shiitake-miso soup

The holidays are (almost) officially over… phew! In the past 5 days, Chris and I have celebrated 4 Christmases and a birthday in 3 different states. Nothing to complain about of course, but that all amounts to a LOT of eating! So while discussing dinner on our drive home today in a car stuffed with cookies and chocolates (in between mouthfulls of trail mix of course, from one of our gifts) we decided we wanted something on the lighter side for dinner. I also noted that it would be a great soup day, considering the sheets of rain that haven’t let up for the past 8 hours, and I remembered a segment from some morning show the other day about hearty healthy immune boosting soups for the winter. There was one that we really wanted to make, a shiitake-miso soup, but after searching for that recipe on my iphone for over half an hour, I gave up and decided to wing it and make my own based on some of the ingredients we already had. You can enjoy this on a cold rainy day, or if you’re catching your annual winter dose of yuck — which, amazingly enough, knock on wood, I haven’t caught this year! I don’t know if it’s the flu shot or the not having finals anymore to wear me down, but I’ll take it. And this soup will help. The mushrooms contain phytochemicals which lower cholesterol and have even been shown to have anti-cancer properties, and an active compound called lentinan that revs up your immune system. The seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals of any food, in addition to reducing the body’s inflammatory response and also being an anti-cancer food. So here we have it, my own version of shiitake-miso soup:

In a large pot, sauté 1 bunch of chopped scallions, 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger, and 3-4 cloves chopped garlic in 1 tbsp sesame oil for about 1 minute. Add to that about 3/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced. (You can also use dried shiitakes instead of fresh but make sure to soak them according to the package directions first). Cook for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat and then add 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock and 3 cups water and about 2 1/2 tbsp white miso. Next add about 4 bunches of chopped baby bok choy, and about 6 strips of kombu (kombu is a type of kelp; you can find it at most Asian-run grocery stores near the dried seaweed). Finally, add some bonito flakes or 1-2 tbsp furikake rice seasoning with 2 tsp fish sauce (these are rough guidelines, but do it according to your taste). Simmer for about half an hour, and then remove the kombu strips and throw them away (they’re only for flavoring). Add a 14 oz block of firm tofu, cubed, and I also added a spoonful of sambal oelek red chili paste for a little heat. Serve with nori strips for a little extra delicious flavor, and a dash of sriracha or soy sauce if you like.

shiitake-miso soup

shiitake-miso soup

root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce

While I’ve never – to my memory – celebrated Hanukkah (although my stepmother owns a menorah which I can remember being lit occasionally and I think I got a hat once as a present), this year I decided to use the holiday as an excuse to try my hand at making latkes. Now of course, because it’s me, I attempted to health-ify them just a little (only in that they’re not completely submerged in oil and deep fried) and make them nontraditional by using a variety of root veggies instead of just potatoes. Root vegetables can be fairly interchangeable in my experience, and adding parsnips, sweet potatoes, and leeks to your latkes bumps up the fiber and Vitamin A content. And the flavor is so much more interesting and complex! I read a few recipes, just trying to get a sense of proportions, and then did this:

Take 1 small baking potato, 1 small sweet potato, and 1 parsnip, peel them, and shred them using a cheese grater. Add 1 tsp of salt to the mix and let it sit for 20 minutes, squeezing out as much moisture as possible afterwards – the regular potato will have the most moisture. Then add to the mixture 1 small grated yellow onion and 1 very finely chopped leek (stopping at the dark green part). Stir in some freshly ground pepper, about 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and about 1/3 cup egg whites. Form into patties – if they fall apart (which mine did at first – a LOT), you need to adjust the amount of egg white and flour until they’re sticky. Generously coat the bottom of a pan with some vegetable oil with a high smoke point (I use safflower or sunflower oil) and heat the oil until very hot. Drop the patties in and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, then transferring to a baking sheet. You’ll have to do this in stages; just make sure the new oil gets hot enough before adding each round of latkes, otherwise they’ll just soak up the oil and not brown. Once all the latkes are browned, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Serve with sour cream (or Greek yogurt, like these) and applesauce. Homemade applesauce is super easy by the way – just peel a few apples, chop them up into very small pieces, and heat on the stove with a touch of water and cinnamon until the consistency is saucy. You can also use an immersion blender if you like smooth applesauce.

