Sunday, December 14, 2014

Potato, Leek, and Kale Soup with Smoky Paprika and Roasted Garlic: Flavorful, Comforting and Satisfying for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I have been wanting to try caramelizing garlic in the slow cooker after seeing them do it on The Kitchen on Food Network so I put eight bulbs into two packets of foil in the crockpot on low and headed to bed. What to do with all those resulting lovely brown cloves the next morning? I knew I wanted a garlic soup this week--thick, with potato and smoky with the garlic and smoked paprika. This is a vegan soup, somewhat caldo verde-like with the kale, that I put together. With the caramelized garlic, the smoky paprika, and the herbs, it has several layers of flavor and pureeing some of the soup makes it creamy. A thick and utterly satisfying soup for a cool, windy and rainy day. 

Two heads of garlic may seem like a lot but the caramelizing mellows the flavor, rounds out  any sharp edges the garlic, brings out the sweetness.  

Potato, Leek and Kale Soup with Smoky Paprika and Roasted Garlic
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 8-10)

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white & light green parts, washed well, sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tsp smoked paprika, and more to taste
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped 
3-4 sprigs of fresh time
2 full heads worth of roasted/caramelized garlic paste (see garlic notes)
4 medium-large Yukon gold potatoes, chopped--large dice 
10 cups light veggie broth or stock (low-sodium preferred
4 cups fresh kale, tough stems removed and leaves sliced into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, carrot and celery with a small pinch of sea salt and reduce heat to medium. Saute veggies about 7-8 minutes until softened and celery is turning opaque. Add smoked paprika and saute another minute or two until fragrant. Add rosemary, thyme sprigs, garlic paste and veggie stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes until potatoes and vegetables are tender. 

Remove thyme sprig stems and if desired, place two scoops of vegetables and broth into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into soup pot. Increase heat to medium and add kale, stirring into soup. Cook about 10 minutes until kale is tender. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and extra smoked paprika if desired.

Serve with toasted baguette--spread with additional garlic puree if desired. Enjoy!

Garlic Notes: I used this recipe from The Kitchen on Food Network to caramelize the garlic overnight (about 6 1/2 hours on low) in the slow cooker, then smashed two heads work into a rough paste and added it to the soup. Easy-peasy, and I made enough for other dishes and to slather on bread to serve with the soup.

Notes/Results: So rich, thick and good, this soup really hit the spot--it's a great combination of creamy, brothy and hearty stew-like textures. The smoky flavor is prominent but there is a sweetness to all the savory with the browned garlic, leeks, and carrots. You could use onions in place of leeks but I think the leeks add sweeter notes that go well with the rest of the ingredients. I am a fan of Yukon gold potatoes in soups--they hold their shape but still have that soft creamy potato feel and they puree well to thicken the soup. You might think it is garlic overkill (is there such a thing?!?) to spread more of it on pan-toasted baguette to top or serve with the soup but it adds an extra special touch (not to mention good flu and cold-fighting properties needed this time of year, and great vampire protection) so I highly recommend it. ;-) It's good I like this soup so much because I made a huge batch that I will happily pull out for lunches and dinner this week--maybe adding a runny-yolked poached or fried egg on top for a little protein. I can see it pairing well with the kale and garlic. I would make this again. 

A couple of good friends await in the Souper Sundays kitchen, let's see what they brought.   

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food shares this Vegetarian Spicy (Hot) Sour Soup and says, "Mild and harmless-looking, this is not your usual noodle soup. The kick of Thai red chili and Chinese black vinegar can just wake up your senses anytime of the day. So never judge a book by its cover. Not the Szechuan hot (spicy) and sour soup that you may order off the menu of a Chinese restaurant; however, the spice and sourness is as close as it gets. ... Often, a pot of soup represents a side (additional) dish complementing other mains and sides; but you can always dunk in noodles and make it a main dish."

Janet of The Taste Space brings Eat Your Greens Soup with Edamame and says, " is filled with a nicely fragrant broth made from ginger, cumin with a touch of cinnamon and filled with loads and loads of vegetables. Mushrooms, broccoli and carrot. Sometimes I use kale or collards, sliced into thin strips, but this time I used a crunchy cruciferous mix of kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts for more variety.  I also continued with the green theme and used frozen edamame as my protein of choice. It fits well with the uniquely Asian twist brought by the last minute addition of shredded nori."

