Sunday, January 31, 2010

Twice Baked Ramekin Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

 I love miniature kitchen items and could not resist registering for little individual sized red Le Creuset ramekins when we got married.

It was hard to break the bread and cheese habit after the weekend and I was still craving something that felt indulgent.  We had a bunch of potatoes and decided to make a twice baked version in the ramekins.  They turned out delicious and seemingly uber indulgent without being too bad.  The roasted garlic really made this something special.


1 head garlic
3 medium red potatoes
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp (approx.) half & half
grated pecorino to taste
salt and pepper
5 mini ramekins

Cut top off head of garlic, wrap in tinfoil and roast in 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.  Remove from oven when done and turn heat up to 400. 

In the meantime, peel and quarter the potatoes.  Cover with water and boil until fork tender.  Drain.

Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the potatoes.  Mash with the butter, cream, salt, pepper and grated pecorino.

Butter ramekins.  Fill each ramekin with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle with a little extra cheese. 

Bake in 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until cheese browns.

Let cool for a few minutes then run a knife along the inside of the ramekin to dislodge and invert onto plate.

Brewery Trip 2010, Day 2 (or, It's Hard to be Dairy Free in Wisconsin)

Day2 started off, as it should, at New Glarus Brewing Company, in New Glarus.  This beer is incredible.  If you haven't had it (and you may not have since they don't distribute to Illinois) you need to get in your car and go to them.  The brewery is on a gorgeous site at the top of a hill just outside downtown New Glarus (a town famous as being a Swiss town, flags, chalets all over).  They have a gorgeous patio for the summer time.  The facility is sparkling clean and you are welcome to drink and take yourself on a self guided tour.  We did the 3 sample tasting.  I started, of course, with the Spotted Cow, followed by their Snowshoe Red Ale (a special release) and finished up, uncharacteristically for me, with a Raspberry Tart

These beers were once again the highlight of the trip.  We walked away with 2 mixed 6 packs including several Spotted Cow, Organic Revolution, Snowshoe Ale, a Stone Soup and a Cabin Fever Honey Bock along with a 22oz. special Golden Ale. 

We made friends (this group definitely made an impression everywhere we went!) with the woman, Danny, who was running the tasting table.  She gave us all vouchers for a free small New Glarus draft beer at the local restaurant Glarner Stube.  It is a very quaint Swiss and American restaurant where Jason and I actually had lunch last summer! 
We enjoyed our free beers and both tables (we had to split into 2 tables of 5) each enjoyed the most amazing fondu and split an order of deep fried cheese curds that were literally to die for.  I ate a brat (without the bun, as if that made any difference), my stomach gurgled strangely the rest of the day, and I wouldn't have changed a thing!  We entertained ourselves throughout the meal trying to envision how the varied and strange antique weapons and other implements were used while making fjord jokes. 

Next stop, The Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb.  Jason and I split a pint of the bizarre, but delicious Slow Eddie jalapeno beer described as:  A low gravity beer made with jalapeno peppers. Light and refreshing with a slight bite of fresh jalapeno pepper. Perfect for a hot summer day.  The beer is amazingly well done and the jalapeno really well incorporated into the overall taste of the beer!  We also tried samplers of the Maggie, an Imperial IPA brewed with British Malt and Hops
and my favorite, the Grumpy Creekan Uber hoppy, light pale ale! American hops, Amarillo, Simco, Cascade and Centennial come out in the aroma through the finish. This hop profile was created by mash hopping, boil hopping and dry hopping.  I had to buy a growler of the Grumpy Creek.

Beer tasting was followed by a stop at the new National Mustard Museum which relocated to Middleton.  I bought at least 3 mustards when I was there this fall, and limited myself to one purchase this weekend, a Green Olive & Lemon Mustard with Roasted Garlic

After mustard we stopped at a Carr Valley Cheese shop which was less than a mile away.  The guy in the store is part of the family who owns the company and he gave us a great overview of the history and tastes of several different cheeses.  I came home with a Monastery Cow's Milk cheese which promises to be a stinkier cheese (just how I like it)

We also bought the Bessie's Blend, which is a blend of Cow and Goat milk which took 2nd place at  the 2006 American Cheese Society Competition.  Jason and I both loved this one, although I think I'll end up having the Monastery all to myself!  I highly recommend exploring their cheeses.  Everything we tried was well crafted and at about $11.00/pound an incredible deal.  You'lll pay more than that for crappy, plastic tasting cheeses at the Jewel. 

