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We are solidly in soup season here in Seattle. There is a Russian cafe tucked in Pike Place Market that serves delicious salads, pelmeni, and soups, including a tasty Borscht. I took home a bunch of beautiful beets from the farm the last week and was inspired to recreate this Borscht. The flavors are very clean and light, but the root vegetables make it pretty substantial. Be sure to have some sour cream or Greek yogurt on hand to swirl into the soup to add some richness. Unfortunately, I ran out when I got the chance to photograph this for lunch the next day. Keep tasting this soup as you are cooking and adjust the seasonings so it is a good balance of sweet, salty, and sour.

Simple Borscht

adapted from food52

10 cups water

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium-large onion, diced

3 medium carrots, chopped small enough to fit easily on a soup spoon

3 large beets, peeled and chopped

1 large or 2 smaller potatoes, chopped

3 small turnips, chopped

1 celery stalk, sliced thinly

1 small bunch of dill, chopped

1 lemon’s juice

1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

salt, pepper

10 juniper berries, optional

sour cream or greek yogurt for serving

Set the pot of water over low to medium heat. Add the juniper berries, oil, and 1-2 tsp of salt. Add the onions, beets, carrots, potatoes, turnips, and celery. As the vegetable soften, skim the foam off of the broth. When you can easily pierce the vegetables with a fork, add the lemon juice and dill and taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the thinly slice garlic right before turning the heat off. Serve hot or cold, with sour cream or yogurt.


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Filed under gluten free, quick, soups, vegetables

apricot fig bread

Oh no! It has started to rain here. And from what I have been told, will not stop until sometime next June. In defense, may I suggest some fresh apricot fig bread and a mug of hot tea? I have made this bread a few times and, as with most quick breads, it is best the first day. This bread is easy to throw together with whatever dried fruit you have on hand, but I really liked the combination of dried figs and apricots. It is whole grain, potentially vegan, and not too sweet.

Apricot Fig Bread

adapted from fannetastic food

2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour or spelt flour

1/3-1/2 cup cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, or sucanant

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup applesauce (I have used a combination of applesauce and yogurt before and it has turned out fine)

1 large mashed banana (or 1/2 cup yogurt)

1 egg or flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with three tbsp water, set aside to thicken)

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/2 cup dried mission figs, chopped (I have used prunes instead and it is also delicious)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder and soda, and salt. In another bowl, mix together the applesauce, mashed banana, and flax egg or real egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold until everything is just combined. Fold in the dried fruit, and pour into a greased and floured pan. I used a 8″x 8″ pan, but you can also use a loaf pan or make muffins. Sprinkle on a bit of coarse sugar and rolled oats to make it look pretty. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean. For the 8″x 8″ pan, it was about 30 minutes; a loaf pan will take 45-50 minutes.

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Filed under breakfast, from the pantry, fruit, quick, sweets

yellow split pea and winter squash curry

the past few weeks were incredibly cold for houston.  high of 30?  terrible.  in order to make up for these temps, i just made some curry.  i actually got the idea for this warming stew by watching the food network while at the gym on the terribly named show aarti party.  aarti (a winner of the next food network star) gives smart and modern ways of incorporating indian spices and flavors into your everyday cooking.  i am not sure how authentic this combination of winter squash and yellow split peas are, but i can guarantee that is very tasty.  this dish takes awhile on the stove to soften the peas and cook the squash, but it is a one pot, throw it all together affair that will definitely reward your patience.

yellow split pea and winter squash curry stew

inspired by aarti party

1 large winter squash (i used a red kuri squash but butternut, hubbard, or any other orange winter squash will be fine.  i also have used 3 large sweet potatoes before with very good , if slightly sweeter results.)

1 onion diced

1/2 of a can of diced tomatoes

2 cups yellow split peas or 1 cup of yellow split peas and 1 cup red lentils

1/2 c dried unsweetened shredded coconut

1.5 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp turmeric

enough vegetable stock or water to cover

peel and cube the squash into 1 inch cubes.  in a large soup pot, heat a tablespoon or so of canola oil, ghee, butter, or coconut oil over medium heat and add the onion and cook until softened.  add the spices and cook until fragrant.  add the cubed squash, tomatoes, coconut, and split peas and cover with vegetable stock or water.  season.  bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer and let it cook through until the peas have softened and the squash has fallen apart (maybe 30 minutes or so.)

when the stew has reached this stage, prep the finishing oil and seasonings:

1-2 tbsp canola or coconut oil

1-2 tsp brown mustard seeds

2-3 cloves of garlic minced

1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more)

1-2 tbsp honey

1-2 limes of juice

cilantro, as much as you want

heat the oil in a small skillet until shimmering.  add the mustard seeds, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  cook until the garlic is starting to brown and the mustard seeds begin to pop.  add this to the stew.  taste this and begin to season with salt, honey, and lime juice.  finish with minced cilantro and enjoy.

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Filed under curry, legumes, soups, spicy, vegetables

kabocha squash puree and pickled cucumbers and avocado

remember that previous post about spring?  sadly, sf has seemed to reverse back into winter this week.  luckily, i was prepared with a kabocha squash from the farmers market.  kabocha or japanese pumpkin, is my favorite winter squash to cook because it much denser than other winter squash so it is not as watery.  the peel is also very thin and edible and it cooks pretty quickly.  if you have ever had pumpkin curry at a thai restaurant, they most likely used kabocha.  i kept this puree simple in flavor so i could really taste the kabocha but you can increase the spices if wanted.  you can also make the puree as thick or thin as you want, depending on what you want to do with it.  i kept it simple as a soup, but i think if you mixed some with ricotta or goat cheese it would make an excellent pasta stuffing or maybe even a dip.  if you do not puree it, you could also serve it on top of some grains (polenta/grits or rice would be good.)  i also added about 1/2 cup of red lentils to the squash to add some protein and increase the thickness of the soup, but you can omit them or use another legume.

to garnish my puree, i sauteed a bunch of scallions with some chile oil and garlic until soft and browned.  most people do not think of scallions as a vegetable on their own, but they make an excellent component.  i have also braised whole scallions until tender, but that is another post.  yogurt and thai basil provide a cooling touch.  on the side, i quick pickled an english cucumber while i was making the soup with salt, 1 smashed clove of garlic, sesame oil, and lime juice and folded in a chopped avocado right before serving.

kabocha squash puree/soup

1 kabocha squash about the size of a large baby’s head peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes

1 medium red onion diced

about 1/2 cup red lentils rinsed

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

water or vegetable stock

garnishes of your choice- sauteed scallions, yogurt, herbs

heat a couple tablespoons of light tasting oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  add the onions and saute until soft.  add the spices and saute for about a minute or two or until everything is very fragrant.  add the squash and lentils, season,  and just enough liquid to cover.  bring to a steady simmer and turn down the heat and let the squash cook until very tender.  the red lentils will break down and pretty much disappear.  monitor and make sure the pot does not get dry.  when the squash is tender, puree in batches in your blender.  return to the pot and add more liquid if needed and reheat.  i just used a bit more stock but you could use coconut milk to make it even creamier.  check the seasoning, ladle into bowls, garnish and serve.

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