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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beef Barley Shiitake Soup

This delightful recipe was given to me by a sweet couchsurfer from Washington State who, along with her husband, stayed with us a couple of weeks ago. We had a great time talking about food, baking, and her dream to start a bed and breakfast someday. After a quick search on the internet, I found that the recipe is from Woman's Day magazine. It's so delicious, I think this will be my new go-to recipe for beef stew.

Which is kind of funny, because I never had a go-to recipe for beef stew. I've probably made beef stew once in my life before. I don't dislike it; I grew up eating it and it reminds me of home. But I limit how much meat I eat, mainly because animals use up a lot of resources when they are raised. In addition, I don't crave meat like I do vegetables and grains (and chocolate and wine). Seriously -- if I go away for a weekend and cannot control the food that is provided to me, and if there are not enough vegetables, I come home craving them. It all started when I signed up two years ago for a CSA (community supported agriculture) and received eight different types of veggies every week. It's wonderful.

I didn't plan to write this post about sustainable meat, but I guess it's inevitable whenever I post a recipe involving meat. Justin and I joked the other day that the "Beef. It's what's for dinner." campaign would have been more appropriate if it was something like "Beef. It's once a week."

With that, I give you this delicious recipe for beef, provided by Woman's Day (of all places) and discovered by a new friend. Enjoy!

Beef Barley Shitake Soup
Woman's Day November 2010
Serves 4-6

1 teaspoon oil
12 ounces lean beef cubes (or bison) for stew, cut into bite-size pieces
Heat 1 tsp oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat. If you want to get fancy, dry each cube of beef before cutting it to aid in browning. Add beef in 3 batches; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until browned. With slotted spoon, transfer beef to plate. If you use bison, the cooking time will be shorter. If you use a pound of beef (16 ounces), well, now you have some extra to nibble on while you wait for the soup to cook.

2 teaspoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
Add oil to pot. Sauté onion and carrots 3 minutes.

12 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced (I used half crimini mushrooms, since shiitakes are kind of pricey)
2 tsp minced garlic
Add mushrooms and garlic; sauté 3 minutes more.

4 cups chicken broth (or 4 cups water with chicken bouillon added)
2 cups water
1/2 cup barley (not quick-cooking)
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Return beef to pot. Add broth, water, barley, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes or until meat and barley are tender. Season with salt to taste.

Did you grow up eating beef stew? What made it special?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Easy. Elegant. CHOCOLATE.

Do you feel like having some dessert, but don't want to bake anything? No chopping, no oven mitts, no measuring? Have a chocolate craving, but just a square of chocolate won't cut it? Give this dessert a try. It is so easy. Elegant enough to serve to guests, and satisfying enough that just a few bites will conquer your dessert craving.

This recipe, from Real Simple, involves melting the chocolate in the microwave, adding it to ricotta and powdered sugar, and mixing in a food processor, stand mixer, or even using a hand mixer. I don't recommend using a blender; it gets stuck in the bottom. Also, make sure the ricotta is at least room temperature or slightly warmed. Otherwise your melted chocolate will harden as soon as it hits the cold ricotta.

You can get fancy with adding a couple drops of extract such as vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, etc. I once made this with orange flavored chocolate and it added a nice flavor. For a garnish, shave extra chocolate on top or add whatever you please: fresh berries or berry sauce, mint, cinnamon.

Chocolate Ricotta Mousse
From Real Simple Magazine, February 2009
Serves 4

1 15 oz container part-skim ricotta
4 oz chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Break chocolate into pieces and put in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for a minute, then remove and stir, stir, stir. If it's not completely melted, microwave again in 20 second intervals. You don't want to burn the chocolate, so it's better to stir until the remaining chunks are melted. Add the chocolate to the (room temperature) ricotta cheese and powdered sugar and mix with a hand mixer, food processor, or stand mixer. Divide into serving bowls and garnish. Can make 1-2 days ahead and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

What is your favorite simple go-to dessert?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lunch for the Week Part II: Savory White Bean Wraps

As you're getting ready to make your grocery lists and head to the store this weekend, consider what you'll be eating for lunch next week. Maybe you're planning to eat dinner leftovers. Save those leftovers for dinner the following evening, and have this lunch ready to go instead. This recipe will make enough for five lunches for one person. Increase or halve the recipe as you wish.

I love this as a winter lunch. Even though it doesn't make a hot sandwich, the ingredients are readily available in the winter (especially if you use dried herbs instead of fresh). The dilly beans combined with the tangy, crunchy red onions is immensely satisfying. I like to have them in a whole grain wrap with Romaine or Bibb lettuce (use a brown rice wrap for a gluten-free version). Alternately, increase the lettuce and combine with the beans and pickled red onions for a salad. Pour some extra pickle juice on top as a dressing, and have some bread on the side. If you find yourself with extra pickled red onions after you've used up the beans, they're also great with avocado, cheese, pâtés, and burgers.

The different parts of this recipe only look complicated at first glance, but in reality, the active time to make this is probably only 20 minutes. Just plan a day in advance to soak the beans, then plan to be around to cook the beans for an hour. While the beans cook you can prep all of the other ingredients, and then just mix them together.

Savory White Bean Wrap/Salad
by Mollie Katzen
Serves 5

5 whole grain tortillas
1 recipe Just White Beans (below)
1 recipe Pickled Red Onions (below)
1 head Romaine or Bibb lettuce
Lay 1 tortilla on a plate. Scoop 1/3 cup of Just White Beans. Add loose 1/4 cup of Pickled Red Onions. Add 2 leaves of lettuce. Roll it up.

Just White Beans
Serves 5-6

1 1/2 cups dry white pea beans
1 teaspoon salt
Pour beans into a large pot. Cover with water by a couple inches. Let soak overnight. The next day, drain water and add fresh, covering by a couple inches. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 15 more minutes. If using in a wrap, let simmer about 15 minutes longer until the beans turn soft.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dried dill (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
Stir together in bowl. Mash beans and mix in. If using for a salad, do not mash beans.

Pickled Red Onions
by Mollie Katzen
Serves a lot -- makes about 3 cups

4 medium red onions
boiling water
Thinly slice onions and place in a colander. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil. Place colander with onions in sink, and slowly pour all of the hot water over the onions.

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Mix together in large jar or bowl. Mix in red onions.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope you all had a delicious Christmas and New Years' I spent mine in Michigan with my in-laws and had a wonderful time. Some of my favorite meals and treats included honey squares that my mother-in-law makes, grilled salmon that my father-in-law makes, a lovely sweet potato dish with cranberries, brown sugar, and oats made by my Aunt Diana-in-law, and cookies (made by many). I really had to limit myself on the cookies. On Christmas Day, I chose four small cookies that looked delicious, asked Justin to hold me to only having four, and then quit. Good job, me.

I was glad to get back to my kitchen on January 1st. I missed cooking and puttering around at home. This soup recipe is one I've been looking forward to posting. It's by Mollie Katzen and can be found with other vegetarian recipes in The New Moosewood Cookbook. I get crimini mushrooms through my winter co-op and they just might be my favorite type of mushroom. They shine in this recipe of Hungarian Mushroom Soup. This soup has a depth of flavor that is almost other worldly. Eat it with warm bread, a salad, or a side of butternut squash, and continue to enjoy satisfying winter foods to keep away the chill!