Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cheesy Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French onion soup is the perfect cheesy delight
     One of my favorite gooey, cheesy, guilty pleasures is French onion soup. I always think of it as being a restaurant staple, as they broil it. Dishes that come out sizzling seem somehow more difficult. But it’s actually not at all true. If you have a soup pot and a broiler, it is easy to make French onion soup.

     When I order it at restaurants, it is delicious but often too salty. I can only eat a few bites before I’m reaching for my water glass. But mmm are those few bites delicious! In an attempt to remedy this problem, I make a vegetarian version, substituting organic, low sodium mushroom broth for beef broth. Mushrooms lend the same underlying meatiness that beef flavor does, but without all the grease and salt. I also add one to two cups of water to the soup, letting it cook off into the broth.

     This version is as (or I think more) cheesy and satisfying as the original, but much healthier and vegetarian.  It is also remarkably easy to make and packs a nice wallop of impact for guests as it comes out of the broiler sizzling.

     This time I added actual mushrooms as well, but I’m giving you the recipe without them, as I think it tasted better without them. It’s certainly more traditional without mushrooms.

French Onion Soup
Difficulty:Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px
Time: 1 hour
Makes: 6 servings


3 large sweet onions, sliced
4 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 cups organic low sodium mushroom broth
1 tablespoon thyme
Pepper to taste (there should be enough salt in the broth, but if not for your tastes, feel free to add it)
1-2 cups water
1 loaf French bread (baguette or other), sliced and toasted
2 cups grated Gruyere, Swiss, provolone or a mixture of all three
Slice the onions along in opposition to their layers, creating long thin slices

    Heat oil in a large soup pot on medium. Add sliced onions and sauté. You may need to adjust the heat higher or lower depending on your stove. You want the onions to soften and caramelize, not burn. When they begin to soften, add the shallots and sherry. Sauté, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, enough time for the sherry to cook down and the onions to fully caramelize. Then add garlic. Cook one more minute, enough time for the garlic to become aromatic, then add mushroom broth, water (optional), thyme and pepper, and turn the heat up to high. When it begins to simmer, reduce heat, but keep the simmer going, stirring as needed for 15 minutes.
Soup coming to a simmer.  I used mushrooms this time, but it changed the consistency and I like it better without them.
    Spoon soup into bowl, filling about halfway. Add two slices of bread and top with more soup just to insure they become fully saturated. Top with generous portion of cheese.

The Gruyere is beginning to bubble up and change color in the broiler.
     Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it. You want the cheese to completely dissolve, bubble up and turn brown. When this happens remove from broiler and serve. Use a plate underneath the bowl as it will be really hot to the touch.

     I love this recipe for this spring weather, rainy, but not too cool. French onion soup is cozy, like a watch-the-spring-rain-and-the-greening-of-the-world-from-my-window kind of dish. It’s light and little bit sweet, while being earthy and very satisfying. Perhaps it will warm me from the inside out, giving me strength to venture out into the rain. Maybe tulip shoots are also steeling themselves against the weather, preparing to expose themselves to damp, thawing air. Perhaps I should go find out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Unintended Outcome: Yoga Week Creates Ripple Effect

