Guys, I am in a funk. And it’s not like James Brown’s funk, or the Isley Brothers’ funk. It’s a very non-awesome, kind-of toxic, super-blarghy-ultra-screw-up-expialidocious…funk. I’m making uncharacteristically dumb mistakes at work, my sleep schedule is out the window, and all I can seem to do right is binge watching Grey’s Anatomy in bed covered in cats who, at times, seem dubious about my hygiene (understandably). And I completely blame the weather- no, really. We’ve been having major snow on and off in Portland since December, and Portland just plain doesn’t know how to deal with snow in amounts over 1-inch, so my workplace keeps shutting down. Between myriad snow closures and holiday off-times, I haven’t worked a full 40-hour week since just after Thanksgiving. I flourish when I am rooted in a predictable routine, and, clearly, I wilt when I am not.
That said, I am majorly blessed to have been paid for each day (granted, it was with my vacation time, which I did have earmarked for actual vacations), to have a home to keep me warm when there were literally people freezing to death in the streets, and humans and cats whom I love, and who love me unconditionally even when I am a gooey, pathetic lump of lethargy and sadness. Until I am fully re-rooted into my beautiful, predictably boring routine, I will be over here clinging to gratitude for dear life.
Hey! You know what I didn’t screw up at all recently, though? My very first attempt at homemade lox. I know you’re skeptical, but making lox at home is completely idiot-proof. It requires no culinary skill whatsoever, or special ingredients of any kind. Even I, in my state of miserable incompetency outlined above, nailed perfect homemade lox on the first try. Whiz-bang!
Lox is, without a doubt, the sparkling jewel of the brunch world. It’s luxurious and beautiful, with silky texture and salty, briny flavor that just won’t quit. Whether you serve it with bagels and schmear, nestled into eggs benedict, or swaddled lovingly in an omelette or crepe- it’s a winner, it’s impressive, and darn it! It lives up to the hype. These are all really great reasons why you pay out the bum for mediocre lox at the store or deli. But what Big Lox doesn’t want you to know is that you’re good enough and smart enough to make it yourself for a fraction of the cost. Here’s what’s involved: First, buy some salmon- something with fatty-er stripes will yield the best texture, but this isn’t crucial. Stir together some salt, brown sugar, and a dash of liquid smoke (optional), and slather it all over the fish. Wrap in plastic and put in your fridge to cure. Five-ish days later, unwrap the fish, give it a thorough rinse and dry, and then eat your heart out. Presto… homemade lox!
So easy, even a gooey, pathetic lump of lethargy and sadness can do it!
- Salmon, skin on
- 1/4 c. kosher salt
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 t. liquid smoke (optional)
- Gently press the surface of the salmon to check for pin bones- remove any you find. Pat salmon dry with paper towel, sprinkle with fresh black pepper.
- In a small bowl, stir together the salt, brown sugar, and liquid smoke (if using). Lay out a long sheet of plastic wrap and set the salmon in the center, skin-side down. Scoop salt mixture onto the salmon and evenly distribute. Wrap the salmon up in the plastic wrap, but don't fold the ends of the wrap over- leave them loose to let the juice escape during brining.
- Place the wrapped salmon in a baking sheet or dish and cover with a lid or more plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 5 days, turning the salmon over once per day.
- After 5 days, unwrap the salmon and rinse under cool water until all traces of brine have washed away. Pat dry with paper towel. Use your sharpest knife to thinly slice the salmon across the grain, at a 45-degree angle.
Classic and comforting creamy mushroom soup gets an update with the addition of roasted mushroom, plenty of white wine, and brie.
Today I share with you a soup recipe that is an adaptation of a recipe published by Closet Cooking back in 2014. It’s incredible.
