Sunday, January 30, 2011

Recipe - Broccoli Curry Soup

Wow what a year it's been! Marriage, graduation, big move, new job, all in the time since my last post. It almost feels wrong to sum up such massive changes in a mere 6 words, but to get into any one of them would be a post in and of itself. Better to fast foward to the present matter at hand, and my reason for reviving this dear blog: Broccoli Soup.

This recipe is another of my mother's. She used to make it in winter, and I have fond memories of the familiar grind of her food processor whirring away one batch at a time. That thing is 10 years older than I am and is still working as well as ever. When Barry and I got married this Spring I put a food processor on our registry for the specific purpose of making this soup (among other things), and am sad to say this is the first time I've made it. But the food processor, as well as the many other marvelous registry-acquired kitchen tools have all been wonderful, and I have absolutely loved using every one of them. So a heartfelt thanks to the sweet friends and family who got us things for the kitchen. This year has been busy and downtime is a sparse commodity, but thanks to your gifts I can make time to relax every night as I make dinner. Thank you

With Barry on call tonight and the apartment now mostly clean, I figured I would break out the camera and share this great recipe with the world. Here's what you need:

1 large or 2 small broccoli crowns
1 potato
1 large can of chicken broth, or 1 regular can each of chicken and beef broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon curry

1. To begin, rinse the broccoli and cut into florets. You can also peel and chop the stems, which I recommend since they have a slightly different flavor from the "tree" parts. Broccoli is a great example of the fractal geometry of nature. Just looking at it tells you nothing of the size, since the pattern which underlies the form is repeated at multiple levels. Beautiful!

2. Cook the broccoli with a cup of water over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Use a steamer basket if you like, but you don't need one. I like them because they keep your veggies from getting waterlogged and you can use them to transport everything when you're done.

3. Peel and chop the potato and boil for 10 - 15 minutes in salted water. I used 2 but ended up with much more than I needed. Drain and set aside.

4. Use the food processor to pulverize the broccoli and potatoes, but process them separately. You can add a little chicken broth to make the process go faster.

5. Next is my favorite step, making a roux (pronounced 'roo'). A roux is the first step in any gravy, sauce or soup recipe, and acts as a thickening agent. In a pan over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon butter and add to it one tablespoon of flour, stirring regularly with a whisk. Now a brief aside... I absolutely love kitchen gadgets because each one is so perfectly suited to a particular purpose. Take this whisk for example. Not only is it great at mixing things evenly (as are all whisks), but it's coated in silicon so that it doesn't scratch your teflon. It may seem unnecessary to own 5 different types of whisks, but to each his own. This one happens to be another awesome wedding present :)

6. After stirring the roux for a minute or two, add about half a cup of broth and continue whisking. When the broth starts to thicken you can add the broccoli puree and another half cup of broth. Add the pureed potato by spoonfuls and continue whisking. Keep adding the broth to keep a smooth consistency.

7. When the soup is the consistency you like season with salt and curry, about 1 teaspoon of each. Whisk until totally combined

8. Sigh, another walk down memory lane of early childhood flavors... Enjoy your soup fresh out of the pot or save for later. It's great reheated as well. Thanks Mom!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Philosophy - Savoring

How often do you stop and ask yourself "what is my state of being?" If you did, would you find yourself to be content? hurried? overwhelmed? The simple act of asking such a question of ourselves teaches us a great deal about the landscape of our lives, and it also gives us a powerful tool to change what we may not like.

In her book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, Winifred Gallagher explores the phenomenon of savoring. Savoring is "the mindful, intentional focus on positive feelings." Whether you're savoring the first bite of dinner or a rare moment of silence, the act of focusing on the event as a positive sensory experience will make the situation all the more enjoyable, and will imprint upon your mind a sense of satisfaction and calm. To enhance the experience, be mindful of the specific details of what you're savoring. If you're eating ice cream, think about the flavor and all the hard work that went into making it. If you're enjoying the sunshine feel its warmth and contemplate the long journey that light took to land on your cheeks.

