Ignorance is Bliss - or - Coconut Split Pea Soup with a Curried Brown Butter Drizzle

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One of my first finds out here in blog land was 101 Cookbooks. Her blog is full of recipes that are often an amazing combination of simple ingredients that work together to yield robust, interesting, and delicious flavors. 

She has been blogging for quite some time now and her second book came out last year.  I had her book along with several others saved in my amazon shopping cart for quite some time.  I try to ration the cookbook purchases.  A couple of weeks ago I was online buying a vacuum filter and as luck would have it I was in need of something to send me over the $25 free shipping limit.  No way Mr. Man could ask why I needed ANOTHER cookbook now...this was plain and simple savings here.  I needed the book to get the free shipping and quite frankly it would be wasteful of me NOT to buy the book.  

This recipe stood out to me right away among the many that I marked to try soon.  I make some form of lentils around here pretty frequently, so I am always on the lookout for a new ideas to add to the lentil repertoire.

Heidi gives you the choice of using green lentils or green split peas for this soup.  She recommends the green split peas for the aesthetic value they add to the end color of the soup. 

I had both on hand and had a small existential crisis trying to choose.  I was pretty convinced that green lentils were significantly healthier than green split peas, but Heidi recommended the green split peas. I wasn't completely sure about the nutritional value so I decided that ignorance was bliss and I would use the green split peas and worry about the health effects later.

Once the soup was done, I was skyping with a friend who also loves Heidi and her blog and told her about my cavalier ignorance on the healthier choice until the soup - and the damage were done.  My friend wisely pointed out that I probably shouldn't stress out about it too much.  It's not like I was having to decide between donuts or lentils.  Wise advice.  I took it and enjoyed several bowls of this soup guilt free. 

You should too.  

P.S. I did eventually get curious and it turns out that green slit peas and green lentils are practically identical nutritionally speaking.

Coconut Split Pea Soup with a Curried Brown Butter Drizzle
serves 4

My version of Heidi's soup is almost identical to hers.  In general my differences involve the use of some amazingly flavorful and hot habanero's from my new favorite spice shop instead of red pepper flakes, the addition of avocados to top it instead of chives which I never seem to have on hand, and swapping out some of the butter for olive oil. 

One last thought.  When choosing the amount of heat to add, consider that you will be adding some amount of the curry powder later.  Indian curry powders have varying levels of heat, so take yours and your personal heat index into consideration.  I thought the soup had the perfect level of heat.  Mr. Man  disputed the fact that anything spicy had been added at all.

For the Soup:
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
up to 1/2 tsp. of heat (habanero flakes, red pepper flakes)
5 1/2 cups watered down vegetable broth (I used one bouillon cube)   
1 1/2 cups green split peas
1/2 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
1 avocado

For the Curried Brown Butter:
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. Indian curry powder

Chop the onions and garlic and then heat the olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Once it is hot add the onions, garlic, and heat spice of your choice. Continue to cook the onions and stir occasionally until the onions soften.  This should take just a few minutes.

Add the vegetable broth or water and lentils and then simmer until the lentils are tender.  This can take anywhere from 20-50 minutes.  

While the soup is cooking, prepare the Curried Brown Butter.  Put the butter in a small saute pan over low to medium heat.  Continue to hear the butter until it gets brown and smells fragrant.  Once it starts to brown throw the curry powder in and stir.  Continue to cook for another minute or so and then turn off the heat.

Once the lentils are soft turn off the heat.  Pour in the coconut milk. Puree the soup to your desired consistency (thanks mamacita for the immersion blender...I use it ALL THE TIME).   

Stir in half of the curried brown butter and salt to taste.  Serve the soup drizzled with more of the curried brown butter and scoop out a few pieces of avocado to add to the top.

Public Service Announcement - Roasted Mushrooms

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Roast your mushrooms people.  Roast your mushrooms.  Do it now.  This is a public service announcement. 

I don't know about you, but roasting mushrooms had never really occurred to me.  But, apparently some people already know about it.  Like this post or this one

Now that I know, I can't seem to stop making them and telling people about them.  Roasting mushrooms brings out this amazingly earthly and nutty flavor, even from the little button mushrooms.  Add to the enhanced flavor the slight crispiness that comes from roasting and it becomes a revolution.

