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Showing posts with label Soup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soup. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vegan Happiness

A few years ago my wife read the funny and subversive vegan anthem, Skinny Bitch. Overnight she became a pescaterian. Gone were the chicken wings and steak bones she used to gnaw on with great pleasure. Gone too were the sausages, bacon and ribs that were part of her diet. Overnight I lost my culinary-companion.

Since I'm a stay-home-writer (except when I'm traveling), I cook most of our meals. That means cooking twice. One meal for me (brown sugar ribs, grilled sausage, braised beef, Moroccan preserved lemon chicken) and another for Michelle (tofu with sautéed spinach and shiitake mushrooms, spring vegetable soup, grilled vegetable chopped salad).

Her change in diet caused me to change the way I cooked. Not having animal products to thicken sauces and add layers of flavor hobbled my cooking. Then I discovered three beautifully easy-to-prepare flavor enhancers that are inexpensive and totally vegan. Also, they do not use any oil.

Reduced Balsamic Syrup

When balsamic vinegar is heated over a low flame, water evaporates, leaving behind a dark, flavorful liquid. Amazingly, the vinegar's lip-smacking tartness is transformed into sweetness that retains a touch of acid. The thickened, reduced vinegar tastes very much like expensive, aged balsamic vinegar that sells for as much as $40.00 a pint. 
Use the least expensive balsamic vinegar available. The restaurant supply company, Smart & Final, sells a gallon of Italian balsamic vinegar for $20.00. That one gallon yields a quart of reduced balsamic which in turn will last months.

To make the reduction, use the ratio of 4:1. Four parts of vinegar will yield one part of the reduced liquid. 1 cup of vinegar will produce 1/4 cup of syrup, which will make enough salad dressing for four meals.

The key to the reduction is low heat. Overheating creates a harsh flavor. Allow only a few, occasional small bubbles to appear on the surface of the liquid. As the balsamic reduces, lower the flame.

I reduce a gallon at a time to create 4 eight ounce squeeze bottles. That amount lasts us months. To reduce that much liquid using a low flame can take six to eight hours.

You can make a smaller amount in a few minutes. Just keep in mind the ratio of 4:1 and a low flame.

Onion Jam

All vegetables give off their water when exposed to heat. Cooked over a low flame, thin sliced onions give off a milky liquid that adds to their sweet caramelization. Traditionally onions are sautéed in olive oil to prepare them for soups and stews. To avoid using olive oil simply use a low flame and stir continuously to prevent the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

The onion jam can be refrigerated in airtight containers for a week or frozen for a month. Used as a base to make pasta sauces, soups or braises, the onions add a depth of flavor and sweetness.

In the Basque region of Spain, where pintxos, open faced sandwiches, are popular, room temperature onion jam is spread on grilled bread as the base for imaginative toppings that include charred red and green peppers, fresh wild arugula and quick fried thin strands of green cabbage.

Serves 8
Ingredients

2 pounds yellow onions, washed, ends and skin removed
Sea salt and ground pepper

Directions

Thinly slice the onions the long way, from stem to root. Heat a large pot over a low flame. Add the onions. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Because the onions render slowly, it is helpful to have other things to do in the kitchen. As the onions cook, they give off their liquid. Stir the onions around in the liquid to coat.
In time, the onions will turn golden brown. The longer you cook them, the darker they will get. I like them light brown although some people enjoy the jam when the onions take on a rich, dark brown color. Taste and decide which you like.

Remove from the heat. Let cool and use or refrigerate.

Tomato Essence

Delicious any time of their season, ripe tomatoes are one of nature's wonders. Eaten fresh from the garden, few vegetables can compare with the rich flavor of a summer ripened tomato. For a cook wanting to avoid using oils and for anyone who wants to steer clear of commercially processed food, tomatoes are a great blessing.

With very little effort, roasted tomatoes give up a delicious liquid that can be used as the basis for a salad dressing, soups, pasta sauce and braised dishes.
The technique is the essence of simplicity: turn on the oven, put in the tomatoes, come back in an hour, they're ready to use. To create tomato essence, use a wire mesh strainer or, better yet, a food mill which will separate the solids from the liquids.

It's that easy.
Serves 8

Ingredients

4 pounds ripe, farmers market tomatoes, washed, stems removed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Place the whole tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with nonstick parchment or a Silpat sheet (available in most supermarkets and specialty stores like Sur Le Table or William Sonoma).

Bake one hour or until the tomatoes begin to sag.  Remove and let cool.
There are two liquids available at this point. A clear, light liquid, perfect to make a salad dressing and a thicker liquid with pulp that is a delicious basis for soups, pasta sauces and braised dishes.

To create the first lighter liquid, place the tomatoes in the strainer or food mill over a non-reactive bowl and gently press down. That will release the clear or lighter liquid. Remove, cover and refrigerate.

Place the bowl back under the strainer or food mill and vigorously press the tomatoes until all the liquid and pulp have passed through leaving only the skin and seeds behind.

Remove, cover and refrigerate.

Tomato Essence Salad Dressing
Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup first pressing tomato essence
1 tablespoon reduced balsamic syrup
Sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Substitute the tomato essence for olive oil and mix well with reduced balsamic syrup. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Corn Soup for the End of Summer and Start of Fall

This is my second corn recipe in as many posts. Knowing that corn is about to go out of season makes me want it all the more. 
The recipe for corn soup I wrote for Zester Daily has been picked up by Yahoo's food site, Shine. I'm very happy the word is getting out about a soup I think is easy to make and delicious. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tempura Vegetables and Shrimp Congee

Congee is rice served "wet" in a broth with vegetables, tofu, meat, seafood, or poultry.

Congee is the Asian equivalent of Jewish chicken soup, perfect when the weather is cold and damp or you're fighting off a cold.  Served in a variety of ways, depending on the country of origin or what's in season, the basic dish is made with cooked rice, a liquid, and flavorings.
You'll find dozens of authentic, regional recipes in cookbooks and online, but in our kitchen "congee" is another way of saying repurposed deliciousness.

Whatever we don't eat at a Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai restaurant we bring home. Invariably, a container of rice is included along with the kung pao chicken, tempera shrimp and vegetables, stir fried beef with broccoli, or sweet and sour pork that we couldn't finish. 

Reheating these dishes at home is one option, but transforming them into congee is better.  For example, converting vegetable and shrimp tempura into an aromatic, deeply satisfying and delicious congee is one way this simple technique can turn left-overs into the best comfort food you've ever eaten. 

Tempura Vegetable and Shrimp Congee

Serves 2

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 tempura shrimp, tail removed
4-6 pieces tempura vegetables
1 cup cooked rice
1 garlic clove, skin removed, finely chopped
4 cups spinach leaves, washed to remove grit, stems and leaves finely chopped
4 shiitake mushrooms, washed, tips of the stems removed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or from a can
2 cups water or miso soup or a combination of both
1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Cut the shrimp and tempura vegetables into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Saute on a medium-low flame the garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and corn kernels until lightly browned. 

Add the cut up spinach and water or a mix of miso soup and water. Raise the flame and simmer 10 minutes.

Add the cut up tempura vegetables and shrimp to the broth. Stir well and simmer 10 minutes.

Add the cooked rice, stir well and simmer a final 5 minutes.


Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I Love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was my mother's favorite holiday. She loved the chance to have her family and friends seated around the table, catching up, telling stories,and eating favorite treats.

Most of the time I do the cooking since I work at home and because we have a kitchen the size of a New York closet. Thanksgiving is my wife's day and I happily step to the side, working as a sous chef, assisting her in executing a meal that usually serves between 15-20.

Even though Thanksgiving is a lot of work, the key is organization. Writing up a menu is the first step, then a shopping list, and finally a time-line for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of the meal.

Along with those first steps, we cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so clean up after the meal is easier. Cleaning out the refrigerator makes room for the turkey after we pick it up from the grocery store and so there's space for all those delicious left-overs after the meal.

Besides shopping at the grocery store we visit our local farmers' market to pick up fresh vegetables for the sides dishes: beets, sweet potatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, corn, leeks, and onions.

But the most important part of the meal is the turkey and no turkey is complete without a great stuffing.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1/2 - 1 cup turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add 1/2 cup of the stock, toss well and summer 15 minutes. Add more stock as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper. 

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.

Roast Turkey
The most difficult part about cooking a turkey is size. Even a 15 pound turkey is larger than any roast you'll ever cook, so it's important to have somebody around to help strong-arm the turkey.

The rule of thumb about cooking time is 15-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees but there are so many variables, you can also use a roasting thermometer and, our preferred method, jiggle-the-leg and if it almost comes off, the turkey's done.

There's a lot of talk about whether to brine or not to brine. In the Los Angeles Times, Russ Parsons argued for what he calls a "dry" brine, which means salting the turkey inside and out, then wrapping it in a sealable bag and refrigerating it for one to two days.

Yield: 20-25 servings

Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

1 turkey, 23-25 pounds
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Unwrap the turkey. Remove the packet with the liver, neck, heart, and giblet. Use a pair of pliers to remove the piece of wire that holds the legs. It can be a real pain to get the wire off. Wash the turkey inside and out. Pat dry on the outside.

Reserve the liver to make a turkey chopped liver. Put the neck, heart, and giblet into a large saucepan with a lot of water, at least five inches higher than the turkey pieces. Replenish whatever water boils off.  Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat on the neck falls off if you touch it with a fork. Strain the stock and reserve to use for gravy. Pull the meat off the neck and save to make turkey soup. Use the giblets in the gravy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

The next step is easier with a friend. Drizzle olive oil on the outside of the turkey. Using your hands spread the oil over the entire bird, front and back. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper inside the cavity and on the outside.

