Irresistible Gazpacho


Vegetables.

They’re so purty.

gazveg

And yet it’s so tricky getting enough of them into our diet.

Thankfully, there’s gazpacho:

gazserve

Have you ever eaten a really delicious salsa and thought, “Man! This salsa is so good I could drink it!”?

I think the person who invented gazpacho felt the same because this summery soup is essentially a bunch of fresh vegetables finely chopped and mixed together.

On a personal note…

While photographing this dish, I couldn’t stop nibbling and nibbling and nibbling on it!

gazgone

Before I knew it, the bowl was empty!

Maybe getting enough veggies into our diets isn’t so hard after all….

Irresistible Gazpacho

(This recipe was adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s version.)

Let’s start off by chopping up some fresh veggies:

gazvegchop

*3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

*1 large stalk of celery, diced

*1 big handful parsley, rinsed

*1 medium red onion, chopped

*1 large red bell pepper, diced

*1 hothouse cucumber, seeded and diced (this type of cucumber has a soft, ribbed surface and is usually shrink-wrapped)

*4 medium tomatoes, diced (any tomato will do–just pick ones that actually smell like tomatoes instead of plastic)   🙂

Once chopped, process all the veggies EXCEPT the garlic in small batches in a food processor.  Transfer to a large bowl.

gazprocess

Grab a 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes (I prefer San Marzanos) and puree them in the food processor:

gaztomatoes

Stir the processed veggies and tomatoes and the garlic together.

Pour in 1/4 cup vinegar.  (I used an even mixture of red wine and white vinegars.)

gazvinegar

Add 1/4 cup olive oil.

gazoil

Stir in 1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt.

gazsalt

And a teaspoon of pepper.

gazpepper

Give the soup a good mix and store in a non-reactive container such as a glass or ceramic bowl.

Since the soup gets better the longer it sits, enjoy it all week with your lunchtime sandwich or as a snack.

gazstore

But you are also more than welcome to serve yourself up a bowl right away.

gazserve

Oops!!  Did I really just finish off another bowl?

gazgone

Happy vegging!

Homemade Hot and Sour Soup


Hot and sour soup.

It’s like a hug in liquid form.

I once believed that the only way I could get my hands on a bowl was if I visited a Chinese restaurant.

Those were dark times.

Then one day I realized I could make my own and found I preferred it because I could control the ingredients–especially the cornstarch!  (Has anyone else noticed how thick restaurant-style hot and sour soup is?  A brick could float on that stuff!)

So if you enjoy things that are hot, things that are sour and things that are soupy, then you’re gonna love a bowl of homemade hot and sour soup.

hss11

Homemade Hot and Sour Soup

(The following is an adaptation of Tyler Florence’s recipe for Hot and Sour Soup.)

Ingredients

Here are some ingredients you will need but may not already have in your kitchen:

Fresh ginger, hard tofu, chili sauce (sambal oelek), dried mushrooms, bamboo shoots, rice wine vinegar, white pepper

These ingredients are, for the most part, easy to find in larger grocery chains.  The tofu and ginger will be in the produce area.  The chili sauce, dried mushrooms, bamboo shoots, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil (not shown) will be in the Asian cooking aisle.  You may choose to use regular ground black pepper, but it’s really best to use white pepper.

hssingredients

Preparation

First, reconstitute the mushrooms.

Bring some water to a boil.  Turn heat off, toss in 4-6 mushrooms and allow to soak for 30 minutes.  (It is recommended that you use wood ear or cloud, but I prefer the meatiness of shitake.)

hss1

Next, prep all of your ingredients before cooking.

*Drain mushrooms and cut into thin strips.

*Lightly squeeze the excess liquid from one square of hard tofu and cut into strips.  Save the other square (with the liquid) for future use.  Use within a week.

*Drain bamboo shoots and cut 1/4 to 1/2 cup into matchsticks.  (I prefer less bamboo in my soup.)

*Peel and grate a one-inch piece of ginger.

