May, 2007

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Swamp Soup
May 18th, 2007



I believe I've written before in this blog about the early culinary concoctions that my brother and I came up with (ah yes, here it is) such as "soup" consisting of peas, carrots, salt, pepper, and water all "cooked" by the sun. I don't know if we ever put lettuce in with the peas, but we certainly could have, as they both were available in our garden around the same time.

This recipe totally reminds me of those days - throw some peas, lettuce, and unpeeled potato in a pan with liquid and you'll get soup? Really?

Really. After it's trip through the blender the soup is sort of a radioactive green that might scare small children, but it's creamy, sweet, salty, and tangy from the lemon zest sprinkled on top. The recipe is from an unassuming book I got second-hand called Fifteen Minute Meals by Emalee Chapman. The book was written in the '80s and it looks like the sort of thing just bound to be crammed with recipes featuring cream of mushroom soup and taco seasoning packets. But in fact it offers quick Italian and French influenced preparations for fresh meat, fish, and vegetables. Poached Chicken with Tarragon, Corn Pancakes, Endive with Ham - definitely quick recipes worth trying out.

Just goes to show you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, or a soup by its resemblance to swamp water.


Creamy Pea Soup
serves 2

4 cups chicken broth
4 small unpeeled new potatoes
1/2 package (about 5 ounces) frozen peas, or 1 cup fresh shelled peas
1/2 shallot, peeled
3 lettuce leaves
1 lemon


Place chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Slice potatoes into pan; add peas, shallot, and lettuce leaves; cover pan with a lid and simmer ten minutes.

Puree soup in a blender, grate rind of lemon into soup and serve hot.

-Emalee Chapman, Fifteen Minute Meals
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Albanian Cornmeal Pie
May 17th, 2007



I love how adding just a few ingredients to a basic cornbread recipe results in a savory cornmeal pie that can stand on its own as a vegetarian entree or serve as a fabulous side to a variety of dishes. I ate mine as an entree with marinated tomatoes and salad, and the leftovers went nicely with a pea soup one day and black beans and salsa the next.

The recipe comes from an interesting cookbook called Home Cooking Around the World by David Ricketts. I think he does a great job of creating simple recipes that still capture the essence of the native cuisine. Well alright, I must confess I have no idea how closely this cornmeal pie comes to traditional Albanian home cooking, but the cuisines I do know something about (Southeast Asian primarily) are handled well. Plus I'm always partial to cookbooks that offer a bit of a narrative - something to read besides lists of ingredients - and Ricketts' offers that with interesting travel stories and background on his recipe development. For those looking for a good value, I don't know that this book offers a huge amount of recipes for your dollar, as there are a lot of full page pictures in an already fairly short book, but since used copies of the hardcover are going for under $10 I think it's worth your while. Plus it's pretty, and that always helps.


Albanian Cornmeal Pie with Scallions & Feta Cheese

Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
12 ounces small-curd cottage cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch scallions, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
4 ounces feta cheese


Heat oven to 400. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cornmeal, cottage cheese, eggs, scallions, melted butter, thyme, and salt. Scrape into prepared pie plate and spread evenly. Sprinkle the feta over the top.

Bake in 400 oven until golden brown, set, and slightly puffed, about 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes, then serve warm.

-David Ricketts, Home Cooking Around the World
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Tunisian Potato Turnovers
May 12th, 2007



Continuing my romp through the appetizer section of my cookbook collection, these savory turnovers are just the thing for a light dinner. The spicing on these is pretty typically Indian - in fact the turnovers are similar to samosas with sweet potatoes subbing in for the green peas - with the exception of the caraway. Maybe that's the bit that makes the turnovers Tunisian, but none-the-less, I'm not a caraway fan so I left it out.

The cookbook introduction to this recipe promises that once introduced to the filo dough turnover technique you'll become a certified filo-turnover addict, and I must admit that ever since making these I've been eyeing various things in my kitchen and imagining them wrapped in layers of filo and baked until golden. While not approaching the buttery goodness of a traditional pastry dough, the filo is light and crispy, and super-duper easy which endears it to me. The lower calorie count and faster prep time on these babies compared to traditional turnovers might just allow me to enjoy the turnover concept much more often.

To fill and wrap the turnovers you layer three sheets of filo dough together, brushing lightly with olive oil between each layer, and then slice the resulting bundle into four long strips. Then you dab a bit of the potato filling on each strip and fold it up like a flag into a cute little triangle. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that my last four turnovers were shaped like cute little triangles, the first four were shaped like random blobs, and the rest were somewhere in between. So the technique does take a little practice, but in the end it mattered not, as regardless of shape all the turnovers came out of the oven golden and savory. They lose their crispness pretty quickly, but a quick pass through an 400° oven brings refrigerated leftovers back to their former glory.

I wanted to make a quick tomato chutney to accompany these but ran out of time. But I've still got half a package of filo dough in my freezer, and as Scarlett O'Hara told us all, tomorrow is another day.


Tunisian Potato Turnovers
makes 16 pastries

2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 tbsp plain nonfat yogurt
2 tbsp minced scallions
1 tsp ground caraway (optional)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne
1 to 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
12 sheets filo pastry, each about 12 x 17 inches
3 tbsp olive oil
whole caraway seeds (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400°.

Cook the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and garlic in water to cover until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and thoroughly mash them by hand with the yogurt, scallions, caraway, coriander, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, and salt until very smooth. Add more salt to taste.

Prepare a baking sheet with a light coating of oil or cooking spray or use one with a nonstick coating. Set it aside near your work area.

Place the filling, filo, oil, a pastry brush, and a clean damp towel on the counter within easy reach. Unfold the stack of filo and in one smooth motion, remove a sheet and place it flat on the counter top with one of the short sides nearest you. Brush it lightly with olive oil. Working quickly, add a second and then a third sheet, oiling them lightly. Cover the remaining stack of filo with the damp towel as you work to prevent it from drying out and becoming brittle.

Cut lengthwise through the three oiled sheets to make four strips. Place 2 rounded tablespoons of filling on each strip, one near the bottom and one about a third of the way up. With a table knife or the back of a spoon, spread the filling to thinly cover the bottom half of each strip. Fold the lower left corner up and over diagonally so that the bottom edge is aligned with the right side. Fold straight up and then to the left. Continue to fold as you would a flag to make a small triangular pastry. Place each triangle on the baking sheet.

Repeat 3 more times until all of the filo and filling has been used and you have 16 turnovers. Brush the tops with any remaining oil and sprinkle them with whole caraway seeds, if desired. The turnovers can be tightly covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours before baking.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and golden. The turnovers should be served soon after removing them from the oven because the pastry loses its crispness as it sits.

-Moosewood Restaurant, Low-Fat Favorites
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