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Pineapple Vinaigrette Makes To-Die-For Salads

It’s raining here today and I’m feeling sun-deprived. So how about we make a little pineapple sunshine for our taste buds?

In my constant struggle to get my husband to eat vegetables (according to John, “vegetables kill!” – now you see my challenge), I know my only hope is to make them irresistibly tasty. When it comes to salad, that means making a truly kick-ass salad dressing. I find that most of the store-bought dressings are, well, offensive. Many are made with things I can’t pronounce, and unfortunately so many of the organic ones lack interesting flavors. Blah doesn’t cut it on my dinner table and I doubt it does on yours either. Never fear, my friends. This Pineapple Vinaigrette will make your palate sing! It turns a boring salad into a spectacular feature dish that will have even vegetable-haters begging for more.

I’ve gotta give credit where it’s due: There’s a cool restaurant called Flatbread in Paia, Maui that has the best Pineapple Vinaigrette salad dressing on the planet, but unfortunately they will not share the recipe. Sadly, they were immune to my incessant pleas, tears and attempts at bribery. But by channeling RainMan with my taste buds, I think I was able to successfully deconstruct the dressing, or at least create a reasonable facsimile of it.

I hope you try it today – its sure light up your day with its sunny flavor. If you do give it a go, please let me know what you think!

Pineapple Vinaigrette

1/3 cup pineapple vinegar (I use one from “11 Olives” – it’s a white pineapple balsamic that is to die for. You can get it at http://www.11olives.com)
1.5 tsp tamari (tamari is a mellower version of soy sauce – find it at your grocery store in the soy sauce section)
1 tsp real maple syrup
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and pressed through the garlic press
1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup light oil (such as canola) or flavored olive oil (www.11olives.com has ridiculously tempting flavored oils. The blood orange olive oil goes amazingly well with this dressing – I highly recommend it)
Whisk all the ingredients except the oil. I think it’s best if you can let it sit for two hours to let the flavors fully blossom, and then rewhisk it vigorously. If you don’t want it chunky, run it through a sieve and blend in the oil. Personally, I don’t run it through the sieve since the garlic, ginger and shallots add a lot of flavor over time, but if you don’t want to risk having bits in your salad, by all means sieve it. Enjoy!

 

 

Spectacular Sangria

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that the rough translation of sangria is: “awesome dinner party.” Is it a coincidence that John and I seem to have the most fantastic dinners with friends whenever we serve this spectacular sangria? Or that the food tastes extra delicious when accompanied by a big glass of this luscious, subtly sweet, ruby-colored nectar of the gods? I think not. And if you’re wondering what this has to do with Operation Carnivore Conversion, well, let’s just say that when John has a glass or three of this divine elixir, he’s far more willing to try new vegan dishes that he might otherwise deem as “suspect foods” when he’s not so well lubricated.

Whenever I make this, it disappears in a flash and everyone begs me for my secret recipe, and now I’m finally sharing it. Make some tonight and bring on the smiles!

Cimeron’s Spectacular Sangria

Serves: 6

– 1 bottle dry red wine – I’ve found that Italian sangiovese works best
– 1 bottle dry white wine – my favorite for this recipe is sauvignon blanc from New Zealand
– The juice of one lemon, preferably a meyer lemon
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 lemon, thinly sliced into circles or half moons and seeded
– 1 seedless orange, sliced into half moons
– A large handful of sliced strawberries, pineapple or nectarines

In a large pitcher, pour in the wines, sugar and lemon juice. Stir well until all the sugar has dissolved. Toss in the sliced lemon and orange. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight. An hour or so before serving, add the other sliced fruit (strawberries, pineapple or nectarines). When you’re ready to serve it, toss in some ice cubes. Enjoy!

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto for Meatless Monday

This recipe is dedicated to my friend Caryn who is looking for a crave-worthy, healthy dish that integrates grains and beans that even her kids will eat (without gagging or complaining).

