September 8, 2014

Recipe: Kimchi Noodle Soup

As a long-time nanny, I'm used to battling several rounds of colds each year. It's inevitable when you spend much of your time in the various germ-ridden hangouts of the toddler set - the children's corner of the library with books touched by a million little hands; the playground whose sandboxes may as well be over-sized petri dishes. It was an occupational hazard far-outweighed by the general awesomeness of my job.

My life in New York is presently child-free, so I was unpleasantly surprised when I started feeling under the weather last Sunday. Within 24 hours, both Daniel and I had been attacked by some kind of hideous cold/flu hybrid, a virus so evil I am convinced it was birthed in the depths of hell. The only slightly more likely source? Some unwashed crevice of New York (I'm thinking the subway was involved). Of course, knowing where this beast of a cold came from won't make me feel better. What will make me feel better? Kimchi Noodle Soup.

Think of Kimchi Noodle Soup as turbo-charged Chicken Noodle Soup… minus the chicken. Kimchi's spice and ferment-y funk permeate the broth with a sinus-clearing blast of heat that's as effective as it is delicious. Kimchi Noodle Soup will punch your cold in the face and then laugh at it. Each spoonful is a pleasant little fire that wafts into your sinuses, locates the congestion, and SMOKES IT OUT.

Honestly, I'd love this soup even if it didn't have cold-punching powers. It's an exceptionally full-flavored and umami-rich soup, simple to make and satisfying to eat. It's also a great introduction to kimchi for the uninitiated, since its pungency is mellowed by the broth and balanced with a bit of sweetness from carrots, shallots, and a splash of mirin (sweet rice wine). To sum it up: Have a cold? Make this soup. Perfectly healthy? MAKE THIS SOUP.

Kimchi Noodle Soup
Serves 4

Kimchi is a spicy Korean side dish/condiment of fermented cabbage and various other vegetables. When shopping for vegan kimchi, you'll want to avoid brands that include fish sauce in the ingredient list. My favorite vegan kimchi brands are Mother In Law's Vegan Napa Cabbage Kimchi and Britt's Pickles Market Kimchi.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large carrots, chopped
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
1 heaping cup vegan napa cabbage kimchi, drained and chopped, plus 2 tablespoons kimchi liquid
2 tablespoons mirin
4 cups vegetable broth (I use 4 cups water plus 2 teaspoons "No Chicken" Better Than Bouillon paste)
2 cups water
4 ounces eggless wide ribbon noodles*
Salt, to taste

*Eggless Wide Ribbon Noodles are an egg-free version of classic Egg Noodles, and can be found in many supermarkets. Alternatively, rotini or fusilli pasta will work well.

Bring a large pot over medium heat and saute carrots and shallots in oil for 5 minutes, then add chopped kimchi and saute 5 minutes more. Add mirin and 2 tablespoons kimchi liquid and cook for a couple minutes before adding broth and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then add pasta. Partially cover, reduce heat to maintain a low boil (around medium), and cook until noodles are done and carrots are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Season as needed with salt and serve steaming hot. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days, though the texture of the noodles is best the day the soup is made (the noodles continue to soak up the broth during their time in the fridge). When reheating, you might want to add a bit of extra water to offset the broth absorbed by the noodles.

August 8, 2014

Recipe: Savory Tomato & Sausage Cobbler

I'd like to say the transition from Seattlite to New Yorker has been a seamless one, but that would be a lie. I'm a creature of habit who finds comfort in well-worn routines, so you can imagine that a near-spontaneous move across the country is a challenging endeavor for me. One of the biggest challenges so far? Getting comfortable in our apartment's bite-sized kitchen.

I should clarify that I really love our apartment. I love the location, the 1920s character, the exceedingly wonderful doormen who bring you Venezuelan corn flour from Queens when you can't find it anywhere. I love that my sectional sofa fit through the door without having to saw it in half (PIVOT!!!). But 550 square feet only goes so far. Our apartment's layout gives the vast majority of that square footage to its generously-sized living room and bedroom… leaving a measly 30 square feet for the kitchen.