Thanks to Tigerfish and Janet for joining me this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chermoula-Marinated Tuna with Pomegranate (Pearled) Couscous: A Moroccan-Inspired Meal

Pretty, festive, easy enough for a weekday dinner, but special enough to serve to company--this Chermoula-Marinated Tuna with Pomegranate Couscous from Diana Henry is full of wonderful and exotic flavors. 

It's our monthly Mystery Box Madness challenge this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where our selected recipe needs to contain at least three out of ten ingredients: Chocolate, Cherries, Cinnamon, Rolled Oats, Couscous, Pomegranate, Curry, Coconut Milk, Lentils, and Hot Peppers/Chilis. This dish contains four of the ten--cinnamon, red chili, couscous and pomegranate. 

Henry says, "Definitely a dish for cilantro-lovers Chermoula is one of the most well-used Moroccan herb and spice blends. Chermoula actually means "to tear lightly"--but that doesn't stop cooks from making it in the blender.

Chermoula-Marinated Tuna with Pomegranate Couscous 
Adapted From Crazy Water Pickled Lemon by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

4 thick tuna loin steaks
salt and pepper
extra-virgin olive oil and lime wedges to serve

For the Marinade:
6 Tbsp olive oil
3 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 medium red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves, crushed
leaves of a small bunch of cilantro and a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped 

For the Couscous:
7 oz couscous (I used pearled or Israeli couscous)
2/3 cup water
3 Tbsp olive oil (Reduced to 1 Tbsp)
2 pomegranates
1 oz pine nuts, toasted
3 Tbsp each chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint (I added cilantro)
lemon juice to taste

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Turn the tuna steaks over in the marinade to get them well-coated. Refrigerate for about half an hour.

Sprinkle the couscous in a shallow dish and add half the water. Let the couscous plump up for about 15 minutes, then fork it through to separate the grains. Repeat with the rest of the water. Stir in the olive oil and salt and pepper. 

Halve the pomegranates and, holding each half over a bowl, beat the fruit with a wooden spoon. The seeds should just spill out. Remove any coarse bits of yellow membrane still attached to them. 

Put the couscous on to steam for about 10 minutes and, meanwhile, sear the tuna steaks. Heat a griddle until it is smoking hot and then cook the steaks  quickly for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. (I serve tuna cooked on the outside and raw as a rare steak on the inside.)

Mix the steamed couscous with the pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, herbs, and lemon juice, and check the seasoning. Add a squeeze more lemon if you think the dish needs it. Put a mound of couscous on each plate and serve the tuna steaks on top, drizzled with any remaining marinade and a last slug of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with wedges of lime. 

Notes/Results: This was such a great dish--so much flavor in the sauce and the accompanying couscous. You definitely want to be a cilantro lover for this one--it is very prominent in the Chermoula marinade. I am a big fan, so I also chopped some up in the couscous as well. Speaking of the couscous, I knew I had some in the pantry but forgot it was the larger pearled or Israeli couscous so I went ahead and used it. I actually like it better than regular couscous anyway, and it adds a fun texture to the dish. I loved the mix of the herbs, tangy-sweet pomegranate and toasty pine nuts accented by the lemon in the couscous and it went really well with the sauce which is full of savory, sweet, herby and slightly spicy notes that compliments the ahi tuna I used. I like my tuna pretty rare on the inside--the best way to eat good ahi, but might give it another 30 seconds per side to serve to others who may not like it as 'raw.' This is really an easy and quick (after the marinating the tuna) dish that looks and tastes like it took more of an effort. (BTW--I was lazy and used the blender for my marinade--probably not as pretty but faster than all that chopping.) I only made a half recipe and was sorry I didn't make more. ;-) Loved it and will make it again--one of my favorite Dina Henry dishes so far.

