Thursday, December 25, 2008

Final Thoughts

After any goal has been accomplished, reflection of the journey is a natural conclusion. Nothing is ever done without a reason, there is always some sort of justification or explanation. Even if it as minor as saying "just to see if I could do it". My reasons for doing this challenge were simple. I wanted to write, to do a fun and achievable challenge, eat good food, and I wanted to make new things.

What I learned was that soup can be made from a wide variety of ingredients. And that making soup recipes requires only a basic knowledge of soup preparation and the willingness to experiment. In my opinion, the key to a good soup is two things; A good base (stock or broth) and proper seasoning. You cannot be afraid to use salt (unless of course you have salt restrictions) because under salted soups can result in flat and muted flavors.

I was happy that this was only a 30 day challenge. Even though I love cooking, there was a lot of pressure to make something new everyday. Also, I became mildly obsessed with soup. I was always thinking of what soup to make next, constantly searching the internet for ideas when I should have been working, or thinking about soup while "meditating" during yoga.

Our grocery bill was a bit higher that month too, since I was making numerous grocery runs during the week to pick up chicken stock and other ingredients I might need. Soup can generally be in-expensive if you are making large batches. But making a lot of little batches and using a wide variety ingredients (especially using crab and lobster), is not economical.

Unfortunately, our freezer could only hold so many of my soups, so I was often eating soup for lunch and supper. As I eluded to in one of my previous posts, my meals were starting to resemble a Hollywood fad diet.

Now that this is finished, I don't want to stop blogging. I will move on to another idea. I will start a blog in the New Year called Around the World in 52 Weeks. The blog will be about foods, recipes and anecdotes about a different country every week. A majority of the countries will be ones that either I or my husband have visited, so it will come with our own personal stories embellished with my sense of humor.

So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 30-Lobster Soup with Puff Pastry

Today was the grand finale, the last day of my 30 Days of Soup. This blog was more than just about making soups, but also about going outside my comfort zone. Before taking on this challenge, I had never made a crab chowder or shrimp tempura, and today I really pushed myself by killing a whole lobster.

The weight of making this soup rested heavily on my shoulders. Not only was I making soup for 7 people, but I was also working with an expensive ingredient, fresh lobster.

My mother-in-law and I bought the lobster at a grocery store, and these babies were fresh, since they were just flown in from Maine yesterday. I placed it in the fridge when we got back to her house, and I contemplated how I would kill it humanely. I consulted a few websites, and most advocated splitting down the middle with a knife while it is still alive. But I couldn't even pick it up with my bare hands. I had to get my brother-in-law to come and help me put it in the boiling water.

After letting it boil for a few minutes until it turned fire engine red, I removed the lobster and rinsed it under cold water. I removed the claws and picked out the meat, and then I split the body from the tail. Being a lobster rookie, I was unprepared for the massive amounts of gushing green liquid that spewed from it's body, painting both the wall and floor. A shriek of horror came from my mouth as I stared at the mess I created, but my mother-in-law is so good natured it didn't bother her a bit.

I successfully removed the meat, and prepared a stock with the leftover shell and legs. I wanted to cover the soup completely with puff pastry, but we didn't have any oven proof bowls, so I made little puff pastry rounds to be placed on top. I have included instructions on how to cover the soup in puff pastry if you are interested in trying that version. This recipe was supposed to be a stew, but I increased the amount of stock used to make it more like a soup.

Lobster Soup
Source: Food Network
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter
1 to 1 1/3 pounds cooked lobster meat, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup sherry wine, preferably medium-dry, preferably amontillado
1 cup lobster stock, (or fish stock)
1 1/4 cups light cream or half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons minced fresh chives

Directions

In a medium-size deep skillet or heavy saucepan, cook the onion in the butter over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the cooked lobster meat and toss to coat with the butter. Pour in the sherry and bring to a boil. Add the lobster stock, and boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the light cream and paprika. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring just to a boil. Immediately ladle into soup plates and garnish with the chives and puff pastry round or cover completely with puff pastry.

Puff Pastry Directions
1 lb puff pastry sheets

Preheat oven to 450 F. Roll out your pastry dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out 4 circles slightly larger than you serving bowls or ramekins. Divide the soup between the four bowls. In a small bowl beat the egg. Brush the beaten egg on the pastry circles. Place the pastry, egg side down, on each bowl pulling a little to make it taut. Gently brush the top of the pastry with more egg being careful not to push it into the soup. Place the bowls on a baking sheet & then into the oven. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until the pastry is puffed & golden (don't open your oven too early or the pastry might fall.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 29 - Labanese Lamb and Burghul Meatball Soup

The first day of our vacation, Darien and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 7am and went for a run with Justin, (Darien's brother who is in the military). I had low expectations of keeping up with the boys, but I managed to carry my own.

Later, I grabbed my mother in-laws one speed cruiser bike for a 7 mile bike ride. I was struggling to go up the hills since I wasn't able to switch gears. But I felt slightly encourage when I passed a man on riding a nice Trek road bike.

After thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and warm whether which is Florida's prime attribute in the winter, I went to the grocery store to buy my ingredients for tonight's soup. I had overestimated the strength and quality of the plastic basket on the bike, and had to endure the sound of metal and rubber rubbing for 30 minutes. I kept silently praying I wouldn't pop the front tire, and end up stranded 6 miles from my in-laws.

My inspiration for the soup tonight came from my mother-in-law. She is half Labanese and makes wonderful kibbi, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, fatya, and other mouth-watering dishes. I have a strong penchant for Arabic food, and I especially love Kibbi (also, kibbeh, kibbe), which is ground lamb with burghul, pine nuts and some warm spices such as cinnamon and all spice.

Labanese Lamb and Burghul Meatball Soup
Source: Krystal Ford, and kibbi recipe from Labanese cuisine.
Lamb Stock
Two Large lamb bones
1 large sprig of rosemary
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 celery stalked chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp of cinnamon
1/8 tsp of all spice
Sprigs of parsley for garnish

Directions
Fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat, add lamb bones, rosemary, garlic and cover completely with water. Simmer for 1hr to 1hr and half. Strain out bones, onions, rosemary and skim off fat.

Sautee peppers and celery. Deglaze with 1/4 cup of red wine. Add lamb stock and bring to a gentle boil. Add cinnamon and all spice and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Add kibbi meatballs (directions below) and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Kibbi meatballs

1 cup of burghul
1 medium onion, grated
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp of cinnamon
1/8 tsp of all spice (or cloves can be substituted)
1lb ground lamb (beef can also be substituted)
1/4 cup of pine nuts (toasted)

Directions

Cover burghul with cold water and soak for 10 minutes. Drain and press between palms to remove excess water. Work onions and spices with fingers and knead meat with spices working thoroughly. Add the burghul and pine nuts to the meat and mix thoroughly. Make into round meat balls (around 1-2 inches diameter) and fry with a bit of olive oil until brown on all sides. Place meat balls in oven at 400F to keep warm.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Small Pause

Hey everyone, just in case you are wondering, I have not abandoned my soup project, but I was up in Montreal for the weekend. I will post my Day 28 later today and finish up this week down in Florida.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 28-Spiked Gazpacho

We left after 11pm and drove for 6 hours stopping only for gas, on our way to Montreal. My friend, her room mate, and I, relied on the tunes blasting from her stereo and the red bulls we had drunk, to keep us going. There I was trapped with two psychology majors, one of them hopped up on caffeine, being psychoanalyzed while listening to a never ending succession of Pearl Jam. It was great fun. Needless to say we were all exhausted by the time we got there at 5:30 am. But it was completely worth missing the impending snow storm, and I gained a little introspective.