Whenever I go to Costa Rica, I pretty much live on Gallo Pinto. I’m not joking. I eat it for breakfast and lunch and as a side dish with dinner. And now that I know how to make it, well now I pretty much live on it at home, too.  It’s a super tasty, very healthy traditional dish of Costa Rica and Nicaragua which is basically their version of rice and beans, but with plenty of flavorful twists. Translated, Gallo Pinto means something like “multi-colored rooster,” and that’s exactly what it looks like! Little bits of vibrant red peppers and tomatoes flash colorfully between black beans, white rice, flecks of green cilantro, caramel-colored onion and garlic. And it’s topped with the most delicious flavor found in Central America: Lizano Sauce! While this delectable mild pepper sauce can be found in the Hispanic section of many supermarkets around the world, don’t worry if you can’t find it – worcestershire sauce is a great substitute.  All the protein and deliciousness in this dish makes it the perfect food!

I’m not the only one who is in love with Gallo Pinto – my Carnivorous Crusader also adores it so much that he gladly forgoes meat to eat this zesty, filling dish. That automatically qualifies Gallo Pinto as a “magic dish” in my book! Especially for its versatility and universal likability. John likes it so much that it got him to stop sulking when I told him we were doing Meatless Monday – yes, that is the power of Gallo Pinto. Impressive, indeed.
A few years ago while we were kiteboarding in Costa Rica, the cook at the restaurant where ate every day – a lovely elderly lady with very few teeth named Maria – took me under her wing in her kitchen and taught me how to make her special version of this beloved Costa Rican dish. She spoke no English, and mi espanol no es buena, but luckily we spoke a common language: food.  Now whenever I make Gallo Pinto, I think of Maria and her joyful toothless smile, rainforests, volcanic waterfalls, cute Costa Rican three-toed sloths, and the big smile that I’m sure to get from my converting carnivore when he sees that I’m making Gallo Pinto for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch, or as a side dish). Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Gallo Pinto
Serves: 4 as a meal, or 8 as as side-dish
From cutting board to table: about 15 minutes if you’re a fast chopper! Personally I like to cook the rice a little longer in the pan to get some crispy bits, but that’s optional.
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 roma tomatoes, finely diced
1.5 cups black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 cups cooked white rice
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp salt (smoked sea salt if you have it)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2-3 tbsp Lizano sauce* or worcestershire sauce
*Lizano Sauce can be found in the Hispanic aisle in many supermarkets. But if you can’t find it, worcestershire sauce is a good substitute
In a non-stick saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute everything until the onion is translucent and a bit golden (3-4 minutes). Add rice and stir well until rice is heated through. (* optional – you can cook the rice a little longer to get some crispy bits at the bottom – yum – or you can just forge ahead. Your choice!) Add tomatoes and saute for 4 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan so the rice doesn’t permanently weld itself to your pan. Add the beans and stir for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro, salt, pepper and Lizano (or worcestershire sauce) to taste.  Serve hot and enjoy pura vida, Costa Rican style!

Teriyaki Pineapple Quinoa: a tropical vacation for the taste buds

Hi everyone! Sorry for the lapse in posting – the carnivore and I took a last-minute mini-vacation to Maui to kitesurf the huge waves and stand-up paddleboard with the humpback whales, which was amazing! With so much exercise, we worked up huge appetites every day and it was challenging to keep John away from animal-based foods. But luckily the tropics provided some great inspiration for a delicious new vegan dish that is incredibly flavorful, packed with protein, filling and utterly satisfying to Mr. Meatlover: Teriyaki Pineapple Quinoa. I tell ya, it’s like biting into a Hawaiian sunset! This recipe is simply bursting with flavor. Mmm, the vibrant, slightly sweet, sunshiny flavor of pineapple, tangy teriyaki, savory red peppers and green onions blend together with supergrain quinoa to produce a fantastic and unique dish that’s great for lunch or as a side-dish.

The secret ingredient is grilled pineapple. I like to marinate mine in teriyaki sauce overnight since it infuses into the flesh of the fruit so well, but when I leave my brain on the beach and forget to marinate, well, it still works great if you just drizzle it on the pineapple slices right there on the grill.

For some reason, anything involving a grill seems to make most carnivores grunt with delight (you’re picturing a caveman right now, aren’t you?)  And lucky for us, the grill makes the pineapple even more delicious by caramelizing the sugars in the fruit to produce a most luscious flavor. And with 20 grams of protein in just one cup of quinoa, this dish will provide you with plenty of fuel to recharge your muscles. I just made this dish again last night to see if my carnivore likes it as much at home as he did in Maui, and he did! “Anything with pineapple is awesome,” he said. Wow, the lure of pineapple even got him to eat quinoa, which I was scared he’d label a “hippie food,” but it looks like this recipe is truly a keeper with Captain Carnivore…and also with me!

