Archive for the ‘soup’ Category

2
Dec

Soup of Shame

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

So here I am with my 5 pounds of turkey leftovers, and I have visions of a soup I think I’ve had somewhere before – a lovely, brown broth with lentils and pieces of winter squash and turkey. The soup in my head is delicious.

Because I soak legumes, and can not help myself from soaking lentils as well, I started 1 cup of lentils soaking the night before.

The next day, I melted a little butter and a little bacon fat (about 1 teaspoon of each), and once the onions softened I sauteed an onion, some garlic (3 cloves, minced), and some ginger (1 skinny inch, minced). Oh, and I added some asaphoetida – about half a teaspoon.

And then I added turmeric because I’d just been having a conversation with my ex about a bland soup that had been resurrected with turmeric and because the last batch I bought was surprisingly strong scented, so I’m hoping surprisingly flavorful, too.

So cooked that together for about 30 second to a minute, and then I added a scoop of the turkey stock (which had set up all nice and gelatinous) and let that melt in.

And then I added the winter squash. I have no idea what kind of squash this was. It was labeled at the farmers’ market as a sweet roasting squash, was about 5 pounds, and had a blue/green skin that was not as blue as a Hubbard squash. It did not roast up sweet at all. Instead, it had a bit of a sovory poultry-ish flavor, so I figured it’d be perfect for soup. So I rough diced it and dropped it in. Not all of the squash fit because I’ve found that I really can’t go much larger than a 2 quart pot, if I’m still going to like the soup by the last serving (and I only wanted the squash to be a third of the soup).

And then I added the soaked lentils and some more liquid (a mixture of turkey stock, vegetable stock, and water I’d used to cook chicken and onions the day before).

And I added some flavor elements – a whole stalk of celery and a bay leaf (both to be removed after cooking), the last of my buckwheat honey (1 1/2 teaspoon?), thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and freshly ground pepper.

And I let it cook… and it turned to mush, as you’d expect. And adding turkey to it at that point, would have been just gross. So despite having been fairly generous with the seasonings, I had 2 quarts of fairly flavorless mush.

I let the soup sit for a day while I pondered. And I figured that it might lend itself to something spicy/sweet/tangy.

So I came back and started looking through my random condiments. I decided against the tamarind chutney, even though it had a lot of what I was looking for. And I went, instead, with the bottle of Caribbean Savory Sauce that I had been having trouble finding a use for. And a little was good, so I went with a lot. Probably a quarter of a cup would have been the right measurement, but I went ahead and finished off the bottle – and it was not too much.

I also added some paprika (1 teaspoon?) and a lot of cayenne powder (possibly as much as 2 teaspoons, but you might prefer a lot less). And two capfuls of cider vinegar.

So it ended up tasty, but not at all what I’d been aiming for, and it didn’t use up any of my turkey.

This was only my second time making Thanksgiving, so the food is still shiny, new, and exciting to me.

So I went with a very simple recipe for the turkey because my parents went wild and paid for a turkey, instead of earning a free one through buying groceries. And they splurged for a free range, sexy turkey. So I just chucked some onion, garlic, and herbs inside and rubbed the outside with an herbed garlic butter. After the first half of cooking, I basted with a mixture of the turkey’s juices, orange juice, and soy sauce. Easy, simple, and it turned out juicy and reliable. There was a surprising amount of white meat for a free range bird, but apparently it was an especially breasty breed of bird – but the white meat wasn’t anymore flavourful for the wandering around. But I do think you could tell a difference with the dark meat – with a richer and more complex taste. And a cruelty free holiday!

And my mother scandalized me by not letting me come up with a recipe for dressing – but, instead, she bought Stove Top’s cornbread dressing. And to doctor it, she stirred in sliced scallions right at the end. Yeah. But I have to admit, even if it was sleazy, it was still very tasty and we finished all of it.

She was also going to have our only vegetable be microwaved frozen sugar snap peas (because my father can’t have Vitamin K), but I insisted on a second vegetable (mostly because I still had an abundant amount of Swiss Chard in the garden to use up before first frost). So I melted two teaspoons of bacon fat. Once that warmed up, I tossed in three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Once that started to brown, I tossed in the Swiss chard (washed, leaves cut off the spines, and then sliced across into 3/4″ ribbons, still damp). I had meant to add red pepper flakes after, but I ended up getting distracted getting the meal on the table, so there weren’t any – and the dish was delicious without them. Not healthy, mind you, but delicious. My friend, who is a chef, was absolutely right – swiss chard must always go with bacon.

And then there is the dish of which I am the most proud. The sweet potato casserole. Everyone makes this dish, and there are hundreds of recipes for this on the internet – but the first five pages on google didn’t come up with the recipe I was looking for. All of the called for butter. Many of the called for heavy cream. I really liked the recipe that called for orange juice and zest, and then I was amused to notice that the orange juice was never used in any of the versions claiming to be lower fat. Also, while I remember from my youth great debates over whether one would add diced apples or crushed pineapple to the casserole, not a single recipe called for any fruit. So I ended up kind of making my own way to a healthy version of this side dish for my diabetic father.