A really sad thing happened to me recently- strolling through Pinterest for ideas I happened upon a promising-looking roasted mushroom and brie soup. I made it twice and was so happy with it that I took to leaving an absolutely glowing and ecstatic review on the food blog where I found it. Afterward, a few days ago, I stumbled across another roasted mushroom brie soup on Closet Cooking, which had the exact same ingredients and quantities and cooking methods- but it was posted an entire year earlier than the version I had seen first. I returned to the first recipe that had received my accolades, for comparison and to check for credit, and it immediately became clear to me that that blogger, who shall remain nameless because I am kind, ripped off Closet Cooking without giving credit where it was due, and passed it off as their own work.
It really buttered my biscuits. Because I am still relatively new at this, I look to established food bloggers as examples of best practices. And I guess that I naively imagined that we are all rooting for one another, tied harmoniously by our love of food and our shared efforts. It was kind of like learning Santa isn’t real. Not to mention that Kevin Lynch over at Closet Cooking has been working tirelessly for years to create and post over 2,000 recipes for our free enjoyment, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for carving out such a vast place on the internet. If you’re unfamiliar with Closet Cooking, please go pay him a visit! I have been following his blog on and off for many years, and if someday down the road I ever have forged enough of a presence as a blogger that it came to my attention that he had even visited my blog, I would be just tickled to death.
When it comes to recipe blogging, there is so much gray area with this stuff. While I strive hard to create totally new and unique recipes, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t- the truth is that pretty much everything has been done before. And we bloggers, like you, mine for recipes and inspiration from other bloggers. In fact, most recipes you’ll find on cooking blogs like mine have been adapted from someone else’s work- it’s all part of a greater and fundamentally lovely and open-source conversation about home cooking. It connects us by our shared passion, and it’s a good thing! However, the hope is that each blogger has enough integrity to credit and link to the creator, but the sad truth is that bloggers rip each other off all the time, passing things off as their own. Sometimes, they even profit from it. The realm of food blogs is so over-saturated that it is just an internet-version of the old, wild west- this kind of sad, cheating behavior is to be expected, I have come to learn. All of the recipes that I post that are adapted from other bloggers’ recipes will have a statement saying so at the bottom of the recipe card, and a link to the original. But maybe I should start being even more obvious about it!
That’s all the righteous idignation I have for today. Let’s talk about this soup because I am cold! I love this roasted mushroom and brie soup- it is so creamy and satisfying without being heavy, and it is even better the next day as leftovers. How often does that happen? If you’re a longtime fan of mushroom soups like I am, then you’re going to fall in love with the addition of the white wine and melty, funky brie- it tickles the taste buds and gives the whole thing an undeniable air of luxury.
The thing I find the most unique about it is the added initial step of roasting the mushrooms- it gives them a satisfying meaty chew, and the caramelization that comes from roasting them first gives the overall flavor oodles of depth and complexity. It’s a step that you most definitely do not want to skip!
Adaptations that I made to this soup include doubling the quantities of the white wine and the brie (hello…native Wisconsite, here), and tweaking a few other amounts. Also, instead of blending all of the roasted mushrooms up into the soup, I reserve half of them to leave intact and add at the end. I like to have something to chew on!
That’s it for this week- hope you’re all enjoying your life and being affectionate toward your loved ones and eating delicious things!
- 1 1/2 lb. cremini or button mushrooms, quartered
- 1 T. olive oil
- 2 T. butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 t. fresh thyme leaves, chopped once or twice
- 2 T. flour
- 1 c. dry white wine
- 4 c. low sodium vegetable broth
- 7-8 oz. brie, cut into chunks
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Toss the quartered mushrooms with olive oil in a large bowl, then spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, then toss, then continue roasting for another 15 minutes, or until mushrooms are firm and caramelized.
- After flipping the mushrooms and returning them to the oven, melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and thyme and stir for 1 minute, then sprinkle in the flour. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.
- Pour in the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Stir and scrape continuously until wine thickens. Pour in the broth.
- When mushrooms have finished roasting, add just half of them to the pot of broth. Set the rest aside. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat again to low. Add brie chunks and stir until melted. The bits of rind will not melt, but will float to the top. Use a slotted spoon to remove them and discard.
- Puree the soup using a stick blender (or transfer to regular blender) until texture is even. Add the remaining mushrooms and the cream and stir to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.
