Friday, March 18, 2011

Chicken and chickpea soup

I had some bone-in chicken breasts and some chicken stock that needed to get used up. What to do? I didn't much feel like doing a boring chicken noodle soup (I pass no judgment if your particular version is the sexy kind of chicken soup that flashes its boobies at Mardi Gras - my chicken noodle soup wears cotton undies and sensible shoes). So I googled chicken soup with chickpeas. Weird - yes, I will give you that. I don't normally think chickpeas when I think sexy soup. But I have been on a bit of a chickpea bender of late, and I was keen to try out the new way I had found on Chow Hound to soak them (it's a Nigella tip where you add a slurry of baking soda, flour and salt to the soaking water).

What I found was a promising Martha Steward recipe from Everyday Food. Cumin, cinnamon and coriander, garlic, lemon and looked appealing on a cold day.

So I gave it a shot. Verdict? We have a winner. The chickpeas were tender and creamy. The chicken was not too dry (thighs would have been perfectly moist). And the flavours were just Moroccan enough to feel exotic on a cold March day. The finishing touch of minced cilantro tossed with garlic and lemon juice was gor-geous.

Here is my adaptation.

Chicken and chickpea soup
Adapted from Everyday Food.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or 2 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced or 2 medium leeks, light green parts only
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained or approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup dry, soaked overnight (see note) and cooked until tender
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Note: Pick through the dry chickpeas and remove any twigs or stones. Put in a pot and add water to cover by several inches. Mix together 1 teaspoon baking soda with 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon salt. Add a bit of water and stir to make a thin paste. Stir this paste into the soaking chickpeas. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.

  1. In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down, until skin is browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Slightly more if you are using large chicken breasts. Flip chicken and cook until browned, 6 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot. Add onion or leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons garlic and spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in carrots and return chicken to pot. Stir in broth.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer, partially cover, and cook until chicken is falling off the bone, 50 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken from soup. When cool enough to handle, tear chicken into large pieces, discarding skin and bones. Return meat to pot. Add chickpeas and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest, and cilantro; sprinkle over soup before serving.
Serves 6.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cauliflower soup - yum yum yum!

Back in January I supplied my first set of recipe links. Last night, I finally got around to making the cauliflower soup from The Wednesday Chef. What was I waiting for?! Months have gone by during which I could have been filling my belly and waxing my virtuous soul with this elixir from the gods. Sorry. I'm embellishing a bit. But this is a really good soup. And you know what the sign of a good soup is? My husband doesn't like soup  - he loved this soup.

The bonus: it's good for you in a way lots of cauliflower soup isn't. It gets all its yumminess from healthy things - no added cream or cheese. Just leeks or onion, cauliflower, water, olive oil, salt and lemon juice. That's it! It also calls for a finishing touch of a dusting of piment d'espelette. That's a ground Basque red pepper that has a mild heat. I don't have any so substituted plain paprika though next time I might use the hot, or even my smoked sweet. Luisa Weiss, the Wednesday Chef blogger suggests also adding croutons but I didn't miss them. (Although we had toasted pita with a little cheddar melted on them on the side. And a shrimp avocado salad.)

I'd show you a picture but it got eaten up too quickly for me to stage a shot. But it pretty much looked like the shot on Luisa's website. I mean, it's cauliflower soup.

Cauliflower Soup

1 leek or 1 onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cauliflower, green leaves and trunk removed
1/2 lemon
Piment d'Espelette, optional
Homemade croutons, optional

1. Peel and clean the leek and cut into thin slices, discarding the tough green tops. If using the onion, peel and thinly slice. Warm olive oil in a heavy pot and gently sauté the leek or onion in the olive oil until wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. In the meantime, wash the cauliflower and slice thickly. Add the cauliflower to the pot and stir to combine. After 2 to 3 minutes, add enough water to cover the vegetables.
2. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, purée until smooth and creamy. Add salt to taste and the juice of the 1/2 lemon. Taste and, if your socks don't roll up and down, add the juice from the other half. I had to keep adding juice a squeeze at a time and then finally, kaboom, it was perfect. You could also pass extra lemon wedges at the table.
3. Serve dusted with piment d'Espelette or homemade croutons.

Serves 4 to 5 (or, um, 3)

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Most of us are happy to indulge in garlicky hummus and pita chips when they are offered at a cocktail party. But when was the last time you included them in your evening meal? If you are thinking about including more vegetables and cutting back on red meat in your diet, chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a great part of your new plant-based diet. They are full of fiber, protein and healthful nutrients. And, they are surprisingly flexible, finding a happy home in dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even sweets!

