Monday, September 30, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Soup - Perfect for Crisp Fall Days!

About 2 AM last night I woke up while I was writing a soup recipe. Darn it. I can't remember it. Most people think about the opportunity to wear warm fuzzy sweaters and knee high boots when the weather starts to turn crisp. Not me. I'm dreaming up recipes for new soups and stews to warm us up for lunch and dinner.

Because we share a pretty "veg-centric" cuisine at Taste and Savor, (we do at home, too!), I consider comfort food a special challenge. It's always easy to start with a chicken and then toss some veggies into the stockpot. Instant soul-warming, familiar soup. But take away the "chicken-ey" taste on. A whole new way of having to cook and think about our food.

When the seasons turn, the produce does too. Fall means the start of hard-skinned squash, pumpkins and lots of sweet potatoes. The opportunity to take roasted red peppers and aromatic veggies like onions, carrots and garlic and gently soften them before adding in veg stock and sweet potato like we have here. To use seasonal bounty in new ways like the sweet potato croutons in this soup.

Here's a soup we shared with good friends at the Angels on Earth meeting the other night. Served in small cups, it makes the perfect little appetizer. Our intrepid kitchen crew enjoyed the leftovers in big mugs with a slice of toasted Pumpkin Cornbread. In my opinion, it doesn't get better...

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

2 Large Sweet Potatoes
3 TB Olive Oil plus 1 Tsp
2 Large Red Onions, chopped
2 Carrots, chopped
1 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp Turmeric
3 TB Tomato Paste
4 Garlic Cloves Chopped
1 TB Italian Seasoning
6 Cups Vegetable Broth
8 Roasted Red Peppers, chopped
1/2 Cup Red Wine (like Pinot Noir)
1 TB Honey
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Step One
Scrub the sweet potatoes. Leave one whole. Peel and chop the other into small croutons. Set aside the chopped sweet potato. Puncture the whole sweet potato with a fork. Place into a 400F oven and cook until soft about 30 minutes.

Step Two
In a large stockpot, sauté the onions, carrots, pepper and turmeric together int the olive oil until very soft. Add the tomato paste, garlic and seasoning and cook and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add in the veg broth, roasted red peppers, wine and honey. Sprinkle with sea salt. Simmer for twenty minutes.

Step Three
While the soup is simmering, sauté the sweet potato in a skillet on the stove top in the 1 Tsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Sauté the croutons until soft and slightly browned around the edges.

Step Four
Remove the cooked sweet potato from the oven and scoop out the flesh into your stockpot of soup. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Allow the soup to cool slightly and then carefully puree the hot soup, using an immersion blender.

Step Five
Serve the soup in cups or bowls, garnish with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt and the sweet potato croutons.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Turning Kitchen Experience into Action at Home - A Guest Blog by Taste and Savor Intern Michelle

I've learned so much over the past month! One night last week, I decided to put my experience interning with Chef Nancy into good use by having my mom’s friends over for dinner. I incorporated a little of what I have learned in the kitchen with Taste and Savor into each part of the meal. 

For the entree, I grilled salmon and topped it with the rustic tomato and olive relish. (Recipe below.) It was delicious. Thinking about beautiful colors and tasty nutrition, I decided to complete my plate with two colorful and delicious sides. We roast many different vegetables in the kitchen. I roasted two of my favorites for the ladies dinner: asparagus with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and red potatoes. Roasting asparagus or any vegetable makes an easy accompaniment  Just toss the veggies in a little olive oil salt and pepper. Place on a sheet tray and slide into a 400F oven until they become golden around the edges. I tossed my oven-roasted red potatoes with some of the spices that we use often in our healthy kitchen  Smoked paprika, cumin, olive oil, salt, and pepper.(It won't take long for asparagus - about 8 - 10 minutes. Harder vegetables like brussels sprouts will take longer.) While they are roasting, you can finish the rest of the meal!