To put in the stuffing, either my wife or I holds the turkey upright and steady while the other loosely packs the stuffing inside the large cavity, one handful at a time.

Use 8-12 metal skewers and kitchen string to close the large cavity. Carefully turn the turkey over so you can put stuffing into the top area. Use 6-8 skewers and string to close that cavity.

Use any kind of roasting pan. Whether you use a disposable aluminum foil pan or an expensive stainless steel roasting pan from William Sonoma, the result will be the same. The important thing to remember is the pan must be at least 2" wider than the turkey, otherwise as the bird cooks, its juices will drip onto the bottom of your stove and make a mess. To insure that the turkey browns evenly, you'll need a wire rack.

Place the turkey on the rack, breast down and put into the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

After that, every 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the fat that drips down into the pan. If the skin starts to brown too quickly, put an aluminum tent over the top.

After 3 hours, turn the turkey over. With a large bird this is easier said than done because now the turkey is not only heavy, it's very hot.

Another set of hands is a big help here. My wife and I have choreographed this crucial moment. I lift the roasting pan with the turkey out of the oven, placing it on the cutting board. Michelle stands at the ready with a pot holder in each hand. As I lift the rack with the turkey, she removes the pan. I flip the rack with the turkey onto the cutting board, having first put a kitchen towel along the edge to prevent juices from falling to the floor.

We pour all the juices and fat from the pan into a basting bowl, scrapping off the flavor bits on the bottom of the pan to make gravy.

The rack goes back into the pan. The turkey goes onto the rack, breast side up. After a good basting, the turkey goes back in the oven, covered with an aluminum foil tent.

As the turkey continues to cook, if the wing tips and drumstick ends brown too quickly, wrap them in aluminum foil.

Continue basting every 30 minutes. When the turkey is finished, remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Carve the turkey on a cutting board, removing the wings first, then the legs, thighs, and the breasts. Either place the pieces on the platter whole, to be carved at the table, or sliced for easy serving. Open the cavities and spoon out the stuffing.

Mushroom-Giblet Gravy

While the turkey is cooking, start the gravy.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 turkey giblet, cooked, grizzle removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, tarragon, or Italian parsley
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, finely chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups turkey stock
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Saute the giblet, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add turkey stock and the flavor bits you scraped off the roasting pan, simmer and reduce by 1/3. Taste and adjust the flavors. If too salty, add more stock and a pat of sweet (unsalted) butter.

Reheat before serving.

Turkey Stock

When you're eating Thanksgiving dinner, odds are you aren't thinking about your next meal, but I am. Admittedly, it's a bit obsessive, but before I sit down to join the dinner, all the bones and scraps go into a large pot filled with water. By the time we're clearing the table, the stock is finished.

Turkey stock is rich and flavorful. Perfect for making soups, stews, and pasta sauce, and like chicken stock, freezes beautifully.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 1 hour
Ingredients

1 turkey carcass, skin, scraps
Water

Method

Put the carcass into a large pot. If any of stuffing makes it into the pot, all the better for flavor and richness. Cover the bones with water. Simmer 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate. Pick the meat off the bones to use in a soup or stew.

The stock keeps in the freezer for six months.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vegetable Soup Beats Back the Cold

Fall's brilliantly colored leaves are nature's consolation prize. Summer's warmth becomes a fond memory as the air cools and days grow shorter. Then when we "fall back," gaining an hour--another consolation prize--we're faced with ever encroaching darkness.
Fall is accompanied by a sense of loss and regret as we move inexorably towards winter. For cooks, however, this moment of sad transition is a happy time because we open our cookbooks and pull out recipes for roasts, braised meats, baked squash, and, of course, soups.

For Zesterdaily I posted a vegetarian soup to warm you when the sun disappears at 4:30PM and you feel that chill in the air.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Home Made Matzo Ball Soup for Passover

Making Passover dinner takes a bit of planning, but it doesn't have to be a chore. If you're cooking for a big group, hand out assignments so you don't do all the work. If your kitchen is large enough, invite people over to help. Cooking the dinner with friends and family can be as much a part of a celebration as the meal itself.

Everyone wants to save money these days. But keeping an eye on food costs shouldn't mean cutting corners on quality and flavor. Avoid buying packaged or frozen meals and you'll be way ahead of the game. Besides saving money, you'll be eating healthier food.

For me it's not Passover without matzo ball soup. But soup is only as good as the stock. Canned and packaged chicken broth are very high in salt content and, in my opinion, have an unpleasant flavor. It's much better to make your own.

