Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spring Vegetable Soup (Immune Balance Soup) with a Review of "The Allergy Solution" by Leo Galland, M.D. and for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Today's soup is a mild, immune-balancing vegetable soup for a three day cleanse or "power wash" I am doing this weekend. Not your normal Souper Sundays offering but realistic as it's what I am eating and also part of my review for a book that I am reviewing/sharing here. 
I came across a link for information about a new book, The Allergy Solution: The Surprising, Hidden Truth About Why You Are Sick and How To get Well by Leo Galland M.D. and his son, Jonathan Galland. Since I am always trying to find better solutions for my reoccurring allergy and asthma issues, I was immediately interested and did a little research by reading a couple of articles about the book and an excerpt, and since it all made a lot of sense, I downloaded the book on Kindle along with a bonus interview and food/recipe guide. I skimmed through the first few chapters and having a relatively quiet weekend planned, decided to do the three-day food reset included in the book before going back and reading it in detail. (Maybe not the best plan but how I operate!) ;-) 

My Review:

First, a little background on the Three-Day Power Wash since that's what I started with. The power wash consists of nourishing yourself with three components over three days: an Immune Balance Smoothie, an Immune Balance Soup and organic oolong tea (which studies have shown to offer anti-allergic benefits). You have the smoothie for breakfast and an afternoon snack, the soup for lunch or dinner and four cups of the tea throughout the day. (You can also add an extra glass of smoothie or bowl of soup if you get hungry, however, I am on day two and have been satisfied without any extras as the smoothie has an avocado and chia seeds and is quite satiating.

I know cleanses or detoxes are not everyone's thing  but I think they are a great way to reset the body. Dr. Galland says to think of it "like mediation, a program to access the inner stillness and wisdom of the body" and to "cut through the noise of everyday life and the usual eating patterns to get to a quieter place where you can listen to your body." He refers to the power wash as "clearing the tracks" to cleanse the body by reducing the common allergenic foods to help identify and ultimately eliminate your problem foods. Although I began attempting to do something similar on my own earlier this year by spending the first few months eliminating wheat/gluten, dairy and processed sugar, I started to drift off track and wanted to refocus and get back to finding a possible food solution for the allergy issues that trigger my asthma. Although my asthma is not severe (no emergency room visits), it is chronic and I go through periods after a cold or allergy flair up where it is defined as acute asthma and where it is definitely not under control, so I am trying to take it more seriously and crack the code.

The recipe for the Immune Balance Soup and other components of the three-day plan are in the book, along with steps for a two-week re-entry phase to add back in foods and test reactions, and the Immune Balance Diet, an ongoing eating plan. I would have liked a little more detail/direction for the Three-Day Power Wash. For example, the smoothie seemed like it should be divided into two servings as with everything included (fruit, greens, a whole avocado, chia seeds, green tea, optional banana), it makes two fairly large glasses and is extremely filling. It doesn't spell that out, but does say the smoothie becomes more creamy if allowed to chill (chia seeds) so I made the recipe in the morning and divided it into two servings, drinking one glass for breakfast and saving the other for my afternoon snack. Was that right or wrong? I don't know but I never felt hungry or too full which the book said was where I should be. The soup information said to enjoy a large mug or bowl, so I took that as a serving of 1 1/2 to 2 cups depending on my mood/hunger level. Also, I jumped into the Three Day Power Wash before reading beyond it (my bad!) and in further reading, there are several warnings for people with asthma not to do the two weeks of re-entry food testing (due to the complications of asthma as an allergy disorder, the many types of asthma, and the potential severity of allergic reactions) which was a bit disappointing as I was fired up. I do understand the reasons behind it and there is good information in a later chapter on asthma about diet and the balance of nutrition and environmental factors. I will be exploring some of the suggestions in detail, along with trying the Immune Balance Diet, looking into some supplements and making a bigger push for ensuring I am regularly getting higher intake of antioxidant rich foods. I have no known food allergies after being tested a couple of years ago, but I feel that what I eat definitely plays a role in my breathing and my lungs and overall health. I had an appointment with my doctor on Friday and I asked her about the power wash, trying some of the supplements and other advice in the book and she had no issues and wants to hear about my results in a few months. So even though I did things a bit backwards by not reading more of the book before diving in, I am not sorry I made the effort  to clear the tracks for a few days and it's a good jump-start (or re-jump-start I suppose)

