Saturday, June 12, 2010

Goal Achieved (for now)

 When I first started this blog, I was trying to learn to be more comfortable in the kitchen.  I already loved to cook, but I wasn't so good at improvising.  I had a collection of cookbooks that was constantly growing, and a fear of straying too far from those recipes.  I was a novice.

I wouldn't say that I am now a gourmet chef, but thanks in large part to this blog, I am certainly comfortable in the kitchen.  I have taught myself new techniques and shortcuts.  I have broadened my horizons.  I've done things I always wanted to do, like made home-made pastry and roasted a whole chicken.  I've kept my meals and desserts interesting and shared them with you.  You might have noticed that as this blog progressed, the recipes became more my own and less from other people's pages.

My journey to become a great cook is not over, and will never be, but I certainly have reached a milestone.  And I have to say that I think I have outgrown this blog a bit, at least for now.  While I used to love taking pictures of my creations and posting about them here, "showing off" a bit, admittedly, even if it wasn't always something to show off about, now it is somewhat of a hindrance.  Not to mention that I want to be able to cook favorite things I've made before, and this blog makes me feel like I always have to try something new.

I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to write, but the blog itself is starting to feel like it is actually holding me back a bit now.  This is a great surprise to me, as it is the blog that helped me to grow so much over the past year and a half.

I will still be on twitter (@edibleventures) posting about my adventures in the kitchen, and I do plan to start a new blog with a different concept before long (stay tuned, I will be sure to post the link here when the time comes).  But for now, this blog is going into hibernation.  Thank you to those of you who supported me along the way.  If you ever want a recipe idea or a tip I am here to help, feel free to e-mail me (laurathelop at hotmail dot com).  I will keep this blog up for quite some time so that the recipes are still available.  And I will still read *your* blog, those of you who have them.

Happy eating, cooking, and blogging!  I still hope to have you all over for dinner some day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

There were a few beautiful red bell peppers in my refrigerator, and we were about to go away for the weekend.  I had already had them for several days, and the idea that they might be spoiled by the time we got back from our trip was just too depressing.  I had the genius idea of roasting them, figuring it would buy me a few more days.

Now that we're home, I decided to use the roasted red peppers to make a pasta sauce.  But you need not stop at pasta with this one, my friends.  This sauce is spicy and sassy.  Saucy, if you will.  It would do wonderful things on top of meat, chicken, fish, or yes, pasta.  It could jazz up a platter of grilled vegetables.  It could jazz up your life, in fact.

The diced fire roasted tomatoes I used already had spicy chilies in them, but if you have regular fire roasted tomatoes without chilies, you might want to add red pepper flakes or cayenne, or some other source of heat.  This sauce is velvety smooth, and the heat helps to give it an edge that it craves.  And you will crave it too, I promise.

Home made roasted red peppers are a beautiful thing, but of course you can use the jarred ones, too.  Just drain and rinse them first.

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
makes about 4 cups


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 roasted red bell peppers, chopped
one 14.5 ounce can of diced fire roasted tomatoes with chilies
a pinch of dried oregano
2 teaspoons good quality balsamic vinegar


1.  Heat the oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat.  When it's hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about one minute, until fragrant and starting to turn golden.  

2.  Add the bell peppers and the diced tomatoes with their juices.  Stir to combine, then season with oregano and salt.  Bring to a bubble, then stir in the balsamic.  Reduce to a bare simmer.  

3.  Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes so the flavors can marry and the sauce heats through, and thickens just slightly.  Turn off the heat and let sit for a minute.

4.  Transfer the sauce (carefully) to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Serve hot over pasta, meat, or veggies.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Zucchini and Cilantro Soup with Chile and Mint

Looking for a soup that is transcendentally delicious?  Yep, this is it.   Here we have another example of how well zucchini pairs with fresh herbs, only now we have it in soup form.  You could serve this soup chilled on a hot day, or hot on a chilly day.  It's easy-going like that.

I have to say that when you taste this soup, it's not obvious what it is exactly.  It tastes like a delicious vegetarian tortilla soup.  You know there are herbs, you know there is spiciness, and you know there is a generally Mexican flavor.  But zucchini?  You might not have guessed.  This is a great way to use up zucchinis when you're sick of zucchini, or if you are trying to fool your picky children or husband into eating zucchini.  Or, you can feed it to zucchini-lovers and see if they recognize their favorite squash.  It's up to you.

This soup is rich and refreshing at the same time.  It's pretty amazing.  It's pretty great.  You should try it.

Zucchini and Cilantro Soup with Chile and Mint
adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors
serves 4


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
2 medium-sized zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 small bunch of cilantro, stems and leaves divided, chopped
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped mint
2 corn tortillas
salt to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
juice of 1 lemon


1.  Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a medium soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the chile, zucchini, cilantro stems, onion, parsley, and mint.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and zucchini is starting to get tender, about 10 minutes.

2.  Tear up one of the tortillas into pieces and add it to the pot.  Add a healthy pinch of salt and stir.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover the pot.  Cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is very tender.  Remove from heat.

3.  Stir in the cilantro leaves (save a bit for garnish if you like).  Let the soup cool slightly, then puree in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and lemon juice.

4.  In a small skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high.  Cut the remaining tortilla into strips and add to the hot oil.  Cook until crisp, then set on paper towels to drain.  Serve the soup garnished with a small mound of tortilla strips and reserved cilantro.