Monday, February 26, 2007

Nature's Burger from Fantastic World Foods

Many years ago, when the first Whole Foods opened west of downtown Austin, my housemates and I would put on our safari jackets and go exploring the aisles. In those days there was the grocery store and the health food store and never the twain should meet. The health food stores were mostly vitamins and teas and powders and protein mixes and everything but food. You could get great fruits and vegetables at the Wheatsville Co-op, but you still had to go to the grocery store to get almost everything else. And everything healthy was more expensive at the grocery store. It still is, but I can afford it more. Twenty-five years ago I was a poor student and that extra seventy-five cents for whole wheat flour could buy some apples or milk or some other much needed item.

When Whole Foods opened, what made it stand out to me was that it was the first store to combine healthy, whole foods with more commercial products. I could buy organic vegetables and bulk whole wheat pasta and cans of tomato sauce to make spaghetti, all in one place. They had bulk freshly ground peanut, cashew and almond butter (which, sadly, has pretty much disappeared in the past couple of years here in the Chicago locations; I really miss the peanut butter) and freshly-baked artisanal (although we didn't use that word then) whole wheat french bread which became one of my regular lunches. The bulk section was something to behold - all kinds of wondrous snacks - trail mixes, granolas, nuts, dried fruit, yogurt-covered pretzels, and countless other things. They had several different kinds of brown rice, whole wheat and other grain flours, beans, peas, and different kinds of pasta.

Having grown up on canned fruit and frozen vegetables, I was willing to dip my toes into the world of real, whole, unprocessed foods, but I was unfamiliar with them and there wasn't that much information available. Most of the people I knew who were using them didn't really know what to do with them either. The first tabbouleh salad I ever had was a big bowl full of bulgur with just a little chopped tomato, cucumber and parsley and very little flavor. I had tofu "egg" salad, tofu black bottom pie, and carob covered peanuts, all of which sorely tested my desire to eat a more healthy diet.

But the worst was when I bought bulk veggie burger mix (I believe they called them love burgers or some silly thing like that at the time) so I could try to make veggie burgers at home. I followed the directions, tried to get the gloopy mess into some form of patty shape, and prayed that they would hold together in the pan and not make a godawful mess. But to no avail. And while I would occasionally order a veggie burger at a restaurant, that was the end of my attempts at making them at home.

And then I discovered Boca burgers, which come pre-pattied and hold their shape in the frying pan. But they're expensive and take up room in my freezer so I don't buy them very often.

A few weeks ago all of the Fantastic World Food products were on sale two for the price of one. I've been using their whole wheat couscous for a while so I was happy to stock up on them. They also had their Nature's Burger mix on sale, so I thought maybe it was time to try that again. Surely they had improved on the formula in the twenty-odd years since I last tried to make them.

And I'm happy to say they have improved.

From this:To this:
No fuss, very little muss. And they didn't scorch my skillet so cleanup wasn't a big chore. If you're looking for a more cost-friendly alternative to Boca Burgers, give these a try.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Little Bit of Procrastination

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."


You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.


You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

I didn't post this week as much as I would have liked to. I hope to do more next week. I haven't been spending my time all that productively, as the above illustrates. My Purchasing Assistant at work had a quiz on her Myspace page and linked to this site where you can take all kinds of tests for your blog. Of course I had to take several before I found one that had an answer I liked. One of the tests was for which city you belong in, and while I love Paris and am thrilled that that's where I belong, the reasons for it just weren't me. I kept re-taking the test to make something else come up, but New York and Rome didn't seem right either. I gave up when I realized that I was waiting for Madrid to come up, and I don't even if know if that's an option.

I am about 28% paranoid schizophrenic, which should only surprise my friends by how relatively low the percentage is. I don't think I'm all that snarky as a blogger, and I know people don't read my posts because they're secretly scared of me (at least I hope they don't). I'm more Yin than Yang (surprised, anyone? YAWN), and my Beauty Element is Earth (surprised, anyone? YAWN).

I suspect most of my friends would be surprised at my low neuroticism score on the personality profile above (and I have to admit I'm a little surprised myself), but other than that I think it's pretty accurate.

