Sunday, February 17, 2013

To my few readers

For those who didn't know, this blog was started as a year-long project of 2012 to post a soup every week. This was just as much for selfish reasons (to force myself to write down my creations so I could recreate them later) as it was to share my favorite recipes with others.  I got close to meeting this goal, missing a few weeks here and there due to health issues or a myriad of new soups that failed (still looking for an awesome lentil soup recipe... the many I tried throughout the year were less-than-exciting and not worth sharing).

Surprisingly enough, I still get a few hits on this blog even since I stopped actively posting to it so someone must like at least looking at my recipes... I have decided that since I didn't quite get my planned 52 soups up, and added several to my list to try throughout the year, I will be adding a few more recipes over time, just at a slower pace, so I don't have to stress about meeting some sort of silly deadline I created for myself.  You are welcome to stay connected and benefit while I slowly but surely keep adding to my soup recipe files. Maybe you'll even find a new favorite recipe or two for yourself!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Lobster Bisque


I've been waiting and waiting for a good time to make lobster bisque and New Year's Eve turned out to be it! My husband and I decided to make it a tradition to have a seafood meal each New Year's Eve and the grocery store was having a sale on lobster tails (a rarity in this land-locked land of Utah) which looked fairly decent. We don't get lobster enough to be snobby about it, so I took a few home to experiment.

Wow, was it a hit! We loved it. My husband could not stop raving about the bisque it during dinner. I have to say it was even better than most restaurant lobster bisques I have ordered in the past. If you like seafood or creamy soups, you will LOVE this.

I did spend the time to make my own lobster stock from the shells, which was amazing, but you could probably use lobster base or seafood stock if you have access to it. You could also easily substitute 2 cups half-and-half for the cream and milk)

I served it with an artisan garlic bread and spinach/pomegranate salad. We also had lemon-butter lobster tails and crab-stuffed mushrooms. How's that for a 3 course meal? The lobster bisque was our favorite part.

Lobster Bisque
1 TBSP olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBSP chopped shallot
1 large green onion, chopped
1/2 cup clam juice
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 tsp paprika
1 cup lobster stock (see below)
3 oz. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup lobster meat, cut in chunks (meat from 2 lobster tails)

Directions:
Heat olive oil in bottom of pot. Add garlic, shallot and green onion and saute for 1 minute. Deglaze pan  with 1/4 cup clam juice and reduce liquid down for a few minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, paprika, and thyme and saute, stirring constantly. Deglaze again with other 1/4 c clam juice. Add bay leaf, lobster stock and tomato paste and bring to boil for 10 min. Whisk in heavy cream and milk. Add lobster meat and bring to a simmer. Serve and Enjoy!

To make lobster stock:
Saute 2 garlic cloves, 1 stalk celery, and 1/4 cup onion (all roughly chopped) in a little olive oil in pot and then add lobster shells, stirring for a few minutes until shells start to turn brighter red. Add bay leaf and a couple peppercorns. Pour in enough water to cover the shells (I probably put in about 3 cups) and simmer for 1-2 hrs. on low heat. This yielded ~1 cup stock.

Here's what my stock pot looked like after boiling for a couple hrs.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup


For this end of autumn and beginning of winter, sweet potatoes fit the bill.  What they call "yams" in the grocery store are actually just an orange version of sweet potatoes. Call them what you may, they are delicious. This recipe (adapted from the recipe in Bon Appetit a few years ago) has undertones of a traditional Thanksgiving dish of yams, albeit not half as sweet-which I really liked.

Sweet Potato Soup
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/2 orange sweet potatoes or yams, chopped
4 cups stock or broth
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1 TBSP maple syrup
salt and pepper
leafy tops of celery

Saute onion and celery in olive oil for a few minutes, then add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add in yams, stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg and simmer for 20 min. Remove cinnamon stick.
Use hand blender and puree until fairly smooth. Stir in milk and maple syrup and heat through (doesn't take more than a few minutes). Taste and add a little salt and pepper.
Garnish with leafy tops of celery.  Serves 2-3.

