Wednesday, August 27, 2008

African Tomato Soup

My friend Florence is from Uganda. When she moved to the states she brought with her some food combinations that my Italian-American family had never thought of. One of these is a peanut (ground nut) sauce made with tomatoes and onions. I've been planning to make her ground nut sauce for a few weeks now but since I don't tend to cook meat very often I decided that instead of making a sauce I would make a soup based on her original recipe. This soup is also a great way to use up my Tom Thumb tomatoes that are ripening now and producing far more tomatoes than I can eat in salads.

African Tomato Soup
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Onion Roughly Chopped
1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder (or to taste)
About 20 Cherry Tomatoes
2 Heaping Tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) of Natural Peanut Butter (no salt, no sugar)
Juice of Half a Lime

In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions for 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile mix the spices in a mortar and pestle and grind roughly. Add the ground spices to the frying onions and fry for another 2 minutes. Chop each tomato in half and add to the pot. Add enough water to cover the tomatoes and onions, bring to a boil. When the soup is boiling add the peanut butter to the pot. Allow to cook for 10 minutes. Blend the soup (I use a stick blender and put it directly into the pot but you can also transfer the soup to a blender and blend at high speed.) Add salt and lime juice to taste. For a smoother soup strain the soup through a sieve or fine mesh colander before serving.

Serves 4-6 people
Prep Time: 2-3 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta Fazool)

Normally I'm a pasta purist. I only eat white pasta because that's what my mom made and what my grandmother made. I've always tutted at my friends that they insisted that whole wheat pasta is so much better. But a few days ago one of my colleagues was saying how much he likes whole wheat pasta with just olive oil on it and how it is much more filling than white pasta. Since he tends to be pretty health conscious, I decided that I would try making something with whole wheat pasta. Then I got to thinking. Many of the popular pasta sauces were once upon a time "peasant food" and apparently the peasants also would have used whole wheat because the refined, white, flour was reserved for the aristocrats. So I decided I would make a hearty peasant pasta fit for the present.

Pasta e Fagioli (or Pasta Fazool depending on who you ask)
1 bag whole wheat pasta
150 grams of pre chopped prosciutto (or 6 slices of bacon cut into 1/4 inch strips)
1 onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 cans of cannelini beans rinsed
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
1 yellow pepper chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
olive oil to taste (at least 5 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan Cheese to taste

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

In another heavy pot fry the prosciutto, onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the rinsed beans, and the canned tomatoes to the prosciutto mixture. Add the chopped pepper and the rosemary to the tomato sauce. Add olive oil to the sauce until you get the desired texture. Allow the sauce to simmer.

Add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook according to the directions on the package

When the pasta is cooked, strain in and add the sauce. Top with cheese and more olive oil if desired.

This recipe serves 4, makes great left overs and cooks in under 20 minutes

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-20 minutes

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Baked Eggs with Vegetables

Last night I came home late and wanted something nutritious but also easy. As is usual on a stressful day, I hadn't had many vegetables during the day, so I wanted to put as many different types of vegetables as possible into my meal. As I've said before, eggs are usually my fall back when the fridge is empty, but last night I wanted eggs with a bit more flavor. I used ramekins to make 2 individual servings but this could easily be doubled to serve 4. This dish was awesome straight from the oven and I had the second serving cold for lunch today--it was just as tasty cold as it was hot.

Baked Eggs with Vegetables
olive oil to coat the ramekins
1 large tomato or 4 cherry tomatoes
Herbs: 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 sprig of thyme and 5 sage leaves OR 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
1 salad onion
1 handful of rocket/arugula
a handful of French Beans or the insides of overripe runner beans
3 eggs
1/2 cup of shredded mature cheddar

Coat the ramekins with olive oil and set aside

Roughly chop the vegetable, mince the herbs and mix them everything in a bowl, crack the eggs into the bowl. Mix in 3/4 of the cheese. Pour the mixture equally into the ramekins. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese

Cook at 200 degree C (450 F) until the top is brown and the egg has puffed up

This can be eaten hot or cold

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Monday, August 11, 2008

Curried Egg Salad

I love eggs. I love that I can make eggs savory or sweet, can have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, and I can make a meal with eggs for a fraction of the cost of a meal with meat. Yesterday night, I came home rather late and needed something to eat that wasn't too heavy, but I also wanted something that would give me enough leftovers for a lunch or two during the week. I had about a dozen eggs, some salad onions and plain yogurt in my fridge I ended up with a really nice, lighter version of one of my favourites.

