Monday, February 16, 2009

Granny's Potato Soup

My Granny was a no-nonsense kinda lady, and I totally loved that about her. I still adore thinking about it. This is her potato soup recipe, and it's no-nonsense. I hope you think it's as fun and easy as I do.

celery - washed and chopped - use whatever amount is right for you
onion - peeled and chopped - use whatever amount is right for you
potatoes - peeled and chopped - use whatever amount is right for you (Granny was so no-nonsense that she just used a bag of Ore-Ida frozen potatoes most of the time.)
garlic - peeled and minced - use whatever amount is right for you
salt and pepper, to taste

Naturally, most of us will want the potato to be the dominant ingredient and everything else is just seasoning. So, you put whatever combination of the above vegetables that you like (I usually use about 3 potatoes, 1/2 onion, 3 celery stalks, and 2 cloves of garlic. This serves about 4.) into a pot large enough to accommodate them. You cover them with water. You start boiling the water. Let it boil until the potatoes are kind of falling apart and making a sort of thick, starchy broth. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Add more water if you find you've let it boil down to be too thick, unless thick is what you like. (I usually find mine has gotten too thick and simply add water to the right consistency. Works like a charm.)

It's hard to believe that's all there is to it or that something that simple or that vegan could actually be delicious. But Granny was no vegan, believe me. She just liked simple food that was also good. Give it a whirl! If it does not taste right, it's only because the ratio of the ingredients is not right for you. Adjust, adjust, adjust. It CAN be right with just these ingredients, I promise!

Fried Rice

Last night I made some delicious fried rice, and really, I was just winging it. It turned out GREAT! I served it with all-natural vegetarian spring rolls that I got from the freezer section of the grocery store. There's a lot of room to improvise and stylize with fried rice. Here's basically what I did:

3 c. cooked white rice (You need to cook the rice in advance and let it sit in the fridge for a while. For whatever reason, fried rice is not right with just-cooked warm rice.)
1 egg
1 T. plus 3 T. canola oil
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1 cup frozen or fresh broccoli pieces
1 large carrot, peeled, cut in half length-wise, then sliced into half-moons
1/2 small onion, chopped
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 t. celery seeds
5 or 6 large leaves of kale, washed, large stems removed, cut into ribbons
1 T. sesame seeds
soy sauce, to taste (I'd say at LEAST 1/2 cup. You could also use tamari or shoyu instead.)
salt, to taste

Heat 1 T. canola oil over medium-high heat in a small non-stick skillet. Beat the egg, then pour it into the hot oil. Cook it scrambled, busting it into small pieces while it's cooking. Once it is quite done, remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat 3 T. canola oil and crushed red pepper over medium high heat in a large deep-sided skillet. When it is nice and hot, add the broccoli and carrot, and stir them quickly while they cook. If using frozen broccoli pieces, take care, because the water from the frozen broccoli will cause the hot oil to spit and splatter. After you've cooked them for a couple of minutes at most, add the onion, garlic, celery seeds, and ginger. Stir them in the hot oil until they're cooked the way you want them. Add kale and sesame seeds. Stir-fry until the kale is just wilted. Stir in the cooked egg pieces. Add the rice, ensuring any clumps are busted up to individual grains. (NOTE: You may have to add more oil here, too, if things are sticking. You may have to turn the heat up or down. You be the judge.) Begin adding soy sauce (or tamari or shoyu) as you stir-fry everything. You want at least enough to color all the rice brown, but add more if you like more. When it looks done, taste for salt. Add whatever amount of salt you like, and you're all set! Enjoy! (This served about 3.)

There are lots of other things you could stir-fry into this: celery, scallions, snow peas, baby corn, water chestnuts, tofu, mushrooms...these are just a few ideas that would be great! Omit the egg to make this vegan. Have fun!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gnocchi with Goat Cheese-Pesto Sauce

Gnocchi is an Italian dumpling and is pronounced "NO-key". I made this recipe for the first time last night, and it was delicious! I saw a different recipe online yesterday for gnocchi, and it inspired me to create this recipe. I hope you like it! I served it with sautéed kale (Yes, I love kale. It's the only thing coming out of the garden at this time of year, too!), crusty white bread, and white wine. Any variation of white beans would have been perfect with it, too.

1 lb. gnocchi - You can make this homemade (I used the recipe for potato gnocchi from PeTA's The Compassionate Cook cookbook.), use frozen gnocchi, or use purchased fresh gnocchi.
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 c. water
2 T. pesto (You can use purchased prepared pesto. I used homemade.)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large Roma tomato, chopped

Prepare the gnocchi according to the recipe or package directions. While the gnocchi are boiling, sauté the minced garlic in 1 T. of the olive oil over medium-low heat. When you begin to smell the garlic (after about 1 minute), add the goat cheese and water. Stir constantly until you have a smooth sauce. Stir in the pesto, the remaining 1 T. olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the gnocchi are finished, toss the warm dumplings in the sauce to coat them, then top with chopped fresh tomato. Enjoy!