Sweet Potato Casserole – topped with marshmallows

First off, I made made it in individual ramekins, instead of a large dish, so there would be portion control. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but just for the ease, I did lightly butter the dishes.

Roast and peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.

Core, peel, and dice finely half of a smaller apple.

Stir them together in a bowl with the juice of one orange and the zest of half of the orange.

Since my parents have on hand the sugar/splenda blend, I used that. It runs twice as sweet as a comparable measure of sugar. Start with an eighth of a cup and taste, adding up to a quarter of a cup.

For spices, I added cinnamon, sweet paprika, black pepper, and a few drops of vanilla extract.

Then I stirred in 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and 2 egg whites. Beat that thoroughly through the mixture.

Fill the ramekins, making sure to leave about 3/4″ from the top because not only do you need room for the marshmallows, but also you the casserole will rise as it bakes.

Then I popped the ramekins into the 325F oven with the turkey for 45 minutes. I pulled them out and let them cool (they did puff up like souffles, but the settled down and still had a light, fluffy texture).

Once the casserole is no longer piping hot, cover with the big marshmallows (size totally matters). And, yes, I used normal, storebought marshmallows instead of trying to find a healthy way around that part.

After the turkey comes out of the oven, throw the ramekins back in and switch it to broil. By the time everything else is on the table, the marshmallows should be perfectly browned and puffy.

Also there was gravy. Mmmm…

After the fourth basting, I sucked up about a cup of the drippings and set them aside long enough for the fat to separate out.

Toast some flour until is it as dark as you want it. My mother went with a nice almond color.

Then spoon the fat from the drippings and add it to the flour. If that is not enough to make a smooth pasty, add some butter.

Once that was smooth and ready to have liquid added, my mother poured in the drippings slowly enough that they’d boil and incorporate smoothly.

After the whole cup had been added, I warmed up another cup of vegetable broth, and she added that until she reached the consistency she wanted.

Then she added a little kitchen bouquet (I don’t know – it’s tradition. But you could also toast the flour more in the beginning). Even though there was soy sauce in the basting liquid, after tasting the gravy still needed a little more salt, too. She has a mixture of white pepper, thyme, and rosemary that she grinds herself – a pinch of that. And a teaspoon and a half of Manischewitz wine for richness.

And then after dinner, we had an apple pie I bought at my farmers’ market and the fior di latte and almond gelato I bought from Capogiro.

And now I am back home and making turkey stock from the carcass. Good times.

So the weather was cold enough last night that I not only made soup, but also I closed the windows.

Let me tell you about my oddly delicious butternut squash soup!

I started this soup a couple days ago not quite sure where I wanted to go with it, but I figured not sweet and probably asian flavors (though I hadn’t even decided as far as whether I’d be going for south asia or southeast asia).

So I peeled the squash, saved the seeds, and cut it into very rough chunks.

Melted a Tablespoon of butter, diced 3 small onions and sauteed them, diced 4 garlic cloves, minced a lot of ginger (1.5″ or more), and cut the flesh off of a couple jalapenos and diced that in, too.

Added the butternut squash, and then didn’t quite cover with vegetable stock.

Cook cook cook stir stir cook.

Cover and ponder.

So I pulled out one of my 5.6oz cans of coconut milk (seriously, I am never buying a big can ever again – these are prefect) and added that.

And then I went to my stack of Maesri Thai curry pastes to pick one. And I chose the yellow sour curry paste. I cracked it open and tasted it (my first time using this flavor) – and it was perfect! All dark-salty (from the fish content) and sour (from tamarind), and I added a little and tasted and a little more – and I ended up adding about 4 teaspoons to get the balance just right.

And despite my recent acquisition of a stick blender, by the time this one was finished, it was already mostly smooth and I decided that I wanted some chunks of squash for texture.

I seriously love this soup, and I can not wait to walk home through the rain tonight to curl up with more of it.

3
Feb

Cooking with Catladies – March 15, 2009

   Posted by: Livia

Okay, so I am in the planning stages of making a lovely dinner party that will benefit charity. Which charity? City Kitties. As of now, the date is March 15th, but I will make another post when there is a real announcement with a graphic and everything.

Why City Kitties and not PAWS or some local SPCA group? Because while they are also awesome, I was reading back entries of a friend’s (friend from pilates classes) livejournal and came across an entry where they had done one of these a year ago, and it fills the dinner party void in my life. So there.

So here’s the menu planning part (I really would love your feedback and suggestions):

Beverages

  • We shall provide sangria with the appetizer course, and after that it is BYOB

Appetizers (3-4 of what is listed below based on availability of ingredients)

  • pita chips & tzatziki
    pita chips: (I think I’ll make a separate post about these)

    tzatziki: drain 1 qt yogurt. Peel and finely dice 1 large to 4 small cucumbers. Stir together with 1/4 tsp jarred minced garlic.