Although focused heavily on food and nutrition, the book addresses other non-food lifestyle aspects of allergy solutions too. The chapter on Cracking the Code with the Allergy Solution Checklist of Symptoms, Rate Your Symptoms, and Search for Triggers tools are very valuable, gave me a lot to think about, and I am continuing to go through those sections and exercises in detail. I like the clear way the authors explain the science and data researched, the reasons behind the nutrition connection, and the importance of lifestyle changes. Although the book advises repeatedly to get/keep your doctor involved in solutions, it gives encouragement and ownership of health to the individual where I feel it is best suited. With a quick initial read and more work to do, I am finding The Allergy Solution a valuable resource for me and I would recommend that anyone with ongoing allergies and symptoms that are negatively impacting their health and wellbeing look into this book

About the Soup:

The Immune Balance Soup is a vegan soup with plenty of vegetables (about four servings of veggies in a large mug of it) that are nutritious and support a healthy immune system carrots, parsley, green onions--green parts only, broccoli, baby kale, plus turmeric, black pepper, sea salt, and a topping of shredded daikon radish--added just before serving. The carrots are sauteed in olive oil, so there is a bit of healthy fat in there and the the turmeric, black pepper and salt keep it from being too bland. 

I did have to swap out the broccoli--sadly, as I know it's a nutritional powerhouse, but I get terrible stomach pains from it and Dr. Galland makes it clear to omit any ingredients from the soup or smoothie that you are allergic or sensitive to. (Plus who wants to spend a three-day cleanse curled up in ball writhing in agony?!) ;-) Since the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers) and garlic, onion bulbs, mushrooms, corn and beans are on the no-no list for the three days, I grabbed some local asparagus to sub in for the broccoli and also added a half of a zucchini I had on hand

Notes/Results: Was I missing my usually garlic, onion, other spices, and touch of acidity from lemon (all on the "avoid" list for the Three-Day Power Wash) for this veggie soup? Yes, a bit, as I like big flavor in my soups. But, although this soup is mild in flavor, it's actually pretty good, even better after it has sat and the flavors continue to meld. It is noted in the book that you can blend it but as the other component of the three days is a smoothie, I find I need the chew factor of a the veggies for the most satisfaction. The daikon radish is supposed to be shredded and I spiralized it so it felt like slurping up noodles--another thing that adds to making three days of the same smoothie and soup a bit more fun--along with enjoying it out of a colorful bowl. (Truly though, in case you were wondering, I have not suffered at all on this plan--the smoothie is very satisfying, as is the soup and I have had plenty of energy and feel grounded and good on Day 2.) Overall, it's a good basic veggie soup and I would make it again.

The Allergy Solution is my eighth entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the May Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what foodie books that everyone is reading this month.

Two salads from friends and an open-faced sandwich from me were at last week's Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays linkup. Here's the recap:

Vicki of I'd Rather Be At The Beach made Yotam Ottolenghi's Seriously Zesty Bread Salad and says, "YUM! I loved it! It was light and fresh and one of the best tomato/cucumber salads I’ve ever tried. I loved the toasted bread, it gave the salad a nice crunch. It was simple to make and had easy to find ingredients. I plan on making this again!"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made Curtis Stone's Baby Spinach Salad with Crispy Bacon and Cherry Tomatoes and says, "The Curtis Stone recipes we have tried so far have been great. Only one screw up (that was a roast pork dinner that was tossed for the foxes) but the other recipes - delicious! This particular salad we have had a few times. ... Not for vegetarians because the bacon (and tomatoes cooked in bacon) are stars of this salad."

These Smoked Salmon Tartines with Red Onion-Caper Relish, also by Curtis Stone, were too delicious for me not to share again with Souper Sundays. I think open-faced sandwiches like tartines are my favorite because you can consume less bread and pile "the good stuff' on top. Here it's a lemon and chive cream cheese mixture, smoked salmon, and a relish of (extra) capers, red onions, dill and mustard seeds. Yum!

Thanks to Vicki and Tina for linking up again last week!

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.
On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional). 


Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Smoked Salmon Tartines with Red Onion-Caper Relish: A Savory Breakfast or Snack from Curtis Stone

When it comes to breakfast I most often lean to the savory side of things. Although I do have a smoothie or smoothie bowl a few days a week, the other days I usually eat leftovers from the night before like fish, soup, veggie 'noodle' pasta, or other less-traditional breakfast choices. What can I say? I'm a little bit mixed up. ;-)

We are cooking breakfast/brunch-recipes from Curtis Stone this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs but I bypassed the In the Morning section in Good Food, Good Life and found my dish in the Snacks section instead. Since I have cut out most of the wheat/gluten and dairy in my diet to work on easing my allergies and asthma, I have been missing my weekly bagel and lox from my local coffee shop and Curtis's Smoked Salmon Tartines with Red Onion-Caper Relish was calling my name. 

I was going to go the gluten free route and serve my salmon and relish on top of eggs or potato cakes but I found some good Danish-style pumpernickel and couldn't resist. ;-) I did make a few changes to the recipe--mainly halving it, but keeping the full amount of capers (extra capers always make me happy) and subbing out the dairy for tofu cream cheese and tofu sour cream. I also made my toasts more light meal-sized versus snack/appetizer-sized.

Smoked Salmon Tartines with Red Onion-Caper Relish
Adapted Slightly from Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone
(Serves 8 as an Appetizer/4 as an Entree)

1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup drained capers
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
kosher or sea salt

8 oz cream cheese, softened (I used vegan tofu cream cheese)
1/3 cup crème fraîche or sour cream (I used tofu/non-dairy sour cream)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

kosher or sea salt 
8 thin slices Danish-style pumpernickel bread, toasted
16 thin slices French baguette, toasted (I omitted)
1 lb thinly sliced smoked salmon
1 lemon

To make relish: In a small bowl, stir the red onion, capers, lemon juice, dill, and mustard seeds. Season to taste with salt. Set aside or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use (up to 4 hours ahead).

To make the tartines: In another small bowl mix the cream cheese, crème fraîche/sour cream, and chives. Season to taste with salt. 

Spread the cream cheese mixture on the toasted bread. Cut each pumpernickel slice into halves or quarters depending on size desired. Top bread with smoked salmon and garnish with a generous spoonful of relish.

Transfer tartines to a serving plate and using a microplane grater, finely grate the zest of the lemon over them and serve immediately.

Notes/Results: These tartines really hit the spot. If you are a fan of bagels and lox, you will love these. The relish is bright and tangy and the cream cheese mixture has good flavor from the chives and both partner well with the smoky salmon and the lemon zest. The mix of the tofu cream cheese and tofu sour cream was nice--thick and creamy. I spread a layer on the bread, layered on the smoked salmon, then put another small dollop of the cream cheese mixture on top on the salmon to "hold" the relish in place and keep all my capers from rolling off. These were easily handheld and not too messy to eat--good for breakfast on the go. I liked everything about them and would happily make them again for breakfast, snack or pupus at a party. 

This post is being linked up to Sunny Side Up at IHCC, Curtis Stone recipes for breakfast or brunch. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

I am also linking these breakfast sandwiches up to my own weekly event--Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich to share you can join in by linking your post up. Here's this week's picture linkup--details are on the post.

Are you a sweet or savory breakfast fan?

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Alice in Bed" by Judith Hooper, Paired with Clotilde's Easy French Hot Chocolate

Imagine it's 1889 and you have a mysterious ailment that leaves you weak and unable to walk, stuck thousands of miles away from most of your family and friends, bedridden for years. That's Alice in Bed, a novel by Judith Hooper about Alice James, the younger sister of author Henry James and a spirited and intelligent young woman. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I'm reviewing this unique and fascinating story and pairing it with a recipe for Easy French Hot Chocolate, inspired by my reading. 

Publisher's Blurb:

One of her brothers is the greatest English novelist of his time; another is inventing American psychology. The James family is famous in Boston and New York for its brilliance, eccentricity, and mesmerizing conversation. Alice James is no less remarkable than her brothers (Henry and William), but there is a problem: she is a girl. Her education has been haphazard, there are no colleges for women, and young ladies are expected to be Angels in the House. No one could be less suited to angelic domesticity than the tart-tongued, defiantly original Alice. She must chart her own course, but how?