Savoring can tell us a lot about our ability to channel positive thinking, but it also has powerful implications about our ability to facilitate our own healing. Phototherapy has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of psoriasis, a skin condition caused by cell proliferation and inflammation, however the process is uncomfortable and has a high dropout rate. The treatment consists of a patient standing naked in a large coffin-sized tanning booth while wearing only goggles and a pillowcase on his or her head. To explore the role of mindfulness in treatment, half of a group of psoriasis patients listened to an audio tape that asked them to focus on the phototherapy experience without judging it as good or bad: Could they feel the warmth on their skin? Could they hear the blowers? The other half of psoriasis patients endured the treatment without any instructions to be mindful. The results were incredible. Patients who listened to the mindful audiotape saw their psoriasis clear four times faster than patients who did not savor the UV treatment. These attentional effects have the potential to penetrate all the way down to inflammatory mediators and gene expression.

Getting ourselves into the habit of savoring can not only change our temporary state of mind, but can also challenge us to reshape the way we see the world, and the implications of such a major shift in perspective are endless.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Recipe - Broiled Salmon with Crispy Shallot

Thank goodness interview season is over! Don't get me wrong, I loved flying around the country seeing programs and meeting people, and who can complain about being wined and dined? But towards the end of "the trail" I was ready to sit back and enjoy the deluge of east coast snowstorms. This recipe has come to mind repeatedly since an especially delicious interview dinner. I wonder what it says about me that I fantasize about recipes...

2 salmon filets
4 small shallots
Salt & Pepper
Rice pilaf

1. Turn on the broiler and let it preheat. Wrap a shallow pan in tinfoil and arrange the salmon fillets so they aren't too close to each other.

2. Season liberally with salt and pepper and top with generous slices of butter.

caveat - I put shallots under the slices of butter before broiling the salmon. Unfortunately the shallots burned and I had to take them off and replace them with fresh ones, hence the recipe change.

3. Place in the broiler for about 8 minutes. At this time arrange slices of shallot on top of each fillet, then place back under the broiler. You may either use fresh slices of shallot or sautee the shallot quickly in butter before arranging on the salmon.

4. Remove fillets when the fish is crispy and cooked through. Serve with pilaf and veggie of choice!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Recipe - Guatemalan Banana Pancakes

Barry and I just got back from a month-long rotation in Guatemala. It was wonderful and exhilirating in so many ways, and not at all what I expected. First we spent two weeks in Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela (Shay-la) ) learning Spanish. We met some amazing people and traveled to some of Guatemala's hidden treasures, like high altitude hot springs and an active volcano nestled among the jungle highlands.
Antigua, the former capital, was filled with ruined cathedrals dating back to the 16th centry, georgeous volcano-backed views, and many oddities.

In Xela we investigated the local foodie scene with our roommate Alex. This was our FAVORITE taco stand, which sadly we only discovered a few days before leaving. Best. Tacos. In the world.

The next two weeks of our trip were spent in Santa Cruz, a nearly vertical town of a few thousand native Guatemalans tucked away in a cozy ring of villages circling Lake Atitlan. It looked like Utopia, but the people lived in horrible poverty and had almost no access to healthcare. We worked with Dr. Sinkinsin, an American ER doc who opened a clinic at the lake 5 years ago with his wife Carmen, a Guatemalan pediatrician. They travel by boat two days a week to other towns around the lake and provide healthcare to whoever shows up. In tow they bring a nurse, three Spanish-to-native language translators, and however many students happen to be working with them at the time.

Barry and I could see patients on our own (using our fabulous medical spanish and much arm gesturing), discuss cases and treatment with one of the docs, get the medicine on our own from the pharmacy (the suitcases full of meds we brought with us), and administer them ourselves. It was like nothing I've ever done before. Incredible.
Here's a brief glimpse of the gorgeous lake...

We stayed at a place called La Casa Rosa. Our place had a little kitchen with a mini fridge, stove top and a sweet little view of the garden.

