Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Creamy Broccoli, Potato, and Leek Soup

Creamy Broccoli, Potato, and Leek Soup at Paprika Red

I've been on a leek kick lately. Those tender, delicate vegetables add such a great flavor to so many dishes. Here, leeks lend a subtle, sweet flavor to a delicious soup - green broccoli, thickened with yukon gold potatoes. I've made potato soups before with the hand blender, to varying degrees of success - they often come out a little gluey or gummy. And broccoli soups can taste thin without the addition of butter and heavy cream. But this seems to be a great balance - enough veggies to keep the soup from being gluey, and enough potatoes to make the soup thick and filling. Just a little butter for flavor, and some evaporated milk for body, this is a great one for weeknights when you want something comforting, creamy, and healthy, but don't have a lot of time. Add some whole grain bread, or maybe a couple cheese-toasts on the side, and you have a great dinner.

Creamy Broccoli, Potato, and Leek Soup
1 TB butter
3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped into 1/2" cubes, about 2 cups
1 large head of broccoli, crowns chopped, stems peeled and chopped, about 2 cups
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
6-8 oz evaporated milk
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Frank's Red Hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sweat the leeks with a pinch of salt until starting to wilt, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Add the potatoes and broth, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add broccoli, and simmer for another 6-8 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Turn off heat, and blend with a hand blender until creamy. Stir in milk, worcestershire sauce, and Frank's. Taste, adjust seasoning if needed with salt and and a healthy dose of pepper, and serve.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Creamy Winter Root Vegetable Mash with Frizzled Leeks

Creamy Winter Root Vegetable Mash with Frizzled Leeks at Paprika Red

I love mashed potatoes. Creamy, rich, comforting, starchy goodness, they are at home on my plate any time the weather is under 70 degrees, which is often around here. But man (or woman) cannot live on mashed potatoes alone - we need our veggies, and mashed potatoes are starchy and can be very rich. On the other side of the coin, there are mashed potato haters out there. I know, sometimes I can scarcely believe it myself. Those that say mashed potatoes are bland and boring, like baby food. Even my husband used to say he didn't like mashed potatoes! (Don't worry, I made a convert out of him.)

But what if we could have it all - mashed potatoes that contain other wonderful veggies so they are more nutritious and not such a starch bomb, creaminess without being loaded down with tons of cream and butter, and definitely not boring? To the humble potato I've added celeriac, aka celery root, for nutty flavor, parsnips for earthy sweetness, buttermilk for richness and tang without high fat content, and frizzled leeks for that mild, oniony flavor and great crispy texture. A delicious side dish, perhaps delicious enough to convert even the most stubborn mashed potato hater!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fall Fried Rice, American Style

Fried Rice, American Style at Paprika Red

Brussels sprouts are a vegetable I wrestle with. You see, I don't dislike many veggies. I like tiny veggies quite a bit - baby artichokes, small potatoes, tiny pickled cucumbers. And I love cabbage. So naturally, I should love brussels sprouts, seeing as how they're really like tiny cabbages. What's not to love? Well, I just usually don't like them, they taste funny and bitter and off to me, unless they're doused in butter and cream at Thanksgiving, and I am just not going to do that the rest of the year.

When given the option from my local CSA to get local, organic brussels sprouts on the stem, I jumped, thinking I should give them another chance, and this was a good way to do it. If I didn't like a gigantic spear of fresh, local, on-the-stem sprouts, I probably wasn't ever going to like them. I also jumped, like I am wont to do, with other seasonal goodies and overfilled my fridge. So there my sprouts sat, sad and lonely at the bottom of the fridge, until all the other vegetables were exhausted and they were the last things left. It had been over a week, and it was time. There I was, staring at the refrigerator, wondering how I was going to make this work for dinner. What else masks, err I mean, goes well with the flavor of sprouts? Well I had bacon, and leeks. Ok, good start. But I needed a starch. "Honey, do you want brussels sprouts, bacon, and leeks with pasta, rice, polenta, or potatoes?" "Rice", he replied. Of course he picked the one item I had no plan for. Was I going to have to make some sort of sauce with this? Then it hit me - we make fried rice, and that has has similar bits - veg, onion, and cured meat. I could hit this up with some more American type seasonings - Worcestershire and Frank's hot sauce, perhaps? A little thyme? Why does soy sauce get to have all the fun? So something new and delicious was born, my husband and I had a great and quick dinner, and I conquered the sprout.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hearty Autumn Salad with Bacon, Egg, Cornbread Croutons, and Artichokes