To be fair, the kitchen fits a lot into those 30 square feet. My favorite feature? A small-but-mighty 17-inch-wide dishwasher. It is magnificent and saves my sanity. The very sanity that is continually tested by my least favorite kitchen feature: the 20-inch electric stove. Fun fact about me: I've never had a gas range. Always wanted one, never had one. So the electric-ness of the stove is not the unbearable portion of the appliance. I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is burners that technically work - they turn on - but provide no consistency in temperature whatsoever. Level 2 can either burn your food to a crisp or leave it woefully pale, depending on the day. Recipe testing has become a comedy of errors; cooking dinner is fraught with profanity and frequently ends with takeout. I've become more fond of baking than ever, as the oven itself is blissfully accurate (save for a non-functioning broiler). It's been a journey, to say the least.

I trust that with time, I'll master cooking out of my new kitchen. Until then, I'm relying on forgiving, simple recipes, like this Savory Tomato & Sausage Cobbler. A savory cobbler is essentially a twist on pot pie, with a saucy, vegetable-laden base tucked under a golden crust. This version, which I developed for Field Roast, features vegetarian Italian sausage, juicy pops of tiny summer tomatoes, and sweet caramelized onions. Taking inspiration from the Italian-style filling, slices of store-bought prepared polenta are a simple stand-in for cobbler's traditional biscuit topping. It's summer comfort food perfect for the height of tomato season.

Savory Tomato & Sausage Cobbler
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion,  halved and thinly sliced
1 package FieldRoast Italian Sausages, crumbled into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/4 cups water
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, well-rinsed
1 (18 ounce) package of prepared polenta, cut into 12 round slices

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large skillet over medium/just-above-medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once oil is hot, add sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste until onions are coated evenly, then stir in the crumbled sausage. Stir in water, scraping bottom of pan to loosen all of the caramelized brown bits. Cook briefly until filling is slightly reduced and saucy, then remove from heat. Add salt and/or pepper to taste, then fold in tomatoes and transfer filling to an 8-inch square baking dish.

Cover dish loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and discard foil. Arrange polenta slices on top of filling (slight overlapping is fine) and brush slices with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Return cobbler to oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until filling is bubbling and polenta slices are golden (If a deeper golden crust is desired, you can broil the cobbler for the final few minutes). Remove from oven and cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer, but this post is NOT sponsored or commissioned in any way. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such.

May 22, 2014

Recipe: Edamame Jalapeno Soup

Moving across the country presents a number of challenges. One of the biggest (at least for cooks like myself) is realizing you have just a few weeks to use up your perishable food. The well-stocked refrigerator and freezer you've so carefully maintained suddenly go from wonderfully convenient to huge pain in the tuchus. I suppose you could just make peace with things and toss a bunch of food, but the wastefulness of that prospect just kills me.

Instead, I've been dutifully cooking my way through as much food as possible. It's kind of fun, really - like my very own game of Chopped. I imagine Ted Allen saying, "What can you make with frozen edamame, cashews, limes, and a bunch of slightly-shriveled jalapenos?". Well, Ted, I will be making a delicious pureed soup. And no, Scott, it will not involve raw red onions.

I was a little concerned that the firm texture of edamame (young green soybeans) wouldn't blend into a perfectly smooth soup, but a quick Google search turned up a number of examples proving otherwise. Heidi Swanson suggests straining this edamame soup, but I didn't find straining necessary with mine. Simmering the beans in the soup broth softened them nicely, and after that all it took was a couple minutes in my trusty KitchenAid blender to turn out a velvety-smooth soup.

Despite being a spur-of-the-moment recipe, this Edamame Jalapeno Soup is great. The edamame packs 16 grams of protein into each serving, making this an excellent high-protein vegan lunch or dinner. Removing the ribs and seeds from the jalapenos takes the heat level down to a gentle warmth and really lets the flavor of the pepper shine through. A handful of cashews adds richness, a dash of cumin lends a smoky note, and a bit of lime juice wakes up all the flavors. Move or no move, this recipe's a keeper.

Edamame Jalapeno Soup
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces jalapeno peppers (about 4 peppers)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound shelled edamame beans (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 quart vegetable broth (I used 4 cups water plus 2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice

Cut the stems from the peppers, then slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs from the interiors. Finely chop the peppers.

In a large pot over medium heat, cook the peppers and onions in oil for 5-7 minutes until beginning to soften, then add the garlic and cumin and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the beans, cashews, and vegetable broth. Cover with lid and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until beans are very tender.

Transfer half of soup to blender and blend for 1-2 minutes until completely smooth (remember to remove the center portion of the lid and cover with a towel to allow steam from the hot soup to escape); transfer from blender. Blend remaining half of soup. Return blended soup to pot over low heat and add lime juice. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Serve with a dollop of vegan sour cream or plain yogurt if desired. Soup will keep in fridge for 1 week.

