Tuesday, April 28, 2009

People (Person?) for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables

One of the mistakes I think a lot of us new-ish cooks make is focusing all of our attentions on the entree and then realizing about ten minutes before it's ready that we need some sides, too, at which point we grab the bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and zap them in the microwave, hoping a bit of butter and salt and pepper will atone for the cavalier abuse we so shamelessly heaped on the little green orbs.  Which is also probably why a lot of kids grow up hating vegetables.  

So, with spring and all its abundance upon us (Or at least hopefully heading our way.  Please.  I mean really, can the snow just STOP?), let's all take a moment to reconsider how we (mis)treat our veggies.  Even the frozen guys deserve more than a spin in the radiation-box from time to time.  Let's take the time to plan ahead and saute, roast, grill, steam, sweat, dress and otherwise LOVE the ones who do so much to love us back.  

In the spirit of abandoning thoughtlessly-prepared vegetables, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite preparations for one of my favorite spring vegetables: asparagus.

One of the things I love most about vegetables is that if you treat them right, they will reward you handsomely.  Like when you broil asparagus- the sugars caramelize and the tips get a little crispy and it's a whole new level of asparagus delightfulness.  And for those of us are who are busy or scatter-brained or just plain lazy, broiling asparagus is simple and relatively quick.

Broiled Asparagus

1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
Olive oil

Raise your oven's top rack to the uppermost position and then preheat your oven's broiler. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place baking sheet in the oven until asparagus is charred, but not burnt.  (Keep an eye on it- it took about 6 minutes in my toaster oven back in Las Vegas and about 15 in my mom's oven at 6500 feet.)  Serve immediately.  Thank me later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cream Soup is Back on the Menu!

Spring has not sprung in these parts.  In fact, today's forecast calls for snow- and in my particular neck of the woods the word "snow" was followed by "feet", not "inches".  So far we've only received a dusting, but I know better than to think we've dodged it.  All this Winter Redux business means one thing to me: it's still a good time for soup.  (Although it's pretty much always a good time for soup- even if it's 105 degrees outside.) 

Me and soup are friends.  Me and creamy soups are really good friends.  BUT.  I care immensely about health and having arteries that are soft and pliable and adept at keeping me alive, so cream-based soups were, for a long time, off the menu.  Until a couple of years ago, when I discovered the great secret of health-conscious cooks who still want a silky, creamy soup in their bowl.  A mind-blowingly simple substitution that I would like to share with you because it's Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family.  Are you ready for this?  I mean, really, are you ready?  

Evaporated milk.

I know, why didn't I think of that?  Now, make sure it's evaporated and not sweetened condensed because they are NOT interchangeable.  Also, using the lowest-fat evaporated milk is good, but any you can find will be better than heavy cream.  Did you know that ONE fluid cup of heavy cream has 821 calories and 88 grams of fat?!?!  And think about how much heavy cream is called for in your favorite cream soup recipe.  Yikes.  If you use just plain old evaporated milk, not the low-fat version, you'll cut the fat by more than half.  Use a low-fat version and your arteries will sing your praises.   And your soup will still be creamy and dreamy.  Cross my heart. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easy Peasy Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is a beloved comfort food of mine.  I don't even need a grilled cheese sandwich alongside it (although that never hurts), just give me the good stuff.  My husband, however, despises tomato soup.  His is a hatred that runs deep and surely stems from some long-buried childhood tomato soup-related trauma.  So imagine my surprise, nay, my SHOCK when he willingly tried this tomato soup... and then... he liked it.  Coulda knocked me over with a feather.

Here's the scoop on how I made mine, and how you can make your own:

I made homemade vegetable stock the night before, and as I said in the post about said stock, on the suggestion of someone else out there in internet land, I kept the vegetables afterward for use in tomato soup.  I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I figured I would give it a shot.  (I didn't keep the apple cores or the parsley, just the vegetables.)  The additional vegetables gave the soup a lovely body and thickness, not to mention a good wallop of fiber.  The carrots lent a subtle sweetness which balanced the acid of the tomatoes nicely, and well, you can never go wrong with garlic.  If you don't happen to have vegetables laying around from making stock, you could cook them in the microwave or steam them.  Roasting them is another option, but that will caramelize the vegetables and intensify their flavors- a beautiful thing to be sure, but they may overpower the tomatoes.  Only way to know for sure is to try though, huh?   Any which way, adding the vegetables elevates this tomato soup beyond what you'll get from a can.

Easy Peasy Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
Vegetables reserved from making stock (cooked carrots, celery, broccoli, onions and garlic)

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat one minute, add tomatoes, let heat through for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to break down a little bit.

Meanwhile, in a blender, puree vegetables and vegetable stock.  Add heated tomatoes.  (When blending warm/hot ingredients in a blender always be sure to remove the center piece from the lid to allow steam to escape and prevent your blender from cracking or exploding- I'm not kidding.  Hold a clean dishtowel firmly over the lid to prevent a huge mess.) 

Puree again until mixture is smooth.  

Return to saucepan over medium heat until heated through.  Serve hot.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Uh... Er...

Remember how I said I was going to post a recipe "soon"?  And then I didn't?  Yeah, sorry about that.  I've been having some technical difficulties... and maybe I went to Las Vegas for a few days, where I probably had an In N Out cheeseburger animal style and also perhaps some unbelievably good burritos at my brother's house.  Maybe.  But I SWEAR, tomorrow there will be something new and food-related on this here blog.  Really.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Utah Bubble

Okay, I know this is a food blog, but it's MY food blog, so once in a while I get to break the rules if I want to.  And today, I want to.  There's a new website you've got to check out if you've ever been to Utah, lived in Utah, heard of Utah or made fun of Utah.  Because making fun of Utah is, well, fun.  And oh so easy.  So click on through and check it out.  Then bookmark it and return often because they're adding new stuff all the time. (In the interest of full disclosure: I am married to one of the website's creators and operators.  But I would love it even if I wasn't.)  Then tell your friends, your family, your blog readers and everyone else you know.