Category Archives: soup

Leek Duo … from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

The first time I ever tasted leeks was in soup made from a packet of “Knorr Cream of Leek”. It was creamy and subtly flavoured and became my ‘standard’ of a leek soup. This soup surpasses that in flavour, nutrition and, time wise, it’s not bad either.

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

I didn’t use any thickeners (cream, cornstarch or flour) to make this soup, other than the two diced potatoes. Although I was tempted to use bacon fat to sautee the 1/2 cup of diced onions, one clove of minced garlic and one large sliced leek, I decided to use 2 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper to highlight the subtle flavours of the leeks. I wish I had had some home made chicken stock, but I didn’t, so I used a tablespoon of low sodium “Better than Bouillon” to 4 cups of water, which isn’t bad at all. The thickness of the soup was perfect for me, but if you find that as your soup cools, it gets too thick, you can thin it out with some extra chicken stock, or even just some water, in a pinch. Check for seasoning before serving, in that case.

I often make pizza dough from scratch but, having a package or two of flatbreads or flour tortillas, in the freezer, is convenient for quick, last minute meals.

Shiso Pesto, Roasted Leek and Paneer Flatbread Pizza

I ran across some tasty pizza topping ideas using leeks in my recent web search and adapted them to what I had on hand so the leeks sauteed in white wine and cream became leftover roasted leeks with a base of shiso pesto, from the freezer. And, instead of goat cheese, I crumbled some home made paneer cheese, also from the freezer, over the leeks. A sprinkle of green onion for a fresh touch was added, about half way through the baking process and, before serving, grated Parmesan cheese was sprinkled over the top.

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Pork and Leek Mapo Tofu Ramen … and other Porky Dishes

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, pork is one of the most inexpensive proteins available in Ontario. At less than $2 a pound, on sale, you can get a lot of good meals out of a pork butt (transformed into pulled pork) or a brined loin (peameal bacon roast).

Lean ground pork sometimes goes on sale as well, but other than pork and shrimp wontons/potstickers (wonton wrappers needed and more time than I wanted to invest), I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make. And then I remembered that I hadn’t made mapo tofu in some time. So, I bought a package of tofu (silken for a change) and a bundle of leeks and made a pot. I used some of the meat/veggie/tofu mixture for ramen soup and then thickened the remainder and topped plain long grain rice with it.

ETA: Instead of pork, ground chicken or beef may be used in this dish. Or just leave out the meat entirely. Mushrooms, broccoli or bok choy may be substituted for the leeks.

Mapo Tofu Ramen – Not sure how to deal with this gorgeous bowl of soup? Pile some of your noodles, meat and veggies into your little spoon for eating neatly and then sip the broth. Repeat until it’s all gone.

 

For ramen soup … you need ramen noodles. And those cheap (2 for $1) individual dry noodle soup packages are convenient. Throw away the seasoning packet inside.

I mean it.

Throw it away!

If you’re not planning on having leftovers, feel free to use silken tofu, which practically melts into your hot soup, for the mapo tofu. However, if you’re going to have some left for a second meal, use medium-firm or firm tofu which stands up to reheating in the microwave. Only a few changes are needed to turn your mapo tofu into mapo tofu soup. Use 3 cups of chicken stock instead of only one. And, you won’t need that cornstarch for thickening your meat/veggie/tofu.

Omurice – One or two egg omelette wrapped around pulled pork fried rice and garnished with ketchup. The pulled pork came from the freezer.

 

Peameal bacon roast – I haven’t roasted one of these tasty lean cuts of pork for quite some time. Sliced and served for supper it’s delicious. Leftovers may be quickly pan seared to reheat/brown and served for breakfast along with fried eggs, hashed browns or whatever you prefer.

 

Re-post of Old Standbys

PICSPAM BELOW:

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to research/cook/post new recipes. So I dig out the tried and true recipes of the past. Pork is featured in some form in almost everything below, except for the chili.

Like pork crackling biscuits.

I use bacon fat instead of lard or butter for the lamination.

