Posts Tagged ‘stock’

Okay, so if you’ll remember from the last soup, I had leftover the liquid drained from a can of tomatoes.

Well, at that enchilada dinner, one of the participants made a pot of rice (with a seasoning packet) and heated up some kidney beans. Her rice came out perfectly, and I took home what leftovers there were.

And reheated them. All classy-like. But I’m telling you about it anyway because I’m proud of having essentially made dinner for free.

Leftover Beans & Rice

First, I wanted to soften the beans a bit more, so I put them in a small pot with just enough tomato liquid to cover, and cooked that for five or so minutes.

And then I went to look around for other flavors to jazz things up.

Oh, yeah, I have a jar of pipian, so I melted about half a teaspoon into the liquid.

And I have some Lime Cilantro salad dressing, which is more like a pesto than a salad dressing, from a local restaurant – so I added a dollop of that, too.

And then I added the rice.

And as everything came to temperature, I crumbled some dried oregano in it as well.

End result – delicious and filling dinner

I also still had about a third of the roasted butternut squash lingering in my fridge. What was I going to do?

So, again, I went poking for inspiration in the other bits and bobs in there. Aha! I had a small container of coconut chutney from take out dosas a friend had brought to my house. I can play with those flavors.

Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup

I diced a yellow onion fairly small, and I cooked it in coconut milk (6.5oz).

I added some asafoetida and a fairly large amount of garam masala – somewhere around a rounded teaspoon. Oh, and 3 cloves of roasted garlic because it was there.

Once everything was aromatic, I added the butternut squash. I also put a Tablespoon of mustard seeds in a dry skillet to heat.

And about a quarter cup of finely shredded, unsweetened coconut.

Like the previous soup, this one also needed some kick, so I added some cayenne pepper. And some black pepper. And a little bit of cilantro. And adding about a teaspoon of brown sugar really made it sing.

Then I thinned the soup out with some vegetable stock.

Once the mustard seeds started to pop, stirred them into the soup as well.

Done! Rich, tasty, and a bit out of the ordinary.

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I have an unusual abundance of free time this weekend and an abundance of food. Want to come over and help with that?

There’s a sexy french triple cream cows’ milk cheese and some crackers.

And I’m going to make duck soup.

My duck soup all starts with a good duck stock. And my duck stock starts with going out to dinner with my parents. See – my father loves Peking Duck. So a couple weeks ago, we went to Yang Ming and got one of the prettiest ducks I’ve ever seen. And, as usual, we asked for the carcass to take home.

Duck Soup

Duck Stock
Into a pot, add the frozen cooked duck carcass.

Add onion peels (from purple onions, if possible) and leek ends. Add the skins from a roasted garlic head. Add carrot peels and herb stems. (All the stuff I keep in a bag in my freezer for stock until I’m ready) If you have ginger peels, add them.

Add a couple dried hot red peppers* (rinsing the dust off). Add some cloves and maybe a star anise. Add a tablespoon or two of peppercorns (or fewer if you crush them first, but this is how I go through pepper fast enough to keep my supply fresh). If you have it, add some thyme, savory, rosemary, or anything in that family of herbs. Add a bay leaf or two. Add parsley.

One of the best things, which I rarely have, is parsley root with its leaves.

Add water up to cover, but not much over that.

And cook. You may choose to boil or simmer.

Then strain the stock.

Duck Soup
You know what I didn’t add to the stock? Salt. Because now that you’re tasting it you can add some (and how much will vary on your tastes and how salty the cooked duck skin ended up being) – and it’s going to need a generous quantity of salt and/or soy sauce (or gluten free tamari).

Then I like adding greens. Chinese spinach is good. I’ve pickled my own mustard greens for this (or you can buy them in a package pickled, but rinse them if you go this route). Kale is delicious.

You can add mushrooms, but I prefer them either cooked before adding or from dried. Fresh boiled mushrooms aren’t tasty to me.

You can adjust the seasoning – more ginger? a splash of vinegar?

Add noodles – I like the buckwheat soba noodles for this soup, but it’s flexible and gluten free noodles are also tasty.

And then right before serving – thinly slice fresh garlic and a fresh hot pepper (I aim for the kind that’s about a foot long, 3/4 inch diameter, and bright red or green), and toast them until just brown. Sprinkle the tops of each bowl right after portioning.

*I am still working on the dried red peppers I recieved as a free sample from Marx Foods. They’re only dusty because I’ve strung them on thread and have them hanging in my kitchen where they’re pretty and reminding me to keep using them.

