Monthly Archives: March 2015

Pick-Me-Up Spinach, Egg Drop & Parmesan Toast Soup Recipe


How should I explain better my appreciation of this soup in a few words? Umm, remember when Chef Sean Brock is reminiscing about his favorite mom’s chicken soup dumplings ‘In the Mind of a Chef ’ saying it’s the best dumpling dish he ever had? This dish is better, period. A bowl of it will make you feel as good as gold…
I make this vivid green soup at least four times a year, mostly around mid-seasons: summer and winter solstice; spring and autumn equinox. It is one of my favorite complete meals which never fail to surprise with the taste, texture and color. The consistency and color of it can vary depending on the amount of ingredients (which you can modify according to your taste – more/less spinach, greens, eggs, stock or Parmesan bread). This soup is very forgiving: the different stages of the eggs’ coagulation depending on a temperature or cooking method would deliver smooth, ragged or clouded broth. Nevertheless, all forms of it deliver a fine bowl of comforting, homey goodness: full-bodied yet very light. If you like the Greek soup Avgolemono , this egg drop soup might be your next favorite. If the Avgolemono’s color is pure yellow, this one is bright green and always reminds of the nature’s renewal. Which we are still some ten weeks (hopefully less) away from…
This soup is an immune system booster and will pick you up fast whenever you need. We felt we badly needed it last Sunday upon coming back from St-Paddy’s parade in a form of half-humans/half-icicles who haven’t felt their toes up until dinner. It brought us back to life fast.  
I can’t exactly state the origin of this soup other than disclose that this recipe is coming from the magazine clips of the cooking journal of my dear French Canadian mother-in-law. It is very close to Italian egg drop soup called Stracciatella and may be it is, by virtue of its ingredients including Parmesan, although most of the Italian versions have some pasta and/or herb in it instead of the Parmesan toast and spinach. I tentatively tag it as an Italian dish, but if you happen know the exact origin of it, I am all ears.  
I couldn’t resist messing with the egg’s chemical formula having studied its molecular magic as an ingredient. Few times, instead of following the recipe (below) method, I would mix fresh, spinach, herbs and eggs with a bit, or a lot of warm stock in the blender. It makes some white foam on top, which I discarded carefully. Other wise, it makes absolutely stunning emerald-colored mix, which when warmed through under the boiling point, would granulate into tiny green egg drop microspheres giving luxurious velvety texture and feel to the dish. I warm it through whisking carefully, without reaching the boiling point; then place it in the 400F oven for 15-20 minutes topped with Parmesan toasts. Voila – viva the cooking experiments!
This method delivers bright green, grainy texture that is really worth showcasing. Not bringing the soup to the boiling point also helps to preserve a lot of healthy enzymes in the dish, which you will find packed with flavors. Equally, I sometimes swap spinach for kale, Swiss chard or arugula, add a bit of garlic and sometimes, during the flu season, a dash of minced ginger. Spinach version is my favorite however because it doesn’t overpower the delicate taste of eggs and stock. You may wish to follow or not these leads, the results will be great anyways.
Complex in taste and highly invigorating, it is yet very simple and fast to pull off. Eggs, fresh spinach, home-made broth, sliced baguette (or other kind of stale bread of your preference) and Parmesan are five core ingredients to it. I like to also add a big bunch of parsley to bring the nutritional and detox value of it to even higher level.
Sometimes I use this simple trick to cut the rounds of the stale bread with the shot glass to have a better appeal and coverage especially if you are serving the soup to the guests.

Parsley is a known kidney tonic and the powerful antioxidant along with spinach, which also boosts the iron stores in the body, they help strengthen bones, detoxify and heal. The eggs nourish liver, heart and kidneys, while the home-made stock comforts and supports the stomach and digestive tract with minerals, glucosamine (in case of chicken stock), iodine, etc. 

Should you wish to make this soup a real taste bomb, try to assemble it with the ingredients of possibly highest quality, including: free range eggs, spinach and parsley from your own garden, stock made with organic chicken/veggies and so on. Ahhh, I can’t wait to welcome spring to our territory…
Bon Appétit!

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SPINACH, EGG DROP & PARMESAN TOAST SOUP
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
6 cups packed, rinsed and minced spinach leaves, equal to 1-2 bunches fresh spinach, OR 10 ounces frozen spinach
1 cups fresh parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground (preferably white) pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups of hot broth, chicken or vegetarian
4 bread slices (or more depending on a size), grilled (* select gluten free if necessary)
½ cup Parmesan, shredded
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Add butter to a big sauce pan or Dutch oven and heat to medium high. Add the minced spinach and parsley, stir for 1 minute. Add one cup of stock, mix and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and gently stir them into the spinach mix with the whisk.  Add the rest of the hot stock, mix well with the spinach-egg mix and check the seasoning. Place the grilled bread on top of the soup and sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Place into the pre-heated oven uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the bread and Parmesan dumplings are golden brown. Ladle into the bowls and serve immediately.

