Sunday, January 30, 2011


Buried under mountains of snow these last few weeks has not been easy. The simplest tasks have become very complicated as I try to navigate the deep paths in my Queens, NY neighborhood, carved out at least knee-high in most places!
The entire neighborhood has to walk single file!
Wonder what is buried under there? These snow piles are as high as a bus! My neighbor claims her garbage from Christmas is still deep inside. Spring will be such a lovely mess. On top of it all I have been dealing with a wicked cold that has kept me weak and shivering.
 To help manage my cold symptoms these tangerines got juiced. So yummy! Too bad all of these squeezed barely yielded a cup of liquid. geesh!

In the mood for some sustenance I decided to make a hearty soup featuring the whole grain quinoa. My idea was to feature its nutty flavor with the added help of some meaty red kidney beans.
I built the soup up starting with sweating some aromatic vegetables. The quinoa gets rinsed and then toasted with the vegetables to emphasize the flavor of the grain. Vegetable stock and crushed tomatoes are used for the liquid. I wanted the seasoning to be rich but not over-powering. I added a fair amount of paprika for depth, a bay leaf for a pine-y fragrance, a pinch of chipotle chili powder for a little smoky-ness and some thyme for a woodsy note. The soup simmers for about half an hour. At the end I added some green beans and spinach for a burst of color and freshness.

As a condiment for the soup I decided to make a red pepper and shallot puree.
Roast the vegetables till tender and puree in a food processor. So simple and so good!
The soup came out great. Just what I was looking for to bring some comfort and strength on a cold snowy winter day. The broth had a deep earthy flavor and the red pepper puree was a sweet bright addition to round this dish out.
Stay warm!

Quinoa and Red Bean Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree
 The aromatics:
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 onion minced
S & P to taste
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Carrot chopped
3/4 cup quinoa rinced 
the spices:
 1 bay leaf
 2 Tbs. Paprika
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon Chipoltle Chili powder

1 small potato cubed
1 15oz can red kidney beans
the liquids:
1 quart vegetable stock
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
the green vegetables:
1/2 cup green beans cut into bite sized pieces (substitute broccoli, zucchini)
1/2 cup cooked spinach (substitute chard, kale, any leafy green)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
In a soup pot heat the olive oil, add the onions and a little salt and pepper. Sweat the onions at a low temperature until they soften a bit. Add the garlic and the carrot and continue to sweat the vegetables for 5 or 6 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the quinoa, stirring frequently till the quinoa begins to get a little bit golden in color, about 10 minutes. Add the spices, the potato, the kidney beans and the liquids and bring to a boil. Lower the heat top a simmer and allow the soup to cook for 30 minutes.
Add the green vegetables and the lemon juice and simmer for 5 more minutes till vegetables are tender. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Serve with the red pepper puree.

Roasted Red Pepper, Shallot and Jalapeno Puree
-This very versatile puree will keep in the fridge for a week. Serve with soups, stews, roasts, or on toast!
1 red pepper
3 jalapenos 
1 shallot, peeled
1 Tbs. Olive oil
2 teaspoons water
pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the red pepper into strips and lay on a baking sheet with the jalapenos, left whole and the shallot, cut in half. Toss with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and bake for 20 minutes till tender. Allow to cool, then transfer to a food processor and while the machine is running add 1 Tbs. olive oil and the 2 teaspoons water to create a smooth paste. Salt and pepper to taste.
I think if it didn't snow another day all winter, there would still be snow on my lawn till May. My lawn is small, and the snow which has amassed there from shovelling my sidewalk, walkway and driveway is about up to my shoulders now. My kids of course love it. Me, not so much. To them it is the equivalent of having Mt. Everest right outside our window. It provides endless hours of adventure for them. So, for that, I can deal with it...
What I love about Deb's recipes is that they inspire me to think "outside the box". I love to cook quinoa - I have used it in veggie burgers, cold summertime quinoa "salads", and warm wintertime dishes. However, I can honestly say it never occurred to me to use it in a soup. I'm not quite sure why. The soup looks scrumptious, and is so wonderfully healthy!Gotta love that!
I love the flavor profile Deb describes with all the smoky, earthy flavors! A rustic wine would be my choice with this soup, something from France perhaps. A wine we featured at the shop this week immediately jumps to mind. It is a Cotes du Rhone from Jean Luc Colombo - Les Abeilles 2007. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, it combines flavors of berries, spice, licorice with a hint of leather. It's very food-friendly (and wallet friendly at $9.99).
A wine from Corbieres, in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France is another great match for Deb's recipe. Chateau de Vaugelas Corbieres Le Prieure is a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. Velvety and fleshy on the palate, the wine exhibits beautiful chocolate notes as well as licorice, dark fruit and spice. The Vaugelas is $11.99.
Both of these wines are great bargains from the south of France. A bowl of Deb's soup enjoyed with a glass of either wine or something similar, would certainly warm up any cold winter's night!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