So what's your Five Factor Personality?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Project Freezerburn: Crock Pot Turkey Stock

So this turkey carcass has been burning a hole in my freezer since November. Every time I opened the freezer door there it was, in the way, falling out every time I tried to find something. I've been wanting to make some stock with it, but have been challenged to find the time to set it on the stove in a pot of water and let it simmer all day.

Saturday morning I decided to do something about it. It occurred to me that the crockpot might be the answer to the problem of how I can let it cook all day without having to be in the apartment the whole time monitoring it. So as soon as I got up I went online and googled "turkey stock crock pot" and got lucky with the first entry, which sent me to Recipezaar and a recipe from Pets'R'us.

What I like about the recipe is that it is more like a set of guidelines than a specific recipe. I pulled out the turkey carcass, which included the drumsticks and wings, all of which had substantial amounts of meat on them. I followed Pets'R'us's suggestion not to peel the onions since I had some yellow ones with really nice tight skins on them. I didn't have any celery but I didn't worry too much about that. I used the bay leaves and the peppercorns. I don't think it needed anything else.

The instructions said to leave the pot on low for 12 to 24 hours. I turned the crockpot off after 12 hours - as you can see, the stock was rich and thick and the vegetables pretty much cooked out. The meat was falling off the bone. I didn't want to let it go too much longer because there was a lot of meat on those bones and I wanted to be able to use it so I didn't want to cook all the flavor out of it. Turkey stock is too strong to me to want to use it with anything but turkey, unlike chicken stock, which to me is somewhat universal, so I wanted to be sure to have enough turkey meat for the stock..
I pulled the bones, meat and vegetables out of the pot and then strained the stock into two large containers. I put them in the refrigerator overnight, and then on Sunday I skimmed off the fat (there wasn't a lot of it considering the amount of skin still left on the wings), brought it back up to a boil, then froze a quart of it and left about 1-1/2 cups out to use right away.

That's it in the picture up there. I am so pleased to have found this method for making stock - it's rich and thick and full of flavor. I already have one chicken carcass in the fridge from my disappointing Roasted Chicken with Lemons and Thyme. I can't wait to collect some more so I can make some chicken stock. If you don't have a crock pot, this alone would be a very good reason to get one.

I still have some dark meat turkey in the freezer so I think I'll make some more turkey soup with the stock I froze. And finally, for the breast half that's all that's left, I have some of the really rich stock from when I originally roasted the turkey that I think would make an incredible mole to go with it.
Crock Pot Chicken or Turkey Stock

Makes 6-7 cups

3 to 4 lbs chicken bones (raw or cooked, boiling fowl or chicken or carcasses)
onions, chopped or quartered, leave the skin on it gives nice color to the stock
celery, chopped
carrots, chopped
1 small leek, chopped
salt to taste
10 black peppercorns, or to taste
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
some parsley sprigs
boiling water

Preheat the crock-pot on high.

Try breaking up the bones as small as possible, place with all the other ingredients in the crock-pot.

Cover with as much boiling water as your crock-pot can take.

Switch crockpot setting to low and cook for 12 to 24 hours.

Strain, cool, skim of the fat, use the stock or freeze.

If there is any meat on the bones, remove it and use for the soup or other dishes, it will be also good for a ragout.

Recipe from Pets'R'us at

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic is the queen of roasted vegetables. Nothing else is transformed in quite the same way as garlic when it hits that dry heat. From that biting, harsh, pungent overpowering taste (that I absolutely love, don't get me wrong) you get the smoothest, sweetest, creamiest flavor you've ever had.

What can you do with roasted garlic? What can't you do would be the better question. Add it to mashed potatoes for a little taste of heaven. It's exquisite mixed with butter and spread on a crusty loaf of bread fresh from the oven. The cloves are little globes of perfection squeezed straight onto crostini.

I love roasted garlic so much that I rarely waste time with just one or two heads. If I'm roasting garlic, I roast a minimum of six heads, then I squeeze out the cloves and put them in the refrigerator to throw into all kinds of dishes during the week. This past bunch went into several of the roasted vegetable soups I've been writing about, most recently a roasted carrot and garlic soup that came out heavenly. I also used about half of them in a batch of hummus that was so good I ate it up before I could take a picture. I pureed some up with roasted peppers and kalamata olives for a delicious pasta sauce that needs some work before I can show it off. It tasted really good, but wasn't the most appetizing thing to look at. Sometimes, late at night, I'll just take a couple of cloves and pop them into my mouth and let them melt down my throat. Ummmm. Garlic candy.

