I associate the Christmas season with good food, heartwarming music and the company of friends and family. I can help you out with the food part but I leave the rest for you. Please check out holiday dishes from my earlier blogs, hope you can find one for your holiday dinner: festive salad, mouth-watering meat, fabulous vegetarian and tasty vegan dishes. Enjoy!
This delicious dish uses this forgotten vegetable, celeriac. The sweet and bitter celeriac is the perfect vegetable to eat as we enter the colder months. It can also nicely offset the heavyness of other dishes that we eat during the holidays. The celeriac along with the potatoes are cooked in a stock and are infused with thyme and bay leaves. Serve with cream and some croutons or hazelnuts on the top. Enjoy!
1 medium onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2 ” chunks
1/2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks
1 slice of bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)
4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock or more
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup hazelnuts or croutons
crushed red hot pepper to taste
Cook bacon on medium high heat, in a little for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Sautee onion in a little oil for about 5-10 minutes, stir often. Gently fry the garlic for a short time, do not burn. Add the thyme, bay leaf, celery, the potato chunks, bacon pieces and the stock. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium low heat. Cook for about 40 minutes or until all the vegetables are nice and tender.
Remove the bay leaf and let the soup cool off to room temperature. Pour in the cream. Puree the soup. You can use an immersion blender or a regular blender.
Return the soup to the pot and start warming it up. Add salt, pepper and red hot pepper.
Serve with croutons or hazelnuts and parsley.
If using hazelnuts, heat up a pan and lightly roast the hazelnuts for 6-8 minutes. Make sure they are toasted on all sides. Chop the cool hazelnuts.
This is an amazing Thai inspired dish that uses coconut milk and Thai red curry paste as a base. I usually don’t add ready-made seasongs but this is a tasty and easy short cut, you won’t even notice. I chose bok choy and mushrooms for the vegetables, this combination is often used in traditional thai cooking and I really like how they taste together. I also threw in some bamboo shoots to balance out the dish. If you want you can add some broccoli in place of the bok choy but this is really a personal preference. Oh and it is done in 30 minutes! Enjoy!
Serves 6 people
1 block of tofu (1 lb) (500gr)
1 Tbsp ginger, finally chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
(26 floz) 2 cans coconut milk (1 liter)
4 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
handfull (4-8oz) shitake mushrooms, cut up
1 lb baby bock choy (I like half bok choy and half broccoli)
1 bunch scalions, sliced
little fish sauce to taste (I shake the bottle a few times) (1 tsp)
1 can of bamboo shoots (140g), drained
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp red flakes or to taste
1 pkg noodles (Thai, ramen)
Boil water and prepare the noodles according to its directions.
Drain water off the tofu and pat dry. Cut the the tofu in 1 inch cubes and fry in a little oil. When done, sprinkle a little soy sauce on the cubes.
Heat a pan with oil.
Add the broccoli if used and stir fry for about 10 minutes on medium heat until tender.
Add the ginger and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Stir.
Add the 2 cans of coconut milk and the Thai red curry paste, stir. Continue adding bamboo shoots, red chilli flakes (optional) and fish sauce, bok choy and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes. I would like also mention that if you add the bok choy and the mushrooms more at the last 5 minutes, they will keep their shape better and will not get soggy.
Serve with the noodles and the tofu preapared earlier. Add cilantro, scallions and lime juice.
Hope you all had a very lovely Christmas and were able to indulge in as many Christmas dishes as you could … but now many of us tend to gravitate towards lighter yet nourishing foods. In general, to tune in with the seasons, winter is more about dormancy and resting, giving our body a break especially after all the feasting and partying of Christmas.
Sauerkraut Mushroom soup is a hugely popular winter dish in Russia that will nourish your body and soul. It is special for the Russian Orthodox Christans because this is what they serve during the long fast from the end of November until January 7th. In accordance with the strict rules no meat, bacon, animal fat, butter, eggs or milk may be eaten during this time period. This tradition was particularly hard for the farmers who had to work outside and needed heavier foods to survive. The cooks had to be creative and came up with this delicious, hearty soup … that today would fit the vegan definition.
