Leftover Vegetable Plate Soup and Grilled Cheese

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The soup is so named since I always seem to make it when we have lots of leftover vegetables from a plate of raw vegetables and dip at a party. (Could also be a 'clean out the vegetable drawer' soup.) The vegetables I used this time were carrot, cauliflower, luo bo (lo bok or daikon), and zucchini but they can easily be varied according to what you have on hand. I used a pork broth that I also needed to use up but a chicken stock would also be fine. I added a little chunk of cheese from a leftover cheese plate. Strangely, it went really well with the slightly sharp taste of the luo bo.

Cut half an onion, one clove of garlic, and two large carrots into small dice then sweat with some salt and oil in a dutch oven until tender. No need to get too fussy with the knife since everything will be blended. Add two cups chopped cauliflower, two cups chopped zucchini, two cups chopped luo bo, and two cups of broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are tender. Puree soup in batches; then return to pan and taste for salt. Chop up two roasted red peppers and stir into the soup along with 1 tbs blue cheese (optional). Makes about six bowls of soup. For a more refined soup you can stir in milk or cream and blend until it is really creamy and smooth.

Biting into a grilled cheese sandwich is one of those simple things that always feels luxurious. Cheese is rarely thought of as budget food (see Rotini and Bleu post) but there are ways to to make the most of this precious ingredient. One way is to get good quality cheese with a stronger flavour; you need less of it to make an impact. Also, when you make a grilled cheese don't use slices but grate the cheese finely before spreading it on the bread. I use less than half the amount of cheese this way, and the sandwich is better - too much cheese makes the sandwich unwieldy and sloppy to eat. For sandwich: Generously butter two slices of bread and spread mustard on the other side of one of them. Spread two tbs finely grated aged cheddar over mustard and place assembled sandwich in covered frying pan over med heat until one side is browned; then turn and brown the other side. This is great dipped into soup.

A Couple of Salads

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My favourite kind of salad to make and eat is the kind that takes just a few minutes' worth of chopping and mixing and will then keep in the fridge for a while. Both these recipes make a pile of salad, enough for a meal with 4-5 guests or to have on hand for a few days' worth of refreshment for the singles.

This white bean and tomato salad I've been trying to blog for a week and a half; I've made it three times but guests and roommates keep devouring the salad before I can get a picture. Use two cups cooked white beans, about the same amount of tomatos cut the same size as the beans, half a bunch of chopped cilantro, half a cup of lemon juice, half a cup of olive oil, 1 tsp of crushed garlic, and 1 tsp of salt. Mix together and let sit til next day.

The soybean salad I first made as part of the potato salad, and was good enough to make again for its own sake. Steam one and a half pounds shelled fresh soybeans, meanwhile mixing together 2/3 cup white wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tbs dried oregano, and 2/3 tsp of salt. Pour dressing over hot soybeans and mix together, then store in fridge. You can eat the salad as soon as the beans have cooled off but it is better the next day.

Grilled Eggplant with Sesame and Green Onions

Friday, June 13, 2008

These days are oppressively humid and I feel especially lazy. I've been eating a lot of grilled vegetables, either the street barbecue known as shaokao (烧烤)or done on a cast iron stovetop grill pan. If you have great vegetables a little oil and salt can transform a potato and half an eggplant into something really satisfying. After eating vast quantities of plain grilled eggplant, however, I was searching for a little variety and happened on this recipe from epicurious, which combines onion, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and soy sauce into a barbecue sauce that contains neither sugar nor acid. Too lazy to adapt, or even copy it out, I am simply linking to it. (I did toast my own sesame seeds; very worth it if you have time.) Sesame and eggplant are natural together and this came out quite rich and salty, making me wish I had sour cream or some of the potato salad left.

Watch this space for more grilling in the next few weeks...

Creamy Potato and Fresh Soybean Salad

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I enjoy the early morning farmer's market scene as much as anyone, but locally one of the best ways to get deals is by going late, just when people are packing things up. In particular the vendors selling semi prepared food such as peeled potatoes, shelled peas, and husked corn are most willing to give you a deal. Once a lady emptied out a whole basket of greens for me when I asked for one yuan's worth. (The go-late principle reportedly works in Western parts as well as Eastern.)

So I got back one evening with 1 and a half pounds of peeled potatoes and half a pound of fresh shelled soybeans. I wanted to make potato salad but didn't have pickles, so I just cooked the potatoes and steamed the soybeans over top of them. I then tossed the beans with 1.5 tbs white vinegar, 2 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, and salt. (I almost stopped here. The beans in vinaigrette were so good the next day I almost ate them all like this and used the potatoes for something else.)

After I bought pickles I cut the potatoes into chunks and smashed the chunks a bit, then cut dill pickles into about 2/3 of a cup's worth small dice. I emptied the beans into a bowl with the potatoes, pickles, and 1 tbs minced pepperoncini. I stirred up half a cup of pickle jar juice and dregs including a lot of garlic and dill pieces, and finally added a generous half cup of mayo. Stirred everything up and added 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Great lunch the next day, after I tasted it again for salt and pepper. This makes enough salad for a group, six or so.