Tag Archives: buy local

Vegan Sweet Potato Bisque

12 Nov

The  cooler weather is settling in on the eastern seaboard. The leaves are turning vivid colors of yellow, orange and red and the nights are getting crisp. My brain is still fried from our super-hot summer, but I am finally open to the change of seasons. After all, it is mid-fall and it is the perfect season for my silky-smooth vegan Sweet Potato Bisque.

Bisque you say, Culinary Chick? I thought that bisque was traditionally made from seafood!

You are correct!  Traditionally a bisque is made from seafood, utilizing the trimmings  from shellfish.  The French didn’t waste anything, and came up with a technique which extracted every ounce of flavor by  sauteing the trimmings and mirepoix , simmering them in stock, adding various flavorings,  passing them through a fine sieve and finally adding a bit of cream to add a rich and silky finish to the soup. I utilized the same techniques here to achieve the desired texture: I wanted the soup to glide over the tongue and not be encumbered by bits of vegetables. It’s a bit of work, but well worth the effort!

Vegan Sweet Potato Soup

4 tbl. olive oil

2 cups peeled and diced onion or leeks*

1 ½ cups peeled and diced Fuji, Gala, Jazz , Golden delicious or Honey Crisp apples

1 Tbl. fresh grated ginger

2-2½ lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced ( about 3 or 4 medium to large )

2- 2 ½ cups carrot juice ( available in produce isle; I used Bolthouse Farms)

3 ½ cups vegetable broth ( make your own or use Swanson Vegetarian Vegetable Broth)

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. curry powder

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

2 tsp. ground black pepper

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed stockpot over meduim heat,  heat up the olive oil. Add the onions and apples and saute, stirring occasionally until onions are transparent and apples begin to soften, about seven to eight minutes. Do not brown; if starting to brown, turn down heat and add a bit of the broth.  Add ginger and saute until fragrant; about two minutes. Place the peeled and diced sweet potatoes in the pot and add the broth and  carrot juice. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low. Add cinnamon,  nutmeg, curry powder, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered or until potatoes are soft. Turn heat off and let stand for 20 minutes.

In small batches, process the vegetables and broth in either a blender or food processor until smooth. Place pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer and force through with a ladle or spoon until all the liquid is extracted. Discard the pulp** and repeat until all the soup is strained. Return to pot and add almond milk and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve warm with crusty bread and salad as a lunch or a light dinner. Serves 6 to 8.

* If using leeks, cut off the green stalks and root end, saving the white part. Split the leek in half lengthwise,  dice and float the leeks in cold water. Allow the leeks to soak for 20 minutes, occasionally agitating to water to loosen the grit . Remove the leeks from the water with a slotted spoon and discard the water. Run the leeks  in cold water in a colander  for a minute and drain. Proceed with the recipe.

**I saved the pulp and gave it to my doggie in her meal. She loved it.

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In Search of Fresh Fish

30 Apr

Lately, I have had a strong craving for fresh fish. You know the type of craving I mean; the type of deep, down need for a particular taste or smell that not even a facsimile thereof can satisfy. In other words, canned tuna and salmon ain’t cutting it any more. I wanted something grilled or pan-seared that came from something that looked like it lived in water at some point. My problem is simple: I am so picky when it comes to fish that I just stopped buying it.

So, why did I stop buying fish?  Everywhere I went to go buy salmon, tuna, trout or flounder I would see these words: Previously Frozen.

Sigh.

My experience has shown me that some fish fare better frozen than others. Domestic IQF catfish is an example of how well fish can be frozen if handled and stored responsibly. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen fresh shrimp in the seafood case. Even tuna does well if frozen on the boat.  I have an issue with thawing fish to sell as fresh with the words “previously frozen” in small lettering on the advertisement.  Why is the availability of fresh fish so scarce these days?

