Tag Power Foods

Fresh Corn Salad with Chipotle Sauce

Yesterday I set out to make stuffed poblano peppers in chipotle sauce — and ended up with a corn salad. What can I say … my peppers didn’t cooperate, a mad dash to the grocery produced no more poblanos, and so The Cook played inventor. But let me start from the beginning.

As you may recall, the poblanos are stuffed with quinoa, black beans, corn, and mushrooms. I’d made the dish once before and earned a B+. I was hoping my second effort would produce an A. To improve my chances, I planned to serve it with the popular creamed corn.

I roasted the poblano peppers, peeled them, and then cut a small slit in the side in order to scrape the seeds out. I don’t know if it was me or the poblanos, but my seed-removal efforts left the peppers with multiple rips and, I realized, in a truly un-stuffable state.

So I improvised. I cut the kernels off of the cob. I diced some red pepper, some shitake mushrooms, and one of the poblanos; minced some garlic and sliced a shallot. While those ingredients were sauteing, I followed the very easy recipe for the chipotle sauce: puree one clove of garlic, one chipotle pepper, salt and water in a food processor; add cilantro and pulse once. I served the corn salad with roasted salmon, drizzling both with chipotle sauce.

Maybe it was just relief that my poblano plans hadn’t ended in disaster, but I thought the corn salad was delicious. Next time (and by “next time” I mean tomorrow) I’ll add another shallot and perhaps some more mushrooms. And I might toss the corn salad in the chipotle sauce, treating it more like a dressing, But for a first-time, by-the-seat-of-my-pants effort, I was pleased.

Of course, what *you* want to know is what The Professor thought. Well, he liked it. He thought the corn salad could have been warmer. And that, while the salmon was cooked perfectly, it wasn’t the best piece of fish.

“The corn salad might pair better with a white fish,” he added. “We haven’t had halibut in a while.”

Given the quality of the salmon and the adjustments I want to make to the recipe, I didn’t ask for a grade. But look for one soon.


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.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Chipotle Sauce

I was still thinking about Betsy’s Roasted Red Peppers, and whether they could be embellished in a way that would transform them from side dish to main event, when I came across a recipe for Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Chipotle Sauce.

“Stuffed with quinoa, black beans, mushrooms, and corn, these peppers make a satisfying vegetarian main course,” promised the writers of Power Foods, my new cookbook from the editors of Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine.

I had to try it.

The Professor arrived in the kitchen after the poblanos had been roasted and peeled. Peering suspiciously into the dish where they lay limply, waiting for their filling, he asked, “What are those for?”

“I’m stuffing them,” I told him. “You’re skeptical?”

“I’m always skeptical,” he replied. Which is true. No matter how easily bored he is by dishes I serve too frequently, he’s naturally suspicious of new recipes. But explaining such paradoxes isn’t my job, so I got back to cooking the stuffing.

I sauteed the mushrooms for a few minutes, added in the corn and black beans, and finally mixed in the quinoa and goat cheese. Then I carefully spooned the mixture into the peppers.

Making the chipotle sauce took about one minute: Toss the garlic, the chipotle, some salt and water into a food processor and blend. Add the cilantro and pulse until it is chopped. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish.

The recipe called for baking the stuffed peppers for 15-20 minutes, but I was worried about making the peppers too soft, so I took them out after 5 minutes.

The result: All of the flavors (in the stuffing, the chipotle sauce, and the mild zing of the poblano itself) worked well together, and each bite brought a slightly different combination of tastes. The black beans, corn, and mushrooms added texture to the stuffing and, along with the goat cheese, gave the peppers the heft they needed to be more than just a side dish.

“They are definitely more substantive than Betsy’s Peppers,” said The Professor. He praised the flavor and gave the dish high marks for “interestingness.” His one complaint was that the peppers were too soft.

The final grade: B+.

“It’s worth another shot,” he added, encouragingly. “If you cooked the peppers a bit less, it could be an A.”

Next time I’ll cut the initial roasting time to 10 minutes. In the meantime, you can see the full recipe here.

What Good to a Nook Is a Hook Cook Book?

The New York Times‘ recently predicted that, while books aren’t going anywhere, “there is one area where printed matter is going to give way to digital content: cookbooks.” The article continues:

Martha Stewart Makes Cookies a $5 app for the iPad, is the wave of the future. Every recipe has a photo of the dish (something far too expensive for many printed cookbooks).

Complicated procedures can be explained by an embedded video. When something needs to be timed, there’s a digital timer built right into the recipe. You can e-mail yourself the ingredients list to take to the grocery store. The app does what cookbooks cannot, providing a better version of everything that came before it.

Yet cookbook sales rose 10% in the US and Europe last year, and 20% in Asia and Latin America, according  to Fast Company,. Moreover, the best-selling non-fiction title of 2010 was a cookbook — Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals!

I must admit that I’ve been on a bit of a cookbook-buying streak of late, though maybe when The Professor’s iPad2 arrives I’ll make the digital leap. In the meantime, here are a few of the titles I’ve bought to help me meet The Professor’s cooking challenge:

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison. Madison is, of course, the founding chef of Greens restaurant in San Francisco. She’s also the author of some nine cookbooks, including this bestselling classic.


Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients. I’m not sure I’ll ever convince The Professor to like quinoa, but it’s worth a shot.


Power Foods

On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee. This tome about cooking contains no recipes, but is filled with little-known facts about the science of cooking, the history of eating, and the etymologies of common food names. It might not make me a better cook, but it will enable me to distract you, dear readers, with the history of ketchup and an explanation for why almonds don’t taste like almond flavoring.


On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee