Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dilly Cabbage Soup

It's raining hard here today, in the way that it rains only in Savannah.  The sky is gray with that eerie light that is seen when storms let up, yet are not quite done.  It's lunchtime, and I am hungry.  Very hungry.  It's too bad outside to do my grocery shopping as I had planned for today, so while rummaging around, I saw a slightly tired, small head of cabbage and some slightly sprouting potatoes.  Cabbage soup, it is!

makes about 4 quarts

1 lb potatoes, diced
1 lb onion, diced
1 small cabbage, shredded finely with a knife (about 2 lbs)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs dried dill
3 Tbs veggie bouillion granules (I like Vogue)
1 -2 tsp salt to taste
1 tsp black pepper
10 cups water

Coat the bottom of a heavy 6 qt soup pot with the olive oil, and heat over medium high heat.  Add the potatoes and onion, stirring constantly, till the onion is translucent.  Add in the salt, pepper, then the dill, water and bouillion granules.  Bring to a boil and add in the cabbage.  You will have to press it down to get it all in.  Bring back to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium low, making sure to keep it simmering.  Let it simmer for half an hour to wilt the cabbage and meld the flavors.

As made above, this is 6 WW points plus per quart.  Yes, you heard me, per quart! That's about 1 point per cup.  You can't get better than that for something so yummy and filling.

This is a very simple, but delicious soup.  You could flavor it many different ways - imagine it with curry and peas for an Indian flavor!  How about some Italian sausage (real or soy) and basil?  Lots of paprika (smoked paprika is my favorite), caraway seeds, white wine and sour cream for a Hungarian twist?  Really, the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Korean Scallion Pancakes

When I lived in Mountain View, California, I used to patronize a little Mom and Pop Korean restaurant. The food was delicious, plentiful and inexpensive. One of the appetizers that dear daughter and I would often get as a meal was called Pa Jun - eggy pancakes flavored with minced scallions and served with a vinegar & soy sauce dipping sauce. Oftentimes, these pancakes were garnished with sesame seeds. We loved these pancakes and sometimes would get them for lunch.

Years later, I came across a couple of different ways to make them. One calls for a dough that is kneaded, rolled into a tube, then coiled into a circle, rolled thin and finally, cooked on a hot griddle. Although these look delicious, they are definitely not what dear daughter and I loved so much.

Here is a foolproof, quick and easy way to make these delicious pancakes!

Korean Scallion Pancakes (Pa Jun)
1/4 C silken tofu (this replaces the 1 egg in the original recipe), mashed
1/2 C all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
1 bunch scallions, minced, using 2 inches of the green
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C ice water

Place a small, well-seasoned cast iron skillet on the stove, about 6 inches across and heat on medium-low heat. wipe bottom of skillet with vegetable oil. In a medium bowl, whisk the water and tofu till tofu is smooth. Then whisk in flour and salt till smooth, then stir in scallions. Fill a 1/2 C measure with the batter and drop on the hot skillet, cooking till browned on one side, about 2 min. Flip and cook another 2 min. Repeat with rest of batter. Serve warm with dipping sauce or Ponzu sauce.

Dipping Sauce
3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
3 Tbs soy sauce
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp sugar (optional)

Today, I made these in my nonstick silver dollar pancake pan which worked like a charm! I think I'll always make them this size now, because they are so easy to pick up and dip in the sauce using your fingers.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lebanese Spinach and Lentil Soup - Rishta

I think I've blogged before about my love affair with lentils. If not, well, suffice it to say that I adore lentils! I always have, even as a child. Don't ask me why, I just do. As with all great love affairs in history, I spend as much time as possible with my beloved. On Thursday night, I made rishta, a wonderful, homey, Lebanese lentil and spinach soup.

My Lebanese mother-in-law was an outstanding cook, and while we often had different opinions, she always loved that I appreciated her cooking. She made the first rishta I ever had, and I was smitten, so I went home and tried to duplicate it. No luck - mine was just not as good as hers, and she NEVER gave recipes out. She did this because it meant that she would have lots of people visiting and she could cook for them. Old-time Lebanese women never wonder why they were created, or what their role in life is - they already know that it's to feed hungry people! Then we visited her sister Rose one day, and as we were visiting, she decided to cook something for us. That something was rishta. The best rishta in the entire world. Aunt Rose laughed at me because I was nearly swooning with bliss, and Uncle George said to my husband, "That's an odd one you got there, Jerry." Of course, I asked for the recipe, and Aunt Rose told me the secret to good rishta. It was like hitting the motherlode! When we got home that day, I immediately made a pot. In fact, I made so much rishta over the next month or two that Jerry finally asked me to stop!

The other night, I needed to use about a half pound of fresh, organic baby spinach, and rishta floated into my mind. I haven't made it in a long time and decided to whip up a pot. I also had a pound of frozen spinach and I always have lots of lentils on hand, so I was in business. Hunger dictated that I use store-bought noodles instead of making my own, but if you just happen to baking some pita bread, use one ball of dough for the noodles. Just roll it out very thinly, maybe 1/8 inch, cut into 1/4 inch strips, then slice diagonally so they are about 1 inch in length. Here is my recipe:


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1-1/2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbs ground coriander seed
1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and washed
1 Tbs bouillion powder (I like Vogue Veggie Base)
1 bay leaf
8 cups water
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lb baby spinach or chopped spinach, fresh or frozen, or other greens such as chard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup broken vermicelli or other soup noodles

Pick over and wash the lentils. Place in a soup pot with the bay leaf, bouillion powder and water, and simmer until the lentils are almost tender - about 35 minutes or so. While the lentils are simmering, prepare the onions. Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion till beginning to carmelize. Add basil, coriander, garlic to the onions. Season with salt and pepper and continue to saute until the edges of the onion are carmelized and the spices are very fragrant. Add the sauteed onions to the pot, scraping every last bit of goodness out of the frying pan and into the soup pot and bring back to a simmer. Add in the pasta and simmer for a couple of minutes while you wash and chop the spinach. Add the spinach and taste for salt and pepper. When the pasta is done, the soup is ready to eat. This is traditionally served with a squeeze of lemon juice in each individual bowl. This made 4 hearty servings.

