Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

Ramen for Grownups

January 27, 2018

It’s Noodle Saturday!  Yes, normally this would happen on Friday, but I had a very long week and access to leftover pizza last night, so there you have it.  I’ve mentioned my adoration of Asian noodles.  And if you’re interested, you can read all about the disaster that was my last attempt to make them at home.  Still, I wanted to try again, but something else entirely different.  Ramen!

This is not your college ramen.  Well, it kind of is.  You do get to buy those 20 cent packets of dried noodles.  That’s where the similarity ends.  First, you throw away that salt packet they call seasoning.  And you make a really wonderful broth.  And you add a bunch of vegetables.  And it’s amazing.

So, I took a few shortcuts.  My last experience left me a little wary of buying a bunch of expensive stuff or even going very far out of my way to pick up ingredients I don’t keep in the house.  I used the dried packet of noodles instead of looking for fresh noodles.  I used rice wine vinegar with some sugar instead of going to the asian market for mirin. I skipped the miso paste entirely  And still, so, so good!  Even better it falls in the 30 minute meals category!

Here’s what you need for 2 servings:

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  • 2T sesame oil
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1T minced ginger
  • 4-5 sliced green onions, green and white parts separated
  • 2T soy sauce
  • 1T rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2t sugar
  • 2C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 chicken breast, sliced thin
  • matchstick carrots
  • 2C baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1C sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package dried ramen noodles, season pkg discarded
  • 1 soft boiled egg

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the stock in a small pot, bring to a boil
  • Poach the sliced chicken 3 minutes, remove from the stock
  • Keep stock at a simmer
  • Heat the oil in a medium sized pot
  • Add ginger, garlic, onion whites
  • Simmer until onions are soft
  • Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and 1/4C of stock
  • Stir 2 minutes
  • Add carrots, bok choy, and mushrooms

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  • While the vegetables soften, bring the stock to a boil and add the noodles
  • Cook the noodles until they’re soft

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  • Add the stock and noodles to the vegetables
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the egg
  • Boil 5-6 minutes
  • Place the egg in an ice bath
  • Peel and halve the egg
  • Serve half the noodles, vegetables and broth and half the egg in each of two bowls

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How was it?

So, so good!  I’ve redeemed myself in the asian noodle arena!  Next time I’ll get the special ingredients and search for fresh noodles and maybe add some Chinese pork and broccoli.  The possibilities are endless!

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Catfish Curry

January 2, 2018

Yep, catfish curry, Thai style.  It’s really flipping cold in Virginia this week and I wanted something warm.  I also had a drawer full a vegetables that I bought with a plan I have long since forgotten.  And also some catfish that needed a plan ASAP.  Curries are pretty flexible about what you put in them and I adore anything in coconut broth, so here we are.

You’ll need a few pantry staples if you want to be able to throw a curry together on the fly.  All of this is readily available in the Asian foods section of a standard grocery store.  Curry paste – red, green, yellow, all of the above.  Coconut milk, the canned kind, not the refrigerator kind.  Lite is fine.  I only use regular coconut milk if a recipe specifically says that Lite won’t work.  Fish sauce.  It’ll be in a bottle, not a jar.  And it’s funky, but adds a lot of depth.

Pretty much every fish curry recipe you’ll find calls for “firm, white fish.”  Something like haddock or cod or sea bass.  If you’re worked with catfish you know there’s nothing firm about it.  It dang near falls apart when you cut it in pieces.  Still, it’s what I had and mild enough that I figured it would work.  I actually started with a Chicken and Vegetable Curry recipe from my Cherry Bombe cookbook.  That’s how flexible Thai curries are.  Fish instead of chicken.  Cauliflower instead of bok choi.  No jalapeno.  Add brown sugar.

You really can kind of wing it as long as you pay attention to your substitutions and their cooking time.  It takes fish much less time to cook than chicken and cauliflower much longer than bok choi so I adjusted accordingly.

What do you need?