Falling mysteriously ill while crossing the Atlantic at age 38, she becomes confined to her bed in a lodging house in provincial England. Thus begins her second life, when she recalls or redreams her life and struggles to make sense of it.  How did her collapse begin? Was it “Father’s Ideas”? The night she drank absinthe and fell in love with a girl? The time William went to the asylum? The childhood years in Paris, when Father fired each of her governesses in turn? Was it the horrors of the Civil War, the erotic relations with the Temple cousins, the day Henry deserted her and sailed to Europe? Was it simply the oddness of “growing up James”?

Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.

Hardcover: 325 pages
Publisher: Counterpoint (October 13, 2015)
My Review: Alice in Bed is a beautifully written, somewhat meandering novel that puts the reader into the head of Alice James, through her diary entries, letters, and relationships with her family, friends and lovers. I confess that I knew virtually nothing about Alice James before reading this book, having some familiarity with her two famous brothers, author Henry James and psychologist and philosopher William James (and most of that sketchy knowledge of the James brothers came from various lit and psych classes many years ago). I was pulled to the book through the description and the thought of what life would be like for a woman in the late 1800s--already sidelined and compartmentalized due to gender--who is bedridden with a mysterious aliment (or ailments). Alice is quite a character right from the start, full of wit and intelligence and unfortunately also full of the family leanings toward depression, manic behavior, and various other physical and mental maladies. Alice chafes against the treatment of women and the role of dutiful daughter and caregiver she is placed in as much as the chafing of the corsets she is expected to wear. In addition to having little outlet beyond family dinners and conversations to use her mind, her lack of general health and vitality, and her attraction to females rather than men, all serve to make her life a challenge even before her illness and inability to walk begins. It's easy to admire her and to wonder what she could have done living in another time and place where she would have had more freedom, options, better health care, and a chance for more than a "female hysteria" diagnosis or the other strange conditions she was thought to have. Although we will never know exactly what led to Alice's illnesses, the author does provide an interesting afterword, "What was wrong with Alice James?" that discusses possible reasons for her health issues. 

I did find Alice in Bed challenging to get through it at times. I think it was as much or more of a case of right book, not-quite-the-right time for me than it is any criticism of the writing. I have had a couple of extremely busy weeks where reading could only happen in small, late evening bursts and this book needs and deserves more attention than I was giving it--it is not a quick and easy read. I struggled through the first two-thirds before getting some dedicated 'quiet time' this weekend to finish it up and found that when I could sit and really absorb what I was reading, my enjoyment of the story was tenfold. Author Hopper makes the period, setting, and characters come alive in such a way, that I had to frequently remind myself it was a novel. Sad in places, but sharply funny in others, Alice in Bed is a great pick if you like strong female characters, history, and intimate character studies, Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to savor the story.  


Author Notes: Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.


Food Inspiration: There was probably more drinking going on than food in the book--from the startling emerald green hue of absinthe to whisky, after-dinner brandies, copious cups of tea, café au lait, cafés crèmes, and French hot chocolate. For the food, there were mentions of rolls, croissants, sandwiches, oysters and mussels, scones, peaches, grapes, a vegetable garden with runner beans, lettuce and butternut squash, Christmas goose,  and soft-boiled eggs. I chose to make a version of Alice's "French Breakfast" as my book-inspired dish.  

Before her collapse, while on a trip to Europe with her brother and aunt, Alice enjoyed her Paris breakfasts of hot chocolate and a roll. Later, she found she could recreate "an aftertaste of Paris" back home, but soon lost her taste for it--finding that, "When it stopped "agreeing" with me, it meant that Europe had entirely faded away." I could relate--thinking of the times I have traveled somewhere and formed a habit that I tried to bring back with me, but then abandoned once back to "real life.

I am always a fan of good, rich drinking chocolate and had several recipes for French-style hot chocolate tagged to make. But when I was searching through, the one that called out to me was the Easy (3-Ingredient) French Hot Chocolate by the always amazing Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini. it combines good dark chocolate, non-dairy milk of your choice  and almond butter to make it even richer and thicker. It can be made vegan--depending on your chocolate, takes under 10 minutes to make, and sounded delicious. It might not be a traditional French chocolat chaud in preparation but then, Alice wasn't a traditional sort of girl, so I think that it works. 

