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Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

It’s been an unusually hot summer in NYC this year, which is just fine by me.  As a native from Southern California, I welcome the bright sunny days and the warmth of the summer heat on my skin. But add in the humidity of the east coast, and I just can’t take the heat of slaving away over a hot stove all day. So we’ve been eating light to stay cool and and keep our tummies flat for bikini season.

But just because you’ve lightened up on your meals doesn’t mean you can’t still eat like a princess. Here are 2 wonderful, low calorie dishes that are still bursting with flavor.

“Drunken” Peaches & Strawberries Salad:
When I was about 3 years old, my grandmother took me to a fruit farm in the Taiwanese countryside, and I ended up stuffing myself with all the strawberries my 3 year old belly could fill. Through my berry stained lips, I exclaimed, “Strawberries are my favorite food in the world!” Since then, not much else has changed. Strawberry is still my favorite flavor for ice cream, candy, and jam. So when summer comes, I get giddy to savor them in their ripe juicy splendor. Its tangy-ness pairs well with the nectar sweetness of summer peaches, and together, they make for a delectable salad perfect for a summer evening on the porch.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4-6 cups of Arugula
  • 1-2 peaches, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 cups of strawberries, stems removed, and halved/quartered
  • 4 oz of fresh mozzarella, diced into cubes
  • 1 cup almonds (or pecans/walnuts/cashews)
  • beer (for carmelizing almonds)
  • cayenne pepper
  • rum (for soaking fruit)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar (Xagave brand makes a great one)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar

The Sweet Taste of Summer:

  • Combine 2 oz rum, 10 oz water, and 1/4 cup of agave nectar. Soak peaches and strawberries for about 15-20 min
  • In a frying pan, toast the almonds for a few seconds. Drizzle in some beer over the nuts. Add the remaining 1/4 c. of agave nectar and a pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper. Toss until everything is well mixed and continue until nuts are carmelized and sticky and beer has evaporated. Set aside.
  • In a large salad bowl, toss together arugula, peaches, strawberries, mozzarella, and almonds.
  • Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the salad and toss until everything is combined.
  • Enjoy the salad with the remaining bottle of ice cold beer!

Spicy Chilled Avocado Soup:
Growing up in Los Angeles, we had many friends and neighbors who were lucky to have avocado trees in their yards. Every few weeks during peak season, they would drive over bearing a whole box of them, and because I had the privilege of eating them too often, I am embarrassed to say that I grew up not liking avocados. But after moving to NYC, all I wanted was avocados – I wanted them in my salads, I wanted them in my omelettes, and today, I want them in my soup! This soup is smooth, velvety, and luscious as can be, with robust flavors and a surprising spicy bite to it. Every spoonful reminds me of the lazy Californian summers of my teenage years.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 avocados, coarsely chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1-2 tsp of lime zest
  • 3 tbsp of curry sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Red Curry)
  • 4 oz of creme fraiche
  • 1 cup of milk
  • red chili pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste

California Dreamin’

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Can’t get any simpler than that!
  • Tip: Avocados are quite creamy, so depending on how thick you prefer your soups to be, you can feel free to adjust the amount of creme fraiche/milk proportions. I ended up adding a tad more milk to thin out the texture.

Now stop sitting in front of your computer – go whip up some summer meals and enjoy it al fresca with a nice bottle of beer/glass of wine!

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This weekend, the world experienced an inconvenience unprecedented in today’s “get anything now” society. The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (yes just try to pronounce  ay-yah-FYAH’-plah-yer-kuh-duhl) set the international travel community into a frenzy,  ruining holidays and wedding plans, threatening jobs, tearing apart lovers, and in some cases creating bridezilla wars over limited floral imports from Holland.

Brian and I are also victims of this raging volcano. One day before he was due to fly back to NYC, Heathrow Airport mandated a ground stop, trapping him and I’m sure hundreds of thousands of others in foreign countries. I should consider us lucky; he is able to continue working from there, and he’s in a safe country where we can communicate regularly until it is safe to fly. But I have never been so anxious being apart from my man, and I don’t know what else to do…but to COOK.

Traveling on the long weary road, there is nothing better to come home to than a bowl of steamy, hearty soup to satisfy your tummy and warm up your heart.

The Cauliflower Soup, adapted from Fine Cooking, adds a refreshing balance of roasted red peppers, almonds and mint to lighten up and update the classic creamy flavor of the cauliflower. I added vegetable broth and curry to give more depth and created a thicker consistency for a heartier texture.

