Category Archives: Lunch/Dinner

First Fall Soup

I decided to make my first soup of the fall season. I was torn about it at first, thinking I should hold onto those ripe heirloom tomatoes, California avocados, and summery salads for as long as I could. But there was no denying a certain crispness to the air, school starting again – even Smitten Kitchen decided it was time to start doing baked pastas. And then I got a sore throat and that sealed the deal – time to make soup.

I really love soup. This is one of my favorites, and it’s super easy to do. It’s from a Bon Appetit issue in January that included recipes for a 3-week health cleanse. I challenged myself to make all of them that month and ended up with a few recipes worth doing even when you’re not being particularly health-ambitious.

The recipe is simple – start by sauteeing onions, garlic and ginger, add lots of spices, and then squash, carrots, and an apple. To make it even simpler, buy pre-chopped butternut squash – yes it’s lazy, but my last attempt at chopping a whole butternut squash caused my entire hand to peel off (apparently some people are allergic to raw butternut squash). Go ahead and use the same excuse if you need to – pre-chopped is so much easier anyway! The recipe is highly flexible, so if you accidentally ate that apple yesterday because you forgot it was for this soup (true story) or accidentally dropped in way more cinnamon than you needed (also true story), the recipe still works out. Just simmer it all for about 25 minutes and finish off in an immersion blender. The spices alone make you feel like you can fend off a fall cold!

OH, and let’s not forget – I also made pumpernickel croutons from our fabulous star chef Chloe Coscarelli. A great great combo, and the croutons work just as well in salad the next day!

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
From Bon Appetit

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch of chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
a dash of ground cloves
2 peeled, chopped carrots
1 tart apple
4 cups chopped butternut squash
3 cups water (if you’re not on a cleanse, I recommend a combo of vegetable broth & water)

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender (6-8 minutes). Add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, apple, and squash, and liquid. Bring to a boil; cover partially and reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then blend (either with an immersion blender or in a regular blender).

Chloe’s Pumpernickel Croutons
Chop up 6 slices of pumpernickel bread. Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container – lasts surprisingly long.

Dainty Little Salads

In my favorite cooking blogs and magazines I often find the Dainty Little Salad – ultra light, usually with shaved this or grated that, and featuring some type of seasonal fruit, usually pink – the most idealistic recipe there is. I usually write these off as a highly attractive, but kind of improbable meal. Then I had a labor day weekend that included a buffet of four types of mac & cheese, several some serious Giants ballpark fare, and copious amounts of beer at every turn. In a cruel coincidence (?), both pairs of jeans I own ripped straight down the bum. True story. So I thought it might be time to give one of these trophy wife salads a try.

Turns out this salad was as delightful to eat as it is to look at, provided you keep a few things in mind:

Recommendation one: thinly shaved fennel is a must. I have really enjoyed having a roommate with a mandolin, and can confidently say that the recommendation to buy this particular kitchen gadget is sound advice. When you’re crunching into a big old piece of fennel, you really do lose the effect.

Recommendation two: a salad bowl. It makes food ten times better. Even if it’s ridiculously large for one person. Just try it.

Recommendation three: sturdy greens. I used a spinach mix from the farmers market. If there’s one culinary pet peeve I have, it’s wilted, wimpy little lettuce leaves – and these guys have lasted a week and still look peppy.

Final and probably most important recommendation: supplement your salad. Dainty Little Salads are a lot more enjoyable when you aren’t starving. I threw a little tuna salad on the side of this one night, and had it with a fried egg over a slice of dark bread the other. I promise it doesn’t make you any less cute.

Spinach Salad with Sprouts, Fennel, and Grapefruit
1 bag of mixed spinach leaves or other fresh greens
1/4 of a grapefruit
1 bulb fennel
1 packet sprouts – alfalfa, broccoli, or mung bean
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Dijon mustard

Wash spinach and sprouts and throw in a big salad bowl. Shave fennel with a mandolin and add to the bowl. Slice grapefruit with a knife into any dainty shape you want – you can slice it or just chop it.

Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 2 parts olive oil. Add some freshly ground pepper and a little squirt of dijon mustard. Beat with a fork and pour over salad.

Real Weeknight Dinners

If you’re not already utilizing eggs as your weeknight savior, I highly recommend it. Whether it’s something more elaborate or just a fried egg over toast or rice, it’s a quick cooking, nutritious, and cheap meal. And delicious. No virtuous weeknight meal is realistic if it’s not also delicious.