You don’t need to cross-hatch the top of the dough before cutting out the biscuits, but it does make them pretty.

Ham and bean (pinto) soup flavoured with bay leaves and thyme

Chili topped tostadas

Debrecener (Hungarian style pork) smoked sausages served over sauteed coleslaw flavoured with balsamic vinegar

Sometimes I just fry the sliced sausage rings and serve them with fried eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast.

Pizzas made with Greek flatbread

… or with my regular white bread/pizza dough. Half of the dough was used to make a 12 inch diameter pepperoni, mozzarella and fresh basil pizza and the rest was shaped into buns for work lunches.

Nice fluffy crumb in the pizza crust

Underside of the buns – baked for 20 minutes at 400 deg F then basted with melted butter

Slow Weekend for Cooking … Soup, Bread, Mayonnaise and Hummus

Parts of the world need rain but here, in south-western Ontario, we’ve had rain 4 out of the last 5 days, including this weekend. A bit of sun would be greatly appreciated. Since I have lots of food in the freezer, I decided to take a break from cooking … though I did want to use up the last few leaves of kale in my crisper, and some of the sweet peppers I bought on sale (4-pack for $1.88) since areas were getting ‘soft’. The carrots are getting a bit tired too. And, for a change of pace, I soaked some white quinoa to add to the soup in place of rice, potatoes or pasta/noodles.

The result, a Veggie, Turkey and Quinoa soup with the tiny bit of turkey breast left in the fridge after eating it for most of the past week.

If you have some diced tomatoes (canned or fresh) or marinara sauce, you can add that to the soup as well. I just had some tomato paste, so, with that, dried thyme and chicken stock, I made this delicious soup.

Work lunches need bread and since I prefer buns, I made a batch of yeast dough and played with the shaping. Some of it ended up as kaiser rolls (~70 gm) and the rest … well, with Halloween and Thanksgiving (US) ahead, and the Canadian one behind, I shaped some of the dough into pretty little pumpkins (~50 gm) with a whole clove for a stem. For a bit of texture/nutrition/fun, I added a cup of finely ground and sifted rolled oats in the dough in place of a cup of all purpose flour.

Rolled Oats Flour Bread

 

Rolled Oats/Ground Oatmeal Bread – makes ~840 gms of dough

1 cup milk, scalded
2 tbsp butter
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups flour (1 cup rolled oats, fine ground and ~3 cups AP flour), divided
1 tsp salt

Scald the milk in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. Stir in the butter and let cool until just barely warm.

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 1 tsp out of the total sugar. Stir in or sprinkle on the dry yeast. Let sit in a warm place to proof until the yeast is nice and foamy (5-10 min).

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the finely ground rolled oats, 1 cup of the flour and the salt.

Whisk in the warm milk mixture and the proofed yeast. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, starting with about 1/3 of a cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir and forms a ball around your wooden spoon.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, using part of the reserved flour. Knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with the mixing bowl, and let rest for about 5 min. Continue kneading for another 5 minutes until you have a firm but supple dough. Shape the dough into a round ball.

Add a couple of tsp of vegetable oil to a large bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl and roll around several times to coat the ball of dough. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap or a damp towel (so the surface doesn’t dry out) and place in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 45 min. An electric oven with just the light on works well.

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.

Shaping:

I cut the dough in half (>400 gms each), and shaped one half into 8(~50 gm) pumpkin rolls) and the other half into 6 (~70 gm) kaiser rolls. I let the rolls proof for about 30 minutes in a warm place, covered, then brushed the top with a whole egg beaten well with 1 tbsp of cold water, and then baked the rolls until well browned (15-20 min) and cooked through.

Let cool on wire rack.

For Pigs in Blankets:

300 gms of dough was rolled out into a 6 inch by 12 inch rectangle and cut across the short side into 1 inch strips and then wrapped around each Jumbo hot dog. The wrapped sausages were placed on a baking sheet and baked, unglazed, for 15-18 min, until the top was a golden brown and the bottom was firm and lightly golden as well.