  • Sweet potato spears with dipping sauce
    sweet potato spears: toss cut sweet potatoes with olive oil, cumin seeds, powdered garlic, ground coriander, ground black pepper, ground chipotle, and ground thyme. Bake at 400F for 20-35 minutes (depending on size up spears). Sprinkle with salt.

    dipping sauce: Sweet hot Garlic Sauce

  • Asian-style Pickled Cucumber & Carrot
    Peel cucumber in stripes and slice into 2-3mm pieces. Cut carrots into as fine slices as possible. Also cut thin slices of purple onion. Combine in a water-tight container, sprinkle with (citrus-infused) sugar and pure over 1/4c rice vinegar. Shake to mix and let sit 8-36 hours.

Soup (Choice of 1)

  • *Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup
    Heat 1 can of foreign (full fat) coconut milk until the oils separate. Fry asaphoetida, 2 inches minced ginger, and a spice mix made up of (kala jeera, black cardamom seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, black peppercorns, and salt). After 2 minutes, add 20-ish carrots, peeled and cut into large 2-3″ pieces. Add a can of lowfat coconut milk and vegetable stock until the liquids cover the solids. Check seasoning and add salt, pepper, juice of 1 lime, and 1 tsp creamy peanut butter. When thoroughly cooked, blend until smooth. Garnish with ground chipotle, toasted slivered almonds, and possibly arugula

  • Spicy broth with tofu and avocado
    Make my usual vegetable stock with extra garlic and three kinds of pepper (fresh jalepeno, powdered chipotle, dried cayenne). Marinate tofu strips in cumin, chipotle, oregano, and lemon juice. Add tofu to hot broth and garnish with strips of avocado (and maybe fresh red hot peppers).

Main Course – Build your own soft tacos (with optional store-bought tortilla chips?)

  • Beans
    • Curry Black Beans – Sabut Urad Lajawab
      adapted from The Ultimate Dal Cookbook by Mona Verma
      Soak block beans overnight. Heat olive oil and mustard oil in a pan and fry onions until translucent. Add minced ginger, garlic, and seeded jalepeno. After a couple minutes, add turmeric; garam masala; and ground mix of roasted cumin seeds, roasted coriander seeds, and dried chillies – fry a minute until fragrant. Add drained beans, salt, and tomatoes. Cook down. Season with lime juice near the end of cooking and adjust flavors.

    • Kidney Beans
      onions, garlic, jalepeno flesh cooked down. Add kidney beans and 2 cans of stewed tomatoes. Add 1 bay leaf, thyme, oregano, cumin, chili powder, paprika. Cook down until fairly thick and mushy.
    • Thai-inspired chickpeas
      Toast finely shredded fresh coconut in a dry skillet. Add olive oil. Add finely diced purple onion. When soft, add minced garlic, minced ginger, minced jalepeno, minced cilantro stems, minced lemongrass (if available). After 1 minute, add a conservative amount of thai green curry paste. Add chickpeas (from a can, drained and rinsed), lime juice, lime zest, and a bay leaf. After a few minutes, add a mixture of vegetable stock and water and let cook until no longer loose. Let flavors sit overnight.

  • Greens
    • Kenyan Collard Greens
      Cook down thin strips of collard greens in a tiny amount of water/oil. Add vegetable bouillon cube and 5 spice powder. Add diced tomato

    • Asian-inspired Kale – ETA: not served
      Cook down kale and add a mixture of soy sauce, wasabi, minced ginger, and lemon juice.

  • Root vegetables
    • Sweet potatoes
      Roast sweet potatoes and then mash with butter, cumin, chipotle, thyme, oregano, nutmeg, sumac, salt, and black pepper (and maybe a bit of smoked paprika).

      That’s just gilding the lily. Instead, mashed roasted sweet potatoes with roasted garlic and maybe some lime juice to keep things perky. And that’s it.

    • Beet/Cabbage Shred (based on this one)
      Slice beet as thin as possible. Shred purple cabbage. Slice a purple onion thinly. Seed and slice thin matchsticks from a jalepeno or two. Toss together and dress with the following pre-mixed liquid: sugar, finely minced garlic, and a wee bit of minced ginger, rice vinegar and red wine vinegar (equal parts), olive oil, and a decently generous amount of lime juice. Toss together. Grind some black pepper and sprinkle in some cilantro. Toss again. Let sit for 15 minutes.

  • Sauteed onions and peppers
  • Sauteed mushrooms – ETA: not served
  • Cheese
    • hand shredded extra sharp cheddar – ETA: not served
    • queso fresco
  • shredded lettuce, diced tomato, minced purple onion, sliced hot peppers – ETA: not served
  • sour cream and maybe Mexican crema
  • Salsas
  • Guacamole
  • Rice
    1 cup white rice, 1 jar salsa, 1/5 tsp turmeric

Salad – ETA: not served

  • *Carrot & Garlic Salad
    blanch 2 pounds peeled carrots, toss with lemon juice. Roast carrots, 8 peeled scallions, and a head of garlic until tender. Cut carrots and scallions and mix them with the blended mix (roasted garlic, zest and juice of 1 orange, parley, salt, cinnamon, cumin, ground ginger).

