Bali Garden Soup

Today's recipe is all about using what you've got lying around in your cabinets or stuffed in the back of your fridge, so I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to reduce food waste and make the most of the food I buy.

The most important principle is this: do not throw away stuff that tastes good. Citrus peels? Taste good. Onion roots? Taste good. Mushroom stems? Taste good. You can repurpose all of these scraps to get the most bang for your buck.

Put your freezer to work! I keep a couple of gallon-size zip-top bags in the freezer at all times for my vegetable scraps. The ones I find myself stashing away most frequently are: onion skins and roots, mushrooms stems, herb stems, ginger peel, carrot roots and tips, broccoli stems (I eat most of the broccoli stem like I would the florets, but remove the woody end that has an unpleasant texture and save it), corn cobs, leek tops, fennel tops, and apple cores. I also do this with whole carrots, herbs, and other vegetables that I know are going to go bad before I can use them. I just break them up into 2-inch or so pieces and throw them in the bag.

Once I have at least one gallon-size bag stuffed full in the freezer, I'm ready to make stock. Dump all of the frozen vegetables in a stock pot, cover with an inch of cold water, and add it some salt (start with a teaspoon and adjust as the stock cooks), peppercorns (2 teaspoons or so), and a bay leaf. Feel free to add other herbs and spices as you see fit; I often add dried chilies and a couple of garlic cloves to mine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature and simmer for a couple hours until the stock tastes good. Strain the finished stock, and either put it in the fridge to use within a couple of days or freeze until you're ready. I also do this with leftover bones for a non-vegetarian version.

Another idea long these same lines is to save citrus peels. I save them in the freezer in a separate container to use for tea. Just today, I made a batch of iced tea that I flavored with the peel of a lemon and a grapefruit that I had stashed in the freezer last week. I boiled 2 quarts of water, poured it over 6 tea bags (3 green tea and 3 mint tea today) and the citrus peels, then let it steep for a while before throwing in a quart or so of ice. I keep the jug in the fridge, tea bags, peels, and all, and end up drinking the whole thing in a couple of days max. You can take out the tea bags after the ice melts, but I'm just lazy.

Now, for soup. This is a wonderfully versatile recipe. I've often used the basic framework of coconut, sesame, and red curry flavors to pull together the odd vegetable bits in my end-of-week fridge. The picture I've included in this post uses chard, broccoli, corn, carrots, and frozen peas, but in the past I've used leftover roasted eggplant, leeks, snap peas, and tomatillos with a couple of almost overripe tomatoes and beginning-to-wilt carrots. All weird yet satisfying combinations, especially when loaded up with a dollop of yogurt and served with some crunchy bread or crackers.

Bali Garden Soup
Adapted from The First Mess

1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 serrano chilies (or something similar; I've used dried red Thai chilis to wonderful effect), minced
1 medium onion or leek, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated or minced
4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 cups water (or use vegetable stock for more depth of flavor)
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 medium (or 4 small) tomatoes, diced (or half a can-ish of diced tomatoes)
2 cobs corn, kernels removed (freeze the cobs for later use), or 1 1/3 cups frozen kernels
1 1/3 cups sliced green beans
4 cups chopped Swiss chard, stems and leaves separate
Kosher salt, pepper, and red curry powder (or paste if you've got it; you could also try yellow or green curry powder, I bet both would be great) to taste

Potential additions/substitutions: roasted eggplant, broccoli, sweet potatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, frozen or fresh peas, tomatillos

Heat coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chilies, onion, Swiss chard stems (save the leaves for the end), garlic, and ginger, and sauté for a couple of minutes until soft and fragrant. Add salt, pepper, and curry powder to taste, and cook for another minute or so. Add in the sesame oil, soy sauce, and water.

Bring to boil, then add the carrots (and any other hard vegetables that you want to add; think [sweet] potatoes, butternut squash, etc.), turn down the heat to medium, and simmer for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes (and any other larger vegetables that are soft; think tomatillos, zucchini, etc.), and simmer for a minute more before adding the corn and green beans (and any other small vegetables that you just want to heat through, like peas). Cook for a minute, then turn off the heat. Adjust the seasoning as desired, then stir in the Swiss chard leaves. 

Serve with yogurt and rice, baked [sweet] potato, toasty bread, or crackers!

Sheet Pan Salmon

I've been overwhelmed lately as I've tried to absorb the general craziness of our current political moment, figure out what the next steps are for my career, get ready to reapply to graduate school, and plan a wedding. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I'm highly risk averse, which dovetails nicely with my anxiety around uncertainty, but is constantly at odds with my ambition and chronic boredom. As some form of reprieve from my hectic internal state but stagnant professional life, I've returned to cooking, as I am wont to do in times of intellectual upheaval.

Today I poached some quince, which I have never seen before let alone cooked, and they turned out nicely. I think I'll have them over yogurt at breakfast tomorrow. I also made these seedy oat crackers, a batch of pistachio-almond granola, and this super delicious stuffed spaghetti squash with chickpeas and arugula-tahini sauce (I spiced up the chickpeas with my usual blend of smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and swapped tahini for the cashew milk as she suggests). I'll have to make it again soon to take pictures. A couple weeks back, I made this sheet pan salmon from Tasting Table, and it was so yummy and very easy. I tweaked the order of events and cooking time slightly, since I found that the snow peas got kind of sad and overcooked when they were added at the beginning according to the original recipe. I like my vegetables closer to the raw end of the spectrum, so adding them near the end of the salmon's cooking time did the trick for me. Even if you're not in to salmon, the sauce from this recipe is worth making and using with other proteins, as a dipping sauce for summer rolls, and the like.

