Four Clan Kitchen

What we eat everyday

Archive for October, 2011

Spinach Watercress Soup

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 30, 2011

Have you any idea how good watercress is for you?  In sheer nutritional density, it beats even spinach.  Besides its delicious, especially in soup.  The recipe below emerged from my weekly attempt to empty my refrigerator before going to buy the upcoming week’s grocery.  As a result it contains half an onion, a bunch of watercress and spinach, cilantro stems, two leaks and half a boiled potato.  As you can imagine, the ingredients are highly flexible: any leftover greens and some type of oniony entity will do, although watercress is nice.  The soup is very light and fresh tasting, but you can make it richer by substituting half a cup of water with milk or cream.   Also, I usually use Better than Bouillon which is a paste version of a bouillon cube, but much nicer tasting.  If you prefer, substitute vegetable or chicken broth.

Ingredients: 

2 tbs. vegetable oil

1 tbs. butter

1 tsp fennel

1/2 onion minced

3 cloves garlic minced

2 leeks, washed and sliced into thin rounds (these were very slender and yielded about 3/4 cup)

1 bunch watercress, washed, roots trimmed (keep slender stems)

About 1/2 lb baby spinach leaves, rinsed

1 tbs. Better than Bouillon vegetable base

3 cups water  (you can substitute the water and the bouillon with chicken stock)

1/2 a boiled potato (cubed, optional)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

1.  In a medium (5 qt or so) sized pot,  heat the oil and butter.  When hot, add the fennel seeds and saute briefly till the seeds release their aroma.

2.  Add the leaks and onions and saute for 5-7 min until softened.

3.  Add the cilantro stems and saute for a few minutes.

4.  Then add the watercress and spinach, mix throughly and place a tight fitting lid on your soup pot.  This will cause the leaves to lose their volume.

5.  Now add the bouillon and mix throughly.  Then add the water.  Taste the salt, adding more if necessary.

6.  Cover and simmer at low heat for 10 min.  till all the leaves are soft.  Add the potato, if using.

7.  Puree using a stick blender until completely smooth.  This is preferable to using a food processor since the stick blender aerates the soup better and makes it lighter.

8.  Ladle into bowls and enjoy with a nice bread.

Posted in Brunch, Main Dishes, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Fresh Tomato-Basil Pesto

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 22, 2011

This fresh tomato pesto is inspired by watching a Lidia Bastianich PBS session from the corner of my eye.  It is yet another way to use the last of summer’s tomato bounty and  is made with tomatoes, basil, mint and spring onions.  It really has an incredible taste and combines the freshness of a salsa with the richness of a pesto.  Besides, once you have the ingredients assembled it takes less than 5 min. to put together.  So come home from work, get some water boiling for pasta.  By the time the pasta cooks, your dinner will be ready.  Any leftover sauce is great with some crackers or tortilla chips.

Ingredients:

3 cups tomatoes, chopped or crushed in the food processor (any kind of tomato will do, I used Champagne tomatoes)

2 cups basil leaves, stemmed, loosely packed

1/2 cup mint, stemmed

tender (non-woody) stems of 1 bunch cilantro, about 1/2  cup total

2 sprigs spring onions, roots removed

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds)

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

black pepper to taste

pinch of cayenne (optional).

1/2 cup or more fresh asiago cheese (or a cheese of your choice)

Method:

1.  Set some water to boil for cooking pasta

2.  Place all ingredients except the cheese and the oil  in the food processor and pulse till pureed.  With the food processor running add the oil until a pesto -like sauce forms. Taste and adjust the salt and acidity.

3.  When the pasta is done,  drain and add the cheese.

4.  Add the sauce and mix well.  Serve some asiago alongside the meal, for those who like a more cheesy pasta dish.  The sauce will dress one pound of pasta and you will have some left-overs.  The pesto is also great on crackers or with good bread.