Teriyaki Pineapple Quinoa

Serves: two as a meal, or 6 as a side-dish

From fridge to table: about 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
6 oz (3/4 cup) pineapple juice (canned is fine)
1 1/4 cup water
2 tbsp soy
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped finely
2 clove garlic, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green onion (aka scallions), chopped, including white part
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts or chopped cashews
1/4-1/2 cup of a thin teriyaki sauce for drizzling on the pineapple or for marinating

1 pineapple, skinned and cored, and sliced into 1/2″ thick slabs, drizzled with or marinated in teriyaki, then grilled. Then chop it up up to make 1 cup of diced grilled pineapple. (If fresh pineapples aren’t available where you are, you can grill up canned pineapple and it’s quite good).

Cook the quinoa first (and while doing that, you can also grill pineapple to save time – see below). In a medium saucepan, mix together quinoa, pineapple juice, water and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer (on my range, that’s about a 2 on the dial) cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, which takes about 15-17 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat up the grill to medium-high. Place the marinated pineapple on the grill, or if you haven’t marinated it, just drizzle some teriyaki sauce on both sides of each slab. Grill for a few minutes until nice grill lines appear on the fruit and it’s getting slightly charred around the edges, then flip it and grill for a few minutes on the other side. It should look like this:

(Oh man, can’t you just taste the tangy, sweet grilled pineapple? I want some right now!)

Once you grill it, steal a slice while no one is looking – it is divine. It’s got a deep, lush, powerfully wonderful flavor. Chop up enough to make 1 cup and save the rest to have as a side dish for another meal – it’s so insanely good! Or just hide it in the back of the fridge so you can have it all to yourself when no one is looking. 🙂

In a fry pan, heat a little bit of olive oil – about 1 tbsp does the trick – over medium heat. Toss in the red pepper, jalepeno and garlic and saute for a few minutes until the red pepper turns orange. Add the nuts and scallion and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the cooked quinoa, basil and chopped grilled pineapple. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes more to blend flavors, then serve while hot. Take a bite and close your eyes as you are transported to a tropical beach where you’re listening to the waves lap the white sand beach, feel a warm, ginger-scented breeze on your face and watch whales frolic as the sun sets on another perfect day in paradise.

Zesty, Tomatoey, Gooey Hot Dip Makes Even a Bacon Fanatic Smile

Mmmmm, The Goodness! Just look at this luscious, piping hot pan of joy! Can’t you just taste the zesty, sock-it-to-you rich blend of baked tomatoes perfumed with bay leaves and accented with sauteed onion, garlic and gooey mozzarella fresca (or vegan Daiya mozzarella) melting in your mouth? And can’t you just feel that satisfying crunch of crusty sourdough bread that’s been dipped in this divine sauce?  Once you try this dish, you’ll see why I’ve named it “The Goodness.” My meat-loving husband often requests The Goodness for dinner and it makes for a nice intimate meal, sitting shoulder to shoulder and hovering over the pan together like hyenas devouring a carcass. It’s also a fantastic and fun appetizer when you have friends over.

I get a lot of flack from our smart-ass carnivore friends who enjoy tormenting me over my efforts to convert my husband into a vegetarian (shhh, I’m actually hoping to turn him into a vegan eventually!) But I’ve noticed that whenever they come over and I tell them that I’m making them The Goodness, they shut the heck up. The Goodness has special powers over meat-lovers! It even recently inspired a die-hard bacon fanatic to declare: “Wow, this is actually reeeeeally good!” That’s high praise from a man who would sooner eat a bacon-wrapped piece of plywood than a cucumber.

So suck it, smart-ass carnivore friends! And please enjoy your foray into vegetarianism with The Goodness. 🙂

The Goodness

Serves: 2-3 as a main dish, or 6 as an appetizer

From fridge to table: about 30 minutes (but don’t worry – it’s super simple to make)

Ingredients:

1 14 oz can Muir Glen organic fire roasted diced tomatoes (if you want a kick, use the one with green chilies. Yowza!)