The purpose of this mad dash to Montreal, was for a Christmas party with my old high school friends. We try every year to get together, but it doesn't always work out, and we sometimes end up celebrating in March.

Keeping with the party theme, I decided to make a spiked gazpacho. The concept was good, but even with filling only a 1/4 of the shot glass with vodka and the rest with soup, it was overwhelmingly alcoholic. The biggest problem was that the alcohol rose to the top and just wasn't mixed properly. Plus, a lot of my friends are in different stages of their lives (popping out babies) and aren't into drinking anymore.

The next morning, I took an agonizingly long 14 hour train ride. We were stuck at the border for two hours and then stuck in Albany for two hours while they changed our engine. My seat mate and I were hungry so we broke open my giant Panettone (Italian cake) and my bottle of red wine. At least it made the time pass and it made a rather annoying situation more rosy.

Spiked Gazpacho Shooters
Source Moosewood Cookbook

4 cups of tomato juice
½ cup finely minced onion
1 medium clove garlic minced
1 medium bell pepper minced
1tsp honey optional
1 medium cucumber peeled seeded and minced
2 scallions minced
juice of ½ lemon and 1 lime
2 tbs wine vinegar
1 tsp basil
¼ tsp cumin
¼ cup freshly minced parsley
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
2 cups of freshly diced tomatoes
Vodka (optional)

combine all ingredients and puree until desired consistency (chunky of smooth)
chill until very cold. To make it "spiked" fill 1/4 of shot glass with vodka, add soup and stir well, garnish with basil.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 27 - White Bean and Garlic Soup, with Sautéed Cabbage

I was rushing around like a madwoman this afternoon, trying to get everything prepared before I left for Montreal. My friend and I were supposed to drive up tomorrow, but because of the impending snow forecast, we decided to leave tonight. Even though driving at night for 8 hrs is not ideal, being stuck in a snowstorm is even worse.

We Canadians may be used to un-godly amounts of snow, but we don’t like driving in snowstorms, and we really dislike long distance driving in snowstorms. Maybe it’s because we still have huge swaths of land that are grossly under populated, and the fear of being stuck off the side of the road, with no houses around, no cell phone service or cars on the road, is a real possibility and it sends shivers down our spine.

A smart Canadian will have a long with the spare tire, a flashlight, and blanket and winter boots. Just in case the car breaks down or you spin off the road, you can A: wait it out, or B: start walking.

I myself have had the privilege of driving off the road in the spring, and futily tried applying the breaks only to shoot further off at an angle in slushy snow. I was good and stuck, and had to be towed out. Which was very embarrassing.

This soup was the result of my desire to clean out my fridge and avoid yet another grocery run. I had leftover cabbage from the Borscht, leftover shrimp, lots of garlic and leftover white beans from the Pasta Fagioli.

White beans and garlic seem like a natural pair, but the crunchy cabbage on top added another layer of texture and flavor.

White Bean and Garlic Soup, with Sautéed Cabbage and Shrimp

Source: Krystal Ford

Soup
1 can of Canneli white beans
3 cups of chicken broth
1 whole garlic bulb

Sauteed Cabbage
1 1/2 cup of cabbage shredded
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of kosher salt

Sauteed Shrimp
6 shrimp
1 lemon
salt and pepper
pinch of saffron

Directions
Pre-heat over to 400F. Peel the outer layer of garlic, and cut off a few cm of the top of the garlic bulb. Rub a bit of olive oil over the smooth surface. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a muffin tin. Roast for 35 minutes.

Marinate shrimps in lemon juice, saffron, salt and pepper for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile. Boil the broth and add the whole can of white beans, do not drain them. Bring to a boil and gently simmer. Add roasted garlic cloves to stock and beans and puree with immersion blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning.

Melt butter and olive over high heat and sautée cabbage until just softened, but still a bit crunchy. Sprinkle with salt.

Sautée shrimps over high heat with a bit of butter one minute each side until pink.

Serve soup with cabbage and shrimp piled on top.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 26-Curried Split Pea Soup

Darien has made this recipe several times in the past, but this was my first time making it, and I went a little hog wild on the salt. Alton Brown says to liberally salt the onions, and believe me, I did. Plus, I think the store bought stock I used was already salty. So, I turned an other wise very easy and delicious soup into a curry catastrophe.

Heed my warning, if you are buying store bought stock or broth, don't salt liberally until you have done a taste test. You can always add more salt, but you can't take it back.

This is a very nice soup (when properly prepared) and the mild curry spices give just a little kick of flavor to regular old split pea soup.


Curried Split Pea Soup

Source: Alton Brown, Food Network
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
12 ounces dried green or yellow split peas, picked over and rinsed
5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon curry powder

Directions

Place the butter into a large (4 to 6-quart) saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, making certain not to allow onions or garlic to brown.

Add the peas, chicken broth and curry powder. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook at a simmer until the peas are tender and not holding their shape any longer, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Using care and a stick blender, puree the soup until the desired consistency. Watch out for hot splatters.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 25 -Tom Kaa Kai, Chicken in Coconut Milk

I didn't have a lot of the ingredients that I needed to make my Thai soup, so I improvised a bit. The result was ok, but not my favorite. I used lime zest and lime juice instead of kaffir lime leaves, and I didn't have any fish sauce or chili peppers.

The recipe I have included is not the one I used tonight, but it was one I made a long time ago, when I took a brief Thai cooking course. It is definitely worth it to try and procure all the ingredients listed below. You may have to go to your nearest China town to find some of them.

Four years ago I was in Thailand for 10 days, as part of my back packing around the world. I was in Bangkok for the first three days and then I went north to Chang Mai. After "trekking" through the jungle for three days (there wasn't that much trekking, and if you consider the fact that there was no wild life in this said jungle, it was more like walking in the woods for three days) I decided to take it easy and took a Thai cooking course.

It was so much fun and it only cost about 60$ at the time, which is pretty good considering we just ate and cooked all day. We even went to a market to pick out our ingredients before we cooked.

I learned how to make green and red curry paste using a mortar and pestle, and as rewarding as it was to make it myself, my arm was utterly killing me by the end of it. Usually I am a do-it-yourself kind of girl, but in this case I would much rather buy the convenient curry paste in the package, then pound chilies for 20 minutes.