Tasty sandwiches sometimes need a spread, like mayonnaise, and since I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I made a batch of blender mayonnaise. It failed on the first try, so I poured the oily mixture into a measuring cup, added a 3rd egg yolk, a squirt of French’s mustard and a bit of lemon juice back to the blender cup and then slowly poured in the failed oil mixture while my immersion blender was running again. Success. (Every once in a while I get a mayo fail, but I never throw it away. It’s worth adding another egg yolk or 2 to get a thick creamy mayo. In fact, it may have been a bit TOO thick.)

There was one red pepper in my 4-pack, so while my oven was still hot from baking the rolls, I cut it up, brushed some oil over the top, put the pepper on a lined baking sheet and then placed the sheet under the broiler to blister and turn black in places. Peeled and added to a batch of hummus, it made for another great sandwich spread or dip for veggies or pita breads.

Red Pepper Hummus

PS: I made dessert, too, but I’ll save that for a separate post.

August/Summer Wrap-Up … Butter Saffron Basmati Rice and Pepperoni Pizza Sourdough Bread Loaf

PICTURE HEAVY WARNING

Summer has been much too short. Of course, I didn’t get much accomplished. In fact, I can’t even remember the semi-ambitious plans I had made.

Next year, I’m going to have to make and post a list of To Do‘s to keep me on track.

I hope work calls are more frequent this fall than last year and that my insomnia doesn’t flare up again. Going to bed at 5am is a bad habit and I need to get my sleep patterns back on track if I keep getting 6am phone calls to work.

And now, for a quick clear out of dishes I’ve cooked and pictures that I haven’t shared in August. Posting should slow  down quite a bit as work starts again.

I made butter saffron basmati rice with which to serve some leftover green chicken curry.

Butter Saffron Basmati Rice – ~3 cups

1 cup basmati rice
1 1/3 cup water
1 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 tsp salt

Saffron garnish
pinch or two of saffron threads
2 tbsp boiling water

Combine the boiling water and the saffron threads in a small bowl/ramekin and set aside.

Cooking the rice:

Wash the rice in several changes of cold water and then pour into a colander and drain.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the drained rice. Saute for a minute or two. Add the water and salt to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to the minimum setting on your stove and cover.

Cook for 20 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the rice continue to steam for another 5-10 minutes.

Fluff with a fork. Every rice grain should be separate from every other. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle the saffron over the top.

Serve.

I tested the suggestion that using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour in my sourdough baking would give me better oven spring. The result did not bear that out but as I made some other changes to my ‘go to’ no-knead sourdough recipe, they’re not conclusive. The add-ins (1 oz diced hot pepperette, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, 2 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, and 1 tsp Italian herb seasonings), at least, gave me a very tasty, if flat, oval loaf of pepperoni pizza bread.

It was great as a dip for marinara sauce and toasted or plain, with butter, peanut butter or as a base for an open faced egg salad sandwich.

 

Mushroom and Tofu Egg Drop Miso Soup – It’s hard to take a nice picture of miso soup

A shrimp appetizer

Shrimp and Mushroom Scampi over home made Fettuccine pasta

Some breakfasts/lunches

 

Spicy pepperoni and mozzarella cheese stuffed omelette

Sourdough tortilla pizzas have been appearing often on my plate – from the classic pepperoni/mozzarella, with or without sweet peppers, Canadian bacon and fresh basil to pulled pork/bbq sauce to shrimp or mushroom on a base of shiso pesto. A bacon and mozzarella pizza made today isn’t pictured.

 

 

I was sure I had some fudgy chocolate cupcakes in the downstairs freezer for a quick dessert (even had a frosting idea that I was excited about) but then I had to scramble for a new plan when I discovered that I had eaten them all up, and all that was left were nine red velvet cupcakes. Making a cream cheese frosting was my immediate thought and, after weighing what was left of the last brick of Philly cream cheese (77 gm) in  my fridge, I searched my hard drive for one of the many ‘one day, I must try this’ frosting recipes that I could scale down. I was very pleased with the result … a thick, pipeable frosting with a touch of lemon juice to cut through the cloying sweetness of so many cream cheese frostings.

