Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.  For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”    Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)

Have you noticed a change in the weather in your area?  Maybe the mornings are a bit dewier than they were last month, and a sweater hits the spot in the evening.  We have noticed that the mornings and evenings are a little cooler here on Maui, even though the days feel about the same, nice and warm.  The first day of autumn is just around the corner {9/22}, which means it’s time to get out the soup pot.  Our soup pot is never far from the stove.  Even though we live on Maui, we eat a lot of soup, and surprisingly most of it hot soup, not cold.  We live at about 1200 feet altitude, on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, so it is often cool enough to enjoy soup, especially when the trade winds are blowing, as they are now.  While it may feel warm outside in the sun, the breeze can feel cool in the house.  We eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The soups we enjoy are all healthy; they are full of vegetables, high in vitamins and minerals and nutrient dense.   I realize that people who live in places with 3 or 4 seasons probably don’t eat much hot soup in the summer, but like I said earlier, ready or not, autumn is on its way.

If you haven’t made home made soup, I encourage you to try out a few recipes; you will be rewarded with several delicious meals that don’t have to be complicated to prepare.  There are some elaborate soup recipes out there, but the ones I make are pretty straightforward.  I assure you that the soup you create from top notch fresh ingredients will be far superior to any soup you get from a can.

This minestrone is one of our new favorite soups, and I highly recommend it.  This is the link to the original; what follows is my adaptation.

Lentil, Celery and Tomato Minestrone

adapted from the recipe by Martha Rose Shulman, who is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 onion, halved
A bouquet garni made with 2 sprigs each thyme and parsley, a bay leaf, and a Parmesan rind
1 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced {mince & let sit for 10 minutes for health benefits}
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
About 1/2 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Very thinly sliced celery, from the inner heart, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Combine the lentils, 1/2 onion and the bouquet garni with 1 quart water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add salt to taste, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Chop the remaining onion. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute, and add the canned tomatoes with their liquid and the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant.

3. Add the lentils with their broth, the tomato paste, salt to taste, an additional 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add the cabbage.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper, stir in the parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with thinly sliced celery heart if you want some crunch, and passing the Parmesan at the table.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6Celery Minestrone Ready to Eat

Like most soup, this is even better the next day.

Nutritional information per serving (4 servings): 276 calories; 4 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 49 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams dietary fiber; 392 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 17 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (6 servings): 184 calories; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 32 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 11 grams protein

Notes:

* You may use any lentils that you like.  I usually use brown lentils, but if you like your lentils to hold their shape, you may want to use the French green lentils {lentils du puy}.

* I highly recommend the celery & Parmesan garnish.  Generally speaking, I find that if a recipe has a garnish, it’s best to put in the extra effort to put it on your soup.  A garnish can take your soup to a higher level!

*Please, please, please do not use what they call “Parmesan cheese” that comes in the green can!  Use the real thing; if you don’t use the real thing, you won’t have the Parmesan rind which adds a huge amount of flavor to your soup.  It really does make a difference!  Get more ideas on using Parmesan rinds to elevate your dishes to a whole other level here.

* If you do not have any kitchen twine, put it on your shopping list, and then you can tie your bouquet garni with a green onion top or chive {don’t tie too tight or they will break!}.

Bon appetit!

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In honor of Julia Child, who would be 101 years of age on 15 August 2013. . .
. . .”This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”  Julia Child My Life in France 

There was some beautiful produce plus one unusual {at least for us} item at the farmers market today.

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After work last Tuesday, we received an invitation to Kamaole 3 Beach Park for a sunset BBQ on Wednesday.  “Yes! Yes! Yes!” was the reply to the invite.  We jump at any opportunity to have a sunset beach BBQ; good friends, good food & gorgeous scenery is only a 40 minute drive away.  I made this chocolate cake to share.  The cake is delicious & quick & easy to make.  It’s not a fancy cake, but then I’m not a fancy baker.  Decorated cakes are lovely, but I am not big on decorating my cakes.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Chocolate Sheet Cake adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen: the Definitive Baker’s Companion

Cake:
3 c flour {I use whole wheat pastry flour}
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c natural unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Ghiradelli or Hershey’s
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
12 T vegetable oil
2 T white vinegar
2 t vanilla
2 c cool water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda & salt to an ungreased 9”x11” baking dish.  Stir well to mix.  With the back of a spoon, make three indentations or wells in the dry mixture: one large, one medium & one small.  Into the large well, pour the vegetable oil.  Into the medium well, pour the vinegar.  Into the small well, pour the vanilla.  Pour the water over everything.  With a fork, stir the mixture until the ingredients are well-blended, making sure you reach the corners & sides to catch any dry pockets.  Do not beat this batter, but mix just until most of the lumps are smoothed out, & there are no little patches of overly thick or runny batter.  A few lumps won’t hurt, & it’s important not to overbeat at this point.