If you've never tried them, you really should. It's very little work for a tremendously large gustatory payback.
Roasted Garlic

6 heads fresh garlic (or however many you wish to roast)
olive oil or butter

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Peel some of the extra paper off of the garlic, but do not remove it all. Slice off the tops of the heads so the tips of the cloves are just barely exposed. Wrap each head in a square of aluminum foil, adding a scant drizzle of olive oil or dab of butter before closing it up. Arrange the garlic bundles in a shallow baking dish and roast for 30-45 minutes, until tender.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup is one of those wonderful recipes that is incredibly easy to make and always turns out right, and all you have to do is follow the recipe on the package. Onions, carrots, celery, water, split peas, and ham if you have it. Bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for an hour or so. It's inexpensive, and makes enough to feed you for a while.

I took the picture above the night I made the soup. It tasted delicious but was a little watery and I was afraid I had put too much water in it. The next day, when I pulled the container out of the refrigerator to ladle some out for lunch, it was just the right consistency - thick and solid. For some strange reason it gets me every time and I think it's going to be too soupy, and then it thickens right up overnight in the refrigerator like it's supposed to.

You don't have to use ham if you don't want to, but it sure adds a lot of flavor. If I'm really lucky I'll have a hambone in the freezer (I always leave extra meat on the bone when I freeze it for soup). This time I didn't have any, so I bought one of those ham steaks that are about seven inches across and 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick. I cut it into chunks and it gave a rich smokiness to the soup without sacrificing all of its flavor.

I always forget how easy this is to make. When it's cold and snowy and you want something that will stick to your ribs, this is definitely what you're looking for. It's especially good with a nice hunk of crusty whole wheat country-style bread.

The recipe on the back of the package I bought to make this soup only called for half of the package. Of course I doubled it.

And here it is all nice and thick.
Green Split Pea Soup with Ham

1 lb. green split peas
2 quarts water
2 Ham Hocks, meaty ham bones, or ham steaks
2 bay leaves
1 chopped onion
3 stalks chopped celery
3 carrots, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 cloves minced garlic

Wash, sort and drain split peas. Combine all ingredients in large pot with lid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered approximately 1 hour or until cooked through; stir occasionally.

Before serving, remove ham hock or bone. Cut ham off bone; dice. Add to soup and serve.

Loosely adapted (doubled) from recipe provided on package of Jewel Green Split Peas.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chilly Scenes of Winter and Brunch at the Bongo Room

Saturday morning was still in the single digits, so it was too cold for Bob and me to go walking along our usual path. I say usual as if we've done it more than twice.

Bob suggested we meet at the Field Museum. I had planned to take my camera down to the lake to get some pictures, but because we were getting a later start than usual and it was supposed to be warmer on Sunday, I decided not to bring it. I'm still using the Sony camera that Mary gave me, and while I love the quality of the pictures it takes, it's big and clunky, and awkward to lug around.

But when I got to the museum and looked out over the lake, I regretted my decision not to bring it. The water was frozen and still and I really wanted to take a picture of it. It would have been nice to have it inside the museum, too. I didn't know you could take cameras inside the museum. I'll know for next time.

I always forget how big the Field museum is. And so beautiful. They don't make buildings like that anymore. You can see the history in the wide columns and high molded ceilings. And the marble stairway, with the steps worn down by the thousands of feet that have climbed up and down them over the years.

We knew we wanted to see the Mendel exhibit so we headed upstairs to visit that first. I remember studying Mendel in high school and at college, and how he used the sweet pea to figure out how to predict the appearance of dominant and recessive traits over generations. I had kind of blocked it out because the last time I had to study it was in my freshman cellular and molecular biology class - the hardest class I've ever taken. But it's really interesting how the science of genetics grew out of the work he did with those peas.

When we got to the entrance of the exhibit, a friendly young woman asked us if she could give us a quick survey, in exchange for free tickets back to the museum. Sure! After telling her why we were there, what they could do get us to come more often, and our opinion on what new exhibits they should bring in, we get to come again for free. The tickets are good for a year. Woohoo!