This is a lovely soup that has three simple main ingredients: sauerkraut, mushrooms and the barley. Mushrooms are a nice substitution for meat so use as much as you desire. In Eastern Europe, it is customary in the fall to go out in the woods and pick mushrooms. People then dry them to use during the cold months. If you don’t have access to wild mushrooms, buy stronger flavored mushrooms like morrel, oyster, shitaki or even crimini mushrooms could work. The sauerkraut of course gives it the nice sour flavor and has immense health benefits. The crunchy barley adds the robust part to the soup.
PLEASE READ !!! I use cep mushrooms but if you don’t know how to find edible mushrooms in the wild, definitely go to the stores and purchase them there. Mushrooms are very valuable but there can be some poisonous ones. Stores sell some fine mushrooms that are dried and are worth using. Just soak them in water and then they are ready to be used. Last time I used shitaki mushrooms and I thoght was a nice substitution.
The soup will need a good home-made stock. Both a meat based or a vegetable based stock would work great. You can use beef bones but the vegatarian version is great too. For the vegetarian stock I added onions, garlic, 2 bay leaf, 1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorn, handfull of mushrooms, 1 celery root, couple of carrots and parsley root. Honestly, we could not taste much difference. Don’t forget to put celery root in the stock it surely adds something special to the flavor.
1 lb sourkraut
80 gr (3oz) dried mushrooms or about 6 oz fresh mushrooms (Please see above for more info on safety).
1 cup dry pearled barley
1-2 qt (1-2L) of vegetable or beef stock (please see above)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds
few thyme springs
shallots or small onion
2 cloves of garlic
If using dried mushrooms, soak in water for a couple hours or maybe even overnight if needed.
Make the stock. Please see above for more info.
Make the barley. Boil 3 cups of water and put barley in the boiling water. Turn down and let cook for 1 hour without cover.
In a medium saucepan, sautee the shallots in a little oil for a few minutes.
Add the garlic on low heat. Mix.
Add drained sauerkraut, thyme spring, caraway seeds, bay leaves. Cover with stock. Cook for 1 hour.
For the last 10 minutes, add the mushrooms slices.
Winter has finally arrived in the Midwest of the United State … and it looks like it is here to stay after all the crazyness of this year. We had snow in September and in October … and had 80 degree weather inbetween. I am definitely ready!
December brings forth Winter Wonderland and the Holidays. When I think of Christmas dishes, warming and festive winter foods come to my mind. For me Christmas is a lot about cooking and baking … and of course music. I’m already looking forward to all the baking and cooking I will be doing and singing along my favorite Christmas music…
Please read my previous blogs from last year on winter eating and tasty dishes and desserts.
In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes. However, in Asia, it is more used in savory main dishes. Today, I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by the following blogs: ( blog 1 and blog 2). The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. Traditionally, pork is used but is replaced here with the tofu. In the original recipe, the raw rhubarb is blended in the sauce but I made it more traditionally sautéed like the rest of the vegetables.
The sauce: 5 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp honey, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp ginger, 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (or to taste).
Vegetables: 200g (3 medium sized) rhubarb stalks, 1 large onion, 2 heads of broccoli, 1 can of bamboo shoots.
Toppings: handful of chopped peanuts, 4 scallions, small handfull coriander, soy sauce and limes.
The rice. Make the rice of your choice. I used sushi rice.
Cut up the tofu so it is about 1 cm / 1/2 inch thick. I made triangular shapes but rectangular or square shapes are fine too.
Mix the ingredients of the marinade in a small bowl and pour it all over the tofu. Cover and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Make the sauce. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix to get a nice sauce. Set aside.
Take tofu/marinade out of the fridge and strain off marinade. Pat dry tofu with a towel. Sautee tofu slices in small amount of oil for about 5 minutes on each side. Cover and set aside.