Tom Kaa Kai, Chicken in Coconut milk soup
Source: Smart Cook, Thai Cookery School
200g boneless chicken breast, sliced 1 inch thick
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup of coconut cream
20 g of large onion, cut into quarters
3-4 thinly sliced Thai ginger
20g sliced lemon grass
1-2 kaffir lime leaves
3-5 fresh chilies
50g of oyster mushrooms
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp chopped spring onion and coriander
1 Tbsp of sugar
1 tomato, cut into quarters
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions
Heat coconut milk gently over medium heat in a sauce pan. Add the lemon grass, Thai ginger, kaffir lime leaves and chilies and bring to a boil for 3 minutes and add chicken and wait one minute and stir.

Add large onion and mushrooms and tomatoes one minute later. Add fish sauce, lemon juice, and sugar. Add the coconut cream and stir for one minute and than turn off the heat.

Top with chopped spring onions and cilantro.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 24 - Turnip and Maple Syrup Soup, with French Toast

A few years ago, our friend in Canada had made a really nice turnip and maple syrup soup. I have no idea what recipe she used, but I knew that I wanted to try make my own. If you are skeptical about turnip soup (the oft forgotten root vegetable) you won't be after trying this. The combination of maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg complimented the turnip and made it warm, creamy and comforting.

I have a lot of nice childhood memories centered around maple syrup. Being born and raised in the heart of maple syrup land, where the province of Quebec is accountable for 75% of the worlds production (according to Wikipedia). We definitely kick Vermonter's maple tree tapping butt.

I always loved the sugaring off season, which is what we call the period that maple syrup is collected (starts in February-April). The days are a bit milder, a nice and balmy 25F/-5C, in other words, not the double digit minuses (talking Celsius here) we are accustomed to. We would go to the Cabane a Sucre(Sugar shack)where we would enjoy sleigh rides and gorge our selves on fat and sugar.

The best part is having maple taffy on the snow, if you haven't gone into a diabetic comatose by that point. The bubbling nectar of the gods is poured over a fresh batch of snow, which instantly freezes, and you roll a wooden stick in the amber frozen taffy. We would have our lunch in an old wooden cabin, where the smell of wood mixed with syrup hangs in the air like a delicious perfume.

The feast would be laid out on long wooden tables, and would include bacon, sausage, pancakes, baked beans, scrambled eggs cooked in maple syrup, "oreilles de crisse" (fried strips of salt pork). Then, you might get up to dance it all off to some French songs.

Another thing I associate maple syrup with,(when combined with cinnamon and nutmeg)is French toast. For my soup today, I went out on a limb and got really innovative. I decided to make some French toast slices(using only egg and milk, no spices) and piled them on top of the creamy soup. It was a nice combination of savory and sweet, and if you're like me and love maple syrup, you can always drizzle a bit more on.

Turnip and Maple Syrup Soup, with French Toast
Source: Krystal Ford

Soup
1 lb of turnip, peeled and cubed
one potato peeled and cubed
4 cups of chicken broth
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup of maple syrup plus some for drizzling
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of nutmeg

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add turnip and potato cubes and boil until soft (around 10 minutes) Take off the heat, and blend using immersion blender. Add maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cream. Re-heat on low just until it reaches a gentle simmer.

French Toast
One piece of bread (thick if possible and leave it to dry out a bit)
one egg
1/4 milk

Directions
Take a slice of bread and cut into three strips. Beat one egg with milk. Dip bread strips in egg mixture and fry in a frying pan with butter on high heat. Sprinkle with a bit of Kosher salt. Remove when golden on both sides.

Place the slices of French toast criss-crossed on top of the soup, and drizzle with a bit of maple syrup.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 23 - Russian Borscht

Borscht,borsht or borshch is a Eastern European vegetable soup well recognized for its purple color, because it is traditionally made with beets. There are many variations of borshct, depending on the country of origin. Some are eaten hot, some are cold. The Ukrainian version has tomatoes added to it, the Russian version has cabbage, meat and sometimes potatoes, and the Polish version sometimes doesn't include beets at all.

This soup takes forever to cook (compared to my other soups), but your patience will be rewarded. From start to finish it took 3hrs. It tastes great with a dallop of sour cream and some chives.

We went to the Rockefeller center in the evening to see the Christmas tree all lite up in it's glory, and topped with a swarvoski crystal star. There was some rapper T.I playing (who Darien and I had never heard of) at the Rockefellar center, so it took a little negotiating around the crowd to get a good view.

After we saw the tree, we walked to one of our favorite restaurants Tao on 58st and Madison. It has a giant Buddha, a pond with koy fish, and amazing lychee martini's. We had some Peking duck spring rolls, pork pot stickers with ginger sauce, shrimp tempura with chili sauce and pad thai. We are never disappointed with the food there, and the atmosphere is lounge meets the Southeast Asia.


Russian Borscht

Source: Adapted from Recipe Zaar

1lb beef tenderloin
3 Carrots
3 onions
2 big beets (peeled and halved)
3 medium potatoes
1 small head of cabbage
1/2 cup of red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
sour cream and chives for garnish

Directions
Season meat with salt and pepper, and then sear meat in a stew pot with olive oil over high heat. After the meat is seared, add the red wine and then add water to cover the meat. You may need to keep adding more water, so that the meat is completely covered. Simmer for 2 hrs. Take meat out of the broth and put aside. Shred the meat (I used two forks to pull the meat apart).

Add the beets to the broth and boil until soft. Meanwhile, sautee the onions and carrot in olive oil until onion are soft. When beats are done, use a fork to break them up into chunks. Add meat, onion, carrots, cubed potatoes and cabbage to soup. Bring to a boil. Adjust water level (the amount depends on how thick or thin you want the soup). When potatoes are cooked. Add 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar and adjust salt and pepper.

Serve with a dallop of sour cream and chives.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 22 - Red Pepper Soup

The alarm went off at 6am this morning. It took some real commitment for me to pull myself out of bed at that time, and even more knowing that I would be heading out into the cold.

In order to qualify for the 2009 New York City marathon, I had to run 9 races and volunteer at one race in 2008. Of course, I left my volunteering to the last minute, and this was my only chance to volunteer at a race before the year was out.

Dressed in a turtleneck, hoodie sweatshirt, long jacket, winter boots, gloves, and headband, I ventured out in the 25F/-5C dark Saturday morning. I was going to be working in the baggage area at the Holiday 4 mile race in Central Park. We had to be there for 6:45am but baggage didn't open until 7:30. We volunteers were freezing outside for 3hours. My toes and fingers were frozen, and I kept thinking of coffee, hot chocolate, and soup.

Bouncing up and down trying to keep warm at 7am on Saturday in the blustering cold, while talking to the other volunteers about running, I realized that we runners really are driven people. If you haven't figured it out yet, I thrive on challenges.

This red pepper soup had a hint of spice and it tasted really great with garlic bread. The original red pepper soup recipe was given to me by a lady who works at the Saturday market. I told her about my soup plan's, she brought me the recipe the following week. I am not sure where she got the recipe, but I modified it quite a bit, so it has become my recipe now.