Photo courtesy of www.ensowellness.com
Yoga week is officially over.  And it was hard.  Not so much the yoga as scheduling the yoga.  I didn’t make it.  I completed four days in a row, before waiting early on a Saturday morning on the subway platform for a train that never came.  I wasn’t the only one.  After 25 minutes to half an hour,  everyone left the station, forfeiting the $2.50 for a return above ground, each of us changing our plans, returning to bed, stopping into a café for a now leisurely breakfast. 
I even saw another disgruntled girl with a yoga mat slung over her shoulder.  She paced nervously back and forth on the platform, back and forth, back and forth, before finally giving up like the rest of us.
My streak was broken, but I did manage five out of seven days.  That’s not bad.  And four days in a row is enough to change the way my body felt.  After the first class, I felt nothing, completely normal.  After the second class, I was so sore - my shoulders and thighs, even my abs - that I didn’t think I could complete another back to back class.  Even before the beginning of the third class, I sat on my mat wondering if I had the stamina to participate, telling myself that all I had to do was stick it out.  But after that class, I wasn’t sore.  In fact, I began to feel great.  I had more energy, felt leaner, longer, taller.  I felt better.  My whole body was functioning in unison, all muscles harmonizing and functioning at their highest level.  I felt thin and taught.  And this feeling continued into and after the fourth class.
I started to make better decisions about the food I was eating, opting for lighter, healthier meals and snacks.  White flour pasta?  That’s not good enough.  Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese?  No, I’m substituting all natural peanut butter.  Dessert?  No, I think an apple will be more satisfying.
Just going to yoga everyday made me want to do better elsewhere.  The humming, harmonizing feeling in my body made me want to contribute to that body and eat better.  I even slept better.
Was I longer and leaner, thinner?  Maybe, but I doubt it.  But who cares?  I felt better.  Yoga gave me something new.  I generally see yoga as a necessary component of lifting weights.  I don’t want my muscles to get tight, stalky, so I stretch them out.  Doing yoga everyday really felt like achieving some harmony between mind and body.  Usually treating it as merely a workout, I found myself actually using the quiet moments, meditating, really quieting my mind.  During the meditation part of the class, I generally make a list of things I need to do when class is over.  Or I take inventory of the class, was it a good workout?  How many calories do I think I burned?  What am I going to eat now that it’s over?  Calming my mind was an amazing relief.
My flexibility is greatly improved and that is staying with me.  The classes feel more natural due to this increase.  Even if I take a few days in between classes, I still maintain the extra bendiness I picked up during that week.
But it came with a consequence.  During the two days I didn’t go, I felt horrible.  I felt fat and lazy and tense.  I missed it.  When I lift weights at the gym, I feel stronger, and it lasts.  If I work out really hard and then take a day off, I can still feel the benefits of that workout.  I still feel sore, strong, my energy used.  Perhaps yoga doesn’t build as much muscle as weight training does, so I don’t continue to burn calories after I’ve finished the class.  Or perhaps yoga is just more addictive, and without my fix, I didn’t feel the same.
I’m now trying to keep it going.  I managed three days last week and a nice long run.  The class directly after the run felt amazing, even if my legs were exhausted.  This week I hope to do better.
My little pledge had a ripple effect and inspired a number of other such acts, prompting my mom to try to attend the gym every day that week as well.  My brother texted me after his first yoga class, ever, “Wow just finished at Yoga to the People.  Feel like day one of boot camp.”  Even my boyfriend, who’s fundamentally opposed to yoga offered to join me for a class.  Perhaps fitness is contagious.  Perhaps Zen is contagious too.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Art of a Successful Dinner Party: Keep It Simple

The assembly line for delicious sirloin sandwiches
     I love entertaining. Or rather, I love the idea of entertaining. (By entertaining, I mean having friends and/or family over for dinner, not preforming circus tricks or my best Celine Dion impersonation.) I have a bad habit of getting exited, over planning my menu, overexerting myself, over scouring my house and just plain overdoing it. I get all these ideas and try too many things. I over complicate things. I choose dishes that I’ve never made before. Generally, I stress myself out and fail to put together anything really delicious or impressive.

     That being said, I think I’m getting better.

     Some tips on planning a menu:

     Keep it simple. Make dishes you know you can make, and not in your head, in practice. And nothing too time consuming. You want to be able to enjoy the company and occasion. You want your guests to be suitably impressed, but they’ll be more blown away that you can relax and hang out with them while serving a tasty spread, than they will be if you are clearly laboring on their behalf.

     Don’t make too many temperature specific items. It is hard to get everything together all at the same time, especially while talking and drinking wine. Serve some things that can be chilled or served at room temperature.

Antipasto complete with baby sweet peppers broiled in my oven
      Keep a plate of appetizers and wine ready when guests arrive. No guest likes to sit down and eat immediately after arriving, but usually some finger food will disappear, quickly. I like cheese plates or antipasto. Sometimes I have served more involved appetizers, such as egg rolls, but only when they can be made the day before. And many appetizers are just too filling. Either the meal or the appetizer ends up being mostly wasted. You want to opt for something light. Bread or crackers and cheese, or sliced vegetables and hummus work very well.

     Once again, keep it simple. This doesn’t refer to specific dishes, but to the whole menu. People don’t need or expect a five course smorgasbord when they come over. Just make a few yummy items.
In general, people are impressed if you make them something that tastes and looks good. You don’t have to pluck your own chicken or make water into wine.