Cut up the vegetables. Thinly slice the onions, cut up the broccoli flowers. Cut rhubarb diagonally in 2-3 inches length. If stalks are bigger, cut them in half first.
In a larger pan or wok, heat seasame oil, add rhubarb batons in a single layer and cook for abot 1-2 minutes while stiring to make sure all sides cook well. Make sure you don’t over cook rhubarb, they should be firm and not mushy. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and cook for 1 minute. Take off heat and set aside.
On medium high heat, sauté the sliced onion for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add the brocololi and continue sautéing on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until it is soft but still crunchy. Add the sauce made earlier. (Quickly whisk, then pour it into the pan). Add the rhubarb (that was set aside from earlier step) and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes. Add the tofu and toss and coat well and cook until the fofu is warm.
Serve on rice with chopped cashew nuts, chopped scallions, cilantro, lime wedges and soy sauce.
Chana masala is a delicious Indian dish that would be great for the spring. I still vividly remember the first time I had chana masala at a friend’s house. He had us over for dinner when his parents came to visit from India like 25 years ago. I did not even recognize the chickpeas … I actually thought they were chestnuts. I never got the recipe but his mother gave me some tips. (Thanks to the internet I found this recipe on line and I think it is very close to what we had that night).
Chana means garbanzo beans and is the main ingredient in the dish. IMO it is crucial to prepare these beans properly. I remember our friend’s mother told me to cook the beans for a long time. They should be cooked for 3 hours or you can use a pressure cooker according to its instructions, of course. Cooking for this long will soften the beans and let the flavors come out. So if time is not an issue, I would recommend home cooked chickpeas instead of using the canned ones. The canned beans will not have the same results for sure.
Garam masala is the main spice in the dish. It is not just one spice but is actually a cleverly chosen mixture of a few spices: fennel seeds, star anise, mace, black cardamom. It is nicely balanced so one flavor will not overwhelm the dish. You can blend it yourself or you can just buy it. (I ended up buying it at the store).
This is a common dish that people in India make on a regular basis for lunch or dinner. It has an interesting flavor, taste and texture. It can be made less spicy, if you don’t like spicy dishes, just leave out the green chili. So chana masala is basically a chickpea curry cooked in an onion tomato sauce with the spices. I always wonder how poor people in India get by on very little money and still eat well. This dish might be one of their secrets …
-I doubled the recipe
serves 3-4 people
1 cup of dried chickpeas or 1 (15oz) can
3 cups of water
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil/ghee
2 large onions, finally chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch ginger piece, finally chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2-3/4 TBSP of red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
Ingredients for the chana masala gravy
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon stick (If you double up the recipe, you will not need to add another cinnamon stick)
2-3 clove pieces
3 green cardamom pods without the shells.
1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1-1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
2 pinch mango powder (amchur) (optional)
fenugreek leaves (optional)
Clean and soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours. Pour off soaking liquid. Add fresh cold water and cook for 3 hours. Less for pressure cooker. Save cooking liquid. Omit if using canned beans.
Directions for the tomato sauce
Sauté the onions in oil or ghee until golden. Add the chopped ginger for 1 minute, stir.
Add red chili powder and turmeric. Stir for 1 minute. Add garlic quickly, stir.
Quickly add chopped tomatoes and little salt, stir. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until there is a nice sauce. The onions should not taste raw.
Let this mixture cool. Add 1 tbsp liquid from the beans. Make a thick gravy with a blender. Set aside.
Directions for the Chana masala gravy
Dry heat the spices (cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom, clove) in a pot for 1 minute until you can smell the aroma of the spices. Stir. I grind the cardamom as some people don’t like them in their foods whole.
Pour the blended tomato sauce mixture from the previous step back into the pot, the chopped green chili pepper, coriander and garam masala powders and the spices.