  • mixed greens
  • Salad dressings
      Southwestern Ranch
      make a French dressing base (mayonnaise and ketchup), heavier on the ketchup. Stir in 6oz plain yogurt. Add taco seasoning mix from a packet.

    • Sweet Garlic and Cumin dressing
      Roast 2 heads of garlic, and squeeze every clove into a small food processor. Add slightly less than a quarter cup of honey and 2 Tablespoons of good olive oil. Dry Roast 1 Tablespoon of cumin seeds. Add some whole and grind some in a mortar and pestle. Add 2 tsp sweet red wine. Season with salt and pepper. When smooth, taste. When it’s as good as you can make it while still being too strong and a bit too sweet, add cider vinegar until you reach a pourable (but still thick) consistency.

    Dessert

    Note: Adding asterisks to the recipes that need to be tested before the dinner, Anyone interested in tasting some of these things as I go? I especially need someone who likes chickpeas.

So that’s not the best name for a soup, but it seemed descriptive of what I made last Sunday.

Roasted Autumnal Soup

First, a few days before, I caramelized a bunch of smaller onions (peeled, stem ends trimmed, quartered almost through to the stem end but not quite) similarly to the Caramelized Shallots I have been adoring over at Smitten Kitchen – only with less butter, so completely differently. Let’s say I remembered to add a small chunk of butter, maybe 2 tablespoons. And then I splashed over some balsamic vinegar because I love it and hadn’t bought any red wine vinegar since a vicious squirrel invaded my kitchen and broke my last bottle. A bit of brown sugar (mildly infused with lime zest because that was the brown sugar easiest to hand), some salt and pepper, and a loose covering with tin foil. Cooked until the liquid was just a bit too far past syrupy to save for another use (sadly).

I think that was also the day I split the delicata squash in half (and saved the seeds) to roast. Actually, this was all done on the long planned day of roasting, so it must have been the same day. Afterward, I pulled the peel off and put the chunks in a container in the refigerator for future use.

Also, that same day, I roasted several heads of garlic.

So, slice up a couple of the caramelized onions, cut the squash meat into smallish chunks, and toss a few cloves of roasted garlic into a pot and pour in some vegetable stock to cover.

Cook cook cook.

Season with a bit of salt, some nutmeg, ground pepper, and a bit of ground coriander.

Once everything is cooked tender, puree in a blender. I am only just starting to be convinced of the whole blending soups school of thought, and I will say that it works much more smoothly when you are making single portions of soups rather than large batches that’ll last a week.

So return the blended soup the a rinsed pot. At this point, I tasted it and decided it was definitely lacking a high note. Should I add fruit? Can’t spruce it up with some vinegar because it already has that from the caramelized onions. You know… I bet a buttery, plump roasted scallop would really set this soup off well. Only I don’t have a good source for seafood.

So I set a container of nonfat plain yogurt to drain.

Once it was a bit drier, I lumped a quarter of a cup into the bottom of my soup bowl. To the yogurt, I added a pinch of cumin, a pinch of chipotle powder, a pinch of ground pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. Stirred that thoroughly, and poured over the hot soup. I gave it a few stirs to swirl the yogurt through, but I did not mix it completely. And it turned out just right.

~*~

Now I have to think of a soup that will benefit from some whey as the liquid component.

~*~

But for tonight, I am making a pretty standard black bean soup that ended up being fairly strongly based on my chili recipe. I just started going for that on automatic.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Set a cup of black beans to soak the night before. (Or open a can and rinse)

In 1 teaspoon of olive oil, cook down 1 onion (small dice) and half a dozen baby carrots (cut to about the same size). One they start to soften, add 1 clove garlic (minced), flesh only of 1 serrano pepper (minced), 1 caramelized onion (sliced – see recipe above), 2 roasted garlic cloves.

Once the vegetables are soft, add 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, and a pinch of asafoetida. Stir together and let heat for a minute.

Stir in the drained black beans. And for some reason, I keep feeling like cooking them a minute or two before adding the liquid. I don’t know if there is any benefit, but it doesn’t seem to do any harm.

Add vegetable stock to just cover. Once the liquid is simmering, add 1/2 tsp ground thyme, 1/2 tsp ground oregano, 2 tsp paprika, and a pinch of sugar. Oh, wait… I didn’t use sugar. My buckwheat honey has started crystallizing, and I still have about half the jar left, so I stuck a knife in and pulled out about 2/3 tsp of honey and used that, instead. Right. That should be awesome.