I'm back! It's been a long while, and the weather has changed drastically since I've been gone. But I have good reason - two good reasons, actually - for being gone so long. First, my hubby and I took a two week whirlwind trip to Europe, staying in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Zurich. There was much good food, much good beer, a whole lotta walking, wonderful weather despite it being October, and in general a good time was had by all. I ate lots of delicious new foods (Dutch pea soup! Deer sausage! Stoemp! Waterzooi!), and will be posting the recipes here as I make them and can get them close to what I remember having. But besides being gone, there was a lot of planning. It was my first time to Europe, and I planned it myself. Every little bit. Lodging, transportation, train tickets, local metro passes, museum tickets, everything. It was intimidating, and time consuming, and occasionally stressful! But it all turned out well.

Secondly, I've been devoting time to one of my other passions - namely all things design. I'm a bit of an obsessive when it comes to well-designed cookware and serveware (and decor, and... ok, modern and well designed ANYTHING really), and I've been delving in headfirst scouring through thrift stores and other sources, trying to find the good stuff. The good news: I've been finding good stuff! Though it takes time. The flipside is I've been finding TOO MUCH good stuff, and I can't just let it sit there, so I take it home, and well, I've opened an Etsy shop with all my goodies. If you like unique and modern home stuff, check out my shop at

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pork Rillettes with Pickled Cherries

Pork Rillettes with Pickled Cherries at Paprika Red

Years ago, I was invited to a party at someone's house that I didn't know. Not wanting to show up empty handed, I stopped at Whole Foods for some snacks, figuring I'd pick up something tasty from their enormous cheese counter. After chatting with the cheese lady and trying a few samples, I came across these intruiging sweet, sour, spiced, and pickled cherries. The gal had me try them with a creamy, mild blue cheese, and I was hooked. The combination was outrageous - creamy and crisp, salty and sweet, spicy and savory, all contrasting flavors and textures that harmonized beautifully. I picked up a small tub of the cherries, some cheese, and some bread and crackers, and headed off to the party, where they were devoured by the end of the night.

The other weekend, staring at the 3 pounds of sweet and juicy Lapin cherries I'd picked up from the farmer's market, I decided to see if I could create something similar to those spicy-sour-sweet cherries. I'd also been kicking around the idea of making pork rillettes, thinking that those tart-sweet cherries would compliment the creamy, rich pork nicely. I imagined sitting on a large blanket, under the dappled light of a tree, sipping on champagne, listening to birds, spreading pieces of crusty baguette with luscious pork pâté and topping with ruby red pieces of puckery-sweet and spicy cherries. I'd created quiet the afternoon in my mind, so I had to get crackin'.

I'd never made rillettes before, so I went poking around for recipes online. They all called for slow and low cooking, but on the stovetop or in the oven. I didn't want to turn on the oven or otherwise heat the kitchen for 3 -4 hours. Then it hit me - why not use the crock pot? It turned out perfectly, with minimal kitchen heating. And the pork and cherries? A match made in heaven. (Unfortunately, the weather was not heavenly - it was in the 60s and rained all weekend, in August! - so my picnic was indoors. At least the food was good.)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Crunchy Cabbage, Cucumber, and Chicken Stir-Fry

I make stir-fries a lot. They're a really simple and tasty way to make a quick and veggie-packed dinner. Usually, by the time the rice is done, my meal is done, as well (or at least really close to being done!) I often use a few variations on some common themes: beef and broccoli (sometimes with red bell peppers or carrots) with a lightly sweet soy sauce; shredded pork and cabbage with dark soy and a little heat from sriracha or sambal olek; sliced pork or chicken with Thai red curry paste, lime leaves, green beans, and basil. And sometimes I just dump in whatever I have on hand, with whatever condiments, vinegar, sauces, herbs, and maybe some crunchy toppings, sound good. The great thing is, it's pretty hard to screw up. As long as I don't overcook my meat and veggies, or make the sauce too salty, it's all pretty tasty. But I don't find them worthy of posting, because I don't measure, and while they're always good, they're never great. Not something you'd feel comfortable telling someone "Hey, you should make this! You'll like it."