And to top off our yummy dinner, I chose a dessert we prepared for the grilling class at Cancer Wellness. I grilled off some fruit (pineapple, bananas, and peaches), served with low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, topped with toasted un-sweetened coconut. The ladies loved it all!! It was surely a success, and many of them went on to check out the Taste and Savor website, along with the Taste and Savor cooking videos. Here's a link to the Taste and Savor website and the helpful videos: Taste and Savor Helpful Kitchen Videos

Grilled Salmon with Rustic Tomato Olive Relish
The Marinade:

2 TB Olive Oil

1 TB Lemon Juice

1 Clove Garlic, Chopped

1/2 Tsp Crushed Red Chili Flakes

2 TB Dijon Mustard

1/2 Tsp Cracked Black Pepper

1/2 Tsp Sea Salt

The Salmon:
1 1/2 LB Salmon Filet, Skinned

Combine the Marinade ingredients in a zippy bag - add the Salmon and marinate for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill on high for 10 minutes. Remove the Salmon and pat dry. Turn the grill to medium. Grill just until marks appear and then finish roasting off in the oven – about 10 minutes. 

Remove and top with:
Rustic Tomato Olive Relish
2 TB Olive Oil

1 TB Lemon Juice

1 Clove Garlic, Chopped

1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, 

1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives, Chopped

1/2 Cup Green Olives, Chopped

1/4 Cup Italian Parsley, Chopped

1/8 Cup Capers

1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/4 Tsp Sea Salt

Mix all the ingredients together.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pinot Noir Poached Figs and Cheese for Easy Fall Evenings

Helloooo Fall! Here in Atlanta, we are having an unprecedented run of days, (Okay, only 2 so far but I'm keeping my fingers crossed), with warm but not hot weather, low humidity and sunshine. After enduring a rainy, building-an ark-and-growing-gills-soggy summer this seems to be a good repayment from Mother Nature. Yesterday Mike and I hiked at the Chattahoochee river and the crisp temperate air was so welcoming it inspired another loop of the trail.

Buoyed by the thought of more fall days, spending time outside and easy dinners, I am passing on the recipe for Pinot Noir Poached Figs and Cheese. Since the weather is so wonderful, I plan on packing this up and taking it for a fun fall weeknight picnic this week. I'll put it in the cooler along with a bottle of Pinot and a simple baby greens salad dressed with a little orange juice and olive oil and we'll set off. After a lovely hike to work up our appetite, we'll feast.

Pinot Noir* Poached Figs and Cheese

1 1/2 Cups Pinot Noir
3 TB Honey
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Whole Cloves
12 Dried Figs (about 1/2 pound) I have some organic, dried California Black Mission figs from Whole Foods 

Camembert cut in thin slices
Whole Wheat Baguette

Step One In a  saucepan combine all ingredients except the cheese and baguette and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer figs, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes.

Step Two Transfer the figs to a bowl and boil syrup until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Strain the cinnamon and cloves out of the syrup into another bowl, then add the syrup to the figs. Serve the figs mixture with Camembert with slices of baguette.

*What kind of Pinot to use? I buy two bottles - one to cook with and one to enjoy. You want a luscious jammy-fruit-forward wine, so I'd suggest a bottle from the "New World". California, New Zealand, Argentina, Oregon, etc. When I picked up my baguette, cheese and dried figs from Whole Foods, I grabbed a couple of bottles of Block Nine Pinot Noir. Easy drinking with lots of red cherry flavors, its a perfectly yummy and affordable picnic or weeknight wine.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tomato Basil Dressing

A long weekend at the beach and its Monday. Still here, I am sooo lucky. All I want for dinner tonight is something easy and delicious, full of greens and veggies, cool and refreshing. Can't get enough of the Indian Summer sun and sand - I know what's ready to roll around after the leaves turn and fall. I love, love, love the warmth - and dread when its time to put on coats and hats.

Here's one of my favorite dressings, if you can round up a couple of end-of-the season tomatoes, it will be even better. Top greens and lots of veggies, avocado, olives and beans for a complete meal in one bowl. Perfect wind-down to summer and HELLO to fall. (Woohoo - I won't be greeting those golden leaves in Atlanta til Thursday. Yey!)

