Friday, June 24, 2005


Sorry for the complete lack of postings lately. I'm still cooking as much as ever, but haven't tried too many new recipes. That said, I've just posted three other new entries, so check them out too.

My new pal J, with whom I've recently been doing some canning (strawberry jam, blood-orange marmalade, peaches), gave me this recipe with such enthusiastic recommendation, I had to give it a try, even though I already have a good carrot-potato soup recipe. And it may actually be better than my recipe, though as a trade-off, it's a little more complicated (not that it's at all hard, but there are more ingredients and a few extra steps). The coriander flavor is wonderful and the whole thing tastes nice and spring/summery somehow, the cilantro and celery adding an extra note of brightness. We ate it with salad and a bit of garlic bread and were well pleased. Also, we can see really well in the dark now.

1 pound carrots, preferably young and tender
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced, plus 2-3 pale, leafy celery tops
2 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you're a filthy carnivore like me)
2-3 teaspoons ground coriander (I used 2 because it seemed like so much, but think I'd use more next time)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (J notes, I use MUCH more; again being cautious, I used 2)
1 cup milk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Trim the carrots (the recipe says you can peel them "if necessary," but I don't think it's ever really necessary), cut them into chunks, and set them aside. Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter (please note this carefully, because I initially put in all the butter and then had to quick try to scoop some out for later when I realized my mistake) in a heavy-bottomed soup kettle over low heat. Chop the onions, and, when the butter/oil is warm, add the onions to the pot. Sautee them for 3-4 minutes, until slightly softened but not browned.

2. Add the potatoes and celery to the onion in the pot and cook for a few minutes, then add the carrots. Sautee everything over low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat even further and steam the contents for about 10 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally to keep the vegetables from sticking to the bottom.<

3. Add the stock, bring the soup to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium-low, partially cover the pot, and simmer it for 8-10 minutes, until the carrots and potato are tender.

4. While the soup is cooking, chop the celery tops (you should have about 1 tablespoon once they're chopped) and the cilantro. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the ground coriander, and friy it for about a minute, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat, add the celery and cilantro leaves, and fry for another rminute. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.

5. When the soup is fully cooked, puree it in batches in a food processor or blender until smooth, then return it to the kettle. Stir in the milk, the coriander mixture, and salt and pepper to taste, heat the soup gently for a few minutes, and then serve.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 45 minutes to an hour


I never really got the hang of garlic bread. I don't serve many side dishes at all, especially bread, and on the rare occasions when I made garlic bread I just put on some butter and garlic powder the way everyone does, even though I abhor the artificial taste of garlic powder in nearly every other circumstance. The result was never bad, but never really exciting either. A couple of months ago, when I hosted a small dinner party for friends to watch the finale of The Amazing Race, I thought some garlic bread might round out the meal of pesto salmon, asparagus, and brownies I'd planned, but I knew my usual dull and haphazard method wouldn't cut it. So I hastened to, found the top-rated garlic bread recipe, made it, and loved it. There is butter, there is real garlic, there is nice seasoning, and there is the secret ingredient, olive oil, which makes the mixture nice and spreadable and helps the bread get toasty and crispy. I could eat an entire meal of this, but it wouldn't be that healthy, so I try to save it for special occasions. It is, however, also easy enough to whip up a half- or quarter-recipe on the spur of the moment to accompany a simple soup or salad supper. By the way, the original recipe suggested that after the garlic bread has been broiled, you could sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top and put it back in the oven to melt and get golden brown, but that just seems too decadent. I'm afraid of how much I might love it.

1 large loaf Italian bread (ciabatta works well)
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Slice the loaf of bread in half the long way (so you have two pieces with long, flat tops). You want the bread to be as wide and soft as possible; a porous, bubbly bread like ciabatta will accept the butter better than a dense bread. (The first time I didn't plan well enough and had to use some baguette I had in the freezer--it didn't have much surface area for the topping and got too hard under the broiler, although it still tasted just fine.)