I served it with a grilled brie, gingered pear, arugula, and fig paninis. It was fantastic. We had a guest for dinner and all of us cleaned our plates.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vegetable Stock

I know I neglected posting the last couple weeks, which, as my friend pointed out, is unusual given the time of year. There are many reasons but I won't go into those right now. I'll make it up somewhat by posting two this week! Sorry guys!

I kind of cringe at paying quite a bit of money for canned or boxed broths since I use broth so often in cooking. I don't often have a chicken or turkey carcass lying around, even close to the holidays, nor do I have a lot of time to necessarily make my own chicken broth but I DO always have lots of vegetables parts and pieces. Vegetable stock is also much quicker and much more tasty than any vegetable stocks/broths you can buy in the store. You can replace vegetable stock in recipes that use chicken broth fairly easily.

Here's the great thing, the complexity of flavors in a vegetable stock comes from all the different things you simmer in it. So, I just save all my vegetable trimmings for several days (this includes the ends, skins, peels, etc. of any hearty vegetables). This usually includes anything from a root vegetables (like potato, parsnips, turnips, onions and carrots) but also peppers, winter squashes, mushrooms, garlic, celery, tomatoes or anything else I may have used that week. I would only just stay away from any bitter skins (like on cucumbers, eggplant, or radishes).

Ingredients:
1 whole large onion
1/2 bunch celery
1/2 bunch big carrots or small bag of mini carrots
1 4 oz. can of tomato paste
1 oz. dried Shiitake mushrooms
3-4 cloves of garlic (crushed, but leave skin on)
other vegetable pieces, parts, skins
1/2 bunch of parsley
fresh sprig of thyme or 1 TBSP dried
4 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1-2 TBSP salt
water

When you are ready to start, get your dried mushrooms and soak them in very hot water for at least 30 min.
Get out your biggest stockpot. You do need to use a whole large onion, celery bunch and carrots as the base. Chop them roughly-they don't need to look nice, they are just going to be boiled to death to give up all their flavor.
Caramelize them in the bottom of the pot with a little olive oil. Stir them often and be patient since it may take a little longer than you would expect to get them browned. It will take about 15 min.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir until it turns a rusty color.
Add everything else and pour water over everything until it is about 3 inches from the top.

Bring to boil, then turn heat down to low medium and simmer for 1.5 hrs.
Scoop out all the large vegetable mush with a big spoon or strainer.
Take clean mason jars and put a strainer on top, lined with paper towel and pour the liquid through into the jar. You may need to replace the paper towel several times when it gets sludged up.

This broth is not shelf-stable like canned goods (it's not acidic enough), so I keep a jar or two in the fridge and then freeze the rest. I usually get about 4-5 quarts out of my big stockpot.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pozole

I'm all about soups that are friendly to a variety of tastes. Sometimes it can be difficult to cook for a family where each has food dislikes or preferences and make everyone happy.  Pozole reminds me of how some people make tacos: lots of topping ingredients set out and everyone chooses what to put on their own dish. It doesn't come out super spicy like you might think as long as you don't allow many of the chili's seeds to get in. In fact, most of the kick comes later. My husband added some chipotle tabasco sauce to kick it up a bit while eating. Either way, it is very warming and satisfying for a cold windy night, like tonight.

Most recipes I looked at were for very large groups so I scaled this down for just 4-5 people and made some last minute invitations to dinner at my house. My sister was lucky enough to be available that night. She called it a "fancy version" of the type of pozole she was used to eating with many Latin-American friends of hers in California, because of all the choices of toppings and the amount of meat I used. Everyone loved it. Yum.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz. red guajillo chilies (they come dried in a clear plastic package)
water
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
2 tsp oregano
1 lb. pork (shoulder, shank, roast or chops...as long as it is well marbled), cut into small chunks
14 oz. can of hominy
1 TBSP or more lime juice
1 tsp. salt

Toppings:
shredded cabbage
radishes (thinly sliced)
avocado
green onions
cilantro
mushrooms
spinach
tomatoes
mexican crema
tortilla chips or tostada shells