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2 T oil (canola, safflower, something plain)

1/2 an onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 inch peeled fresh ginger – all chopped fine

2 bell peppers, sliced

2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced or diced

1/2 small head of cauliflower, cut small and pre-roasted

2 T green curry paste

1 can lite coconut milk

1 T fish sauce

2 catfish fillets, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 diced jalapeno (optional, and not included above)

1 pinch brown sugar (optional)

How do you do it?

It looks like kind of a long list of ingredients, but it’s really easy to make.  Do all your chopping ahead of time.  Keep items that go in the pot together, together on the cutting board.  Then you can just scrape them right off the board into the pot.

I recommend dicing your own onion, garlic and ginger.  The flavor is just nicer.  But if you have to choose between ordering a pizza or using frozen diced onions and garlic and ginger from a jar, do what you have to do.  Be aware that there’s water in the pre-chopped things so when they hit that hot oil they splatter!  Be prepared!

Heat the oil in a medium stock pot or large pan.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Saute 3-4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, peppers, and cauliflower.  Saute 5 more minutes.

Stir in the curry paste.  Cook 2 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and fish sauce.  Bring to a low boil.

Add the catfish.  Make sure it’s covered by the liquid.  Reduce to a simmer.  Simmer 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the sauce thickens a little.

Stir in a pinch of brown sugar.

Serve as a soup or over rice.

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How did it turn out?

It’s ugly, but it’s good.  Not my favorite curry, but good.  I think it needs another vegetable.  I’ve got some carrots that I can roast tomorrow and add in to the leftovers.  They’ll add some sweetness and some texture.

 

Lentil and Kale Soup with Sausage

May 5, 2013

It’s an unusually cold and gray Spring day.  On top of that I have what is either the beginnings of a Summer cold or a sinus infection working its way toward true misery.  Working on the theory that it’s a cold I decided to make soup with the things that are supposed to help with a cold – chicken stock and vitamin C.  Add in some folate, iron and B vitamins and you have an all around healthy dinner.  The only thing I really needed was someone else to make it!

Lentil Kale and Sausage Soup

This is a Gourmet magazine recipe from 2008.  I happened upon it in a cookbook compilation of recipes from Gourmet.  I do find a lot of my recipes online, but there’s something about flipping through a real cookbook that I find rewarding.  It took about 4 cookbooks before I found a soup recipe that appealed. I wanted something that incorporated the sausage I’d already thawed and at least one of the things I bought at the farmers’ market this morning.   My choices were baby turnips, turnip greens or lacinato kale.   Bingo – kale and sausage are a terrific combination in soup.

The original recipe called for escarole, but I substituted the lacinato kale from the farmers’ market.  I didn’t have any celery so I doubled the carrots.  I only used about half the sausage called for, but it’s super awesome Sausage Craft San Miniato Sausage so a little less works fine.  Saves fat and calories too.  Next time I’d remove the casings and cook the sausage into crumbles instead of slicing it.  It would stretch a little further that way and the flavor would be more even throughout the soup.  I doubled the red wine vinegar because the soup needed some extra tang.

The flavors and textures here are nicely balanced.  Earthy lentils, sweet carrots, salty sausage, chewy kale.  The red wine vinegar at the end is a nice touch.  In my other lentil soup that tang comes from white wine. This is a little more concentrated and a good fit for this soup.  This is a perfect soup for an early Spring day.  Full of protein and vegetables; warm and hearty; filling, but not too heavy.  Yum.

p.s.  This must have some curative powers.  I had it for dinner last night and ran 10 miles this morning!

Good?  Very good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Not so much, but good for a cold/sinus condition.
Special shopping? Nope.

Lentil and Kale Soup with Sausage

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed well
5 cups water
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 lb kale, chopped (4 cups packed)
4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Directions

•Simmer lentils, water, broth, bay leaf, and half of garlic in a 4-qt pot, uncovered, 12 minutes.
•Meanwhile, heat oil in a wide heavy 5- to 6-qt pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown sausage, about 7 minutes. Transfer sausage with a slotted spoon to a bowl.
•Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, carrots, remaining garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add sausage and lentils with cooking liquid and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
•Stir in kale and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in vinegar to taste and season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf.

