Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Plate

This is how I plan my meals. I think of dishes.

Soup and salad get prepared for lunch. Leftovers carry forward to dinner. Sauce/Stew and main get prepared for dinner. Cooking is spaced out, and dinner has four dishes.

This is also the order dishes are served at Dr. McDougall’s 10-Day Program. Starting with less calorie dense dishes: salads and soups, ending with more calorie dense dishes: sauces/stews and staple starches.

- Salad (raw): typically green & yellow vegetables, uncooked, at 100-300 calories per pound. Example: cucumber, tomato and onion.
- Soup: typically starches with green & yellow vegetables, slow cooked, at 500 calories per pound and 100-300 calories per pound. Example: onions, green peas and potato.
- Sauce/Stew: typically starch with green & yellow vegetables, slow cooked, at 500 calories per pound and 100-300 calories per pound. Example: marinara sauce (onions, squash, tomatoes).
- Main: typically a staple starch, at 500 calories per pound. Example: potato dumplings (potato), brown rice (rice).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Black Bean Soup

Staple soup common in Central America and Mexico. Especially good with fresh cilantro. Can also use or mix with red or pinto beans. Serve with rice and beans. Use a spice grinder (spare coffee grinder) to grind whole spices and chili peppers. And use a stick blender to blend soup in the pan.

1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery
1/2 red pepper, chopped (or paprika)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 tsp oragano
1 bay leaf
1 New Mexico dried chili pepper, ground
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper (6 peppercorns)
1 plum tomato, chopped
2 cups black beans (separate and blend 1/2 of beans) reduce?
1 cups water (or veggie stock, or even chicken stock)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro

In pot, brown chopped onions, 5 min.
Using spice grinder, measure and grind whole cumin seed, bay leaf, oregano and chili pepper pod.
To pot with brown onions, add and celery, red pepper, tomato, garlic and spices, and saute additional 5 minutes.
Add black beans, can juices, and water. Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer, 20 min.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Use stick blender to partially blend, so that soup is partially creamy and still has some whole beans and chopped vegetables.

Soups Table

Summary of all my soup recipes, for cooking with the soup method. Don't follow recipes, let them guide you.

White Bean
onion, carrot, celery
garlic, thyme, bay
tomato, navy bean, stock
balsamic vinegar, parsley
onion, carrot
tarragon, orange

onion, carrot
garlic, bay, oregano, basil
tomato, zucchini, cabbage, shells, white beans, stock
balsamic vinegar, parsley
Corn Chowder
onion, pepper
corn, stock
Split Pea
onion, carrot, celery
garlic, bay, thyme, parsley
split peas, stock
lemon juice, parsley
Seven Bean
onion, carrot, celery, pepper
garlic, bay, thyme, chili, oregano, basil
tomato, beans, stock
balsamic vinegar, cilantro
French Onion
white wine, stock
Barley Mushroom
onion, celery, carrot
mushroom, barley, stock
Beet Potato
onion, celery
garlic, bay, thyme
beet, potato, stock
lemon juice, parsley
Butternut Squash
onion, carrot
garlic, ginger, cinnamon
butternut squash, stock
lemon juice
Black Bean
onion, celery, pepper
garlic, chili, bay, oregano, cumin
tomato, black beans, stock

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vegetable Base

Also called Soup Greens, Aromatic Vegetables or Trinity.) The base is the large volume of soup greens (onions, celery, carrot, tomato, bell pepper,) cut into small pieces, slowly steamed and simmered 15-30 min.
The base keeps the solids and evaporates the liquid, concentrating the flavors. This is the opposite of stock, which keeps the liquid and wastes the solids.

- India: onion, tomato
- France: onion, carrot, celery (mirepoix)
- Italy: onion, tomato (soffritto)
- Spain: onion, tomato (sofrito)
- American Cajun: onion, celery, bell pepper (holy trinity)
A base is often associated with smaller amount of seasonings (garlic, ginger, thyme, parsley,) to make a signature taste.