The broth can be made days ahead, kept in the refrigerator or even frozen. Also, when you buy the chicken, buy a whole one, preferably a free range or organic chicken, and cut it up yourself. Whole chickens cost under $2.00/pound, while chicken parts range from $3.50-$8.00/pound.

Cutting up a Chicken

If you haven't done it before, cutting apart a whole chicken is easier than you think. Having a sharp boning or chef's knife is essential.

To remove the wings, thighs, and legs, slice through the meat and separate at the joints. Cut the wings apart, reserving the tips for the stock. To debone the breasts, glide the knife along the side of the breast bone. As you cut, pull back the breast meat, continuing to slide the knife against the ribs.

For health reasons, I remove the skin and fat from the breasts, legs and thighs. Add the skin and fat to the stock. If you're going to debone the legs and thighs, add those bones to the stock as well.

Drizzle olive oil on the breasts, legs, thighs, and wings. Put them into an air tight container and refrigerate. If you want to freeze them, put the pieces into a Ziploc style plastic bag, squeeze out the air, seal, and freeze.

Here's another tip about freezing the chicken. When you put the pieces into the plastic bag, make sure they don't touch one another. That way, if you need only one piece, say a breast, you can leave the other pieces frozen until you need them.

Chicken Stock

When my mother and grandmother made chicken stock, they added onions, celery, and carrots to the water. I don't because I want the stock to taste of chicken. If I want other flavors, I add them later.

Yield: 2 quarts

Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

Skin, wing tips, carcass, and bones from one 4 1/2 pound chicken
4 quarts water

Method

Put the wing tips, skin, carcass, and bones into a large pot with the water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 60 minutes. Skim off and discard the foam. The volume will reduce by half.

Strain the stock. Pick off any meat from the carcass and reserve for later use in a salad or a chicken-vegetable soup. Discard the bones and skin.

Refrigerate overnight to easily remove the fat solids. If you're rushed for time and need the stock right away, float a slice of bread on top of the stock to absorb the fat.

The stock can be kept in the refrigerator in an air tight container for a day or two or in the freezer for months.

Matzo Ball Soup

Yield: 6-8 servings

Time: 30 minutes

For the matzo balls, we use a mix, but if you want to make them from scratch, Mark Bittman has a very good recipe.

Ingredients

1 box matzo ball mix (no soup), Manischewitz, Rokeach, or Streit's
Other ingredients per the directions on the packaged mix
2 quarts chicken stock

Method

Prepare the matzo balls per the directions on the box. Make them large or small as you like. Remember that the size of the matzo ball will double as it cooks in the salted water. 1 box of mix will make 24 small matzo balls or 12 large ones.

Put the chicken stock into a large pot. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the matzo balls from the salted water to the stock. Heat over a medium flame. Because the matzo balls are delicate, don't let the stock boil.

Serve hot.

In my next post I'll talk about what to do with all those wonderful chicken parts.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Eating Well Makes Good Sense

For those who think that going without meat, sugars, and processed foods means a bland, boring diet, think again. Buying local, seasonal, fresh produce and paying attention to what you eat pays off with big dividends.


The truth is, you'll save money and feel better. What's more, you won't be giving up convenience. Most of these dishes can be made in 30 minutes or less.



Salads


Arugula Salad with Avocado


Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, and Avocados


Arugula Salad with Persimmons and Pomegranate Seeds


Black Kale, Kabocha Squash, Cheddar Cheese and Almonds

Bulgar Salad with Celery



Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins


Chopped Parsley Salad



Cole Slaw with Capers


Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables


Egg Salad


Farmers' Market Fresh Chopped Vegetable Salad


Grilled Corn Salads


Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad


Grilled Vegetables


Parsley-Grilled Corn Salad


Potato Salad with Corn


Risotto with Summer Vegetables


Roasted Beet Salad


Salad-e Shirazi: Iranian Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, and Onions


Spinach Salad


Tomato and Avocado Salad


Tomato, Avocado, Corn and Garlic Toast Salad


Wilted Spinach Salad

Soups, Snacks, Sauces, and Side Dishes


The Amazingly Versatile Blackened Pepper


Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sauteed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms


Braised Sprouted Broccoli

Cannelini Beans with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach



Caramelized Vegetable Pasta

Chermoula Sauce for Salads, Side Dishes, and Entrees




An Easy Saute with Brussels Sprouts and Carrots


Grilled Artichokes


Grilled Corn on the Cob


Grilled Vegetables


Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetable Saute


Homemade Vegetable Soup

Kale Sauteed with Garlic and Farm Fresh Vegetables



Kimchi Ramen Soup


Kosher Pickles



Mushroom Soup


Potatoes, Mashed, for Breakfast


Quesadillas, Open Faced


Ramen Soup with Kimchi and Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetables


Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Roasted Garlic-Tomato Sauce


Roasted Tomatoes


Roasted Tomato Sauce


Salt Crusted Fingerling Potatoes


Salt Steamed Broccoli


Sauteed Beet Greens


Sauteed Kale with Vegetables


Steamed Artichokes


Summer Vegetable Risotto


Sweet Potatoes Grilled


Sweet Potato Inari Sushi


Tapenade the Frugal Cook's Secret Weapon


Tomato-Vegetable Soup


Tomatoes, Roasted, for Easy-to-Make Sauce


Tomatoes, Roasted Whole or Sliced


Vegetable Soup


Vegetable Soup for Cold Weather


Entrees


Brown Sugar Pork Ribs


Chicken Wings with Kimchi Glaze

Curry, Easy-to-Make

Ginger-Soy Sauce Poached Black Cod

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Toasts

Ginger-Soy Black Cod

Green Garlic and Clams

Grilled Shrimp

Grilled Shrimp with a Tex-Mex Dry Rub


Kimchi Chicken Wings

Low Cal Breaded Fish Fillets


Israeli Couscous with Vegetables

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

Native American-Style Salmon

Pasta Alla Checca

Pasta with Roasted Corn and Garlic

Ribs, Brown Sugar Glaze

Risotto with Farmers' Market Fresh Squash Blossoms and Baby Zucchini

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Shiitake Mushroom Pasta

Salmon with a Garlic-Citrus Glaze

Sauteed Fish with Capers, Corn, and Tomatoes



Skewered Cherry Tomatoes

Tequila Glazed Shrimp

Tofu, Beet Greens, and Brown Rice

Tofu with Crispy Toppings


Desserts



Baked Cherries

Baked Plums

Custard

Fig Tart with Crystalized Ginger Crust and Roasted Almonds

Honey Poached Apples and Pears with Cinnamon, Vanilla, Raisins, and Peppercorns

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to Store Shiitakes and a Mushroom Soup That's Perfect for Chilly Days

At most supermarkets, shiitakes aren't cheap so they have to be used sparingly. But at Asian markets, they're inexpensive. $3.99/pound at Mitsuwa in Santa Monica and $2.69/pound at SF Supermarket in Little Saigon. At those prices, it's reasonable to buy several pounds.

In general, shiitakes come in two forms: the slender stemmed variety and the ones which are fatter, with thicker stems and caps. Mitsuwa and SF Supermarket sell the fatter variety, which have a meater flavor.

With so many on hand, they can be used liberally in pastas and soups, grilled, and sautéed with garlic and shallots.

But how to store the ones not eaten those first couple of days?

Everyone knows that mushrooms should only be stored in the refrigerator in paper bags because kept in plastic they quickly go bad. Use a brown paper bag--not a white one, which is coated with wax so the moisture stays inside the bag--in combination with paper towels. The moisture that normally accumulates on the outside of the mushroom is absorbed by the layers of paper.

Kept in the refrigerator another week or two, the brown paper bag-paper towel combination acts as a dehydrator pefectly drying the mushrooms. This technique only works successfully with shiitakes.

If by chance any of the dried shiitakes develop mold, discard and keep the good ones. In my experience, more than 95% will dehydrate without harm.

To reconstitute dried shiitakes, put them in a heat proof bowl, pour in enough boiling water to cover, place a smaller bowl on top to keep the mushrooms submerged. Leave for 30 minutes until they soften.

Gently squeeze out the water but reserve the liquid for later use. Cut and discard the stems. At this point the mushroom caps can be cooked as if they were fresh.

Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Garlic

Shiitakes have a meaty, sweet flavor that is deliciously satisfying in this easy-to-make soup, perfect for a drizzly winter day.

Yield: Serves 4

Time: 45 minutes

Ingedients

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, fresh (stems and caps) or reconstituted (stems removed), washed, thin sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
4 shallots or 1 small yellow onion, peeled, findely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a large sauce pan, sauté the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots with the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock and, if using reconstituted mushrooms, 1/2 cup of the soaking water. Simmer 30 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

Variations

Substitute water for the chicken stock to make a vegetarian version, in which case simmer the mushrooms a bit longer and add 1 tablespoon of butter for flavor

Season with 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Add to the saute 4 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped

Add to the saute and brown 2 Italian sausages, roughly chopped,

Add to the saute and brown 1 chicken breast, roughly chopped

Add to the saute 1 cup fresh, deveined shrimp, roughly chopped

Add to the soup 1/4 cup cream and 1 tablespoon butter

Add to the soup at the end 2 packages ramen noodles cooked first in boiling water for 10 minutes then divided equally among the 4 servings

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey, Cornbread Stuffing, and Mushroom Gravy

Thanksgiving was my mother's favorite holiday. She loved the chance to have her family and friends seated around the table, catching up, telling stories,and eating favorite treats.