So, my quest for fresh fish drove me to Whole Foods. Admittedly; it was my first time in the uber-organic haven, so I was a bit mystified and exited to see so many organic offerings in one setting.  Side note: There was two kids begging their mom for rice cakes. Yeah, times have changed.  It was a huge culture shock for me, but I digress.

I arrived at the fresh fish counter and it was like I had died and gone to heaven. I knew I was going to void my wallet of anything resembling money.  I bought trout fillets, two pieces of bright red tuna loin steaks, a pound of certified Atlantic Salmon and turbot. I was just giddy with excitement at all of the possibilities. I was going to have a fish orgy. Mmmmm!

When I arrived home and unpacked my goodies, I became aware that the certified Atlantic salmon and the turbot was previously frozen. There it was, as plain as day on the label. I was bamboozled and hornswoggled! I fell for the okey-doke. I was so enamored with the sights and smells of  a gourmand’s paradise that I completely forgot to scrutinize the labels before I bought my fish. I scolded myself and cooked a piece of the salmon. It was really good, and not rubbery like all of the frozen salmon I’d bought countless times before my self-imposed fish embargo.  When I tried the turbot however, I was disappointed because it was mushy after I cooked it. The turbot proved to be the perfect example of how fish can be corrupted by freezing: typically, the flesh of turbot is way too delicate to be frozen. The tuna and the trout were both great and I learned a lesson:

Trust, but verify.

Thanks to antiagingtreatments.blogspot.com for the grilled fish photo

Food rules from Michael Pollan

28 Jan

Meet Michael Pollan. This man is a journalist, author teacher and public speaker. He has a common-sense approach to how we should eat to remain healthy. I was first introduced to Mr. Pollan through a co-worker ( I work for a holistic internist and physical therapist), and became very interested in his philosophy of how to eat to live. I then was fortunate enough to catch him on Oprah and his segment was riveting to me.

In the segment on Oprah, Mr. Pollan discussed how food conglomerates have made mass production of the food we consume into a science, but questions if our food production practices are healthy for us. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Michael Pollan’s website is http://www.michaelpollan.com

Restaurant Week tips

21 Jan

Baltimore is currently celebrating its version of Restaurant Week from January 22, 2010 to February 7, 2010. Many restaurants are offering specials on menu items or prix-fixe offerings at reduced prices. If you have the time and money, this is the perfect time to try a new place out. Here are a few tips to remember when going out.

1). Make a reservation and arrive early– Most of these places are busy and making a reservation and arriving at least 15 minutes prior will ensure a pleasant dining experience.

2). Try something new– Now is not the time to order chicken. If scallops are available and you’ve never had them, try them. Don’t forget that glass of wine; ask the server for suggestions and he may find you a gem.

3). Try lunch as an alternative to dinner-Lunch is a great time to try something new. Portions are usually smaller and are great for the health conscious.

4). Be kind to your server– These people work hard, often with no benefits or other compensation. Tip them accordingly ( 15% good service, 18% great service, 20% for exceptional service). Remember that the discounted meal you enjoy during Restaurant Week would normally cost at least twice that amount other times.

5). If you like a place, go back– Restaurants are a business, and use this time to promote their businesses. If you enjoy a place, show them by giving them your return business.  Your dollars pay the salaries of cooks, dishwasher, porters and many vendors who supply everything from forks to the olives in your martini. This helps our economy and save jobs.

6). Say Thank You– You have no idea what this  simple gesture does for your server, especially if they are busy.

Many participating restaurants are offering a three-course lunch from $20.10 and three-course dinners from $35.10 ( excluding tax and gratuity).

Mangia Mangia!!

Gino’s is coming back! ( Sort of)

19 Jan

Gino's Hamburger, fries and drink If you lived in the Northeast corridor of the U.S.  in the late 50s  to the mid-80s, you are familiar with the picture on the left. Founded in Baltimore, Md;  this chain of restaurants was the formidable rival of McDonald’s.  The Sirloiner was their version of the Quarter-Pounder. Likewise, the Gino Giant was an alternative to the Big Mac. As a kid, Gino’s was synonymous wit KFC. In some regions the two chains merged, like how KFC merged with Taco Bell. We spent a lot of time between Gino’s and Mickey D’s, but Gino’s won out in my family.