I haven't even told you the best part yet.  It is easier than sauteing.  EASIER than sauteing, people.  You just throw them in the oven and mix them up once and soon they are done.  Plus, you can make much more than you can in a saute pan since you aren't supposed to crowd your mushrooms (thank you Julia- now that I know I can't stand crowded mushrooms and will even go so far as to saute in batches).  By roasting them you are only limited by the size of your roasting pan. 

I have been tossing the roasted mushrooms on top of salads, polenta, or just on my plate in general.  Most recently, I tossed them with some roasted cauliflower, olives, shallots, and fresh mozzarella for a warm salad.  Really, you can't go wrong here. 

They are immaculate, which is why I tricked them out in that picture of the warm salad up above with faded edges and other sorts of extraneous nonsense.  Either that, or it was one of only three horrible pictures I took (and most of my pics are bad - so you know these must of been really bad) and I had to do something to make it look presentable because I would rather have a bad picture than none.

ANYWAY.  Immaculate warm mushroom salad picture or not, you should stop whatever you are doing for a few moments and go roast some shrooms.

And while they are in the oven check out some mushroom humor.  Makes me laugh EVERY TIME.  Delicious and hilarious.  Take notes Mr. Man.

Roasted Mushrooms
serves as few or as many as you would like

Like I said before, these are great mixed in with other roasted vegetables (just make sure to roast the mushrooms on a separate pan since they do not take nearly as long), on top of a regular salad, or all by themselves.  Get creative here.  So far, the warm salad with roasted mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, shallots, olives, and fresh mozzarella has been my favorite.

any kind, any quantity of mushrooms, sliced thick or broken apart 
olive oil (about 2-3 Tbs. per pound mushrooms)
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F.  While your oven heats up, get out your roasting pan (make sure it has sides) and line the entire bottom with either parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Slice or break apart the mushrooms.  Slice them thicker than you normally would (at least 1/4 inch).  

Put the mushrooms on the lined roasting pan and drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle the salt and pepper and mix it all together.  Spread the mushrooms out so they are in a single layer and place it in the oven. The same rule applies here in regards to not crowding the mushrooms.  These guys really like their personal space.

In about 6-7 minutes turn the mushrooms over and continue to cook.  They will take another 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the mushrooms.  They should be nice and brown.  Dare I say, the first time you make them keep them in the oven for a minute or two longer than you think you should.  

Remove them from the oven and come back here and shower me with praise.  These little guys are also best eaten as soon as they are cool enough to eat.  They are still even up to the next day, but have lost their crispiness.


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Another fallen soldier in the real war against drugs. 

I hope you find peace.

Not really a recipe (fair warning) - or - Quail egg raviolone with saffron sauce

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Ahhhhh, finally the last installment of the dinner party...this post has been haunting me for nearly a year now.  To be honest I am not quite sure why my posting slowed down so much and then vanished for almost a year.  I have put a lot of thought into it and I think that part of it was all the change going on.  It was hard to keep up on things that needed to get done let alone feel inspired to blog.

In case you don't take my word on the "a lot of changes part":

  • Finished Grad School (but I still owe my adviser a publishable manuscript) Aug. 2010. 
  • Moved to California Sept. 2010. 
  • Got engaged Oct. 2010.  
  • Moved to a townhome with a year long lease November 2010.  
  • Finally got a job offer at Christmas and started a new job Jan. 2011.  
  • Started to plan wedding and instantly felt overwhelmed Feb. 2011.  
  • Started looking for a home to buy and instantly felt overwhelmed March 2011.  
  • Realized I hated my job and entered a professional identity crisis (seriously, I am a biologist and started looking into nurse practitioner programs among other career choices including pubic relations, interior design, cooking school, and getting knocked up) April - August 2011.  
  • Mr. Man and I put at least four offers in on homes for which we were outbid-every time. Felt like we were living in a 2004 time warp May-Sept 2011.
  • Continued to plan wedding(s!) that required large quantities of negotiating between ourselves, our families, and piles of money Feb- November 5, 2011.
  • Applied for and was offered dream job August 2011.  
  • Finally bid on and had an offer accepted on a home September 2011.
  • Started new job September 2011.
  • Got sick as I have ever been in my life and was out of commission for two weeks - the timing of which happened to coincide with our move to the new home, was two weeks after I had started said dream job, and finally got better one week before said marriage for which there was still gobs of planning because I am the biggest procrastinator in the world. October 2011.
  • Moved into new home October 2011.
  • Got married November 6, 2011.
  • Went on amazing honeymoon.
  • Returned home to finally unpack. 
    Phew.  You have no idea how amazing the last month has been.  Our house is finally starting to look like a home and our time is becoming our own again rather than being taken over by open houses, home tours, wedding planning, unpacking, and home projects.  