Most of the time I do the cooking since I work at home and because we have a kitchen the size of a New York closet. Thanksgiving is my wife's day and I happily step to the side, working as a sous chef, assisting her in executing a meal that usually serves between 15-20.

Even though Thanksgiving is a lot of work, the key is organization. Writing up a menu is the first step, then a shopping list, and finally a time-line for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of the meal.

Along with those first steps, we cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so clean up after the meal is easier. Cleaning out the refrigerator makes room for the turkey after we pick it up from the grocery store and so there's space for all those delicious left-overs after the meal.

Besides shopping at the grocery store we visit our local farmers' market to pick up fresh vegetables for the sides dishes: beets, sweet potatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, corn, leeks, and onions.

But the most important part of the meal is the turkey and no turkey is complete without a great stuffing.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add stock and summer 15 minutes.

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.

Roast Turkey

The most difficult part about cooking a turkey is size. Even a 15 pound turkey is larger than any roast you'll ever cook, so it's important to have somebody around to help strong-arm the turkey.

The rule of thumb about cooking time is 15-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees but there are so many variables, you can also use a roasting thermometer and, our preferred method, jiggle-the-leg and if it almost comes off, the turkey's done.

There's a lot of talk about whether to brine or not to brine. In the Los Angeles Times, Russ Parsons argued for what he calls a "dry" brine, which means salting the turkey inside and out, then wrapping it in a sealable bag and refrigerating it for one to two days.

Yield: 20-25 servings

Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

1 turkey, 23-25 pounds
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Unwrap the turkey. Remove the packet with the liver, neck, heart, and giblet. Use a pair of pliers to remove the piece of wire that holds the legs. It can be a real pain to get the wire off. Wash the turkey inside and out. Pat dry on the outside.

Reserve the liver to make a turkey chopped liver. Put the neck, heart, and giblet into a large saucepan with a lot of water, at least five inches higher than the turkey pieces. Replenish whatever water boils off. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat on the neck falls off if you touch it with a fork. Strain the stock and reserve to use for gravy. Pull the meat off the neck and save to make turkey soup. Use the giblets in the gravy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

The next step is easier with a friend. Drizzle olive oil on the outside of the turkey. Using your hands spread the oil over the entire bird, front and back. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper inside the cavity and on the outside.

To put in the stuffing, either my wife or I holds the turkey upright and steady while the other loosely packs the stuffing inside the large cavity, one handful at a time.

Use 8-12 metal skewers and kitchen string to close the large cavity. Carefully turn the turkey over so you can put stuffing into the top area. Use 6-8 skewers and string to close that cavity.

Use any kind of roasting pan. Whether you use a disposable aluminum foil pan or an expensive stainless steel roasting pan from William Sonoma, the result will be the same. The important thing to remember is the pan must be at least 2" wider than the turkey, otherwise as the bird cooks, its juices will drip onto the bottom of your stove and make a mess. To insure that the turkey browns evenly, you'll need a wire rack.

Place the turkey on the rack, breast down and put into the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

After that, every 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the fat that drips down into the pan. If the skin starts to brown too quickly, put an aluminum tent over the top.

After 3 hours, turn the turkey over. With a large bird this is easier said than done because now the turkey is not only heavy, it's very hot.

Another set of hands is a big help here. My wife and I have choreographed this crucial moment. I lift the roasting pan with the turkey out of the oven, placing it on the cutting board. Michelle stands at the ready with a pot holder in each hand. As I lift the rack with the turkey, she removes the pan. I flip the rack with the turkey onto the cutting board, having first put a kitchen towel along the edge to prevent juices from falling to the floor.

We pour all the juices and fat from the pan into a basting bowl, scrapping off the flavor bits on the bottom of the pan to make gravy.

The rack goes back into the pan. The turkey goes onto the rack, breast side up. After a good basting, the turkey goes back in the oven, covered with an aluminum foil tent.

As the turkey continues to cook, if the wing tips and drumstick ends brown too quickly, wrap them in aluminum foil.

Continue basting every 30 minutes. When the turkey is finished, remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Carve the turkey on a cutting board, removing the wings first, then the legs, thighs, and the breasts. Either place the pieces on the platter whole, to be carved at the table, or sliced for easy serving. Open the cavities and spoon out the stuffing.

Mushroom-Giblet Gravy

While the turkey is cooking, start the gravy.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 turkey giblet, cooked, grizzle removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, tarragon, or Italian parsley
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, finely chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups turkey stock
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Saute the giblet, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add turkey stock and the flavor bits you scraped off the roasting pan, simmer and reduce by 1/3. Taste and adjust the flavors. If too salty, add more stock and a pat of sweet (unsalted) butter.

Reheat before serving.

Turkey Stock

When you're eating Thanksgiving dinner, odds are you aren't thinking about your next meal, but I am. Admittedly, it's a bit obsessive, but before I sit down to join the dinner, all the bones and scraps go into a large pot filled with water. By the time we're clearing the table, the stock is finished.