1 14 oz can Muir Glen organic tomato sauce

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 tub of tiny mozzarella fresca balls, OR to make it vegan, use Daiya* vegan mozzarella and sprinkle into little rounds on top

1 sourdough baguette, sliced

* Personally, almost all fake cheeses make me gag – literally, I gag, run for the bathroom and scrape my tongue.  But for this recipe, Daiya works incredibly well and is actually (dare I admit it) tasty! Unlike other fake cheeses, Daiya melts and stretches, which is necessary for this recipe. Given that mozzarella is a naturally mild-flavored cheese, this works well in Daiya’s vegan format. You can get Daiya at Whole Foods, natural food stores, and now it’s showing up in mainstream grocery stores, too.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a high-sided, large oven-safe saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, garlic and bay leaves until onions are translucent. Turn heat down to medium. Add tomatoes. Simmer and stir for a few minutes to blend flavors. Turn off heat. Drop mozzarella or Daiya on top and then put the whole thing in the oven, uncovered. (After about 20 minutes, put the bread in the oven to heat it up and make the top crunchy.) Bake The Goodness for a total of 25 minutes or until golden on top and slightly bubbly. Serve with the hot bread. Enjoy!

 

All-Star Appetizer: Roasted Bombay Masala Potatoes with Vegan Lemon-Garlic Aioli

With the Superbowl coming up, it’s time to whip up some tasty crowd-pleasing appetizers, and my Roasted Bombay Masala Potatoes with Vegan Lemon-Garlic Aioli is on our “All-Stars of Appetizers” list. Every time I serve this, people hoover it up, and bonus: it’s a belly-filler. See, I’ve found that when carnivores have that full-belly feeling, they don’t feel like they “need” meat after they eat something satisfying like this appetizer. Friends beg me to make this and John craves it – I bet this will become a staple in your house as well.  The Indian-spiked potatoes are just slightly crispy on the outside and buttery-soft on the inside and they have just the right balance of spicy-heat and fragrant mouth-watering flavors. And the lemony, garlicy aioli is lick-the-bowl good and is the perfect marriage with these spectacular potatoes.

I’ve made the aioli with real mayonnaise and with Vegenaise, and no one can tell the difference. So since real mayo is disgusting and vile, I only make this with Vegenaise now (and no, I do not bother telling the carnivores that it’s vegan. They wouldn’t be able to hear me over their very loud groans of pleasure anyway. But I do derive secret joy in duping those who say they hate ‘vegan food.’ Hehehe.) (Yes, that was an evil laugh).  I mean, check out this photo of the aioli – you totally can’t tell that it’s made with Vegenaise, can you?

So kickoff your Superbowl festivities (or any other night of the week) with these awesome potatoes and dipping sauce. Please let me know what you think by posting a comment!

Roasted Bombay Masala Potatoes

Serves: 6

From fridge to table: about an hour

2 pounds small organic yukon gold “creamer” potatoes or fingerling potatoes, chopped into 2″ cubes with skin on (personally, I like the yukon gold creamers the best since they have such a creamy, buttery flavor)
3 tbsp olive oil
1-1.5 tbsp Bombay Masala seasoning – you can purchase the very best from http://www.DilKhush.com, or you can make your own by mixing:
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne

Vegan Lemon-Garlic Aioli:
1/3 cup Vegannaise (available at Whole Foods in the refrigerated aisle)
the juice of 1/2 of a fresh lemon (or more if you’re a lemon-freak like I am)
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
5 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven to 425.
Mix the chopped potatoes with olive oil and Bombay Masala seasoning.  I’d recommend going easy on the seasoning for the first time you try this and adding more at the end if you like. Be sure that each potato is coated with oil. Put potatoes on a cookie sheet (a cookie sheet with sides) in a single layer and place in the middle of the oven. Bake for about an hour, and be sure to stir the potatoes every 15 minutes for even browning. You can tell when the potatoes are done – they’ll be slightly browned (like in the photo below) and are a bit crispy on the outside edges but still tender in the middle. (Careful when you bite into the potatoes to test them – it’s like napalm in your mouth when they’re right out of the oven).  When they’re ready, add more salt and Bombay Masala seasoning to taste.

Meanwhile, make the aioli by mixing all the ingredients together. In my opinion, there is no such thing as “too much lemon” but you may want to add 3 tbsp of lemon juice and add more to taste. I like letting it sit out at room temp for 30-60 minutes to allow it to get a little creamier as it warms up a bit.

