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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Zucchini & Herb Frittata

Good morning. Did you sleep well lastnight?

I have a treat for you in honor of my love for the weekend breakfast.
This dish is somewhere between a moist frittata and a light souffle. You won't believe how easy it is to make and it is great for a brunch or lunch meal for a large group of people. The frittata can easily be made a day ahead as well and warmed in the oven when you are ready to eat.

Note: This dish can also be made with 4 cups of fresh spinach OR 2.5 cups of artichoke pieces instead of the zucchini...


* 3 cups shredded zucchini (about 4 medium sized ones)
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 3 Tbsp. smart balance (or butter, if you prefer)
* 4 egg beaters (or 6 egg whites or 4 eggs, if you prefer)
* 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
* 1/2 cup grated monterey jack cheese (or mozzarella)
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
* 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
* 1 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil
* 2 Tbsp. freshly chopped chives (optional)


* Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
* In a skillet on medium heat, melt the smart balance (or butter) and saute the onion and garlic until tender and add zucchini shreds and saute for another 3 or 4 minutes until tender.
* In a large mixing bowl, combine egg beaters (or eggs), both cheeses, salt, pepper, parsley, basil and chives.
* Add zucchini mixture to the egg mixture and fold together gently.
* Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish and bake for 35-40 minutes.
* Allow at least 20 minutes to cool so it can set properly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Supper Club: French Cuisine

I was so excited for this Supper Club. I really like French food, but it doesn't always translate well into vegetarian cooking. Amongst the many amazing French restaurants & bistros in San Francisco, I really want to try Chez Maman, Clémentine, and Fleur De Lys. But, I would also like to see a French restaurant specialize in vegetarian cooking so I could see the creativity in action. Wouldn't you?! I don't know of any restaurant like that, but, luckily, my lovely friends, Lindsay and Patrick, were up to the task of making a delicious vegetarian French meal.

Of course, I had boldly requested my all time favorite dish: French Onion Soup. French Onion soup, when done right, can taste incredibly complex and rich with carmelized onions stewed in wine and broth...but if done poorly, it tastes like onions in brown water. I have had my fair share of mediocre onion soup at various cafes and restaurants, but if you happen to be in San Francisco (and eat meat), the absolute *best* French Onion soup I have ever had is at Lark Creek Steakhouse. The vegetarian version of French Onion Soup was fantastic despite its lack of traditional beef broth. I am not sure what type of broth was used, but I imagine a vegetarian version of beef broth would work quite nicely...The soup was flavorful and rich and perfectly complemented by a nice fresh slab of bread from the lovely Tartine with melted cheese on top. Tartine can forever be counted on for the best bread. Ever. Lindsay had also purchased a loaf of their olive bread, which is the best I have ever had (and could devour an entire loaf with nothing on it and still want more).
The second course was, in my opinion, the star of the show. And now my new favorite salad. A mix of red and yellow endive topped with toasted walnuts, creamy roquefort cheese crumbles, and a fan of steamed and thinly sliced beets and then drizzled with a very simple creamy vinaigrette. The textures and flavors were just perfect and I was so busy eating every bit of my salad (and onion soup) that I hardly noticed that everyone else at the table had moved onto the main course. I might have even considered reaching over and helping myself to someone else's salad plate if it hadn't been all of my very good friends sitting at the table. Plus, I really wanted to be invited back over for dinner.
The main entree was a traditional Ratatouille made with a mix of tender vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and zucchini, which was scooped into a flaky pastry cup. It was served with a side of wild mushroom risotto, which was absolutely delicious.

Since dessert and drinks were my responsibility, I really wanted to bring something traditionally French. I brought over a Lavender Saison homebrew (made by the Henry brothers) and a French wine (Côtes du Rhône). As for dessert, I sifted through all sorts of recipes for fabulous gâteaus and silky crêpes, and finally settled on making a clafouti with fresh blackberries instead of the traditional cherries.
I was looking for something light with a silky custard texture, but the recipes I came across were so vastly different (especially in the various quantities of flour) that I ended up making modifications to create my own recipe. The result was really tasty, but not quite recipe-worthy without another trial.

Dinner was so marvelous...We topped the night off with a game of Settlers of Catan.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lentil Barley Soup

It rained today. And it is supposed to rain tomorrow. And the day after that.

