Sunday, March 25, 2012

White Pepper Ice Cream

(Actually multicolored pepper ice cream, but Chris, the requestor of this ice cream, based his request on the song of the above name, so....)

How's this for an awesome / so-awesome-I-feel-guilty birthday present:  Ice-cream maker! And accompanying recipe books! 

This was my first shot and it is yummmmmmmy.  Since the actual peppercorns are strained out after infusing the custard for awhile, they just leave behind a bright, kickin' peppery essence.  I'm thinking we'll eat this with strawberries and a little balsamic.

100% taken from The Perfect Scoop ice cream cookbook.  Actually, NPR already put it on the interwebs, so I'll just leave ya with the link:  Pepper Ice Cream.  If you've got the tools, give it a shot!  If not come over and I'll make you some.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vegetarian Sushi-sans-Nori

How's that for a confusing name?  It's late, and I can do no better.  Basically, I used Heidi's method for making sticky rice balls, but made them with plain sushi rice, filled them with delicious things, and ate them like sushi.  Super yummy dinner, will be super yummy lunch tomorrow!

And before I lay out the basic method here, a complete digression:  Vegetarians, if you are ever in Austin, TX: in the name of all that is green and leafy go here and let them serve you veggie sushi of their choice.  One of the best meals I've ever had.  Mouth unicorns!

So anyway, rice balls / noriless veggiesushis / excuse to play with your food:

1.  Make 2 cups sushi rice in rice cooker (this will be enough for 2 for dinner with maybe 1 lunch portion left over). 

2. Dice up some combination of the following, or, you know, other things:  Eggplant, red pepper, asparagus, tofu,  grape tomatoes, portobellos, avocado, mango, cucumber, chives.  Other fruits could also be delicious.
(I diced up some of all of these and had way, way, way too much filler for my rice, so unless you're going to make a triple batch for a party, be decisive.  I highly recommend the tomatoes and mango and avo along w/1 or 2 meatier things, though.)  You want proper 1/2 inch dice, no bigger or assembly will be a pain. 

3.  Toss the above, except avo/mango/cuke, in a mixture of sesame oil (or sesame chili oil if you have it), chopped garlic from a jar, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, or whatever else floats your vaguely Asian flavor boat.

4.  Spread your marinated cubes evenly over a broiler pan. Turn on your broiler, and place your broiler pan such that one end is under the flame, which if your oven is like mine will reach about 1/4 of the pan at a time.  Broil that segment of the pan for 5 minutes, then scoot down to the next 1/4 and repeat (this is properly done w/oven door open as I only recently learned...).

5.  When rice is done, mix in rice vinegar to taste (about 2 TB) and let it cool some.  Then, make an assembly line with filling ingredients (broiled veggies and avo, mango et al) and the rice, and maybe some sesame seeds to roll the riceballs in if you like. 

6.  Here is the key thing:  Do Not endeavor to make rice balls in your hands, OK? Get a piece of plastic wrap, put it in your palm, and plop a tablespoon or two of rice on there.  Place a few yummy bits of things (tomato + asparagus + mango.... avo + eggplant + cuke... you get the picture) on top of the rice, then gather the saran wrap around it into a little packet, squeeze into a ball, unwrap, plop on plate, repeat.  (For pictures, see link to Heidi's recipe above.)

7.  Serve like sushi with soy sauce/wasabi/ginger.  Gobble gobble.

PS: I also made this, the cabbage equivalent of a latke, but it was kind of meh. Would be better served with plain yogurt and a side of fresh fruit for brunch, or something. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cabbage Soup & Soda Bread

Belated St. Pat's at our house tonight.  I did the easy part (the soup), Chris made the bread in a cast-iron skillet and put on some Susan McKeown, and all we lacked was a Guinness. 

Ed. 3/22/14: Photos added after another St. Pat's with the same meal.

Soda bread:  Chris made this recipe.  It had a great crust and texture and the fragrance filled the whole house.  I wish we'd've melted the cheddar slices on top before eating, but it was plenty tasty with the soup and sliced apple and non-melted Irish cheddar.  Can't wait for another slice for breakfast.

Soup:  I started with this recipe of Heidi's, but ended up doing the following slight variation. Simple, light broth with tender strips of cabbage.

1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 a cabbage, cored and cut in 1/2 inch ribbons
1 cup white beans  (don't know what kind I grabbed from freezer, it's all good)
Veggie bullion or broth
Salt, fresh dill, white balsamic vinegar
Olive oil & grated parmesan

Soften the onion & garlic in olive oil over medium low heat. Add salt and 4 cups broth, bring to a boil, add cabbage and beans, simmer until cabbage texture is just right. Add dill and a splash of vinegar, adjust salt. Serve topped with parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guest Post: Just Right Tomato Soup

Today we have a guest post from a good friend who is also a talented photographer. I recently relayed this recipe by Heidi Swanson to Mica and his wife. Taking advantage of the last of the cool weather here in the desert Southwest, he made it and was kind enough to tell us about it here.