I let it cook down for about an hour, until it started looking a little dry, and then I added a can of diced tomatoes (juice and all). I also added a pinch of ground chipotle (you don’t want to add it too early because even a small about of hot pepper will build intensity during slow liquid cooking). And then I let it simmer until I was about ready to go to work.

When I get home and heat it up, it will probably require one finishing touch – about a teaspoon of flour (whole wheat, why not) shaken together with some lukewarm water. Add that to the soup and then cook it all for another 20 minutes, and you are good to go.

I am determinedly Not Sick.

And so I am eating a lot of soup.

Last night, there was another success from The Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew (which, incidentally, a review says all the recipes are culled from her Soup Encyclopedia, but since I still haven’t exhausted this version and I paid about $5 for it, I’m not looking to trade up just yet)

Italian Arugula and Potato Soup

Only, of course, I didn’t make it exactly according to the directions – partly because I just wanted to make 1 serving… and partly because I didn’t feel like calculating proportions.

So 1 big red-skinned potato, cut into 1 cm dice, gets dumped into my 2 quart saucepan (so it’s deeper than 1 layer and it’s harder to make too much soup) with a sprinkling of salt. Add homemade vegetable stock until just covered. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

Finely dice a carrot (3-4 baby carrots) and add to the potatoes and stock. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Tear arugula leaves and drop into the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes longer until the vegetables are tender.

Add 1/4 tspn cayenne pepper and salt & black pepper to taste. (At this point the recipe has you tearing stale ciabatta bread and adding that to thicken, but I managed to have little enough stock that the soup was already fairly thick.)

And then it has you toasting garlic slices to top the soup. That would have been better, but I didn’t want to wash an extra pan, so I pulled out the head of roasted garlic from the fridge and chucked a could cloves into the soup.

Ended up quite a success.

~*~

Now I have some black beans soaking and I’m looking at soup recipes for broccoli to try with broccoli rabe.

And I bought orange juice.

But really, not sick at all.

27
Nov

Carrot Ginger Coconut Milk Soup

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

Carrot Ginger Coconut Milk Soup

Orangette had a post that briefly mentioned Carrot Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk, and it just sounded like the best idea ever. Now, I think that soup had a much higher concentration of carrots and it looks like it might have had more dairy fat, but mine turned out rather tasty, too.

I started off with half a can of coconut milk – the full fat foreign stuff where it is actually possible to fry ingredients in it like the directions in Indian cookbooks. Real coconut milk was a revelation, but it’s also hard to get enough coconut flavor with it without having way too much fat. I ended up giving my remaining unopened cans to the Thanksgiving food drive.

So heat the coconut milk until it separates. Add a wee knifetip of asaphoetida and inch of ginger (peeled and minced). And peel three carrots, cut them into rough chunks, and add them to the coconut milk. I only had three, but this soup would probably do well with several more carrots. Simmer for a bit, and then add stock (I had vegetable) until the volume doubles.

Then I decided I wanted a sort of curry seasoning, but neither the green thai curry paste in the fridge nor the generic indian curry powder in the pantry seemed right (nor the vindaloo… and probably not the garam masala), so I decided to make my own random spice mix:

  • 1/8 tsp kala jeera
  • 1 black cardamom seed
  • 3 fenugreek seeds (yes, i know these quantities are ridiculous, but I was working by smell)
  • less than 1/8 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 black peppercorns

Grind that all up with a mortal and pestle and tip as much into the soup as smells right. (I ended up using all of it, but I hadn’t expected to.) I also added a pinch of salt (note: my stock didn’t start off with any salt at all).

Cook cook cook

Taste – at this point I added more salt and a squeeze of lime. And half a teaspoon of creamy peanut butter to mellow it out a bit.

Cook a bit – pour it into a blender. When smooth, it seemed finished, so it went straight into a bowl. I topped it with some toasted almond slivers, ground chipotle, and a handful of young arugula. A dollop of sour cream or yogurt would have been nice, too.

New Fruits
Persimmon – I picked up an Hachiya Persimmon at my produce truck (and the sweet guy just gave it to me for free. My mother, having grown up in an area with persimmon trees, had always warned me off of them: “If they aren’t just dead ripe, then they are the sourest things in the world. And it’s almost impossible to catch them between being ripe enough and rotten.”

But this was a beautiful, evenly shaped and unblemished specimen, and it called to me. So I bought it and left it to sit around for a week or two. And then one day, I came back from D&D to find that my kitchen smelled sweet and luscious. So I went over and squished the persimmon, and found it sufficiently squishy. (My research since then suggests that I would have been safer to wait until it was visibly squishy, not just to touch) So I promptly called up my mother and food co-conspirator for advice on eating the thing (Do I peel it? Do I need a specific angle of approach to avoid the seeds? Will it be disappointing on its own – should I make something to go with it?)… and both of them were out.

My mother called back and let me know that all of the seeds would be up at the top, tucked up under the stem, so you could just go on and bit the thing.