Bake for 35-40” {I always start checking at 28” so as not to overbake} or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs & the top feels springy when lightly touched.  Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out, frosting or cutting.

Frosting:
1/2 c cocoa powder
2 2/3 c powdered sugar
6T butter
4-5 T milk or water {I always use milk, or cream if I happen to have some}
1 t vanilla
Pinch of salt {brings out the chocolate flavor}

Whisk cocoa, powdered sugar & salt together. Cream butter & add powdered sugar alternately with milk.  I don’t necessarily follow the recipe exactly as far as the milk goes, but just add enough milk to get the consistency I want {I like it soft-not runny & certainly not stiff}.  Spread on cooled cake.

Pita Breads

We went to another sunset BBQ last night, but we were in someone’s condo, not at the beach.  Two of the ladies who were at the first BBQ are visiting from the Mainland, and invited us over for dinner.  I decided to make hummus {post to follow on another day} to be eaten with homemade pita bread.  I’ve made pita bread a few times and it was always tasty, but the pockets didn’t always form.  I tried a new recipe, and it worked great!  I will definitely use it again.  I used half whole wheat flour and half bread flour.  It is from The Fresh Loaf website, where there are many recipes that I will be trying.

Borscht

We love eating soup & I enjoy making soups; most of the soups I make are vegetarian.  Today I made borscht.  I’ve made it before and have wanted to make it again; I finally got to it today.  It was great for lunch.

Russian Cabbage Borscht adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

1 ½ cups thinly sliced potato
1 cup thinly sliced beets
4 cups water or stock

Put potatoes, beets and water in a medium saucepan and cook until everything is tender {save the water}.

2 tbsp butter
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 scant tsp caraway seeds
1 ½ tsp salt
1 large sliced carrot
1 stalk chopped celery
3 cups chopped green cabbage
Optional: 1 tbsp raisins
Black pepper, preferably freshly ground
¼ tsp dried dill weed
1 tbsp + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp honey
1 cup tomato puree {I pulsed a 14 1/2 oz. can of tomatoes in my food processor}

Melt the butter in a large soup pot and add the onions, caraway seeds and salt.  Cook until onion is translucent, and then add carrots, celery and cabbage.  Add the cooking water from the beets & potatoes, and cook, covered, until all the vegetables are tender.  Add potatoes, beets and all remaining ingredients.

Cover and simmer slowly for at least 30 minutes.  Taste and correct seasonings.

Serve topped with sour cream or plain yogurt, extra dill weed and chopped fresh tomatoes.

Note: The next time I make this soup, I am going to chop the beets and potatoes instead of slicing them.

Take some time to prepare & enjoy delicious food.

Bon appetit!


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Passato of Vegetables with Chard & Croutons

If you are a vegetable lover, you must try this delicious soup.  It goes together quickly so you can have it on the table in under an hour.  It is good hot or cold.

¼ c extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red or yellow onion, finely diced
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 large waxy potato, peeled & diced {Yukon Gold, yellow, white salad and red potatoes are good choices; russets are too mealy}
1 14 ½ ounce can of diced tomatoes
1-2 bunches chard leaves, roughly chopped; ribs removed & finely diced {You can throw in some spinach or dinosaur kale in here too, but I think I would stay away from greens that are too bitter, for this soup.}
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Fresh lemon juice to taste

To finish:  1 c small bread cubes {I usually use sliced bread that I have in the freezer, including the heels.}
Extra virgin olive oil
Parmigiano-Reggiano for shaving

Warm the oil in a pot with a tight-fitting lid.  Add the vegetables, season with ¾ t salt, then cover the pot & cook over low heat for 30 minutes, during which the vegetables will produce quite a bit of delicious juice.  While they are cooking, bring 1 quart of water to a boil.

Carefully puree the cooked vegetables with the hot water, beginning with a small amount and adding more, up to 3 or 4 cups, depending on the thickness you want.  I use 3 cups.  Leave a little texture or make the soup smooth, as you wish {I like biting into a piece of potato or other vegetable, so I never puree it smooth.}. Return it to the heat, taste for salt & season with pepper.  Add lemon juice to taste to sharpen the flavors; I generally add the juice of a whole lemon.  Note: I have found that if I blend the soup until it is very smooth, it becomes quite silky in texture, which we enjoy.  So, that’s how I’m doing it these days.

Crisp the bread cubes in a little olive oil over medium-low heat {or in the oven}, until golden, about 8-10 minutes.  Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil & add the croutons.  Shave cheese over the top & serve.

Recipe adapted from:  Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen {one of my very favorite cookbooks!}