What can I say?  I'm a sucker for decorations, especially fresh flowers
     Last week we had my boyfriend’s parents over for a late lunch/early dinner on a Sunday. Here is what we served:

Antipasto: sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, fresh mozzarella, roasted baby bell peppers and sliced focaccia bread
Salad: Sliced red tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, black pepper
Side: Sweet potato fries (although this is perhaps not an appropriate title as I baked them)
Sandwich: Marinated Sirloin with horse radish cream
Dessert: Panna cotta with balsamic strawberries courtesy of Ina Garten (although I used nonfat Greek yogurt, not whole fat) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/panna-cotta-with-balsamic-strawberries-recipe/index.html
Beverage: Wine, an unfortunately mediocre California pinot noir

Difficulty (for entire menu): Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px
Makes (of each dish): 4-5 servings
Time: Seriously about an hour…for everything

     I made the panna cotta the night before they came over, but I saved the strawberries and lemon zest for just before I served dessert.

Sweet potatoes ready to go into the oven
 Sweet Potato Fries


4 large sweet potatoes
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

     Start with these as they need time to bake. Preheat the oven to 350 and slice the potatoes thin and long, like traditional cut French fries. Then spread them out on a cookie sheet and drizzled the olive oil over the top, sprinkle the seasonings and simply place the intact rosemary over the top. Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning over/stirring about halfway through.

Tomato basil salad might be the easiest part of this meal, but make sure the tomatoes are ripe and in season
 Tomato Salad


4 fresh ripe tomatoes, sliced into medallions
1 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

     Lay tomato slices out on a plate or platter, top with basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature. It’s so easy and so good! Ah, tastes like summer…

Marinated Sirloin Sandwich with Horseradish Cream


1 lb. sirloin steak
1 large red bell pepper
3 cups arugula
½ red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons horseradish
1 teaspoon sour cream
1 ½ loaves fresh baked focaccia bread (use the other half a loaf for the antipasto)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

     Marinate the steak in olive oil, balsamic, garlic, salt and pepper, set aside until ready to cook.

Delicious marinating sirloin
     Whisk horseradish, sour cream and a pinch of black pepper in a small dish, set aside. The amounts are flexible here, if it’s too spicy, you can add more sour cream, too mild, more horseradish. Other modifications include a little pinch of salt or paprika.

     Broil the red pepper. (I also bought a bag of small sweet peppers, yellow, red and orange from Santo’s Farm and broiled them at the same time. I served them as part of the antipasto.) You don’t oil or anything. Just place the peppers on a pan under the broiler. You will hear their skins begin to crackle and pop as they bubble and turn black. When you see and hear this, turn them over. When it happens again on the other side, they’re finished. Remove from broiler and allow to cool.

     When cooled, slice the large red bell pepper into long, thin, julienned pieces and set aside.

     Slice the focaccia into 3-4 inch sections, each cut in half as well, for sandwiches, and set aside.

     You may be wondering why so many items are being prepared and then “set aside.” The idea is that you’re setting up a sandwich assembly line. Eventually, you want to have bread, then horseradish cream, steak, peppers, onion and lastly, arugula laid out on your counter to make putting the sandwiches together easy.

     When you’re ready, when everything else - sweet potato fries, tomato salad, sandwich ingredients - is finished, cook your steak. I waited until my guests had arrived. We all sat at the table for a while enjoying the wine and antipasto. Then I cooked the steak. I wanted it to be a hot and cold steak sandwich, the meat to be a little bit warm.

     Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan at medium high. When the pan is really hot, drop the steak into it, allowing the extra marinade to drip over the meat. It should sizzle. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. You are searing it, it should crisp and blacken.

     After searing place steak on a sheet in the over (still at 350 from the sweet potatoes) for about 10-20 minutes depending on preference and thickness of your sirloin. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

     Slice steak into ¼ inch thick long slices removing any fatty areas as you go. Leaving the fat on for cooking adds flavor, but for eating in a sandwich, it just makes the meat harder to bite through.

     Begin assembly by spreading horseradish cream on the inside of your sliced bread. Top with sliced steak, peppers, onion and arugula. Serve with sweet potato fries and tomato salad.