Small pieces are simmered in a covered saucepan in their own moisture and steam, gradually passing through bright and firm, then becoming dull and wilted as fiber breaks down. Onions become translucent. Avoid burning by using a low heat, occasionally stir, and adding a splash of stock or water.
Small pieces are dry roasted in an uncovered saucepan, as their outsides dry out, quickly passing through golden, then brown, as sugars cook. This brings out sweetness and flavor. Avoid burning by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon, and adding a splash of stock or water.
Deglazing uses a splash of stock or water on a hot saucepan, which rapidly steams, to lift and mix the browned pieces. Use hot stock or water from a saucepan on the stove.
Tomatoes, which contains lots of tomato juice, can be used both as base (small amounts) and liquid (larger amounts.) I’ll often deglaze onions with tomatoes. I’ll reserve most of my tomatoes, especially canned tomatoes in juice, until after my base vegetables have browned and sweated.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is made from ends, peels and scraps. Stock is left unseasoned. Some stock recipes use whole or sliced vegetables and discard the solids. This is wasteful. I prefer to use chopped vegetables as my vegetable base, and fill a saucepan with the scraps, and the scraps make my stock. When the stock liquid is poured off, the solids become compost or are discarded. With this method, my stock mirrors my base.

- onion ends and peels (Red onions make red stock. Yellow onions make golden stock.)
- celery leaves and tops
- carrot peels and tops
- sweet pepper stems, ribs and seeds
- potato peels
- cabbage hearts and outer leaves
- garlic skins
- herb stems (parsley, cilantro, etc.)

To make a flavorful vegetable stock it is necessary to use lots of vegetables--fill your pot! Be careful of chilis and citrus peels (lemon, lime), and use sparingly if at all.

I started cooking with packaged stocks. While I cooked with packaged stocks, I was never satisfied with my soups. To me, packaged stock almost never match my cooking, and taste muddy. For example, Asian soups need different base and spice than European soups. Italian minestrone needs a different stock than Hungarian goulash.
Never add water. Always add stock.


Seasoning uses number of herbs and spices, selected from a larger palette. My grandmother often cooked with only salt, pepper and parsley. Almost all seasoning includes salt and pepper. In place of pepper other pungent spice like cumin may be used.

India: ginger, garlic
France: thyme
Italy: garlic, olives, basil
Spain: garlic, olives, oregano
Use the simplest combination that works. Fewer spices is better than more.

Tablespoons for Herbs
Try 1 tbsp of big herbs like garlic and ginger (1 clove garlic or 1/2 inch ginger), lemon juice, fresh chopped parsley or cilantro, etc.

Teaspoons for Spices
Try 1 tsp of dry vegetable powders: paprika, chili
Try 1/4 tsp of spices: cumin, coriander, thyme
Try 1/8 tsp of strong spices: turmeric, chili, salt, pepper

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Potato Dumplings

My grandmother served potato dumplings and sauerkraut on holidays. She made big round dumplings, and the dumplings leftovers always quickly disappeared. My favorite way to serve potatoes, especially with soups. Dumplings can also be stuffed with sauerkraut or with dried fruits like plums or apricots. I prefer to use oats over wheat, because Czech dumpling flour is traditionally coarse, and oats make white dumplings, while whole wheat flour colors the dumplings brown.

- 3 medium potatoes, baked and cool, skinned and riced
- 1 cup oatmeal, ground coarse
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup water

Prep: Bake potatoes in microwave (high, 10 min) or oven (350F, 40 min). Allow to cool, then skin and discard skins. With food processor, course grind oatmeal, and mix salt.
Mix Dough: Into mixing bowl, rice potatoes. With fork, mix together potatoes and oats. Splash water and continue to mix until moisture is distributed into dough. Form dough into balls.
Steam: Steaming is most gentle way to cook dumplings, which keeps them from falling apart, and allows dumplings to absorb moisture if needed. Microwave heats quickly and evenly. Place dumpling dough onto plate, with 1/8 cup water to make steam, under plate cover to retain steam. Then cook in microwave on high, covered, 10 min.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Breakfast Potatoes

This makes potatoes that are brown and crispy and coated with seasonings. Cut potatoes use shake and bake method, to coat with seasoning and make potatoes dry and crispy. Mixed with pan roasted vegetables: onion, pepper, garlic and tomato.