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Next up in project clean out my parents’ freezer: pork loin

Back when I was buying cheap meat, a pork loin was one of the best bargains out there – almost all lean meat, no bones, and could be found on sale as cheaply as $1.88/lb

Being just one person, I’d cut a whole loin into three roasts and freeze them. Even then, it’s quite a lot of meat. And it has a tendency toward being dry and flavorless.

The cooking method I learned from my mother was to pick the roast with the thickest outer layer of fat as possible, embed some garlic cloves in the meat and threat some rosemary sprigs between the fat and the meat, coat the outside in garlic salt, and roast it in a slow oven. This produced a lovely, and usually juicy, meal. But the leftovers still tended to be dry.

So ever since I discovered carnitas, I’ve taken to braising this cut. And that means I can even trim off the fat layer.

Braised Pork w/ tomatoes and orange peel

Put the following things into a pot:

  • Pork roast, trimmed of exterior fat and freezer burn (cause I live a classy life)
  • 1 quart of (homemade, home-canned nyah nyah nyah) stock
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (okay, so this was storebought, but it was a great sale)
  • thinly sliced orange peel – now this one requires some explanation because I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but last year I started keeping my citrus peels in water. That simple: eat fruit, put clean peel into a container, fill container with water all the way up to the top so there’s minimal oxidization, refrigerate. I should probably worry about bacteria, but the citrus is fairly resiliant on its own and the peels never developed an off smell. If you change the water every couple of weeks, then the peels are less bitter with each successive change of water, and the pith softens so it can be easily scraped away. Seriously – this is amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Right, so I had these from last winter and they still smelled fine, and I knew I’d be cooking the stuff for hours, so I sliced it into little orangey ribbons and delicious flavor.

And then cook it for a few hours. I went to OutFest with it on low, and then turned the heat up for a few hours once I came home and could supervise it.

I considered it done once the meat was falling apart and almost all of the liquid had been cooked out (as much as I felt confident cooking out without burning it to the bottom of the pan)

So now I had a tasty meat base, so what was I going to do with it so I didn’t get tired of it?

Well, I made half a cup of white rice, and I froze some lunch portions with the rice and about half of the braised pork.

And I had a we smidgeon of rice left, so I took another wee smidgeon (1/4 cup) of pork and made quesadillas

Braised Pork Quesadillas (pork is braised, not the quesadilla)

They key to a good quesadilla (and a good filled crepe) is to not put too much in. If it’s still flat, then you’re I’m going to enjoy it more.

So throw a tortilla in a heated skillet. Once the tortilla is warm, flip it over and start working very quickly (that is – have a mis en place).

Add the thinnest layer of cheese you can.

Pick a half of the tortilla. Cover it with a little leftover (but warm) rice that has been tossed with lime cilantro dressing, a little of the braised pork (drain the liquid away and have a mostly dry filling), and some shredded kale (some sharp onions would have also been good here).

Fold the bare (i.e. with just cheese) half of the tortilla over the filling and make a nice even sandwich. Press flat. And flip it over to brown the outside of the tortilla and wilt the kale. Peek under to see when you have a few burnt spots on the underside of the quesadilla. Decide whether you want the (now) top crisped up anymore (if so, flip and cook a little more). Then serve. Have sour cream on the side.

And I still had about half of the braised pork left. So I made a stew-type dish.

Pork and Chickpea Stew

Add a little oil to the bottom of a pot and sweat an onion, diced. Once the onion is translucent, add a drained can of chickpeas (or soak them overnight and cook them a bit longer than is called for in this recipe… since this here cooking is mostly just getting everything warm enough for the flavors to intermingle).

Now my braised pork was pretty intensely flavored, but if it hadn’t been, I would start adding seasonings here – some cumin seeds, maybe a stick of cinnamon, marjoram, and maybe some raisins would have been an interesting choice. But I didn’t do that.

I did, however, have a baked sweet potato in my fridge, and that seemed like a good addition, so I pulled it out, peeled it, sliced it a couple times against the grain, and mixed it in with the chickpeas.

And then I added the braised pork.

Cooked it for a couple minutes until the smells mixed, and then I dished it up into containers to freeze for lunches.

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There’s a good chance I’ll be moving into a house! A real house! (with hardly more counterspace than my current apartment, which wouldn’t be nearly as charming without owning this URL – but there’s lots of room to add furniture, shelving, and counters)

As part of looking forward to moving all of my belongings, I have a goal of not buying any groceries all month. I’ve already caved with a packet of soba noodles, but they’re small and light and I was in Chinatown.

So I’m going through my mind and reviewing what’s in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and pondering how they’d match together.

Okay, so I’ve been overeating because as soon as I come up with another plan for food, I have to do it right away, but still.