This post will be linked up to this coming week's Mystery Box Madness Challenge at IHCC. You'll be able to see what mystery ingredients and recipes people chose by checking out the picture links on the post.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Woman With A Gun" by Phillip Margolin, Served with a Healthier Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad

Phillip Margolin's Gone But Not Forgotten was one of the first legal thrillers that I picked up many moons ago, and his early slew of novels helped shape my love for the genre. I lost track of his books for several years so when I saw his latest novel, Woman With A Gun, on a list of upcoming TLC Book Tours, I quickly jumped to be a spot on the winter tour. Today I bring you my review of the novel along with a healthier Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad inspired by the book, and a recipe for Alton Brown's 'No Guilt Caesar Dressing.'

Publisher's Blurb:

This compelling thriller, from New York Times bestseller Phillip Margolin, centers on an intriguing photograph that may contain long-hidden answers to the mystery of a millionaire’s murder.

At a retrospective on the work of acclaimed photographer Kathy Moran, aspiring novelist Stacey Kim is fascinated by the exhibition’s centerpiece: the famous Woman with a Gun, which launched the artist’s career. Shot from behind, the enigmatic black-and-white image depicts a woman in a wedding dress standing on the shore at night, facing the sea. But this is no serene, romantic portrait. In her right hand, which is hidden behind her back, she holds a six-shooter.

The picture captures Stacey’s imagination and raises a host of compelling questions: Who is this woman? Is this a photograph of her on her wedding day? Does she plan to kill herself or someone else? Obsessed with finding answers, she soon discovers the identity of the woman: a suspect in a ten-year-old murder investigation. Convinced that proof of the woman’s guilt, or innocence, is somehow connected to the photograph, Stacey embarks on a relentless investigation.

Drawn deeper into the case, Stacey finds that everyone involved has a different opinion of the woman’s culpability. But the one person who may know the whole story—Kathy Moran—isn’t talking. Stacey must find a way to get to the reclusive photographer, and get her to talk, or the truth about what happened that day will stay forever hidden in the shadows.

Hardcover: 304 pages Publisher: Harper (December 2, 2014)

One of the things I like best about Phillip Margolin's books are their settings in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest--my old stomping grounds. Woman With a Gun is primarily set in the fictional town of Palisades Heights on the Oregon coast. Although the town doesn't exist, Margolin captures the feel of the beach towns there. The book consists of three different stories spanning fifteen years that intersect around the happening involving the intriguing photograph depicted on the novel's cover. The book starts in 2015, when aspiring novelist Stacy Kim sees it in a gallery. We then go back to a murder that happened the night the picture was taken in 2005. The photographer (Kathy Moran) turns out to have a past that involved Jack Booth, the District Attorney assisting the small town with the murder investigation and so we travel back to 2000 to hear their story and then back again towards the present. The story is primarily seen from the points of view of Stacy and Jack. Both are likable characters although I got a tad frustrated with Jack and wanted him to stop thinking with his little head so much when it came to the case. :-)  
Woman With a Gun isn't Margolin's darkest or most action-packed book, it builds a quieter suspense--not to say that it was slow or boring but Margolin spends his time setting up the story and building the characters.  I guessed correctly on the 'whodunnit' of the novel but wasn't sure of the reasons behind the murder that unfolded with the story. I also found it interesting that the novel was inspired by an actual photograph that Margolin came across while at a writer's conference in Georgia--in the bathroom of the restaurant where he was eating breakfast. Margolin, intrigued by the picture and the potential story it inspired, purchased the photograph and wrote the book. Woman With a Gun is not my favorite of Margolin's books (that's a tie between Gone But Not Forgotten and Heartstone) but it is well worth the read, especially if you are a fan, and/or you like character-driven mystery and suspense novels.

Author Notes: Phillip Margolin has written eighteen novels, many of them New York Times bestsellers, including the recent Worthy Brown’s Daughter, Sleight of Hand, and the Washington Trilogy. Each displays a unique, compelling insider’s view of criminal behavior, which comes from his long background as a criminal defense attorney who has handled thirty murder cases. Winner of the Distinguished Northwest Writer Award, he lives in Portland, Oregon.
Find out more about Phillip at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

There is not a strong food presence in the book--beyond the locally 'famous' chowder of the Seafarer bar and restaurant or their also delicious oyster stew and fish and chips. Most of the meals were eaten out and what was eaten wasn't mentioned. There were a few salads--including the take-out chicken Caesar that Stacey Kim picks up and eats in her New York apartment. I love a good Caesar but don't like the excess sodium, fat and calories in most Caesar dressings and the lack of nutrients in the salad. 