Root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce and Greek yogurt

Root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce and Greek yogurt

Happy Hanukkah!

vegan “spaghetti & meatballs”

There is no spaghetti in this recipe, nor are there any meatballs. But if you’re in the mood for something with the same sort of flavor without all the weight of a bowling ball in your tummy afterwards, try this healthier alternative! (Note: the “meatballs” don’t really taste like meatballs; I’d say they’re closer to falafel, but if you’re not expecting a meaty taste you won’t be disappointed).

I’ve been really into this vegan recipe website Oh She Glows lately. That’s where I got the idea for the “meatballs” – Italian Bean Balls really. Not only are her recipes awesome and creative, but the food photography is outstanding, and she’s all self-taught. Ok, so onto the bean balls!

Preheat the oven to 350. Take 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and either toast in the oven for 7-9 minutes until fragrant or pan-toast (this is what I did) & set aside in a bowl. Put 3/4 cup oats into a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour, then add to the bowl with the walnuts. Add 1 cup shredded carrot, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/3 cup chopped basil (I used a little extra), about 2 large finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, and 3 large minced garlic cloves. Stir. Then drain and rinse a 15-oz can of kidney beans and toss them into the food processor until finely chopped and stir them into the bowl with the mixture. In a mug or little bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp ground flax seed and 3 tbsp warm water and let it sit for 15-20 seconds, then stir into the mix. Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp oregano, 3/4 tsp salt, some ground pepper, and (optional) a dash of red pepper flakes. Shape the mixture into 18-20 balls (golf-ball size), packing them tightly between your hands. Place onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes on each side.

I served mine with zucchini “noodles” but you could also do spaghetti squash – I didn’t, only because we just had spaghetti squash a few days ago. If you go the spaghetti squash route, just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake face down on parchment paper at 375 for about 45 minutes. Then scoop out the contents, and add your toppings. For the zucchini noodles, use a mandolin with a tooth attachment (or grater, or food processor with some kind of shredding attachment) to create long ribbons of raw zucchini. Then either stir fry or microwave (about 2-3 minutes) until tender!

We had our “noodles” and bean balls with our favorite Arrabiata tomato sauce from Russo’s, a little Italian shop down the street. We’re completely obsessed with their homemade sauces. And if you’re not vegan, a little grated asiago cheese on top really takes it up a notch. So good…

Zucchini "noodles" with Italian bean "meatballs"

Zucchini “noodles” with Italian bean “meatballs”

crispy baked crabcakes

It’s been just over 6 months since my last post, which is truly and completely unacceptable! But allow me to fill you in on what’s been keeping me so busy…

In the past 6 months, I studied-like-a-madwoman-for and successfully passed my 3 hour long comprehensive exam, which determined whether or not I could graduate, applied for and got accepted to the Dietetic Internship program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital (which I will be starting in just under 3 weeks), graduated with my MS in Nutrition from Hunter, traveled to Belgium to present a research poster of mine at a nutrition conference, worked 6 days a week, and got engaged! It’s been a whirlwind to say the least. So it’s not that I haven’t found time to cook, I just haven’t found time to write about it.
So two days ago I was chatting about wedding planning (which is a whole new level of insanity that I’m about to tackle while doing my full time 50 weeks of DI rotations – yes, excuses for not food-blogging in advance this time), and someone said to me: “There’s only one thing that every wedding must have: crab cakes.” And thanks to that, I’ve wanted crab cakes for the past 48 hours. I’ve never made crab cakes myself, so I decided to try it out tonight. I wanted to make it a little lighter than the usual deep-fried ones, so these are baked, and I threw together a combination of a couple of different recipes I saw, but mostly drawing from Ellie Krieger’s recipe.
Whisk together 1 egg, 2 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbs fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tsp Old Bay (or similar crab seasoning), and a little tabasco or other hot sauce. Add to that 1/2 cup of red bell pepper and 1 scallion, both finely chopped. Then fold in 1 lb fresh lump crab meat and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, with a little salt & pepper added. Divide the mixture into about 8 servings, shape them into balls and then flatten slightly, and roll in Japanese panko (about 1/2 cup to coat all). Spritz with olive oil, or cooking spray, and bake for about 10 minutes on each side at 400 degrees.
I’m vehemently opposed to tartar sauce, but feel free to serve these with the sauce of your choice! I just served ours with a squeeze of lemon, next to a salad of arugula, wheatberries, feta, dried cranberries, and pistachios, with orange zest vinaigrette.  You could also make it into a sandwich. The cakes had some trouble staying together – possibly due to my inferior spatula skills – but made up for it by being delicious. Crabcake craving officially taken care of.
Panko-encrusted crabcake

