Sunday, January 31, 2010

Curried Cauliflower & Turnip Soup

Soup week finished up last week with 101 Cookbooks' Broccoli Cheddar Soup with mustard croutons (yum!) and this Curried Cauliflower & Turnip Soup.

Curried Cauliflower & Turnip Soup
I prefer my soups on the thick side - if you like yours thinner, start with more broth, or have extra on hand to add in at the end if necessary. Also, this soup has a pretty subtle curry flavor, because I didn't want to overwhelm the delicate flavors of the veggies, but if you are a big curry fan, feel free to add more to taste.

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups chopped turnips
2 cups veggie broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used mild)
salt to taste (I used a salty bouillon cube, so found I didn't need to add any)

In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat (or just put the olive oil in it). Add the onions and cook gently for 5 or so minutes until they are translucent. Add the cauliflower, turnips, and broth, and simmer until the veggies can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from the heat and puree - either with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender - and then whisk in the Parmesan and curry powder. I topped ours with homemade croutons and freshly ground pepper, but an added dusting of Parmesan would be good too!

Serves 2-3

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Green Soup with Ginger

Next up in our week of soups lineup was Green Soup with Ginger, again from 101 Cookbooks. I'll admit that I was a tad skeptical of how this would turn out, it calls for a lot of greens, and three tablespoons of fresh ginger, which seemed like it could easily overpower the soup. Turns out that there was no need to be nervous, I was really pleasantly surprised by this soup. It was very good, with a bright flavor that wasn't overpowered by the ginger at all. Plus, the vivid shade of green made me feel like I was eating virtuously (perhaps because it bore a striking resemblance to a frightening breakfast drink our old uber-healthy roommate used to make - the only difference between the two is that this soup both tastes and smells good....). Bottom line, the soup was unique and different - in a good way - give this recipe a go!

My tweaks to the recipe were as follows. I caramelized the onions first (not in a separate pan - one less thing to wash!), then added 2 cups of veggie broth, the sweet potato (Japanese variety), and the ginger (no leek on hand, so that just got omitted). Once the potato chunks were tender, I added the greens and 1 cup of water (so only used a total of 3 cups of liquid compared to the 6 cups called for in the original recipe. I let the greens cook down a bit, and then blended the soup in batches, finishing with lemon juice and a small dollop of sour cream.

Along with the soup we had taro dip and homemade tortilla chips. The dip was pretty mediocre, I probably wouldn't recommend making it unless you are a big taro fan, or like us, you frequently get taro in your box of veggies and need to come up with new ways to use it. The chips on the other hand were a winner. After making a batch of flour tortillas, cut them into wedges, lightly spray them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt (or seasonings of your choice), and then crisp them up in the oven (350 F) for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lentil Soup with Spinach

I think I gave myself a bit of a subconscious challenge last week when I mentioned that I'd be happy with soup for dinner almost every night of the week, because when I sat down to plan this week's menu, I found myself listing a soup for every evening meal. We started off the week with the Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup from Heidi Swanson over at 101 Cookbooks.

I halved the recipe, resulting in 3 or 4 servings, and skipped the saffron yogurt topping since we didn't have any saffron on hand. I topped ours with diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, and some homemade croutons. The soup comes together really quickly, and was a satisfying start to soup week!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bone Appétit

This past weekend we gathered for dinner and drinks with some of M's colleagues. The host was kind enough to provide a selection of vegetarian dishes for me to enjoy, but one of the items that I was most fascinated by was one that I wasn't eating.

Here M is about to take a bite of "soft bone" - as it was originated described to us - fairly certain that really means cartilage. After multiple questions about the dish, I learned that the pieces came from chicken necks, and while I can't personally attest to the tastiness of the item, I will note that M did not go back for seconds.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Strawberry Picking

Yesterday I got my monthly e-mail from the Nagoya International Center, which highlights upcoming events in the area. One particular blurb about strawberry picking caught my eye, and got me excited for a fun weekend excursion. In the States, strawberries are generally a late spring or early summer crop, but in Japan, they are produced in greenhouses, and prime picking season starts now.

My mind immediately jumped to how much fruit you generally end up with after going berry picking in the States, and I started imagining a kitchen overflowing with strawberries ready to be turned into tasty summertime treats like tarts, pies, and salads. That is until I looked up more information on the farms and find that not one of them allows you to take strawberries home with you. What?!?

That's right, no take away. Instead, the featured farms have all-you-can-eat strawberry picking deals. Some farms set time limits of 45 or 60 minutes, while others have no time limit at all. The farms require reservations to participate, and the entrance fee varies by farm, generally about $15 to $20 USD. Although I bet the people watching alone could be pretty entertaining at a 45 minute all-you-can-eat event, I think I'll just stick to getting my strawberry fix at the grocery store.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Veggie Tales

Last night on our way home from a jog, we went to pick up our weekly box of veggies. Our standard Monday evening routine. Only this time the owner struck up a conversation with M (well technically he was talking to both of us, but my brain seems to realize that we only have about 100 days left in Japan, and has subsequently decided that it can longer process the language) about a yamaimo.