After a walk through the plants of the world and a whirlwind tour through Fiji, we decided it was time for brunch. We both had noticed the Bongo Room on the corner of Roosevelt and Wabash on the way to the museum, so we headed on over.

The original Bongo Room is in Wicker Park. I've never been because I avoid that neighborhood like the plague, but now I'm kind of sorry I never checked it out. The place was hopping, which isn't all that surprising considering that there still aren't that many restaurants in the south loop. The minute we walked in, though, we knew it was going to be a good experience. There was a short wait, but we didn't even have to wait the ten minutes they told us it would be. It's a bright, well-lit room with few frills and simple tables and chairs close so they can fit a lot of people in, but not so close that you feel like you're eating with the people on either side of you.

I had the breakfast burrito with eggs, avocado, and cilantro. Even without the cheese and sour cream (I didn't want to completely undo the benefit of all that walking Bob and I did) it was delicious. I had to pay 1.50 extra to get fruit instead of hash browns, but it was a lot of fruit and it was all fresh. All of the ingredients were fresh. And I must say Bob's hash browns looked scrumptious.

Bob had one of their specialties - the sweet potato pancakes. He was kind enough to give me a taste and they were truly awesome. They came with a huge scoop of what I thought was butter that looked like it had brown sugar and/or nuts mixed in it. "Wow," I said. "Is that butter?"

"Oh no," Bob said, nodding sagely. "It's ice cream."

And it was a big enough scoop that I realized it probably was, although I was surprised it wasn't mentioned on the menu. I took a bite of the perfectly scrambled eggs inside my burrito and Bob dipped his spoon into the ice cream and put some in his mouth. A strange look crossed his face.

"It's butter," he said. He then proceeded to mash it up over the pancakes. It looked really tasty . Screw the heart attack. It looked damn tasty.

And I haven't even mentioned the towers of French Toast that I saw many people order. Huge piles of toast dripping with chocolate. And if it all seems like too much food, you can order one, two, or three of the pancakes and French Toast. They also had about five different kinds of benedicts, including the traditional plan and Florentine. All of those were tempting as well. I could see eating one's way through that menu to be a lovely goal.

And then yesterday it finally warmed up enough for me to brave the lake. I only made it up to the end of my street, to Belmont Harbor, but I got some good pictures of how that looks frozen.

Here is the entrance to the harbor, where you can see the unfrozen waters of the lake just outside. The snow is on the frozen harbor water. I love it when you can see snow on the lake like that.

Belmont Harbor still has the spoke-style boat moorings. I love how they sit on the water and radiate out in a circle. It almost looks like you could just walk out there, doesn't it?

One of the things I love about Chicago is how there are all kinds of little surprises everywhere. Right where Addison empties out onto the drive is this lovely Totem pole.

Here's a closeup of Kwanisula the thunderbird on the top.

I'm glad I got out yesterday. There's more snow coming.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Roasted Eggplant and Orange Bell Pepper Soup

I still had an eggplant and some tomatoes that I bought to make the roasted eggplant soup, and I also had the beautiful roasted orange peppers that I needed to use up. I'm still trying to master the technique of roasting, so I decided to roast them and make another soup, adding the pepper to the pot.

For the other roasted eggplant soup, the recipe didn't specify how I should place the vegetables on the baking sheet to roast them. Normally, my instincts would have been to put them cut side down, but I decided to roast them cut side up instead. I think that, in addition to my letting them roast for 45 minutes without checking them earlier, contributed to their being just short of too burned to use. This time I placed the eggplant and tomatoes cut side down. I also used some shallots I had on hand; I sliced them in half lengthwise, peeled them, and put them cut side down on the baking sheet as well. Instead of peeling the garlic cloves and putting them on the sheet, I took a whole head, cut a slice across the bottom and wrapped it in foil after drizzling a little olive oil on it. That I just placed straight on the oven rack.

Half an hour was more than enough time for the vegetables to roast to perfection. Leaving them cut side down left them moist and tender. I emptied everything into the soup pot, added about 3 cups of chicken broth and a cup of water, brought it to a boil then lowered the heat and let it simmer for about twenty minutes, and then pureed it.

I still had a little bit of thyme left so I used that along with some dried. At the last minute I thought tarragon might be a nice addition so I put some of that in too. Unfortunately, I put a little too much in and it was just a touch overpowering. I thought about what I could do to redeem it.