Turkey stock is rich and flavorful. Perfect for making soups, stews, and pasta sauce, and like chicken stock, freezes beautifully.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 1 hour
Ingredients

1 turkey carcass, skin, scraps
Water

Method

Put the carcass into a large pot. If any of stuffing makes it into the pot, all the better for flavor and richness. Cover the bones with water. Simmer 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate. Pick the meat off the bones to use in a soup or stew.

The stock keeps in the freezer for six months.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic-Parsley Toasts

Cioppino is said to have originated among fishermen who made their dinners out of the fish and shellfish they couldn't sell in the morning. Although it has evolved into a pricey item on upscale menus, at heart cioppino is comfort food.

Traditionally cioppino features fresh crab, reflecting the origin of the dish in San Francisco where Dungeness crabs are plentiful. When crab isn't available or affordable, shrimp works just as well. Clams and mussels are essential to the dish, as are cubes of fish fillets. Flounder sole, tilapia, salmon, or halibut all work well.

Find a reliable supplier of seafood. To ensure we're getting the freshest ingredients, we buy our clams and mussels from Carlsbad Aqua Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market (Wednesday and Sunday) and our flounder sole from Tropical Seafood at the Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market (Sunday).

Tomatoes
are as important to making cioppino as is good quality seafood. If the tomatoes are roasted, the soup has a beautiful sweetness edged with the tomato's natural acidity.

One of the helpful aspects of this dish is that many of the elements can be prepared ahead and frozen for later use. I pick up overly ripe tomatoes at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market when they're discounted. I'll buy several pounds, roast them, freezing some whole in an air tight container and turning the rest into tomato sauce, which I also freeze.

The clams and mussels can be cooked, taken out of their shells, and frozen. If the meat is submerged in the broth, there's no danger of freezer burn. The fish fillets can be cut into 1/2" squares, tossed in olive oil, and frozen in a Ziploc bag. That way all the essential parts of the cioppino are waiting in the freezer whenever you want a taste treat.

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes

While serving cioppino with shellfish in the shell is more picturesque, my vote is to take the clams, mussels, and crab out of their shells so eating the dish is easier.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes plus 45-60 minutes for the tomatoes

Ingredients

6 large ripe tomatoes, washed
8 cloves garlic, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems
1/2 pound mushrooms--shiitake or brown--washed, thinly sliced
1 pound Dungeness crab legs, cooked, washed, cut into 1" pieces or 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, cut into 1" pieces
2 pounds butter or little neck clams, washed
2 pounds mussels, washed, beards removed
1 pound fish fillet--sole, salmon, tilapia, or halibut--washed, cut into 1/2" cubes
Olive oil
Black pepper

Method

Roasting the Tomatoes

Remove the remnants of the stem at the top of the tomato and discard. Put the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil sheet on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl, reserving all the liquid on the bottom of the baking tray. When cooled to the touch, remove the skins and discard. With your fingers, tear the tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.

Parsley-Garlic Toasts

To make the parsley-garlic toasts, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, seasoned with half the garlic and parsley. Make two slices for each person. Saute the bread on each side until lightly browned.

Cioppino

In a large stock pot, drizzle olive oil on the bottom, heat on a low flame, saute the remaining garlic and parsley until softened. Add 1/4 cup water, the clams and mussels, turn the flame to high, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove all the clams and mussels that have opened. If any are still closed, put the cover back on and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Any clams and mussels that still haven't opened at that point should be discarded.

Slowly pour the broth into a large bowl. Discard any grit remaining in the stock pot. Return the pot to the stove, drizzle more olive oil, and saute the mushrooms over a low flame until lightly browned. Add the broth and roasted tomato pulp and sauce. Simmer 15 minutes.

Add the fish fillets, stir well, and cook 5 minutes. Add the crab or shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add the mussels and clams, stirring them into the broth, being careful not to break apart the fish fillets. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Place 1 slice of garlic-parsley toast on the bottom of each bowl, add the cioppino, then place the 2nd slice on top.

Variations

Instead of garlic cloves in the cioppino saute, use 1 whole green garlic, outer skin of the bulb and root end removed, white and green parts thinly sliced

Add 1 cup cubes of cooked, peeled potato, preferably Yukon Gold or fingerlings, unpeeled and quartered

Add kernels from 1 grilled corn on the cob

Substitute cilantro for the parsley

Saute thin rounds of Italian sausage or chorizo, add to the broth

Use 1/4 cup white instead of water

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Vegetarian Feast

Tomorrow my wife Michelle comes home after being on the road for three weeks. Working out of town, she hasn't had very many sit-down meals. When she gets home I figured she would appreciate a home cooked meal.