Sheet Pan Salmon with Shiitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy, and Snow Peas
Adapted from Tasting Table 

For the sauce:
1/4 c honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon gochugaru
3 garlic cloves

For the salmon and veggies:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
2 c snow peas
2 c shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 head bok choy, cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 pounds plank salmon, skin on
Chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the honey, soy, sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Use a microplane to grate the ginger and garlic cloves, or mince finely if you don't have a fine grater like a microplane. Add in the sesame seeds and chilies, then set aside.

Cover a sheet pan with tin foil. Place the salmon in the center of the pan, then season with salt and pepper. Cover the salmon with 2/3 of the sauce. Place the tray in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Toss the vegetables with oil, salt, pepper, and remaining sauce. After the salmon has cooked for 15 minutes, remove it from the oven and arrange the vegetables around the outside. Put the pan back in the oven for another 5-15 minutes until the salmon and vegetables are cooked to your liking.

Serve with chopped cilantro, limes, and cooked basmati rice. Enjoy!

Cherry Pepper Hummus

On a January visit to my cousin Sarah's digs in Florida, she introduced me to the most amazing condiment ever, second only to a perfectly spicy-tangy honey mustard: cherry pepper hummus. Sarah loads it up on a toasty pita with lots of fresh veggies like lettuce, cucumber, bell peppers, and radish, and it is so delicious. She makes the best pita sandwiches, no joke!

I started experimenting when I got home, and have settled on a combination that I can't stop eating. It's also really easy to make since I use canned chickpeas. My absolute favorite hummus recipe is from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook, which uses dried chickpeas, but canned chickpeas are a great shortcut for this kind of everyday recipe. Since my default is buying pre-made hummus at the grocery store, I don't feel too badly about using canned chickpeas here. Also, the cherry peppers and spices add so much flavor that you can't really tell. I can already sense many of you rolling your eyes at this whole discussion, so I'm going to move it along and tell you everything you can put this hummus on.

Other than the usual hummus suspects like veggies and pita chips, I've been using it as a sauce for my end-of-week-fridge pasta. A couple of weeks ago I tossed this on rigatoni with leftover roasted eggplant, some green beans that were going to go bad in a day or two, and hunks of mozzarella from the weekend's pizza, and it was ridiculously good. Just this evening for dinner I roasted cremini mushrooms, onions, and broccoli, combined them with cooked egg noodles, and smothered everything with this hummus. I also love it on toast with smoked salmon and lettuce for breakfast in place of the usual avocado or plain hummus. Sometimes I just eat it with a spoon, honestly.

Cherry Pepper Hummus
Inspired by the one and only Sarah!

2 cans chickpeas
1/2 to 2/3 c tahini, to your taste
2 lemons, juiced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Healthy pinch salt
12 to 16 ounce container cherry peppers; you can find them at the deli/antipasto section of your grocery store with the olives, etc., or the aisle where they put other jarred veggies
1 to 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 to 2 teaspoons sumac
1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Drain the chickpeas, but keep about a half can's liquid, and add to the bowl of a food processor. Add the reserved chickpea liquid, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Blend in the food processor for 1 minute. Add in a splash of water and continue to blend, adding water as necessary, for about 5 minutes, or until the hummus is super smooth. Give it a taste, then add salt if necessary.

Add in the cherry peppers, reserving the juice. You can add a couple dashes of the juice as necessary to achieve a smooth consistency. Add in the spices, starting with a teaspoon or so each, and blend until the hummus is smooth. Adjust the spices to your taste. You can store the hummus in the fridge for about a week, or freeze some if you don't think you'll make it through it all in that time. I've done this and it defrosts really well. Enjoy!

Lemon Soufflé

I am not one for resolutions in a new year. I am not good at keeping them, and therefore do not like to make them. Yes, I have hard time embodying the growth over proficiency mindset in my own life.

This year, though, is different. We must be strong. We must invest in our communities and remain committed to them. To that end, here are some actions I am taking, and I hope these will prompt you to think about what you are doing to support others:

  1. READ. Question everything. If you hear something you don't understand, look it up. Find multiple sources. Stay informed. I am trying to read one poem or essay a day. Today's is Still I Rise by the exquisite Maya Angelou. 
  2. DONATE. Put your money where your mouth is. Many important organizations need you. Black Lives Matter, ACLU, NAACP, National Resources Defense Council, and International Refugee Assistance Project are all great places to start. Look to see if there are any local organizations in your area as well.
  3. VOLUNTEER. Put your time where your mouth is. Are there underserved schools in your area that need tutors? Are there local chapters of organizations you care about? Even if it's only an hour a week, your time is valuable and makes a difference.
  4. NOURISH. Take care of the people around you, and yourself. Feed your friends while you send letters to your representatives. Have a conversation with your relatives over a nice meal. Talk, and listen. Learn from one another.

Regarding item 4, I have had my friends over quite often in the past week to talk, eat, and strategize. Last night was black beans with mustard greens and sweet potatoes; Thursday was pasta, marinara sauce, and a kale salad with homemade caesar dressing.

My friend Worthy and I made these soufflés a few weeks ago, but I hadn't gotten around to posting until now. I didn't know what to write. I hope these words have offered you some food for thought. We didn't make any adaptations to this soufflé recipe, so you can find the instructions that we used here.