4 white potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
1/8 tsp cumin, ground
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, ground
1 tsp paprka

1/2 red onion, chopped
1 green sweet pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper (wax pepper), chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tomato, chopped
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Prep: Peel and chop vegetables. Grind spices. In plastic bag, mix potato seasonings with potatoes until coated.
Bake: Preheat oven 350 F. Bake potatoes 350F on non-stick sheet until soft and done, 45 min, then check and contine bake 450 F until crispy and brown 15 min.
Pan Roast: In saucepan, brown onions, 10 min. Add peppers and continue sweat, 10 min.
Simmer: Add tomato and spices and simmer 10 min.
Finish: Mix fresh cilantro and baked potatoes, and serve.

Beet Potato Soup

Beet and Potato Soup, full of winter root chunks, is a hearty lunch soup. Some Borscht strains the solids into broth. I prefer a more hearty, rustic and frugal soup that keeps the solids. Beets were a primary root vegetable of Eastern and Central European, preceeding the potato. Polish Christmas Eve feast serves vegetarian Borscht with mushroom or sauerkraut-filled dumplings. Good with dumplings and sauerkraut.

1 onion
2 celery (optional)
1 garlic
2 bay leaf
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (6-12 peppercorns)
3 beets, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
lemon juice or vinegar (sour)
1 tbsp fresh parsley

Prep: Chop vegetables. In sauce pan collect tops, skins, peels and other leavings, including beet stems and leaves, and potato peels. Simmer in just enough water to cover.
Roast: In saucepan, brown onions, 10 min. Add and sweat celery, 5 min.
Simmer: Add spices, chunks of roots, and stock to cover, and simmer 30 min.
Finish: Add lemon juice and fresh parsley and serve.

Soup Method

Soup is a slow cooked dish, whose main ingredient is a liquid stock. Soups are simple recipes with common ingredients, but not necessarily fast. The best soups are made from scratch, and cooked slowly. Soups requires some planning and preparation, but are not labor intensive, mostly cooking in the background.


Vary the ingredients in each building block.

The soup method applies equally to Asian, European and American soups and stews. From Indian lentil soups and curries, to European vegetable minestrone soup. With popularity of both dry dishes and fast cooking, soups and stews are becoming a lost art. Can you remember the last good European soup or stew you made?

Soups and stews should have mouth watering flavor. It’s a common mistake to think that flavor comes from spices. Flavor comes from the base and the stock. The base and stocks commonly use aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, tomato and peppers. The spices and finish only enhance the central flavors that come from the base vegetables.

The best way to serve green and yellow vegetables is not as salad, and not as a side dish, but as soups and stews. An amazing amount of green and yellow vegetables and roots effortlessly disappear into soups and stews.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Soup Tips

List of general tips for better soups.
- Roast vegetables in oven.

- Add tomato or tomato juice as liquid.
- Puree or blend 1/2 to thicken.
- Thicken with mashed potatoes (or tomato paste or cornstarch)

- Test seasonings in tasting cup. Ladle 1/2 cup soup into tasting cup, and try adding drops and pinches of liquids and spices. Avoids mistakes in the main soup pot.
- Lemon juice (1 tbsp) perks up or brings out flavors. Also lime juice, basalmic vinegar, white vinegar, or mustard condiment (which has vinegar).
- Salt (Soups with lots of liquid dilute and require lots of salt, so use the minimum amount, and not too much liquid. Add 1/8 tsp increment. Salt base layer during simmer, adjust salt at finish.)
- Try secret sauces (mustard, ketchup, soy, worchestershire, basalmic vinegar, salsa, etc.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Split Pea and Potato Soup

This pea soup is winter comfort food. Cooking fills kitchen with amazing smells. Almost like baking bread. A favorite we make almost once a week. Also freezes well.

1/2 onion
1 carrot
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (4-6 peppercorns)
1 tsp paprika
1 cup green split peas
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 cup stock (ends, peels)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh parsley

In a sauce pan, brown onions, 10 min. Add carrots and garlic, and continue to saute, 5 minutes. Add a splash of stock or water as necessary.
Then add spices, split peas, potatoes, and stock or water, stir and bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover 1 and 1/2 hours.
Allow to partially cool, and with stick blender partially blend together, leaving a few peas and potato chunks for texture.
Finish with lemon juice, salt to taste and garnish with fresh parsley.