Mix and cook for a few minutes until ingredients are mixed nicely.
Add the cooked chickpeas and the cooking water. You might have to add more water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
Taste the mixture and see if you need more garam masala. Boil and simmer for 2 more minutes if spices were added.
Take out the larger spices like bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves.
I also added salt here.
Keep it covered until served.
Serve hot with cilantro, yoghurt, lemon, rice, vegetables and roti.
Enjoy this delicious and easy vegetarian eggplant dish. The eggplants are browned and cooked briskly with some tomatoes, pungent spices, onions and garbanzo beans and then served with rice/couscous and yoghurt sauce. It is not exactly the perfect fall dish but I still had some eggplants and the weather is still more summery this week. I also added sweet mama squash that complemented the dish nicely and made it more suitable for this ‘going from the summer into the fall’ time period. With the warming spices and the baked squash, it will be a great meal for the entire week. Not only that it suits the weather but it is delicious … honestly my family can’t get enough of it. I might have to go back to the farmers’ market tomorrow to get more eggplants.
Garbanzo beans. Soak overnight and cook them for 3 hours. You can use a pressure cooker. They need to be cooked slowly for a long time until they are nice and soft. They can take up liquid after they are cooked so add more water if needed. Add 1 tsp salt when done.
Preparing the eggplants. Wash and cut eggplants into cubes. Salt them and put them into a colander for 30 minutes to let the liquid drain. Pat dry.
Frying the eggplants. In a wide skillet, on medium low heat, slowly brown the eggplants in some olive oil for about 20- 30 minutes or until soft. They will not cook any more so make sure they are soft and well cooked before you add it to the sauce. Stir frequently. Make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.
Caramelize the onions. Brown the sliced onions in a separate dish in oil with care, it takes about 30 minutes. Stir frequently. Set aside.
Making the sauce. Crumple the saffron between your thumb and index finger and add hot liquid, stir well (optional). Otherwise you can just put whole saffron strains in the dish. Set aside. On medium high heat warm up 1 Tbsp oil and add the ginger for 5 minutes. Then add the paprika, cumin, garlic and stir for 1 minute to activate the spices. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir well. You can add a little water here too. Cook the tomatoes for about 5 minutes until they have become ‘saucy’. Add the saffron, cinnamon stick, freshly graded nutmeg and hot pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. Cook for 10 minutes on low medium heat. Add a little water if needed. Add the browned onions, eggplants and garbanzo beans from eariler. Cook for 5 more minutes covered. Let the dish sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can come together. Take out the cinnamon stick and the hot pepper pieces. Add salt and pepper or anything else that needs to be adjusted.
Serve with cilantro, rice or couscous and yoghurt sauce. I also added some baked sweet mama squash slivers and they nicely complemented each other.
Warm up to the fall with this delicious squash soup. My recipe is made with a little Midwestern twist. I added wild rice, a Midwestern staple but it can be served with some hearty bread like rye bread instead. I enjoy squashes in all shapes and forms. Many of us think of squash when we hear the word fall cooking so I will start off my fall recipe collection with a squash dish.
As the fall season is arriving, I feel like a little squirrel trying to get ready for the colder months: eating the great variety of fruits and vegetables, storing up foods, making last minute repairs and just mentally getting ready. By now we are aware that summer is gone and a new season is coming with all its beauty and challenges. It was the Autumnal Equinox a couple of days ago, when the days and nights are equal and from now on the days are going to get shorter and colder as well.
The warming sweet butternut squash is simmered with the white onion, garlic, potatoes and is balanced with the bitter celery root and the lovely pungent spices. At the end, it is topped with cream and the sweet almond slivers for a bit of crunchiness.