We spent our first weekend at the lake with our UVA/Guatemala coordinator, Jessica. She took us to her favorite breakfast joint where we ate the most delicious banana pancakes (in Guatemala they're called panqueques). Since we were on our own for three meals a day we decided to give them a try.
1 cup of pancake mix
1/2 cup of water
1 egg
1 tsp of sour cream (optional)
1 tsp butter
1 banana
butter & syrup

1. Let me start out by saying that cooking in Guatemala is quite an experience. Before you can cook anything you have to take a boat to the main town, hike up to the grocery store, trek everything back to the boat and hold onto it tightly for the harrowing trip back. From the camp stove that nearly caught fire whenever we lit the big burner, to the algae bloom at the lake requiring us to only use bottled water, to the many, many, many bugs, every day provided us with new and unusual challenges. But often in a good way.

We didn't have measuring cups so I used a soup ladle to measure mix and water (2:1 ratio). It worked ok, but you'd probably be better off following the instructions on the box.

2. After combining the mix, water and egg, I decided to add a little sour cream. There is a story behind the sour cream but I will wait for another recipe to tell it.

3. I don't know how well this picture conveys the batter consistency... It shouldn't be too runny or too stiff. Adjust accordingly.

4. Now, heat a small pat of butter in a pan over low-medium heat. Once it's hot add enough batter for your first pancake.

5. Slice your banana at an angle so you get oblong pieces. While the pancake is cooking, add a few slices to the still-batter side.

6. Carefully flip your pancake over onto the banana side. It will take about 2 minutes to really cook. I have heard you're only supposed to cook a pancake once on each side but I usually toss them back and forth a couple of times to make sure they're cooked through. You'll know they're done when they bounce a little bit as you flip them.

7. Double time!

9. Serve with butter and syrup, or whatever you prefer! These are already one of my favorites.....

10. Yum!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Recipe - Sweet Soy Tofu

During a recent trip to the Asian grocery store to buy soy sauce I decided to go out on a limb and get tofu. I've never cooked tofu before and had no idea what to do with it, but Barry came to the rescue!

1 carton of tofu
1/2 cup + 1 Tbs sweet soy sauce (syrup)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil + enough to fry the tofu
1 tsp sugar
4 green onions
3 cloves of garlic
3 carrots
1 cup frozen green beans (Trader Joes)
2 cups cooked white rice

1. First the marinade. I've never bought this soy sauce before and was surprised to find out it has a consistency more like maple syrup than the regular stuff. It has a balance of sweet and savory with rich, complex flavors, so this sauce will add depth to whatever you use it in. What a find!

Manis Sedang Export Quality Medium Sweet Soy Sauce 20.9 oz, Indonesia

Combine 1/2 cup of soy sauce with 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup of olive oil. If you want to use regular soy sauce you can omit the water. Add 1 tsp sugar and whisk to combine. For this type of marinade I like to keep the garlic fairly large but you are free to cut it however you like.

2. Chop four green onions and add to the marinade. Technically you won't be using the marinade until the final stages but making it first will allow the flavors to really meld.

3. Next the side dish. My friend Vivek's grandmother always sends him home with amazing leftovers and I noticed she cuts green beans into tiny little pieces. I loved green beans already but this new use for them is definitely worth trying, it really changes the character of the dish. I like Trader Joe's green beans because they're so delicate. No need to defrost first, just cut into tiny pieces and set aside.

I cut the carrots at a diagonal so they wouldn't fall apart with all the tossing and stirring.

4. Heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in a sautee pan over medium heat and add 1 clove of finely minced garlic. After a minute or two add the carrots. Stir them regularly so they don't burn or caramelize. When the carrots begin to soften you can add the green beans.

5. When your vegetables are as soft as you want them add 1 Tbs of soy sauce and toss to coat evenly. I'm not sure the action in this shot came through, but tossing vegetables in the pan is a great way to distribute everything evenly and it's a lot of fun! I highly recommend it.

6. Next the tofu. Barry followed one of his sister's recipes which goes something like this.
Cut the tofu into cubes
Fry in oil until crispy brown. We used olive oil but I'm sure there are better fry oils out there.

Dry briefly on a paper towel.
Transfer carefully to the marinade and let stand for a few minutes.

Then pour everything into a pan and heat another few minutes to concentrate the flavor.

7. Serve with rice and enjoy!