Case in point:
  1. Tunisian chickpea breakfast soup from Martha Rose Shulman, one of my favourite cookbook authors.
  2. Italian breakfast chickpeas from Vegetable Matter.
  3. Garbanzo-oat waffles from Mr. Breakfast. It calls for garbanzo flour. Click here to find out how to make your own if you can't find it in your grocery store.
  4. Jane Mendel's Chickpea soup with crisp croutons from The Wednesday Chef.
  5. Smashed chickpea salad from Smitten Kitchen.
  6. Gordon Ramsey's flatbread, feta and chickpea salad. Includes a video. 
  7. Chickpeas with baby spinach from the New York Times.
  8. A great selection of chickpea recipes from Canadian Living. Like kale and chickpea soup and cheesy mac and chickpeas.
  9. From Jamie Oliver, summer chickpea salad and something a little more timely, chickpea and potato curry.
  10. Braised cod with chickpeas from Leslie Beck.
  11. Chickpea ragout from the wonderful Jacques Pépin.
  12. Chickpea cookies also from Leslie Beck. 
  13. Chickpea blondies from Have Cake, Will Travel.
  14. Chocolate chickpea spread from Bitter Sweet .
Sorry, one more note. I love hummus. And have been known to make a pretty good one. If I can pass along some hints, I have successfully made rockin' yummy hummus with very little added fat. Although I traditionally use canned chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and sometimes a touch of cumin and red pepper flakes, I have on occasion cut way back on the olive oil and tahini and instead loosened up the chickpea puree with water, low fat plain yogurt or vegetable stock! As long as I have a good quantity of lime juice and garlic, it's an easy way to make a yummy spread or dip without all the extra fat.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pumpkin soup with a southwest twist

Can I keep blaming chemo brain? The other day, I confidently reached my hand into the cupboard, hauled out a big can of whole tomatoes and opened it. Something just felt wrong. It took me a second, but when I finally looked at the can in my hand, I realized it was a can of pumpkin. Pumpkin!? Seriously? Crap. I put it to one side and carefully bent over, looked in the cupboard and pulled out the intended can of tomatoes. As I opened all I could think was, "What the heck am I going to do with pumpkin."

Soup. Of course soup. My husband was voting for pie (my family does a kick ass pumpkin pie - seriously, take a step back if you think yours is even close) but I knew there was no way pie was happening in the middle of a busy week in March. So soup it was.

I don't have a go to pumpkin soup recipe so I decided to take a quick scan on the web. I couldn't find an interesting one...too many curried versions. Then I happened upon a conversation thread for a recipe in Epicurious. That and a couple of turns around my kitchen cupboards and I came up with the following:

Pumpkin soup with corn and black beans

3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
2 medium to large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 ½ tbs brown sugar
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk or cream
1 large can pumpkin
2 cups frozen corn (or more depending on taste)
1 can black beans, rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: 
  Chopped cilantro
  Sour cream
  Diced avocado
  Mexican hot sauce

  1. Heat oil and butter in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot.
  2. Add onions and cook on low, approx 15 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, cayenne, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder and nutmeg and cook another 15 minutes or so, until the onions are caramelized.
  4. Increase heat to medium. Add stock and milk or cream and allow to come to a simmer.
  5. When hot, whisk in the pumpkin.
  6. Puree either in batches in the blender (remember to take care when blending hot liquids) or with an immersion blender.
  7. Add in corn and beans. Heat through. Taste and add salt and pepper.
  8. Serve warm with optional toppings of chopped cilantro, sour cream, salsa, diced avocado and/or hot sauce.
 Serves 6 to 8.

Yum. :-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cooking with coconut oil

Yesterday my sister asked me what I knew about cooking with coconut oil. She too had heard rumblings about the seeming shift in public perception of this once vilified fat. Today, it popped up again in an article in the New York Times. Time for a closer look.

Previously lumped in with other scary fats like palm oil, coconut oil has been growing in popularity in the past five years. And users are getting support from the research community. Seems scientists are rethinking their original statements about what the fat does in our bodies.

For details on the science, here's an excerpt from the article:

Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, a nonprofit association of nutritionists, said, “Different types of saturated fats behave differently.” 

The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two. 

She went on to say that while it is still uncertain whether coconut oil is actively beneficial the way olive oil is, small amounts probably are not harmful. The new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10 percent of total dietary calories a day come from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 20 grams. 

Alternative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil is still waiting for definitive evidence that it is a good fat to include in your diet, although he does point to its topical benefits in skin care. Conversely, Dr. Oz  has made the switch to coconut oil from butter in his kitchen (allegedly...the link I have included has broken since I added it - check out this link to hear him talk about coconut oil on his show.)

At this point, there still isn't consensus on some of the sexier claims made about it: that it has antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties. But from the New York Times article, it does look like, if used in moderation, it is a perfectly fine fat to integrate into some of your recipes.

So, why would you want to use it? Vegans like it because it can be used in place of butter in most recipes, so it serves as a great substitute in baking and other "solid fat" applications, like icing. Other cooks like the subtle coconut flavour it brings to dishes, like sauteed greens, roasted sweet potatoes, and popcorn.

They included some interesting recipes with the article:
  1. Coconut oil roasted sweet potatoes
  2. Coconut oil poundcake with almonds and lime zest
  3. Sauteed shrimp with coconut oil, ginger and coriander
  4. Chocolate shell ice-cream topping.
And here are a few I rounded up:
  1. Jamaican veggie patties from one of my favourite recipe blogs, 101 Cookbooks.
  2. Vegan chocolate chip cookies from London Foodie in New York.
  3. Vegan cupcakes from All Recipes. Gets great reviews.
Check out vegan cooking blogs and you will find a lot more.
Ultimately, I think I'm going to use this information to relax a little about cooking with coconut milk, like in Thai curries. Whether or not you want to start using coconut oil in your kitchen, I think you all can make up your own minds!