Red Pepper Soup
Source: Krystal Ford

3 Medium red peppers
1 Medium onion, chopped
1 Carrots, chopped
1 Celery rib, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, mince
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup of white wine
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1 tsp Italian spice mix
1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp of paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Roasted red peppers or roasted tomatoes for garnish (optional)

Directions
Saute onions and garlic. Add carrots, peppers, and celery and continue cooking until tender. Add wine, broth, tomato sauce, Italian spice mix, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes. Puree until smooth with blender or immersion blender.
Garnish with roasted peppers or roasted tomatoes.

Day 21- Chilled Pea and Mint Soup

Please excuse my post being one day late. We hosted a little Christmas party last night, and I didn't have time to write.

Yesterday, in attempts to brighten our rather stark white apartment with holiday spirit, I bought some jelly letters to put on our window, and a small little Christmas tree made of bells for our table.

I put the red and green letters on the window spelling out Happy Holidays. My dog, minutes later, started growling. I thought maybe she heard a dog or something in the hall, and just ignored her. But she continued growling and looking at the window. The jelly letters? Are you kidding me? I was incredulous. I showed her some letters and her tail uncurled and she snaked away.

I couldn't believe that my big dog in a little dogs body, was afraid of the jelly letters. Maybe she wasn't afraid, as so much as offended by the tacky-ness of them. Darien was initially skeptical about the window lettering, when I messaged him about my holiday decorating, but I assured him that it was all very tastefull.

I wanted to make a soup that would be kind of Christmas-y and fun to eat. I thought that a chilled pea soup would be perfect. The color was a nice green, almost the same color as a grasshopper (an alcoholic drink made with Creme de Menthe, Creme de Cacao, and light cream, and it tastes like an Andes mint) and I served the chilled soup in martini glasses. It was almost like drinking a savory virgin cocktail.

It was a bit risky serving a chilled soup, but my friends were all good sports and gave it a try. I will be the first to admit that the soup had separated a bit, and it wasn't phenomenal. That being said, I think the soup would be great in the summer, and I would advise two things. One, do not skimp on the mint, it really add flavor to the soup, and second, that you chill it in a bowl first, give it a good stir before you portion (I had portioned it directly into my glasses and didn't stir before serving).

Chilled Pea and Mint Soup
Source: Good House Keeping Step by Step Cookery
2lb of fresh peas or 1lb of frozen peas
20z of butter
1 onion chopped roughly
600 ml or 1 pint of milk
600 ml or 1 pint of chicken stock
6 large sprigs of mint for soup, and 6 small for garnish
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
150 ml of single cream

Directions
If using fresh peas, shell peas. Other wise use frozen peas (no need to defrost them). Melt butter in a saucepan, add onion and cover and cook gently for 15 minutes until it is soft but not brown.

Remove from heat and stir in the milk, stock, peas, mint, sugar and seasoning. Bring to a boil, stirring. Cover and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes. Until peas are really tender.

Place soup in blender or use immersion blender and blend to form a smooth puree. Pour into a bowl and adjust seasoning and cool. Stir in cream and chill for 2-3 hours. To serve garnish with sprigs of mint.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 20 - Mexican Meatball Soup

This afternoon, I was a multi-tasking machine. I was preparing my soup of the day, and at the same time preparing banana muffins and peppermint bark for my little party tomorrow night.

Once again I started up a double boiler. Melted my dark chocolate until it was shiny and smooth, poured it into a pan, and stuck it in the freezer. Then I set about melting the white chocolate, trying to do everything right, never letting it sit for too long, and before my eyes the white chips changed from individuals into one solid clump (with a strong resemblance to mashed potatoes). Oh crap, not again! I just wasted another bag of Ghirardelli's, as the same things happened last week when I tried to make icing to go on top of my Rice Krispies squares. Had I known I was going to screw up, I would have left the smashing of the candy canes until after I melted the chocolate (a little kitchen therapy).

This little experience got me thinking, does every chef have an Achilles heel? Or is it possible to be renaissance cook, knowledgeable and capable of cooking it all? Can a pastry chef still sear a mean steak? I know my mom's arch nemesis is pie crust and I just discovered mine is melting white chocolate. Although, I am a little miffed that my weakness has to be something so lame. Why couldn't it be making a souffle or a Hollandaise sauce?

The Mexican meatball soup was really good in my opinion, but Darien wasn't too keen on it. He found the meatball's a little bland. It probably would have been more flavorful if I had used the mint in the meatballs instead of cilantro.

Albondigas (Mexican Meatball soup)
Source: Elise, Simply Recipes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
3 quarts of beef stock OR water OR a mixture of both (we usually use half stock half water as the meatballs will create their own stock)
2 large carrots, sliced
1/2 lb of string beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup of raw white rice
1 raw egg
1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint leaves and/or parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
Dried oregano, crumbled
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

*Chef's Note: I didn't have any mint or parsley, so I made my meatballs with cilantro. I also added celery to the onion and garlic mix.

Directions
Heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and minced garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and broth mixture. Bring to boil and simmer. Add carrots and string beans.

Prepare meatballs. Mix rice into meat, adding mint land parsley leaves, salt and pepper. Add raw egg. Form beef into 1-inch meatballs.

Return soup to gentle simmer. Add meatballs to soup, one at a time. Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour. Add peas towards the end of the 1/2 hour. Add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish soup with chopped fresh cilantro.


Darien's Bread

The following is a guest post by my husband Darien.

My bread has been mentioned a few times in here and I figured for posterity's sake, I should probably write something up about it. I know this is going to seem long, but I promise you, it takes only about 30 min of actual work, and the results are completely worth it. This is probably like any standard water and flour recipie. I think the only difference is that I make mine very wet, like my grandmother did.


This recipie makes us 1 batch of rolls and 2 loaves.

6 Cups flour
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry active yeast (or 1 single use packet)
1 tsp salt
3-4 cups of warm water

Proof yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with sugar for 10 min.

Combine flour and salt. Once yeast is ready, combine yeast mixture, 2 cups of water and flour mixture in stand mixer. You may need to add water to make it more moist, depending on how wet you want your dough.
I like mine sticky wet, but not soupy. Let the dough hook on your mixer do it's thing for about 5 to 6 min on medium.
Put bowl in (cold turned off) oven. Take a baking dish of boiling water and put it under the bowl on a lower shelf. This will provide heat and moisture. Let the dough rise for 2 hours.
When done, you can either punch down the dough and let it rise another 2 hours, or use it immediately.
I use it immediately, but the next steps are the same regardless.
On a large flat work surface, put a light layer of flour and dump out your dough. Depending on how wet your dough is will determine how much flour you need. You may need to add as much as a couple cups while you knead it.
Starting at the edges, fold the dough in on itself and then punch it down with your knuckles. Repeat this for about 5 min while adding flour until you have a soft, dry to the touch, springy consistency.
Now you can form into rolls, or loaves.
Rolls:
Lightly coat a circular glass baking dish with butter (or other baking lube). Form balls of dough. Typically I arrange them in a star shape, 5 around the edge with 1 in the middle, giving us 6 large rolls. I also will sometimes do 7 and 3. Let them sit, covered for 30 min to rise.
Loaves (in a pan):
For a loaf pan, take a section of dough and work it into a rectangle the length of the pan. Roll the dough into a large log and place in your buttered pan. You are looking for enough dough to be 1/3 to 1/2 the height of your pan. Let them sit, covered for 30 min to rise.
Loaves (on a baking stone):
work a large amount of dough into a ball by tucking the edges of it under itself. Put it on your work surface and, tucked side down, pass it between your hands in a circular motion, allowing the bottom to slide and the loaf to spin. This will tighten the seams and the skin. Cover your pizza peel liberally with corn meal and place the round loaf on it. Cover and let rise for about 30 min.
*Note just before you put this one in the oven, you will want to make 3 parallel cuts across the top, about a 1/4 inch deep. This will help the loaf from exploding.

