Roasted Carrot Soup

Here's another recipe I developed for Robyn's blog. Enjoy! I promise to post some new things in coming weeks :)

With this cold weather, it's a wonderful time to make soups. One of the least expensive vegetables around are carrots. Although inexpensive, carrots will win you over with their gorgeous orange color, natural sweetness and abundance of vitamin A, dietary fiber, antioxidants and minerals. Below is a recipe for Roasted Carrot Soup, which doesn't take much time to make, but will warm you on a cooler fall day. I bet even your kids will like it!

First, a note on roasting. Roasting is a wonderful technique of cooking at high temperatures. You can roast vegetables, poultry and even fruit. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in your food and frees you to do other kitchen tasks while the food sits in the 450 degree oven. One of the keys in roasting is to make sure not to pile your food on top of each other. Roast your vegetables in one layer, and make sure that all pieces are of the same size: that way, it will all cook evenly.

Ingredients (makes about 5 cups)

7 large carrots, peeled, cut into 2" pieces

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (less or more depending on your tolerance for heat)

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup milk

garnish: fresh thyme, cream (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. In a bowl drizzle carrots with olive oil and season with salt & pepper, and cayenne. Mix well.

3. Transfer the carrots onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender. They will turn a nice golden-brown color.

4. Let the carrots cool a bit, then add them to a blender and puree with chicken stock and milk. [Note, to make this soup vegetarian, use vegetable stock or water instead of chicken stock.]

5. Pour the soup into a stockpot and reheat. To serve, garnish with fresh thyme and a bit of cream.

Variations: you can use this recipe with sweet potatoes, winter squash, red peppers, or combination of the above. Try drizzling a bit of olive oil or good balsamic vinegar instead of the cream if you are watching your calories.


Daring Bakers: Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Somehow September, October and November are flying by before my eyes. How is it that the Fall is almost over and the Winter is almost here? Maybe it's all the Christmas decorations in the Mall that are messing up with my perception of time?

The point is, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything going on (cooking, blogging, trying to keep my apartment clean, dancing, freelancing for Robyn, etc) and was considering skipping this month's challenge.

Then I found out that my friend Jenny was going to be in DC. When I told Jenny about the cannoli challenge, she said it sounded like fun and "pressured" me to make them! So I did.

If you want a recipe, let me know.

The dough came together really easy, and I used my pasta machine to roll it out. I also decided to buy the cannoli molds (metal tubes), instead of making my own.

The hardest part of the challenge was removing fried cannoli from the forms. A few of them broke in the process.

For the filling, instead of using ricotta, I made home-made whipped cream and spiked it with a bit of rum, orange zest and confectionery sugar. The final result was tasty without being overwhelmingly sweet.

I made only 1/2 of the cannoli recipe and ended up frying 5 cannoli. The rest of the dough is sitting in my refrigerator and will most likely go unused. This wasn't a terribly complicated challenge, but it's also not something I'm planning on making again.

My original thought of adding some chocolate sauce to the shells and covering them with chopped almonds stayed just that: a thought.

Question: other than making more cannoli, is there anything else I can do with the metal cannoli tubes?


Warm Bulgur & Lentil Salad

While I'm on vacation, I thought I'd share with you a few recipes I have developed for Robyn's Blog. Here's one of them: Bulgur & Lentil Warm Salad.

Bulgur, for those that don’t know, is a form of wheat that has been parboiled and broken into smaller particles. Bulgur is popular in Turkish, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, and is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You cook bulgur in the same way as cous cous: put dry bulgur in a bowl, top with boiling water, cover, let stand for 5-10 minutes and fluff with a fork. In case there is extra water, drain bulgur in a fine mesh before fluffing it with a fork.

Ingredients for 2-4 servings
1 cup cooked bulgur
1 cup cooked lentils
1 carrot, finely diced and sauteed in oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
olive oil
smoked sea salt
1. Combine everything in a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with smoked sea salt and pepper.
2. This salad is best served warm. It can be a meal in itself or accompany grilled meat, roasted chicken or steamed fish.
Variations: you can always add red onions, roasted peppers and a few splashes of lemon juice to this salad. Use this recipe as a template and experiment with different flavors.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends tomorrow!


Capital Food Fight

This is just a quick write up on DC Capital Food Fight I volunteered at a few weeks ago.

Why volunteer? That way you don't have to pay for the ticket and can still enjoy most of the event. My original "job" was to do security, but I nicely asked to be reassigned to do registration instead.

Basically, with the help of other volunteers I checked off the guests for the event and put those bands on their wrists that you get when you go clubbing.

The highlights were seeing all the outfits and having a quick chat with Mike Isabella's wife.

Wait, I should tell you a bit about the event itself (from the website):

The Capital Food Fight brings the food industry’s best talent together to support DC Central Kitchen’s unique brand of community empowerment. Dozens of hot restaurants serve signature dishes to guests while top chefs battle on-stage. Food critics and national celebrities are on hand to mingle with the crowd and add to the excitement.

This year's event featured guest celebrities and top chefs such as: José Andrés, Anthony Bourdain, Ted Allen, Eric Ripert, Carla Hall, Michael Mina, Barton Seaver, and Bobby Varua.

