Wednesday, January 17, 2007

La Madeleine's Tomato Basil Soup

Ok, if you have ever been to La Madeleine,,you should know their soup. It is the BEST soup I have ever had. When I first moved back to Houston I visited La Madeleine a few times, but only enjoyed their desserts and coffee. Michelle introduced me to their soup. I have never been the same. There were days when I dreamt about eating the creamy tomato soup. A few years later I started working at the Houston Ballet, and right down the road was a La Madeleine. Lets just say, I did get my fill.
I don't frequent La Madeleine as much as I used to but I still love their soup. So I was thrilled when Laura sent me the copykat link with this recipe. This recipe tastes EXACTLY like their tomato basil soup. It is extremely easy to make. I would say it serves 6-8 small cups and 5 large bowls.
Serve with shredded swiss cheese.

La Madeleine's Tomato Basil Soup

4 C. (8 to 10) tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped, or 4 C. canned whole tomatoes, crushed
4 C. tomato juice and part vegetable stock or chicken stock
12 to 14 washed fresh basil leaves
1 C. heavy cream
1/4 pound sweet, unsalted buttersalt to taste
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
Combine tomatoes, juice/and or stock in saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes. Puree, along with the basil leaves, in small batches, in blender, food processor (or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the cooking pan).
Return to saucepan and add cream and butter, while stirring over low heat.
Garnish with basil leaves and serve with your favorite bread.

Natasha's Greek Salad

I love Greek Salad! Fresh and full of good veggies, when made correctly it does the body good. My friend Laura recently sent me a link to a great website, She sent me the link to La Madeline's tomato basil soup. (Recipe will follow this one) I could not wait to try it. But, I wanted a good salad to go along with it. After some exploration, this is the one I chose. It went perfectly with the soup. It can be served for a few, or if you are expecting company, double the recipe. This could not be more easy or tasty.

Natasha's Greek Salad

Created by admin, September 13, 1999

1 bunch Leaf Lettuce
2 Cucumbers
4 large Tomatoes
1 bunch green onions, chop just the tops.
Greek Black Olives ( I used plain black olives)
Feta Cheese
1 part Red Wine Vinegar
1 part Olive Oil
Crushed Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 pinches Sugar
Chop lettuce and onion finely. Chop tomatoes and cucumbers coarsely about 1/2 inch. Combine and garnish to taste.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Lemon Potatoes

These are perfect when served with the Lemon Greek soup. I like to serve them on the side, with the intent of making them a soup topper. You can eat them any way, and they will be good.

Just remember, if you are using small potatoes not to over cook them. I did that recently and they are not nearly as good as firm potatoes.

Good Luck!

Lemon Potatoes
About 2 pounds waxy red or white potatoes, the smaller the better, skins scrubbed and potatoes cut in half.
1/8 cup chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
The zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon

1. Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water to cover, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn them down to meduim. Cook at a gentle boil until the potatoes are nice and tender, about 20-40 minutes depending of their size.
2. Drain the potatoes and return to the pot of the lowest heat possible. Add the olive oil, lemon and lemon zest, shaking the pan occasionally, until all traces of the moisture have disappeared, about 5 minutes.
Garnish with parsley and serve with soup!

Greek Lemon Soup

There is this great Greek restaurant in the heart of Houston, in Montrose, called Niko Nikos, They have the BEST gyros and gyro plates. It is often hard for me to deviate from what I know is good on a menu. I try to take everyone I know there, and the more people I take there, the more things I am able to try without abandoning my gyro. Everything I have had from their menu is delightful. From the feta calamari to the spinach and chicken wrap, each dish delights the taste buds. But, the soup, oh the soup is the best thing they serve by far. I say that because I have never tasted anything quite so, perfect to what it should be. The amount of lemon is zesty without being tart, the rice is never overcooked and the smell could cure even the worst cold.

I have been searching for a soup of this kind for some time. I was delighted the other day when I stumbled across this recipe in my How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. It is by no means as good as Nikos soup, but it comes close enough for me. I don’t think there could be an easier more hearty soup recipe. I served it with lemon potatoes, also served at Nikos, my recipe also not as good. But, for something you cook at home, and if you are not Greek, I think you will be proud of yourself. Had I never tasted Niko Niko’s potatoes and soup, I would think this is the best lemon Greek soup ever.

Since the holidays Turkeys have been on sale. I picked up a 10lb turkey and roasted it for dinner a couple of nights ago. Obviously there was tons of meat leftover. I used the body to make stock, and picked the meat off for the soup. The original recipe calls for chicken, which would be good I am sure. Mark and I much prefer Turkey over chicken, so this worked for us. My kids LOVED it. They can't seem to get enough, just thought I would let my kid mommys know.

Good luck. I challenge everyone to make this dish, it is easy, super yummy and a perfect weeknight dinner.

Lemon Greek Soup

6 Cups turkey or chicken stock
1/2 cup long-grain rice or orzo
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 celery stalk, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked bonless skinless turkey or chicken
2 eggs
3 tablespoons greshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if desired
Minced fresh dill or parsley leaves for garnish

1. Place the stock in a large saucepan and turn the heat to mendium-high. When it is just about boiling, turn the heat down to medium so that it is just bubbles. Stir in the rice, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, untilthey are all tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the chicken or turkey. Turn the heat to low.
2. Place the eggs in a blender and whir for 10 seconds; add the lemon juice and blend briefly. With the motor running, drizzle in about 2 cups of the hot soup. Pour the mixture back into the soup, stirring, and cook breifly, until the soup is slightly thickend, just a couple of minutes, do not boil. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may add more lemon juice at this point.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers

Vegetarian can be a bad word in some circles. Weirdoes, tree-hugger, liberal...all these are stero-types some might associate with vegetarians. Vegetarian cooking, when done right, can open both your kitchen and pallet to worlds of culinary bliss. I few months ago I condemned meat from our kitchen and went vegetarian. It was fun. I found when going strictly vegetarian we ate far more veggies and beans. The kids LOVED everything I cooked. The texture and flavor of vegetarian cooking was very pleasing to their young pallet. I am by no means pro-vegetarian, just pro creativity.

I have since re-introduced meat into our kitchen, hello, it was the holidays! But, I have tried to move our dining experience to be less meat focused and more in the mindset where every dish counts. Everything is not centered on the meat, but each thing on the plate has equal importance to our meal.

Here is a quick, and I mean quick, recipe I found in Rachel Ray's new magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray. I did mix mine up a bit from the original recipe. Her version was a bit blander, using parsley instead of cilantro. Of course many people do not enjoy the pungent flavor of cilantro, and parsley is the perfect substitute. To add more zest use curry powder or cumin in the mix.

Warning, this is not for the faint of heart. If you do not like chickpeas, or if you are in the mood for hamburgers, this is not the dish for you. This is definitely for people that like to try new things.

Make is what you want! Enjoy.

Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
* One cipotle chipotle pepper in adobe sauce
2/3 cup packed cilantro
2/3-cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* *4 thin slices of cheese
Dijon mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise, for serving

1. In a food processor, pulse the chickpeas, chipotle pepper and cilantro until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl a stir in the breadcrumbs and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the egg and form the mixture into 8 small patties or 4 large ones. ***
2. In a large skillet or grill pan, heat the oil over med. heat. Cook the burger for 4 min, then flip and cook for 3 min. more. Top the patties with the cheese slices for the last minute of cooking. Serve the cheeseburgers on bun with mustard, ketchup or mayo.

* You can use a can of green chilies instead of chipotle.
** Feta is incredible on these
*** Small patties turn out crunchier but they do not fit on buns. Great for low-carb lovers!