Asian Chicken Noodle Bowl

April 21, 2013

Spring seems to be on hold in Central Virginia, in the temperature department if not in the pollen department.  There’s enough chill in the air to warrant making soup and I had leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge.  A match made in heaven.  The varieties of chicken soup are endless and a promising recipe popped up in the May issue of Cooking Light.  Dinner done.

Asian Noodle Bowl

I mostly followed the recipe tonight except that for a few changes made in the interest of making things as easy as possible.  In that vein I used leftover rotisserie chicken; I bought pre-sliced mushrooms; I used jarred minced ginger; I added the sauteed aromatics to the soup instead of discarding them; and I cooked the pasta in the stock rather than bothering with a separate pot.  I recommend using all the short cuts you can.  The soup doesn’t suffer at all from them.

The flavors here are pretty complex for a soup.  It’s earthy and green and hot and sweet and salty.  The recipe calls it “kid-friendly,” but I’m not sure that’s the case.  There’s enough red pepper that the heat might be a problem for a lot of kids.  And I don’t know how your kids feel about mushrooms, but I don’t recall being excited about them until I was well beyond kid-hood.

This soup has taken the edge off of the chilly evening and taken chicken noodle soup to a whole new level.  I enjoyed every slurpy bite and drank the last of the broth right out of the bowl!

Good?  Very good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Good for comfort, not company
Special shopping? Nope.

Asian Chicken Noodle Bowl

Ingredients

4 ounces uncooked linguine
2 C chopped cooked chicken
1 t oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger, divided
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 cup water
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 1/4 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup sugar snap peas, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces (about 4 ounces)
6 green onions, cut diagonally
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Heat chicken stock in a soup pot.

Heat pan to medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil; swirl to coat. Add onion, 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon garlic, and red pepper; cook 4 minutes. Add 1/2 C water; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add to stock pot. Bring to a boil.

Add pasta to stock and cook to nearly al dente.

While the pasta cooks heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms; cook 6 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon ginger and 1 tablespoon garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add mushroom mixture, chicken, soy sauce, and sugar to stock mixture; bring to a simmer.

Stir in sugar snap peas; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in green onions and salt.

Cuban Chicken and Hominy Stew

February 5, 2013

Today was not a good day.  On top of some significant challenges at the office, I came home to a house where one dog had a stomach issue and another decided that a boot box was his enemy and needed to be destroyed.  Lots of cleanup to manage.  The last thing I felt like doing was cooking.  Truly.  But I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up a pepper and an onion so I could make this dish so I forged ahead.  Glad I did.  A little comfort food was exactly what I needed.

Cuban Chicken and Hominy Stew

Let me start by saying this was supposed to have plantains instead of hominy.  The store I stopped at for the pepper and onion is a scary store that offered no chance of picking up plantains so I decided the hominy, which I already had at home, was an acceptable substitute.  It’s possible that the plantains would have thickened this into a more stew like consistency, but probably not so much.  I also used a pint of home canned tomatoes instead of fresh.  February is not a time to buy fresh tomatoes in Virginia.  I didn’t have a whole cup of sherry so I used 2/3 sherry and 1/3 marsala.  If I’d had port I would have used that instead.  Nothing else in the way of ingredient subsitutions.  I even measured the spices.

This can reasonably be described as a 30 minute meal.  I roasted and pulled some chicken breast on Sunday so I didn’t have to deal with chopping chicken tonight.  And clearly draining a can of hominy and a jar of tomatoes is less cumbersome than peeling and chopping plantains and tomatoes.  Even having to deal with those things, though, you’d be pretty close to the 30 minute mark.  And it’s all in one pot too so that’s always good.

Speaking of good.  This stuff is good.  It’s soup-like, not stew-like, but the flavors are terrific.  The sherry/marsala adds a wonderful sweetness to balance the salty broth and tomatoes.  The hominy gives it a starchy richness.  I added a squeeze of fresh lime juice to my bowl to add a little bright citrus as well.  Without it, the sweet was almost too much.  Next time I’ll add a little chopped avocado garnish too.  That would put this over the top.