Directions:
1. Start 1.5 cups of water to boil in a small pot. Get larger pot with 6 cups of water heating as well.
2. Cut off the stem and any hard parts of the chilies, shake out the seeds. Roast the chilies in a dry skillet a few minutes until they soften. Add to the small pot of boiling water, cover with lid, turn off heat and let sit for 15 min.
3. Pat pork dry with paper towel and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Brown all sides of the pork in a skillet, then add 2 minced cloves of garlic for the last 2 minutes. Add to large pot of boiling water.
4. Take chilies, their soaking water and 2 whole garlic cloves into a food processor and puree.
5. Pour the chili mixture into the large pot, using a mesh strainer, to only let the liquid through.  
6. Add hominy to the large pot and boil for 1.5-2 hrs until pork is very tender. Add 1 tsp salt and lime juice (you could also serve with lime wedges for everyone to add their own lime). Either way you do lime is fine but don't omit. It is important to the taste!
7. Prep garnishes and set out for everyone to pick what add-ins they want.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Autumn Flavor Chili

Do you have Halloween food traditions? It seems a lot of people have either soup, chili, donuts or apple cider. I remember my family having soup or chili very often on Halloween night since it was a busy night for a crazy household of nine plus all the trick-or-treaters at the door. People could come in and grab a bowl before they went to get dressed up, went to a party, etc.
   It wasn't too busy of a night for me this year. My husband was at class so I was home alone and I got only about 20 trick-or-treaters.  I made chili anyway as a remembrance of my childhood days. I added an adult spin and autumn flair with the extra spices and flavors.  They gives the chili a fun, rich tasting base. Thanks to my friends at www.OurBestBites.com for the great idea. I really wish I had gotten an orange sweet potato (yam) instead of the white one to get that great halloween color incorporated, but oh well.

Ingredients:
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 small jalepeno, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 (14 oz) cans black beans
2 cups broth
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 package ground chicken
6 large cremini or shitaake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper

Heat onion, jalepeno, garlic and bell pepper in pot with 1/2 TBSP of oil for several minutes until soft. Add in sweet potato, beans, broth, tomatoes and pumpkin. Cook chicken and mushrooms in the other 1/2 TBSP oil. Add in oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and chili powder to the meat and mix together in a skillet until browned and cooked through, then add to chili pot. Add cinnamon and cocoa powder. Simmer for about 45 minutes until sweet potatoes are nice and soft. Serve with cilantro and avocado garnish.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup

For years, I have made a spicy pumpkin soup that gets its kick from a load of red pepper flakes.  This year I wanted to try a slightly different flavor profile and create something that would be more tolerable for all of my pregnant friends at a baby shower I brought the soup to. Thanks to simplyrecipes.com for the idea (I did have to adjust a few of the ingredient ratios they used for it to work like I intended).  I had a little leftover, which worked great for an appetizer at a dinner party I hosted the next day.

This soup also ended up being a lot lower fat and healthier than my other go-to pumpkin soup since I didn't need to use coconut milk as the liquid base and source of flavor, just as a garnish.

Chipotle peppers give a bit more depth, smokiness, and southwestern bite than just straight "heat", unless you get a chunk of pepper in your first bite like my husband, then it may seem too hot. I'll have to use a real blender instead of a hand-blender next time. (He still ate the rest...which is impressive considering he has never been a big fan of pumpkin). If you really like heat, give it the whole pepper-I'm just warning you that they are potent.

I made it for a crowd so the listed amounts are adjusted from what I used to create a smaller batch.

Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2  of 1 chipotle pepper (canned in adobo sauce), chopped
24 oz. canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups broth
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (if needed depending on how salty your broth is)
1 TBSP lime juice
chopped cilantro
roasted pumpkin seeds
coconut milk

Saute the onion for a few minutes in olive oil, then add garlic, pepper and cumin and cook a minute until very fragrant. Add pumpkin, broth, oregano, salt and simmer for 20 minutes on med heat, stirring often. Add lime juice and then puree soup together (my immersion/hand-blender left a few little chunks...so I would recommend a real blender).  Add more broth, if needed, for desired consistency. Garnish soup with a drizzle of coconut milk, toasted pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. I had a flask of additional coconut milk available for anyone that wanted to tame down the heat a bit.

If you are feeling in the mood for a "theme" meal, you could serve it in a hollowed-out pumpkin OR a pumpkin shaped bread bowl!