Curried Egg Salad
6 Eggs Hardboiled
3 salad onions
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
3 large spoonfuls of plain yogurt
chopped coriander to season
a handful of dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, cherries, chopped apricots, etc)
juice of 1/2 a lime

Hardboil the eggs (a trick here...hardboil the eggs for about 12 minutes, then stick them in ice water. The shells will come off much easier), chop the salad onions and combine them with the hardboiled eggs in a bowl.

In a frying pan warm the oil and curry power. Stir until the oil takes on the colour of the curry. Pour the oil over the eggs and salad onion. Run a knife through the whole thing until the eggs are bite sized and are mixed well with the onions and curry.

Mix a spoonful of yogurt at a time with the egg mixture until you get the desired texture. Add chopped coriander, juice of half a lime and dried fruit.

Serve as part of a sandwich or over salad greens.

This recipe serves 3 and will keep for approximately 5 days

Cooking time 14 minutes
Prep time 5 minutes

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Herbed Stuffed Courgettes (Zucchini)

Last Sunday I went to a wonderful farmer's market in Blackheath where I found some nice courgettes, both yellow and green. Since courgettes are in season, I wanted to make a dish with a summer feel but I wanted the courgettes to be the star of the main course instead of just a side. I decided the best way to do this was to stuff the courgettes and then serve them with a bit of salad and some fresh bread. The result is a nice summery light meal.

Stuffed Courgettes with Tuna and Herbs

6 courgettes
1 can of tuna, drained (if you're not into tuna you can substitute cooked mince or rice or mushrooms)
1 egg
1/3 cup of strong grated cheese (Pecorino, Parmesan, Cheddar, etc)
A mixture of chopped fresh vegetables, whatever is on hand (I used 3 salad onions, a handful of rocket/arugula, a handful of fresh peas and 1/4 of a pepper)
1 sprig of rosemary
3 sprigs of thyme
6-7 leaves of sage

Place the whole courgettes in a pot of cold water. Bring them to a boil. Once the water is boiling set the timer for 10 minutes. While the courgettes are boiling, combine the tuna, egg, and chopped vegetables in a bowl. Chop the herbs finely and add to the mixture along with half of the grated cheese.

When the courgettes have boiled for 10 minutes remove them from the water. Allow them to cool until you can work with them. Cut each courgette in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove and set aside the inside of the courgettes (the area with the seeds.) Roughly dice the pieces of courgette that have been removed, squeeze out any extra water and add this to the tuna mixture.

Line a baking pan with foil and heat the oven to 200 degrees C (450 F) Place the courgettes on the baking sheet. Stuff each courgette with the tuna mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

These can be eaten hot or cold and can be frozen.

Total cooking time:25 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes

Friday, August 1, 2008

Easy Pasta Two Ways, Carbonara and Primavera

I have been craving pasta for weeks. Tonight I'm finally getting to make my absolute favorite recipe, proper Carbonara. What do I mean by proper? Well when I was in Genoa, I learned that true carbonara doesn't have to have loads of cream in it. You can make a wonderful light version with just a few ingredients.

100 g Pancetta (you can buy this cubed from Armstrong's) or 5 slices of streaky bacon
1/2 an onion chopped small
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
1 bag of any flat pasta (linguine or papperdelle work the best)
Parmesan cheese to top

Put the pasta on to boil. Fry the pancetta and onion in the oil until the pancetta starts to get a bit crispy. Turn the heat off on the pancetta if the pasta hasn't cooked yet. Whisk the eggs in a cup and set aside. Drain the pasta in a colander when it has finished cooking. Do not rinse it. Pour the pancetta and onion mixture into the pot that the pasta cooked in. Then pour the hot pasta and eggs into the same pot. Stir. Put the lid on the pot for 2 minutes. The egg will have cooked from the heat of the pot and the heat of the hot pasta.

Pasta Primavera
This is the same premise as the carbonara just vegetarian.
1/2 onion chopped
1 portabello mushroom chopped
1/4 cup of peas
1/4 of a red pepper chopped
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 eggs
1 bag of flat noodles or 3 bunches of soba noodles (which will add extra protein to the meal)

Put the pasta on to boil, set a timer for 1 minute less than the cooking time on the package. Fry the onion and mushroom in olive oil for about 5 minutes, add peppers and salt. Cook until tender. When the timer goes off add the peas to the water and cook for 1 minute. Drain the noodles using a colander (if using soba rinse in really hot water) Pour the vegetable mixture into the pot, pour the noodles with peas and eggs on top of the vegetable mixture and stir. Cover the pot and let sit for 2 minutes. If you find that the egg has not cooked to your liking, briefly turn the heat on and stir until the egg looks less runny. Top with cheese and extra olive oil if needed.

Note: You can use just about any vegetable but broccoli or cauliflower in this recipe. The reason for this is that the egg gets caught in the florets of the two vegetables and doesn't cook fully.