Posted in pasta, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pistachio Bars

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 15, 2011

I got Gina de Palma’s Dolce Italiana for Christmas two years ago.  These days I find recipes by surfing, so this book has been languishing on my bookshelf since it was given to me.  I now realize that relegating this book to the “maybe some day” category was a  mistake.  Gina de Palma is (was?) a pastry chef at Babbo, Mario Batali’s restaurant.  I love the simplicity  and homey-ness of Italian desserts and this book has them all.   And although not all of the recipes in this book are simple, these pistachio bars certainly are.  These bars are a  cross between a biscotti and blondie and are nutty and fragrant with lemon zest.  They are lovely dunked in coffee.

Ingredients:

  •      2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  •      1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  •     1 cup shelled, whole, unsalted pistachios, Sicilian if available
  •     1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces) unsalted butler, softened
  •     1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  •      2 large eggs
  •      1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •     1  teaspoon pure almond extract
  •     zest of 1 lemon


Method:
1.    Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 13-by-18-inch jelly-roll pan with butter (The original recipe calls for lining the pan with parchment and then greasing the parchment  (I found this to be tedious when spreading the dough since the parchment kept misbehaving.  Next time I will leave it out).
2.    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and set aside. Place 1/2 cup pistachios in the bowl of a food processor and process for 20 to 30 seconds, until the nuts are finely ground. Stir the ground pistachios into the flour mixture.
3.    Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the 1 1/4 cups sugar until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
4.    On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients to make a soft dough. Use an offset spatula to spread the dough evenly in the pan, smoothing the surface as much as possible. Since there is no baking soda or powder, the bars are not going to rise much, so you must spread the dough pretty evenly to ensure even cooking  (this is why the partchment is a pain).

5. Coarsely chop the remaining 1/2 cup pistachios in the food processor and sprinkle them evenly over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar evenly over the nuts.
5.    Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the dough is firm and just turning golden brown at the edges, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow the pan to cool on a wire rack for  before cutting the cookies into rectangular bars.  The next time I make them, I will bake them for around 30-35 min to leave the bars a little more cakey and a little less biscotti-like, but this is a personal preference.

6.  Enjoy with coffee, a glass of milk or some almond ice cream.

Posted in baked, Breads, Brunch, Dessert | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Apple Butter

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 10, 2011

Honey crisps are my favorite apple these days, so I am delighted that they are now showing in the store in copious numbers.  They are just the perfect combination of sweet and tart for making this apple butter and any dessert you might fancy.  For this batch, I adapted a recipe from Serious Eats with some slight modifications.

First,   I did not peel the apples.  If the peels are fully blended (a stick blender is best),  then the peels really don’t get in the way of the  smoothness or flavor.  In fact, they impart a lovely reddish hue to the apple butter (see pictures).

Second, I eliminated all of the spices suggested in the recipe  (cinnamon, cloves, all spice).  You can add them back in if you like, but I really like the fruit flavor to speak for itself.

Third, This recipe yields about 2 large jam jars worth of apple butter.  It will keep for a while in refrigerator (~ 3 weeks) and it will also  keep beautifully in the freezer as well with no loss of texture or taste.  I have no idea how long you can keep this in the freezer, but I am guessing that it is several months.

Fourth, the recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar which I think is overkill, although this will depend on the type of apple you use.  So I recommend starting with 1 1/2 cups sugar and then adding more if your apple butter needs it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs (about 8 medium-large) honeycrisps,  cut into large chunks (no need to peel)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 1/2-2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Method:
  1. Place apple and apple cider in a large Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook until apples are completely tender, about 20 minutes.

  2. Turn off the flame and using a stick blender,  puree the apples, until completely smooth.

  3.  Turn the flame back on  medium-low,  stir in sugar and lemon juice. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until sauce turns a deep brown and thickens, about 1-2 hours (mine took 1 1/2 hours), stirring regularly to prevent burning.  You can overdo the cooking time, making your apple butter too stiff, so quit while you are ahead.

  4. Let apple butter cool to room temperature, then scoop into clean jars.

Posted in Breakfast, Brunch, condiments, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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