of Basmati rice, so my other heresy is to use that to accompany my stir fry!

While I used fresh tofu for this recipe, there is decent shelf stable tofu available so you can always have some on hand for a quick dinner. Cooking the tofu this way gives it a wonderful bite and mouth-feel. This dish was deliciously sweet and spicy and very, very satisfying. I used what I had on hand, but don’t be afraid to play with the mix of vegetables. And if you want to keep it simple or lower in calories, make plain, sticky rice.

Tofu Vegan Stir Fry with Coconut Rice adapted from the Minimalist Baker

Yield: 2 generous portions

Ingredients

Stir Fry

One 14-ounce package firm or extra firm tofu

2 cups roughly chopped green beans ( I used the French haricot verts and just cut them in half)

1 cup each sliced carrots and sweet bell peppers

4 large mushrooms, sliced (I used Cremini, but almost any kind will do)

2 Tbsp peanut oil for sautéing

Toasted sesame oil for drizzling

Possible garnishes

Finely chopped scallions (optional)

Lightly toasted cashews (optional)

Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Sauce

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

1 rounded teaspoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon granulated or demerara sugar

1 Tbsp agave, maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)

2 Tbsp cornstarch

2 T dry Sherry

2 T vegetable stock or water

2 generous teaspoons Gochujong or other hot sauce or to taste

Instructions

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1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and begin drying your tofu. Drain, remove it from the package and place it on a plate that has sides and is large than the tofu block. Cover with a piece of parchment or waxed paper and weight the tofu with a heavy skillet or bricks. Leave this for about 30 minutes and then pour off the liquid.

2.  Once dry, chop into roughly 1- inch cubes or  1.25 x 1.25-inch squares.

3. Arrange tofu on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet to prevent sticking and bake for a total of 25 to 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through to ensure even cooking. This will dry out the tofu and help give it a more meat-like texture.

4. Once the tofu is golden brown and a bit tough and firm, remove from the oven set it out to dry a bit more while you prep your vegetables. Ideally, it would set out another 45 minutes or even longer. ( I actually made my tofu a couple of days ahead since my husband ended up working late and I didn’t make this the night I originally intended it for. I refrigerated the cooked tofu and took it out about 30 minutes before cooking it.)

5. If serving over rice, start the rice at this point.

6. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients – set aside. (I actually made the sauce a day ahead and it kept, covered on my counter until I was ready to use it. All I had to do was whisk it together when I was ready to cook.)

7. To a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add peanut oil and swirl to coat. Then add veggies and toss to coat. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for about 3 minutes. When the vegetables have some color and have softened a bit, add the tofu and stir through. Then add the sauce down the inner side of the wok. It should bubble and thicken. This will only take a couple of minutes

8. I like my veggies pretty crunchy, but if  you like the softer, cook for another minute or two. When veggies are cooked to your preferred doneness, remove from heat. Serve as is or over rice, drizzle with sesame oil and garnish, if desired.

Coconut Rice With Moong Beans

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Ingredients

1 cup rice of choice (I used Basmati)

1/2 cup of dried moong beans (dal)

One 13.5 ounce (or 14 ounce) can of coconut milk

1.25 cups of water

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 rounded teaspoon granulated or demerara sugar

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain your rice and moong beans in cool water.
  2. Bring all of the other ingredients to a boil in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the drained rice and moong beans and return to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot tightly. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed and the rice is tender.

 

Easy Ramen at Home

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Soup can be as delicate as a simple consomme or as hearty as a mushroom barley; it can be served hot or cold; it can be a first course or a complete meal. No matter how you serve it, soup is always comforting and almost every culture believes in the healing properties of a good soup. This ramen only requires that you have the right ingredients on hand. Some are shelf-stable and you can always have around and the rest you can pick up at most grocery stores. The meat is the only item that you might want to pick up ahead of time and can be on-hand in the freezer. There are no special techniques to learn and it is ready in under 30 minutes. You can play around with the ingredients, but this is my favorite version. It elevates packaged ramen to a dinner that is good enough to serve to family.

Lisa’s Weeknight Ramen

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients

Two 3-ounce packages of chicken-flavored ramen noodles

1 quart of good chicken stock, preferably unsalted

1 Tablespoon yellow or red miso (optional, but keeps a long time in the fridge)

3/4 cup shredded carrot

2 or 3 baby bok choy, split lengthwise

2 large, hard-boiled eggs, peeled and split length-wise

8 ounces of a good mushroom, sliced (Shitake are always available, but try using clam, trumpet or oyster mushrooms if you can find them)

About 3.5 ounces stir-fry baby corn or the kernels from one large ear of fresh corn

5 to 6 scallions, thinly sliced

Either one smoked duck breast, thinly sliced or about 8 ounces of smoked pork belly, sliced (leave the fat on since it adds flavor!)

