I can’t get enough mushrooms right now. I haven’t been seeing the wild ones at the farmer’s market yet but I’ve been buying a whole lot of cultivated white button and Crimini mushrooms. I love them almost any way except for raw. I love to roast them on the grill, sautee them thinly sliced with onion to put in omelets, and of course I love to make tofu stroganoff. But this is by far my current favorite way to eat mushrooms: pan roasting them with onions and thyme in olive oil and then finishing them off with some red wine vinegar. I’d use wine but I never happen to have any sitting around. When they’re still warm but not hot I put them on a bed of lettuce with some feta cheese and dress with vinaigrette. It’s a simple but satisfying salad.
Heat up the olive oil in a large saute pan and add the mushrooms and onions.
With the heat on high saute the mushrooms and onions until they start to brown, stirring frequently to prevent them from sticking to the pan or burning.
Add the thyme and salt and turn the heat down to medium-high.
Add the vinegar and cook with a lid on for about five minutes to get the mushrooms to release their juices.
Remove the lid and continue cooking until all the juices have cooked down, stirring frequently.
Grind fresh pepper over them and serve.
You can serve these mushrooms as a side dish, add to a salad, or add them to eggs. These are just the ways we've enjoyed them - I'm confident there are many other ways to enjoy this dish. If you have some red wine on hand I suggest using that in place of the red wine vinegar. This recipe can be easily halved. I do a big batch because we can't get enough of them.
I love winter squash and don’t get tired of eating it. I love it roasted, made into smooth soups, or made into chunky Thai soup with tofu and curry, and I love it mashed up with butter, salt, and pepper. This pasta dish is my new favorite to eat winter squash. One of its charms is that it doesn’t call for a lot of ingredients and another of its charms is how fast and easy it is to prepare. I have made it several times in the last few weeks and always in a huge batch because I need leftovers for lunches for three adults. I give you the recipe for a regular sized batch but if you want a giant pot of this just double the recipe. The sauce will become very thick after cooling so you can add a little water when reheating if you like.
Heat the olive oil in a pot on med/high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent and browning slightly. While sauteeing the onion, fill another pot full of water with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil, then add your pasta.
Puree the winter squash, ricotta, water, and all the seasonings in a bowl using an immersion blender (or you can use your food processor for this). When it's completely smooth add it to your onion and let it come to a boil and then turn the heat down to med/low while your pasta is cooking. Stir frequently. Take off the heat when your pasta is done cooking.
Drain the pasta, add it to the pot with the sauce and toss it well.
This whole recipe comes together within fifteen minutes for me. I suggest having all your ingredients measured out before you begin so you don't have to mess with it while everything is cooking. If your onion is done but you aren't ready to add the sauce to it - be sure to take it off the heat so it doesn't burn. If you want your sauce to be thinner - just add more water. You can use broth, of course, but this recipe doesn't require broth for flavor. One other thing - I've played around with the cayenne amounts and I like it somewhat spicy. If 1/8 tsp seems like too much for you then start with less.
What kind of winter squash you use is up to you. I prefer rich dry squash varieties such as butternut, buttercup, hubbard, or Queensland blue. To bake squash you cut them open, gut them of seeds, halve or quarter them and put on a baking sheet and cook in an oven at 375 degrees until soft. There is no need to cover in foil or oil the baking sheet or the squash.
This soup post is dedicated to the three animals that make our every day life incredibly rich and funny: Pippa, Penny, and Chick. We love all three of them in spite of the fact that they wake us up in the wee hours for various reasons, they shed, they get fleas, they create enormous inconveniences… and yet: every single day we have them in our lives they make us laugh, they repay us in kind for the things we do for them, they curl up and keep us warm on cold winter nights, they cheer us up when we’re depressed for no reason. And Pippa, most especially our funny bow-legged, silly, sweet Pippa who helps Max get to sleep every night and suffers our stifling affections for her and her antics which we know she can’t help, being a little weird in the head from being abandoned at 4 weeks old by her mother and suffering malnutrition (also the cause of the bow legs). Without Pippa we would be so much less than we are.
I’m linking this post to Branny Boils Over‘s ASPCA donation challenge (for every soup post that’s linked up to theirs dedicated to a loved pet they will donate $1 to the ASPCA). The deadline to participate is January 31st so there’s plenty of time for you all to join in and raise some money for the care of animals! Please note that you don’t even have to have a blog (or if you have a blog but it’s not a food blog – no problem) please go over to Branny Boils Over to read how you can be part of this too.