A true weeknight dinner recipe can be hard to come by. These recipes in magazines are usually, for starters, nowhere near 20 minutes to make once you factor in prep time. And when you’ve gone from work to yoga and come home already ravenous, but still need to do laundry, that’s the window we’re talking about. Weeknight recipes also usually involve things that, while easy to cook, have to be bought that day or the day before – aka, meat and/or fish. Not always doable. And they often involve things that I’m not sure how other people are getting fresh – like shrimp. If I see another weeknight pasta dish with shrimp, I might just give up altogether. That’s when you know to reach for an egg.

I call this a frittata but I’m sure there are other things you could call it – a spanish tortilla, maybe even an omelet. What’s great about this is how versatile it is (hence the kitchen sink). I started with a recipe I had seen for a frittata with caramelized onions, threw in some kale, and then decided to throw in the leftover cooked veggies from my summer veggie stir fry. What resulted was a beautiful meal in under 20 minutes. Really. I wouldn’t lie about a weeknight dinner recipe.

Here’s to Mondays!

Kitchen Sink Frittata
one yellow onion
a handful of kale, swiss chard, or spinach
any other veggies you might have – summer squash, cherry tomatoes
6 eggs

Throw a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a fry pan (a skillet with straight sides). Thinly slice onion and sautee over medium heat until onions start to caramelize and turn brown, about ten minutes. Add chopped kale and sautee for another 5 minutes.

Throw in any other cooked veggies you might have on hand (if raw, throw in with the kale). Add salt and pepper generously (you’ll be adding 6 eggs to this).¬†While veggies cook, beat 6 eggs in a bowl. When veggies are almost cooked, pour egg mixture into the pan and turn heat to low. Fire up the broiler (yep, the broiler!).

Watch your frittata as it slowly cooks from the bottom up, taking care not to burn the bottom. Don’t touch or mix it. When the eggs seem cooked everywhere except for the top layer (you can get a sense of this by tilting the pan and seeing how runny it is on top), throw it in the broiler.¬†Bake in the broiler for about 5 minutes until the top is cooked and getting golden brown. Keep an eye on it! Take out, let cool a little, then slice. Goes great with a no-fuss salad of arugula or spring mix.

Every Color on the Plate

A recent Bon Appetit article I read referenced the simple theory I’ve heard many a time when it comes to nutrition: try to put every color on your plate. Testing out a new San Francisco farmers’ market in mid-summer, this was a pretty easy challenge to accept.

After grabbing first and asking questions later at the Civic Center farmers market, where I finally found great cheap local produce, I found this summer veggie stir fry recipe from the article to be pretty well aligned with what I had bought. The recipe is super flexible – you just need any veggies on hand, a good solid grain, and herbs to make a quick sauce. I had a wild rice medley from Trader Joe’s, a mix of zuchinni, squash, cherry tomatoes, and japanese eggplant, and a handful of parsley and basil. The sauce was great – a light, vinegary twist on pesto that was really nice drizzled over the final product.

For the veggies, I’d recommend doing the eggplant separately so you don’t end up overcooking everything else trying to get it soft – I always have too much optimism on eggplant’s cooking time. Deglazing the pan afterward with some extra vinegar (or white wine would be great) went a long way too. I’m sure the BA recommendation of using cooked then toasted farro would be great – this is a more realistic weeknight version.

With the leftovers I made a simple carrot ginger juice. My roommate heard that ingesting enough carrots gives your a skin a tan-like, if not slightly orange, glow – just the kind of urban legend us freckly folk will always try at least once. In a foggy San Francisco summer, you’ve got to drink your sunshine. We’ll see how both theories work out…

Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry
Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 cups mixed herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, tarragon, celery leaves)
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 half-inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 garlic clove
7 Tbsp veggie oil (I used olive)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
2 cups cooked & cooled brown or wild rice (like Trader Joe’s wild rice medley)
4 cups chopped mixed summer vegetables (bell peppers, zuchinni, chiles, eggplant, summer squash, carrots, celery, radishes, cherry tomatoes)

Combine 2 cups herbs, 1/4 cup scallions, ginger, and garlic in a food processor. Add 4 Tbsp oil, all the vinegar, and 1/4 cup water and process until saucey. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sesame seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made ahead)

Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and stir-fry until brightly colored and crisp-tender. Add remaining herbs and toss to combine. Divide vegetables over rice and drizzle with herb sauce.