Aunt Rose told me that Syrians sometimes put tomatoes in as well, but she would never do such a thing! I never do either, but its a thought...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bubble and Squeakish

For us Orthodox Christians, it is Great Lent, a season of preparation for Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, the touchstone and center of our spiritual year. We prepare ourselves by forgiveness of others, increasing our personal and corporate prayer, performing works of charity, and abstaining from sin, spiritual laziness, passions, and yes, certain foods. For a season, we become vegans: no flesh meats, fish with backbones, dairy, wine, eggs, or oil. On a few days, we are permitted fish, wine and oil, in particular, olive oil. There are individual differences and cultural differences, but this is basically the goal that we are all striving towards.

We Orthodox tend to think of fasting not as punishment - we don't punish ourselves into holiness as it may seem. Instead, we think of fasting as a means of exercising our spiritual muscles. With strong spiritual muscles, we can better fight the good fight. That is why, if you talk to 10 Orthodox, you will find at least 11 different fasting rules! The fast is applied individually like a medicine, to combat a specific individuals spiritual ills, and everyone's prescription is different, worked out with the advice of your spiritual father or parish priest, who is usually one and the same person, but not always, or you may have a spiritual mother, too. So, forgive me my weakness, but I do not abstain from olive oil. You can make adjustments to my recipes by omitting the oil and using broth or water to saute in a non-stick pan.

So... what is a vegan to eat when she hasn't been food shopping in far too long, and a search of the pantry and fridge offers up some potatoes, onions and a tired head of cabbage? The answer is bubble and squeak, of course! I don't pretend that my version is in anyway authentic, but it sure was delicious and certainly provided a nice, hot meal on a cold evening, as well as lunch the next day.

Bubble and Squeakish or, Cabbage Hash Browns
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small to medium onion sliced into strips
half a medium head of cabbage, sliced into strips
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp herbes de provence
olive oil

I peeled my potatoes because they were beginning to sprout and when that happens, a slight greenishness appears just underneath the skin. This is bitter and, I believe, it is quite bad for you, so be sure and peel your old potatoes! If the potatoes were fresher, I would not have peeled them.

Brush the bottom of a large, deep, nonstick frypan, like a wok or a chicken fryer (I used a chicken fryer), with about 1 tsp of oil. Add in the onions, season with a little salt and pepper, and saute until translucent over medium heat. Add in the potatoes and continuing sauteing until the potatoes are nearly tender and the onions are just beginning to carmelize. Add in the cabbage and herbes de provence, stir well so that the herbes are well distributed throughout, adding a little more oil if necessary, then cover the pan for about 5 minutes to wilt the cabbage. Uncover, stir and you should see that the potatoes are beginning to get a nice toasty brown and the onions are nicely carmelized, but still soft. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary, then turn the heat to high and stir fry for a minute or two. Take off the heat and smash some of the potatoes with the back of a serving spoon. Enjoy!

I was pretty hungry, so I ate this right out of the pan. While I was boxing the leftovers for my lunch the next day, I thought that this would provide a base for a wide range of flavors and ingredients. I could picture this with some curry as a filling for samosas; as the base for a baked omelette or a quiche; or even as the filling for some yummy pierogies!

I still have half the cabbage in the fridge, so I think I'll try one of these ideas and let you know how it turned out!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beet This!

I have restarted my CSA - every two weeks I receive the "petite" box for $18. The last box contained a beautiful bunch of baby beets which I peeled and roasted together with carrots, a rutabaga, potatoes, a sweet potato and brussels sprouts. Oh yes.... very yummy, and very pretty too. I've blogged about roasted veggies before, so you know what to do. However, this left me with a bunch of gorgeous beet greens. Last night, I finally decided to saute them and eat them with a pita. Man oh man, how delish! I didn't take a photo, mostly because I couldn't wait to eat! The little pop of sweet date is delicious when matched with the slight tartness of the lemon juice. Use bread to sop up all the juices!

Sauteed Greens
1/2 large onion, sliced into julienne type strips
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch greens (beet greens this time), carefully washed, but not dried - you want the water clinging to the leaves
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper to taste
2 dates, minced
Olive oil for sauteeing
juice of half a lemon

Sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes, till wilted. Season with salt, pepper and herbes. Chop the greens into strips and add to the pan, stirring while sauteeing - they will wilt quickly. Once wilted, add the minced dates and continue to saute until the greens are cooked to your liking. Drizzle juice of half a lemon over all and use pieces of pita bread as a scoop to eat.

After I had eaten it all, I thought how delicious this would have been with the baby beets roasted and cubed, and dressed with lots of fresh dill. Maybe I'll buy a bunch of turnips to cook this way with the turnip greens and try it out...

This is a very southern Italian way of eating greens. Sicily, in particular, has a number of greens dishes which include raisins and pine nuts.

Tomorrow - bubble and squeak, I think!