Ina Garten's panna cotta is a light and delicious way to end a casual meal like this, especially when made with nonfat yogurt
      I really enjoyed this meal. It was light and simple, but packed with flavor. And it gave me plenty of time for socializing and drinking wine, which was particularly pleasurable while the steak cooked, the smell of rich meat and caramelizing balsamic vinegar filling the kitchen and the accompanying sizzling sound. I hope you enjoy putting together your menu for a gathering as much as I did, be it based on this one or a completely new idea.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Breaking Bad Habits; Give Yourself Something Nice.

     So this is birthday week for me. And what do I want to give myself for my birthday? What would be the ideal thing to make me happy and help me to ease into being older? Judging from the way I feel so far this week, a nice long nap seems to be in order. And maybe an entire pizza, a big, greasy one like they make at Vinny’s on Court St. But no! I refuse to give in to malaise! I need to do what is good for me, not what is convenient. I will not be defeated! This week I’m giving myself yoga. I’m vowing to do one class a day, all week long, whether I like it or not.
Yoga push up.  Photo from http://lancebreger.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html
     My usual routine: I try to make it to two yoga classes, two gym sessions and as much cardiovascular/outdoor type activities as I can swing. The yoga classes are intense, power vinyasa, working abs, back, thighs and shoulders. My shoulders are always sore from the massive number of yoga push ups we do per class. I tried to keep a push up count one class and lost it at 38. A yoga push up is done with your arms in by your sides, elbows straight back, instead of arms and elbows out to the side. It works your shoulders, upper back and triceps more than your pecs and chest. During the gym sessions, I warm up running on the treadmill, then lift weights for total body toning and finish with an abs and stretching series. For cardiovascular exercise, I just try to get outside on the weekends, usually for a long walk or hike on Saturday or Sunday.

     This plan doesn’t always happen. Usually one thing gets pushed back. For example, last week I went to the gym twice, yoga only once and went for a bike ride on Saturday.
This pose, from the standing balancing series is excellent bathroom at work exercise.  Photo from http://sweetleafcenter.com/site/?page_id=297
     I also do yoga in the bathroom at work (I added this to the tips on http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/3-ways-to-burn-calories-at-work-2457550/#poll-C250ED0E49B111E09C2CBD0146F0EDDE). It can be embarrassing if someone walks in, but it feels amazing when I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours staring into my computer screen. I usually pretend straighten up and pretend I wasn’t up to anything, but people must wonder why I’m winded from washing my hands. I don’t do any downward dog, nothing where my face might end up near the floor. I just do a few stretches in the standing balancing series. This doesn’t really make me more fit, just wakes me up a bit. I do one every time I go, so long as there’s no one else in the ladies room.

     I had a Bikram (hot yoga) teacher in Montana who would say, “You get seven days a week to change your body. Change your body, change your life.” So this is the gift from me to me. I’m going to do yoga all week long. I’m going to work on not fidgeting during class. Stop cataloguing and planning. I’m going to try to be present. Change your body, change your life. Happy Birthday to me.

Buddha Bowl
     On the subject of yoga, health and meditation, this is a good time to discuss the ever so easy Buddha Bowl. A Buddha Bowl is like a hot and cold Asian salad. You can pretty much create one out of whatever you have or whatever looks good at the market. You start with steamed brown rice in the bottom of a bowl. Add whatever sautéed veggies you desire. I used kale, mushrooms and water chestnuts. I seared some extra firm tofu in oil. Then I grated a little raw carrot and cabbage over it, added fresh cilantro, sliced avocado and cashews. Other additions include flax seed, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, etc. Any combination of vegetables and ingredients can be used.
     The flavor is in the veggies but also the marinade/dressing. I start with about two tablespoons rice wine vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in a tablespoon soy sauce, minced garlic, a teaspoon hot sauce (I like Sriracha), black pepper, a dash of sesame oil, maybe a squeeze of lime juice, maybe some fresh grated ginger. Pour over Buddha Bowl and voila! You’re finished. I also use a little of the marinade to season the vegetables while they sauté.

     So I'm forcing myself, dragging me kicking and screaming, to do what is good for me.  Even if I want to treat myself badly, think about what I haven't accomplished so far; even if I want to give in to my own criticism.  Instead I'm going to treat myself by not indulging.  Hopefully I feel good too.  That's the plan anyway.