As Alice did, I wanted to pair the hot chocolate with a French roll of some sort and found these little brioche rolls that seemed to fit the bill nicely. Although the hot chocolate is vegan, you have probably guessed that the rolls are decidedly not--I think there is half a stick of butter in each one. But they are certainly tasty. ;-)

You can find the recipe here at Chocolate & Zucchini. The changes I made were to the types/brands of ingredients I used--Theo Pure 70% Dark Chocolate, unsweetened coconut milk, and because I felt like the almond butter I had on hand was too grainy, I used Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.

Notes/Results: I made a half batch--which made about a scant 1 1/2 cups total. But this stuff is so rich that it was plenty. It is ultra-rich, thick, creamy and decadent--everything you want a sipping chocolate to be. Very indulgent, and I happen to think the extra boost of the chocolate hazelnut butter was pretty amazing. The sweet and buttery brioche roll was perfect for dipping into the chocolate. It is a bit humid this week for drinking hot chocolate, so I drank about a half cup with my roll and then chilled the rest. Clotilde says, "They will make fabulous chocolate creams the next day, served cold and optionally sprinkled with crushed butter cookies or some granola." I'll let you know the verdict. ;-) (Update: It made a really lovely little pot de crème style pudding when chilled overnight. No picture of it chilled--sorry. :-( With the warmer humid weather we are having lately, I'd make it just to chill it for pudding--maybe with some coconut whipped cream on top.) I will definitely make this again, hot or cold.

I'm linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post. 

Note: A review copy of "Alice in Bed" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Creamy (Vegan) Zucchini and Leek Soup with Spicy Zucchini Chips for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Last week's Pickle Soup, while unique, comforting and delicious, was full of steps and ingredients. This week, I wanted something quick and simple and so I went to It's All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook by Gwyneth Paltrow with Thea Baumann. I like Paltrow's cookbooks because they generally contain a good amount of meat-free dishes, generally healthy recipes and a good selection of vegan and gluten-free and this new book (yes, I walked by the cookbook table at Costco again...) ;-) is no exception. There are chicken/poultry, fish, and even some bacon and pork belly dishes, but there is a definite lean toward the veg-friendly side. I have several recipes tagged to make but the Zucchini and Leek Soup caught my eye and my stomach first.

The recipe is tagged for 'summer nights' but here, local zucchini and leeks can be found year-round and everything else is easily found in the pantry. The original recipe has seven ingredients counting the water--I added a couple more--white pepper and lemon juice, as well as some spices for zucchini chips to top the soup. My changes to the recipe are noted in red below.

GP says, "If you have a Vitamix, this makes the most delicious vegan soup imaginable. Seriously, it's hard to believe that's it's made up of just seven ingredients, one of which is water. If only all spa food tasted like this! Garnish with torn squash blossoms or very thinly sliced zucchini for a little texture."  

Zucchini & Leek Soup
Slightly Adapted from "It's All Easy" by Gwyneth Paltrow
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup olive oil 
2 large of 4 small leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/8" half-moons
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (I used about 1 tsp)
pinch of chili flakes
(I added white pepper to taste and about 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)

Heat olive oil in a saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and sauté leeks about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are soft. Add the garlic, zucchini, salt and chili flakes, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan and allow it to steam about 10 minutes, or until the zucchini is just tender. 

Transfer the veggies to a high-speed blender with 2 cups water and blend until very smooth. (Deb's note: Since the steaming of the zucchini and leeks releases liquid from the veggies, I just added about 1 1/4 cups water blend so my soup would not be to thin. I'd recommend starting with 1 cup water with the liquid from the veggies and add more if desired.)

Taste for seasoning (I added white pepper and lemon juice for a pop of acidity). Serve hot or cold. Serve topped with thin slices of zucchini, zucchini chips (see note below), or spiralized zucchini noodles if desired. 

Zucchini Chips: I was going to spiralize zucchini 'zoodles' for this soup but instead decided to thinly slice the narrower zucchini end with my mandoline and make them into 'chips' in the microwave. To make the chips, I patted the slices dry with paper towel, lined a microwave-safe plate with a piece of parchment paper and made a single layer of zucchini slices. I used my oil mister to spray them very lightly with olive oil and sprinkled on a bit of sea salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Then I covered cooked them on high for about 3 1/2 minutes, watching them carefully to ensure they did not begin to burn. I then let them cool for a minute or two and cooked them for 1 more minute, until they were lightly-browned and chewy/crisp. The cooking times may very based on the power of your microwave so watch them carefully.