MMmmm! It was sweet! And luscious. And dribbling down my chin. It tasted a bit of pears and apricots, and had just a slightly too mushy texture.

Also, I discovered that I didn’t like the skin and proceeded to pick the skin off the next area right before I ate it. The skin is thin (like a pear or tomato, but just a bit firmer so there’s a crisp pop as you bite through… kind of like a cooked sausage casing) but papery, and I could flake it off rather easily, if messily.

Quince – I was first introduced to quinces several years ago by a wise and clever woman in Boston who shares my interest in ancient cuisine. She presented me with a quince, and I think I ended up forgetting it at my sister’s untasted. But I have thought fondly and longingly of them ever since.

And then I saw them at the Headhouse farmers’ market, so I bought 2 (at a dollar each!).

Now you know above where I said the persimmons perfumed the house? I’m not sure that was 100% true. Because I realized later that I had also brought home the quinces that afternoon, and quinces are famed for giving off an amazing floral scent while the sit on the counter and ripen. But after I ate the persimmon, the smell continued but changed a bit, so I think both were making happy smells together, and I’m sticking by that claim.

When I bought the quinces, they were consistently green, but the sweet smell finally guilted me into cooking the quinces (tannins make them tart when raw, but simmering them in sugar and water makes them amazing and pink/red).

First, I washed the outsides thoroughly, removing all of the fluff on the skin. I quartered them and cut the seeds and tough bits out. Even though everyone says you should peel them, I didn’t. I dumped the quarters into a glass loaf pan (2 quinces ended up being slightly more than 1 layer deep), and I poured over top: the rest of the simple syrup I had hanging out in my fridge, 1.5 knifefuls of the honey that had crystallized in my pantry, 3 generous teaspoons of vanilla sugar, and a bunch of water. I have no idea what the proportions were.

Then I popped it into the 350F oven in which I was also roasting a delicata squash and a rutabega. Once those were finished, I lowered the heat to 200F and draped the pan with tinfoil. And then an episode or two of Primeval later, I got bored and brought the heat back up to 350F. And then I decided I didn’t need for it to simmer all night long until it became bright red.

So I washed out a jar with hot water (yeah, I know, not sterilized, but at least the glass wouldn’t shatter with temperature shock) and took up the quinces and poured the sauce over. It was almost like canning; the lid even popped sealed and everything. Actually, I’m not sure I should have kept so much air out – I think the color darkens even more with exposure to oxygen, but at 2am, it seemed like the best way to keep the quinces happy.

see also: David Lebovitz – Rosy Poached Quinces; Zucchini & Chocolate – Vanilla Poached Quince

~*~

New Tuber
Jerusalem Artichoke – you can read the wikipeadia article I linked there for all the fun facts about jerusalem artichokes. I was drawn to them because several of the food blogs I’ve been reading through recently have raved about them. (huh, I was sure I’d have more links there.)

So I saw them at the the market, and I picked the prettiest one (yes, just one). I figured I’d make a simple 1-person soup to get to know the tuber, but I ended up seduced by risotto.

Now, I love to cook hovering by the stove and tinkering with things, and I tend to pass up recipes that involve leaving food alone for extended periods of time because I like to pick at things. So I will tell you that risotto is not that hard.

Sunchoke Risotto

I had some homemade vegetable stock (though, oddly enough, not my home), and I didn’t think it had any parsnips in it, so I took the opportunity while heating up the stock to chuck in some large cubes of parsley root (more on the difference later). But, yes, always get your liquids up to temperature for stock, if you can (by which I mean, if you are saving on dishes by not pouring a finishing splash of cream into a separate container first, there it no need to get your container of cream warm. Just suck it up and keep cooking.)

So I started off with a mixture of butter and olive oil because both tastes seemed like they would go well with the corner of jerusalem artichoke I nibbled raw and the way the flavor is described when warm (all nutty and earthy). Into that, I threw the white of a small leek (sliced, cleaned, and drained). I did not use the green part because I was aiming for an earthier dish, and I probably would have opted for onions or shallots if I hadn’t had a leek in my fridge.

Once the leek softened, I added 2 cloves of garlic (minced), my 1 jerusalem artichoke (washed, rough spots peeled off so that it was sort of striped with peel, halved lengthwise, and then sliced thinly), and some arborio rice (3/4 of a cup, maybe less).

Once the sunchoke softened and the rice was a little toasty, I ladled in a little vegetable stock. Cooked and stirred until it started looking a bit dry… then more stock. Repeat as necessary.

When the rice was almost cooked, I started to consider seasoning. 1/2 teaspoon salt (you might prefer less salt than I). A decent grinding of pepper. A shake of powdered thyme. And a small pinch of chipotle. And a few grinds of nutmeg.

I finished it off with 2 half & half creamers (so about an ounce total) and a generous grating of Prima Donna cheese I had acquired through a random offer for bartering. Grate and stir, grate and stir. And then grate a little more for the top.