    It has been such a relief to finally feel like I can exhale and everything won't fall apart.  Like I can sit for an afternoon and I won't suddenly be sinking in a to do list that is too large to overcome.  This past period of time has had some really great times and some not so great times.  But it has brought me to the place I am in.  

    Now that things are calm, I finally have the chance to be still and take in all that has happened to bring me to the place I am at now.  I feel so damn lucky I almost don't want to say it out loud for fear of jinxing it.  Or even mistakenly making someone feel bad for gloating too much.  But, I have to remind myself that I worked very hard to get to this place, where I get to live the daily grind and be appreciative of what it has to offer me.  The way life rolls, I know this apple cart will soon be upset.  I am okay with that.  It's the typical up and down.  For the moment though, I will enjoy the view and take the time to do the things I love.  Like try to perfect my pasta making skills.

    ********* Below is the original post for this non-recipe recipe. I started it around April of last year.   I just decided to keep it.*****

    I think the reason that I have felt overwhelmed by this post is that it involves making fresh pasta.  We have made it five or six times now and it has turned out edible 4/6 times and just right once or twice.  I don't really feel like I have too much insight here.  Making pasta is just one of those things that takes a lot of trials to perfect.  And the learning curve is definitely not directional.  The first time we made pasta it was perfect.  The third time it was inedible.

    So rather than stress myself out and try to master pasta making before I post this I am just going to direct you to another blog post that I think covers the subject just the way I would want to.  So head on over and make some pasta, then come back here and make this raviolone cause it was plate licking good.

    This recipe was originally inspired by Dale on this past season of Top Chef.  In one of the episodes he made a soup with an egg filled wonton.  After searching around the internets I found a recipe by Salty Seattle that inspired me and this sauce too. Credit must be paid where credit is due.  

    This is a non-recipe recipe. To make this you want to follow the pasta making recipe from that first link up there....then use Salty Seattle to get an idea for filling (get creative here- I used some fresh thyme and parsley along with some caramelized shallot) and how to crack those cute little quail eggs.  Then head over to that last link for the sauce.  Honestly this dish is really rich. You could probably get away with either just the egg or the sauce.  But, if you have the patience go with both - you and your guests will literally be licking the plates.  If you don't skip the egg and keep the sauce.  Okay, so there is your non-recipe recipe.  Enjoy!


    Some days you just have a bunch of random stuff to put out there.  This is one of those days.


    I have a real corporate-like-Dilbert job now.  I have never worked for a big corporation before.  It has it's benefits and drawbacks.  I am not sure how I feel about it yet


    Every week we have "casual Friday" at work.  Last Friday, while standing in my closet and staring blankly at my work clothes,  I got a little too excited when I realized it was causal Friday and I could wear jeans.  I know sometimes life is all about the "little things,"  but I think I need a little more excitement in my life if causal Friday is a highlight of the day.


    Over the holidays I wrote a rant about some rather rude travelers and put it out there that this behavior needed to stop.  I recently just got back from some cross-country travel with the airlines, and while it was not as bad as over the holidays I see that some very special members of the public at large are refusing to change.  So allow me to get back on my soap box and repeat myself:

    For one, PLEASE get up out of your seat when the person next to you needs to get up.  Making me crawl over you is awkward for both of us.  And no, picking your feet up and putting them on your seat DOES NOT HELP.

    Also, I just want to let you know that I am probably going to be taken down by the secret airplane marshal guy the next time I see someone CLIPPING their FINGERNAILS on a plane or other public place (except then it would be me getting taken down by the police).  Seriously, I cannot sit by idly and let this happen.  I will be forced to attack if this behavior continues.  There aren't many things in this world that gross me out.  So, kudos for finding one.  Now, please stop.