Makes about 1 1/2 Cups, keep you leftovers for dipping later in the week. 

1 Large Ripe Tomato, Seeded*
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
2 TBs Fresh Basil, Chopped
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup Light Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1 TB Dijon Mustard
2 Garlic Cloves, Coarsely Chopped
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a food processor, puree all the ingredients except for the Oil, Salt and Pepper. With the processor running, add the Oil slowly. Taste for Salt and Pepper.

If you need a memory jog for the best way to cut an avocado - click here!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Meanwhile, Over on the Wine Side...A Guest Blog by Taste and Savor Intern Michelle

Week three is complete! I experienced the wine side of Taste and Savor, after helping with two wine events. I loved Taste Club! Not only is it wonderful to work with Nancy, Lea, and the Cook’s Warehouse Brookhaven staff but getting to participate at the same time. Nancy takes care of me by providing wine (essential ingredient to intern success)... and, needless to say, provides food too. While tasting wines in the class, I quickly learned I am nowhere near a wine connoisseur. As Nancy was asking the class to smell the wine and tell how what they smelled, my only answer was “GRAPES!”  Meanwhile, the class was more educated on this than me by shouting out words like honeysuckle, plum, blackberry, and pear. Good thing more of these classes are coming! Of the wines I tasted, Cotes Du Rhone red wine was a new wine I really loved. My hope at the end of the internship is that I will be bilingual, adding wine language to my resume, with all credit given to Chef Nancy.

** Side Note: I look 15, but I’m actually 22, so no worries, I can drink the wine :)

We had a cooking demonstration at Piedmont Cancer Wellness for GRILLING. Dietician Shayna and Chef Nancy teamed up and taught about the health benefits of grilling foods. They provided tips to cut down the carcinogenic components that can come from the black grilling marks. Nancy and Lea revealed a way to do that by taking your meat of choice and placing it on the grill only to get slight grill marks, not cooking it all the way through, and then finishing the cooking process in the oven. This way, you get fabulous grill marks and no carcinogenic compounds. Nancy shared a tip to keeping your grill seasoned and oiled by cutting a red onion in half, sticking a fork into the rounded side, dipping the flat side of the onion in olive oil and rubbing it all over your grill. Genius! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Meatless Monday - Spanish Yellow Rice Salad - 090913

Tapas parties are awesome. I love the little savory and sweet bites spread out on a table, set up on a bar or just passed around between friends. We hosted a Wine Tasting and Tapas party last night that was SO much fun. It was for the benefit of "Angels on Earth" a wonderful group I am part of... Angels supports Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

Last year, at the annual Angels luncheon I donated a Tapas party for 8 as part of the raffle. Linda Baxter won! We've been in touch over the summer, and we decided that yesterday was the date. Linda and her husband Rick invited a group of intrepid friends over for the evening. We began poolside and then traveled upstairs for the tapas and wine. I led them through a tasting of 8! wonderful Spanish wines and 6 delicious tapas. Spanish Rice salad is one of my favorites. It's easy to make, you can make it ahead of time, and it keeps great in the fridge for leftovers during the next couple of days. We served in small sweet peppers - making it even prettier on the table! My favorite way to enjoy it the next day? In a pita pocket with a little chopped tomato. Perfect lunch.

Spanish Yellow Rice Salad

2 Cups Brown Rice
1 TB Olive Oil
1 Tsp Tumeric
1 Tsp Black Pepper
4 Cups Water

Saute the brown rice in olive oil, turmeric, and black pepper until a little more golden. Bring water to a boil. Add to the rice, bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, until tender.

3 Oranges - juice and zest
¼ Cup Sherry Vinegar
½ Cup Olive Oil
1 TB Dijon Mustard
Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
Place the ingredients in a jar or bowl and shake or whisk well.

Making the Salad
The Cooked Rice
½ cup Toasted Almonds, chopped
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
½ cup Green Onion, chopped
2 TB Red Onion, minced
1 Cup Green Spanish Olives, chopped

Mix the salad with the dressing in a large bowl.