Well, this time I made one that's really good, and worthy repeating (and a blog post)! Cabbage and snow peas are great in stir-fries, but the real winner here is the cucumber. Stir-fried until slightly softened, the flavor becomes sweeter, milder, and almost a little nutty. The texture becomes more silky, and it loses some of that graininess. It becomes a really nice and unexpected foil to the crisp and crunchy cabbage and peas. The mint and cilantro are a must here, too, as they cap off the stir-fry with a nice, fresh, herbal note. With a side of your favorite rice, this is a lean, healthy, satisfying meal that feels like a real treat.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Italian Chicken Burgers

Italian Chicken Burgers at Paprika Red

I told you guys I was on a burger kick!

What happens when you take inspiration from Chicken Milanese and Salad Caprese and put it on a bun? You get a delicious sandwich, that's what. The idea for this sprang from seeing a recipe in Bon Appetit about a Chicken Parmigiana sandwich. It looked delicious, but I wrestled with the idea of putting tomato sauce on my sandwich. I envisioned trying to eat it and getting a ring of sauce in the palms of my hands. I pictured the sauce dripping onto my shirt. I pictured soggy breading. In my mind, this wasn't really going too well. I wanted a crisp-coated chicken burger, and that tangy tomato flavor, and of course the basil and cheese. Just no gloppy messiness, please.

I started with a lb of ground chicken, and an egg. It got very soupy very quickly, I had to use quite a bit of what I'd planned on using for the coating as a binder, to sop up the juice. But that's ok, because the end result is a delicious, juicy patty that doesn't taste bready, and who can argue with that? Depending on how moist your chicken is, you may need more or less bread crumbs, so add a TB or two a time until you can form a patty, while trying to handle the patty as little as possible.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vietnamese-style Pork Burgers

Vietnamese-style Pork Burgers at Paprika Red

I've been slightly obsessed with burgers lately. I love just about anything on a bun, from handmade veggie burgers to beef with bacon, with lamb burgers (with goat cheese and pickled red onions, please!) being one of my favorites. Not to mention that I think my husband has perfected the beef burger (he has a secret ingredient - I'll see if I can get him to share it in a later post!). But I've been trying new ways to get some of my favorite flavor combos sandwiched between a yeasty kaiser roll or soft ciabatta, if you are a talented enough baker, or lucky enough to source some good ones, and to cut down on meat costs by purchasing ground meat. If you are in the Seattle area, I am really fond of Essential Baking's kaiser rolls, as well as their Panino rolls, or, if you're feeling decadent, Macrina's brioche buns. I know, buying expensive buns may seem to defeat the purpose of eating frugally, but to me, the bun is second only to the patty, so I won't skimp there.

This is a pretty straightforward translation - turning a pork banh mi into a pork burger. I'll admit, it's not much of a stretch, but it sure is yummy! Use good quality and fairly lean ground pork - I really like Thundering Hooves - and toss with a little fish sauce, dark soy, and lemongrass. I used to purchase whole lemongrass, peel them to their less fibrous innards, chop them into 3" lengths, and freeze them until I needed them (I do a similar thing with ginger). And this is still a good option, but one day, browsing through the large Asian section at my favorite local grocery store, I found a giant frozen tub of finely minced lemongrass. For about $2. Well not only was this a time saver, but it's also an excellent deal, so I snagged it and have been using it ever since!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Springtime Risotto with Fava Beans and Asparagus

Springtime Risotto with Fava Beans and Asparagus at Paprika Red

I've been intimidated by fava beans before. These big beans that you have to peel twice: once out of the pod, then a second time out of the skin. (The internet says blanching them briefly in boiling water, then shocking them in ice water helps the skins slide off easier; you can also peel them as-is while watching TV, like I did.) It seems like a lot of effort for little payoff. I was wrong, the payoff is big! Now I'm a convert, and even my bean-picky husband liked the dish (a lot). So creamy and mild, they have a wonderful green yet slightly nutty flavor that goes well with the freshness of asparagus and lemon.