    Despite our best efforts, I have recently come to terms with the fact that my dog is a menace to society.  I still love him to pieces.


    Planning a wedding is even less fun than you would think.  I understand the draw to eloping now. Just imagine  a few people on a beach...no wait...scratch that.  Mr. Man would die from sun exposure.  Make that just a few people under a veranda overlooking some majestic view.  Or maybe on the pirate ship in Vegas.I totally get it.  In the end all the planning will be worth it I am sure....(repeat until it is true). 


    We just booked our honeymoon to Italy using miles.  Soooo excited about the trip.  Two weeks of eating and drinking our way through Italy sounds like the perfect way to start a marriage. 


    Spring time in California kicks the ass of spring time in the Pacific Northwest.  And yes, I am gloating.  And yes, its STILL better even though we had a record breaking 21 days of rain here in March.


    Springtime veggies, like asparagus, popping up in the farmers market are one of the little things that ARE totally worth getting excited about.  Finding some yummy little ones yesterday at the lunch time farmers market was the highlight of my day.


    Ummmmm...this is embarrassing because I don't have any kids to blame it on...but I have pink eye.  WTF?


    Thanks for listening!  Feel free to vent, tell me about acceptable and not acceptable highlights of your day, the weather, and anything else on your mind.  It's not a conversation without ya!  (Plus, without you it's just me talking to myself and that is weird :) )

    Getting culinary jealousy -or- Dinner party part 2, Creamy grits with crispy mushrooms and kale

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    Sometimes it can be a little sad out here in the culinary world if you are a vegetarian.  Sometimes a new craze is sweeping all the food magazines, blogs, and restaurants and there is just no way to participate if you are a vegetarian.  For instance all things pig are way in right now.  I think it may be on it's last leg with its time in the spotlight, but it's still in the forefront.

    Other times, it's an ingredient, spice, or style of cooking that I can participate in, even if I have to adjust it somewhat.  One such dish is shrimp and grits.  I think that the southern influence on cooking is starting to pop up here and there, especially in some fancier restaurants. Southern cooking in general is hard for a vegetarian.

    I see shrimp 'n grits on the menu in lots of places and I want to order it, but you know, minus the shrimp, and then it just doesn't seem worth it.  I like grits for just about any meal aside from breakfast, and I have been wanting to try out a hearty, vegetarian version of these grits for sometime now.

    I hardly ever toot my horn around here, but these grits were GD good.  The girls had two more courses to get through in the dinner and they still went back for seconds.  If that isn't the best compliment a dish can get than I don't know what is.

    The combination of the creamy grits, sauteed mushrooms, topped with crispy kale chips (partly inspired by my ingrained sense that there must be something green in every meal - thank you mamacita) - all sitting in a little bit of broth are just what I needed to get over my grit craze jealously.  

    Creamy Grits with Crispy Mushrooms and Kale in a Veggie Broth
    makes 6 servings
    I used a fancy mushroom for my dinner party.  For this dish I think it is better to buy a smaller amount of a more flavorful mushroom than use more of regular button mushrooms.  But, using button mushrooms would taste good too. I also call for white pepper here (my new fav obsession) since it matches the grits, but the black pepper pretty much tastes the same.  

    For the grits:
    4 cups milk (any percent or non-fat is fine)
    1 cup quick-cooking grits
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    1/4 tsp. white pepper
    1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
    1/4-1/2-tsp. tarragon
    salt to taste
    6 oz. cream or mascarpone cheese

    For the Kale:
    1 large bunch kale, cut into chip size pieces, large stems removed
    1 Tbs. olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste

    For the mushrooms:
    1 Tbs. olive oil
    2 LARGE handfuls oyster (or any other kind of mushrooms), cut into large pieces
    1 large shallot, finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced

    Go ahead and chop the kale, mushrooms, shallot, and garlic...this will make this dish come together much easier.

    Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. 

    Mix the kale, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl until coated.  Place the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Once the oven reaches 300 degrees bake the kale for approximately 20 minutes or until they are crispy.  Remove and set aside.

    While the kale is baking, start to make the rest of the meal.  First heat up your broth.  Once it is warm keep it on a low heat to keep it warm.