Serve the potatoes while they’re hot and be sure to have lots of toothpicks out so people can dip the potatoes in the aioli. Then prepare yourself to be knocked over by a loud symphony of ooohs and ahhhs!

Kale Chip Fail

Damn. Today I pressed my luck and got The Face from John.

In retrospect, I should have recognized how risky it was to try to replace his beloved barbeque potato chips with homemade kale chips. John has eaten potato chips with his lunch pretty much every single day since he was old enough to chew, so I shouldn’t have underestimated his resistance to disrupting his lifelong routine, nor his undying love for Lays. But a lady I met in line at the Farmer’s Market went on and on about how much her picky, fast-food loving children love kale chips and beg her to make the chips for them, so figured it was worth a try.

I thought: “Hey, kale chips are crispy and salty too, so maybe he won’t notice!” Plus, they’re nutrient-rich and have a wonderfully unique flavor. He should love them, right? WRONG.

With a look of grave dismay, he started at the crispy dark green intruder on his plate, apparently trying to vaporize it with his intense glare. Caving to my pleas, he agreed to try one, or rather, a 1 square millimeter corner of crispy kale. ‘That is seriously disgusting,” he declared. “It’s worse than the dried seaweed strips that they always try to get me to eat when I’m in Japan.”

Oh well, I guess that means more kale chips for me! Since the vast majority of people who try kale chips love them, I’ll still include the recipe just in case you’d like to try it, too. If you try them, please post a comment to let me know how you like them. But if you’ve got a die-hard potato-chip lover like John who you’re trying to convert into being a kale chip fan, prepare yourself for a potential face-off with The Face!

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale, center rib removed and leaves torn into large chip-sized pieces (personally, I like using dinosaur kale for chips since the texture lends itself well to this recipe)

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Smoked sea salt*, to taste

Optional: lime, or brown sugar, or chili powder

* Smoked sea salt imparts an incredibly smoky flavor that is just simply delicious. I get mine from www.SpiceHound.com.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Completely dry the kale – this is essential or else it won’t turn out crispy. Toss kale with olive oil and spread out in single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. If using lime or chili powder, sprinkle it on sparingly. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until kale is crispy. If using brown sugar (which creates a lovely and subtle salty-sweet flavor), sprinkle it on after removing the kale chips from the oven.

Superhero Stir Fry Side Dish: Kale and Chard in a Spicy Teriyaki Disguise

Does anyone remember The Superfriends? It’s a vintage cartoon that features a dream-team alliance of seriously bitchin’ superheros. A couple nights ago I had a dream about The Superfriends, which went something like this: “Wonder Twin Powers, Activate! Form of: the healthiest, most cruciferous vegetable on the planet to protect against cancer and fight cholesterol!” (And then POOF!, he turns into kale). Then the female side of the daring duo says: “Shape of: a super-vegetable that contains 13 different kinds of antioxidants and betalain to fight aging, heart disease and inflammation!” (And then BANG!, she turns into Swiss chard).

(Yeah, that was a weird dream! But not as strange as the one in which my body was made of nougat – now that was seriously bizarre. Perhaps I should lay off the margaritas before bed).

Anyway, I woke up inspired to make a side dish with these fabulous superhero vegetables. But as spicy-sweet, nutty and flavorful as these thick-leafed veggies taste to me, I know they will intimidate my veg-shy carnisaurus. I mean, c’mon, the guy grew up eating something called “Scrapple,” a pressed-together mess of pig scraps. (Ew!)  Its tag line could be “From the Rooter to the Tooter!”  Let’s face it, kale and Swiss chard are pretty advanced veggies that can terrify people (like my husband) who don’t frequent the farmer’s market. So I decided to disguise these Superhero Veggies in a flavorful cape of spicy miso teriyaki. And guess what, John flipping LOVED THEM and asked for seconds! I knew he couldn’t resist the savory-sweet, hot teriyaki flavors. Woohoo, score one for Team Veg! Bonus for the cooks: this recipe takes all of 10 minutes to make, from fridge to plate.

Maybe my dream wasn’t so bizarre after all. These awesome SuperVeggies deserve to star in their own show…okay, maybe not as a crime-fighting duo, but perhaps as the stars of your next dinner!