3. Mash all the other ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork, until you have a nice spreadable mixture. Spread this across the flat tops of the bread and place the bread directly on the oven rack under the broiler (or you can put it on a baking sheet first). Broil, watching the bread the entire time (things always broil much faster than I expect and I'm always burning them), until they are light brown and crisp on top. (We all have our desired degrees of toastiness--I still like the bread to be soft beneath a crisp crust, and the buttered portion to still be a bit yellow, just brown around the edges.)

4. Slice the bread and serve it.

Serves: 4-8, maybe?
Time: 5-10 minutes


Pasta and avocado? Doesn't that sound kind of weird? Trust me, it's delicious--a nice, easy, no-cook sauce for summer, with a lot of spicy-garlicky bite but then the citrusy freshness of lemon and the soft, creamy green blandness of avocado to cool it down. A doesn't love avocado, so I don't make this too often anymore (even though I try to tell him it's almost got the same ingredients as guacamole, somehow this doesn't inspire confidence in him when I add "...but on pasta!"). But I could feel summer a-comin' in and I wanted avocado, and because I Am The Cook I made it and he ate it. He claimed to like it, too. I loved it.

4 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1 and 1/2 pounds)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 pound penne pasta
1 medium avocado (about 1/2 pound)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Core the tomatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. Add these to a large bowl along with the garlic, oregano, oil, salt, and red pepper flakes, and toss everything together. Set this aside for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

2. While the sauce marinates, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta.

3. While the pasta is cooking, peel the avocado and remove the pit, cut the flesh into 1/4-inch cubes, and toss them in a small bowl with the lemon juice and a little salt to taste.

4. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it with the tomato sauce (this can be done in the bowl, if it's large enough, or in the pasta pot). Serve out the portions to serving dishes, then divide the avocado/lemon juice mixture evenly among the servings, arranging it festively atop the pasta.

Serves: 6
Time: 30-40 minutes


I realized I make pasta a lot, but I never make good old spaghetti. When I ended up with some leftover canned tomatoes in my refrigerator (Trader Joe's has the freshest-tasting canned tomatoes, but they only come in big 28-ounce cans), I decided to use them up by getting out my mom's recipe and giving it a shot. I made a few adaptations (added red pepper flakes, used fresh mushrooms instead of canned, tossed in an Italian sausage I found in the freezer) and voila! It was great. The best part is that this recipe makes a ton of sauce--I halved it and had more than enough to cover a pound of spaghetti, giving me 6 servings of food right then, plus an extra container of sauce to put in the freezer. If you make the full recipe, as my mom does, you'll have plenty of sauce to freeze and whip out later for quick and easy meals.

1 pound ground beef or turkey (if you like, use less beef and make up the remainder with Italian sausage removed from its casings)
1-2 onions, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
8 ounces white or brown mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fennel seed
12 ounces tomato paste
28 ounces canned chopped tomatoes, undrained
28 ounces canned plain tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
salt, pepper, and chopped fresh parsley to taste

1. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the ground beef/Italian sausage, breaking the pieces up with the back of a spoon. When the meat begins to brown and release some liquid, add the chopped onion, the garlic, the mushrooms, the red pepper flakes, and the fennel and let everything cook until the meat is fully browned, the onion is soft and transparent, and the mushrooms are browned (their juices released and mostly evaporated).

2. Add the canned tomatoes--paste, chopped tomatoes, and sauce--and then, if necessary, enough water to make the sauce the desired consistency (probably about 1-2 cups). Added seasonings--the dried oregano and basil, and salt and pepper to taste, plus red wine if desired.

3. Stir everything together and let it simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. (During this time, cook some spaghetti.) Throw in a handful of chopped fresh parsley, simmer a few more minutes, and then it's done.

Serves: um, a lot. This will cover at least 2 pounds of spaghetti. You can freeze any or all of it for later (the sauce alone, not the noodles), either in Ziplock bags or in Tupperware.
Time: 1 hour