Panko-encrusted crabcake

borlotti bean mole w/ roast winter squash

     My fellow residents of the northeast will probably agree that it’s been a strange winter, weather-wise. On Friday, the temperature got above 50, and I had to take off my scarf and gloves on my bike ride home from work because I was overheating. Two days later of course, today, it’s back into the 20’s and the wind is whipping around at 26 miles an hour. It’s a perfect day to make a hearty winter stew-type dinner, and I have just the right recipe I’ve been wanting to try.
     Edamam (not edamame/soybeans) may be one of my favorite discoveries of 2012. It’s a website (and an iphone app) that features over a million recipes, and you can search for certain ingredients and filter your results by diet or preference, such as “dairy-free” for example. I follow them on Facebook, and there’s always something delicious-looking popping up in my feed that I want to try. This week, I saw a recipe featured by Edamam that happens to come from one of my go-to food blogs, 101 Cookbooks, for Borlotti Bean Mole with Roast Winter Squash. I’ve always wanted to make mole sauce and my dad makes an amazing one, but every time he starts telling me how to make it, I remember how labor intensive it is, and think “maybe another time…” But this recipe sounded like a great way to get that mole flavor without your typical 20-30 ingredients and all-day time commitment (although this is not a quick fix meal, so if you’re like me, save it for a weekend).
     Start by soaking 1 1/2 cups of dry borlotti beans (same as cranberry beans, or you can use pinto beans) overnight in a good sized pot or bowl filled with water. I actually didn’t plan far enough ahead and only soaked mine today for about 5 hours, but you can make up for it by simmering them a little longer. After they’ve soaked, rinse them, and bring them to a boil with water that covers them by about an inch. Then reduce the heat, cover, and let them simmer for about 45 minutes. It’s ok to have them be a little under-cooked because they’ll be in the oven later. Preheat the oven to 350. Peel and cube a winter squash of your choice (I used an acorn squash) and roast the cubes in a pan with olive oil until the edges are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Melt 2 tbsp butter (or use olive oil, or a combination of the two) into a heavy pot (if you have a pot that can go from stove to oven and has a lid, use that) and fry 1 medium chopped onion and 2-4 red jalapenos (depending how spicy you want it) that have been seeded and chopped, for about 20-30 minutes on low heat. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and fry for another 3 minutes. Then add a pound of fresh chopped plum tomatoes (or a 14 oz can- I like San Marzano) and 2 tsp of paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins. Add an ounce of dark roasted almonds, ground (you can use a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or small food processor), 2 oz of 70% dark chocolate broken into pieces, 1 tsp salt, the beans & squash, and 4-5 large chopped kale leaves. Stir until the chocolate is melted. I also added a little water at this point because it became too thick to stir. If your casserole pot can go from stovetop to oven, just put the lid on and throw it in. If not (like me!), transfer what’s in your pot on the stovetop to an oven proof casserole dish, cover with tin foil, and bake for about 2 hours at 250.
     Serving notes: I thought it definitely needed more salt at the end, and more heat – red pepper flakes, hot sauce, or your choice of spice. The beans really soak up the heat. The original recipe says to serve with tortillas, polenta, or mashed potatoes. I think mashed potatoes would be FAR too mushy for this already soft dish. We actually liked blue tortilla chips with it, to scoop with, and also crushed up on top to add a little texture. And as a side note, this is not the prettiest looking finished product, but not only is it delicious, but it also makes 4 big servings for just under $20! A bargain, plus leftovers!
Borlotti Bean Mole w/ Roast Winter Squash

Borlotti Bean Mole w/ Roast Winter Squash