The last of the raspberry cupcakes with raspberry curd

Basic Corn Chowder … Chicken/Turkey or Bacon Variations

Just a quick info dump for those who aren’t familiar with chowders. A chowder is a hearty potato based soup which is often thickened with a flour roux and/or milk or cream.

For healthier alternatives, a puree of corn kernels or potatoes may be a good substitute thickener. Mixed seafood, fish or clams are seen in some versions, and there’s nothing as tasty as a chicken or turkey chowder with a decidedly southwestern or Tex-Mex twist with the addition of diced green chiles or a prepared chile verde. Ham and potato chowders are a great choice for meat lovers while for vegetarians, a vegetable stock base and the addition of roasted corn, sweet red peppers and even mushrooms, satisfy.

NOTE: For other chowders I’ve made in the past, search the ‘soup’ tag in LJ and for ‘chowders’ in the search bar at the bottom of the page in WordPress.

I set aside three bbq roasted corn on the cob a while ago and, after cutting off the kernels, added the cobs to the pot along with a mix of  chicken and turkey carcasses and made a very flavourful stock for the base of this chowder.

Basic Corn Chowder – serves 6-8

1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cups vegetable stock, flavoured with corn cobs (or 4 cups of vegetable stock and 2 cups of milk, half and half or whipping cream)
3 cups roasted corn kernels, cut off the cob
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (optional)
3-4 medium, potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste, start with 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper and adjust at the end

Flour Slurry

2 tbsp flour and 1/4 cup of cold water

Combine the flour and water in a small jar with a lid and shake until you get a smooth mixture.

Making the Chowder

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the diced onion in the vegetable oil until it’s translucent. Add the diced celery and continue sauteing for a few more minutes until the onion just begins to get some colour around the edges but does not brown.

Add the diced potatoes, stock, corn kernels, thyme and salt and pepper to the pot, cover with a lid and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the slurry to the pot and continue to simmer for at least 5 minutes until the chowder is thickened. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Serve.

Chowder Variations: For a chicken/turkey version, use a chicken or mixed poultry stock and add the shredded meat of choice (1-2 cups) along with the potatoes.

For a bacon version, use bacon fat instead of vegetable oil to saute the onions. Add about 1/2 cup of chopped crispy bacon to the pot of chowder just before serving and stir in to distribute evenly. If you prefer your bacon crunchy, sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the bacon over each bowl as a last minute garnish.

COOKING TIP: Soup can be thickened at the BEGINNING of the cooking process by making a roux of equal parts oil/butter and flour and then adding the liquid. During the cooking process, the soup gradually thickens so care must be taken to stir to the bottom of the soup pot in case the flour settles and scorches. Or, it may be thickened at the END by adding a slurry of flour and cold water, mixed or shaken together in a small jar until no lumps remain, to the pot of soup, and letting it cook together for another 5-10 minutes until thickened. Another way to thicken soup, at the end of the cooking process, is to combine equal amounts of flour and softened butter to form a kind of paste (beurre manie or ‘kneaded butter’) and then add lumps of this mixture to the soup, stirring well so it dissolves and gradually thickens the soup.

Eight cups of corn and turkey chowder for the freezer

Chicken Thighs … Green Curry, Crispy Chicken Skin and Schmaltz

I came home with a tray of chicken thighs last week and got to work peeling off the skin, before I began to de-bone them. And then I took a good look at that pile of skin and fat. A quick visit to my desktop, and I came up with a couple of bonus items, from what would have been discarded.

Crispy Chicken Skin … is also known as “chicharron” in Latin America, Spain and parts of the US. And “gribenes” in Jewish cooking.

Crispy Chicken Skin/Chicharron/Gribenes

2-3 pounds of chicken thighs

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel the skin from the thighs. Trim the excess fat from the skin, rinse it, drain and place the fat on the baking sheet.

