Saturday, February 20, 2010

The books that kicked off 2010

I'm moving at a pretty good pace so far in 2010, on my 5th book, the 6th will follow right on top of it, once I get through this. (Though, I have to say, in the second chapter of Cold Mountain and it's a slog so far.) Also, as I work to participate more in the things I enjoy this year - including more frequent blogging on both blogs, I will TODAY post these new reads to Goodreads - which I completely neglected in 2009.

Book #1 - Cooking for Mr Latte by Amanda Hesser. Jenny lent this to me and I took it on the plane to CES - finished just a short while before reaching Vegas. A quick, cute read. Nothing super deep, but chock full of recipes and an interesting pictures of the hyper-foodie existence. (I like to consider myself a foodie, but I'm definitely NOT at that level)

Book #2 - Cat People by Michael Korda and Margaret Korda. Meh. I liked the individual cat portraits. But underlying it all was an inherent snootiness from the authors. It took a while to get any sense that they really loved these animals they took in. And I really don't care about how expensive and designer your furniture is, please stop referring to it as if it's a huge tragedy when it gets scratched.

Book #3 - Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice. I sit here shaking my head. It started out okay, but ended up taking way longer than it should have. The narrator was not someone I cared about a lot - too much a child of privilege, too obsessed with the labels for high end brands of clothing, etc. And one of the main "big twists" was a reach. Trying to do something new & different? You don't have to go that far. I did not find it compelling, a source of conflict or interest or intrigue.

And, on a more positive note:
Book #4 - The Town Below Ground: Edinburgh's legendary underground city by Jan-Andrew Henderson. This was fun. So fascinating to learn the history of this city, the population exploding while the footprint is trapped within walls. Horrifying to think of the conditions that the majority of the citizens lived in in Victorian times. Super cool to hear about the ghosts. I am a fan of books that delve into people who live in "forgotten spaces" and this is a great part of the list.

Ciao for now, more soon.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Moroccan Harira

This is a winter of soups for me - trying to make one soup a week - all new ones so far.

The back story on harira - Moroccans eat it to break the fast each night during Ramadan (per Nancy Harmon Jenkins in The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook) - so it's hearty, but not heavy.

From: The Healing Foods Cookbook from Vegetarian Times

1/2c green lentils
1Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2c chopped fresh parsley (didn't have - so I used a bunch of dried ground sage, which I have tons of)
1/2c chopped cilantro (sub dried)
1/2tsp dried ginger
1 cinnamon stick
15oz can chopped tomatoes,drained - liquid reserved
2c broth (I use veggie)
15oz can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1/2c vermicelli

Tadouira (thickener)
2Tbsp flour
1/4c chopped cilantro
2Tbsp lemon juice
1Tbsp tomato paste

Cook lentils in pot of boiling salted water 2 min. Drain
Heat oil in pot over med heat. Saute onion, parsley, cilantro, ginger, & cinnamon 5 minutes - til onion is soft. Add tomatoes, saute 5 min.
Stir in broth, chickpeas, lentils, reserved tomato juice, 3c water, & salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to med-low. Simmer, stirring occ., 45 min. or until lentils are tender.
Whisk flour with 1c waterin bowl. Whisk in cilantro, lemon juice, & tomato paste. Stir into Harira w/ vermicelli. Cook 3 min, or until vermicelli are soft.

Happy Valentines Day to all! I'm focusing on yummy food (fig & fennel bread, sw potato ravioli w/ sage butter sauce, and a Wegmans fruit tart) and making progress on house chores. J has a lot of schoolwork to do with the end of his quarter approaching, so we'll have a makeup night out when he's on break.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pecan Soup

*from Healing Foods Cookbook by Vegetarian Times

Native American Toasted Pecan Soup
Recipe says it serves 10, I halved it and got 4 servings

2 1/2 cups pecans
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
1/4c agave nectar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3c veggie broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme**
1 bay leaf**
1c soymilk (I used real non-fat milk)
1/2c shredded cheese or an imitation of it, for garnish
1/4c chopped green onions, for garnish

**I used dried thyme and I think it overwhelmed other flavors a bit. Next time, I'll try a bouquet garni, instead.

1 - Preheat oven to 350. Spread pecans on baking sheet - toast 7-10 min, until fragrant. Cool 10 min, then coarsely chop

2 - Heat oil in saucepan over med heat. Add onion, saute 5 min, until soft. Stir in pecans, agave/syrup, chili powder, and garlic. Cook 2-3 min, until fragrant. Add broth, thyme/bay leaf, 4c water, and salt/pepper to taste - cover. Boil. Reduce heat to med-low & simmer 2 hours.

3 - Remove thyme sprigs/ bay leaf & puree soup in blender or w/ hand blender. Stir in milk/ soymilk. Reheat a bit & serve w/ cheese & green onion.