jazz and mash

These are days to stay indoors and keep warm, but not according to my husband. Cooped up in an office all week, when the weekend rolls around he wants to go OUT! No, we didn't play in the snow, but instead bundled up and made our way to a very cool little venue in the East Village to hear the Rob Brown group play some experimental jazz. At least I think that is what it was. A very different sound than the more classic jazz I heard at the Village Vanguard last week. The venue, University of the Streets , is a performing arts space founded in 1969. It is true survivor of the city, reinventing itself over the years to stay afloat. This not-for-profit is hosting a wonderful jazz series over the next few weeks and it is worth checking out.
After the performance we went for dinner at Lina Frey, an attractive open dining space on Houston street serving modern French cuisine, a bistro nouveau as they call themselves.  Our waitress was very sweet, the noise level was very LOUD and the food was very good. In addition to Moules au Poivre, I ordered a bunch of vegetable side dishes. The roasted cauliflower puree sounded too good to pass up. It turned out to be not so much a puree, but more of a rough mash. The flavor was great and we gobbled it up.
I loved the idea of this preparation and decided to make my own version at home. I did not exactly recreate their dish, but I made something delicious and I thank Lina Frey for the great idea!

Roasted Mashed Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 a lemon cut into quarters
4 Tbs. Olive oil
1/2 cup milk or cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay the cauliflower, garlic and lemon on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and s & p to taste. Roast till tender about 35-40 minutes. Put the cauliflower and garlic in a food processor (pick out the lemon and squeeze the juice over the vegetables) and pulse to a rough puree. Drizzle in the milk or cream and pulse a few more times to combine.
Serves four.
When roasting cauliflower I like to leave the florets fairly large and I roast some of the cauliflower leaves as well.
Let the cauliflower gets some nice brown crispy spots to add lots of flavor to the mash.

Monday, January 17, 2011

spice and jazz

What a treat to go see jazz saxophonist James Lovano play with his combo last night. On stand-up bass was none other than Esperanza Spalding, the object of my ongoing girl crush. I had seen Esperanza perform this summer at Summer Stage in Central Park and afterward I created a tribute recipe in her honor in a blog post back in June. Last night at the Village Vanguard, a far more intimate setting that is steeped in jazz history and tradition, I got an up close experience of her incredible musical talent. As it turns out, my friend Cathy, who was attending the performance with me, casually mentions that she had spent Thanksgiving dinner with Esperanza and some mutual friends! Say what!? After the performance (which was an amazing evening of Charlie Parker tunes) Cathy and Esperanza exchanged hugs and I was introduced and actually got to shake Ms. Spalding's surprisingly delicate, but very nimble and musically confident hand. She is an elfin beauty who at 25 could pass for 15, yet has the soul of someone alive a hundred years as she easily held her own on stage with seasoned jazz musicians who were likely twice her age.
Catch Esperanza perform if you can. She is a lovely rare talent and a joy to behold.
Again I have created a recipe in Esperanza's honor. This time, in keeping with the season, I was looking to create something a little earthy, but with lots of spice. My sister had recently sent me a recipe for pan roasted potatoes cooked with Indian spices that I was interested in trying.
Last night before the show Cathy and I had some tapas at Cafe Espanol that included a Potato Tortilla (Spanish Omelet). The tortilla was satisfying but I was in the mood to create something a little more robust. I decided to combine the two recipes and came up with: Indian spiced potato Tortilla. It seemed like a leap, but it turned out delicious. Even my fussy eater of a husband enjoyed it.
Here is to you Esperanza!