Most people know split pea soup as a smooth porky flavored comfort food. Not in my house. Being brought up vegetarian, my mom had veg versions of most of the classics and this is roughly based on the version she made for me growing up. It’s the first soup I ever mastered on my own. It has chunky vegetables in it but the peas become smooth as it cooks for a long time. I prefer to use fresh dill whenever possible but I’ve failed to get it established in my current garden and no one local sells it here. So I use dry these days. If you’re looking for something that mimics the taste of ham-hock, this is not the soup for you. But for everyone else – this is an amazing split pea soup!
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and once it is hot add the onion, celery, and carrots. Saute them until the onions are translucent and the edges starting to brown.
Add the stock and stir in the split peas. Bring the stock to a boil and then turn it down a little to med/high heat. Add the potatoes, garlic, dill, salt and pepper.
Cook the soup for a long time, stirring every five minutes. When the peas begin to break down you need to pay more attention, stir more frequently to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down to med/low. It usually takes a minimum of an hour for the peas to start breaking down. It will take a minimum of a half an hour after that for them to get silky and fully cooked.
Once the split peas are completely soft add the cauliflower. This will not take long to cook. When the cauliflower is just tender the soup is done.
It is very important to note that you must be intuitive about the amount of water/stock needed. I've given the minimum amount that I find I need every time I make this. Depending on how quickly the peas break down you may need to add more water. You add more water when it becomes thick and the peas aren't yet done cooking (that means they need to absorb more water to be done or they'll stubbornly adhere to the bottom of your pot) and you add more water if the soup is thicker than you like it once the peas are done cooking.
The smaller you chop your vegetables the more quickly they'll break down and blend with the split peas. If you want to have chunks of vegetables when the soup is done, cut them into larger pieces. This soup usually takes 2 hours to make. I realize that's hard to fathom in this day of FAST recipes. It isn't fast and it's completely worth the time it takes to cook. You can, of course, cook this in a slow cooker but I'll be honest - I've done that and I hated it. So I obviously can't personally recommend that you do that. I add the cauliflower last because it doesn't take long to cook and I like to have whole cauliflower pieces in the soup.
If you want to make a cauliflower garnish as I've done for the picture - cut a 1/4" cross section from the middle of the whole head of cauliflower before cutting it into florets. Brush the cross section with olive oil and broil it in the oven on both sides until browned.
I have made this dish for over 20 years. I never had a recipe to start with. I was inspired to make this by the amazing bowl of rosemary polenta I once had at Kuletto’s Italian restaurant (on Powell Street in San Francisco) back when I was still a fashion design student. It is almost single-handedly responsible for making me get into the kitchen at a time when most of my friends and myself subsisted off of cheap diner food and boxed pasta. This is the perfect warm sustaining dish to eat on cold fall and winter nights. Served with a big pile of sauteed greens or a salad it is absolutely perfect. Obviously, for those of you who eat meat, it can be a great side to a meat dish as well.
The quest to make Max things he’ll like that have less sugar and more protein in them continues. This cookie used to be a sugar cookie. But then I halved the sugar in the recipe. I added quite a bit of almond flour (Ca-Ching!) to it which lends this cookie a subtle almond flavor. Alas, it did not meet with Max’s approval but the rest of us loved this cookie enough for me to offer the recipe up for you to try. I don’t have a big sweet tooth. I don’t really love cookies, in general. But this one, well, it’s pretty much perfect.
In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another medium bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fully combined.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
Chill the dough while the oven preheats to 350°.
Make balls of dough using a heaping tablespoon and flatten slightly.
Bake for 12 minutes (or until the bottoms are golden, the tops will remain very pale).
Put 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and stir vigorously until the sugar is completely dissolved, . If it gets too thin, add a little more sugar, if it’s too thick add small amount of milk to thin it.
When the cookies have cooled, drizzle the glaze over them generously.
This recipe started off as a sugar cookie that I adapted from America's Test Kitchen (Family Baking Book) but it now bears no resemblance to it at all. You can easily double the recipe, I don't like having lots of cookies sitting around so I made it a one cookie sheet recipe. I called these "hundred dollar vanilla cookies" because almond flour costs almost as much as gold teeth.
Potato leek soup is wholesome good cheap food. It also happens to be easy and pretty fast to make. Everyone has their version. Most versions are ultimately the same. Variations include whether or not you use butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two. What type of potato you use and whether or not you put cream or milk in it are other variations. Proportions of leeks to potatoes as well as thickness and choice of garnishes (if any) are just about the only other variations I can think of.