I’ve been making pork potstickers for family and friends for years- they have always been improvised and slightly unique each time, and I never wrote the recipe down until I prepared the little dumplins you see pictured before you. We took a long camping weekend up in Washington last month with some loved ones where I was reminded by Ben’s cousin Alex that I once made these potstickers for him several years ago, long before we all migrated to our respective corners of the Pacific Northwest. He told me emphatically that they were so delicious that he has since never forgotten about them. It warmed my heart! The whiskey helped, too.
My love language is food. This is in no small part due to warm and snuggly memories I have of making jello poke cake and elephant ears and cinnamon rolls with my grandma in her tiny kitchen as a wee lass. I like to think that love is evident in the foods I prepare (with the exception, perhaps, of these scones, which made me stabby). Potstickers, especially, are truly a labor of love- every comforting bite was once cradled gently in the hand of the person who lovingly crafted them, one-by-one. This is a very sly and sentimental way of disclosing to you that they are not fast to prepare, and there’s some technique to learn.
There are upsides to potstickers’ laborious, two-bite construction. They can be prepared in bulk for future convenience- I usually make about 100 at a time (double the recipe below). And they freeze just marvelously- that way whenever you need them, you can open your freezer and grab a handful or a lot. They don’t need to thaw and they take just ten minutes to fry/steam straight from the freezer, so you can have them for dinner, lunch, snack, elevenses, party-time (what is that), or whenever hunger strikes. I don’t exaggerate how quick and easy they are to heat up- I have been enjoying fresh, crunchy, and piping-hot potstickers on my hour lunch-break all week. I am living the dream, you guys!
Flavor-wise, these pork potstickers have got it all. Each dumpling is a magical parcel bursting at the seams with mouthwatering umami flavors of ground pork, shiitake mushrooms and sesame oil. They’re salty and spicy and crunchy and addicting, and you are going to love them. They’re perfectly complemented by the dipping sauce included with this recipe- sweet brown sugar, salty soy, and the zip of plenty of sambal oelek. Do not neglect to make the sauce- it comes together really fast on the stove and there’s plenty to keep in the fridge until your potsticker-stash is depleted.
So here it is! My very own pork potstickers- written down, at long last, hurled joyfully into the ether, so they can be shared and loved forever and ever, amen.
- 2 t. sesame oil
- 4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely diced
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 t. freshly grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic, grated or minced
- 2 T. soy sauce
- 1 t. chili paste (sambal oelek or sriracha)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 c. coleslaw mix, roughly chopped to break up long pieces
- 2 T. cornstarch, divided (plus extra for dusting)
- 1/4 c. warm water
- 50-60 potsticker wrappers
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/4 c. water
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. soy sauce
- 2 t. sesame oil
- 1 T. chili paste
- Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced shiitakes and saute until softened. Set aside.
- Combine pork, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, chili paste, scallions, coleslaw mix, and 1 T. cornstarch in a large bowl. Add the shiitake mushrooms and work with your hands until everything is evenly incorporated. Refrigerate while you prepare to fold the potstickers.
- Mix together 1 T. cornstarch with warm water. Dust a large cookie sheet or tray liberally with cornstarch. Queue up Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
- Working over a clean cutting board, place a small spoonful (about 2 t.) of filling in the center of the wrapper. Dip a finger into the cornstarch slurry and apply around the edges of the wrapper. Fold the bottom and top edges over the middle of the filling, pinch together, and pleat the sides toward the center to seal. Place on the prepared cookie sheet, pleated edge pointing up, and repeat until out of filling.
- At this point, you can freeze the potstickers (see notes below) or cover with damp paper towels and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool.
- Grab your largest non-stick skillet and lid. Coat the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil and heat to medium-high. Arrange potstickers evenly in hot pan, pleats pointing up, leaving a little space between each one. Fry undisturbed for 5 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown.
- Pour in water and cover the pan. Steam for 5 minutes (or 7 minutes if frozen).
- Uncover and cook off the remaining water for 1 minute.
- Serve hot with dipping sauce.