I’ve finished off three lingering containers of loose tea. Yay!

And I’ve started a plan for soup –

  • I have a bunch of leeks
  • I’ve pulled a random/unidentified cut of beef from the freezer to thaw
  • I have several large cans of black beans
  • I have an open jar of pipian sauce

Simple, right?

Only I was pondering this potential soup in my mouth, and I think it will not be pleasing to have chunks of meat in this soup.

My first thought, of course, was, “Oooo… if only I had bought a meat grinder for my recently acquired Kitchenaid.” (thanks, @geeksdo1tbetter) And, yeah, that would be lovely… but let’s be honest that it probably isn’t really something I want until I also own a dishwasher. And, either way, I don’t have one.

So the only other way I know to get a pleasing texture will be shredding the beef with slow braising. And, ~whine~ … I don’t want the soup to take that long.

But, on the plus side, it will help heat the house.

So here’s the rough draft of the soup plan:

Beef Black Bean Soup

In medium saucepan
  • beef
  • can of tomatoes
  • red wine
  • 1 tsp pipian (to get the flavor started in the meat, but I’m not sure about its pH and texture and all, so not too much)
  • -> braising

in large saucepan

  • whites of leeks
  • carrots
  • big can of black beans
  • quart of stock
  • -> cooked until beans are soft
  • -> add beef
  • -> add more pipian to taste

in large skillet

  • greens of leeks
  • 2 tsp oil
  • -> fried hard over high heat for greasy, salty, delicious garnish of joy

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22
Dec

Roman Barley Risotto

   Posted by: Livia    in course, dinner/lunch, Food, historical, non-vegetarian, Recipe

I just wrote this up for a friend, so I might as well post it here while I’m at it. Having first tried this dish at one of my Roman Cooking Workshops, this has since become my favorite way to cook barley.

“Wash and crush barley which has been soaking since the previous day. Put on the fire. When it boils add sufficient oil, a small bouquet of dill, dry onion, savory, and leg of pork. Let all this cook with the barley for flavor. Add fresh coriander and salt pounded together, and bring to the boil. When it has boiled well remove the bouquet and transfer the barley to another saucepan, taking care that it does not stick to the pan and burn. Cream well, and strain into a pan over the leg of pork so that it is well covered. Pound pepper, lovage, a little dried pennyroyal, cumin, and dried seseli. Moisten with honey, vinegar, defrutum, and liquamen, and pour into the pan over the leg pork. Cook over a slow fire.” (Apicius IV, IV, 1)

But I did make some changed. For one, no matter how much I love that a leg of pork is an incidental ingredient in this barley recipe, I just don’t have those lying around. I do, however, have a steady supply in my freezer of cubes of leftover roasted pork shoulder (it’s a thing – my mother likes this particular roast, but they suck at eating leftovers).

Also, gruel just sounds like prison food, and I’ve yet to find a congee I like. So I made it with a slow addition of liquid so that it was tender and pleasing but not drippy.

Roman Barley Risotto

Soak barley overnight.

In a nonstick pan, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sautee some onions and minced stems of parsley and cilantro (I got that trip from the DVD extras of Bend It Like Beckham).

Heat up some stock

When the onion is translucent, drain the barley and add it to the pan. Add some stock.

Bind together a bundle of fresh dill, drop it into the pan and sprinkle in some dried onion flakes, savoury (and/or thyme), and as much roast pork leftovers as looks tasty.

Let cook until the stock has been absorbed, and then add more stock.

Mince cilantro leaves and stir them together with 3/4 teaspoon salt (more or less – this dish can take a lot of salt), crushing and juicing the leaves. I found that the dish could absorb quite a lot of cilantro, so go wild. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute parsley – but the addition of green was a great choice.

Season the barley with the salt and cilantro, stir, taste. How’s the salt level? How’s the texture? Does it need to cook more? Feel free to have another addition of stock. Also, how’s the dill flavor? I might have been tempted to mince in some of the dill, too. If it’s strong enough, go ahead and discard the dill. Note the ingredient seseli in the original recipe – could totally be referring to dill fronds, carrot fronds, parsley, anise, caraway, or even fennel)

Grind cumin and black pepper and add to taste. I was generous with the pepper but more moderate with the cumin, so it would be a background note.

If you don’t have lovage, you can substitute celery or margoram (or skip).

And then once the barley is fully cooked and creamy, you’re finishing by mixing in honey, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, maneschewitz wine (defrutum is young wine that has been boiled down to only 1/3 the volume of the original), and liquamen/fish sauce.