The shop owner was asking M if we like yamaimo and what we do with it, and M looked back at me for guidance. I've mentioned once or twice (okay, a few times) that I'm not a yamaimo fan, but I also never want to be rude. So I asked M to politely convey that we find yamaimo to be a little slimy for our tastes.

The owner was really gracious about it, and said he thought there was one in our box, so he walked outside with us to check. M found it, and handed it to the owner, who said he is always happy to swap anything we don't like for a different fruit or vegetable. He started to head back inside to do just that, but then turned and asked what we've been doing with the ones we've received in past weeks. M explained, while pantomiming, that I always just slip it in someone else's box.

The owner was so incredibly amused by this that he gripped the railing and fell into a squatting position while laughing hysterically. Ah well. At least this time being comical got me two extra apples!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spinach Quiche

When it's cold and blustery out, I want warm comfort food, and generally that means soup. I could probably be happy with soup for dinner every night of the week (okay, almost every night), but for the sake of variety sometimes you have to switch it up. So I'd like to suggest a spinach quiche.

I based it off of this Smitten Kitchen recipe, and for those of you with healthy new year's resolutions, this really isn't all that bad for you. It only calls for 3 eggs, I used soy milk instead of the half and half, and you could even reduce the amount of cheese (but the recipe doesn't call for an outrageous amount, so I say go for it). Since it's the time of year where we have leafy greens coming out of our ears, I loaded this up with fresh instead of frozen spinach. And because I'm a bit neurotic about throwing away delicious flaky crust, I had to use the excess to decorate the top - but yours will taste just as good without the little flowers on it. Promise.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Califauxnia Rolls

The last time I made sushi, I was really craving a California roll, and was trying to figure out what to sub in for the crab, when I remembered making these 'crab' cakes. The flavor had been spot on, but I wanted a more authentic texture, so I used tofu that I'd frozen (then thawed) and crumbled by hand. This little tweak resulted in a 'crabbier' texture and maintained the original flavor that I'd enjoyed so much in the cakes.

Unfortunately, as I was getting ready for dinner, I realized that I was out of rice vinegar - pretty crucial for proper sushi rice. I went ahead with my rolls anyway, but won't make the same mistake again. The rice was much more difficult to work with, and I ended up with thick, heavy rice layers. Oh well, live and learn!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Quinoa Falafel

While in Michigan, I got to enjoy a leisurely lunch with my mother and grandmother at one of my favorite spots in Grand Rapids, The Green Well. I chose the quinoa falafel plate, and really enjoyed it. The falafel balls were light and fluffy and had a nice kicky spiciness to them.

I enjoyed them so much that I wanted to try and recreate them, but since I couldn't find a similar recipe on-line, I had to just wing it. They were pretty tasty, not tasty enough to share any sort of recipe yet, but not bad for a first try.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jeni's Ice Cream

One of the highlights of my trip back to the States was a road trip to Columbus, Ohio. It's a fun city with a vibrant nightlife, and is worth a visit even if you aren't lucky enough to have a delightful sister living there like I am.

Almost every time I'm in town, I want to make a stop at Jeni's ice cream. The ice cream is fantastic, smooth and creamy with intense flavors, and less of the cloyingly sweetness found in most other American ice cream. The signature flavors are always available (salty caramel has a well-deserved cult-like following), but there are also seasonal flavors that, you guessed it, change seasonally.

It was a cold, windy night, and I was fairly certain that it was far too chilly for consuming ice cream, but our group went into Jeni's anyway. And my mind was very quickly changed when I saw this.

That's right. White Chocolate Evergreen with a Red Currant Garland. "Evergreen is sweet and fragrant with a breath of pine on the finish. White chocolate flecks and handmade red currant sauce are swirled in generously. Like snowflakes on an old fashioned Christmas tree!"

Wow. I was completely sold by the description, and deservedly so, the flavor was incredible. I really can't do a better job of describing it than Jeni did herself, but I will add that although it might sound odd to some, the white chocolate evergreen base was lovely. It evoked winter and Christmastime, and bringing home the perfect freshly cut tree for decorating, all without being too strong. I was concerned that I might feel like I was chewing on my Christmas tree, but it wasn't nearly that intense, it truly was just perfect.

If you'd like to try that flavor, or any other, and Columbus happens to be a bit too far away for you to get to, Jeni's does ship within the US....

Thursday, January 7, 2010


One of the (few) benefits of having a December birthday is getting double the presents within a couple weeks timespan.

Hurray for new reading material! I was also really excited about a number of new cookbooks (and kitchenware) that I received, but those had to stay in storage until our return....

Right up there with my love of food and books is my love of jewelry, and I was really really spoiled with bright shiny baubles this year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year!

I know, I know, I'm a tad belated, but nevertheless am sending good wishes to you and yours! I've been M.I.A this past month due to a holiday trip back to the States. It was wonderful and a bit hectic, a little too hectic to keep up with blogging, and now that we're back in Japan, I'm feeling a bit like our pooch - ready for a nap!

Will be back with a few highlights soon, I promise!