Saturday, April 25, 2009


There is something that the Japanese have known for centuries, miso soup is a cheap, easy and an extremely health-supportive meal. In Japan, it is eaten on a daily basis, which might explain why the Japanese have lower rates of cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol than Americans.  Ideally, I have a pot in the fridge ready so that I can help myself each morning.  All I need are a few veggies, some tofu, some type of seaweed (wakame or arame), and maybe some noodles and I'm on my way.   Below is only a suggestion of what you can add to miso broth to make a hearty meal.  What is important is that you follow the directions on how to incorporate miso to the hot water while making your soup.  (Boiling miso will ruin it's beneficial properties.)

A word about miso:
Miso pastes are generally made from fermented soybeans, however others include fermented rice, barley or chickpeas. Each variety differs in flavor - some are intensely rich and salty, while the lighter miso pastes are sweet and mild. The health benefits of miso are quite profound. Studies prove eating a bowl of miso a day largely decreases the chance of breast cancer, due to its ability to regulate the hormone, oestrogen, which causes tumors to develop. Miso is also rich in antioxidants and healthy fatty acids. It is high in protein and Vitamin B12, (a vitamin many vegetarians and vegans lack).
Similar to yogurt, miso contains probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, which is necessary to maintain healthy flora in your intestinal tract. Miso contains the same active, live cultures found in yogurt, which is why it is extremely important NOT TO BOIL miso soup, as it will kill these cultures. If you are on antibiotics, a bowl of miso a day is ideal as it adds the healthy bacteria back to keep your intestines happy. (Antibiotics strip us of all bacteria - good and bad.).
Miso paste can be found in any health food store, Asian markets and sometimes in the dairy section of conventional grocery stores.

Miso broth with Soba Noodles and Baby Bok Choy
Serves 4

4 cups water
3 TBLS miso paste - (Yellow, white or red. Yellow is the lightest flavor, red is the darker, more salty)
8 oz. firm or silken tofu - cubed
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
3 carrots, cut into half moons
3-4 shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 heads baby bok choy, bottom trimmed and washed
1 bunch soba or udon noodles
bunch of scallions thinly sliced for garnish
black sesame seeds for garnish

Spoon miso paste into a heat resistant cup or bowl and set aside.
Bring water to boil, add onion, carrot and tofu.
Boil for about 5 minutes, add shitake and bok choy, reduce to a simmer.
Add noodles and cook until done.
Add about 1/2 cup of simmering water into miso paste and stir well to combine miso into water. Pour this mixture into the soup and turn off heat.
Laddle into bowls and top with scallions and/or black sesame seeds.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rosemary and Parmesan Flatbread

Yvette showed me this recipe when I needed something special to make for a dinner party I was hosting. I didn't want to do the typical cheese and cracker set-up, (yawn), to snack on before dinner, but I also didn't have time, (nor energy), to come up with some wild and elaborate concoction. This flat bread fits perfectly into the category of rustic, simple, delicious and best of all, home-made with lots of love.

This flat bread is less doughy and chewy, but more cracker-like. It has a crispiness which is great fun to break apart and dip into a gently softened goat cheese. Depending on the number of guests you are having, you may want to double the recipe, just in case. And if worse comes to worst, you have some left overs for the next day. It will keep nicely in an airtight container for a day or two.

Rosemary Parmesan Flatbread
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, July, 2008.
4 servings

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 TBLS chopped fresh rosemary, plus two 6-inch long sprigs
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Flakey sea salt, such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 450, place heavy baking sheet, or pizza stone on middle rack.

Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until dough forms. Knead dough on a work surface 4-5 times.

Divide the dough in to 3 pieces and roll out one piece, (keep remaining pieces under plastic wrap), on a sheet of parchment paper into a 1o inch roundish shape, dough should be thin.

Lightly brush olive oil on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Scatter small clusters of rosemary on top, pressing them into the dough. Sprinkle with salt. Slide dough, while still on parchment paper, onto preheated baking sheet or pizza stone.