- *Dipping sauce recipe yields about 10 oz. of sauce- reduce recipe if desired. It keeps great in the refrigerator.
- *If freezing the potstickers, it's best to freeze them on the cookie sheet covered loosely with cling wrap, and then you can transfer them to a ziplock bag when fully frozen- this keeps them separated so you can grab however many you want later. No need to thaw before using- just follow the directions as above and expect them to take a few extra minutes to brown on the bottom before steaming.
Have you been to the farmers market lately? What a glorious bounty of magnificent produce we are graced with right now. Sour cherries! Figs! Rainbow carrots! Stone fruits galore! It is truly a great time to be alive and eating! Out of all of nature’s summer treasures, I anxiously await peaches and corn the most. Corn holds serious nostalgia for me as a native midwesterner- to me, it has always been a delicious signal that summertime is in full swing. And here we are. It’s late July, the corn stalks are well past knee-high, and caravans of peach trucks are making their way up from Georgia (actually, we have pretty good peaches in Oregon, too!).
At the intersection of peach season and corn season, you will find this remarkably tasty and addictive and mega-healthy sweet potato and black bean burrito bowl with fresh peach and corn salsa. I tried out this recipe from Cook Nourish Bliss last summer, and then I made it again and again and again, and then I pined for it all winter long. It has been waiting quietly on my blog post list since- I have been so wanting to share this recipe with you!
You’re going to love this burrito bowl because it has so many flavors and textures going for it- the soft and creamy charred sweet potato and black bean mixture brings heat, depth, and smoke while the juicy and crunchy peach-corn salsa counters that and offers relief from the spicy chipotle pepper. It’s all wrapped together with avocado (hopefully yours is greener than mine!) on the side and always-welcome cilantro lime rice. I think it’s the perfect counter-balance of both textures and flavors that makes this a slam-dunk. Oh yeah, and it’s vegan!
My only departure from the original recipe is that I take the avocado out of the salsa and put it on the side- this allows for the possibility of leftovers (however unlikely), without scummy brown avocado the next day. The salsa would be incredible on its own with chips!
- 1 c. brown rice, rinsed
- 1 3/4 c. water
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
- zest of 1 lime
- juice of 1 lime
- 3 medium peaches, chopped
- 2 ears fresh corn, raw, kernels removed
- 1/4 c. minced red onion
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 1/2 c. chopped cilantro
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 t. salt
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2" chunks (leave skin on, or peel- whatever you like)
- 1-2 T. minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (start with 1 T., adjust to your spice-preference)
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 c. vegetable broth
- 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 avocado, sliced
- Add rice, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 35 minutes.
- Remove from heat, leave covered, and let stand 5-10 minutes.
- Stir in the cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice just before serving.
- Mix peaches, raw corn kernels, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a bowl. Stir to combine then set aside.
- Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cook for a few minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add sweet potatoes and chipotle peppers. Season everything with salt and pepper and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, tossing halfway through.
- Add the vegetable broth, stir, and re-cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are softened and caramelized. If skillet becomes dry, add another splash of broth.
- Add the black beans to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, or until beans are warmed through. Remove from heat.
- Portion the rice into four bowls. Top with sweet potatoes/beans, salsa, and avocado slices.
How is your summer going? Are you grilling out a lot? Are you wearing enough sunscreen? Did you go see the fireworks on Monday? Are you sitting in a stale, air-conditioned office from 8-5 every day wondering how it is that you have no recollection of June ever coming and going? So far I have found myself primarily in the latter scenario, but I am grateful to be on the cusp of a vacation. I’m drafting this post ahead of time as part of my pre-vaycay preps- but by the time this post auto-publishes and you read it, I should be (hopefully) floating carelessly on a lake, slathered in SPF 1000, and taking in some rural peace and quiet. We’re headed back to our place of origin, Wisconsin, where nobody does summer better. In anticipation of all the charred sausages and pasta salads and corn on the cob and snicker apple salad (google it) that I expect to subsist on for the week, I present this week’s dish: A bright and summery, yet creamy and comforting, pasta with fresh english peas, spinach, and a you-have-to-taste-it-to-believe-it raw vegan avocado basil cream sauce.