Indian Spiced Potato Tortilla

4 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. *whole spice seeds 
4 red potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 Tbs. butter
4 eggs lightly beaten with a fork
S & P

Heat oil and saute spices until they turn several shades darker.
Fry potatoes, tossing and turning, until coated with spices and lightly brown 
Remove potatoes and oil from pan into a bowl
Heat the butter in the pan
With a slotted spoon return the potatoes to the pan with the butter, allowing some of the spiced oil to drain off
Add the eggs to the pan, pouring over the potatoes, then add salt and pepper to taste
Cook eggs until they are set, about 5 minutes. 
Carefully slide eggs off the pan onto a plate and then invert the plate back over the pan to tunr the tore over.
Cook for another two minutes until the torte is set.
Serves two- Can be served hot or cold.

*for the whole spice seeds, mix and match what you may have on hand. I used about a teaspoon each of black sesame, fennel, celery, cardamom. Equally good would be cumin, mustard and nigella.

Amanda is away on a family vacation this week so we have no wine pairing for this recipe. Maybe this one time we will switch to beer, always a good combo with Indian spices.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

a little luck

The start of this New Year is FIERCE as we in New York contend with cold cold temeratures and plenty of snow.

Black-eyed peas are a traditional New Year's day dish in some cultures. They are meant to bring good luck. So, why not start the new year on the right foot? I will use any help available, even from a pea!
Dried Black-Eye Peas will cook in about an hour in a covered pot of water simmered on the lowest heat.

Black-eyed peas have a warm, earthy and slightly metalic taste and they can hold their own with agressive seasoning. I decided to pair them with a bunch of kale to round out the flavors. These two ingredients can serve any number of cooking techniques.
 This purple kale that I picked up at Integral Yoga Natural Foods looked fresh and bouncy. A happy sight in winter.

My first desire was to make this hearty pasta dish. I could happily eat pasta and vegetables every day of the week if left to my own preferences so this preparation was one from the heart.

Black-Eyed Peas and Kale over Capellini
•Saute one bunch of chopped kale with lots of garlic and chili peppers in oilve oil.
•When the kale is tender add one and a half cups of cooked black-eyed peas.
•Add about 3/4 cup of stock or white wine and let it all simmer together for a few minutes crushing some of the B-E peas with the back of a spoon to thicken the sauce.
• Cook half a pound of pasta and drain, toss it with the vegetables in the hot pan and serve with a sprinkle of grated cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Wanting to make another recipe with these ingredients I decided to make a bean patty.  Crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle this patty rivaled the pasta dish as my favorite of the year.

 Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Patties
•Blanch one bunch of chopped kale in salted boiling water till tender, then drain.
• Saute a chopped onion in olive oil till golden.
• Mash 1 1/2 cups cooked B-E peas roughly in a bowl with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon
• Add a beaten egg and 1/2 cup of  bread crumbs, the cooked drained kale and the onion, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
• Form the mixture into patties and dredge in about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs spread out on a plate.
• fry the patties in hot oil till golden brown.
The patties- uncooked and cooked

My purchases of the dried B-E peas and two bunches of kale really served me well. The flavors were deep and satisfying and the recipes were filling enough to warm an empty belly on a cold day.

the wine pairing:
Here's to good luck in 2011! Thanks, Deb, for these great recipes. I am particularly excited to try the patties! Nice and healthy. For both of these recipes, I'm thinking of a nice, cooler-climate, earthy Pinot Noir. Something from Oregon, a little Burgundian in style perhaps. Something soft and elegant, with ripe cherry fruit and a touch of earthiness. These characteristics are the perfect complement to the flavors Deb describes in her recipes.