I got to work this morning literally minutes before the ominous dark clouds flooded in between the buildings of the financial district and dumped huge droplets of water on the unsuspecting people just going about their business trying to get to work. I don't mind the rain, really. And what I mean by that is I don't mind the rain as long as I am indoors where it is warm and cozy and I have a mug of tea and a sleepy kitty on my lap. If I have to go outside to run errands and get around in said rain, well, then that's a different story and then I completely mind the rain. Rain calls for what I like to call "the 4 S's": shower, socks, soup, and sleep. It's the perfect recipe for rainy weather.

So, dear friend, here is a soup recipe that I am sure you will love. The lentils and barley puff up to give a nice chewy texture throughout the rich tomato broth and chunky vegetables.
I have to warn that it makes a really big batch, which is just perfect because you can freeze it in individual servings for later when you need something comforting and hearty. So, what's so good about this soup recipe? Well, let's see...

* Inexpensive
* Healthy
* Easy
* Good use of barley and lentils!
* Fat Free
* Low Calorie
* Vegan
* Flavorful
* Hearty
* Yummy


* 2 celery ribs, diced (about 1 cup)
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water for cooking the onions
* 7 cups water
* 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce (low sodium)
* 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, including juices
* 3/4 cup dried lentils, picked over for debris and rinsed
* 3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
* 4 Tbsp. vegetable stock powder or 5 cubes
* 1/2 tsp. oregano
* 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary leaves (preferably ground into a powder)
* 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
* 1 large carrot, diced (about 1 cup)


* In a large stock pot, heat the 1/4 cup of vegetable broth and cook the onions, garlic and celery over medium-high heat until tender.
* Add the water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and juices, lentils, barley, vegetable powder or cubes, oregano, rosemary and pepper.
* Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes until lentils and barley are nearly tender.
* Add in the diced carrot and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes until tender.

Serving suggestions: Serve with a salad and nice crusty chunk of bread...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mexican Chocolate Pudding

Oh, Mondaaaaaay. I can't think of a single redeeming quality for you, Monday. I've got nothin. Is Monday's anybody's favorite day? Anyone? Bueller? Monday leaves me with a muted and sleepy outlook and I just look forward to coming home, taking a hot shower to wash away the Monday and watch a little Heroes (which, I have to admit, has also been a bit disappointing lately). I thought pudding might improve said Monday...

I am sincerely intrigued by pudding. By the concept of pudding. Wiggly. Thick. Creamy. Smooth. Yummy. Pudding. Except for the fact that scary little plastic containers with the ominous "Jello" labels are full of preservatives and high fructose corn syrups. So, I thought I might make some real pudding where you know exactly what the ingredients are going to be. Now, generally chocolate is my favorite pudding flavor, but my dear friends, Matt & Emily, gave me some Ibarra Mexican Chocolate and I thought it might be the perfect flavor to try. And Mexican Chocolate has a simple clean little list of ingredients: Sugar, Cacao Nibs, Soy Lecithin and Cinnamon flavor. Now that is more like it!

Once again, this is going to seem like skeptical recipe, but I have tested it out myself (since everything on here is straight from my kitchen) and I promise you, it is delicious. It is down right shocking how easy it is to make too!


* 2 wedges of Ibarra chocolate
* 1 12-oz. box of Mori-Nu soft silken tofu
* 1 tsp. pure vanilla
* 1 tsp. cocoa powder (optional)
* 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp. chili powder (optional)


* Melt the 2 wedges of chocolate over a double-boiler on the stove over medium heat. If you don't have a double-boiler (I don't), you can create one using a heat safe pyrex or glass bowl over a pot that is filled with a couple of inches of water. This just creates hot steam to gently melt the chocolate without exposing it directly to heat. The chocolate will melt down to a gritty sand-like paste.
* Combine melted chocolate, tofu, vanilla, cocoa powder, cinnamon and chili powder (if you like a little kick) in a blender and puree until smooth.

Ta-da! Spoon pudding into ramekins or little cups and refrigerate for at least one hour. You can also top it with a little whipped cream and shaved chocolate if you want to be fancy about it...I topped these beauties you see pictured with some chopped chocolate covered almonds.