Soba Soup! (with Maitake Mushrooms in Soy Broth)

We like to eat good food here at Chez Gourmess. And when I say "good food" I mean food that's as delicious to look at as it is to eat, food that's good for you but still feels like a treat, and food that is made up of high quality, animal- and earth-friendly ingredients. Otherwise, what's the point?

French cuisine is of course my forte, but lately, the good food we've been eating and cooking has taken a bit of a turn toward Asia. Especially when Chris is at the stove.

About that...I'm trying to become more tolerant of having someone in my kitchen. Chris told me I can be a bit of a kitchen bully -- so one of my New Year's resolutions is to be nicer to people when they are in my kitchen. (Chris also says it is "the kitchen" not "my kitchen" -- cue eyeroll.)  But, just thinking of someone using my knives and my spices and my beautiful pans, and manhandling my produce...ugh. I guess I have a long way to go...

Anyway, Chris pulled out a dog-eared page from an issue of Bon Appétit magazine that had a yum-sounding recipe , and when he does that, I know he's serious about cooking. So, we gathered all of the ingredients and he went to work on this tasty soup that features buckwheat soba noodles, gorgeous "hen of the woods" a.k.a. maitake mushrooms, and a ginger-garlic soy broth. Topped with scallions, toasted sesame seeds, radishes and a beautiful egg yolk from free-range, happy chickens, it becomes a creamy, dreamy lunch or dinner. And, just like my handsome Chris, it's not bad on the eyes, either. Look how gorgeous the finished dish is!
The ginger and garlic in the broth, the mushrooms and the noodles. Did I mention the mushrooms? OMG. So good. You must try it. Click thru for the recipe for Soba and Maitake Mushrooms in Soy Broth. Yum!

Now, about those mushrooms:
We've encountered maitake or hen of the woods mushrooms several times before. I remember the first time I ever had them. We were having dinner in the grand dining room at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, and there was a dish called something like "The Chicken and the Egg" that included a perfectly cooked egg somehow still in its unbroken shell and some gorgeous hen of the woods mushrooms. There was probably something else divine on the plate, but those mushrooms stole the show. Another year at Shelburne, they soaked up a buttery sauce like sponges, the stars of an earthy, hand-made pasta dish. (Even if you don't like mushrooms, one bite would have changed your  mind.) And, we recently had them in a Tarte Flambée with chives and a Comté cheese gratiné at The Museum of Modern Art's restaurant, The Modern. We devoured it. Ah-mazing.
The mushrooms grow at the base of oak trees, and are plentiful in the fall. Apparently, maitakes have also been used for ages in Asia for medicinal purposes like increasing the immune system, lowering blood pressure and even treating cancer. Maitake means "dancing mushroom," in Japanese, and I agree -- whenever I eat some or see them on a menu, I do a little happy dance. They are one of my favorite things.

Speaking of my favorite things, kudos to Chris for making a beautifully simple, flavor-packed dish and for bringing this recipe into our rotation. I'm looking forward to having it again, soon.


PSA: Oven-Roasted Cod Recipe

This is just to say that if you haven't tried my recipe for Oven-Roasted Cod with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, Garlic, and Lemon, you are missing out.
That is all.


Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip & Pecan Cookies

Best. Chocolate. Chip. Cookies. Ever.

You will be the star of every picnic, pot-luck, or office party you bring them to. True story.

Get the recipe here.


Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese: The Quick Version

I've posted numerous times about my fantabulous recipe for Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese and I've realized that while it's tasty, not everyone has time to make it the way I made it the first time, roasting the squash and then blending everything together. Not even me.

So, now I usually make a quicker version that still tastes amazing. Save time, not flavor.

Quick Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
1 box macaroni or farfalle pasta
1 TBS butter
1 shallot, minced
1 TBS brandy
1 12-14 oz package (or can) of butternut squash puree
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese
Garlic powder
2 cups bread crumbs
Olive oil

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Boil the pasta, drain and set aside
  • In a large pot, heat the butter until melted then add in the shallot and cook until translucent
  • Add in the brandy and cook a few minutes until shallots are infused
  • Add the puree and broth and heat through
  • Stir in the cheeses until you have a thick sauce, then remove from the heat
  • Mix in the seasonings, adding them and the salt/pepper to your taste, then add the pasta to the pot with the sauce and stir to incorporate. It should be a bit soupy.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, olive oil, and a handful of mozzarella cheese if you have any left over, and a pinch each of salt and nutmeg
  • Transfer to a large, greased baking dish
  • Top the pasta with the breadcrumb mixture and bake covered for about 15 minutes, then uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown
  • The other option is to nix the whole oven part and eat the macaroni and cheese right out of the pan once the pasta/sauce is combined. Up to you. It's delightful either way.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Tomatoes rule.

From the briny, sun-dried kind to the beautifully plump Jerseys, and sweet, eat-them-by-the-handful cherry variety, this versatile fruit just makes everything better.

Let's face it -- there would be no BLT without the T. And, grilled cheese is just sad without a bowl of hot, creamy tomato soup beside it. Have you heard of Bloody Marys? A world without those is a world I do not want to be a part of, thank you, especially at 11am on a Saturday. Plus, who could live without tomato pie, pizza pie, lasagna, or spaghetti with Sunday gravy? Not this lady. There are tomatoes in my kitchen 24/7.

Now that the sun-kissed, juicy tomatoes of summer are far behind us, I'm using tomatoes in salads and sandwiches less often and baking, stuffing, roasting, and pureeing them instead. One of the simplest, yet tastiest ways to enjoy a tomato this time of year is to roast them. Simply toss your tomatoes (whole or sliced, depending on what size/type you're using) with some olive oil and a bit of Kosher salt and roast at 450 degrees until browned and deflated. You can add some cloves of garlic, dried herbs, or some sliced red pepper to the pan if you want, too.

Roasted Heaven
Once they're roasted, let the tomatoes cool and drain away the oil/juices into a separate container for dipping crusty bread, topping pizzas or tossing with pasta. Then, chop the tomatoes up (if they aren't sliced) and the possibilities are endless:
  • Pile them on sandwiches/burgers along with basil and mozzarella for a Caprese-style treat.
  • Blend them with fresh herbs and cream/stock for a tasty soup or sauce
  • Use as a pizza or crostini topping. (They are especially great with ricotta or goat cheese.)
  • Spoon a mixture of the tomatoes, lemon, olives and parsley over roasted fish.
  • Stuff chicken breasts with the tomatoes, some feta cheese and spinach and bake until cooked through and browned.
  • Cook until heated through with with tuna (in oil), chili pepper and olives, then toss with pasta.
  • Fold into scrambled eggs or fill an omelet with them.
  • Spoon them over a toasted bagel that's topped with cream cheese or ricotta.
Or, you can just scoop them into a bowl, sprinkle on some chopped basil and ground black pepper, put them on the table -- and watch them disappear!
Food like this is magic.