The event was held at the Reagan Building: here's a photo of before the activities started:

While doing registration, we were offered a delicious soup and kielbasa skewer courtesy of Jackson 20 and I also had a delicious watermelon/cucumber drink: that really helped to deal with some of the less pleasant and patient guests.

Here are a few photos of the scene once the party started!

Luckily, I was able to leave the registration desk long enough to sample some of the amazing food served by DC top restaurants. Miranda (who I originally met on Twitter and who happened to be volunteering at the same event) joined me.

Scallop ceviche by one of the Jose Andres restaurants; amazing lamb (don't remember the name of the restaurant)

layered desserts

The judges (LOVE Eric Ripert: actually when I first saw him at the event just walking by the registration desk, I squealed like a little girl!). Other judges included Ted Allen, Carla Hall and Jonathan Umbel.

The pantry provided by Wegmans and the graduating class from DC Central Kitchen:

The final battle was won by Michael Mina: congratulations.

This was a fabulous event! So much great food, such an important cause and one of the best experiences volunteering.


Please Vote

Hi, everyone!
Hope you are having a great Thanksgiving week. I just wanted to let you know that I entered a photo contest at Marx Foods. If you like a picture of my Challah French Toast, please vote here.


The voting will be open for a few days.


Israeli Cous Cous Salad

I remember trying Israeli cous cous a long time ago and really not liking it: I can't remember why though.

What's Israeli cous cous? It's basically just little round pasta (also known as pearl cous cous because the pasta looks like mini pearls).

Well, I decided to give Israeli cous cous another try. Who knew it'd be so hard to find at the grocery store though? The only variety I could find was pre-packaged with spices (similar to regular cous cous and rice mixes).

This is really not a recipe: instead, it's just a combination of my favorite ingredients.

I cooked the Israeli cous cous in the same way I cook any other pasta, minus the pre-packaged flavoring mix. After rinsing, draining and cooling it, I added the following:

* chopped tomatoes
* chopped cucumbers
* chopped black olives
* lots of fresh dill
* canned corn, drained (of course you can also use fresh corn)
* finely chopped red onion
* lemon juice
* olive oil
* salt & pepper

Doesn't this salad just scream summer? You can also add feta, chicken or even good quality canned tuna. The possibilities are endless!

Note: if I don't get back to your comments, please don't be offended: I'm spending a week in Puerto Rico and will answer any of your questions when I get back on the 29th. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your friends and family.


Challah French Toast with Madagascar Vanilla

After coming back from San Francisco, I learned that Marx Foods was having a photo contest using vanilla beans. I was very excited about entering the contest and receiving 6 Madagascar and 6 Tahitian vanilla beans.

As you already know, I used some of the beans to experiment with making vanilla extract at home. But what to do with the rest!? Luckily, Anna came to the rescue and suggested I make a Challah French Toast. Since she's my older sister (by 30 minutes!!!!), I listened to her.

This time instead of making my own challah, I bought one at the grocery store. And I also used a new whisk I received at the Foodbuzz Festival a few weeks ago: isn't it pretty? Unfortunately, it did not work too well in the shallow plate I was using...maybe it's best to be used in deeper bowls?

Challah French Toast with Madagascar Vanilla


4 3/4" challah slices

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk (I used whole milk)

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 vanilla bean

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons butter


1. In a bowl add eggs, milk, orange zest, seeds from a split vanilla bean and brown sugar. Whisk together.

2. In a heavy-bottomed pan heat the butter. Dunk the challah slices in the egg mixture and cook in butter for 2 minutes on each side. Serve with a bit of powdered sugar. I found no need for maple syrup, as it would have overwhelmed the flavors of vanilla, brown sugar and orange zest.

The photo below will be my entry to the photo contest. I'll let you know when the voting will begin :)

Note: obviously the flower is not to be consumed.

Any suggestions for what to do with my remaining vanilla beans? Thanks!


Puerto Rican lunch @ Mio

Last week my friend Lisa asked if I'd like to go to Mio for media lunch instead of her. Of course I said yes: and am so glad I made that choice!

This was a special lunch to introduce Saborea Puerto Rico: A culinary Extravaganza. What perfect timing, since I'm flying to Puerto Rico this Saturday to visit my friend Laura and her family?

Just so that you know, I LOVE Latin culture: the music, the language, the people, etc., etc. I first visited Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 3 or 4 years ago with Anna and our friends and had an amazing time. Can't wait to spend my Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico.

But back to lunch in Mio. As I tried my best to mingle with people (something I really am anxious about), I tasted ceviche de carrucho (conch ceviche) served on white porcelain spoons: delicious!

I was also told about a pig the restaurant flew out from Puerto Rico specifically for this occasion and roasted to be served with yucca and onion confit. Not to be rude, but I must confess that I wasn't a huge fan of this dish. There wasn't enough meat, and the yucca was a bit plain. But the pig did look marvelous.

I was also urged to taste Puerto Rican rum. Not being a big drinker, I was only able to handle a little sip. But I did enjoy learning the proper ways to drink rum (you are to hold the glass or rum in your hand to warm it up before sipping it). Luckily, Mio also provided wine!