     Are there ways you could treat yourself better, make yourself feel better, without indulging in bad habit?  I want to hear about your good habits.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tuesday Night Vegetable Marinara

A little touch of sugar neutralizes the acidity in the tomatoes
     In the spirit of inexpensive, weekday easy meals, today’s blog is dedicated to simple red sauce and pasta. There are so many variations on marinara, some much more complicated, requiring a nice long afternoon and a whole variety of simmered ingredients, but all others I’ll leave for another time. This sauce is basic, but trust me, much more delicious than jarred sauces like Prego, Ragu or even the gourmet versions. And in place of those premade, mass manufactured sauces is where this sauce should fit into your kitchen repertoire. It’s an easy, quick, work-week kind of sauce, perfect for, but not limited to, a Tuesday night.

Tuesday Night Vegetable Marinara:

Difficulty:Ant Icon 32x32px
Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Makes: 6-8 servings


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 cups zucchini and/or eggplant (if using eggplant, be sure to prepare it before adding to sauce, http://thereses-rose-garden.blogspot.com/2006/09/how-to-prepare-eggplants.html has good instructions, but I like the skin on), sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 large cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes (if San Marzanos are unavailable, Romas or other will suffice)
½ teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


     Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium. Add onion, mushrooms and zucchini or eggplant. I usually add ingredients in that order, as the onions take a little bit longer than the mushrooms to caramelize, the mushrooms take a little longer than the zucchini and eggplant to soften. Sauté until onions begin to caramelize. Add garlic and balsamic vinegar and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally until onions are fully caramelized and garlic warms and becomes aromatic (should be about 3 minutes).

Mmm, fresh basil
     Turn heat up to medium high and add tomatoes. Simmer (should be lightly bubbling) for around twenty minutes, enough time for the flavors to come together. Add sugar, basil and salt and pepper. Simmer another 5-10 minutes and you’re done. Sauce should be thick and chunky with robust flavor, a little sweetness and an underlying earthiness from the mushrooms.

     The very best thing about this sauce is the balsamic vinegar. It caramelizes when you sauté the vegetables in it and that sweetness cooks through the whole pot of sauce. It adds richness and depth usually only achieved by simmering for hours or adding cream or cheese. It’s a subtle flavor, but it goes a long way.

     Serve with pasta of any kind (I prefer whole wheat spaghetti), salad and this time, I added seared spicy Italian sausages for protein, but I sometimes substitute cheese and sunflower seeds instead.

Steaming hot and ready to eat
     Near the beginning of simmering the sauce, just after adding the tomatoes, I usually start my water boiling for pasta. A large pot of water takes maybe 10-20 minutes to heat up. Dry pasta will take 5-10 minutes to fully cook, whereas fresh pasta will only take two-three minutes. Keep these times, and the instructions on the package in mind to ensure your pasta finishes with your sauce.

     Also, be aware that you need time to sear your sausages, should you choose to make the carnivore friendly version of this recipe. I simply threw mine into a frying pan with a little oil, three minutes per side.

     This recipe makes a lot of sauce. You can store it in the fridge for other meals, then all have to do is cook pasta or even make crust for pizza. Or you can add it to pasta to take for lunch. Just microwave and it’s ready. Sometimes I’ll freeze the extra, have it available the next time I need it. It’s nice to have options. However, it’s also easy to just cut the recipe in half.
Pappardelle with eggplant, sundried tomatoes and garlic at Ferdinando's
     In the same vein, I had an amazing meal at my new favorite place, Ferdinando’s on Union in Brooklyn. They serve really delicious Sicilian food that is simple and classic, and they do this with no pretense. Delightful restaurant. I plan to spend a great deal of time there in the future. To read details of my experience, check out my review at http://www.juleecs.yelp.com/.

Although they don't serve tea, our server was kind enough to offer me a cup of hers, and it came in flowered china!

Not a lot of fancy decorations comes with wonderful lack of pretense in Ferdinando's

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Easy Peasy: Split Pea Soup and Bulgur Wheat & Herb Biscuits

Comfort food: Split Pea Soup
     Just back from vacation, this week I’ve been doing dinner on a budget. Post-vacation also means trouble getting back to routine and playing catch-up at work. So let’s say I’m being frugal, not only with money, but also with effort (though maybe not time).

     I had big plans for recipes to share with you, but ended up foraging my cupboards and making meals with items rediscovered therein. The great thing about limiting your options (by not buying anything new to cook with) is that it can be really satisfying. Some of my favorite meals have been composed impromptu, with only what I could find already in my kitchen.