I almost made only a half recipe thinking that I might feel inclined to cook later in the week.  I may, in which case I’ll freeze some of this, but for now I’m really looking forward to the leftovers!

Good? So good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? A terrific weeknight dinner with friends.
Special shopping? Nope. Even in Virginia you can get cooking sherry in the grocery store.

Cuban Chicken and Hominy Stew

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 pint chopped, peeled tomatoes
1 cup dry sherry or port
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C chicken broth
2 C roasted, shredded chicken breast
1 can white homniy, drained
Limes, cut into wedges

Directions

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and bell pepper; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in tomato and next 9 ingredients (tomato through broth). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in hominy and chicken; cook 10 minutes or until tender.
Serve with lime wedges.

Black-Eyed Pea, Collard and Ham Soup

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2013.  In this part of the world collards and black-eyed peas are a good luck tradition for the new year.  They’re supposed to bring wealth and prosperity.  The story goes that black-eyed peas saved the starving Civil War South because Sherman’s troops considered them to be food for livestock and thus left those crops  while other foodstuffs were stolen or destroyed.  Most often you serve them as part of Hoppin’ John.  I love Hoppin’ John, but I was looking for a new way to have collards and black-eyed peas this year.  I stumbled on a soup recipe.  New Year’s Day in Central Virginia is gray and rainy this year.  How smart do I look for planning soup?! 

Black-eyed pea and collard soup

The original recipe actually calls for chickpeas and swiss chard, but it offers black-eyed peas as an alternative. I used the last of the black-eyed peas I put up from the farmers’ market.  I decided to use a large bunch of collards instead of a small bunch of chard.  Since collards are hardier than chard I figured they’d hold up better in soup anyway.    I also punted the chicken stock.  I had to make pot liquor for the collards anyway so I decided to use that as the broth.  That allowed me to leave out the bacon.  And I left out the tomatoes.  Tomatoes are a precious commodity around here this year because I didn’t get to do any canning last summer.  The few quarts I have left have to last 7 more months.  Now that I think about it the soup I made only vaguely resembles the recipe that I started with, but I really like it.

The pot liquor that I used in the soup and that I’ll use on the rest of the collards today is made with ham hocks, garlic salt, Seasoned Salt and Tabasco.  Sometimes I make it with smoked turkey instead of ham hocks, but pigs are good luck for the new year and fowl are not.  I used 2 ham hocks to make 3 quarts of pot liquor.  Just put the ham hock and seasonings in a big stock pot with 3 quarts of water.  Bring it to a boil; reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour or so.  You’ll end up with a smoky, slightly salty broth with a little kick to it.

 This is a very earthy soup.  The collards and the peas both lean in that direction.  The carrot adds a little sweetness.  Next time I’d probably use 2-3 carrots instead of just one.  I love the smoky flavor of the broth and the kick from the broth and the added red pepper flakes is terrific.  Of course you can adjust that to your taste.  One note about the collards.  For New Year’s you’re supposed to cut the collards in long ribbons to represent long prosperity.  That’s what I did.  Gotta tell you eating long ribbons of greens out of a soup bowl is not a pretty business.  The soup is yummy so tuck your napkin under you chin and enjoy!

Good? Good and good luck too!
Easy? Sure, prepping the collards and broth takes time, but it’s not hard.
Good for company? Not fancy, but makes plenty for sharing.
Special shopping? Nope. I had a devil of a time finding black-eyed peas this year, but normally that’s not the case.

Black-Eyed Pea, Collard and Ham Soup

Ingredients

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 (6-ounce) piece smoked ham steak, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
l bunch collards, stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons
1 quart smoked ham hock broth
2 C fresh black-eyed peas
Hot sauce, as needed

Directions

Add olive oil to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. To the same Dutch oven, add the onion, garlic, and carrot, and saute until the vegetables are tender, roughly 4 minutes. Add the ham steak and red pepper flakes and adjust the seasonings with salt and black pepper, to taste. Add the collards and saute until they begin to soften.