That night Jason cooked up a delicious pork tenderloin with sides of roasted cauliflower and carrots.  We enjoyed the novelty of eating vegetables again, enjoyed a few last beers and played Taboo and Catch-Phrase for the rest of the night.

Brewery Trip 2010, Day 1 (or It's Hard to be Gluten-Free in Wisconsin)

This weekend was our second brewery tour of central Wisconsin.  Our first, this fall with 6 other couples was a hit.  It was such a hit, that people who heard about it wanted to go.  Thus, this weekend's trip was born.

I will admit that I was not originally thrilled by this plan. I have been determined to really turn my weight around and have been watching my diet closely and exercising regularly.  I've been eating no gluten which has helped a lot.  I don't think I'm celiac, but I am obviously sensitive and just cutting it out for a few weeks has made a visible difference in my belly!

However, it is pretty much impossible to avoid gluten on a weekend long group trip to WI!  And the group of people from Jason's work that we traveled with were fantastic company.  We laughed the whole weekend and enjoyed plenty of great beer and great food!

First stop Friday afternoon was Ale Asylum on the outskirts of Madison with two of the 4 other couples.  My favorite beer, not surprisingly, was their limited edition Ballistic IPA!  The website describes it as: Our take on an American-style India Pale Ale, Ballistic is fully loaded with Amarillo hops for explosive citrus aromas and flavors. We blend several specialty malts to give it a slow, crisp, finish. This beer was named "Local Hopheads Delight" by Robin Shepard in the Isthmus: WI BREWING 2009

Jason's favorite is their Ambergeddon, and we brought a 6 pack home with us.  And funnily enough I ran into someone I know from college who also lives in Chicago!  It is a small world.

Next stop, and meeting place for the entire group was the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company in downtown Madison.  We hung out for a few hours, played shuffle board and ate dinner. Jason indulged in theis seasonal Merry Isthmus while I enjoyed a cask aged IPA. 

Chicken with mustard shallot sauce, twice baked ramekin potatoes and sauteed spinach

After the Wisconsin weekend I was dying to eat some nice, clean food AND try out my new mustard.

We decided to do chicken cutlets in a mustard shallot sauce with a dash of cream, twice baked potatoes in our little red le creuset ramekins, which I love, and sauteed spinach.  I was dreaming about greens, literally.  Friday night I dreamt that I had my juicer with me on the trip and mixed up a ton of veggies for breakfast in the morning! 


3 chicken cutlets
scant 1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and cook each of the cutlets with salt and pepper.  As they are cooking, squeeze a little bit of lemon juice directly onto the chicken.  The juice almost carmelizes and gives the chicken a nice brown.

Set chicken aside

1-2 shallots diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp of my new Green Olive and Lemon Mustard (or mustard of your choice)
2-3 Tbsp chicken stock
dash of cream

Heat the oil in the same pan you cooked the chicken in.  Sautee the shallots.  Pour in a little chicken stock and stir to pick up all the delicious bits on the bottom of the pan.  ***here you could also use some white wine, we just didn't have a bottle that we wanted to open.

Add in the mustard and a dash of cream and continue to stir until it thickens.

Return the chicken cutlets to the pan with the sauce and turn to coat.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Onion Chutney

I have been eyeing this recipe for onion chutney that I found on Closet Cooking.  Yesterday I had a bag of onions and was going to our friends K & A's house for dinner so I decided to try it out!

It was a success!  We bought some cow's milk cheese and just scooped the chutney over cheese on a cracker.  The cheese we bought was disappointingly boring but the chutney livened it up.  I've never made a chutney before and am still not 100% sure what actually makes a chutney.  My husband thinks it is the combo of sweet and spicy.  Any opinions?  Either way this dish is destined to become a new go-to for book clubs and parties. 


6 cups onions sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
4 dried chilis crushed (I just crushed them by hand)
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Heat the oil in a pan. 

Add the cumin mustard seeds and chilis and heat until they start to sputter (you will hear it!)

Add the onions and sautee until they turn golden brown.  I cooked them for quite awhile on about medium heat, probably about 30 minutes.

Add the chili powder, salt, sugar and lemon juice and cook until all the sugar dissolves and everything has blended together.

Store in a jar.

You can try my recipe for baked camembert and onion chutney

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quinoa Bake

I love quinoa and have been cooking more and more with it over the last year or so.  It's gluten free so it's a great alternative to barley or farro (both of which I also love).