Tomato soup: an easy recipe with big flavor
By Mica Thomas Mulloy

It has only been in the last five or six years that I have started to tolerate tomatoes.Before that, tomatoes and I were not really on speaking terms. I tried time and time again, but I just couldn’t do it. They always had that, well, tomato taste. Yuck.

Now I’m a little bit better. I can appreciate a good caprese salad, diced tomatoes in a taco, or thinly sliced tomatoes on a big sub sandwich or a good burger (thinly sliced is the key. Too thick and I still pull them right off). Of course I have always enjoyed salsa too, but that doesn’t count as tomatoes, right? But as far back as I can remember, even though I would turn up my nose at any form of raw tomato, tomato was my favorite variety of soup.

Go figure. It has always just had a warm, homey feeling to it. Pair it with grilled cheese sandwiches and you have perfect meal on a cold winter night. If I had to name my “comfort foods” tomato soup would certainly make the short list.

I need to clarify here that I am not a cook. Despite a short-lived phase when I was little of wanting to be Jack Tripper from “Three’s Company,” my culinary skills have never surpassed basic at best. I make a mean quesadilla, somehow figured out a decent chicken parmesan and serviceable meatballs, and I can grill pretty good street tacos.

That’s about it.

Still, occasionally I get an itch to try to cook something delicious, and will sometimes surprise myself by not ruining a meal.

When one of the primary authors of this blog gave my wife her recipe for tomato soup, my appreciation for the creamy red brew took over and I felt the urge to really make a mess in the kitchen.So I did, and it turned out great.

This definitely is not your standard condensed-tomato-soup-from-a-can recipe. I may not be the biggest soup connoisseur, but even as an amateur I can safely say this one has a ton of flavor without being overbearing. And it has kick. Not so much spice that the timid-tongued won’t want to eat it, but just enough to really make the taste memorable.

It’s not a thin broth with giant chunks you can never quite dig up from the bottom of the bowl, and it’s also not so thick you could eat it with a fork. Like Goldilocks found with the three bears’ porridge, it’s just right.
Secret ingredient: generic store-brand spices
Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 2 yellow onions chopped
  • 2 28 oz. cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 6 cups of water
  • Cumin
  • Red chili flakes
  • Curry powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Here’s how to do it. Or at least how I did it:
Chop the onions. I ended up using one really big onion rather than two regular onions. Did it make a difference? No idea. Chop what you want. As a side note, if you’re like I used to be and chop onions as you would anything else and then wonder why the pieces are all different sizes, oddly shaped and nothing like what you see in cooking shows, watch this quick video for some tips.

Drizzle some olive oil in a large pot and when hot add the onions.
Once sufficiently softened, stir in the fire roasted tomatoes, coconut milk and water. Next add the spices. I used a tablespoon of each.
I used kosher salt, and later added in about a teaspoon of season salt. I wanted to make sure I covered up any strong “tomato” taste (Yuck, remember?).
Once hot, use an immersion blender to make the big chunks less chunk-like and the whole concoction a little creamier.
The mixture comes together on low heat
Cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the brew brewing. I’m sure you could keep it simmering longer, but we were hungry and it looked done.
Chopped fresh flat Italian parsley from my herb garden. It was a really nice addition as a finish for the soup. Pull the leaves from the stems, bunch together, chop, bunch together again and turn 90 degrees, chop again. Repeat.

Ladle into bowls and serve. I added a little fresh parsley from my herb garden. I think it was a nice, subtle final touch. We warmed some Filone Asiago Cheese bread from the bakery aisle to go with the soup. So much for the gluten-free meal, I know, but if you can tolerate it, it was a great balance to the kick, and great for dunking into the soup. How civilized.
Finished product, ready to serve

What I learned:

First, this wasn’t tough or that time consuming as far as soup from scratch goes. Stuff went in a pot, good soup came out. Second, a little curry powder goes a long way. If you like it and know what you’re getting into, go with a tablespoon. If you aren’t sure, cut it back a bit. I will probably try less coconut milk next time. It is a necessary ingredient, but I kept getting a hint of little too much coconut. Or maybe coconut with a little too much curry. That said, keep in mind I don’t really know what I’m talking about. If I did, I would probably be able to balance out what I was tasting with the other spices. Alas, I’ll just add less of both next time.Lastly, this recipe made a lot of soup. Plenty for leftovers the next day plus some in the freezer. I made this for two, so it could easily feed four to six people. If you have a small party and don’t want leftovers, you could reduce the ingredients.

In the end:
I don’t love tomatoes. Never have, and even though I like them now more than ever, don’t imagine I ever will. They’re too tomato-ey. I think people who can just bite into a whole tomato and enjoy it are weird.
But I do love tomato soup, and this is easily one of the best tomato soups I’ve ever had. Like I said, it has a lot of flavor and just enough kick. For comparison purposes, it certainly leaves the Campbell’s red and white can in the dust.
But you can compare it with that familiar feeling of warmth, comfort, and home. And this soup has it all.