Why Don’t You Go to St. Paddy’s Parade with Us?


St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com

I asked my daughter the other day and she said: ‘Thanks Mom, but NO – it’s too cold outside to be able to enjoy things.’ Fair enough. In more ways than I care to admit, I absolutely loathe humid cold and ice wind.  Imagine facing a combination of both standing at the corner of Saint Catherine and University (OOPs, I think it was renamed recently into Robert Bourassa Boulevard, so tourists have less hard times to read French maps of the downtown Montreal), underdressed for an hour – you get the picture. The nose and ears take some good few hours to defrost after. 
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC, 2015 © letsheatit.com
And yet, we did go to the parade.  How can we miss all that buzz and honking of ceilidh ceremony? It’s festive, it’s fun, it’s traditional and there’s always something new to discover.  Like, when else can you see an openly drinking, pot-smoking crowd in front of the tons of police without being disturbed? Now, that’s the power of Saint Patrick who drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Bagpipe Musicians at St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The bagpipe musicians, leprechauns, princesses, munchkins and all other fairy tale characters from  the Emerald Island were there facing the severe cold with us.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
After, we were planning to join Freeway and Natasha from Virgin radio at the Irish pub for brunch, but the freezing cold and wind completely coiled us so we went home instead. It felt like the only person who was dressed properly for the weather at the parade was this highly respected Irish participant in the traditional Canadian beaver coat.
Man in the Beaver Coat, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The cold reminded us of how good a bowl of hot soup with dumplings can be. No beer would taste as good as this soup to bring us back to life from the mess of the freezing torture. In my head I was already half-way to this bowl. The soup had to be green in honor of the shamrock and all things Irish. And it was. Stay tuned for the must-try vivid green Spinach Herb & Egg Drop soup which will follow shortly.
Spinach Herb & Egg Drop Soup © letsheatit.com
Irish Flag, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
Cheers to St. Paddy!

Savory Potato Boxty Bread Recipe


This winter is the neverending story, and today we had yet another mini snow storm. However, it is St. Patrick’s Day, about the time we invite some spring into our lives and table travel to the Emerald Isle of soda bread and potatoes.

The apple tree branches I put in the water last week upon pruning our fruit trees have given tiny pastel green burgeons. They make some wonderful spring house decorations and an amazing background to feature the Irish savory potato soda bread called Boxty we baked for today’s particular occasion. Ready to follow? Buckle up to this fine old school gem of Sleepy Maggie’s Canadian rendition performed by an icon fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and scroll the images first to determine if this recipe will hook you up.
The word Boxty stems from the old Irish bacstaí, which means ‘poor house bread’ and pertains to the mix of flour and potato from which you can make a pancake or bread.  This Irish rural recipe is believed to have been created during the times of famine to feed big families and make potatoes, which were the only means of survival, stretch further.  The pancake or loaf was served with milk and salt and Irish kids used to call it ‘dippity’. Today Boxty is a huge come back food trend in Ireland and potato bread and pancakes are served in restaurants all over the country.
Obviously, the Boxty Bread is a tribute to the Irish terroir, which includes:
STARCHY POTATOES
WHEAT FLOUR, MILK & BUTTER
DILL or CARAWAY seeds, sea salt, pepper, BAKING SODA
Mixed together, they make quick and tasty savory bread. Note: you do need to prepare a piece of cheesecloth to drain the grated potatoes for the recipe.
Without yeast as a leavening agent, the Boxty soda bread is very easy and fast to knead and pull off.  

It tastes amazing with some extra butter or the rarebit cheese melt and pickles when freshly baked. Or in the form of Croque Monsieur or mini-pizza with all kind of garnish the day after.

I also love to add it to all kinds of pan-fried or baked breakfasts and brunches, from omelet to frittata.

This bread keeps up to one week in the fridge and slices better when cold. 

BOXTY BREAD IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST TRY IF YOU LOVE POTATOES!
It is said to have inspired the following folk rhyme:
‘Boxty on the griddle,
boxty on the pan,
If you can’t bake boxty
sure you’ll never get a man…’

Check if it’s true and stay tuned for more Irish soda breads.