Ahh, memories

So, imagine my glee when I discovered the link to many childhood memories is restarting. I was absolutely in heaven. Then, someone dropped the KIBOSH on me.

The new franchise will start in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and  not in Maryland. This is a travesty, and I implore anyone within eyeshot with this company to consider franchises in Maryland.

Please, because my soul needs a Gino Giant!

Kwik Killer Kale

16 Jan

Killer Kale with bacon, garlic and onions

Today at the office, one of the doctors at the practice received a very large “Edible Arrangement” from one of her clients. This thing was humongous, and we all ate chocolate-covered strawberries, pineapple and melon until we were full. Even then, there was enough fruit left over for an army and nobody wanted it. You know what I did.

Okay, for those folk who really know me will acknowledge that I waste nothing. NOTHING.

I took that bad boy home, took it apart and was surprised (as I pulled off the nearly five pounds of fruit left on this thing) about 1 1/2 lbs of fresh kale used as a base for the fruit-tastic sculpture. So I cooked it for dinner, and here is the recipe. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish.

(For all you veg-heads out there, omit the meat and substitute fire-roasted peppers for a little smoky flavor.  Similarly; if you loves the meat add as much or as little as you care to)

Kwik Killer Kale

2 lbs.  fresh kale

2 tbl. olive oil

4 strips diced bacon ( optional)

1/2 cup diced roasted peppers (optional)

1/2  cup thinly sliced onion

4 cloves chopped garlic ( about 1/4 cup)

1/2 cup chopped jalapenos, poblano, or banana peppers

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water or chicken stock

Salt and black pepper to taste

Kale comes washed and bagged in most upscale markets. If you get loose kale, pull off stems and discard. Float kale in a sink full of cold water for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to remove all of the grit.

Heat up olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Add bacon and saute until crisp over medium heat. Remove  bacon from pan and set aside. Add onions, garlic and peppers and saute until soft. Add kale, vinegar and stock, and cover pan with a tight-fitting lid.

Cook for five minutes, then remove lid and stir kale.  Replace lid and continue to stir kale until losing its bright green color, and leaves are tender. Season with salt and pepper, then top with bacon. Serves around 2 to 4 people.

For the vegetarian/vegan crowd:  Add olive oil to pan. Over medium heat, saute hot peppers, garlic and onions until tender. Add  kale and roasted peppers to pan and toss with garlic mixture. Add water and cover pan with lid. Toss and cover until kale turns dark and leaves are tender. Season and serve.

Win a $25 gift card from Shop-Rite

24 Apr

shopritelogo Culinary Chick and the kind folks from Shop-Rite grocery stores are giving away $25  Shop-Rite gift cards to two lucky readers of this blog. All you have to do is post an answer to this question:

In these lean times, how do you maintain a gourmet touch in the meals you prepare for yourself, or your family?

A gourmet touch could be anything from using a simple garnish like a parsley sprig,  to breaking out that extra virgin olive oil, to splurging on seafood or a special cut of meat. I will choose the  best five entries; and you, the readers will choose the best two.  The two winners will receive the $25 gift card, courtesy of Shop-Rite.

Contest entries must be in by midnight, May 10.  Voting will end on midnight, May 17. The winner will be announced on May 19, 2009.

Contest Rules:

1) No substitutions will be given in lieu of gift cards.

2) Shop-Rite gift cards can only be used at Shop-Rite stores.

3) Contest entries must be in by midnight, May 10.  Voting will end on midnight, May 17. The winner will be announced on May 19, 2009.

4) All posts must be limited to 50 words or less.

5) All entries must have a valid e-mail address

6) Only one entry per valid e-mail address

7) Please refrain from using racist, sexist or pornographic comments. Entries which contain theses elements will be disqualified.

Have Fun!