Archive for December, 2008

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

December 13, 2008

This is probably my all-time favorite soup recipe, which is saying a lot since I make soup  a l l  t h e  t i m e  in the winter.  Nutritious, inexpensive, delicious — it just doesn’t get any better.  The recipe is from Gourmet, with a couple of my own tweaks.


  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 (35-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small celery rib (including leaves), finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (preferably organic) or chicken broth
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 oz dried capellini, broken into 1-inch pieces, or fine egg noodles (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • red pepper flakes to taste

Cook garlic, onion and celery in butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.  Add turmeric, pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes and cinnamon and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, 1/3 cup cilantro, chickpeas, vegetable broth and lentils.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.  Stir in pasta and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley, remaining 1/3 cup cilantro, and salt to taste.


Turkey Meatloaf

December 10, 2008

I don’t normally think of myself as a meatloaf kind of a girl, but for some reason, I got a massive meatloaf craving a couple of weeks ago.  I found a recipe from Gourmet magazine with 378 rave online reviews.  Since it was a recipe for a healthier loaf made with turkey instead of grandma’s traditional beef loaf, I knew I had to try it.  It did not disappoint!  

This is a great comfort food dish.  Although I’ve made some of my typical simplifying edits to the original recipe, the recipe still involves a number of steps.  Don’t worry, it’s really quite simple.  It’s the perfect sort of thing to let bake while you’re doing some grading on the sofa.  Remember the 475th law of food (if meatloaf, then potatoes) and serve it with baked potatoes and a green salad or broccoli.  Then, reheat it with a slice of provolone in a sandwich the next day.  Bonus points if you listen to Bat Out of Hell II while you’re cooking.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/8-inch dice
  • 3/4 lb cremini mushrooms, trimmed and very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 whole large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 lb ground turkey

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cook onion and garlic in oil in a nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened, about 2 minutes.  Add carrot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and they are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and 3 tablespoons ketchup, then transfer vegetables to a large bowl and cool.

Stir together bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in egg and egg white, then add to vegetables.  Add turkey and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to vegetable mixture and mix well with your hands. (Mixture will be very moist.)

Form into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a lightly oiled baking pan or form inside a loaf pan and brush meatloaf evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup.  Bake in middle of oven until thermometer inserted into meatloaf registers 170°F, 50 to 55 minutes.  Let meatloaf stand 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with additional ketchup.

Pay It Forward

December 10, 2008

There’s something to be said for being a graduate student on a fixed income during an economic crisis.  Every store seems to be having a massive sale on at the moment, which makes our stipends stretch farther and, err, lets us buy new clothes.  I recommend spending some of your savings from the sales to help out those in need.

The New York Times recently published an interesting article about American food banks, which are making a number of innovations at the moment aiming at making their food offerings more efficient and more effective.  Near the end of the article are some disquieting quotes from food bank employees:

“I keep hearing that demand is up and up and up,” said Ross Fraser, a spokesman for Feeding America, which provides more than two billion pounds of food annually to food banks around the country. “I heard one person saying they’re feeding schoolteachers. The needle is moving higher up the socioeconomic class, and people making more money are needing emergency food assistance.”

Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, said he had “never seen anything” like the current economic situation.

“I’ve had people call me personally who have been donors for years, and said ‘Bill, I need help,’ ” Mr. Bolling said. “That’s disquieting to get those calls.”

In this time of increased hunger, some food banks are sadly being forced to close their doors due to decreased donations.  You can find food banks in your area from the website Feeding America.  I was amazed that I was able to buy three whole enormous bags of non-perishable groceries for only $20.  I encourage you to pick up at least one or two cans the next time you’re at the grocery store to donate to a local food drive.  As graduate students, we’re lucky to be relatively insulated from the economic crisis, so it’s a good time to pay it forward.

Spicy Tomato Soup

December 5, 2008

Here’s a Gourmet magazine recipe that I just tried for the first time and enjoyed.  It’s a great twist on a classic winter food: tomato soup.  I’ve made a few simplifying changes to the recipe because, well, I’m lazy!  I recommend serving this with garlic bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.


  • 2 (28- to 32-oz) cans whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (2 1/4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh jalapeño chile including seeds
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (18 fl oz)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Drain 1 can tomatoes.  Cook onion, garlic, chile, and ginger in oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy nonreactive pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 8 minutes.  Add cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute.   Stir in tomatoes, broth, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.  Working in 3 or 4 batches, blend soup in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids).  Stir in additional sugar and salt to taste.  Reheat in cleaned saucepan if necessary.

Nerd Humor

December 5, 2008

You can’t fully understand how hemoglobin molecules interact until you’ve seen them depicted through a classical pas de deux.

So writes Randi Zuckerberg in her post, ‘Dance Your Way to a Ph.D.’  She highlights some of the hilarious videos that Ph.D. students and professors made as part of a contest to recreate their dissertations via interpretive dance.  

You must watch them.

December’s Netflix Watch Instantly Picks

December 1, 2008

I love Netflix.  And I especially love that Netflix Watch Instantly is now available in beta for Macs.  You can get a 1 DVD at a time unlimited monthly membership (that also comes with unlimited movies to watch instantly) for only $8.99.  What could be better for a grad student?!  The only tricky thing about the films to watch instantly is that most of them are old and/or you’ve never heard of them.  It can be time consuming to sift through all of the films to find one that is worth watching.  So I have decided to feature some older or more obscure film favorites on this blog in posts with three recommendations for Netflix watch instantly films.

1. Ordinary People (1980): This Oscar-winning field was directed by Robert Redford and stars Mary Tyler Moore, a young Timothy Hutton and Donald Sutherland.  It is about a suburban family coping with the tragic death of a son.  Although it was acclaimed at the time, few of my contemporaries have seen or even heard of this film.  That should change — this is a great movie.

2. Greenfingers (2000): This small film stars Clive Owen before he was well-known and Helen Mirren.  The film has elements of comedy and drama and follows the story of a hardened prisoner who takes up gardening.  Although it is a relatively disposable film, it is warm and light.  Anglophiles and romantics will enjoy this movie.

3. Victor/Victoria (1982): This is the one where Mary Poppins plays a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.  I know.  But this musical comedy, which is set in 1930’s “gay Pareee”, is extremely entertaining and features a great ensemble cast.  When I finally watched this film recently, I was struck by the fact that I actually laughed out loud several times and by the film’s message of acceptance.