Notes/Results: Yum! This is a creamy, rich and nicely-flavored bowl of soup. If you are a home zucchini grower or benefit from the excess of friend's gardens, this soup is a great way to use them up. It tastes good both hot or cold too, so if things are too steamy this summer, it can be a refreshing cold starter soup. In tasting, both because I tend to reduce salt and I like a little brightness, I added some fresh lemon juice to the mix and like how it made the flavors pop. The slightly spicy zucchini chips were a nice touch in taste and texture to stir into the soup. This soup was quick to make and very tasty, I would definitely make it again. 

It was all about sandwiches at last week's Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays linkup. Here's a recap of what was shared.

Vicki of I'd Rather Be At The Beach made Mini Baked Ham Sandwiches and says, "I thought they were really good but had too much of a mustard flavor so next time I’ll use less dijon mustard. I like lots of meat and cheese so next time I’ll make sure I buy the right amount. And, even though we liked the ham and cheese, I’ll stand in that long line next time."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor enjoyed dinner on the patio with mojitos and Chicken Quesadillas. (Sure, we count those as sandwiches here at Souper Sundays!) Tina says, "Don't you just love food you can eat with your hands? ... The cool thing about quesadillas is the number of ingredients you can use. So many different combinations of veggies, cheese and meat if you'd like it. For these I used a tiny bit of leftover shredded chicken, mozzarella cheese, sauteed onion, garlic and bell peppers."

Thanks to Vicki and Tina for linking up last week!

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.
On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional). 

Have a happy, healthy week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese and Five Favorite Yotam Ottolenghi Recipes

Oh Ottolenghi! How I adore you. Even more after noshing on this bowl of caramelized fennel and goat cheese goodness. 

We are celebrating the amazing Yotam Ottolenghi as our Monthly Featured Chef this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Arguably, one of IHCC most popular chefs, we cooked with the master of vegetables and flavors back in 2013 and he holds a special place in many of our hearts. More dramatically but completely true, Ottolenghi actually saved IHCC! 

Settle in, here is a little IHCC history...

When it started in 2009, IHCC had four hosts/founders and in the spring of 2013, two of the four made the choice for different reasons, to stop co-hosting this event. My pal Kim (Stirring the Pot) and I were left and feeling pretty burnt out ourselves, we made the hard decision to end IHCC with the current chef at the time, Madhur Jaffrey. We had looked to see if anyone wanted to step in and take over the event, but couldn't find any takers and just didn't see things continuing. Those of you that have ever hosted a weekly event know that while the community you build is rewarding and it can be incredibly fun, it can also be a lot of work to keep things going week after week for years. We were tired and uninspired, but we were also having some regretful thoughts about just ending the club and so we scheduled a phone call to decide what to do. 

In addition to being finally getting to talk to each other in person, which was lovely, Kim and I were able to determine that we still wanted to cook together and to cook with the community that IHCC built--but, we needed a chef that would spark inspiration and make us want to dive back in. Still somewhat unknown in the U.S., Yotam Ottholenghi was a fast-rising global star, his recipes were new and exciting, his cookbooks gorgeous, and so we made one of our handful of non-voted-on chef decisions and chose him as our new featured chef! We also asked Sue of Couscous & Consciousness to join the hosting team (a most excellent decision if we do say so ourselves), switched to a picture link format, and came up with a few other fun changes to switch it up a bit (like being able to cook any former IHCC chef's recipes during Potluck!). Three years later, IHCC is still growing strong with old and new friends and new chefs and experiences. And that my friends, is today's history lesson of how Ottolenghi saved our cooking club. ;-) 

Moving back to the present, I have many Ottolenghi recipes tagged to make, but decided to go back to my first Ottolenghi cookbook, Plenty and pick a simple fennel recipe. I am crazy about fennel and I liked that this recipe used all the parts of it and mixed it with goat cheese and dill. I was able to get some small locally-grown fennel bulbs as well as some Surfing Goat Dairy "Udderly Delciious"--a simple, plain Chevre that is gorgeously soft and creamy. (Side note: if you are ever in Maui, definitely go by the Surfing Goat Dairy and take the tour. Bonus fun points if there happen to be adorable baby goats to pet when you go and if you try a chocolate/goat cheese truffle!)