Stir in the broth and black-eyed peas. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Add hot sauce to taste.

Autumn Cranberry Beef (Lamb) Stew

December 9, 2012

This is my 400th post!!  Many thanks to everyone for sticking with me. I know my posts have been pretty sporadic for the last few months.  (A girl’s gotta work and this girl has been working a ton)!  I’m hoping to be a little more consistent over the next month or so. Partly I miss writing about food and partly I miss cooking and partly I miss being at home enough to feel in control of what I eat. 

Cranberry Beef Stew

It’s a misty, cool December evening and stew seemed like a pretty good idea.  I’m also still trying to eat through the freezer stores and this was a help in that regard.  Of course I made a few adjustments.  The recipe calls for 3 pounds of beef.  I didn’t have 3 pounds of beef that I wanted to use in stew and three pounds of meat seemed excessive.  I used one pound of beef, one pound of lamb and lots of baby bella mushrooms.  That way I didn’t lose any bulk, but I did cut a little fat.  I added some carrots.  After reading the reviews, I halved the pearl onions.  I used homemade cranberry sauce and some extra salt.  All good. 

This is a stew so it’s not hard, it just takes a long time.  I did mine on the stove top, but you could do it in a slow cooker too if you wanted to put it on in the morning and leave it all day.  You add the slurry (flour and water mix) at the end to thicken it so if you do it in a CrockPot just transfer it to a pot at the end and bring it to a simmer before you add the slurry.  It thickens up beautifully.  Honestly it’s the mixture of flavors that really makes this.  The beef and the lamb go nicely together.  The cranberry sauce adds a wonderful sweetness.  A little extra earthy from the extra mushrooms.  A little bitterness from the pearl onions.  Some extra salt for balance.  Yum.

The recipe calls for you to serve this over noodles.  The comments recommend serving it over mashed potatoes.  It’s stew so I just ate it out of a bowl.  That worked pretty well.  There’s just no need to add the extra carbs and calories.  Feel free to serve it with a little bread if you need something extra.  And maybe a little salad.  I intended to have a salad, but there have been lots of visitors tonight so I just didn’t get around to making a salad.  No matter.  It’s not pretty, but this stew is just the right thing for a cold and rainy night. Or if you’re lucky enough to have snow dish up a bowl and watch the pretty snow while you eat.

Good?  Quite good.
Easy? Yep, the pot does all the work.
Good for company? Probably good football watching food.
Special shopping? Nope. But if you buy the cranberry sauce just remember to get whole berry sauce.

Autumn Cranberry Beef (Lamb) Stew

Ingredients

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound beef stew meat cut into 2-inch cubes
1 pound lamb stew meat cut into 2-inch cubes
Olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 (12-ounce) Guinness Stout
1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 (10-ounce) packages baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce

Preparation

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; sprinkle over beef. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add beef and lamb to pan; cook 6 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Add chopped onion, broth, bay leaves, and stout; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in pearl onions and mushrooms; cook, covered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine 1/4 cup water and flour in a small bowl. Add flour mixture and cranberry sauce to pan. Cook 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Portuguese Sausage and Kale Soup

November 1, 2012

Finally back in the kitchen after nearly a week.  Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, luckily without much incident in Central Virginia, and the cold temperatures have come to stay.  Add that to the fact that I have two freezers still ridiculously full.  Sounds like soup time.  I pulled two bags of chicken legs and a pound of sausage out of the freezer.  There’s some room in there!  Of course I’ll probably be freezing some of this soup.  Well, at least I have room for it now.