Since she prefers vegetarian dishes, I wanted her to have something simple like soup, a salad (maybe a carrot, spinach, or arugula salad), and a dish of poached fruit. A flavorful, healthy meal would get her back on track after so many days eating on the go.

Vegetarian Tomato Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

6 celery stalks, including the leaves, washed, finely chopped
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled (save the peels), finely chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
1 bunch beet greens and stems, washed, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, washed, peeled, stem and top removed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 large farmers' market fresh tomato, washed, stem removed, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
10 cups water

Method

The best vegetables are available at farmers' markets. The beet greens and stalks add a rich sweetness but if you aren't going to buy beets, ask any of the farmers if they'll give you the stalks that people don't want. More often than not, they'll give you a big bunch for free.

Put the chopped tomato on a cutting board or in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Let the tomato marinate while you make the vegetable stock.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot. Add all the celery leaves and half the stalks. Saute until lightly browned, then add the carrot peelings and half the carrots, all the parsley stems, half the beet greens and stems, half the onion, and half the chopped garlic. Stir frequently until lightly browned. Add 8 cups of water. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables. Reserve the liquid.

In the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the remaining vegetables and lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Add the marinated tomato, the remaining 2 cups of water, and the vegetable stock.

Simmer 30 minutes, taste, adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper, and serve.

Variations

Add 1 teaspoon cumin when you're making the stock.

Use cilantro instead of parsley.

Use kale instead of the beet greens.

Top with toasted croutons and grated Parmesan cheese.

Just before serving, add 1/4 cup cooked brown rice for each bowl.

Honey Poached Apples and Pears with Vanilla, Raisins, Cinnamon, and Black Peppercorns

Yield: serves 4-6
Time: 20 minutes

The peppercorns add a bit of heat. Personally, I enjoy eating the candied peppercorns, but they're too spicy for most people.

Ingredients

3 ripe pears, Bartlet or Anjou, washed, peeled, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces
3 ripe apples, Fuji or Granny Smith, washed, peeled, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces
20 black peppercorns
2 sticks cinnamon
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic raisins
2 cups water

Method

Put the water, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, raisins, and peppercorns into a medium-sized saucepan and simmer.

Cook the apples and pears separately. Add the pears to the poaching liquid and simmer 5 minutes. Carefully remove the pears and place into a jar or bowl. Add the apples and poach for 5 minutes. Remove and place into a separate jar or bowl.

Reduce the poaching liquid until only 1 cup remains. Divide the thickened sauce between the apples and pears.

The apples and pears will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Serve either at room temperature or reheated. The fruit is delicious by itself but also good as a topping for pound cake, yogurt, cottage cheese, or ice cream.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Oklahoma Road Trip: Chicken Soup and Apple Pie

On a trip through Oklahoma, I was reminded again how deliciously satisfying homemade food can be in restaurants off the beaten path.

We had traveled north from Tulsa, stopping in Pawhuska to visit Ryan Red Corn whose t-shirt company Demockratees is an internet sensation.

Ryan's politically savvy t-shirt designs speak to his reaction to the Bush administration's policies. With Barack Obama's election, Ryan has the opportunity to use his considerable talent to create more inspirational designs.

For breakfast Ryan and his dad, Raymond, took us to a local institution, Sally's Cafe. With a long counter out front and an over-sized table behind the kitchen, Sally's is an authentic diner from the 1930's.

Sitting at a table in the back where Sally was making pies, we had a country breakfast that was as good as it gets; farm fresh eggs, potatoes browned in butter, and home cured ham that was a perfect balance of sweet and salty. For dessert we had a piece of Sally's fresh apple pie, the crust perfectly flaky, the apples soft and tart with just a hint of cinnamon.

Heading south-west, we drove to Pawnee on our way back to Tulsa, passing through countryside that varied from open pasture land to starkly beautiful, wooded hill country. After the long drive we were definitely ready for a big lunch.

Just off Highway 64 in Pawnee, we stopped at Click's Steakhouse. Soup and salad were included in the lunch specials. Everything we ordered (steak, baked potatoes, fried okra, and a hamburger steak) was good, but the homemade soup revived us after so many hours on the road. I couldn't get Click's recipe so I'm offering up my own that adheres to Click's reliance on fresh ingredients.

Chicken Soup With Mushrooms & Rice

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1/2 cup cooked rice (wild, Japanese, or Chinese)
1/2 cup brown mushrooms (washed, thinly sliced)
1/2 cup cooked chicken breast (shredded into bite sized pieces)
1/4 cup celery (washed, finely diced)
1/4 cup yellow onion (washed, peeled, finely diced)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley (washed, leaves only, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Heat the olive oil and lightly brown the mushrooms, celery, onions, and parsley. Add the chicken breast and stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Before serving, add the rice and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with bread, rolls, or croutons.