I decided to make a more nutritious Caesar salad using a recipe from Alton Brown for a "No Guilt Caesar Dressing" and making some other swaps--adding healthy fat with avocado, extra nutrients with beets, and swapping out the usual romaine for baby kale and the croutons for toasted, chopped hazelnuts. The hazelnuts are a nod to the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon setting of the book, as is the salmon I used as my protein instead of chicken. Blacked salmon Caesar salads are pretty ubiquitous on casual restaurant menus in the Pacific Northwest and I happened to have some sale Coho salmon filets in my freezer. For my blackened salmon, I adapted this recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli--reducing the cayenne slightly and adding in some Old Bay seasoning with the smoky paprika. The result, a colorful dinner that is healthier than your average Caesar and even more tasty.

No Guilt Caesar Dressing Recipe 
From Alton Brown via Food Network
(Makes About 1 Cup)

2 oz cubed Parmesan
2 cloves garlic (I added an extra clove)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 cup silken soft tofu
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (I reduced to 1 Tbsp)

Starting on the lowest speed, chop the cheese cubes in the blender jar until it settles into the bottom of the jar, gradually increasing the speed. Add the garlic down the chute and chop until minced.

Next, add the mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and tofu to the blender and blend until smooth. While the blender is running, drizzle olive oil down the middle of the vortex that has formed. Add more or less of the olive oil and blend until it reaches salad dressing consistency.

Nutritional Info for Recipe as Written: Per Serving: (2 Tbsp per serving); Calories 85; Total Fat 6 grams; Saturated Fat 2 grams; Protein 4 grams; Total Carbohydrate 2 grams; Sugar: 1 gram; Fiber 0 grams; Cholesterol 6 milligrams; Sodium 198 milligrams

Notes/Results: A good mix of flavors and textures in a healthy and satisfying salad. The dressing from Alton Brown is an easy-to-make winner--thick and creamy with good Caesar flavor. Since I like my Caesar garlicky, I added an extra clove.  I also found that I only needed about 1 tablespoon olive oil to get the consistency I wanted and that helps reduce the fat even more. I will definitely make it again. The salmon turned out moist and had a nice smoky heat and the roasted hazelnuts gave texture that I prefer to croutons. Besides adding color, the chunks of beet and avocado add extra nutrients and taste great. Easy and quick to get to the table, I will make this combination again. 

Note: A review copy of "Woman With A Gun" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other reviewer thought about the book here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cream of Brussels Sprouts Soup (Vegan) for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

A quick and easy soup post today as I am in Portland this week for my niece's wedding. I had some leftover Brussels sprouts and this Cream of Brussels Sprouts Soup was a great way to use them up. Also after two weeks of heavier, bean-based soups, it's nice to have something a little lighter. 

I chose to make a vegan version of the recipe but kept the creaminess by stirring in coconut milk. My changes to the recipe are in red below. says, "Much their cruciferous cousin, cauliflower, brussels sprouts turn into a wonderfully rich and creamy soup just by cooking them with aromatics and whirling them up in broth. This soup ends up having a much deeper nutty flavor than you might expect, as well as a thicker, more satisfying texture than one imagines these tiny cabbages could possibly contain. I like to add a bit of cream, but it is completely optional. Like most soups, this one doubles or even triples with ease - make a big batch and freeze some for later."

Cream of Brussels Sprouts Soup
Adapted from Molly Watson at
(Serves 4)

1 to 2 Tbsp butter (I used 1 Tbsp olive oil)
1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1 rib celery
1 medium leek
3 cups chicken or veggie stock (I used low-sodium veggie broth)
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream -optional (I used 1/2 cup lite coconut milk) 
(I added 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)
(I added shredded Brussels sprouts and pepper to garnish)

Trim off and discard the stem ends of the Brussels sprouts. Roughly chop the sprouts and set them aside. Trim and roughly chop the celery; peel and chop the shallot or leek.

Heat the butter in a small pot over medium-high heat. Once it melts, add the celery and shallot. Sprinkle with the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes.

Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts turn a brighter shade of green, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer, cover partially, and cook until the Brussels sprouts are completely and utterly tender, about 10 minutes.

Use a hand-held immersion blender to completely purée the soup. You can also do this in a blender, just be sure to let the soup cool a bit first, work in batches, and put a kitchen towel over the top of the blender in case the heat of the soup makes it splatter out. Be sure to purée the soup a bit longer than you may think is necessary; you want the final product to be as smooth as possible.

Stir in the cream (coconut milk), if you like. Serve the soup hot, with a garnish of freshly ground black pepper, if you like.

Notes/Results: Smooth, creamy and good flavor, this soup would be a great way to sneak those healthy little sprouts into your diet. I found that adding a touch of fresh lemon juice to the soup added a (needed in my opinion) bit of bright acidity. This soup kicks in some good vitamin C and other nutrients for about 120 calories a serving and makes a good starter to a meal. I liked the look of the shredded raw Brussels sprouts to top the soup but 'frizzling' them a bit in hot oil would be a nice touch, as would using these Curried Shredded Brussels Sprouts that I topped a cranberry soup with. I would make this again.

Let's take a look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here and what delicious dishes they brought.
Janet of The Taste Space made Thug Kitchen's Pumpkin Chili and says, "...this one was a bean-centric chili and I cooked up some of Rancho Gordo’s bayo chocolate beans. I was really enticed to use them with a name like that! Turns out it is called chocolate based on their colour, not their flavour. When Rob bought them, he was told they had the consistency of fudge. Not so true, but they have a lovely firmness that lended well to this chili. Small red kidney beans would also work well here."

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog made this pretty Christmas Salad Slaw and says, "It is as beautiful as is healthy. It contains bunches of rich dark green kale mixed with chopped red radicchio, strands of grated snow white cabbage, candied dried cranberries, and a variety of seeds and nuts. This delightful combination is then tossed in a sweet creamy dressing. Vegan, Gluten Free, and exotic, this special salad is welcome at any celebration, but the rich red and green presentation makes it perfect for Christmas."

Thanks to Janet & Judee for joining me this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Diana Henry's 'New York Sweet Cranberry Mustard' for Gifting or for Eating

Food gifts whether sweet or savory are always fun to give or receive at the holidays. This New York Sweet Cranberry Mustard from Diana Henry's Salt Sugar Smoke caught my eye with its festive red color and I just happened to have fresh cranberries leftover from some Cranberry Soup with Curried Shredded Brussels Sprouts.  

A sweet and tangy treat for the mustard lovers on your holiday list and perfect to slather on a sandwich--either meat-filled or meat-free. ;-)

Diana says, "This is inspired by a mustard served at New York’s Home restaurant, a fabulously comforting place. I have made it slightly sweeter. It’s perfect at Christmas when you’re making all those turkey and ham sarnies and want cranberries with a kick."

New York Sweet Cranberry Mustard
Adapted from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry 
(Fills 1 x 225g (8oz) jar)

3/4 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup apple or orange juice
2 cups fresh cranberries
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (I used 2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp grain mustard (I used 2 Tbsp)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Put the dried cranberries in a pan and add enough apple or orange juice to cover. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and leave to plump up for 30 minutes.

Put a cup of water and the fresh cranberries in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries have burst (about five minutes), then add the sugar and honey and stir until dissolved.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and sauté the onion until soft and golden. Add the vinegar and mustard and cook gently for another five minutes. Mix this with both types of cranberries and any remaining soaking liquid from the dried cranberries, and season to taste.

Process in a food processor using the pulse button (if you want it really smooth you can then press the mixture through a nylon strainer, but I leave it chunky). Put in a sterilized jar, then cover with a waxed paper disc, and seal with a vinegar-proof lid. Cool, and keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

How to use
This is obviously a good thing to have around at Christmas, and it’s good with cold ham too. Russians eat cranberries with red meat, so don’t rule it out with cold rare roast beef.