The sauce, adapted from Damn Delicious, truly could not be easier- you literally throw everything in a blender while the pasta is boiling and blitz until smooth. The peas and spinach join the pasta for the last few seconds in the pot, and then it’s all drained, then tossed with the sauce, and you’re done! What we have here is a 15 minute comfort meal, that doesn’t heat up the house, that doesn’t take a lot of prep, and is relatively healthy. Add this to your summer meal rotation… stat!
If you’re wondering where on earth to find fresh peas and you already missed the farmers market for the week, you can get them at Trader Joe’s, or you can use frozen (no shame in frozen peas!). Let’s see a close-up of those happy little peas!
- 8 oz. pasta (whatever is your favorite shape!)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- juice of 1 lemon (about 2 T. juice)
- 1/2 cup packed fresh basil
- 2 large avocados, peeled and pitted
- 1/2 c. hot pasta water (grab it while the pasta boils)
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 c. fresh or frozen peas
- 2 c. fresh spinach leaves
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions.
- While the pasta boils, combine garlic, lemon juice, basil, and avocados in blender or food processor. Add a 1/2 c. of hot water from your pasta pot. Blend until smooth. While the blender is still going, drizzle in the olive oil in a slow stream. Set aside.
- Add the peas to the pasta pot for the last minute of cooking. Toss in spinach, stir, then drain pasta immediately.
- Return the pasta to the empty pot and add the sauce. Toss to combine and then serve.
- If there is one downside to this recipe, it is that leftovers do not store well. It is avocado, after all. Scale this up or down as needed!
Gosh golly, I have really been meaning to post this portobello banh mi for a while now. Perhaps life has gotten in the way a bit, and perhaps I just eat them way too fast whenever I make them. Who knows? (Me. I know.)
I inhaled my very first Vietnamese banh mi sandwich sometime around a year ago- I remember that it was from Lela’s Bistro on NW 23rd and it was filled with pork belly, which had beautiful and succulent layers of fat that first crackled and then melted in my mouth as I ate it (and then I melted). And then I decided that I would honestly prefer not to eat anything but banh mi sandwiches for the rest of my days. Since that fateful sandwich, I have been on a sort of banh mi tour of west Portland. In my mind, I collect data from each sandwich, mentally listing and frankenstein-ing and adding up to the perfect conceivable version.
On this journey I have concluded that the most crucial element that makes it or breaks it is not the meat in the sandwich, and it’s not the pickles or veggies- it’s the baguette! Since I started making my own banh mi at home, I have learned that the quickest way to ruin it is to use a good baguette. Those rustic, chewy, glutenous baguettes you find on the fancy side of the bakery by the olive bar are absolute garbage here. What’s needed is something with a tender, yielding crumb and a thin, crackling crust. Go for the cheap, yellow-ish, shiny-crusted second-cousin of a baguette, over by the donuts. A lot of my favorite things are found by the donuts. Mainly, other donuts.
While traditional Vietnamese banh mi are most often stuffed with pate and some form of charred pork product (though fusions stuffed with Korean bulgogi and kimchi are equally amazing), and while I certainly enjoy eating the meaty varieties, I prepare my own meatless rendition at home to cut down on cost, fat, and effort. I once again employ the mighty portobello mushroom as a very acceptable stand-in for the meat, and honestly, I find it just as much of a pleasure to eat. Thick slices of portobello are marinated in soy, fish sauce, and a few other flavors and then oven roasted. The warm strips are stuffed into a soft baguette, along with mayo, quick-pickled carrot, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro. The whole thing tastes marvelously fresh and balanced, with a wonderful variety of textures and colors.
Definitely licked some mayo off my lens focus ring during this shoot, by the way.