Mica Mulloy is a high school teacher and photographer in Phoenix, Ariz. Check out more photos and less recipes on his website at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lemon Greek Yogurt Pasta with Chicken, Squash and Zucchini

Here in Phoenix, the orange blossoms are in bloom and citrus is plentiful.  This makes my brain spin with creative citrus ideas, whether there happens to be citrus in my kitchen or not.  A few nights ago, one of my good friends was coming over for a meeting, and I wanted to cook dinner for him.  Believe it or not, this meal came out of the last random things I had left in my cupboards that are desperate for me to grocery shop.

My head thought, can you make a sauce with greek yogurt?  Could that include citrus flavors? What if I used the squash and zucchini Jessica got me for my birthday?  Could that all go together well?

And so, I googled.  My research confirmed that my instincts were correct, and these flavors could in fact work together. Here are the results:

I sliced one zucchini and one squash and sauteed them in a frying pan with some Meyer lemon olive oil, and basil.  I sauteed them until they were slightly see-through. I cut two chicken breasts into bite size pieces and also sauteed them in a frying pan with lemon olive oil and a little lemon juice, seasoned with basil, lemon pepper, and some garlic.  I boiled a box of whole wheat linguine and set it aside.  In a bowl, I mixed together 1/2 cup of greek yogurt, 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, and some lemon peel.  I first added the zucchini and squash, then the chicken, and then the pasta, tossing it all together well.

Sadly, I did not have any actual lemons on hand at the moment.  I hope to make this recipe again when I do.  For readers who do have lemons on hand, I would recommend thinning the greek yogurt with the juice of one or two lemons, and as well as adding zest to either the chicken or the sauce.  If you do not have lemon olive oil, you could make your own by simply mixing olive oil with lemon juice.  Also, if any readers had cherry tomatoes on hand, I suspect those would be a lovely addition, and one could throw those in with the zucchini and squash partway through sauteing.

Happy citrus season! Enjoy.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fava Puree with Parsley and Dried Cherries

Last time we were in Brooklyn, I loaded up both of our carryons with things I miss from the peerless Sahadi's, like cardamom tea and harissa paste and pistachio oil.  (Actually, the pistachio oil was a problem as it was over the size limit for said carryons.  Luckily, we were in NY to visit a baby with a very smart mama, who filled two of his bottles---under the volume limit---with my precious oil and sent me on my way.)

I also got a nice big container of dried, shelled fava beans.  They may not be as tender as the farmer's-market-fresh batch that went into this soup, but the nutty flavor and velvet texture when pureed are all there.  I love the flavor of this puree and was tempted to eat it with a spoon (or on little toasts, perhaps?).  Instead, it went over some store-bought "wild mushroom agnolotti" with ribbons of barely-steamed asparagus.

2 cups dried, shelled favas
juice of 1 lemon (maybe 2 if yours are small and/or store bought - mine was the last of my Arizona trove)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 package finely chopped dried cherries
One bunch fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
1/2 cup grated nutty white cheese
splash of white balsamic vinegar

Quick-soak the favas beans (cover in water, about 2-3 inches above beans, bring to boil, boil for one minute, turn off heat, let sit for one hour). 

While they soak, make a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt.  Taste and adjust to your liking; measurements approximate.  You can always add more of any of these things to the puree once it's made.   (Chop the parsley and cherries and grate the cheese, too.)

When favas are ready, mash them with vinaigrette using a potato masher, to whatever consistency you like (I think chunky is nice), mix the other ingredients in and mash a bit more, adjust flavors, and serve - hot or cold depending how you use it.

Ed. 11/22/15:  I made this again for a party at my house (served as a cold dip), and have a few notes.  First, I think the better quantity of favas is more like 2 cups AFTER soaking.  Second, this time around I didn't have as much soaking time and the beans weren't quite as soft, so I pureed 2/3 of them with the vinaigrette in the blender (food processor would be even better if you have one) and mashed the rest with a fork.  Third, I needed a lot more olive oil than in the above, partly because of the beans being less soft.  And fourth, I made it without any cheese for some vegan guests and it was still delightful!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

West African Peanut Stew

This recipe needs some tweaking, but I'm posting it so I will remember to do so (or maybe someone else will, and will tell me how to make it better?  hint hint!).  It has the potential to be super tasty.  Folks on allrecipes loved it, so maybe I am just an outlier and/or didn't follow the recipe well enough? 

The recipe linked above is as follows:


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, very finely diced
  • 2 large bell peppers, (any color) finely chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 (18 ounce) jar creamy peanut butter  [I used chunky and didn't add roasted peanuts]
  • chopped roasted peanuts (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, vegetable broth, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Add rice to soup and stir. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25 minutes, or until rice is tender.
  3. When rice is cooked, whisk in peanut butter and return to a simmer, and serve. Garnish with chopped roasted peanuts, if desired.
I made the following additions, but they weren't enough to counterbalance the overwhelming peanut butter flavor:

- Added finely chopped carrots to Step One
- Added a splash of soy sauce
- Added 1/2 a can tomato paste
- Used more garlic and a LOT more red pepper flakes.

I think for next time, I will try less peanut butter (probably the most important modification), more rice, perhaps even more tomato paste/tomatoes and soy sauce and red pepper flakes... what else would y'all suggest?  What could this be served with other than bread?

**Update:  See the comments for a much-better-sounding version via Kate!***