Notes/Results: I really enjoyed the flavor of this cranberry mustard but did find it on the sweeter side for me--I wanted more mustard and more vinegar bite. Increasing the amounts of those ingredients made it perfect. Since I don't eat meet, I chose to slather it on a grilled cheese sandwich made with some smoked Gouda and avocado on light rye bread. It may sound like an odd combination but it was a perfect combination of sweet, smoky, creamy and tangy. I am sure the mustard would be equally as good on a turkey, ham or roast beef sandwich too. Easy to make and something a little different to give, I would make this again.

This mustard placed in small jars would make wonderful Gifts From the Heart for your favorite sandwich lovers or gourmet mustard aficionados. I am linking it up to I Heart Cooking Clubs were this weeks theme is all about edible holiday gifts. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

Food 'N Flix November Round Up: A Holiday-Inspired Feast for "Pieces of April"

Better go grab those roomy, elastic-banded 'eating pants'--because as full as you might still be from the Thanksgiving weekend and all those leftovers, you are going to get hungry again from all the tempting dishes the Food 'N Flix participants made for November's pick, Pieces of April.

I made Pieces of April my November film pick because of its (dysfunctional) family and Thanksgiving themes--you can check out the movie details on my announcement post here. This was the first viewing of this quirky, indie comedy-drama for most of the group, and while not everyone loved it as much as I do, most enjoyed it, and everyone found the foodie inspiration to create some wonderful dishes.

Our first entry was from Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. Wendy made a crave-worthy Three Cheese Pizza and says, "It is November and we are all going to be making tons of Thanksgiving food so this is an easy movie with which to be inspired but I kept my eyes peeled for those things that were not necessarily Thanksgiving foods.  The family stopped at Krispy Kreme for donuts and I thought, briefly, about making some for this month's recipe but then April opened her refrigerator and there lying on a shelf was an open box of half eaten pizza."

Although Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures loves canned green beans and that classic guilty pleasure dish combining them with canned soup and crunchy onions, she decided to make a Green Bean Casserole From Scratch and says, "This recipe begin with fresh green beans (wahh?) and a homemade version of cream of mushroom soup with some caramelized onions mixed in (because why not?).  Then it’s topped off with those iconic crunchy onions. It’s a Thanksgiving winner!"

Past experience has taught Joanne of What's on the List to prepare for a potential Turkey-day crisis and she is more than willing to share her idea with April. She says, "Around Thanksgiving, (I think based on my story), I always keep oven roasted turkey pieces vacuum sealed in the freezer should anything go wrong with the turkey! If April was unable to salvage the turkey, I came up with PLAN B in creating Joanna’s Turkey & Veggie Spring Rolls – Mom’s Secret Sauce!

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla disagrees with April's gourmet neighbor Eugene that when it comes to cranberry sauce, "Nobody likes it from the can."  She says, "Sadly, Eugene, some people do like it from the can. Some people who share my last name, in fact. So, I decided to have a little fun and make some homemade cranberry sauce that looks like it's from a can!" Here is her fun and creative Someone-Likes-It-From-the-Can Cranberry Sauce.

Heather of girlichef improved on the Burns family's traditional Waldorf Salad saying, "I like Waldorf Salad and it's something I eat every now again, but it's never made an appearance at our Thanksgiving table. I want that to change because it adds the perfect fresh and crunchy element to the meal. Bright fall apples, celery, juicy grapes, and toasted nuts--I mean, come on! Traditionally, it's all folded into mayonnaise. I've also had versions that were part mayo and part sour cream. I really didn't want either, so I decided to use Greek yogurt and sweetened it with just a hint of honey."

Starch lover Debra of Eliot's Eats made delectable Roasted Garlic Skinny Smashed Potatoes, saying "Personally, I was impressed with April that she even thought about pulling off this kind of a meal, but without the help of Bobby and her neighbors, she would have failed miserably. After she gets the turkey parked in a hot oven (at least for the first leg of its journey), April begins on the sides. Her first dish comes out beautifully as she just opens a can of the pre-formed, jellied-mass of prepared cranberry sauce and plops it on a platter. Then she starts on the mashed potatoes. She cuts herself peeling and then attempts to mash them raw. I believe she was dispersing a bit of pent-up hostilities and nerves on these poor raw potato chunks. In honor of April’s quest to make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, I present smashed potatoes."