This quinoa bake is delicious and feels like comfort food even though it is really healthy and very few calories.  I use the website Spark People to log calories and they have a function where you can add up all of the elements of a recipe and get the overall calorie content (along with protein, carbs etc.)  This recipe makes about 8 servings, each of which is only about 270 calories.  The recipe is gluten free but not vegan.

1 medium onion diced or 2 leeks
1 red bell pepper diced
1 yellow bell pepper diced
5 shiitake mushrooms diced
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups spinach
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 cups quinoa rinsed
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 eggs
3/4 cup shredded swiss cheese
salt and pepper
parmesan for sprinkling on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9x13 baking dish.

Rinse the spinach and sautee in a pan with just the rinsing liquid until spinach is wilted.  Chop and set aside.

Heat the olive oil and add the onion, bell peppers and mushrooms over med/med-high heat.  Cook until softened.  Season as you go with salt and pepper.  How much may depend on what type of stock you're using.  I used my homemade stock which I don't add too much sodium to, so I definitely added salt.  If you're using a packaged stock check the label. 

Add the quinoa and garlic and cook until quinoa starts to become opaque (about 4 minutes).

Add the stock (you can also use water) and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, whisk 2 eggs together in a large bowl and add the cheese and spinach.

Once the liquid is absorbed from the quinoa and vegetable mixture remove it from the heat and continue to stir it to let it cool.  I also let it sit for awhile.  It needs to cool before adding it to the eggs or your eggs will scramble!

Once the quinoa seems pretty cool (definitely not steaming anymore) add a small bit to the egg, cheese and spinach mixture and mix well.  Continue folding in all of the quinoa mixture.

Pour the mixture into your greased baking dish, sprinkle with cheese if desired and bake for 35 minutes.

Most versions of this recipe I saw call for adding a cup of milk to the eggs.  We don't drink milk in my household so I just omitted it.  Adding milk will definitely make it a little creamier if you have it.  Even without the milk it was a perfect Saturday lunch.  I often eat it as a main course but it is a great side dish as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Green Smoothie

While I didn't do formal New Years Resolutions for 2010, I am making it a goal to incorporate a fresh squeezed vegetable juice into my diet daily and have been doing pretty well so far.

Last night after a Power Hour class at my gym (a mix of cardio and weight intervals) I made myself a green drink.  I was hungry and knew this was going to be my dinner so I decided to blend it with avocado to make a heartier meal.

1/2 bunch red chard
3 stalks celery
5 radishes
3 fennel stalks
3 handfuls arugula
1/2 lemon

combine the juice with
1/2 avocado
1 Tbsp Fiesta Mole

The result is a creamy enough smoothie to eat with a spoon. 

A warning: the chard makes the juice kind of a weird brown color.  It looks strange and earthy but tastes great.  I had to supplement with a few gluten-free crackers and some almonds but it was really yummy! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

While I'm on a movie kick I might as well talk about the other movies I've seen recently.  Not having a tv has definitely played a part in our seeing more movies in the last 3 months than we have in the last 3 years.

The last movie we saw in the theater was Sherlock Holmes.  I LOVED this movie.  It's funny that my husband didn't expect it.  Guy Ritchie's dialogue was as quick as ever and Robert Downey, Jr. stole the show. 

I have never read a Sherlock Holmes story but Jason had and found the way they wove in some of the history from the stories that was never really explained into the movie.  Apparently in the books it is mentioned that Holmes is an acclaimed boxer which gets explored in the movie.  In the books Watson is married the whole time, while the movie introduces him as he is just getting engaged and moving out after living with Holmes.

Lots of action, great dialogue, intrigue, two thumbs up all around!  And the movie is definitely left open for a sequel.  I can only hope!

The Hangover

OK, I have to say it.  I think The Hangover is one of the funniest movies I've seen in years.  I watched it over NYE weekend for the first time and died laughing. 

Saturday night we were at friends' house for dinner and trip planning.  We had been discussing movies and our host lent Jason the Star Trek movie that Jason hasn't seen yet.  Our host also gave us a copy of The Hangover which I have now watched 2 1/4 times since then.

For the first time in my life I actually want to go to Vegas.  And I want to watch this movie every night. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lunch Date Part II

Saturday morning I continued on the workout train and went to a 9am cardio kickboxing class at the gym. 

We were heading out to Schaumburg afterwards to do some furniture shopping (which was successful, more on that later!) and decided to have lunch at Chowpatti in Arlington Heights. 