Preheat oven to 375. Bake rolls for about 30-35 min, loaves for 35-45 min (or more for thicker crust). Technically, you should let them sit for at least an hour for the gluten to solidify, but I will normally rip open the rolls in about 20 min.

Fin!
This seems long, but all in all, it's maybe 30 min of work involved.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day 19- Carrot and Lemongrass soup

What a day! I woke up this morning to a nice little pile of vomit on my couch, courtesy of my dog. That is quite an ominous beginning to a day. My poor puppy continued emptying the contents of her stomach all morning, while I was running around trying to put paper towels under her, to minimize clean-up.

I was going to bring her to the vet in the afternoon, but it started really pouring. Our vet is a good 30 minute walk, and taxi's won't pick you up unless you put your animal in a carrying case. So, I decided to wait a bit to see how she was doing.

Two hours later she was tossing her little raw-hide around the apartment and going all kooky, so I felt a little relieved knowing she had plenty of energy.

In order to get into soup mode, I put on a mixed C.D. back from my college days, containing classics like Ice, Ice, Baby by Vanilla Ice and Intergalactic by the Beastie Boys. Yes, a questionable combination, but I have very eclectic music tastes.

Carrot soup is not only delicious, it also has a really pretty orange color when it's blended. I was originally going to make a carrot and ginger soup, but decided to put a different spin on it by using lemongrass and coconut milk. I also turned the heat up a bit, by adding whole dried chili peppers.

I used an immersion blender to get it smooth, but I think that using a regular blender would have been a lot faster. I kept finding stray whole carrot rounds that the immersion blender had missed.

Carrot and Lemongrass soup

source: Krystal Ford

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch whole lemon grass stalk, cut into two-three inches
1/2 tablespoon green onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds of carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1-2 whole dried chili peppers
Salt and pepper
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut cream
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions

Pour the oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, green onions, lemongrass, and dried red peppers. Stir occasionally and cook for a minute, or until very fragrant. Dump in the carrots, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.

Pour in the stock and coconut cream and add ginger and coriander. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or until the carrots are very tender. Remove the lemongrass pieces, and chili peppers (if you want it to be spicy, leave part of one in).

Blend the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. Adjust seasoning and serve with chopped cilantro and drizzle with some coconut cream.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 18 - African Peanut Soup

I love peanut butter, and when I came across this recipe I didn't hesitate to add it my To-Do list. Now, I know the skeptics out there may be thinking peanut butter and tomatoes in a soup? The peanut butter is not overwhelming at all, I think it adds a nice smooth velvety texture in between the crunchy vegetables, rice and added peanuts.

Making this soup, I was reminded of my travels to Africa for work. I have been lucky enough to go to Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Mauritius. I was never disappointed with the food in an any of the countries, and I especially liked how the food in Mauritius and Uganda had some Indian influence. I was however, very trepidations about the food safety. Uganda had several power outages a day, which makes for very unstable freezer and refrigeration temperatures.

That doesn't mean I still didn't get sick. I got food poisoning my second day in Cape Town,South Africa, and in Kenya I had an "unsettled digestive system" to put it politely (this is a food blog after all) for 4 days.

The day before I left Kenya I took a tour of Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa, with a local. I was high-fiving little kids and shaking hands with people all day, and then we sat down for lunch, and there was no place to wash your hands. We were served some greens and Ugali (made from cornmeal)which is eaten by pinching off a piece with your right hand, and shaping it into a scoop, which is then used to scoop up sauces or stew. Here I was faced with a cultural dilemma. Be rude and use a fork, or risk getting food borne illness. Because if I couldn't find a place to wash my hands, chances are they couldn't either. I came to the conclusion that offending one person was well worth not offending many passenger on my plane ride home.

I hope that you will be a culinary maverick (that's right, I said maverick) like myself, and just enjoy trying new soups, even if you think it may be an odd combination. You never know until you try, right?

African Peanut Soup
Source: All Recipes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 Celery stalks chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with liquid
8 cups vegetable broth or stock
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
2/3 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
whole Peanuts for garnish

*Chef Note: I halved the recipe, maintained the spice level and added a bit of cayenne pepper, and substituted canned tomatoes for one and half chopped whole fresh tomatoes.

Directions

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Cook onions and bell peppers until lightly browned and tender, stirring in garlic when almost done to prevent burning. Stir in tomatoes, vegetable stock, pepper, and chili powder. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Stir in rice, cover, and simmer another fifteen minutes or until rice is tender (it took over 30 minutes for the rice to become tender, keep an eye on it after 15 min). Stir in peanut butter until well blended, and serve. Garnish with peanuts and some peppers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 17 - Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup

I woke up with a dry mouth and sore throat this morning, and just as I suspected I was getting a cold. This chickpea soup was the perfect soup (next to a home made chicken noodle soup) for my olfactory deprivation, because I could still smell and taste the cinnamon and other spices through my stuffed nose.

While walking my dog today, I was thinking about what other soups I was going to make over the next 13 days. Not that I was running out of recipes per se, but it was that I wanted to make a wide variety of soups. Sure, I could take the easy way out and make every variation of cream soup there is such as; Cream of Asparagus, Cream of Broccoli, Cream of Carrot, Cream of Fennel, Cream of garlic, Cream of Jalapeno,etc, in fact, I could probably do 30 days of cream soup alone.

I like my cream soups, but I don't want to eat the equivalent of a stick or two of butter, which equals oodles of calories (put another way, a nice 8 mile run to burn it off) nor do I want baby food consistency every night for supper.

I try to balance out the soups, one night chunky, one night smooth, so there is a little variation. If I ever get Chef's Block (i.e. can't think of a recipe) I can type soup in my Google browser and find thousands of web pages. So finding recipes or inspiration should not be a problem. My mind is already racing with the next challenge I will do when these 30 days are up. I was quickly shot down on the 30 days of cookies suggestion. Truly, that was for everyone's benefit, including mine and my husbands waistline, and everyone else I would try to pawn them off to.

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup
Soure: Dave Lieberman, the Food Network

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, medium diced
6 to 8 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
(14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
3 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 quart vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (5-ounce) package pre-washed baby spinach

* Chef's note, I halved the recipe but kept the spices at the same level.

Directions
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until the onions begin to turn translucent; lower heat if browning starts to occur. Add spices and saute a minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, and sugar. Season with a couple pinches of salt and 10 grinds fresh pepper. Stir well. Chickpeas should be just covered with liquid. If level is shy, add some water so the chickpeas are just covered.

Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove soup from heat. Use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. Stir in the spinach and let heat through until wilted, just a couple minutes.
Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Serve soup, drizzled lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 16-Beer and Cheddar soup

What could be better (and more sinful)than having beer soup on Sunday, accompanied by some giant salty bagels. I stopped off at Murray's Bagels on 6 ave and 13th street before my yoga class this morning.


It seemed that this was the Sunday morning hot spot, people were lined up all the way to the door. This is not the place to dilly dally and be indecisive, or you could incur the wrath of New Yorkers, with their toe tapping and loud sighing. A word of advice, you pretty much should know what you want before you walk in the door, or decide in the two-three minutes you are waiting in line. These bagels, like all New York bagels, are massive. I might even say they are almost as good as Montreal bagels.

To illustrate the difference in sizes, the bagel on the right is a Montreal bagel (courtesy of my freezer, I bring them back each trip and freeze them) and the bagel on the left is a New York bagel. Nuf said. Montreal bagels will always be my favorite, and everything else it just a substitute for the real deal.

I love them not only because I can eat them without taking in my entire daily requirements of carbohydrates, (like some bagels out there) but also I like that they are dense, flavorful and just delicious. Darien and I used to live a few blocks away from Real Bagel on St. Catherine's street, in Montreal. For the longest time, our weekend tradition was to go there, either Saturday or Sunday,and grab a few sesame seed bagels hot from the oven. Although, those bagels were really good,the best Montreal bagels come from St. Viateur.

Cheddar and beer are two things Canadians really know how to do right. I had asked Darien to pick up some Canadian beer at the store, but he got Belgium beer instead, because that is what Emeril Lagasse used in his cooking show. In any case, I think some of our breweries have been bought out by Coors now, which means they probably taste as horrible as American beer. I am sorry to offend anyone, but as a child growing up in Canada, I was constantly reminded by the television and my parents, that Canada's pride rested on it's hockey and beer reputation -and that American beer tasted like piss water (not my opinion here). Personally, I don't like beer, and I don't watch hockey. Of course if my team (the Montreal Canadians) makes it to the playoffs, I will watch a few games on t.v., and force a beer down, anything less would be un-Canadian.

Cheddar and Beer Soup
Source: Emeril Lagasse, Food Network
4 ounces butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup minced onions
1/4 cup minced celery
Salt
1 (12-ounce) bottle light beer (we used Chimay Ale)
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
1 pound sharp cheddar, grated
green onions for garnish


Directions
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 4 minutes to make a blond roux. Add the onions and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 2 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted. Stir in the beer and stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the milk and cheese. Continue to cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and keep warm. Garnish with green onion and grated cheddar cheese.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 15- Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli is Italian for pasta and beans and can be made with cannellini beans or borlotti beans and some type of small pasta such as elbow macaroni. There are many different variations of pasta fagioli. Some are more soup like, some are made without tomatoes, and others can be as thick as stew.

Pasta fagiloi which is pronounced as pasta fazool, has caused Darien and I (on separate occasions) to embarrassingly pronounce it as pasta fag-e-oli. It just reconfirms that we are truly meant for each other!

The version I chose to make it based off the kind I had at my best friends, boyfriends, parents house, who are Italian. That's a mouthful. Louisa prepared her pasta fagiloi with gnocchi, white beans and simple tomato sauce.

If you have some spare time on your hands, why not make the gnocchi yourself. It is not hard to make, and it tastes great. I found Mario Batali's recipe on the Food Network. You can find some photos of us (Darien helped) preparing the pasta below.


Pasta e Fagioli
Source: Krystal Ford

8 oz or 1/2 lb of dried white beans cook according to directions, or use equivalent in canned beans.
4 cups of chicken stock
1 can of plain tomato sauce
1 can of tomato paste
3 gloves of garlic crushed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
10 basil leaves (reserve 3 for garnish, chiffonade)
1 cup of gnocchi
salt and pepper to taste
grate Parmesan for garnish
toasted pine nuts for garnish

Directions

Sautee garlic in olive oil, add tomato paste, tomato sauce and one can of water, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, add in seven whole leaves of basil, white beans and gnocchi. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove large chunks of garlic and basil. Garnish soup with pine nuts, basil, and cheese.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 14-Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

Last night while watching the late night news, they had a report about the increasing popularity of canned soups. I guess as the economy worsens, the more the soup businesses profit. Campbell's has been particularly hardy, apparently it has weathered over 28 recessions since it's inception. They call it the dollar menu, the one meal you can reliably get for a dollar. From what I understood, people are breaking out the can openers more than ever, probably because of a combination things, such as nostalgia, comfort food and tightening wallets.

When I was a university student, I would often use Campbell's condensed soups to make meals like beef and broccoli (with canned tomato soup) and Alfredo (using canned cream of celery). Not only was it cheap, but it was simple and quick to make, so I could get back to more important things, like...studying.

I wanted to create my own cream of mushroom soup recipe, but I wasn't quite sure what herbs to pair it with. If you like experimenting like I do, and wonder which food items go best with certain herbs, I found a simple site with some general guideline, click here to take a look.

Cream of wild mushroom Soup
Source: Krystal Ford

1 cup dehydrated wild mushroom mix chopped, which is roughly 1 oz dried. reserve soaking liquid (for instructions on dehydrating, see below)
1 cup of chicken stock
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of flour
1-2 cloves of garlic
butter for sauteeing ( I leave it up to your discretion)
1/4 cups of white wine for deglazing
1/2 teaspoon or dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon of marjoram
1/2 teaspoon of corriander
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions
To rehyrdate mushrooms, place in a bowl and barely cover the mushrooms with water. Soak for 1hr and half. Drain liquid into a separate bowl and reserve for soup.

Start boiling your chicken stock and reserved mushroom liquid in a soup pot. In a frying pan add butter and saute garlic. Add your chopped mushrooms to garlic and add rosemary. Saute for a few minutes and deglaze with white wine. Continue cooking for a minute or two until the liquid has mostly boiled off. In the mean time, in a separate bowl, add a bit of warm water (around 1/4 cup) to the the flour and whisk to form a watery paste, and get rid of any flour particles. Add to broth and whisk vigorously so no clumps can form. Add your cream, sauteed mushroom, herbs and seasonings, and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for a few more minutes. Presto, great homemade soup!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 13 -Udon Noodle Soup with Shrimp Tempura



I wanted to do something different today, something that didn't involve beans or turkey. So I ran over the Roosevelt Island bridge, and then over the Queensboro Bridge to get to Manhattan. I was planning on making udon noodles with tempura and I knew just the spot to go. A Japanese grocery store called Katagiri, on 59th street and third avenue.

As soon as I walked into the store I saw these little Japanese deserts called Matsue Kashi, and I had to pick some up. I got my tempura batter, stock, deserts and I also picked up some shrimp dumplings, pre-made shrimp tempura (in case mine failed miserably) nanami togarashi (a chili pepper spice mix) and green onions. I already had udon noodles, from my last trip to Japan.

