Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Spinach Leek Bisque (with Persimmon Cookies for Dessert)

I often feel that opening my CSA box is like being on an episode of “Chopped” – especially when I am not familiar some of the items.  For example, this week we received persimmons.  I don’t know that I’d ever even seen a persimmon, let alone eaten one.  So, this afternoon I found a recipe for persimmon cookies and made them.  I can’t say the cookies really tasted like persimmon (which I did taste raw before turning it into a pulp and adding a bunch of flour and sugar).  By the way, I kind of faked making the pulp – I couldn’t find any instructions on it, so I just boiled the persimmons for about a minute and then stuck them in my food processor and essentially turned them into baby food.

I figure that’s what persimmon pulp should look like, right?  In the end, it didn’t really matter because the cookies were delicious!  They tasted more like a Christmas-y bread than a cookie – so I added some white chocolate chips to the last batch, and that made them taste more like a cookie (at least in my mind).

We also received some leeks.  Fortunately, I already had a fantastic recipe for leeks in my arsenal!  If this recipe looks familiar to you, it’s because I wrote about it in my (now defunct) blog that I was sharing with my sister (though it’s funny, this blog is turning more into what that one was meant to be – i.e. about food).  This time I added potatoes – and they were definitely a brilliant addition.  Of course, as we were eating, my brother-in-law said “You know what would make this even better? Bacon!”  Which is probably true, but then it wouldn’t be vegetarian friendly.  However, since none of us are vegetarians in the house, maybe I will try it next time.

Creamy Spinach Bisque
as modified from "The Whole Foods Market Cookbook" by Steve Petusevsky.

4 tbs butter
1 red onion, chopped
2 large leeks (sliced and washed well)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
12 oz frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed of any excess water)
2 potatoes diced
3 cups milk
1 pint half and half (or heavy cream)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and leeks. Saute the onions and leeks until soft (the recipe says it should take about 2 minutes, though it may take longer).


I think the combination of the purple skins from the red onions and the green leeks is really pretty!

Add flour and cook for about 2 minutes to form a roux (which I learned from Top Chef, ironically on the first night I ever cooked this recipe, that roux is when you brown the flour and butter and other ingredients. While the recipe says 2 minutes, I guarantee it will take longer than 2 minutes for any browning to occur, and tonight I was too impatient to wait for it to brown.  But I still think the finished product was delicious).

Add the stock. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thickened.

Add the spinach, potatoes, milk and cream - bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. Add salt/pepper to taste and cook for 5 more minutes.

And now for the accounting:

Spinach Leek Bisque

2 Leeks
1 Red Onion
¼ cup flour
vegetable stock
1 bag frozen spinach
2 potatoes
3 cups milk
1 pint half & half

10 servings
$0.66 per serving

Holy moly!  That’s cheaper than a can of Campbell’s Chunky soup – and waaay healthier!  No preservatives or weird chemicals in this soup.  And definitely a lot less sodium!  Also, we ended up with so many leftovers – even after Aaron and Dominick had seconds.  The Whole Foods cook book estimates 8-10 servings in this recipe, and I think my yield was actually more like 10-12, but for the accounting I decided to stick with 10, since that was right in the middle.

I really hope you try this soup – it’s soo delicious!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday* Dinner: Indian Simmer Sauce

I fell in love with Indian food when I was living in England during my junior year abroad.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find an Indian restaurant here in LA that fully satisfies that love.  A large part of it could be that I really like spicy food.  Here, the owners of the Indian restaurants see me as this little blonde, white girl walk.  So they assume when I say “spicy” that I mean “white girl American spicy.”  No, I mean “I want my eyes to water and my skin to sweat spicy.”  I never had that problem in England.  For example, one night in Bristol, a bunch of us went out for curry after a rehearsal for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (which I was directing).  Mid- conversation, I had to excuse myself so I could retreat to the restroom and splash my face with cold water.  Turns out, I bit down on a piece of chili pepper that was still whole in the curry sauce I was eating.  To this day, I have yet to eat anything that spicy.  It made my eyes water instantly!  As painful as it was, that is what I am looking for when I go out to eat Indian food.  Aaron and I have found one Indian restaurant near(ish) our house that we sometimes will order from for delivery (they can’t see the white girl over the phone, so they will actually make it spicy . . . relatively speaking).  However, we reserve ordering from them for special occasions, because it costs about $50 for a decent Indian meal for 2-3 people (from my experience that is the expensive standard in LA).

One day at Trader Joe’s, I saw jars of “Curry Sauce.”

I decided, “What the heck, I’ll give that a try.”  Boy, am I glad I did!  This has been a favorite dinner in the Sherry household ever since!  Aaron’s not a huge spicy food fan, so I don’t make it as spicy as I might otherwise like it.  It’s also not a permanent substitute for the real thing.  However, the price difference between this and restaurant Indian food definitely makes it worth it.

The recipe is super-difficult.  You ready?

-         1 jar Trader Joe’s Indian Simmer Sauce
-         Whatever veggies or meat you want to add
-         Brown rice for a side dish

Ok, ok, so it’s not really that difficult.

Here’s how I like to make it:

First, I take a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinse and drain them.  Then I put them in a large frying pan with little to no oil.  I then add various spices depending on my mood – but usually including garlic salt, Lawry’s season salt, cumin, curry powder, etc.  

Once the chickpeas have warmed all the way through, I add whatever other veggies I have decided to use.  For this weekend, I added all the veggies from my CSA box that still needed to be used, which included kale, bok choy, greens of some sort (I am guessing collard?), beet greens and some red pepper.

Then add the simmer sauce and heat until bubbly.  Simmer until the rice is done. 

I like to serve with a glass of chilled Chardonnay.

Variations: I will often cook up some lentils and add them at the end to the simmer sauce (I didn’t this time because there were enough other veggies).  You can also chop up chicken or sausage and add it to the simmer sauce – though I tend to like it vegetarian-style.

Here’s the accounting:

Trader Joe's Simmer sauce

Simmer sauce


(I am guessing that I used about $5 worth of the remaining veggies from my CSA box)


6 servings
per person

As you can see, that is MUCH better than what we would spend had we gone out to an Indian restaurant – and we get leftovers to bring to work for lunch!

*Confession: I actually made this last night (Saturday) because I knew today (Sunday) was going to be jam-packed full of family fun adventures.