Caroline of Caroline Makes... tried her first Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows and wonders, "Have any of my American readers (or anyone else) ever eaten this? I've seen it on TV and read about it as part of Thanksgiving meals but wonder if it is actually that common? I made it for some friends who had never heard of putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes and found myself repeatedly insisting "It's a thing! Nigella says so!" ... You can see here a spoonful of the sweet potato and marshmallow next to some meat loaf I made. The sweet potato tasted surprisingly good - but very sweet and some of my friends said it tasted more like a dessert than a side dish! It might have looked better if I hadn't used coloured marshmallows (see Nigella's picture) but I do think mine looks quite festive. It's not a combination that I expect I will make again, but I did enjoy it!"

Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz was inspired by Eugene's gourmet Thanksgiving menu and says, "Hickory Nut ice cream got my attention right away. I have never seen a hickory nut before and I knew I was not going to find any soon…but I do have Hickory Liquid Smoke! I was also tempted by the maple element of the pie. Oh and pecans! Yes there must be pecans. Apparently they are a good substitute for hickory nuts. Hence I came up with this Maple Hickory Ice Cream with Buttered Pecans. How did it taste? Think salted caramel but with a Hickory wood instead, it was a great match, definitely a keeper. I wish I added a bit more liquid smoke, once frozen the taste was a bit dialed down.

Finally, here at Kahakai Kitchen I love the cranberry sauce scenes--both when Eugene and April argue about canned sauce and then when Eugene's wife Evette sweetly shows her how how to make sauce from fresh cranberries. I wanted a different use for my fresh cranberries and I found it in Giada De Lauretiis recipe for a cranberry soup with curried breadcrumbs on top. I swapped out the curried breadcrumbs for curried shredded Brussels sprouts for a healthier version, and enjoyed the sweet-tangy-savory-smoky blend in this quirky-like-the-movie Cranberry Soup with Curried Shredded Brussels Sprouts.  

I'm ready for Thanksgiving all over again with this spread! Thanks to everyone who joined in this month--you created a spectacular feast (and with no dysfunction whatsoever!). ;-)

We TRIPLE-dog-dare ya to join us for the Food 'N Flix fun in December when we will be watching the holiday classic, A Christmas Story hosted by Food 'N Flix's founder, Heather of girlichef

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sweet Potato Curry Chili for Cook the Books "That Old Ace in the Hole" by Annie Proulx and for Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays

A vegan chili chock full of veggies, beans, sweet potato and tofu and seasoned with curry and garam masala might seem a little quirky or odd but it tastes fantastic. It also fits the mood of our October/November Cook the Books selection, That Old Ace in the Hole, a novel by Annie Proulx, hosted by Simona at briciole. Set in the Texas Panhandle, (the rectangular area in Texas that's bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east and made up of the northernmost 26 counties in the state), the story centers around Bob Dollar, working undercover for Global Pork Rind, seeking property that can be developed into industrial hog farms. Bob winds up in the tiny, dusty town of Woolybucket where he meets the quirky people that make up the area and learns their stories while trying to buy up their land.

I will confess that I had a bit of a struggle getting into this book and it sat for several weeks as I picked up my Book Tour review books and several books on my to-be-read stack, and virtually any other reading material rather than That Old Ace in Hole. I had not read anything from Annie Proulx before--including her acclaimed The Shipping News (although I did see the movie and found it kind of dull--probably why I never picked up the book), and I just couldn't seem to drum up enthusiasm for Bob Dollar and the other characters. I hate not finishing a book though and so I finally picked it up and resolved to read at least 50 pages a night until I finished it. I am not exactly sure when or why it happened, but Proulx and Bob Dollar won me over somewhere in the middle of the book and instead of a chore to finish, it became a book I was eagerly reading. The author paints a vivid picture of the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, the people who live there, and their love of and pride in the land--despite all of the rough conditions. It's not an area I know much of anything about and she made it come to life. I grew attached to Bob Dollar and the interesting people he encounters and befriends and enjoyed the humor that Proulx infuses the novel with. I am glad Simona picked this book as it isn't something I would have picked up on my own, and I am glad I stuck with it.