It was delicious. Awesome, even. But I’m not sure I could distinguish which parts of the flavor came specifically from the jerusalem artichoke.

~*~

So – Parsley Root – I actually discovered parsley root before I figured out parsnips. There I was, in the suburbs, learning how to make stock for the first time. My mother thought I was nuts for wanting to go through all that work to make something that was just an ingredient, but she humored me and told me anyway that I needed some celery, carrots, and parsnips (and onions, garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and pepper). So we went to the supermarket to buy fresh vegetables. And there were some lovely things that looked like parsnips but still had the parsley attached at the top, labeled parsley root. So I got those and thought it wonderfully convenient to grab one thing with two ingredients and had no idea they weren’t parnips.

Then I went to a different grocery store, and they had never heard of parsnips with parsley greens. So I went back to the original store and bought the parsley root again, this time noticing the different terminology (still not realizing that it wasn’t just a vocabulary issue). Finally, after years of being puzzled, I found websites that acknowledged it was a different thing.

The main thing is that parsnips are sweeter than parsley root, and they don’t come with the delightfully flavorful greens that taught me how to appreciate parsley, too.

Mashed Parsley Root

So there I was with stock to boil. In this case, vegetable stock.

So I peeled three parsley roots (and saved the peelings for a later stock) and cut it into large, easily fished out, chunks maybe 1″ square. And put them in the stock.

Some time later, when they could be easily pierced with a fork, I pulled them out (with a slotted spoon) into a bowl. I threw in a chunk (2 Tbsp) of butter, and I went after them with my potato masher. They were still quite resistant to the mashing, and it took a decent amount of persistence… but the result was a lovely dish that I would make again at the first excuse. Not a cohesive mash like potatoes, but a delightful texture nonetheless.

Luckily, I already knew that I wanted to package up the risotto for the next day because I was glad not to have to worry about making the mashed parsley root my dinner.

~*~

And then the dish I’ve been making a lot because the weather has been cold and wet and miserable and I have wanted simple food with rich, dark flavors. This dish might not be for everyone.

Meaty Pasta with Blue Cheese

So I acquired from my mother (in with a bunch of containers of frozen leftovers) a package of her lasagne filling – ground beef with tomatoes, garlic, and onion (and probably other things) cooked down until it is solid goodness.

So I boiled two ounces of pasta (penne).

With just 4 minutes left for cooking the pasta, I heated up 3 Tablespoons of the lasagna meat. Poured over it about a cup of pasta sauce from a jar.

One the sauce was hot, I drained the pasta, poured it over the sauce, and mixed it all together with a teaspoon or so of the pasta water. I kept cooking it until the pasta was finished cooking.

Then I tossed it into a bowl, crumbles blue cheese on top, and then mushed the cheese deeper into the pasta so it would melt a little around the edges.

In later versions, I added:

  • 1 big floret of cauliflower, cut into small pieces and started cooking at about the same time as the pasta so that it could soften sufficiently.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of homemade pesto, added at the same time as the beef
  • cloves of roasted garlic, added at the same time as the beef
17
Nov

food list

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , , , ,

I ended up acquiring an abundance of food over the weekend (leftovers from my mother, a tempting farmers’ market, and a delightful cheese exchange – oh, and amazing fruitcake in the mail), so roasting is postponed.

Well, at least the part where I crack open the butternut squash… I am still looking longingly at the uncaramelized garlic and onions and things. Soon.

But my larder has an abundance, so that calls for a list to make sure everything is properly savored.

Food I have
Produce
1 hachiya persimmon
2 quinces
6 large red potatoes
cherry tomatoes (from neighbor’s tomato plants)
2 red and 3 green tomatoes (from mother’s tomato plants)
mixed tomatoes (adopted from friend’s refrigerator)
1 green cauliflower
4 radishes
1 sunchoke / Jerusalem artichoke
3 carrots
carrot greens
arugula
2 small leeks
hot peppers galore
4 limes
small chinese cabbage
3 parsley roots
1 rutabega
ginger
kale

orange juice
vegetable stock
most of a can of coconut milk (full fat)

leftover cooked vegetables (from a restaurant)
creole seasoned creamy corn sauce (from a restaurant)

dairy
smoked aged local cheddar
Prima Donna
a blue cheese
store brand extra sharp cheddar
cream cheese
2% milk
plain yogurt

meat
filet mignon leftovers
chicken raft leftovers
and one of the leftover containers from my mother looked like she accidentally gave me some of her concentrated ground beef cooked down with onions and tomatoes for filling lasagna.

chicken stock

red beans made with pork

Meals to make with that
I’ll make some carolina rice and freeze up the beans in lunch-sized portions

And then I want to make a bunch of small batches of soup –

  • I bought the carrots for the carrot greens so I could see what they were like in my standard asian pork, greens, and noodles soup ETA: Done. Ummm… not as exciting as I’d hoped. It just tasted like its component parts and the greens never melted into the soup flavor. I have a leftover portion, so maybe they’ll end up better.
  • While this recipe for Jerusalem artichoke soup with lemon and saffron sounds exciting, I think I’d rather try my first introduction to this tuber more simply… I’m a little worried, though, that most recipes seem to call for 3 parts potatoes to 2 parts jerusalem artichoke. Do you think that’s because the flavor is too strong (probably not, since they can be eaten raw) or because of the expense? I’ll let you know how it goes. ETA: Oooo – or I could turn it into risotto!
  • Carrot Ginger Coconut Milk Soup (inspired by Orangette’s travels, possibly with this recipe as a starting point)

I still want to roast the cauliflower. I think that would tumble well with some of the tomatoes.