1 medium sized butternut squash- about 3 lbs
1 medium sized Russet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 finally chopped large onion, white is the best
vegetable oil (sunflower)
2 slices of smoked bacon (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, about 1 inch long
1 tsp paprika powder
1 smaller celery root, peeled and chopped up into 4 pieces
stock (vegetable or chicken)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 thyme spring
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 cup of heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
red hot pepper to taste
1 cup of almond slivers
1 cup of uncooked wild rice or rye bread to serve
Preparing the squash. Peel and cut squash lengthwise, take out the seeds. Cut them into cubes. Warm up some oil on medium high heat and brown the cubes for a good 10-15 minutes.
Make the soup base. Have 1/2 cup of cold water ready. Warm up the oil. Sauté the onion, and the bacon(optional). When translucent and you can smell the aroma of the the onions and the bacon, add the chopped ginger for a few minutes, stir. Add the crushed garlic and 1 tsp paprika, stir for 30 seconds to activate. Add the little cold water that you had set aside earlier, stir.
Put the browned squash, potatoes, thyme spring, the freshly ground nutmeg and the celery root in the pot. Add the stock, enough to cover by about 1 inch above everything and cook for 30 minutes.
Cooking the wild rice (optional). Cook 1 cup of wild rice with 3 cups of water, partially covered for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and crunchy.
Roast the almond slivers. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and spread the almond pieces evenly on the sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn it. Serve on top of the soup.
When ready, let the soup cool for about 10-20 minutes. Add the cream and black pepper. Stir.
If you want the soup to be a little chunky, set aside about 20% of the cooked squash pieces. Use a hand held blender and puree the rest of the soup. Make sure you blend the celery chunks. Transfer the whole pieces back to the rest of the pureed soup. (If you prefer a smooth soup, just puree everything).
Check to see if more salt, black pepper, red hot pepper are needed.
Serve with wild rice/bread and the almond slivers.
Some like it white, some like it red … others use flour, some others don’t … and could be served hot or cold … Well, I like it red with flour and served hot. This is one of my favorite recipes and I believe it would make a nice transition into the late summer days as well.
This dish is based on the Hungarian tökfözelék recipe. The sweet spaghetti squash definitely is the main ingredient. It is growing right now and I believe is perfect for the end of the summer. The other important ingredient that everybody uses regardless of other preferences is dill. Dill is a unique sweet plant that gives the zesty, tangy flavor with slightly bitter undertones. It helps digestion and calms the mind. I like to balance the sweet flavor with pungent flavors, in this case, the onions and the garlic will do that. Of course we also have the sour, acidic flavor from the vinegar and the Hungarian staple, sour cream. At the end, we add the salt to create this pleasant sweet and sour dish.
vegetable oil (sunflower)
1 larger onion, chopped, or graded
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cold water
1 smaller spaghetti squash (about 1 lb) (Not exactly what we use in Hungary but it is a perfect substitute).
water or meat stock
4 dill springs, (about a hand-full)
1/4 cup white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 red pepper flalkes
Prepare the spaghetti squash. Peel, and grate through the larger holes of your cheese grater.
Optional: Soak in 2 tsp salt for 20 minutes. Squeeze water out. This step will make the squash less watery.
Chop the onion fine or you can grate too.
Have a 1/2 cup of cold water ready.
Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt in a little oil until soft but not brown. When you can smell the aroma of the onion, add paprika powder and garlic, stir and after 30 second add the cold water quickly that you set aside earlier. Stir.
Cook the onion for 15 minutes.
Add the squash meat, stir in and cover with water or stock.
Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat and cook covered for 15-30 minutes.
Chop dill, only the leaves though, discard the stem. Add the dill to the pot.
Also mix 1 Tbsp of flour with cold little water and add a little hot liquid from the dish. Whisk well and add it to the dish.
Bring the dish to a quick boil, cook for a few minutes and turn heat off.
Add vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir. Take off heat.
Let the dish cool and but at least for 6 hours so the flavors can settle.
Serve with a dab of sour cream and some protein (egg or beef dishes would go well). I also serve mashed potatoes.
I served it with my Eggplant Parmesan dish. The bitter eggplants complemented this sweet and sour dish nicely.