Rinse and pat dry the skin and stretch it out in one layer on the lined baking sheet. Roast, checking every 5 minutes. Drain as rendered fat accumulates.

It should take 20-25 minutes to get the skin crispy enough, but you may want to continue for another 5 minutes, if you want a darker colour. Be careful not to burn the skin.

Drain the skin on paper towels.

Break into shards and serve with guacamole in place of tortilla chips.

Next time, I may chop up the chicken skins and put them in a frying pan over medium heat. After draining off the fat (or schmaltz) as it renders down, I’ll add sliced onions and continue cooking until everything becomes crispy and delicious. They make a great topping to noodle dishes or an ingredient in potato latkes according to readings and advice from a Jewish fellow blogger.

Here’s a shot of the entire results from seven chicken thighs.

Speaking of Schmaltz … I ended up with about 1/2 a cup of the golden liquid fat which I will use later.

ETA (08/04/2017): Chicken soup with grizgaluska (Hungarian cream of wheat dumplings) made with the schmaltz.

Hungarian Cream of Wheat Dumplings (Grizgaluska) – makes ~20 tbsp sized dumplings, 10 servings at 2 dumplings per person

2 eggs
1 cup Cream of Wheat
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp butter**, slightly melted

** vegetable oil or melted chicken fat (schmaltz) may also be used

Beat the eggs in a small bowl, then stir in the cream of wheat, salt, baking powder and butter. Let rest for 10-15 minutes so the cream of wheat can fully absorb the liquid.

Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Season well with salt. You may want to turn the heat down a bit so the water is not boiling furiously as you may break up the dumplings, especially if they’re on the soft side.

Dip a soup spoon into the hot water and then scoop out a scant tablespoon or so of the stiff batter and drop it into simmering water. Repeat wetting the spoon as needed to help the batter release cleanly. You want to form a relatively triangular ‘quenelle’ as you scoop.

Your dumplings will sink to the bottom as they’re dropped in, so you may want to gently free them in case they stick and don’t float to the top.

Once your dumplings are floating, continue cooking for 3-4 minutes. Cut one open to make sure that they’ve cooked through to the center. You’ll be able to tell as they will be yellower and more dense in texture if they’re still a bit raw. Return to the pot and continue cooking for a few more minutes, or as necessary.

If you will be adding the dumplings to your pot of chicken soup, you may prefer them a bit ‘al dente’. Otherwise, you can transfer them to a bowl with some of your hot chicken stock and keep them warm until ready to serve.

Depending on the size, 2 or 3 will be plenty per serving.

And the main objective of the exercise … Green Curry Yogurt Chicken.

It may not be too pretty (my broccoli rabe wilted down a bit too much during cooking) but it was delicious with basmati rice. Jasmine rice is great as well.

All that for $5.

Herbs, A Flower and Miso Soup Revisited – Tofu and Mitsuba

Miso soup is my ‘go to’ quick soup when I want a light, clean tasting soup with a flavourful broth. Although I COULD make a dashi stock with a sheet of kombu (dried salted seaweed) and katsuobushi (thinly shaved bonito flakes), I use hon-dashi powder for the convenience. MSG is a component so if that’s an issue, you may want to avoid it. I usually have white and red miso paste in my freezer and the kind I use depends on what I’m in the mood for. Or what’s left over in this case.

Some medium firm tofu and a beaten egg drizzled into the simmering broth gives my miso soup substance. As does some soaked and thinly sliced wakame (edible seaweed also called ‘sea mustard’).

For a fresh element, I snipped in a few stalks of mitsuba (wild Japanese parsley) from a pot that’s been overwintering surprisingly well on the front windowsill. With the sunlight streaming in, my little plant is producing fresh whorls of new leaves regularly, in spite of the less than proper care that it’s been getting. Watering it regularly is about all I do. Regular parsley, green onion, or even fresh spinach are other options.