The Willamette Valley in Oregon is a great place to start when experimenting with Oregon Pinot. Sipino produces a reliable, everyday food-friendly wine that has all the qualities of the "typical" Willamette style - bright red fruit, spice and earth. It retails for around $15. Argyle Winery is also located in the Willamette region and is one of my all-time favorites! A bit more expensive, their wines are definitely worth seeking out. The Pinots are more rich and robust, with a wonderful forest floor quality - perfect for Deb's Black-Eye Pea and Kale dishes!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy 2011!!!

There seems to be a New Years theme stirring on a lot of blogs these past few days- a kind of "best of the year" recap. Magazines and newspapers traditionally do this and now the blogs are joining the tradition. So, why not? It seems like a fun idea to look back at the year and choose my favorite posts from 2010. Amanda has her own favorites, so let's share!
 The last sunset of the year. Long Boat Key, Florida, December 31, 2010.

I had the amazing good fortune to spend New Years weekend in Sarasota, Florida at my husband's family home. What a treat to relax in some warm weather away from the pile up of snow, and now garbage, that is burying New York City right now. Oh, I'm already back from the trip and off to work, so my bliss is purely mental at this point. Big bags of garbage are piled up in my garage, dating back from Christmas week, that still have not been picked up by the beleaguered Sanitation Department yet. Oh joy.

New years eve in a warm climate means the opportunity to GRILL! Potatoes and yellow squash got very cozy over the flame.

Of the 89 posts Amanda and I wrote in 2010 at least 15 jumped out at me as my favorites. Wanting to narrow it down a bit I have selected my top five:
Starting back at the beginning of last year, the post from January 30th Opportunity Knocks was a very special occasion where I got to cook an Indian meal with my brother who was in town for the holidays from the Dominican Republic. We had a wonderful visit and an equally good meal.

June 21st brought me to Rockaway Beach with a fellow blogger and a large appetite for tacos as described in the post So close and not so far. I have sent many people over to Rockaway Taco since then to sample their delicious fare.

On September 24th I wrote about someone dear to my heart, chef Bill Telepan, who is working incredibly hard to improve the lunches of our NY City school children, as described in the post Local Hero.

October 17th and I'm Back from Paris. nuff said.

November 9th brought two young guests to my home, and a beloved recipe for stuffed vegetables that I have made for years, as we celebrated horses and young men.

Our New Years Eve dinner wine was this yummy Cab from 2004 that we really enjoyed. Notice the bottles are empty. Amanda, do you know this wine?

2011 lays before us and I can't wait to see what it brings. Many happy days of wine and vegetables I hope! Amanda, what were your favorite posts from 2010?

One of my favorite posts was written just around this time last year, on January 27th. It was the post where Deb featured the Chick Pea, Quinoa and Spinach burgers. Today, they are still a favorite. I make them all the time! The post, called Back to Beans, was a big hit!

A Gift From the Sea is another of my favorite posts from 2010, when I paired a Pinot Blanc from Alsace with Deb's Arame and Carrot Stir-Fry. Another of my go-to dishes when I want to feel ultra-healthy!

In March, Deb did a great post featuring a Argentine restaurant, La Vuelta, in Long Island City. The Sun-Dried Tomato and Black Bean Quesadilla is fabulous, particularly when paired with an Argentine Malbec! You can re-visit this post, by clicking We'll Be Back.

I had a lot of fun with my post, The Real Deal, when I wrote about a party I attended with my friend John Gonzalez, who made the best pizza I have ever had in my life!

Finally, July brought Deb's Post, Like Mama Makes, featuring a wonderful, refreshing Gazpacho recipe which I suggested pairing with Albarino or Godello. As Gazpacho is my all-time favorite summertime treat, this post ranked among my favorites of 2010!

Thanks, Deb, for a great year of posting! Happy New Year everyone! And all the best for a great 2011!