*In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of white pepper and a pinch of sugar.

*In another small bowl, lightly beat 2 eggs until smooth.

hss2

The Process

In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil and a drizzle of sesame oil over high heat.  Add bamboo shoots, mushrooms, ginger and 1 tablespoon chili sauce.  Saute 1 minute.

Cook’s Note: Most hot and sour soup recipes add thinly sliced raw pork or chicken during this step.  I leave the meat out most of the time to cut cost, but feel free to add it.

hss3

Slowly pour in the soy sauce mixture and cook another minute.

hss4

Add 2 quarts of good-quality chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  (I also like to throw in a couple green onions here.)

hss5

Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.

hss6

Add tofu and cook another 3 minutes.

hss7

In a small bowl, whisk 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/4 cup warm water until smooth, and stir it into the soup.

Allow soup to thicken a little by cooking uncovered for 5-7 minutes over medium heat.

hss8

Remove pot from heat and stir the soup in one direction until you build up a strong current.

hss9

Working quickly while the current is still going, steadily pour the beaten eggs into the soup.  Long ribbons of cooked egg will immediately begin to form.

hss10

Try not to stir the soup around or you will break up those lovely egg ribbons!

hss11

Serve hot with freshly chopped cilantro, green onion and an extra splash of rice wine vinegar.

hssoup1

Mmmm!  Your bowl of hug awaits you.

The Recipe

Ingredients

*4-6 wood ear, cloud or shitake mushrooms

*2 Tablespoons canola oil

*Drizzle of sesame oil

*1″ piece of ginger, peeled and grated

*1 Tablespoon sambal oelek or chili sauce

*1/4-1/2 cup bamboo shoots, drained and cut into matchsticks

*1/4 rice wine vinegar plus more for serving

*1/4 cup soy sauce

*1 teaspoon salt

*1 teaspoon white pepper

*Pinch of sugar

*2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth

*1 square firm tofu, cut into 1/4″ strips

*2-3 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup warm water (slurry)

*2 eggs, beaten

*Green onions and cilantro

Soak mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes.  Drain and slice into thin strips.

In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar.

In another bowl, beat 2 eggs until smooth.

In a large stockpot, heat oil and add mushrooms, ginger, bamboo and chili sauce.  Saute one minute. Add soy mixture and cook another minute.  Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add tofu and cook uncovered for 3 minutes.  Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook another 5-7 minutes till slightly thickened.  Remove pot from heat and stir soup in one direction.  With the current still going, slowly pour in eggs.  Long egg “ribbons” will form.  Do not stir soup around or you will break the ribbons up.

Serve hot.  Top with freshly chopped green onions and cilantro and an extra dash of vinegar if desired.

Sausage, Kale and Potato Stoup


In just a few short weeks, out fixer-upper will be getting new windows.

NEW WINDOWS!

YEEEEHAWWWW!

In the meantime, when it’s cold outside, it’s also cold inside, and, therefore, it’s up to a good bowl of stoup (stew/soup) to save the day.

skpaddcream1

One of my favorite wintertime soups is sausage, kale and potato soup.  It sticks to your ribs and warms you to your toes.  It’s also a very flexible soup in terms of ingredients.  Sometimes I only add half a pound of sausage, other times a chopped, fresh tomato–it’s whatever I am in the mood for.

Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, brown 1 lb of sausage.

I had some deer sausage on hand for this batch, but I also like to use fresh turkey sausage or sweet Italian sausage.  

Break up the sausage into bite-size pieces, and drain off the fat.  To the sausage add one thinly sliced large onion and two minced garlic cloves.

skponionadd

Saute over medium-high heat until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

Cook’s Note: Even though I drained the fat off of the sausage, there is enough residual oils in the sausage to cook the onions in.

skpsauteonion

Add 6 cups of low-sodium chicken broth along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and a pinch of red chile flakes.

skpbrothadd

Thinly slice (about 1/8″ think) two medium russet potatoes and add to the pot.

skppotatoadd

Add 2-3 large handfuls of kale (rinsed, dried and roughly chopped).  Since this is my favorite part of the soup, I like to add a lot of kale.

skpkaleadd

Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover pot and lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer soup for about 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and tender but not mushy.