Instead of salt, I added a few dashes (close to a teaspoon to 5 cups of water, to be honest) of Chinese soy sauce and a few shakes of ground pepper.

It takes longer to write this than it does to bring the water to a boil and make this soup. A bigger challenge is taking a good picture of miso soup. If you stir it up, it looks cloudy, while if you let all your ingredients settle, it just looks like water with a bunch of stuff on the bottom.

I just wish I had a nice Japanese/Chinese spoon for the aesthetics of the picture but I’m too cheap to spend $2-3 on a single spoon. Oh well, my big sushi bowl will have to do.

Mitsuba – Trim your stalks close to the soil and use the entire stalk in your soup. Even the roots are edible especially if grown hydroponically.

Shiso – It’s hard to tell which was the plant which self seeded as several of its late siblings have really shot up after I scattered the seeds from the dried out twig over the soil and watered it. I really need to thin and separate these plants but I don’t want or need that many shiso plants and I hate to throw them away after their surprising survival.

Close-up of the shiso leaves – Unfortunately, my single red shiso plant didn’t flower so I lost it.

Lavender and basil (Mammoth Italian and Thai) – The three lavender seedlings in the pot on the left seem pretty scraggly but they’re the only successes from a planting of about a dozen seeds. I planted the four outer egg carton cups with the Italian basil but only one had any growth, two measly plants. The two center cups have a total of six Thai basil seedlings ready for transplanting.

Mammoth Italian basil and some oregano that overwintered pretty well on the window sill.

U is for Udon (Noodles that is)

Noodles are ubiquitous in many cuisines and udon, a soft, thick and chewy wheat noodle, is one of the many Asian forms I hadn’t tried until I found them fresh at my local, cut-rate, grocery store.

Vacuum sealed in individual portions, they’re removed from the package and added to a pot of boiling water where they take only three minutes to cook to the al dente stage. Rinsed thoroughly in cold water and then well drained, they can be served either hot or cold.

Closeup

Dan Dan Noodles … the noodles are topped with the meat sauce, sambal oelek and green onions … stir it up and dig in.

Tofu and red miso soup served over a half package of udon noodles with a poached egg for garnish.

How to Eat Out on a Budget

The answer is .. you don’t.

At least, if I do, it’s very rare these days.

Dim sum, sushi and Red Lobster are my only dining out treats, but even they are quite rare … a few times a year.

Let’s do the math of dining out in comparison to cooking at home.

The last time I went out for AYCE sushi, I spent $17 and change. And that didn’t include a $3 tip.

In comparison, I spent $10 ($14 regular price with a 30% discount 30%) on a smoked picnic shoulder ham, and another $7 for a package of 4 fresh, skinless, bone in chicken breasts. Sometimes you can find boneless chicken breasts on deep discount.

After boiling the ham, I ended up with 18 cups of broth. I used half of the broth to make 11 cups/servings of ham and bean soup. I used 2 cups of diced cooked ham in the soup and still had enough ham left over for eight generous servings for other meals.

As to the chicken breasts, which were big enough to serve two people each if just simply breaded and baked, the possible usages are plentiful. Another option is turning the meat into breaded cutlets or chicken fillets.

Admittedly, chicken and pork are the most inexpensive proteins available … $2 – 2.50 a pound. Fish and seafood are a lot pricier. And a premium steak. The savings of cooking at home aren’t as obvious, but it’s still cheaper than dining out … two meals in for the price of one meal in a restaurant.

Every time I get tempted to dine out, I do the math.

Although, being frugal in my grocery shopping means that I CAN afford to treat myself occasionally.

What’s your favourite dining out treat? Do you eat out as much as you used to 5 yrs ago, 10?

ETA: I spent $18 on this name brand (Butterball) turkey bought frozen for $1.49 a pound. Lots of breast meat, thighs turned into a spicy Indian curry dish, roasted wings and drumsticks, turkey and rice soup, giblet and rice dressing, delicious gravy and the carcass will end up in a big pot turkey stock.