Category Side Dishes

Super Carrot Soup

Last night I served carrot soup, based on a recipe from Power Foods, a book I’ve written about before. (I used vegetable stock rather than chicken stock and 2% milk rather than half-and-half. I also forgot the last-minute sprinkle of cayenne!)

In my experience, many soups that focus on a single vegetable — pea, asparagus, mushroom, etc — can involve pounds of the main ingredient and hours of work yet not deliver even minutes of rich flavor. The result might be too watery, too subtle, or too boring. In short, such soups can be disappointing.

As a soup, this recipe did not disappoint — or didn’t disappoint The Cook, at least. The soup wasn’t too watery, and I thought its vibrant orange color was matched by a concentrated flavor that I attributed to the two cups of carrot juice the recipe calls for.

For his part, The Professor deemed it “not as subtle as your butternut squash soup.” (A soup, I noted, that involves more ingredients and prep time.) “But I thought it smelled more flavorful than it tasted,” he added.

In any case, I had to admit that the soup — yummy as it was — felt more like an appetizer than a main course. To round out the meal, I had served it with a salad and what I called parmesan flat bread (an Iggy’s pizza shell, brushed with olive oil; sprinkled with cheese, salt, and pepper; and heated on the griddle).

“It’s definitely a light meal,” said The Professor. “But you don’t want a heavy meal every night.”

I didn’t ask for a grade this time, but I will try it again on some evening when a light meal would be welcome. And next time I won’t forget the garnish of cayenne, which might just heat the soup into the A range.

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Update: Giada De Laurentii’s Couscous-stuffed Peppers

The roasted pepper obsession continues …. Last night I made Giada De Laurentii’s couscous-stuffed peppers. (See previous post here.)

I used yellow raisins instead of currents because that’s what I had on hand, and quinoa instead of couscous just because. So maybe I shouldn’t blame her for the result….

“When I think of a vegetarian meal, this is the kind of dish I think of,” said The Professor. “You know, it tastes OK, but it’s kind of bland.”

It also felt more like a side dish than an entree.

If I try the recipe again, I’ll definitely use currants and I’d add more feta and possibly some pine nuts. Does anyone have any other ideas?

Roasted Red Peppers Update

The week after I served The Professor a dinner of Betsy’s Peppers and a leek frittata, I cooked up another batch of the roasted red peppers. I liked having them on hand, ready to heat up for a tasty lunch or afternoon snack, so I made a dozen pepper halves and stashed them in the fridge.

Then the peppers started disappearing.

It took me a couple of days to realize that The Professor was eating them for lunch, eschewing his regular turkey or ham sandwich in favor of these vitamin-packed numbers!

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s one thing for him to eat what I serve for dinner, after all. But pilfering my stash of roasted peppers for lunch — now that meant he really liked them! And it started me wondering whether what I’d thought of as a tasty vegetarian side dish could be transformed into the star of the plate. Maybe with the addition of some feta? And served with a side of Israeli couscous or some other interesting grain? I’ll be trying again soon.

Roasted Red Peppers – aka, Betsy’s Peppers

These roasted red peppers have been part of my mom’s dinner party repertoire for years. And when I made them for a recent preschool parents potluck they disappeared.

Roasted red peppers stuffed with tomatoes, olives, and basil.

My mom refers to them as “Betsy’s Peppers,” after the friend who gave her the recipe. Betsy was enviably fashionable and seemed to know anyone and everyone interesting. When in London, where she lived a third of the year, she socialized with Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, the duo behind the River Cafe. In The Cafe Cookbook, Gray and Rogers include a recipe so similar to Betsy’s that I began to suspect that she had gotten the recipe from them. My mom thinks otherwise, in part because, sadly, Betsy died before that book was published. So I will continue to call them Betsy’s Peppers.

Last week, I served them for dinner alongside a leek frittata and a salad.

A leek frittata, accompanied by roasted red peppers and a simple salad

“I’d eat this again,” The Professor declared when his plate was clean. A grade will come the next time I  serve it. In the meantime, here’s the recipe:

6 red peppers

2 large cans diced tomatoes, drained

4-6 cloves garlic, chopped

40 Kalamata olives, chopped

24 leaves of basil, sliced thin

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degreees.

In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, garlic, olives, basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Halve each pepper vertically, remove the seeds, and coat lightly with olive oil.

Spoon the filling into the pepper halves, and bake for roughly 45 minutes. You want the peppers to be cooked enough that they lose their crispness and get a bit charred, but not so much that they get very soft and lose their structure.