At this point, you could either serve the soup up with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese:

skpnocreamsoup

Or you could go decadent by adding a cup of half and half or milk to the soup:

skpaddcream2

Here’s to staying warm and fed!

The Recipe

Serves 6-8

*1 lb. sausage (I prefer turkey or deer)

*1 large yellow onion, sliced thin

*2 garlic cloves, minced

*1/2 t salt

*1/4 pepper

*Pinch of red pepper flakes

*2 medium russet potatoes, sliced into thin medallions

*2-3 large handfuls of kale

*6 cups low sodium chicken broth

*1 cup half and half or milk

Brown sausage and break up into bite-size pieces in a large stockpot.  Drain fat.  To the sausage add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add salt, pepper and red pepper and stir.  Pour in broth.  Add potatoes and kale.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover pot and simmer on low heat until potatoes are cooked but not mushy (about 10-15 minutes).  Stir in the cream or milk.  Serve hot.

Creamy Curried Carrot Soup


I can tell the weather is changing because:

a.) I’m ready to for bed by 8:30, and b.) I crave a good bowl of soup.

Soup.

Isn’t it a miraculous thing?

My current favorite is a recipe I picked up from my friend, Liz, while in Maine:

Creamy Carrot Soup.

Even though I’ve been making a curried carrot soup for years, it never occurred to me to add cream.  Where have I been?  Heavy cream makes this soup so decadent you will want to lick the bowl.  And if you love all things Thai, swap out the heavy cream for coconut milk for even more depth of flavor.

With just a few simple ingredients (most of which you probably already have in your kitchen) you can enjoy your own bowl of velvety, comforting goodness tonight!

(And for those of you who are hesitant when it comes to vegetables, take another look at the words “creamy” and “coconut” and “curried.”)

CREAMY COCONUT CURRIED CARROT SOUP

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil (coconut or olive) over medium-high heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Add 4 cups of peeled and sliced carrots, and saute for 10 minutes until slightly tender.

Add 1 large peeled and diced potato and 1 medium chopped yellow onion, and saute for 5 more minutes until onions are glossy and translucent.

While the veggies are cooking, add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon of Madras curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger.

Cook’s Tip: I prefer Madras curry powder to regular curry because it has a more complex flavor and more heat.  If all you have is the regular, by all means use it.  Or skip it all together if you prefer a more mellow soup.

Slowly pour in 3 cups of chicken broth or vegetable stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat to “low” and cover.  Simmer soup for 20 minutes until carrots are fork-tender.

Allow soup to cool slightly before transferring to blender in batches.

Puree until smooth and transfer to a bowl.  Repeat with the remainder of the soup and return to pot.

Over low heat, stir in 2 cups of coconut milk (or 1 cup heavy cream + 1 cup milk).

Mix well.  Add more salt and pepper to taste is desired.

Cook’s Tip: I prefer to season my soup with salt and pepper only after it is done cooking.  That way I don’t add too much salt and ruin the dish.

Soup’s on!

Now to decide whether I want a bowl before or after my nap…..

The Recipe

*3 Tablespoons coconut oil

*4 cups carrots, peeled and sliced

*1 large Russet potato, peeled and chopped

*1 medium yellow onion, chopped

*1 teaspoon salt

*1/2 teaspoon pepper

*1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

*1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

*3 cups chicken broth

*2 cups coconut milk

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add carrots and saute 10 minutes  Add potato, onion and seasonings, and saute another 5 minutes or until onions are glossy and translucent.  Carefully pour in broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to “low” and cover with a lid.  Simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are fork tender.  Cool slightly and puree soup in batches.  Return pureed soup to pot.  Over low heat, stir in cream until well combined.  Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired and serve.