- 2 large portobello caps (look for firm and thick)
- 1/2 c. water
- 3 T. soy sauce
- 2 T. rice vinegar
- 2 T. brown sugar
- 1 T. fish sauce
- 1 T. sesame oil
- 1 t. ground ginger
- 1/2 t. liquid smoke
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 carrot, peeled into ribbons with veggie peeler
- 1/2 c. warm water
- 2 T. rice vinegar
- 1 T. sugar
- 1 t. salt
- 1 cucumber, 1/4" julienne strips
- 1 scallion, cut to 4" lengths, then julienne
- handful cilantro, torn
- 2 6" pieces soft baguette (or 2 baguette rolls), sliced open
- sriracha or hot pepper slices (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375. Trim stems from mushroom caps, then slice caps into 1/2" strips. Place in a large glass baking dish in an even (if not single) layer.
- Whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, ginger, liquid smoke, and red pepper flakes. Pour over the mushroom slices.
- Bake 10 minutes. Flip, bake another 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven. Using a colander, carefully drain off all liquid, then return mushroom slices to baking dish in an even layer. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until browned.
- Place carrot ribbons in a jar or storage container.
- Whisk together the water, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pour over carrot ribbons. Set aside.
- Spread a thin layer of mayo all over the inside of each baguette. Add sriracha if you want!
- Fill baguettes with warm portobello slices, pickled carrots, cucumbers, green onions, and cilantro.
- Any remaining carrot pickles will keep in the fridge for up to a week- they'll get more pickle-y the longer they sit.
This coconut curry soup has got it goin’ on. It’s everything you need it to be when it’s noon, and your eyes dry and sticky from staring at a screen all morning, and tummy is demanding tribute. It is hearty, warm, and loaded with flavors and spices and fresh vegetables. It is Slurp-Worthy. And did I mention that an entire pot of this magic is ready in 15 minutes, start to finish? Keep reading.
I ate this for lunch every day last week. And I’m about to eat it every day this week. I make the broth on Sunday and keep it in the fridge. When it’s lunch time, I throw a portion of it into a saucepan with a handful of dried vermicelli rice noodles, bring it up to a simmer, and then pour it into a bowl of fresh herbs and veggies. Presto. Happy. You can use whatever veggies you want- I like thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms, hot peppers, green onions, and a handful each of bean sprouts and cilantro. Basically, anything that’s good in pho will be good in here.
- 2 T. coconut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 t. ground ginger
- 3 T. red curry paste
- 4 c. chicken broth (or veggie broth)
- 2 T. fish sauce
- 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 1 lime, in wedges
- rice noodles
- herb (cilantro, basil, mint)
- fresh veggies (mushrooms, green onions, bean sprouts, peppers)
- protein, if desired (tofu, chicken, shrimp)
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
- Add ginger and curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Stir in chicken broth, fish sauce, coconut milk, and brown sugar.
- Heat until soup reaches a simmer.
- Meanwhile, slice lime into wedges. Squirt a lime wedge over each bowl of soup.
- Serve with rice noodles (cook with soup when it reaches a simmer), protein (if desired), and veggie toppings.
Does anyone else struggle for lunch ideas, or is it just me? Saturday morning before Ben wakes up, I curl up on the couch with my meal planning notebook, my netflix binge-show-du-jour in the background, and get to work planning food for the coming week. For the most part, I love this ritual, and usually have no trouble at all devising an entire week of inspiring dinners- all varied in texture, flavor, and nutritional attributes (of course), meals that I look forward to all week long. But then I have to choose a lunch for the work-week, and I hit a wall. I’ll then spend the next hour or even more (really!) thumbing through pinterest, foodgawker, and previous meal plans, like-
no… no… no… too many ingredients… no… I’ll get sick of that in two days… no… no… no… super unhealthy… no… no… too healthy…
In the span of time it takes me to merely decide what to eat for lunch for the coming week, I could have whipped up an entire gallon of egg salad and gone on with my life. But who wants a gallon of egg salad? It’s enough to make me want to throw my hands up and resign myself to spending a small fortune at the food carts every single day. But I’m stubborn, and I hate standing in lines for food. Plus, I write a food blog, for pete’s sake…
All of this is to say that it’s thrilling when I can introduce a new lunch to my go-to repertoire. Enter, it’s newest member- whipped feta with quick heirloom tomato bruschetta. It’s short on ingredients, enormous on flavor, and keeps in the fridge all week- in other words, it’s a real go-getter. You can prep on Sunday and then assemble in a jiffy at lunch-time. Or- serve it as a starter at your next dinner party. Better still- pack it in a romantic picnic! Don’t forget the Rosé!