I went the long way around on the soup, as per usual.  When you make a brothy soup I really recommend homemade stock.  So, first I made 2 quarts of chicken stock today – one for this and one for some future use.  I used a slightly wilted bunch of lacinato kale from the farmers’ market.  The recipe calls for a pound of kale.  That seems like a lot of kale and not normally the way kale is measured.  Still, I decided that one bunch wasn’t enough and headed out to get more.  Sadly Kroger only had curly kale today.  I don’t care for curly kale.  It’s hard to chop and other than oysters in stew I don’t think food should be ruffly.  Still, I got the curly kale and managed.  Anyway, I used a quart of my home canned tomatoes.  No small thing since I didn’t get to do any canning this year.  Tomatoes are going to be a precious commodity this year.  The freezers contained no chourico so I substituted Sausagecraft‘s San Miniato sausage and a little crushed jalapeno/serrano pepper.  Add some onion, potatoes and chickpeas and there you have it.

The flavor of this soup is really good.  The broth, tomatoes and sausage make a great salty and acidic base for the green and earthy kale.  The onions and garlic perform their usual aromatic magic.  I assume that the chickpeas and potatoes are added to give the soup a little heft, make it more of a main dish soup.  Next time I’d leave them both out.  In fairness I’m not a big fan of the chickpea in it’s non-hummus form.  I think their texture is weird and that really stands out here.  The potatoes just don’t add anything except carbs and calories.  Serving the soup with crusty bread takes care of both of those and it tastes awesome.  Dump the potatoes, stick with the bread.  I dressed my ciabatta with a little olive oil.  Yum.

One other thing about this recipe.  It says it makes four servings.  Now, I followed the amounts in the recipe pretty closely.  I’m not sure on what planet this is only four servings.  If you really want four servings I recommend making a half recipe.  I’ll have four servings to eat and four more to fill up that space in the freezer.

Good? Good.  Even a bit better than good.  Hearty and good for a cold night.
Easy? It absolutely could be. Buy a good quality stock.
Good for company? It certainly makes enough to share, but it’s not dinner party food certainly.
Special shopping? Nope.

Portuguese Sausage and Kale Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium white waxy potatoes, like yukon golds, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
1 pound kale, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and pepper
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzos (chick peas), drained and rinsed
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 pound sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 t crushed red pepper
Warm, crusty bread

Directions

Heat oil in a deep pot over medium high heat. Add potatoes and onions, cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add garlic, bay leaves, and kale to the pot. Cover pot and wilt greens 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add beans, tomatoes, chourico, and broth to the pot and bring soup to a full boil. Reduce heat back to medium and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve soup with hunks of crusty bread.

Pumpkin Soup

October 27, 2012

This month’s potluck was the first Fall potluck.  I signed up for soup.  Pumpkin soup is the obvious choice for October and had the added benefit of using a few items from my overfull freezers.  Part of the pumpkin was from 2011 and part from 2010. Gotta love a Food Saver. Then two bags of chicken stock.  So that’s four bags out of the freezers. A small dent in the cache, but a dent nonetheless.

A pureed soup is both easy and a pain in the butt.  It’s easy in that you basically just put all the ingredients in a pot and cook them until they get soft.  It’s a pain in that you have to run it through the blender in small batches.  It’s also easy in that there’s not exactly a recipe.  I used the pumpkin, a carrot, an apple, an onion and some wild ginger in with the chicken stock.  That’s what I had in the vegetable drawer.   Feel free to use vegetable stock if you’re going for a vegetarian soup.  It’s a pain in that you have to have a second pot to put the puree in as you work the batches through the blender.

Here’s the key to using fresh pumpkin.  Cut the top and scoop out all the gunk just like you do for carving your Halloween pumpkin.  Set the top back on slightly askew and roast it in a 350 degree oven until a fork goes in easily.  Once the whole pumpkin is roasted and cooled, the rind will basically fall away.  It’s much easier than trying to cut the rind away from raw pumpkin.

Pumpkin on its own is kind of a neutral flavor.  (If you’re using canned pumpkin be sure you get the plain pumpkin and not the pie filling).  When you add apple and carrot you add a little sweetness.  I also add a little brown sugar for that.  The ginger adds a little bite.  Wild ginger is milder than the ginger you get in the grocery store so you can add a little extra.  If you want a little extra bite throw in some cayenne.  You’ll feel the ginger on your tongue just a little and the cayenne at the back of your throat.  Then add a little salt for balance.  A little cream makes it taste and feel richer than you expect.