May 15, 2014

Recipe: Creamy Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Steel-Cut Oats Porridge)

Bodies handle stress differently. When I get stressed, I lose my appetite for healthy foods. This usually results in my falling back on a small number of "comfort foods" that are actually junk food (salty takeout, fatty pizza, all desserts ever) until my stress reduces and the desire for real food returns. As you might have guessed, planning a cross-country move and selling our house in a short number of weeks is making me mighty stressed.

In an attempt to keep my diet on track, I've been starting my mornings with a bowl of oatmeal. Not just any oatmeal, however. I've been making a veganized version of Megan Gordon's steel-cut oatmeal from her wonderful book, Whole Grain Mornings. Oatmeal has always been a breakfast workhorse, one of those unexciting-but-good-for-you dishes you eat because you should, not because you wake up craving it. But Megan's oatmeal is different. Megan's oatmeal is, dare I say it, crave-able.

Sautéing the uncooked oats in a bit of nondairy butter perfumes the oatmeal with a toasty aroma and amplifies the pleasant chew that steel-cut oats are known for. After toasting, the oats are simmered in a 3:1 mixture of water and nondairy milk seasoned with a touch of sugar, vanilla, and salt. What you end up with is perfectly cooked, luxuriously creamy oatmeal (or "porridge", as Megan calls it).

The consistency of this lovely oat porridge is risotto-like, with magical starch-infused "cream" lending an illusion of richness despite the recipe's scant amounts of butter and milk. I make a batch, pop it in the fridge after it's cooled, and reheat servings in the microwave for stress-free, nutrition-filled breakfasts all week long. A bowl of these creamy oats topped with a pile of fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup is just the thing to fuel me through a day of crazed, move-related shenanigans.

Creamy Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Steel-Cut Oats Porridge)
Adapted from Whole Grain Mornings (Megan shared a version of the recipe here)
Serves 4

1 tablespoon non-dairy butter or coconut oil
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt*
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If using nondairy butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt; if using coconut oil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring a good-sized saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once butter is bubbling, add oats and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant (about 5 minutes).  Add water, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla to the saucepan and increase heat to medium-high and partially cover the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until the oatmeal is creamy and oats have a tender bite. Be sure to stir oatmeal occasionally while simmering and keep an eye on the heat as the oatmeal has a tendency to boil over with little notice. Cool for a few minutes before serving as desired (with milk/maple syrup/fruit/nuts); oatmeal can also be refrigerated and then reheated in the microwave with a splash of milk to thin it if needed. 

May 14, 2014

We're moving!!!

Taking our first walk through Central Park

We're 5 months into 2014, and so far it's been a year full of curveballs, milestones, and chapter-endings. We took an amazing last-minute trip to India, I turned thirty, and my wonderful nanny job of 2+ years came to a close when the family relocated to California. The latest development? In two weeks, Daniel and I are moving to New York City.

Last month Daniel was offered a job opportunity he couldn't pass up, so we decided to throw caution to the wind, pick up our lives in Seattle, and move clear across the country. The last few weeks have been…. Well, "insane" is putting it lightly. We flew out to NYC and found an apartment in 48 hours, which, if you know anything about NYC real estate, is the very definition of insanity. But we did it! We found an adorable (read: tiny), sunny apartment on the Upper West Side. Soon I'll be sharing recipes that have been cooked in a kitchen approximately the size of a postage stamp. Hey, if Deb can do it, so can I.

Truth be told, I've wanted to live in New York City since I was a little kid. I don't know when that idea popped into my head, but somewhere along the way I became enamored with NYC.  It's not a unique goal, moving to this iconic American city in pursuit of your dreams. People have done it for generations, with varying degrees of success. And that whole dream-chasing thing? That's exactly what I plan on doing. Pursuing food writing as a career will be difficult, but I'm going all in.

My cynical self is side-eyeing the "follow your dreams" mantra of my wide-eyed youth, but I'm trying to quiet that voice. I've listened to it far too often over the past few years, to no great effect. It's time for me to cultivate the hopeful voice that's been drowned out; to resuscitate my confidence and positivity. So as we close the "Seattle" chapter of our lives, I'm choosing to close the "My life isn't what I'd like it to be" chapter as well.  Because, friends, that chapter was long and rambling and just WENT NOWHERE. What will the next chapter hold? I'm not entirely sure. But I hope you'll stick around for the ride.