Chowpatti is another restaurant I've been wanting to try for ages.  Their cuisine is entirely vegetarian and the menu is huge.  They offer American, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Italian fare along with Indian specialties. 

Both of us decided to go the Indian route, and I asked our server for some gluten-free options.

I had the Sev Usal Ragda.  Ragda is a yellow pea soup that is sweet and savory.  The Sev Usal is topped with Sev which are crispy chickpea noddles (slighlty smaller than Lo Mein noddles), onions cilantro and a sweet date chutney.  The dish was delicious and the chutney gave a lot of sweet that blended beautifully with the spices in the dish and the slight amount of heat.

Jason had the Ragda Samosa, which is identical to mine with a samosa chopped up underneath the peas.  I didn't try it but he loved it.

We split a Masala Papad which is a very, very thin large wafer made with roasted lentils.

In my quest for a more vegetarian and gluten-free diet I have a feeling I am going to explore more Indian cuisine.  I would go back to Chowpatti any day, and only wish it were closer!  If you're in the area you should definitely check it out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lunch Date

Due to some scheduling changes at work, Jason and I are often home on Fridays!  I've been enjoying the 4 day work week and this Friday I started off with a great workout in the morning, an hour long step class followed by a 30 minute sculpt, my calves are still burning!

We have been taking advantage of our time off and going out to lunch most Fridays.  The last few weeks we have gone to Bad Dog in Lincoln Square for their $6 All Menu Items Friday Special!  The food is great but definitely bar food. 

This week I figured a burger wasn't really in my new diet plan and spur of the moment decided to go to Semiramis on North Kedzie.  They are written up consistently as having one of the best falafels in Chicago and I have heard nothing but raves but somehow haven't made it there yet.

We were not disappointed!  Lunch started with the complimentary olive and pickled turnip bowl!  It took as awhile to identify the pickled item and we had to ask the waitress.  They pickle the turnips in house with a little bit of beet and they were delicious!  Inspirational fodder for my pickling and canning adventures to come...

We decided to split the vegetarian platter and a chicken schwarma special. 

The vegetarian platter had hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh, falafel and dolmas.  Everything was wonderful.  The dolmas were probably some of the best I have ever had.  I want to like dolmas but am often disappointed.  Not this time.  And the baba ghannouj was amazing.  The eggplant had a smoky component that I really enjoyed.  I like eggplant but still can't seem to manage to get it right when I do anything with it at home.  The closest I've come to successful eggplant was in my quinoa and roasted vegetable salad with pomegranate vinaigrette

The chicken schwarma sandwich did not disappoint either.  I didn't realize it was coming as a wrap (I guess I've never really had schwarma before) and couldn't resist the pita so I blew my no-gluten for the day, but it was worth it.  The chicken was shaved nice and thin and the harissa sauce really flavorful. 

The restaurant is BYO and we were the only people in there for lunch which I couldn't believe.  I am looking forward already to returning either with just the two of us or a big group for lunch or dinner!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Green Tide Me Over

After nearly a week of J and I both battling colds and a lot of time in the house we are both finally recovered almost 100%!  To celebrate, we decided it would be a good idea to get out of the house for dinner just the two of us.  We're going to a great BYO Latin (with European influences) restaurant in Lincoln Square called Dorado.

I've been keeping up with my healthy eating plan, worked out at lunch time today and had another small batch of brown rice and veggies for lunch.  However, I found myself STARVING on my way home.  Luckily, J should be home in an hour.  In order to satisfy myself and avoid hitting the pretzels and mustard dip I whipped together a quick green juice to tide me over.   I went with lots of leafy greens and stayed away from the carb heavier carrots and beets which are also in the fridge to give myself a boost without many calories.  Again, I made do with what I had available in my fridge and it's quite delicious!


5-6 handfuls baby spinach
3 handfuls arugula
1/2 large cucumber
6 small, inner celery stalks
3 radishes
1/2 lemon

Juice and enjoy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Saveur's Top 100

I was at a friend's house when I saw this issue of Saveur with it's Top 100 List.

One of my favorite aspects of the new year is the abundance of "best of '' lists from foods, to books, to music and beyond.

I was familiar with a few of the entries.  I was most happy to see Lupini Beans at #32.  I thought my mom and I were the only ones who liked them!  I also loved that the person who submitted this entry was eating them in a movie theater just outside Florence, I'll have to try it next time I'm there!

I received an immersion blender (#37) for Christmas from my Stanislaw Secret Santa and can't say enough good things about it. 