Bake until pale golden, 8 - 10 minutes. Transfer flat bread, discard parchment, to a cooling rack, then repeat with remaining dough.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rosé Sangria

We had some friends over yesterday - a great mix of people - all just hoping to sit in the sun and have a few cocktails.  In order to get them to drive up the long and windy road to our house, I enticed with booze,
rosé sangria, to be exact.  And from the way the rest of the afternoon went, (and into the night), I think that this is an excellent addition to your next summer time soiree.  

I adapted this from a Martha Stewart recipe I found in one of my favorite entertaining cookbooks.  If you like to entertain - you have to pick up her Hors D' Oeuvres Handbook.  It's fantastic not only for recipes, but the photos are beautiful and inspiring.

In all honesty, I don't really like most sangrias - they always seem to sweet and the burgundy is too heavy, but I thought rosé might be the ticket.  This version is very light and refreshing - and I added grapefruit chunks give it some zip.   Martha's recipe calls for 1/4 cup sugar, but after I made the first round, I didn't think that was necessary, so I omitted it in the next round(s). Besides, sugar tends to exacerbate that possible headache in the morning.  

Rosé Sangria
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Hor D'Oeurvres Handbook, 1999
Makes six 6-ounce drinks

6 oz. assorted grapes
24 oz. Rosé wine (1 bottle)
3 1/2 oz. tequila
3 1/2 oz. cranberry juice
1 ruby red grapefruit, remove peel and cut into chunks
fresh lime wedges, for garnish

Place grapes in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze, 
over night, or until frozen solid.
Combine remaining ingredients in a 3 quart pitcher and add 
frozen grapes.
Serve with ice and garnish with lime wedge.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thai Chicken Soup

I am always happy to discover new twists on chicken soup and came across a recipe in a December '08 Sunset Magazine while at the car dealership, (long story!).  This, I tell you, is so good, so easy and so full of flavor.  To prove, not only how easy it is, but also how delicious, I made it last night for the family I work for and made it again today so I could have a big pot for the weekend.

If you have 45 minutes, I suggest making this soup with chicken breasts (or thighs) with bone in, skin removed.  If, however, you are short on time, go ahead with boneless skinless chicken breasts and a few cups of chicken broth.  I am going to give you the long version.  To skip this method and cut cooking time in half, just bring broth (2 cups), coconut milk (2 cans), garlic, ginger and lemongrass to a boil, add mushrooms.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add raw, cubed chicken, cook covered for about 15 minutes, add sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, salt and pepper and garnish with cilantro and lime wedge. (Toss lemongrass).  For an extended and deeper flavor version, see below:

Thai Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)
Adapted from Sunset Magazine, Dec. 2008.
Serves 4-6

1 drizzle canola 0r extra virgin sesame oil
4 Organic chicken breasts, or 8 thighs - bone in, skin removed
2 1/2 cups water, approx.
3 Tbls chopped fresh ginger, divided in half
2 Tbls chopped fresh garlic, divided in half
1 stick fresh lemon grass*, cut into a few pieces
salt and pepper
2 cans coconut milk
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbls sugar
1 Tbls Thai fish sauce
1 Tbls rice wine vinegar
cilantro for garnish
lime for garnish
*Lemongrass may be difficult to find, if you can't find it, no problem, just be sure to have lime wedges.

In a large pot, heat oil to med heat and add ginger and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Allow to sweat, but not burn, about 5 minutes, stir occasionally.  Add chicken and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cover for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Remove chicken and place in bowl to allow to cool.  Once cooled, remove all meat from bones, discard bones and shred chicken, set aside.
Reserve broth, remove any excess fat.  Discard ginger and garlic.
Wipe pot out and reheat, add another drizzle of oil and add the second half of ginger and garlic, once again, allow to sweat, not burn.  Add coconut milk and broth.  (You should have about 2 cups of broth).  If you have to, add water or store bought broth.  Bring to a boil and add mushrooms, simmer and add sugar, vinegar and Thai fish sauce.  Add chicken and heat gently. Serve with cilantro sprigs and lime wedge.