Superhero Stir Fry: Kale and Chard in a Spicy Miso Teriyaki Disguise
Time to prepare: 10 minutes
Servings: makes enough for 4 side dishes
  • 1-2 tbsp oil that can take high heat (like grapeseed or peanut oil)
  • half bunch of kale, leaves torn in two or three parts (your choice of dinosaur kale, red, purple, etc. Get crazy, my friends!) (Lucky for me, my favorite farmer’s market vendor, Happy Boy Farms,  sells pre-mixed bags of kale and chard)
  • half bunch of Swiss chard, leaves torn in two or three parts (your choice of color)
  • 4 cloves garlic, either smashed or chopped
  • up to 1/4 cup of spicy teriyaki sauce (I used Kikoman’s spicy miso teriyaki and it was delish in this dish!)
In a big old wok, heat oil over high heat. Once heated, toss in the kale and chard. It should totally fill your wok to the rim (see photo above), but don’t worry, it cooks down to about 1/4 of the size (see photo below). Stir frequently for about 8 minutes until the leaves wilt and start to brown a bit, then add garlic and stir-fry for about a minute more, stirring constantly. Test the veggies to see if they’re wilted enough to eat – they should be slightly browned and soft. Then turn off the heat and immediately add teriyaki – do a little at a time, mix, taste, and add more as you like.

This makes an excellent side dish, but you can also make it a main dish by tossing in some super-firm tofu about half way through. The sauce cloaks the tofu too, which makes it appealing and edible for carnivores. Enjoy!

Hearty vegan meal = happy carnivore: Tomato and Bread Soup

My husband’s goal is to significantly cut back on his consumption of animal-based foods so that he’ll be healthier, and I’m all for it!  But the idea of being a vegetarian scares the hell out of him and the word “vegan” makes his eyes pop out. He doesn’t want to feel deprived or eat “hippie food,” which I think he imagines is a patchouli-scented mixture of twigs, couscous, gravel and hemp.  (Since I’ve eaten vegan “food” at yoga camps prepared by well intentioned but clearly stoned dreadlocked people, I can understand his fear).  So being the cook in our family who also really wants Operation Carnivore Conversion to work, I have to carefully pick and prepare particularly hearty and flavorful meals for John so that he’ll form a new impression of vegan food.

Last night, I made a perfect starter that’s filling enough to be a meal: tomato and bread soup. The recipe is pure genius – you use dried-out country bread to thicken up the soup, which makes it ultra filling. It can be made with fresh tomatoes (which I prefer since they’re so healthy and tasty) or if you’re feeling lazy or tomatoes are out of season, you can used canned as well. It’s quite delicious, flavorful and easy! If you’d like to try it, here’s the recipe, which I modified from one I found on epicurious.com.

Tomato and Bread Soup

Yield: about 6 cups (easily serves 4 as a first course, or 2 as an entree)

8  1-inch thick slices of a country-style bread (my favorite is a sourdough-walnut levain from the farmer’s market)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
14 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/2 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
a pinch of fresh oregano if you have it, chopped
1 3/4 pounds fresh tomatoes, diced – plum tomatoes and heirlooms work best (or use one 30 oz can of Muir Glenn Organic diced tomatoes)
4 cups vegetarian broth
2 tsp smoked sea salt (you can probably use any kind of salt here, I just like the flavor of smoked sea salt)
pinch of sugar
freshly ground pepper to taste
optional for non-vegans: sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 225 degrees. Place bread slices right on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake until the bread fully dries out (but be careful not to toast it) – about 25-30 minutes. Break three pieces of the bread into large pieces and set them aside along with the full pieces of bread.

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and stir for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil and other spices and cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cook at a low boil, uncovered for 15 minutes or until the the tomatoes fully break down, stirring frequently.

Stir in the broth, the torn pieces of bread, salt and pepper. Return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring and breaking up the bread with the back of a spoon for 15 minutes. The bread should break down to a mush. Remove from the heat, taste it and if it’s too sharp, add a pinch or two of sugar. Cover it and let it sit for 10 minutes so the flavors fully develop and open up.

Serve with a few grinds of fresh pepper, a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan (optional for non-vegans) and with a slice of the dried-out bread. Tear the bread into chunks and sprinkle it on top of the soup. Yummy!