And I have a hankering for pasta. Possibly tossed with blue cheese and toasted pine nuts. But that’s not an efficient use of ingredients. I might have to use some of the blue cheese with the roasted cauliflower to make sure I get to it while it’s still tasty… hmmm.. or the cheese and cauliflower could add to the list of soups.

These Poached Quines will finally give me a use for my vanilla sugar.

I’ll probably make a colcannon type think with the parsley root and the kale. Or maybe the rutabega.

And as soon as I finish gobbling up the rocket with nibbles of the local smoked cheddar cheese, I’ll start making kale, tomato, and poached egg breakfasts.

So there are ideas maximizing the combinations, but now I have to figure out a schedule and get to it in time.

Which means I need to head home and make myself some dinner.

28
Oct

Assorted Miscellany

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

Have satisfied my lingering craving for fish.

Someday I’ll have to figure out a good place to buy fish on a day when I’ll be headed straight home after I hit the place – and then I’ll just have to suck it up and start cooking it enough to get comfortable with the process. At least I like fish in a wide range of donenesses.

There was all you can eat sushi last week and then salmon when I went to see my grandmother over the weekend. The visit went well. Sadly, we weren’t able to schedule a bridge game.

~*~

Chinatown bus went smoothly this time. On the way back, I even had a pair of seats all to myself. I have discovered that a pomegranate, despite being weird, is the best buss food ever… well, if you’re me: because of the way the sectioning works, you can pop off a chunk at a time and put the rest in a container; it’s a filling food that takes a while to eat, so it can fill the entire chunk of time between boarding and getting on the Turnpike without filling you up; picking apart a pomegranate satisfies all of those obsessive urges like wiggling a loose tooth and figuring out just the right angle for slow pressure that will pop the section off cleanly while crushing the fewest peripheral seeds – almost as good as a video game; and it’s all kinds of feminine mythological, so there.

~*~

I am still trying to finish the worst book on Roman food I have ever read. I skipped half a dozen chapters in the middle because I just can’t stand the writing, but I want to finish it so I can write up a proper review… and you never know that he won’t same something fascinating as soon as I stop looking.

~*~

So when I was getting dressed yesterday, I decided I wanted to check and see whether or not my professional-wear would still fit, so I tried on one of my newest acquisitions – a black/white checked skirt. It was too long, but still wearable (should be hemmed 6-8″ so that it hits mid-calf)… and just barely small enough to still fit. I’m not sure whether I should have it tailored or donate it. But I wore it to see how much the size affected wear, and I paired it with a bright red sweater/shell-type thing. I had not thought about the consequences of wearing bright red during the world series. Apparently, the consequences are that you have to have several cheerful conversations with random strangers on the street.

~*~

It was raining and cold when I went home, so I made myself some soup.

Warmed some of the stock I had condensed.

Added 1 tsp soy sauce (because it’s homemade stock, and so it has no salt) and 1 tsp fish sauce.

dumped in about 2 ounces of buckwheat (soba) noodles.

And then I had picked up some chinese broccoli on my way back through chinatown, so I rinsed a few bundles, cut them into coarse (1″) slices, and added them to the soup.

And then here’s the awesome part – in a separate pan, I heated 1 teaspoon sesame oil. And then I sliced 3 cloves of garlic and toasted them in the oil. I also sliced thinly (no seeds) a red jalepeno pepper and tossed that in once the first side of the garlic slices had browned.

This topped the soup.

~*~

Bought a basket on Etsy. Sort of accidentally… I asked if it was possible to modify the shape of another one to make it a size for storing onions, and then she up and made it right away. But it’s gorgeous and fits in my cabinet perfectly. Now I need to find a scrap of cloth and line it because the whole reason I was looking for an onion basket was so that I’d have fewer onion peel crumbs filling up the bottom of the cabinet. Oh, and I need to buy more onions, too, as I’m down to just one.

~*~

Speaking of buying produce, I think I’ll skip my local farmers’ market this weekend so that I can try out a new (to me) one on Sunday that a few of the food blogs talk about (one because she sometimes vends there).

~*~

Argh. And I need to spend more money this weekend. The walk to work this morning (42F raining) proved that I need to hurry up with the acquiring of everyday footwear that is not sandals.