The overall effect of the tarragon was a touch of bitterness. I thought about what could take away the bitterness, maybe adding a touch of sweetness, while at the same time brightening up the flavors. Maybe it was because the soup already had an orange tinge to it that I thought to add the juice from a Mineola.

It was the perfect fix. The slight sweetness counteracted the bitterness from the tarragon. There was just enough tartness to keep it from being overwhelmingly sweet, andit brightened up all of the flavors. This is the version I will keep and make again.

The Roasted Eggplant Soup recipe works well as a guidelines for creating your own roasted vegetable soup. The variations are basically endless. What vegetables would you use?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sweet Potato Biscuits

I learned how to make biscuits at an early age. The recipe was simple and virtually foolproof. You just sift together flour, baking powder and salt, cut in some butter, add some liquid, roll, cut and bake.

So why did I stop making them? I don't really know. Just something I left back in Texas when I moved up here, I guess.

I found this recipe for sweet potato biscuits online at Food Down Under. I copied it and filed it and forgot about it. Until a few weeks ago when I came across it as I was looking through my files. It was right before I made the turkey soup with wheat berries. The picture that accompanied the recipe showed a big beautiful oat muffin that got me thinking about what I could make to go with the soup. I just happened to have a couple of sweet potatoes in the pantry. I roasted hem and mashed them and got to work.

The first batch I made (you knew I would make them more than once, didn't you?) came out kind of thin and flat. This was partly because I rolled the dough out too thin, but mainly because my baking powder was a couple of years old, and even though it was still within the expiration date, I figured it had probably lost some of it's pep. So I bought a replacement, rolled it out a little less, and they rose up beautifully.

I also used regular unbleached flour with the first batch, and the texture of the dough didn't hold up to the added flavor. I figured regular whole wheat flour would be too heavy, so I tried some of Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour. It was perfect. The biscuits have enough substance to keep up with the sweet potato flavor while still managing to be fluffy and light.
Home Cookin Chapter: Breads and Muffins

Annie Mae Jones' Sweet Potato Biscuits

Makes 12 biscuits

1 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp shortening/butter
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.

Sift flour,baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. Cut in shortening/butter.

Add potatoes and mix thoroughly, then add enough milk to make a soft dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and roll out to about 1/2" thick. Cut into 12 squares.

Place squares, not touching, on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.

Serve warm, split and spread with room-temperature butter.

Recipe 5012 of 281476 at

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (

Monday, February 05, 2007

Roasted Chicken with Lemons and Thyme

In my ongoing effort to use up the thyme I had bought for the turkey soup, I found a recipe for Roasted Chicken with Lemons and Thyme. I've been jonesing for some roast chicken for a while now, so I stopped in at the Apple Market and bought a big beautiful capon. The recipe called for a six-pound baby; that's about six-and-a-half pounds sitting in my roasting pan. It wasn't too hard to loosen up the skin around the breast, but it felt really weird working my way down to the drumsticks and thighs. I wasn't terribly successful at getting the spices and lemons all the way down to the thighs.

The roasting chicken filled my apartment with the most amazing smells - the chicken itself, laced with the lemons, thyme and paprika. I bought some Hungarian paprika especially for this dish. I've been using the smoked Spanish paprika for so long that I was worried I wouldn't be able to detect any flavor in the Hungarian, but it was strong enough in its own right and has a wonderful, deep flavor that I will use in other things. Sometimes the smoked paprika overwhelms; it's nice to have one that blends a little more.

I pulled the chicken out when the thermometer read 165 degrees, just like the recipe said, then let it sit for about 15 minutes so the juices could settle. But when I went to carve it, I could tell that it still wasn't quite done.

It looks done, doesn't it? As a matter of fact, the skin is about as close as you can get to being burnt without being burnt. But I covered it up with foil, put it back in the oven and cooked it for another half an hour. That did the trick, and since I hadn't started cutting into it yet, it didn't dry out when I put it back in the oven like the turkey did.

I have come to two conclusions based on my recent poultry-roasting adventures: 1) I need to work on my roasting techniques and 2) I need a better oven thermometer. I think I'm going to get one of those digital thermometers that plug into the meat but stay outside of the oven.