PS: A friend of mine has just sent me a nice St. Paddy’s greeting, here’s mine in return-
‘May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of you wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
The kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you.’
Happy St. Paddy to You All!
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Former St. Paddy’s Recipes: Dublin Lawyer
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IRISH BOXTY BREAD
Yields: 4 small loaves
Ingredients:
7 (about 1 ¾ pounds) starchy potatoes
2 tbsp lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve*
2/3 cup of milk*
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 ½ tsp dill seeds OR caraway seeds
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
5 tsp baking powder
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel four of the potatoes, cut them into even chunks, cover with water, add the heaped teaspoon of salt and bring to boil in a medium-size saucepan. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash with butter until smooth pure.
Peel the remaining three potatoes and grate coarsely. Wrap in a clean piece of cheesecloth and squeeze tightly to remove the moisture. Put the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the milk, ¾ teaspoon of salt, pepper and dill seeds. Beat in the mashed potatoes.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt onto the potato mixture. Mix to smooth dough, adding a little more flour if the mixture is too soft.
Knead lightly, then shape into four flat, round loaves, about 4 inches in diameter. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Mark each loaf with a large cross. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.
Break each loaf into quarters. Serve warm, spread with butter.
Adapted from: The Irish Pub – Fabulous Food from the Emerald Isle, Parragon Books, 2012

Classic Miso Soup Recipe: Keep it Simple


Classic Restaurant Style Miso Soup
Japanese cuisine topic is broad and challenging, but quintessentially Japan’s food tradition rests on rice and Miso soup. The Miso soup is a beautiful ode to the Sea and the Earth. Almost 40 years ago, Avelin Tomoko Kushi, the legendary advocate for macrobiotic diet and the ‘moving force’ across the US behind the wave of the health food restaurants back in 70’s, published the book ‘How to Cook with Miso’. I found a copy of it few years ago in a thrift store and have embarked of a wonderful journey of experimenting with miso and myriads of interesting combinations with it.  Kushi poetically described Miso soup as ‘… soup, containing a sea vegetable, can be likened to the ancient sea we have evolved from. As that ancient sea nourished our first beginnings, miso nurtures us as the internal sea of our blood.

Visually, when you look at a bowl of Miso soup it somehow reminds of a cloud of sand suspended in the water under which the treasure of other ingredients is hidden…

Japanese Miso Soup & Kombu Seaweed

Although I’m quite sure no one remembers that great activist woman of a Japanese origin, we all know that as of today, Japanese cuisine has officially conquered the world with its food culture intangibles.  In a nutshell, to me it’s a story of the Japanese Chef Nobuki Matsuhisa, who came to the US via Peru, opened his first restaurant in Beverly Hills back in 1987 and was convinced by the rich admirer, Robert De Niro, to open one in NYC 7 years later (celebrity Hiroshima-born Iron Chef Morimoto used to be a head chef there as well). Today Chef and restaurateur Matsuhisa celebrates his 66th anniversary. ‘Nobu’ is all over the world, including US, UK, Italy, Greece, Russia, UAE, Hungary, Hong Kong and, of course, his native Japan…

Chef Matsuhisa and his Miso Soup Images from Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook by © Nobu Matsuhisa
What started as an exotic personal or professional travel to Japan few decades ago by selected chefs, food critics and writers has now turned into a massive food tourism pilgrimage to the land of samurai and cherry blossom.  It’s not just the exotic atmosphere, steamy bowls and sultry paper lanterns that lure foodie tourists from all over the world to this destination. With 267 Michelin starred restaurants under its belt Tokyo became the global gourmet capital where food is perceived as SUPER-HEALTHY and ATTRACTIVE; and Japanese chefs known for their stiff upper lip work ethics have become an example of a professional EXCELLENCE to be judged against.

Most of us however can’t afford to hop on a plane and fly to Japan to explore its rich culinary map and this is when the classic simple Japanese recipes come in handy. This post is my tribute to the humble Miso soup, a simple traditional Japanese concoction with exotic flavors of umami, sea and earthy and tangy taste of fermented soybeans. The mentioning of it instantly brings most of us to the sushi restaurants, where miso is a staple to begin the feast.

Unfortunately, the Internet is riddled with pseudo-classic miso soup recipes (missing kombu, using roasted nori instead of wakame, chicken stock or soya sauce for the stock base, firm tofu instead of soft, etc.) which can repulse you fast and make you forget about trying Miso soup DIY forever (this is how my first pack of miso paste ended up in garbage in a first place). But may be this fool-proof recipe will hook you on it without a problem.

The vegetarian version of Miso soup is made of primarily two basic ingredients: dried kombu seaweed-based stock called ‘dashi’ and ‘miso’, fermented paste from cooked salted and aged soybeans.