I didn’t plan on putting my version on this site until I started thinking about the price of food and how useful it is to show people what home cooking really costs. It is ridiculous (but widely believed) that eating fast food is cheaper than eating home cooked food. Obviously, if the food you’re cooking at home is lobster and steak all week, and if you garnish your food with gold, that might be true. But then you have to compare eating at a pricey restaurant to your cooking. Fast food is basic food. There is nothing fancy (or healthy) about it. It’s frozen beef patties, cheap cheese, out of season never really ripe vegetables, and the cheapest kind of bread imaginable. Still, you generally pay $3 to $7 for those meals, right? Can people really suppose that simple home cooking costs more per serving than fast food?
A while ago I priced out one of my favorite bean and vegetable soups to see what it cost me per serving to make. The Tenement Stew was .53 cents per big bowl. With some toast it is easily as filling as a flimsy fast food burger and regular order of fries. Two slices of toast might add about .50 to your meal. Plus a pat of butter would add .10 cents (or let’s be generous and say you need two whole pats of butter) so for one wholesome and filling meal of homemade soup and toast you spend $1.23. That’s a cheap meal. Considering how much better it is for you than fast food your money is going a lot further nutritionally.
I’ve been seeing more food writers costing out their recipes and I really like that, I find it useful, especially for people who are just learning to cook from scratch. It’s also great for making comparisons like these – to show people that if you want to eat fast food, that’s your business, but don’t say it’s because it’s cheaper than cooking from scratch.
3 leeks, sliced thin (the white and pale green parts)
8 round potatoes, cut in half then sliced thin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add the leeks. Saute the leeks for a few minutes by themselves, just until they are slightly browned. Add the potatoes and saute for a few more minutes. Add 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Add the salt and pepper. Turn heat down to medium and cook until the potatoes are falling apart (about 30 minutes). Take off the heat and puree with an immersion blender (or you can blend it in an actual blender).
In the past I used to add a little cream at the end to finish this off but I haven’t done that in ages. I love to eat this soup with buttered toast. I suggest, if you aren’t already a master with your own potato leek soup recipe, that you play around with the salt and pepper. It’s the only seasoning in this soup and it matters. Sometimes I use butter instead of olive oil, and sometimes I even use a combination but it’s always a quarter cup of whatever fat I’m using to saute.
I recommend you use dried beans. You don’t have to. But you should. Why? Because they’re cheaper than canned, because you should not be making your food in a hurry. If you don’t like to be bothered, you can always make this in a crock pot. Though I doubt it will all fit in one. So don’t do that. Really, bother with it. This soup is so easy on the budget, so wonderfully healing and warming, and stirring soup over the stove for two hours settles nerves, makes you slow down, and if you like you can read a favorite book while you stir, or talk to your pets (or children). Or read them your favorite book. Unless your favorite book is Anna Karenina. No one needs to read that when the fall hours grow dark, unless you have a pack of Galois cigarettes and bitter black coffee at your elbow.
This soup has everything you need in a meal if you can’t pull anything else together. It isn’t heavy but it’s substantial enough to hold you up. The cabbage cooks so long that it becomes unbelievably tender. It’s excellent with some Parmesan and toast.
3 quarts water (or vegetable, beef, or chicken stock)
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
5 med. potatoes of any variety, diced into 1/2? cubes
1 cup navy beans (or 1 can prepared navy beans/northern beans)
1 head of cabbage, cored and chopped to 1? size pieces
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
In a large soup pot warm the olive oil and add the onion and carrots. Saute them until they begin to brown a little.
Add 3 quarts of water, bring to a boil.
Add everything else. (If you’re using canned beans you can add these near the end).
Cook for a really long time, stirring occasionally and making sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Keep your eye on the thickness of the soup, the water will cook down and you may need to add a little water from time to time. You want the soup to have some body so add water two cups at a time, as needed.
This soup took two hours to cook. (If you use canned beans it will take only 45 minutes.) The soup is done when the beans are tender.
If you aren’t used to winging it with water quantities in soup then I think you should read my post about soup philosophy. It will help you. Soup is a flexible and incredibly personal dish. There is no soup recipe that can’t be altered to your personal tastes. All soup recipes are merely suggestions. Guidelines. Never be afraid to adjust it.
In my search to find things my son will eat that I can make from scratch I’ve tried all sorts of recipes for tea breads and quick breads. He likes cornbread, which is great, but nothing else passed muster until I made the gingerbread cake from “The Family Baking Book” by America’s Test Kitchen. This surprised me, actually, but pleased me. I made changes to the recipe based on my own tastes such as omitting allspice which I don’t care for. I reduced the sugar a bit and also used blackstrap molasses instead of light molasses because blackstrap is more nutrient dense. I also played around with using whole wheat flour but the result was not good – it was slightly bitter, so I went back to using all purpose. The original recipe calls for buttermilk but I never have that sitting around so I use regular milk. I offer you my version of gingerbread, Max approved.
Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
In either a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer (I use my stand mixer for this one) beat the molasses, sugar, and melted butter together. Beat in the egg until well incorporated. Add the milk and mix until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until well combined, don’t beat into a pulp. Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and shake gently to distribute the batter evenly.
Bake the bread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan.
If you’d like to ice the gingerbread, as I have done in the picture above, put 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and stir vigorously until the sugar is completely dissolved, . If it gets too thin, add a little more sugar, if it’s too thick add small amount of milk to thin it.
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed but good quality bread* is getting more expensive every year. Grain prices are going up so this isn’t surprising. My own grocery budget is getting smaller so paying almost $4 a loaf and going through two loaves a week is $8 a week. That’s $32 a month in bread.
We could, of course, give up bread. There is a lot of noise out there from people evangelizing (or waxing rhapsodically at any rate) about the wonders of the Paleo diet. Eschew all grains! I’m all for everyone eating a diet that suits them, that makes them feel their best and if not eating grains makes you feel your best than I have no argument against it. For you. But I don’t view grains as evil or bad for my health. So I continue to embrace them.
I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to bake my own bread. My mom has decided that she wants to bake bread once a week to help us save money. She used to bake bread in the hippie commune I was born into but that was over 36 years ago. So she asked me to give her a refresher course. I love the feel of bread dough, I love shaping it, punching it down, the smell of the yeast. Then, at last, the smell of the bread in the oven is the most heavenly smell in the world.
If you haven’t baked bread before I suggest you get the book “Great Breads” by Martha Rose Shulman. I learned to bake from that book and taught two friends to bake bread using that book.
I’m looking forward to more home baked bread!
*My definition of good quality means: whole grain, zero preservatives (big fat 0), made locally. Or artisan bread for special occasions using white flour but zero preservatives and made locally.
Tomato season is over for us. It’s been over for a couple of weeks. I would be devastated but for the fact that I ate a couple hundred pounds of them while they were going strong and ended on a high note with my tomato tart experiments. The last version, the one I’m going to share with you, I made for our friends who are moving out of state. I needed to make something memorable enough that they’ll be inspired to come back and visit us.
It’s super easy unless you have to make your pesto from scratch, plus make your own ricotta (as I usually do), and then, of course, there’s the crust to make. Wait! Seriously, none of those things are difficult to make and if you’re not up to making them all yourself you can buy them pre-made. If tomato season is already over for you too then you have two choices: bookmark this for next year or if you happen to have any sundried or oven roasted tomatoes in your freezer- you can top the tarts with those. Whatever you do, don’t use hothouse tomatoes from the store. Banish the thought!
Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut the pie dough into six equal sized pieces. Roll out and fit into the tart pans. Put all the filled tins into the freezer for 20 minutes.
Blend the ricotta with the pesto until completely incorporated.
Remove the tart tins from the freezer and fill each one with the ricotta, dividing it evenly between them all. Smooth the surface of the ricotta out in each tin. Arrange three slices of tomatoes on the top and brush with olive oil.
Arrange on a baking sheet (to catch any spillage) and bake for one hour (or until the crust is golden).
If you’re using a 9? tart tin, arrange the tomatoes slightly overlapping each other starting with the outer edge and work your way to the center in a spiral. You may notice the lack of additional salt or pepper in this recipe- that’s because pesto is usually already salted and peppered and it is enough for the whole dish. I did salt and pepper the tomatoes in one version but I didn’t think it added anything to the tarts. I freeze the dough before baking because it keeps it from shrinking down in the oven while baking. If you never have this issue and prefer to refrigerate before filling, as most recipes suggest, go ahead and do that. Many ricotta recipes call for an egg to help set it up but I find this is usually unnecessary. Sometimes when I make my own ricotta I add a little bit of milk when stirring it up because it gets a bit dry after draining off the whey, so if your ricotta is homemade, make sure it’s not dry- it’s going to cook for an hour which will dry it out more.