Asian Sesame Oil for drizzling

Kosher salt or low-sodium soy sauce to taste

Directions

  1. Prep all of your ingredients. In a 3.5 quart or larger heavy pot with a lid, place the ramen noodles, the seasoning powder, miso, if used, the meat and the chicken stock. If you prefer more liquid you can add either more stock or up to 2 cups of water. Adjust your salt accordingly. If using unsalted stock, season with about a teaspoon of salt or 2 teaspoons soy sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Add your other ingredients, except for the sesame oil and scallions and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, warming everything through and blanching the bok choy. If the egg was just boiled, you can add it at the last minute. If it came out of the fridge then add it with the vegetables.
  3. When ready, place some of each ingredient in a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil and scatter scallions on the top. Enjoy – it’s that simple!

Vegan Red Curry Coconut Soup

IMG_1748I tend to troll food sites – a LOT. I have a few favorites and then I just stumble onto others. Before I make something new, I always try to find mutiple versions of the same thing and pick and choose from the ones I like best. And then I “tweak.” I am an unrepentant tweaker. The soup below started out as one I read on thekitchn.com website. They got it from Heidi Swanson who wrote Super Natural Every Day. I admit that I had never heard of her or her cookbooks, but I liked the sound of the recipe.

I did a little prep for the soup earlier in the day and then we were gone on a very long, very lovely and VERY HOT walk arriving home – starving! Thankfully, we were able to sit down to dinner within 30 minutes of arriving home and it was wonderful. It may seeem counter-intuitive to eat hot soup on a hot day, but people from hot climates do it all the time. I used a mild Indian Red Curry Paste and it gave us all the spice we wanted. If you are really into spicy foods, you could use a hot red curry paste, but honestly I think you will be masking some of the wonderful flavors. This dish is very satsifying and only needed some naan or pita to go with it. Give it a try – it’s a keeper.

Vegan Red Curry Coconut Soup

Yield: 4 dinner portions

Ingredients

14 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons Indian red curry paste

3 Tablespoons coconut oil (or EVOO) plus a little more for the eggplant and tofu

3 large shallots, peeled and chopped

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch circles and then cut into quarters to form a triangular dice

1 Japanese eggplant, cut like the zucchini

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, with the skin, cut into small dice

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 cups vegetable stock

1 can (13.5 or 14 ounce) of regular coconut milk

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds lightly toasted in a dry skillet

2 to 3 Tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. I used a large cast-iron skillet for this. Season the tofu cubes with a little Kosher salt and drizzle it with EVOO. (You could use coconut oil but I used EVOO). Place in the skillet and on medium high heat, allow the tofu cubes to get nice and brown. When one side is brown (about 5 minutes) turn the cubes over and toast the other side until the tofu becomes firm and golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, brown the eggplant the same way (toss first with a little salt and EVOO) and set aside. Add the chopped zucchini to the eggplant.
  3. In a heavy soup pot ( I like ot use my Staub or Le Creuset for this) mix the red curry paste with the coconut oil and cook for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the chopped shallots. Cook, stirring until the shallots begin to soften.
  4. Stirin the zucchini, eggplant and potatoes and stir well. Cook for a few minutes until the zucchini begins to get tender. Stir in the garlic.
  5. Add the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Because of the small dice 20 minutes was all I needed. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  6. To serve, dish out the soup and then toip with the tofu and sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

NOTE: I toasted the tofu, the eggplant and the pumpkin seeds earlier in the day and set them covered on the counter (with the air conditioner going) until we returned home tonight to make dinner. I also chopped the other vegetables and had them ready although they took no time to chop. Then when I came home I started to cook and had dinner on the table within 30 minutes.

 

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil

IMG_1677I know – it sounds so mundane. But sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that something so simple, with just the freshest ingredients can be so perfect – simple and satisfying. And let’s face it, life is complicated enough. I’m not breaking new ground here, but this is a dish that if made properly is as good as a pasta dish gets without any bells or whistles.

Beautiful ovoid Roma plum tomatoes are becoming available now and will only get better as the summer goes on. Fresh garlic and bright green basil leaves with a good olive oil and the best Parmigiano Reggiano. Treat yourself to a full-bodied red wine and a crusty loaf of bread. You’re done! Mangia!

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Basil

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients   IMG_1653

6 large Roma Plum Tomatoes, cut in quarters lengthwise and then sliced into 1/2 inch chunks

2 Tablespoons chopped garlic

2 Tablespoons Evoo

1/3 cup salted pasta water

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1/4 cup torn or chiffonaded green or purple basil

1 pound spaghetti rigati or fettucine

Directions

  1. Start cooking your pasta according to package directions for al dente.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the 2 Tablespoons of EVOO. Add the chopped garlic and about 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. On medium heat saute the garlic for about 3 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to brown.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and about 10 cracks of fresh black pepper. Saute for another 5 to 8 minutes or just until the tomatoes are beginning to soften. Just before the pasta has finished cooking, take 1/3 cup of pasta water and add it to the pan with the tomatoes and garlic.
  4. Drain your pasta and pour it back into the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and cook on medium heat for one more minute.
  5. Portion out into bowls. Generously add the torn basil on top, drizzle some EVOO and grate the Parmigiano over that. Don’t be stingy. That’s it – you’re done. Now go eat!

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