     Split pea soup is easy. It takes about half an hour to chop and sauté all the veggies. Then, add the peas broth and water, and you’re basically done. You just have to stir occasionally. The transformation from dried peas in water into a hearty, thick soup takes place all on its own, hence my decision to make this recipe.

     But while the soup was cooking, I had too much time on my hands and decided to make an accompaniment, herb biscuits. Because they were a last minute addition, I rushed them and didn’t leave time for them to properly rise. If you’re making this, I recommend starting with the batter for the rolls. Then it can rise while you chop and sauté the vegetables. You’ll have plenty of time to finish the biscuits while the soup simmers.

Split Pea Soup
Difficulty: Ant Icon 32x32px
Time: 2 hours
Makes: 6 servings


1 bag split peas, rinsed and drained
2 cups carrots, chopped coarsely
2 cups celery, chopped coarsely
1 Large sweet onion, chopped coarsely
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Water – fill to top of large pot (6 cups?)
1 cup mushroom or vegetable broth
¼ cup sherry (optional)
Ham, bacon or prosciutto (to taste, if using)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste (this is a large pot of soup, lots of salt and black pepper)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated


     Heat olive oil on medium in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrots and celery. Saute, stirring occasionally, until almost softened, but onions should not be translucent. Add garlic and sherry. Saute another 1-2 minutes to soften garlic. You want everything to cook, but not too much. It’s nice to have a chunkier texture to the finished soup.
Transformation beginning...

     Add mushroom broth, split peas, water, bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, paprika and cayenne. (Add ham or pan crisped bacon or prosciutto now, if you’re opting to use meat.) Stir thoroughly and turn heat up to medium high – high. Let soup bubble gently (you may have to adjust temperature), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking for about 1 ½ hours or until thick, not brothy.

Almost finished, you can see it beginning to thicken

     Ladle into bowls, top with grated cheddar cheese and it’s done, simple and easy, satisfying comfort food.

Bulgur Wheat & Herb Biscuits (recipe based on http://chefinyou.com/2009/08/bulgur-dinner-rolls/):
Difficulty: Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px
Time: About 1 hour, depending on rising times
Makes: 10 biscuits


1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup boiling water
1 envelop dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour


     Place the cracked wheat (bulgur) into a bowl and pour out the boiling water over it. Cover and soak it for an hour until it has absorbed all the water.

     Preheat oven to 400F.

    Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir to dissolve.
Adding more flour until the dough is stiff

     Heat milk in a pan until it starts to bubble around the edges of the pan. Add the rosemary, thyme, olive oil, honey and salt and mix until all come together. Cool to lukewarm, add yeast mixture, cracked wheat and flour gradually until stiff.

     On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until elastic and smooth.

     Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl. Form a large ball with dough and place it in greased bowl. Drizzle a little more oil over the top and cover. Let it rise until doubled in size.
Biscuits rising.  They rise best in warm place.  You can trying turning your oven on to warm and placing the rising dough on top.

     Tear dough and shape into approx 10 balls (depending on the size), place them on a greased baking sheet and let rise again until almost doubled in size.

     Bake for 15-20 minutes or until risen and browned.

     Let cool and serve.
Mine didn't rise properly.  Yours should be much prettier!

     A note on the choice of meat: I sometimes do use a cured meat in my split pea soup (though I didn’t this time), but I tend to go really easy with the amount. The saltiness of the curing can overwhelm the split peas and vegetables. You can end up with salty, ham-flavored mush. Yuck. (I used to work for a brilliant cook who would add ham, bacon and prosciutto to his split pea soup. It was intensely salty, more like an indulgence than a hearty comforting soup. Then again, he did run a bar, maybe the saltiness was the point. What goes better with salt than beer?)

     If you are feeling like making an easy, no fuss meal, skip the biscuits and buy some rolls instead. However, the biscuits are really the canvas for the flavors of olive oil and herbs, which come through potently and deliciously. Excellent dipped in the split pea soup. Enjoy!

     Some final frugal advice: Make a large amount of a dish, then cart leftovers to work for lunch all week.  I even store leftovers in portion sized Tupperware in my fridge.  I get the really hard to open, lunch sized plastic containers from when I have food delivered or buy soup at the grocery store.  In the morning, I just grab and go.  It's easy and much more delicious than the expensive lunches offered near my office.