I have been to Japan several times, and to several different cities for work. Of all the cities I have been to (five in total) I especially enjoyed Hiroshima and Nagoya because of the castles, temples, nature and good food. Although, it is hard not to find good food in Japan, even for a quasi seafood/fish hater myself. My tastes run high I guess, because I only like shrimp, lobster, crab and tuna fish sandwiches.

Not only do we love Japanese
food, it just so happens that our dog is Japanese too. Musha (Japanese for warrior/samurai) is a Shiba Inu, and yes, for some odd reason we Western people like giving our Shiba's a Japanese name. Don't ask me why.

If you happen to have a Japanese grocery store near you, you may notice that there are no instructions in English, or at least that was the case for me. So you can either wing it, find a recipe online, or ask them to translate for you at the store. I decided to wing it for the broth, and follow a recipe for the tempura. Now, I will be upfront, I didn't make the broth myself. I found this powdered base -with the help of a grocery store employee- and I guessed the proportions of powder to water by using the numbers on the back of the box. Not ideal, but it worked.

The thing I was most nervous about was making the shrimp and sweet potato tempura. I am a bit of a fry-a-phobic. I don't like giant pots of 350F boiling fat, let alone dropping stuff into it. I was quite pleased that it worked out, and maybe I will fry again. My shrimps were not pretty or elongated, but I think they tasted pretty good, aside from the fact that it was missing salt.


For our desert we had four different kinds of Kashi. In the top left corner was Chocomaru made from chocolate and bean paste, the bottom left was Yuzuka made with the citrus fruit yuzu and sweet bean, the top right was Oshiro Tsubaki made of chestnut meal paste in the middle surrounded by a red bean paste, and the bottom right was Seiya, a little Chirstmas tree made of sweet bean paste. If you haven't already noticed red bean paste is the main theme in all of the deserts. It seems a lot of Japanese desserts are made from rice and red bean paste. The Kashi look absolutely beautiful, but the taste is something I, or even most North Americans are completely unaccustomed to. We like our deserts to be rich and sweet, but the Japanese desert is a balance between savory and sweet, definitely a more subtle flavor. I will be honest, both Darien and I were not totally sold on them -give me a creme brulee or molten lava cake any day- but I do appreciate the craft and effort that goes into them, and I do love the flavor of yuzu.

Udon Noodle Soup with Shrimp Tempura


Soup
1 Package of udon noodles
Seasoning powder or liquid called Udon Tsuyu No Moto (make broth according to directions)
2 green onions finely sliced
Nanami Togarashi (optional seasoning)

Tempura
1 cooked sweet potato boiled, and thinly sliced
5-10 un-cooked shrimp, peeled, and deveined
1 cup tempura mix
1 cup water
Vegetable oil for frying


Directions

Bring stock to a boil. Bring water to a boil and cook udon noodles according to the directions.

Meanwhile, mix water and tempura flour with a chopstick or a fork lightly until mixed.
Heat oil in a pot or wok until it reaches 340-350F. Fry shrimp and sweet potato until it floating to the top and becomes golden. Remove with a spider or slotted spoons and place on a plate with paper towels.

To serve, place udon noodles in the bottom of a bowl, add broth and green onions on top. Serve with shrimp and sweet potato tempura.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 12 - Turkey Chili Soup

Yesterday, if you recall, I briefly mentioned something about broiling cashews being very, very bad. Well I will recount the tail for your amusement. This story is filed under the "only Krystal" category by my friends. I am still uncertain if this category is something to be proud of, the old adage -are they laughing with you? or at you? - comes to mind.

It was last summer and I was making a Thai chicken salad, and I needed some roasted cashews. So, not really thinking about it, I put cashews in the oven and broiled them. They were in the oven for at most 4 minutes before I saw black smoke pouring from the cracks of the oven. I looked into to see flames leaping from my cashews. Lots of expletives escaped my mouth. I didn't know what to do. I didn't have a fire extinguisher, and I didn't know the number for our front desk. At that very moment my ever-reliable husband was in the basement of our apartment taking out the laundry, so I was on my own.

I ran into our hallway knocking on peoples' doors trying to find out if they knew the front desk number or had a fire extinguisher. Of course now would be a good time to point out I was in my bathing suit running around like a mad woman -I had just come back from the swimming pool. Smoke and particles were everywhere in the apartment, and they had started to fill the hallway. Finally, someone came out of their apartment and said they would go to the front desk. I decided to call the fire department anyways. I remember thinking those suckers can really burn. Now I know if I am ever lost in the woods, I will just set my trail mix on fire.

So, the fire department showed up after the cashews were already charcoal, and I was understandably mortified. I was mad at myself for being an idiot, mad because Darien wasn't there to help me, and mad at my useless dog, who didn't make a peep when I was running around the apartment saying oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!

Moral of the story? Never broil cashews, and if you are going to call the fire department, at least reward them with your bikini, and not your ratty old one-piece.

Well enough about me, back to the soup project. Having a ton of turkey leftover in our fridge, I was searching for another soup to use it in. The food inspector in me knew that the food safety clock was ticking, and the turkey had already been in my fridge for 96 hours. In two more days it will be more deadly than handling plutonium -yes, that is a slight exaggeration. But kidding aside, food poisoning is not fun, and can sometimes be deadly.

I found a recipe for Turkey White Chili on a website called Simply Recipes and thought that would make a great soup.

Turkey Chili Soup
Source:Simply Recipes, Elise

1 can of white beans, drained but not rinsed
3 cups turkey stock
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onions, chopped (divided)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stem and most seeds removed, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies ( I omitted this because I didn't have any)
2 cups diced cooked turkey
Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon)

Directions

Bring turkey stock to a boil. Mean while fry garlic and onions for a few minutes and then add the diced chili pepper. Add turkey to stock when boiling, and white beans, and onion mixture along with herbs and spices. Let simmer 10 minutes.
Serve topped with grated cheese. Garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped green onions, and/or avocados. Serve with fresh warmed flour tortillas or tortilla chips.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 11- Black Bean Soup




Today is my wedding anniversary. Darien and I have been blissfully married two years. Instead of going out for supper, or making him an elaborate five course French meal, my poor husband was fed soup instead.

To try and make it up to him, I made Rice Krispie squares. My brilliant idea was that I would spell out I Love You with white chocolate on top. I had truly become the epitome of a house wife, and far from the Gourmand I so claim to be. However, my attempt at melting white chocolate over a double boiler failed miserably. I was left with what looked like play dough. So much for my cheesy declaration of love.

We were married on a cruise in Florida, and had our reception with family and friends in Montreal. Our main focus was making sure our food was phenomenal. No offense is intended here, but wedding food usually lacks any imagination, or it just plain sucks. Mesculun salad, dry tasteless roast beef, even drier poultry, over cooked frozen vegetables and cheesecake for desert. I have just described a typical wedding fare. Now, I realize I may never get another wedding invitation after this, but seriously, if you are going to feed me that I don't mind.