Risotto is always made out to be a lot of work, but I don't really think it's as hard as it can seem. Sure, you have to stir, and it does demand your frequent attention, but in 30 minutes you can have delicious risotto while only tending to one pot, and to me that's easier than trying to orchestrate a separate protein, starch, and veg.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fresh Corn Soup with Basil and Tarragon

Fresh Corn Soup with Basil and Tarragon at Paprika Red

This is definitely one of those cases of simplicity is best. This soup is so good, I having a hard time getting past the superlatives of "really good" and "yummy". It's silky on the tongue, light and almost frothy, it's sweet from the corn, it has a little of that mild green bite from basil, and underneath it all is this tingly licorice from the tarragon. But this sounds weird when I write it out, so trust me when I say, it just works. All these little notes balance harmoniously, and while it tastes light and fresh, it satisfies deep down like soup should. You don't need to serve it piping hot, and you don't need to serve a lot, although I went back for seconds, and maybe a little more after that. It would make a great amuse for a summer dinner, for just you, or 10 friends. If you're feeling generous enough to share, that is.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What To Do with Kohlrabi?

Are you familiar with kohlrabi? I sure am not. I have this thing, though, where if I see a new vegetable I've never tried, I just have to pick it up. I can't pass it by. It nags at me when it's unfamiliar, it whispers "why don't you just take me home and figure out what to do with me later". Usually this works in my favor, like with yummy long beans or or bitter-sweet broccoli raab. Sometimes I just don't like it, like with Chinese spinach, although that's rare. So you can imagine that these funny looking veggies were so compelling, with their knobby bases and startling color. I recognized the name kohlrabi, but I didn't even know what they were - root vegetable, or something else? (Turns out they're a brassica - related to cabbage and broccoli - and not a root vegetable.)

I took them home and looked for some recipes. I didn't find much, though I did find several people commenting that they grew up eating them raw. Well, that's a start, so with a sharp knife I carefully topped the long stalks, cut off the bottom, and peeled the outside. I cut a sliver, and was surprised. It was crisp and watery, like jicama or a raw potato. It was mild in flavor, a little bit sweet, a little bit nutty. Another taste. A little like a cross between a broccoli stem, a cabbage, and an apple. Another taste. Truth be told, I was no longer sampling, just eating. It was really tasty!

Friday, June 4, 2010

An Easy, Simple, and Elegant Salad with Corn and Golden Beets

Fresh, tasty, and beautiful - raw corn and beet salad

It's early June, and it's raining. Today's high is expected to be a mere 52° Farenheit, a far cry from the normal 68°. I've been hearing lots of record weather in the last few years... record snows two winters ago, record highs last summer, record mild winters, and now, the wettest stretch of rain in the "dry season", or so says the weatherman. All I know is, my outdoor lounge chairs, BBQ, tomatoes, and me, are all crying for some sunshine.

I know, fast forward two or three months and I'll probably be muttering about it being too hot. I can only hope that we don't have a 100° summer like we did last year, us pale and pasty PNWers (without A/C) can hardly take that kind of weather. But I would happily take a few days in the low 70s. In the spirit of looking forward to the warm weather, and the abundance of produce that comes with it, here's a beautiful and easy no-cook side dish.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Barbecued Lamb with Wine, Cilantro, and Soy Sauce

Succulent slices of barbecued lamb

Summer means many things to me: fireworks at 10:30 pm; long, long nights and early mornings; the most beautiful blue sky and cool Puget Sound; hiking; the all-too-short season of those delicious Rainier cherries, pluots, and heirloom tomatoes; and grilling - in particular, a giant hunk of lamb. This is probably my favorite grill recipe ever, and I'm such a sucker for lamb.

If you're only familiar with grey lamb smeared with mint jelly, forget about all of that! This has the great marinated flavor of red wine, plus the savory flavor of soy sauce, and that fresh herbal flavor of cilantro that I love so much, and nicely charred end bits. If you get a boneless leg of lamb, one end will be smaller than the other, so you're sure to have a level of doneness to suit anyone, and you're almost guaranteed leftovers.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poached Eggs with Greens and Garlic on Toast

Lovely poached egg with arugula and beet greens on toasted french bread

Today I received a fantastic loaf of bread in my grocery delivery box - the most lovely loaf of French bread I have ever laid my eyes upon. Before I even put the rest of the groceries away, I cut off a slice from the end - perfection! Very moist, tender, and fine crumb, lovely yeasty smell and flavor, thin but crisp shell. An excellent bread from Boulangerie Nantaise, in Seattle. I hadn't planned on using the bread that day, but it seemed a shame not to eat it fresh, so I rummaged around the fridge to see what I could find.