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese 
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4)

4 small fennel bulbs
3 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
2 Tbsp sugar (reduced to 2/3 Tbsp for half-recipe)
1 tsp fennel seeds
coarse sea salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
3/4 cup roughly chopped dill (leaves and stalks)
5 oz young and creamy goat cheese
grated zest of 1 lemon

Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First, cut off the leafy fronds, keeping a bit aside for the garnish. Next, slice off the end of the root and remove the tough outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything together. Cut each bulb lengthwise into 1/2 in. thick slices.

Melt butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. When the butter starts to foam, add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take a few minutes. Using tongs, turn the slices over and cook for another few minutes. Remove from the pan, add a bit more olive oil and butter if needed and repeat the process with the remaining raw fennel.

Once all the fennel is done and removed from the pan, reduce the heat, then add the sugar, fennel seeds, and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. (I also added the garlic here) Fry for 30 seconds, adding a little more oil or butter if needed, until the sugar is dissolved, then return all the fennel to the pan and caramelize them gently. Once the fennel is caramelized, coated with sauce and tender (but still with a bit of firmness to it).

To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the dill. Taste and adjust seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate with spoonfuls of goat cheese, a drizzle of olive oil if desired and garnished with the reserved fennel fronds and the lemon zest. 

Notes/Results: Oh yes, this fennel made me happy. Such a great combination of sweet, herby, savory, and tangy. I made a half-batch with three small-ish fennel bulbs and halving or reducing most of the the other ingredients and then proceeded to eat the entire soup-size bowl for dinner with no regrets. ;-) Yes, there is a good amount of butter, olive oil, and sugar in this recipe but it is a splurge-worthy indulgence indeed. I was going to replace the sugar with honey, but instead I used about 2/3 of a tablespoon of coconut sugar and it worked well. I will definitely make this again.

In addition to saving IHCC, introducing me to the wonders of sumac and harissa, and teaching me how adding ice water to hummus while blending makes it ultra-fluffy, Ottolenghi led me to cooking some incredibly delicious dishes. I learned not to fear long lists of ingredients and to trust implicitly, his unique flavor and ingredient combinations.
That makes it hard to choose my favorite Ottolengi recipes as there have actually been very few that were not favorites, but I limited myself to my Top 5--the ones I loved, craved, and still think of the most.

I tried to resist having multiple soup recipes as favorites, but Ottolenghi makes it difficult as his soups are incredibly delicious with great layers of flavor. So, I narrowed myself down to two soups. The Garlic Soup with Chickpeas and Harissa from Plenty is probably my favorite Ottolenghi soup out of the many I have tried. The flavor is in the garlic (there's 25 cloves in the soup), herbs, and in the homemade harissa paste that goes on top. To make it more substantial, I added in the chickpeas and it was perfect. Mmm... makes me want to go make it again right now! ;-)

The Spicy Chickpea and Freekeh Soup from Plenty More is my second favorite soup, both for the hearty and nicely-spiced soup itself, as well as the fabulous Creamed Feta Paste that topped it. Hearty, warm and spicy, this is a satisfying and memorable bowl of soup. 

Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta from Jerusalem makes me happy just to look at it. It was one of my first forays into non-rice risotto and it was AMAZING! Just a great example of the combining of flavors and ingredients in unexpected ways that Ottolenghi is known for. 

A recipe that I loved and remake frequently is the wonderful Asparagus and Samphire (Sea Asparagus) from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Since sea asparagus is readily available here and I can find local asparagus most of the year, it's an easy and delicious starter or side salad with fish and I love the fresh tarragon and sesame-garlic dressing.   

I make variations of Ottolenghi's Walnut & Fruit Crumble Cream from Jerusalem (here it's Almond/Walnut & Blueberry Crumble Cream) all of the time--in fact I am cooking a gluten-free version for a GF cooking class series I am teaching this month. There is nothing I don't love about this recipe--the fruit, the nutty crumb topping, and the pillowy cloud of spiced cream, yogurt, and mascarpone cheese is the stuff dreams are made of. 

There are my Top Five Ottolenghi Favorites. However, if you click on the Yotam Ottolenghi tab on my side bar, you can see more of how his wonderful recipes came to life in my kitchen. 

Do you have an Ottolenhi favorite?

You can see the Ottolengi recipes that everyone made this week for our Monthly Featured Chef Event by checking out the picture links on the IHCC post. 

I'm also linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.