Chicken and Dumplings


I have a culinary confession to make:

Until yesterday, I had never made chicken and dumplings.

As a kid, I disliked chicken and dumplings because they were just so…disgusting.  Ruddy, vaseline-colored clumps of dough floating around in a puddle of oily broth–the stuff was hard enough to look at let alone eat!   Therefore, from the age of 9 on up, I just assumed that I would never, ever need to cook chicken and dumplings.

And then I married a man of southern roots.

Who just so happens to l-o-v-e chicken and dumplings.

So after six and half years of marriage, I finally resolved to prepare this dish.  Thankfully, yesterday was perfect chicken and dumpling cooking weather.

If it had been a sunny day, I would have chosen to work in my garden instead.  But that’s another post for another time.

Not wanting to use just any chicken and dumpling recipe, I searched for every recipe with a 5-star rating and an appealing photo of the finished product.  In the end, I decided on Tyler Florence’s recipe.

The verdict: Delicious!

The dumplings were light and fluffy, not tough and heavy.  The creamy broth had wonderful depth of flavor.

Me likey.

Davey happy.

Tyler Florence’s Chicken and Dumplings

(This dish has several steps, but be ye not be discouraged!  Tis the nature of chicken and dumplings.)

Roast Chicken:

*1 (3-pound) whole chicken

*Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*4 ounces unsalted butter, softened

*1 lemon, halved and juiced; halves reserved

*1/4-cup fresh chopped herbs (I used parsley because that’s all I had)

*1 onion, halved

*4 garlic cloves, smashed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the neck and gibletsfrom the cavity of the chicken and discard. Rinse the chicken under cold water, inside and out. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season the body and cavity of the chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mash together the butter, lemon juice, and chopped herbs. Rub the herbed butter all over the chicken, as well as under the skin. Put the lemon halves, onion, garlic, and whole herbs inside the chicken cavity, for added flavor.  Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack.  Roast for 1 hour until the meat is no longer pink.

When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and set aside.

Reserve the bones for chicken stock.

Cook’s Tip: For even more depth of flavor, first pour off the excess fat left in the bottom of the roasting pan before adding 1 cup of warm water.  Allow water to sit for a few minutes before whisking up all the yummy bits baked onto the pan.  Save this water to add to the stock later on.

Chicken Stock

*2 tablespoons olive oil

*2 carrots, cut in large chunks

*2 celery stalks, cut in large chunks

*1 onion, halved

*1 garlic bulb, halved

*Reserved chicken bones

*2 quarts cold water

*4 sprigs fresh parsley

*4 sprigs fresh thyme

*2 bay leaves

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, add the oil.  Once the oil is warm, add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic.

Cook the veggies for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally .

Add reserved chicken bones.

Carefully pour in the cup of flavorful liquid previously extracted from the roasting pan.

Pour in 6 cups of cold water.

Add parsley.

Add bay leaves.

Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered for one hour.  Strain the stock and set aside.

Dumplings

*2 cups flour

*1 tablespoon baking powder

*1 teaspoon salt

*2 eggs

*3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

In a separate bowl, add the flour and salt.

Add the baking powder and sift ingredients well.

In another bowl, whisk eggs and 3/4 cup of buttermilk to start.

Make a “well” in the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture into the well.

Mix dough until just combined.  If dough seems too tough, add a little more milk.

Be careful not to overmix or your dumplings will come out tough and heavy!

Aim for a thick-oatmeal consistency.  Set dough aside.

“Sensational Sauce”

*2 tablespoons butter

*1 tablespoon oil

*1 tablespoon flour

*1/2 cup diced carrot

*1/2 cup diced celery

*3 cloves garlic, minced

*2 bay leaves

*1/4 cup flour

*6 cups chicken stock

*1/4 cup heavy cream

*Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

*Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.

Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes until veggies are soft.

Stir in the flour to make a roux.

Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste.

Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.  (Start stirring right away if you don’t want lumps!  The roux starts thickening up immediately.)