Bottom line? It was a little disappointing. For all of the lemon, thyme and paprika this recipe uses, the chicken was pretty bland. The skin, which you're supposed to discard but looked too good to resist, was the best part and is where all of the flavor went.

I will continue my roasting efforts because I want to master this, but I don't think I will be working on this recipe any more. There was nothing wrong with it, but the payback was insignificant given the richness of what went into it.
Home Cookin Chapter: Poultry

Roasted Chicken with Lemons and Thyme

Serves 8

1 (6-lb.) roasting chicken
2 tsp Hungarian paprika
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 lemons, divided
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
lemon slices (optional)
Thyme sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F.

Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Trim excess fat. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Combine the paprika, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; rub under loosened skin. Thinly slice 1 lemon; arrange slices under loosened skin. Cut remaining lemon into quarters. Place lemon quarters inside chicken cavity. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon thyme to chicken cavity.

Place chicken on the rack of a broiler pan or roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Brush oil over skin. Cover chicken with aluminum foil. Bake at 425 deg. F. for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 50 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thigh registers 165 degrees. Transfer chicken to a cutting board; cover with foil, and let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Place a zip-top plastic bag in a 2-cup glass measure. Pour drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into measuring cup, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat.

Place pan on stove top over medium heat. Sprinkle flour into pan. Add wine; bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add drippings, broth, juice, sugar, remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

Remove skin and lemon slices from chicken, and remove lemon wedges from cavity; discard. Carve chicken, and arrange on a serving platter. Serve with gravy. Garnish with additional lemon slices and thyme sprigs, if desired.

from Cooking Light (December 2006)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Roasted Eggplant Soup

Here are some more vegetables I roasted over the weekend. The eggplant over there on the left came awfully close to burning, but it was just fine inside and once it mixed in with all the other vegetables it was just fine. The garlic also got a bit toasty and I had to just eat a couple because they were too crunchy to put in the pot.

I had quite a bit of thyme left over from the turkey soup I made last week and I wanted to find some ways to use it so I went looking for new recipes that called for thyme. I had actually found this recipe for Roasted Eggplant Soup on
Epicurious some time ago. I don't know what I was looking for or how I found this recipe; I don't visit there often because it's awfully busy. Funny how the layout of a site can affect how often you decide to visit it.

However I came to find it, it appealed to me enought for me to print it out and bring it home from work with me. As soon as I found it this weekend and looked over the ingredients I knew it was a perfect way to use up some of that thyme. So I went to the store early Sunday morning, brought home the eggplant and tomatoes, cut everything up, slathered it with oil, and threw it in the oven.

The recipe said to roast the vegetables for 45 minutes. I think half an hour would have been sufficient. I usually do cook things for around fifteen minutes less than the recipe says just so I can check it out and make sure it's not cooking too fast. I'm not sure why I didn't check it this time; maybe to illustrate to myself what a good idea it is to do that.

At any rate, nothing was unusable. The eggplant was a little crusty and the garlic was a little crunchy, but once everything was in the pot with the chicken stock it all softened up just fine. I was more concerned that the just-shy-of-burnt garlic might be too overpowering, but that also softened up and toned down just fine.

The recipe calls for cream and goat cheese. While I love goat cheese, I'm trying to be more healthy and I'm not all that crazy about cheese in soup so I omitted both. I tried some yogurt as a garnish (pictured below) and it was ok, but not fantastic. The yogurt didn't blend with the soup, it overpowered it. And the flavors of this soup all blend together beautifully, rich and full. The eggplant adds just the tangiest little bite. A splash of lemon juice ended up being just the thing to brighten up the flavors.
Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews

Roasted Eggplant Soup

Serves 4

3 medium tomatoes, halved
1 large eggplant (about 1-1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1 small onion, halved
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
4 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

1 cup whipping cream (optional)
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Place tomatoes, eggplant, onion and garlic on large baking sheet. Brush vegetables with oil. Roast until vegetables are tender and brown in spots, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Scoop eggplant from skin into heavy large saucepan; discard skin. Add remaining roasted vegetables and thyme to same saucepan.

Add 4 cups chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook until onion is very tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan. Stir in cream. Bring to simmer, thinning with more stock, if desired. Season soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with goat cheese; serve.

from Bon Appetit, R.S.V.P., The Tyrolean, Vail, CO. November, 1997. (

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (

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