This soup was a hit with 3 of the 4 of us at potluck.  Our fourth generally doesn’t care for pumpkin.  The flavors are more complex than you might think.  And overall it’s pretty healthy.  Lots of good vitamins from the pumpkin and little enough cream that it doesn’t ruin the health benefit.  It makes a perfectly good meal all by itself in my opinion and it’s even better the next day.  The perfect Fall food.

For those of your getting ready for Hurricane Sandy and the accompanying “Frankenstorm” this would be great to have around!

Good? So good.
Easy? Kinda.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Nope. Just be sure to get a baking pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

3 C mashed pumpkin
3 C chicken or vegetable stock
½ large onion, diced
1 apple, cored, peeled and diced (I used Honeycrisp)
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 T minced fresh ginger
½ T brown sugar
¼ t salt
¼ t cayenne (more or less to taste)
¼ t white pepper
½ C heavy cream

Directions

Simmer pumpkin, apple, onion, carrot and ginger in the chicken stock until the vegetables are soft. Ladle a small amount of the vegetable mixture into a blender. Put the top on and hold down with a kitchen towel. Puree until smooth. Put the puree in a clean pot or large bowl. Repeat until all of the vegetables have been pureed. Add a little water if needed to get a smooth mixture. Be careful not to make the puree runny.

Return all of the puree to the soup pot. Stir in cream. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Creole Oyster Stew

October 20, 2012

Today was the kind of day that reminds me how happy I am to be a Virginian.  I drove over Afton Mountain and through part of the Shenandoah Valley with a friend.  Bright sunshine, warm temperatures and beautiful Fall leaves.  Pretty hard to beat.  But there’s more.    A little antiquing/junking that resulted in the purchase of a gorgeous hand-beaded cashmere sweater for $17 – even better.  But wait, there’s more still.  Oysters from Urbanna made into a rich and creamy oyster stew.   Nothing more required.

Honestly there’s not a lot of Creole to this stew.  It’s very mild.  Too much spice and you’d lose the flavor of the oysters.  I made half a recipe of stew.  It’s just me so I try to make small batches of things that don’t keep very long.  I won’t have any trouble getting through this – assuming I don’t have a heart attack.  There’s nothing light about this.  It has bacon, bacon grease, butter and heavy cream.  Fortunately only small amounts of each.  A little indulgence from time to time is good for the soul.

This is pretty easy to make.  Only one pot.  I didn’t substitute much today. I used dried thyme instead of fresh because that’s what I had.  I left out the parsley because the parsley in my vegetable drawer was beyond saving.  The other change I made was that I made a half recipe of stew, but used the full amount of celery and onions to give it a little extra bulk.  Other than that I followed the instructions.  If you don’t want to use bacon I think you could leave it out.  I’d probably add just a touch of liquid smoke for the flavor though. There’s a wonderful mix of flavors here.  Creamy, buttery, briny and smoky.  If I’d had some parsley there would have been a nice bright green accent too.  And it’s pretty.  Using white pepper keeps the stew clean.  And the oysters have beautiful ruffles when they’re cooked.

I highly recommend oyster stew as the end to a beautiful Fall day.  Buy local oysters if you can. And only in months that end in “ber.”  Enjoy!

Good?  So good.
Easy? Yep. Minimal chopping. Just some stirring.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? No, but be picky about your oysters.

Creole Oyster Stew

Ingredients

3 slices bacon, crumbled
2 T unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch cayenne
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pint oysters, picked over for shells, liquid drained and reserved
2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a large pot, cook the bacon until crisp and the fat is rendered, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.

To the fat remaining in the pan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook gently, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the green onions, garlic, salt, white pepper, cayenne, and thyme and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring, to make a light roux, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the reserved oyster liquor and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid thickens, about 4 minutes. Add the oysters and simmer until the oysters start to curl, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the cream and reserved bacon and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Serve hot with French bread.