Fresh eggs, some arugula needing to be used up, some beet greens, with beets to be used at a later date, and a fresh head of garlic. A lovely dinner was created - toasted and lightly buttered bread, layered with slightly bitter, savory, and garlicky greens made lively with a dash of sherry vinegar, topped with a poached egg. A delicious light supper, the egg yolk running into the greens, making a sauce; the greens softening the toasted bread just a bit. Yum.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Simple Side - Carrots with Tarragon

A magic pairing - tarragon and carrots

Tarragon is an herb that's pretty unfamiliar to me. I grew up eating my grandmother's Hungarian food, and in her desire to blend into American culture, a lot of simple American food - chicken breasts with rosemary and lemon, mashed potatoes, that sort of thing. Living in Southern California, then moving up to the Seattle area, I've been exposed to a lot of Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Chinese food. Cumin, coriander, garam masala, galangal, lemongrass, szechuan peppercorns are pantry staples. I buy fresh cilantro on a weekly basis. But in my kitchen and food vocabulary, tarragon is exotic - not something I grew up with, or ate with any kind of regularity. As you can probably imagine, I haven't eaten or cooked a lot of French food (something I am working on at the moment).

So while this recipe is really simple, these carrots were a revelation for me. I can't even begin to describe how well the tarragon compliments the carrots, other than they seemed made for each other - and of course, a little butter and salt always helps. But what an elegant side to a simple meal - this would go so well with an herb roasted chicken. As pictured, I made it with braised chicken with leeks and porcini, and green herb mashed potatoes, also from The Herbfarm Cookbook. It was a truly lovely meal, but the carrots were my favorite.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ginger Fried Rice with an Egg

Big payoff for little effort - ginger fried rice with leeks and an egg

I have an ongoing love affair with eggs and rice. Ever since I discovered the joy of an over-easy egg with rice and soy sauce, it's been my favorite breakfast, easy lunch, or I'm-too-tired-to-cook meal.

I'd been eyeballing this recipe in the Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges cookbook, especially since I'd had good luck with several of his other recipes. So when I saw Mark Bittman wax poetic about it recently, and he showed me just how easy it really is, I knew it was time to give it a shot.

The ingredients are simple, but this is really tasty fare. The silky, smooth leeks really gives the rice a lovely flavor and subtle texture, and the crispy garlic and ginger really elevates it. Served with a simple salad with a miso vinaigrette, it really hit the spot. My husband loved it so much, he was mostly done by the time I'd finished snapping pics. Next time, I'll use jasmine; I used calrose by force of habit, and realized my mistake only after I'd started cooking it. Oops. It still turned out great, though!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Patatas Bravas - Roasted Potatoes with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Aioli

I'm always on the lookout for new side dishes or light entrees. Sure, local and seasonal veggies, prepared simply with good ingredients, are always delicious, but sometimes I just want something a little different. And while crispy oven-roasted potatoes are always a good idea, sometimes more actually IS better, as is the case with these - patatas bravas, a Spanish potato dish.

Take delicious, crispy, oven roasted potatoes, blanched and then roasted at a high temp with olive oil, salt and pepper to get all golden brown and delicious. Good, right? Then add a slow-simmered tomato sauce, enriched with spicy red pepper and an unexpected but welcome hit of cumin. Mmmm, even better. Now cut the acidity and spiciness with some creamy, garlicky aioli, and you've got the world's best side starch, or an awesome light lunch with some blanched or roasted veggies like haricot vert or zucchini, or with a nice crisp salad.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Endive and Potato Salad with Smoked Trout

Seattle is the land of smoked salmon, but I have a secret: as much as I love the salmon, I really love smoked trout. It's a little milder than salmon, with a sweeter flavor, but it still has a nice, meaty texture and pleasant saltiness. Unfortunately, it's a little bit hard to find - 10 kinds of smoked salmon, or even salmon candy, is readily available, but refrigerated smoked trout (I've tried some in cans and didn't care for it) is only available in the more specialty stores around here.

That's part of the reason I love this salad, it's a great use of smoked trout. Paired with crunchy and slightly bitter endives, creamy potatoes, and a lovely light and lemony dressing, and lots of fresh herbs, this salad hits all the notes for me - crunchy, creamy, lightly bitter in a very pleasant way, meaty, salty, tangy, all good. All this without croutons, which I dearly love (especially when using leftover La Brea ciabatta and frying them lightly in bacon fat), but this salad needs none!