Hot Doug's made the list and I'm almost embarrassed too admit I still have never been there.  I guess it's not that weird since hot dogs aren't really my thing and there is nothing I hate more than waiting in line for a restaurant or bar, and the lines are looooooooooooooooooooong at Hot Doug's.  Maybe once the weather breaks the freezing point I'll give it a try!

I am now dying to go to the Farmhouse Dinner at Talulah's Table in Pennsylvania.  Me and everyone else who has read this article, right?

And we've already jumped on the Wisconsin bandwagon.  I was only sorry to see no mention of The National Mustard Museum. 

There is a lot more to explore on this list.  I am dying to get my hands on a copy of The Olive and the Caper.

And I keep threatening to start raising my own chickens, but I think it's illegal in Chicago and I share a yard with several neighbors, so that might be something for the future.  The far future, maybe like post-retirement!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the list.  I would love to hear any experiences you have had with anything on the list or any inspiration that might strike you as a result!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Juicing for Colds

Earlier today I enjoyed a Grapefruit, Raspberry, Lime juice to give myself some mega vitamin C and something delicious to enjoy.

This evening I decided to whip up something with vegetables.  I came up with this concoction that is full of Vitamin A from the kale, Vitamin C from the lemon, and Zinc from the cucumbers.  I also read the radishes are good for sinus support and opening up mucous membranes so I threw a few of those in as well.  Really, I just had to make due with what was in my fridge.  I also tossed in a teaspoon of some powdered Vitamin C that I had and 1-2 teaspoons of Vitamineral Green.


1/2 bunch kale
2 celery stalks
1/2 lemon
1/2 large cucmber
5 large radishes

Juice and enjoy!

Bubble Calendar

I came across this today.  A bubble calendar.

People either love popping the bubbles used for wrapping, or, like my husband, hate it. 

There is no way I would be able to resist popping the whole year in one day, leaving me with an oversized, droopy calendar I can't even write on. 

If you possess any self control though (and probably no kids) this is awesome. 

Grapefruit, Raspberry, Lime Juice

I've been coming down with a cold and knew I needed a fruit boost.  I prepared all the fruit the night before so it would be ready to go in the morning before work.  In the end, I was feeling pretty badly the next morning and with a blizzard outside and 2 hour travel times I ended up staying home but still enjoyed this drink for breakfast!

1 grapefruit
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 lime

The night before I cut the rind off of the grapefruit and half of a lime and stored in tupperware.

Being the middle of winter I didn't have fresh raspberries but instead used frozen.  I poured about a half cup into a tupperware container the night before as well and stored in the fridge.

Take all ingredients and juice!

The color was just beautiful and I loved the juice. It was nice and sweet with a healthy dose of tart, just how I like it!

Brown Rice and Steamed Veggies with Asian Dressing

In an attempt to kick of 2010 right and get the weight loss plan underway I'm working hard to monitor my eating. 

I decided that a good lunch for the week would be brown rice with steamed veggies.  I was going to use quinoa but didn't have any at home.  I used up some bell peppers I had that needed to be used and most of a head of bok choy which I love and which gives it a little asian flair.  It's nice and clean food, simple as can be.


1 cup brown rice
3 small yellow bell peppers chopped
1 large red bell pepper chopped
2 green onions sliced
1 head bok choy chopped, stems and leaves
**Note:  use whatever vegetables you like or have on hand!  Snap peas, broccoli, spinach all would be great additions as well

Cook the brown rice according to the package.  I get the best results when I put 1 cup of rice in just over 1 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook about 35 - 40 minutes.  No peeking!

Chop up all the veggies and prepare a steamer (the Dream Steamer is one of my favorite items off of my registry).

Add the vegetables to the steamer in order of how long they will take to cook.  There are no hard fast rules, just use common sense.  Leaves take no time at all, the harder and crunchier the vegetable, the longer the cooking time.  I added the bell peppers first, then the bok choy stems, then the green onions and lastly the bok choy leaves.

I packed up a few tupperwares with rice and a healthy topping of veggies to bring to work for lunch.

1 Tbsp miso
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
Freshly grated ginger to taste (about a 1in. piece)
red chili paste (to taste)
dash of fresh squeezed lemon - about 1-2 tsp
dash of fish sauce (optional)

Put all the ingredients (except the fish sauce) in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Keep tasting and add bits of this or that until you get the right flavor.  At the very end I added a tiny dash of fish sauce, just to give it a little kick.