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17
Mar

Carnitas

   Posted by: Livia    in course, dinner/lunch, hors d'oeuvres, non-vegetarian, Recipe

So I have found out via Rick Bayless’ twitter (he’s one of my favorite people to follow!) that the way I make carnitas is not authentic. If you want authentic, go to his recipe.

Because this is slowly cooked in liquid, it might be helpful to think of my carnitas as more in the pulled pork family of swine goodness.

Instead, when I set about to find a recipe after I went to San Diego and decided that this was something I’d have to try more often (but this was before I was on Twitter), I searched recipe and found a huge variety – some cooking in stock, cola,orange juice, beer, milk, or even water… but none in lipids (not that I knew I should be looking for lipids back then).

So I picked a recipe (water (which I partially replaced with stock) and citrus zest with spices and peppers) and followed it and loved the result. If you want a strict recipe, that’s a really good one. Then I tried it again from memory. And I’ve slowly been paring it down to one of those dishes can just be made from whatever’s hanging out in my refrigerator.

I have a lot of trouble going through a quart of orange juice, so I usually pull this out when I start nearing the orange juice expiration and need to use it up.

Carnitas

Meat
Yeah, so you’d think that you’d want a nice fatty shoulder for ideal flavor. But I started with a cheap ass pork loin with no fat at all, and I loved the results. This will still get tender and juicy and lovely even if you buy the cheapest and leanest option out there (don’t you love when those two occur together?).

When I buy a whole pork loin, I usually cut it into three large roasts and freeze them. So I usually work with a 3-4 pound lump of meat.

Feel free to put it in the soup pot without even defrosting it.

Liquid
Add some orange juice (1-4 cups)

Add some stock (I have quarts of vegetable stock right these days)

Add a splash of wine or beer or tequila – whatever makes you happy.

Feel free to squeeze in a lime

With this much flavorful liquid, you can add some water if the roast still isn’t covered.

You do not need to add any extra fat/oil

More flavor
If you like onion, you can either half an onion and plan to remove it later, or cut up an onion decently finely so it won’t be stringier than the meat.

Mince up some garlic, if you like. Oddly, I usually skip it.

Feel free to grate in some citrus zest. My first recipe that was heavy on the zest ended up with a slightly too strong citrus flavor, but I still like some – whatever I have that’s easy.

pinch off the head of a couple cloves (the spice) and crush with your fingers into powder

Add some cinnamon, if you like it.

I like to add some ground oregano and some ground thyme. (If you have fresh cilantro, either wait until the dish is ready to serve or add just the stems, finely minced, this early in cooking)

And you can add some crushed pepper now, but I recommend waiting because it’s important to realize that just a little bit of pepper will accumulate a lot of heat the longer it cooks in wet heat.

Cooking
So bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

An hour or so later, when the meat it thoroughly thawed, carefully pull out the roast (let it drip a bit) and move it to a cutting board. With a large knife, cut it into 1″ to 1.5″ slices – against the grain. This will keep it from getting too stringy as it disintegrates.

note: if you were starting from fresh meat, you could have done it at the beginning, but it’s fine to wait, too.

Return the meat to the pot. Check that you still have a pretty mild simmer going on.

And hour later, come by and start poking at it with a wooden spoon. See if you can just poke a hole through the slices – or break them into halves. Just start encouraging it to fall apart.

Check your water level – it’s probably still scarily high and you’re wondering if you’re going to have to drain the meat later. Be patient.

But about now I start checking at half hour intervals – but that’s because I like poking at my food.

Hey, now would be a good time to add a conservative amount of crushed pepper, if you want.

Cook, cook, cook.

Is it starting to fall apart? Pinch off a bit and taste it. If the flavors are good, but a bit mild, that’s perfect.

Cook, cook, cook.

Okay, start paying attention to the level of liquid when it starts being stew-ish, rather than soup-ish. Stir more frequently and make sure you’re in the same room so that you can tell when it starts to smell drier (I know this sounds odd, but watch the liquid and smell – the sound of the cooking will also change a bit).

Okay, once it’s mostly dry, it’s a fairly harrowing time. Well, if you have fancy enameled cookware, just keep going until you get a little burny crisp around the edges.

I, however, have cheap, thin nonstick cookware, so I don’t want to go that far. Sometimes I have the right combination of attentiveness/patience to get it just perfectly dry without burning. Sometimes I drain it a little at the end – with pulling out not more that a cup or so of liquid, you really do want all those flavors absorbed into the meat (and then I use the liquid of tasty joy to make rice).

More cooking?
You can put it into batches and freeze now. Or you can crisp it up some first.

This is the time to add salt, pepper, and lipids.