Kombu Vegetarian Dashi Stock
KOMBU VEGETARIAN STOCK (called KOMBU DASHI) + MISO make a powerful healing and detoxifying soup packed with fiber, probiotics, proteins, enzymes, rare vitamins (like K and B12), microelements and scientifically proven anti heart disease and breast cancer properties. Truly, this soup is a wonderful dish to kick-start a day, have a healthy lunch, break or a quick dinner. While the spring is trying to break through and the Lent has started back in February, this soup DIY recipe can’t be more timely in my point of view.
Miso Paste

The RESTAURANT STYLE, NON-VEGETARIAN classic version of dashi stock is called awase dashi and has an extra ingredient in it: dried fermented and shaved skipjack tuna flakes called KATSUOBUSHI, which you can buy at any major Asian grocery like Kim Phat:

Katsuobushi Flakes (Bonito)
Equally, and more on a budget, dashi stock can be made of dried baby anchovies and is called the iriko dashi:

Dried Anchovies

The sushi restaurant-style version also usually includes:
– soft silken tofu (never firm tofu);
– shitake mushrooms;
– wakame seaweed;
– minced scallions

Other Miso Soup Ingredients
If you are a Miso Soup lover, its exotic ingredients will not cost a fortune and have a very flexible shelf life. Here is what you need to to stock on (requires one single trip to the big Asian supermarket like Kim Phat,Tai Food (smaller places would be more expensive) – don’t forget to bring this list with you:
THE BREAKDOWN FOR A RESTAURANT-STYLE MISO SOUP INGREDIENTS
– DRIED KOMBU SEAWEED (can last well-sealed in a pantry indefinitely) – the 100g/$3.99 pack lands me with around 20 batches of 4 cups dashi stock;  
– BONITO FLAKES (can last well-sealed in a pantry indefinitely) –  the 30g/$5.99 pack is enough for 4-5 batches of 4 cups dashi stock; 
– MISO PASTE  (can last in the fridge for up to 12 months) – the 500g/$9.99 pack of uber-healthy white non-pasterized miso paste by Hanamaruki brand (my preferred) makes 8 to 10 batches of 4 cups miso soup and can be used in tones of other recipes (NOTE: as a general guide, the darker is the miso, the longer fermentation it went through, so begin with white type of miso to gradually get used to the taste and proportions);
– SILKY/SOFT TOFU – the 200g/$1.99 pack is found in most major groceies, enough for 1-2 batches of 4 cups of soup;
– DRIED WAKAME SEAWEED (can last well-sealed in a pantry indefinitely) – the 100g/$2.99 pack lands me with around 40+ batches of 4 cups dashi stock; 
– DRIED SLICED SHITAKE MUSHROOMS (can last well-sealed in a pantry for up to 12 months) – the 100g/$4.99 pack lands me with around 20+ batches of 4 cups dashi stock;
Follow the recipe below for the few simple steps:

 And voila, your restaurant-style miso is ready!

Enjoy your first real miso! I will come back with more takes on it.

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One Year Ago: 
Rosemary Oatcake Crackers
Candid Citrus Peel DIY

Two Years Ago:
Pear Yogurt Granola Muffins
Home-Made Granola

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CLASSIC RESTAURANT STYLE MISO SOUP
Yields: 3 to 4 portions
Ingredients for the dashi stock:
4 cups water, OR rainbow vegetable broth without beets
5-6 of 2-inch pieces of kombu (dried kelp)
4 tbsp (1/2 cup) loosely packed bonito flakes (katsuobushi), optional
Ingredients for the miso soup:
2 tbsp dried sliced shitake mushrooms (optional), soaked in cold water to reconstitute 
½ to 1 pound silken/soft tofu, cubed
2 tbsp wakame seaweed
4 tbsp white miso, OR mix of red and white miso paste
3 scallions, minced
Instructions: 
To make the dashi stock combine water/broth and kombu in a saucepan and bring the mix to boil. Simmer for 10 to 40 minutes (depending on how strong you want the flavor of seaweed)* Remove kombu and add bonito flakes, if using. Bring the stock to simmer, remove from heat and let bonito flakes steep for 5-20 minutes. Strain the stock through the mesh and discard bonito flakes.  Add some boiled water or stock to bring the quantity back to 4 cups.
Bring the broth to simmer and add shitake mushrooms. Simmer for 1 minute. Add tofu – don’t boil, because it will ruin the distinct flavor of dashi.
Dissolve miso paste in a cup of hot broth separately. Pour the miso mix back into the stock, add wakame and scallion, warm through (don’t bring the stock to boil) for 1 minute. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.
*Please note that restaurant chefs prefer to cook kombu longer for more intense flavor.