So, here are a couple recipes that suit our current schizophrenic weather and are not bad for the waistline.
Spicy Cashew and Tomato Soup- Serves 4 nicely
8 oz. cashew nuts, unsalted
14 oz can roasted tomatoes (buy Muir Glen organic tomatoes)
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. coriander seed
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 med. red onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
juice of one lime or half a lemon
1/2 cucumber, diced
chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
1) Place the cashews in a large bowl and add three cups of cold water. Blend using an immersion blender, or regular blender. Add tomatoes and blend again until smooth. Grind the seeds into a powder using a spice grinder.
2) Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion until it begins to soften. Add the celery and continue cooking for 2 - 3 minutes. When the celery has softened, add the garlic, cayenne and ground spices. Cook for a minute or two before adding the cashew mixture. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning the cashews.
3) Add the citrus juice and season with salt to taste. Serve with diced cucumbers and cilantro on top. We ate it the day after I cooked it and it had thickened up in the fridge. I added about 3/4 cup water to thin it a bit. It was still amazingly delicious.
This recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook called Plenty. It is a masterful cook book , like his others. If you do not yet own it, I highly recommend you buy it, or put it on your birthday/holiday gift list.
I can easily imagine this as a first course at a dinner party, paired with a salad for a casual weeknight meal, or the center of a special lunch , again, for a special friend.
Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie- serves 4 to 6
20 to 25 grape leaves, fresh or from a jar
4 shallots (I used one med. red onion), finely chopped
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup Greek Yogurt (I used 2%), plus extra to serve
2 1/2 tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp. finely chopped dill ( I used 2 tsp dried)
4 tbsp. finely chopped mint ( I used 1 tbsp. dried)
grated zest of one lemon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup rice flour (I used a gluten free flour mix)
3 tbsp. panko bread crumbs
Place the grape leaves in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for ten minutes.. Remove the leaves and dry them well with tea towels. Trim off nubby leaf ends.
Saute shallots in 1 tbsp. oil for about 8 minutes until lightly brown. Let cool.
Mix the melted butter with 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Using a shallow 8" pie plate, cover the bottom and sides of the plate with grape leaves, slightly overlapping and allowing the leaves to hang over the rim of the dish. You will make about 3 three layers of leaves lightly brushing each layer with the butter/oil mixture. Use up about 2/3 of this mixture on the leaf layers.
Fold the overhanging grape leaves over onto the top of the filling, then cover the top completely with remaining leaves. (I used about 20 for the entire pie and admittedly threw out 4 leaves.) Brush with the rest of the butter oil mixture. Scatter the bread crumbs on top and drizzle with remaining tbsp. of oil. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.
One of the things that makes this so yummy is that the grape leaves turn brittle and crispy like phyllo dough while they cook and the yogurt filling is hearty and deliciously flavorful.