Get a big casserole dish and put an inch thick layer of pork (you might have to do more than one batch) – pour over some olive oil (or, you know, bacon fat) and salt and pepper it.

Roast in a 375F oven (Hella hot, but not so hot you have a fire, because that would be bad) until is starts to crisp up.

Take out of the oven. Stir. Put back in the oven. Crisp. Out. Stir. In. Crisp. Out. Taste. Moan.

Seriously!

ETA: I have since come across this recipe for cochinita pibil, which (with the addition of annatto) might be a more direct antececent of this dish

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17
Dec

Leftover Soup

   Posted by: Livia    in course, easily modified to vegan, friendly, Recipe, soup, vegetarian

So I came home from work, and I heated up some leftover soup.

And then I had amazing garlic bread on the side – this morning, I had mixed together some black garlic and softened butter. But – I’d been reading cookbooks at work, and I forget which one had it – but I just passed right by a mention of tomato toast (which looked like bread with some tomato sauce spread over before toasting). I don’t even know if that recipe involved toasting because it didn’t register consciously, but I have this jar of salsa with a smooth texture that’s not all that pleasing for chips so I’ve been looking for ways to cook with it… and that, drizzled on top before the buttered bread went under the broiler, made delicious toast.

But then I was looking at the dregs of the jar of salsa, and I figured out a soup that would use up a bunch of odds and ends around the refrigerator. Only, people – I have already had dinner, but I can’t stop sipping this soup in progress. It’s really good so far, and I’m hoping I don’t fuck it up.

Mexican-y leftover soup

So I started off with slightly less than two teaspoons of whole wheat flour, and I toasted it in the bottom of a dry saucepan.

Once it had turned a rich dark brown, I added a finely diced medium/large onion. And I let that cook for a few minutes without adding any oil so that the onions would have a chance to soften and get coated with the flour.

Then I added a teaspoon of bacon fat and two teaspoons of olive oil, and stirred it together thoroughly, until the flour was all gooey.

I added three large minced garlic cloves while there still was some dry-ish cooking to be had.

Then I slowly incorporated 1 pint of turkey stock and 1/2 a pint of vegetable stock (because that’s what I had hanging around).

And I added the last of the cubed and roasted squash out of which I had made the last two soups – umm… about a pint’s worth.

At this point, I pulled out the badly aging remnants of my last trip to the farmers market (which I think was before Thanksgiving) – a carrot and a parsnip. Peeled them. Sliced the parsnip thinly on the bias and diced the carrot, not that the shape is likely to matter, as I’m thinking of pureeing it. Added it to the soup.

I minced some ginger and added it.

I added the remains of the jar of salsa (about an eighth of a cup, but I can’t see significantly more being a bad thing) and a can of diced tomatoes.

And then for the removable ingredients – I cleaned a stalk of celery and added it whole and I tossed in a bay leaf.

And some seasonings – two cloves (pinch off the caps, powder them in your fingers, then keep the stem for when you want to stud something with cloves), a dash of oregano, a tiny amount of dried chipotle (just a little because I don’t yet know how much the heat will increase during cooking), and some ground pepper.

And then I looked in the fridge and saw that I still had a leftover baked sweet potato from Thanksgiving, so that went in, too.

Now I have a lot of liquid – so it’s on a slow simmer, cooking down.

But it’s delicious. It’s delicious in a spoon, and it’s delicious with a piece of bread surreptitiously dunked in it. Mmmmm!

The working plan is to puree it once it has cooked down and then add cubed leftover turkey (currently in the freezer, not the fridge), but I’m thinking it might be too tasty to tinker with.

ETA: I never did add the meat. It was just too tasty as it was.

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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.

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27
Oct

More food

   Posted by: Livia    in Food, lists

Made mushroom risotto this morning, using the last of the vegetable stock I had made.

And then I finished and strained a new batch of stock. Whee!

I’m working on a pot of red beans and pork, but after several hours of cooking over two days, it’s still not coming together right. I think that’s because this is my first time trying to use canned beans instead of dried. I don’t know – I’ve just had an urge to use up my canned goods lately. Eh, even if it doesn’t develop the proper gravy-ish base, it’s still coming out with the right taste.

Tonight, I need to develop a plan for the broccoli rabe (rapini).

And then I’ll just have the copious amounts of winter squash to figure out. I think I’ll break into the sweet roasting squash first – mainly because it’s big, and I have no place to store it. I’m thinking cutting it in half and roasting it with some butter – then I’ll eat some right away with cinnamon and sugar. Make soup out of most of it. And then reserve some to make ravioli with the thai basil and then cook it in a browned butter sauce.

That’s the plan, at least.

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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.

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

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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.

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