    For the mushrooms heat up 1 Tbs. olive oil over medium high heat in a saute pan.  Once it is hot put the shallots in and cook for a minute or two, then add the mushrooms.  Stir the mushrooms every minute or two until they start to brown and then add the garlic.  Cook until everything is a golden brown and then cover and remove from the heat (or turn the heat down to low when they are almost done to keep them warm until the grits are ready). 

    Then put the milk and spices for the grits into a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Sir it constantly to prevent it from burning.  When the milk is just about to reach a simmer add the grits and stir until the grits are cooked, about five minutes.  Add the cheese and turn off the heat.  Stir until the cheese has melted and is well mixed in.

    To serve put a ladle or two of grits into a bowl.  Then add a ladle of broth.  Next top with the mushrooms and then the kale (avoid getting the kale in the broth to keep them crispy as long as possible.

    The things I do when Mr. Man is out of town - or - Dinner party part one, The most amazing watermelon radish salad ever

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    Okay, let us first start off with the claim I just made - that this is best radish salad ever.  It really is.  I hope that you won't judge it by the pictures.  I know that my photos can't compete with the likes of some of the great food blogs out there, but I need you to trust me on this one and eat this salad.

    I made this salad as part of a dinner party that I hosted for some girlfriends.  Mr. Man is out of town right now and although I always miss him terribly, I like to take advantage and do all the things I don't do when he is home.   I think everyone has a list like this. 

    My list goes a little something like this:

    Leave my dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. 

    Not eat complete meals...just snack directly from the refrigerator. 

    Crawl into bed with my computer at 7 pm.

    Eat Brussels sprouts in large quantities (I did not know until just now that Brussels is capitalized and has an s on the end.  My love affair with Brussels is so new and I have so much to learn).

    Turn the heat way up high. 

    Watch Glee without commentary.
    Eat sweet and savory foods....which is one of the inspirations of this salad.

    This salad was also inspired by watermelon radishes.   They are hot pink on the inside and light green on the outside.  Such a welcome hint of color in the drab wintertime and as we all know (at least those of us who are dedicated to The Birdcage) one must have one tiny hint of color!

    Anyway, this salad was a great way to start an amazing dinner party with some new and old friends back here in the Bay Area.  It was a night filled with such good company that it spilled over into the food I was making and made it taste amazing.  The next day I was filled with a warm cozy vibe from the night before and the feeling that I was starting to rebuild my community here.  I hope this salad tastes as good for you as it did for me.

    Sweet and Savory Watermelon Radish Salad 
    serves 6

    One other note on watermelon radishes.  They are much more mild and less bitter than regular radishes.  If you are not normally a fan, give these a try and omit the regular radishes. Also, you can substitute sour cream in place of the creme fraiche if you don't have it or don't want to splurge.  In place of the pepitas you could substitute pine nuts, slivered almonds, pecans, etc. 

    For the Salad:
    1-2 large watermelon radishes, thinly sliced
    a handful of regular radishes, thinly sliced
    3 heads endives, halved, hearts removed, and sliced lengthwise
    6 tsp. creme fraiche
    For the Honeyed Pepitas:
    1/2 cup raw pepitas
    2-3 Tbs. honey
    1 Tbs. sea salt, the bigger the salt pieces the better
    parchment paper

    For the Vinaigrette:
    juice from half a lemon
    1/4 cup grapeseed or other light oil
    sea salt, to taste
    white pepper, to taste (you can use black too, but I think that this salad looks prettier with the white since it blends in)

    First prepare the pepitas.  Put the pepitas in a frying pan over medium heat.  Toast them for a minute then add the honey and continue to toast them in the pan for another three or four minutes until the pepitas are golden.  Once they are done spread them out on parchment paper, sprinkle with the sea salt, and allow them to cool.

    Before you plate the salads, go ahead and make the vinaigrette by mixing together all the ingredients and set aside.  

    To prepare the salad, first divide the endives evenly among six plates.  Then divide the regular radishes among the plates, followed by the watermelon radishes.  Top with the honeyed pepitas and finally a dollop of the creme fraiche.  

    Dress the salads just before you serve them.  The vinaigrette causes the colors from the watermelon radish to leech from them and run. 
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