So, we had a fancy buffet (yes, it is possible) and an amazing never ending assortment of appetizers (and Champagne). We had a station where a chef fried prawns to order, and served them on a bed of julienne mango and fennel, a lamb chop station with Parmesan mashed potatoes and shallots in red wine, and the best gnocchi with mushrooms I have ever tasted. For desert we had three different types of creme brulee (chocolate, green tea, and vanilla,) strawberry's and melon dipped in chocolate. Darien and I made our wedding cake. He will argue that he put more effort into it, since I only made the chocolate cake, and he made the vanilla cake, icing and put it together, but I maintain that it was a 50/50 effort.

We are a family that appreciates good food. Darien remarked while eating the smoky black bean soup that he would much rather have my food than eat out at a fancy restaurant. But truthfully, I think he liked the fact he could have unlimited Rice Krispie squares.

Black Bean Soup
Source: Food Network, Dave Lieberman



5 slices of bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves pressed
7 ounces of chicken broth
3/4 cups of canned chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of ketchup
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon chili powder
2 cans of black beans
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch of cilantro
juice of half a lime
sour cream for garnish
grate cheddar for garnish

Directions
Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and chili powder. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, pick off all the thick stems from the cilantro. Wash it and shake dry. Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup when it has been simmering 10 minutes. cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with the garnishes.

Chef's Note: I also used chopped avocado as part of a garnish. With cilantro and lime in the soup,it just screams for it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 10- Turkey soup with cilantro dumplings

Cooking can be therapeutic. I say this as a general rule, because there are always exceptions. Such as when when I set things on fire (a word of advice, do NOT try to broil cashews, very very bad. I will expand on this later) or burn myself, and then cooking has the opposite effect on me. In an instant I have turned into a She-Hulk (minus the green epidermis and bulging muscles) that spews French profanity and tosses/throws dishes into the sink.

Today, however, was one of those days where cooking had a calming affect on me, even though the rest of my day caused me to briefly consider banging my head against the wall. Sometimes I work from home, and today was one of those days where I kept having to re-do my work because we have such a shitty software program. So by 1pm in the afternoon, I had still not made any progress. I took a brief break, shoved some re-heated stuffing in my mouth, and took my dog to the grocery store.

Fortunately for the grocery store, they had celery. I say THEM, because I am the she-hulk remember? I also picked up some good old diet Root Beer, chocolate, and popcorn. Sufficiently calm, I walked back home to start my work all over again.

In the late afternoon, I was only partially done my work. I took a break to make my turkey soup. I put on some Maritime tunes, got into my cooking groove and hummed away as I chopped up my veggies. The smell of the soup simmering and the freshly chopped cilantro was like inhaling endorphins. I quickly ate my bowl of soup while I worked, because I had to go to a swim try-out at 7pm.

I literally ran to the swimming pool complex at the other end of our island, only to find out that they made a mistake in the newspaper, and the swim team starts next Monday. Well, I maintained my zen-like demeanor (thanks to my turkey soup high) and ran home.

Turkey Soup with Cilantro Dumplings

Source: Adapted from Gordon Ramsay Makes it Easy

Soup
6 cups of stock (hopefully your home made stock from yesterday's recipe)
3 chopped carrots
3 diced celery stalks
1 leek chopped
1 onion chopped
2-3 ounces of cooked turkey or chicken cubed
1 inch piece of ginger peeled and smashed (use back of knife)
1 bay leaf
pinch of dried thyme or one fresh sprig
salt and pepper to taste

Dumplings

1 and 3/4 cup flour
1 cup vegetable shortening or suet
3 tbsp of finely chopped fresh cilantro

Directions
Saute leeks and onions in two tablespoons of butter. Add to boiling stock the onions, leek, carrots and celery. Simmer until soft. Add cooked chicken or turkey. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix flour, shortening, cilantro with a bit of water and stir to form soft dough. Shape into small balls and drop into boiling soup. Reduce heat and cover for 10-15 minutes until dumplings have doubled in size or float to the top.

Chef's Note: I did a half batch of this dumpling recipe and it was plenty of dumplings.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 9 -Stock and French Onion Soup

After a night of debauchery at Darien's high school reunion, you would think that the last thing I would want to do is make stock and a soup. Well what can I say other than that I am a trooper.

We stayed the night at Darien's long time high school friend Will and his wife Liz's place. They have an adorable five month old son. When Liz was changing him, I remarked that it looked like she was trying to put clothes on Jello. He was wiggling and jiggling all over the place. Darien kept throwing me glances and mouthing both silently and vocally "three more years". Our one bedroom apartment barely holds us and our dog, so he is safe for now.

After fueling up on sausage, eggs, potatoes, waffles and coffee, we drove the hour and half car ride home. I was thrilled to be eating something other than soup for breakfast. In my wine buzz last night, I slightly recall telling our friend Liz I would make her a breakfast sausage soup, and would name it after her. Let us hope I don't run out of soup ideas before that day comes.

On our way home, we stopped at our local "grocery store". Now that I am pissed at them, I am going to come right out and say their name: Gristedes. A.K.A Craptedes, Grosstedes, Crustedes..you get my drift. Why am I so enraged? They did not have any celery! For crying out loud, this is not some exotic food item such as persimmon, mangosteen, or burgundy truffle that I am looking for, but a basic food staple.

So, I had to make my stock without celery. Life will go on. This is a stock I have made several times, using Gordon Ramsay's recipe.

Gordon Ramsay's Chicken Stock recipe



Chop one carrot, one onion, two stalks of celery, one leek and place in a pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and cook over medium heat until golden. Add a sprig of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 3 peeled garlic cloves, 2 tbsp of tomato paste, 2 tbsp of flour and cook, stirring for a few minutes. Add 2 1/4lb (1kg) raw chicken or turkey bones, cover with plenty of cold water. Bring to a boil and skim. Simmer for 1 hour or more then pass through a chinois or cheesecloth. Adjust seasoning. Makes about 61/3 cups of stock or 1.5 liters.

In the afternoon, we had a few friends over to play a card game called Munchkin. I tried to make my French onion soup in between playing. After setting a measuring spoon on fire, dropping and breaking a ramekin filled with burning broth loaded with onions all over myself and the floor, and Darien burning himself on the molten Gruyere, we decided the soup was cursed. But, we all concurred that if it was a curse, it was a very delicious one. A curse that our spouses and pets would no doubt be the victims of, as there were 8 whole onions in the soup.

French Onion Soup Recipe
Source: Food Network, Paula Deen

8 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 cups beef stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 loaf French bread
2 cups grated Gruyere

Directions

Saute onions and garlic in oil over low heat until tender and golden yellow. Sprinkle flour over onions, cook a few minutes more, browning the flour well. Add stock and wine and bring to a boil, add thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Meanwhile, slice French bread into 3/4-inch slices and butter both sides. Toast slices on griddle until golden brown. Ladle soup into an ovenproof bowl, add toasted bread and cover with cheese. Place ovenproof bowl on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Bake at 350 degrees F or 5 minutes under a hot broiler.

Chef's Note: I just toasted bread in the toaster instead of using a griddle.