On first glimpse, That Old Ace in the Hole doesn't seem like a foodie novel, but there is a surprising amount of food mentions--both classic and quirky. I wanted to visit the Old Dog Cafe and try some of Cy Frease's cooking--loving his every-other Saturday trip into Austin to shop at Whole Foods because "Cowboys deserve to eat wholesome too." I took my inspiration for my dish from a couple of places--first, the curry and Indian spices that "crazy Dutchman" Habakuk van Melkebeek's cousin brought from Java for a rijstafel (a Dutch word that translates to "rice table"--an elaborate meal of many courses) that was served by angry cowboys. A few months after the dinner and its legendary spicy sambal, "tins of curry powder and jars of mango chutney appeared on the shelf behind the counter at Steddy's store and several ranch cooks made it their business to use both liberally, the beginnings of the famed Woolybucket curry chile, always served at the Barbwire festival, the recipe jealously guarded." I knew I had to make a curry chili and the addition of the sweet potatoes came about from the mention of a small bag of yams that pioneer Martin Merton Fronk took with him on his journey from Kansas to Woolybucket to find dry air and a doctor to cure his breathing issues. I happened to have a large sweet potato on hand and thought it would compliment the curry flavors well.

Sweet Potato Curry Chili
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6)

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 1/2 Tbsp curry powder of choice, or to taste
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chile powder, or to taste
1 large sweet potato, about 2 1/2 cups, diced
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 small can medium green chilies
2 cups low-sodium veggie broth or water
1 can low-sodium black beans
1 can low-sodium pinto beans
1 can low-sodium kidney beans 
12 oz firm tofu, frozen, thawed, drained, pressed and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste 
To serve (optional): avocado, mango chutney, cilantro, yogurt

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, and red pepper and saute for 6-7 minutes until veggies are softened and onions translucent. Add garlic and spices and cook for anther minute or two. Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, chilies, broth, and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20-25 minutes, until veggies have softened.

Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Take prepared crumbled tofu and add to pan. Stir-fry tofu crumbles about 6-7 minutes until slightly browned. 

Gently stir tofu into chili mixture and cook another 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Taste chili for seasoning, adding salt and black pepper, or more spice to taste.

Serve warm garnished with avocado, and/or cilantro, mango chutney or yogurt. You can also serve with basmati rice if more starch is desired.  

Notes/Results: I am sure nothing compares to the famed Woolybucket curry chile but this turned out to be a great bowl of not-so-traditional chili. It has a subtle heat and you get the curry flavor at the end. The sweet potatoes add a hearty touch and their sweetness is a nice contrast to the heat of the spices. The tofu, while not necessary, adds extra protein and gives it that ground meat texture (traditional-style Texas chile is usually without beans and just ground meat), especially when you freeze and defrost/drain it well, then press it before cooking. I was planning on topping my chile with mango chutney or serving it alongside but unfortunately my jar of chutney was a bit older than I thought and tucked away in the fridge, it had developed a layer of fuzzy mold (whoops!) and I was too lazy to go to the store. The avocado added a creamy texture and made a nice color contrast so it made a good replacement. You could also top with some cooling yogurt or sour cream and cilantro would be nice. Like all good chili, it tastes even better reheated the next day. A happy experiment, I would make it again. 

The deadline for publishing your post inspired by That Old Ace in the Hole is Tuesday, December 2nd. Simona will be rounding up the entries on the Cook the Books site soon after. If you missed this round, please join us for December/January when we will be reading Sustenance and Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor by Bascove, hosted by Rachel, The Crispy Cook.

It's Thanksgiving weekend so the Souper Sundays kitchen is pretty quiet but the lovely Janet is here with a salad to share. 

Janet of The Taste Space made this hearty and healthy Caramelized Leek and Flageolet Bean Salad. She says, "So, how are you faring with the first blast of winter? Turns out my furnace was not up to the increased stress and stopped working. Twice. For the past two nights, we have woken up to a fairly frigid home. At least we have warm blankets, so you don’t really notice until you escape for breakfast. ... I thought, perhaps my salad days were over, too. But this is a delightful salad warm or cold. A bunch of leeks are caramelized and added to creamy flageolet beans and coated in a simple lemon-mustard sauce."

Thanks to Janet for joining me this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!