Continue this process…

…until all the stock has been added.

Let sauce simmer for about 15 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add the cream.

Add the shredded chicken.

Bring pot back to a simmer before adding small spoonfuls of dough to the pot.

Technically, the dumplings should cover the top of the broth but not be crowded.

(I let things crowd a little.  No harm, no fowl.  I mean, foul.)

Poach dumpling for 10-15 minutes until firm and puffy.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and cracked black pepper.

Now that chicken and dumplings are back on the menu, it’s time to tackle another dish that *gulp* I’ve yet to prepare for my southerner: Fried Chicken!!

To be continued…

Lamb Stew


After spending five wonderful days away with family, it was time to come home.

One frustrating thing about coming home from vacation, though, is an empty fridge.

Since an empty fridge makes the whole house feel empty, I decided it was the perfect time to pull out the lovely lamb I had purchased a month ago and make lamb stew.

Mmmmm…..

Stew……

Nothing says “Welcome home!” like a warm stew.

Well, that and two adorable, loving cats:

Brodie and Baby Girl were so excited to see us that they forgot to act standoffish.

So while Dave worked on building a roaring fire in the fireplace, I set to work on my stew.

Welcome Home Lamb Stew

Serves 6-8

*1 lb. lamb stew meat, cut into bite-size chunks

*1 medium onion

*4 carrots, peeled

*2 large cloves garlic, minced

*5 T olive oil

*1/2 cup flour

*Salt and Pepper

*2/3-1 cup red wine (I used Port)

*4 cups chicken broth

*1 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce

*28 oz. crushed tomatoes

*1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (if using fresh, use 1 teaspoon)

*1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (if using fresh, use 1 teaspoon)

*1/2 cup frozen peas

In a nonreactive bowl, pour 1/3-1/2 cup Port wine.  (Since I wanted my stew to be super-delicious, I used Six Grapes.)

Add the lamb and allow to marinade at room temperature for 30 minutes.

You could also marinate the meat overnight if’n ya wanted ta.

While the meat marinates, peel the carrots and slice thick.

I prefer to cut my carrots at an angle because I feel they taste better this way as opposed to slicing them into “coins.”

Egh!  Carrot coins!

(We all have our quirks.)

Next, chop the onion and mince the garlic.

Set cut veggies aside.

Now it is time to dredge the lamb!

In a bowl, add 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and mix together.

Remove lamb from marinade (SAVE THIS!!) and shake dry.  Add to flour.

Toss meat in flour until all sides are well coated with flour.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or large stockpot over medium-high heat.

Shake excess flour from lamb and place carefully in hot oil.

Brown lamb on one side for 2-3 minutes or until golden.

LEAVE THE LAMB ALONE WHILE IT IS BROWNING!

(Ok, I’m done yelling.)

(Sorry.  It’s just that I care so much about the integrity of your stew meat.)

Flip the meat and brown on other side.

Remove meat from pan and set on a plate.  Cover meat with foil to keep it warm.

Add 2 more tablespoons of oil.

Carefully add the carrots and onion to the oil, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the brown bits left from the meat.

After the carrots and onions have cooked for about 5 minutes, add the garlic.

It is important to add the garlic later or it will burn, causing your stew to be not-so-delish.

Cook all veggies together for 2 more minutes and add to meat.  Cover again with foil.

Now it is time to deglaze!

Pour the marinade into the pot and scrape the bottom again.

Add chicken broth, Worcestershire, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon pepper…..

…tomatoes and herbs to the pot and reduce over medium-high heat, uncovered, for 7 minutes.

Add meat, veggies and any juices left on the plate into the gravy.

Add 1/2 cup more Port and stir.

Simmer over low heat, covered, for 45 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Stir in peas before serving.

(Unless you hate peas.)

(Personally, I don’t like potatoes in my stew.)

(So I didn’t add potatoes.)

(So there.)

Mmmm……stew.

The perfect welcome home.