The Butternut Squash Bisque is one of my favorite soups to make. This time I used pears instead of apples, infused it with coconut milk for more richness, again added curry powder for a subtle, unexpected spicy zing, and topped it with crushed pistachios to introduce some nutty fun.

Cauliflower Soup with Almond, Mint & Roasted Red Pepper Garnish

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into 5-6 cups of florets
  • 4 cups of veggie broth
  • 1/2 cup of fat free half & half
  • 1 handful of almonds, crushed or chopped
  • 2 whole roasted red peppers, diced
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp mint
  • 1-2 Tbsp curry powder
  • salt & pepper & red pepper flakes, to taste

Comfort Me:

  • Boil the cauliflower in a pot well seasoned with salt until tender. Drain, leaving about 1/2 to 1 cup of cooking liquid
  • Working in batches, puree the cauliflower with veggie broth and some cooking liquid.
  • Note: Puree to the consistency of your liking – thicker for a heartier texture, and thinner for silky smooth creaminess
  • Bring the puree into a pot on low fire, stir in the half & half, and season with salf, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir in curry powder.
  • While the soup is on low simmer, roast 2 medium sized red peppers in the oven at high heat (around 400-420). Let cool, gently peel, dice, and toss with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  Add crushed almonds and mint and stir well.
  • Spoon the soup into bowls, and top with red pepper almond mint garnish.
  • Warm up your soul.

Butternut Squash Pear Bisque

Gather The Goodies:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 pears
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 14oz can of coconut milk
  • 1-2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 handful of crushed pistachios
  • salt & pepper to taste

Bring Him Home:

  • Attack the Butternut Squash with purpose, penetrate it’s stubborn outer layers to get into the aromatic earthy inner deliciousness. Then cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Peel, core and cut the pears into about the same size as butternut squash
  • Cook the butternut squash in vegetable broth, bringing to a oil until squash is tender.
  • In batches, puree the squash & pears in the vegetable broth until smooth.
  • Transfer the puree back into the pot and stir in coconut milk and curry powder. Simmer for 10 minutes until flavors are well integrated
  • Spoon the bisque into bowls and top with crushed pistachios
  • Fill up your tummy with steamy goodness

Finally, I’d like to end this post with a prayer. Dear gods of the friendly flying skies, please clear the air of that murky volcanic ash cloud and make it safe for my honey to fly home. I have a very pressing need for someone to do my laundry, snuggle with, and test taste my food.

As you said, “En los manos de dios”. So we’ll wait patiently and when you make it safely back, you’ll be greeted with all the warm steamy food you can eat and the biggest bear hug ever delivered in the history of mankind.

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There is nothing like a refreshing Gazpacho soup to cool you down on a hot summer night! Delicious summer veggies like fresh cucumbers, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and zesty cilantro blend together for a thirst-quenching, feel-good meal or appetizer. For me, summer is never complete without Gazpacho – it evokes memories of BBQs and relaxing summer evening dinners on the deck. Plus it keeps your tummy tight for bikini season and the no-cook factor eliminates the need to slave over a hot stove on a humid August day.

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This dish is low maintenance, versatile, and yet still packs a punch with the right combination of herbs and spices!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tomatoes (heirloom or other) OR 28oz canned diced/crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 bell pepper (red/yellow/orange/green)
  • 1 small white/yellow onion
  • 1/2 can corn kernel
  • 1 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • chili powder (i use 4 Tbsp but that’s b/c i just like it hot!)
  • paprika 
  • basil (fresh or dried)

1. Coarsely chop veggies
2. Saute onions
3. Combine all ingredients together
4. Puree 1/2 to 3/4 with a blender/food processer/hand blender
5. Chill in fridge for a couple hours

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Now for the Tips and Variations:

  • The longer it chills, the longer the flavors have to develop. This dish also freezes amazingly well
  • If using a hand blender (like me) cut into petite cut (1 cm sq cubes) first so you don’t end up with overly chunky pieces
  • You can choose to blend it all if you like the puree style, or blend less of it if you like the chunky texture
  • Feel free to subsitute red wine vinegar for: white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, (fruitier taste), apple cider vinegar, lemon, or lime
  • If you are one of those who can’t stand cilantro (apparently it’s very polarizing), you can substitute with parsley.
  • For a sharper, lemony taste, add dill. For heartier taste, try tarragon or oregano
  • Other veggies you can add: celery, jalapenos, olives
  • Adding fruits like pineapple and mango will give this dish a sweet fruity twist!

Enjoy and stay cool!

Gazpacho on Foodista

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