I stored the dressing in a separate little jar and used on top of my rice and veggies. 

The dressing was particularly delicious.  I was the envy of everyone in my office with the fabulous smells coming from my lunch.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You Know You're in Love...

I came across this quote today:

"you know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams"
 dr. seuss

Have you been there?  That feeling that you might never need to sleep again?  That you can just live off of love?

When Jason and I first started dating I had months of sleepless nights.  And not the anxiety sleeplessness, the "what did I forget to do today" the "when is that paper/project/application due?" the "what have I done with my life?" kind of sleeplessness.

But being too happy to sleep, to excited about your life and too cozy to care.  I've never seen it put so eloquently.

I hope you all get to lose sleep to love!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cannellini Bean Puree with Barley

This is the second puree soup recipce, or Vellutata, I have taken from my new La Cucina Italiana subscription.

The beauty of the cauliflower puree from last week and this Cannellini Bean Puree is the simplicity and velvety texture of the soup, combined with an additional textured food spooned on top to serve.  In this case, the silky smooth cannellini puree is topped with herbed barley. 

The soup is delicious, hearty, comforting and healthy.  It was also my first time using dried beans instead of canned (can you believe I have never used dried beans before?).  The difference was measurable and even my husband, who has pooh-poohed the idea of using dried beans in the past, is a convert.

I made it last night and reheated some tonight after a big glass of fresh vegetable juice as part of my revamped eating plan to kick of 2010!  Cannellini are very high in folate and iron and a good source of non-meat protein. 


2 cups dried cannellini
1 slice of onion
1/4 cup pearled barley
2 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, gently smashed and peeled
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mixed herbs, I used parsley, basil and oregano
sea salt
white pepper
black pepper to taste

Place the beans in a pot.  Cover with cold water by 3 inches and let sit overnight.

Drain beans.  Add 5 cups of cold filtered water and the onion.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until beans are very tender, adding water if needed to keep the beans covered.  I ended up cooking mine about 1 hour 15 minutes and adding another 2 cups of water overall.

Meanwhile, bring about 4 cups of salted water to a boil.  Add barley, reduce heat to med-low and simmer until tender, approximately 45 minutes.  Drain.

When the beans are tender, transfer in batches to a blender and carefully puree until smooth.**(see note).

Pour the pureed beans through a fine mesh sieve and with a rubber spatula, push the puree through the sieve, leaving behind the bean skins which can be discarded.  While this is labor intensive the result is a perfectly silky smooth puree.

Return the beans to the pot, whisk in 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and heat gently.  Season generously with salt and white pepper.  I used white pepper to keep the pristine white color.  At this point you may need to add more water to thin soup.  My soup was very thick and definitely needed water.  When eating leftovers I added additional water prior to reheating.

In a large skillet heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil over med-high heat.  Add the barley and garlic clove and cook while stirring about 2 minutes.  Add the herbs and cooking another minute or so.  Remove from the heat, discard the garlic clove and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and spoon barley on top.  Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper.

**I've learned my lesson pureeing hot liquids.  First of all, start small!  The first time I ever tried to puree a soup in my blender I filled the blender to the top and almost got sprayed the second I turned it on.  Pureeing in several small batches, while a hassle, is much easier than cleaning puree off your kitchen walls.  Secondly, remove the plastic cap from the lid and instead, hold a dish towel over the hole.  The hot air can blow the plastic cap right off if you're not careful. 

I know I waxed pontific about the virtues of the immersion blender for the cauliflower puree.  In this instance, since we want to separate the bean skins from the puree, using the blender was the best idea.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bobby Flay's Roasted Red Pepper and Chipotle Bean Dip

This is a recipe I started making a couple of years ago during football season.  It was a huge hit and has become one of my go-to party dips.

When serving, I do feel compelled to warn people about the spiciness.  Friends will just assume it is hummus and give it to their kids. 


2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp chipotle puree  **see note
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Honey to taste (about 1 Tbsp)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Put the roasted red peppers, red wine vinegar and chipotle puree in a food processor and blend

Add the white beans and garlic and continue to process until smooth.

Add honey, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with tortilla chips or chopped vegetables such as red, yellow and orange bell peppers

**CHIPOTLE PUREE  to make the puree, take canned chipotle pepper and some of the adobo sauce and process in a mini food processor.  You can keep leftovers in the fridge for a few weeks

Friday, January 1, 2010


On the first day of 2010 I just want to wish everyone a year full of happiness, family, good friends, good food and many blessings!