The bright, zesty flavors are uplifting and sure to stave off mid-week boredom. I am enamored with the lovely, marbled colors that heirloom tomatoes lend (you can find heirloom cherry tomatoes at Trader Joe’s), but you can, of course, use whatever type of tomato you like best or have handy.
- 6 oz. feta cheese
- 1 c. greek yogurt
- 2 lb. heirloom cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or any tomato)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8-10 fresh basil leaves, fine chiffonade
- a splash of vinegar (your favorite- I used a rosé vinegar)
- a pinch each of salt and pepper
- Toasted baguette or crackers for serving
- Combine feta and yogurt in bowl of stand mixer and whip at a quick speed until fluffy and smooth- pause to scrape the bowl as needed.
- Combine tomatoes, garlic, basil and vinegar in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Store the whipped feta and bruschetta in sealed containers and refrigerate until ready to eat.
When it comes to meal planning, I have the most difficult time with lunches, week after week. Working full time makes lunch especially challenging. Personally, I’ll be damned if I’m going to plan 5 different lunches for the work-week, so I’ll prep a monster-lunch on Sunday and eat it Monday through Friday.
Thusly, lunch needs to fit the following criteria:
1. easy and quick to assemble
2. ingredients must stay fresh through Friday
3. must hold my interest all week- this is crucial, as there is an entire Portland city-block of food carts 20 steps from my workplace.
Enter this Hot and Sour Soup, which has been serving me very well the last couple of weeks. Not only does it fit all three lunch-happiness-criteria, it is also satisfying, healthy, and a perfectly warm foil to the chill that has begun filling the air these days. It’s soup and sweater season, friends.
My recipe is adapted from Caroline’s over at pickledplum. I made some changes to simplify it for daily assembly, scale up for the week, and to make it vegetarian. To make this appropriate for a week of lunches, I slice the veggies and tofu and store in individual containers in the refrigerator, and then prepare the hot and sour broth with egg drop and store separately. If you’re making this soup to serve a crowd all at once, you can just throw the veggies and tofu in after finishing up the broth, and cook for 3 minutes or so to soften the mushrooms before serving.
The veggies/tofu in my recipe are the things that I like- for one, I can’t stand the texture and canned-flavor of bamboo shoots, so I’ve opted for bean sprouts as a crunchier, fresher option. Secondly, I think that this soup traditionally includes pork. I shy away from eating meat more than once a week or two, and opt for tofu-only to keep it lighter and (bonus) simpler to whip up. It’s flexible! Explore your options. My friend Rachel likes it with udon noodles, and I can totally get on board with that.
- 1 package extra firm tofu, cubed
- 8 oz. shiitake or oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 c. mung bean sprouts
- 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 6 c. water plus 2 T. Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (or 6 c. vegetable broth)
- 1/2 t. ground black pepper
- 3 T. rice vinegar
- 2 T. soy sauce or tamari
- 1 T. sesame oil
- 3 T. cornstarch mixed with 1/4 c. water
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Prep your veggies and tofu and store in separate containers in the refrigerator. Be sure to cover the tofu cubes with water before putting away.
- Bring water to boil, add vegetable base. Stir to combine. Add pepper, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
- Re-stir cornstarch slurry and add to the pot. Stir for 2 minutes and allow to thicken slightly.
- Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer. While stirring broth continuously, drizzle the egg into the pot in a very slow, thin stream (a pyrex measuring cup is great for this).
- Remove soup from heat and allow to cool before packaging and storing in the refrigerator.
- When it's lunchtime, combine a portion of soup with some veggies and tofu and reheat.