As if wine wasn't enough, we were encouraged to help ourselves to a great looking cocktail from the bar: pear nectar with kiwi juice and some kind of liquor (sorry, can't recall the name of it). I was a happy girl!

After drinks and appetizers, we went to a private loft area of the restaurant to hear a presentation about Saborea Puerto Rico and learn more about rum production. Both were educational, with an added bonus of listening to native Puerto Ricans: LOVE their accents.

And then there was more food: dorado en salsa de maiz tierno y sofrito (mahi-mahi with fresh corn sauce and sofrito with a potato chip). The fish was cooked to perfection, and I was a bit sad we did not get more chips!

The fish was followed by more wine and guinea al vino tinto y ron, pure de apio (guinea hen in a red wine and rum reduction served with celery root puree). This was the first time I've ever tried guinea. It was delicious, but just as in the case of chicken or turkey, I preferred the white meat.

And then we had two desserts: dulce de papapya con queso del pais (candied papaya with artisanla Puerto Rican cheese). The cheese was like a mild version of feta. I think it'd be amazing in a cucumber/tomato/olive salad. In this dessert it served as a good contrast to the sweetness of the candied papaya.

And last but not least, panacota de coco con mousse de chocolate y ron (coconut panacota with chocolate mousse & rum). Again, I've never tried panacota in my life! It's a combination of jello and custard, and I really enjoyed it. The chocolate mousse was even better.

What a satisfying and informative lunch! Thanks Lisa, Mio restaurant, Karla and Barbara!


How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home

I've written before about my resistance to sign up for Twitter. But then I joined (@MangoTomato) and have found the experience addictive and helpful so far. For example, after received vanilla bean samples from Marx Foods in Seattle, I posted a question on Twitter asking for suggestions for what to do with those vanilla beans.

Stephanie from Adventures in Shaw recommended I make vanilla extract and even gave me a link for a recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini.

All you need for this is rum (or vodka), vanilla beans, glass jar with a tightly fitted lid and 8 weeks of your time.

By the way, did you know vanilla beans come from orchids? (And I LOVE orchids.)

Basically, what you do is sterilize a glass jar with a tightly fitted lid by pouring boiling water into the jar and letting it sit for 10 minutes.

Then pour out the water. Take 3 vanilla beans and split them open with a sharp knife. Put the split beans into the jar and top off with 1 cup of rum. Close the jar tightly and shake it!!

Keep the jar in the dark cool place for 8 weeks (I heard you can also do it for 6 weeks) shaking the jar occasionally.

Thanks Cindy for the jar :)

I will let you know how this experiment works out!

Also, stay tuned for another recipe I made with the vanilla beans from Marx Foods and a chance to help me win $150 certificate from them :)


Saturday at Foodbuzz Food Festival, Part 2

Are you tired of my Foodbuzz recaps yet? Please say "no" or just wait a few more days: I promise to post something non-Foodbuzz related.

Saturday night (last weekend) was perhaps my most favorite part of the Foodbuzz Food Festival. We were put on a bus and driven to a produce warehouse in the middle of nowhere (or so it seemed).

That's where we had a truly outstanding dinner: Outstanding in the Field, which included great food, a lot of wine, chatting with friends we've made over the weekend and being surrounded by cartons of tomatoes, onions and huge containers of soy sauce.

We were greeted by the owner of the winery which produces 2008 Ca' del Solo Albarino.

While sipping the wine (and refilling it at least once) I walked around the warehouse taking photos of food and cool quotes:

Look at all the tables Outstanding in the Field set up for us!

The menu had an Asian feel, and most of the food was consumed using chopsticks.

Just so that you know, there wasn't too much light: we were enjoying candle light instead (the situation was different depending on where in the warehouse you were sitting).

And now to the food:

Mushroom dashi, maitake, shimeji, enoki mushrooms (in plain English, a delicious mushroom soup)

Udon, grilled Monterey calamari in a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisee & yellow pear tomato with chojang & sesame vinaigrette (served with 2007 Le Cigare Blanc)

not pictured, but consumed and really enjoyed:

Sea trout baked with dashikombu, fried garlic and Japanese curry powder

Mushroom risotto with koshihikari rice, crispy maitake mushrooms

Soy braised beef cheeks with oxtails, baby carrots and fingerling potato, OB Beer and denjang demi

Roasted brussels sprouts, ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, bonito flakes
(served with 2005 Le Cigare Volant): this was everyone's favorite course

Koshihikari rice pudding, cookie crumble and warren pear (with 2008 Vinferno): this was a disappointing end to the meal: I wasn't a huge fan of the dessert or the Vinferno.

After dinner, I was guilted into going salsa dancing with Anna. I'm sorry, but the people asking me to dance were horrible. One guy was not even moving to the beat of music, but wanted to teach me how to dance! Seriously!?

Sunday we enjoyed brunch at Lulu restaurant, said our final good-bye's to the people we met at the festival, also Foodbuzz employees, and then hung out with Anna's friends the rest of the day, before heading back to the airport.

Such an awesome long weekend.

I leave you with one "person" photo of me :)