Sunday, July 22, 2018

I Didn't See Anything Like This in Mexico City

Of course, I was only in Mexico City for four days. It was a quick trip last November and one of the highlights was a cooking class I took. We made guacamole tacos (with crickets!), lime soup (which I will have to wing from memory because I never got the recipe), chicken adobo, and a zapote dessert. 

My friends and I tried lots of different food. I determined I do not like chiccarones in sauce, but they're okay to crunch on by themselves. Mexico makes some fabulous cheese. We had delectable churros with three different dipping sauces. There was a smoky mezcal, and some wonderful enchiladas.

But nothing like the recipe I'm writing about today. I don't remember what I was searching for when I found it, but when it caught my eye, I knew I had to try it. The ingredients are pretty simple:

For the soup:

  • 8 medium/large ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, preferably Spanish, (the white ones) chopped fine
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (I might have added a few more)
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (I went with two, next time, thinking a couple serranos)
  • 1 tablespoon mild chili powder or 1 teaspoon of a hotter one
  • 3 tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups (945 ml) vegetable or chicken stock or broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans small red or black beans, drained and rinsed (or one of each) (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper or cayenne to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup (120 to 235 ml) heavy cream

For the finishing
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream or Mexican crema
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) finely crumbled Cotija, feta or ricotta salata cheese, plus more for serving (I used Cotija)
  • 1 lime, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chili powder or a chili-lime seasoning
  • Baked tortilla chips (optional)
For the soup: With a sharp knife, cut kernels from 8 ears corn (you should have about 6 cups); transfer half to a bowl. Chop the other half into pulpy bits on a cutting board or blend them in a food processor until half-pureed. Add to bowl. Firmly scrape any pulp remaining on cobs with back of knife into bowl with corn, unless you’re me and had weirdly dry stalks, yielding no corn “milk.” Set corn aside.
In a large (5 quarts is ideal) heavy pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium. Add onion and cook until tender and beginning to brown at the edges, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeño and chili powder and cook together for 2 minutes more. Add flour and stir into onion-garlic mixture until it disappears. Stirring constantly, gradually add stock. Add beans, corn, and 1 cup milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 13 minutes, until corn is tender. Add salt (I used about 1 tablespoon Diamond kosher salt total here) and freshly ground black pepper or cayenne to taste (why not both?). Add cream to taste (we found 1/2 cup sufficient, but it will be less creamy than traditional) and cook for 3 minutes more. (I added a bit more cream)
For the topping:
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream or crema, cheese, and juice of half a lime in a bowl; stir to combine. Cut second half of lime into wedges. (Next time, I'm either zesting the lime and adding it, or adding a full lime's worth of juice. It really lightens up the richness of the other three ingredients. 
Ladle soup into bowls and dollop in center with 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) of mayo-cheese mixture. Squeeze lime juice over to taste, sprinkle with chili powder and chopped cilantro and serve, baked tortilla chips on the side if you wish. (I used warm multi-grain tortillas instead of chips with a little butter. I didn't really feel the need for crunch)
This was a lot of fun to make and I was thrilled with the results. While it may not qualify as a true chowder because there are not potatoes in it, I found it delicious. Lots of different textures, and a nice warmth on the back end. I do like food a little more spicy than this came out, but that's easily adjusted for the next batch. And it's corn season!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

I got to pound something!

The warm weather is here in the northeast, but that doesn't stop me from making soup. I've already got one picked out for this weekend. Recently, a friend made carrot ginger soup for a potluck and it got into my head to make some of my own.

I've made it before, but I looked around for a new recipe just for fun. This one on Epicurious caught my eye because it includes lemongrass, which I hadn't considered or cooked with before. Previously I've used curry spices or cashews in carrot soups. Cashews add some body and a bit of protein, curry of course adds some nice warmth and spice.

So here's our recipe:
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil I used olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger chopped ginger from a jar is also perfectly fine
  • One 2-inch-long piece lemongrass, pounded
  • 4 cups Chicken Bone Broth (if you don't make your own, store-bought is fine. Not everyone has time to make their ingredients)
  • Sea salt (didn't bother, let your guests do this themselves. Onions add sodium, and I really didn't think the soup needed any)

    1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the ghee or olive oil. Add the onion and sweat until translucent, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. (it was a little longer than this, so don't worry)
  1. Add the carrots, ginger, and lemongrass and stir to coat the vegetables with the ghee or oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. (again, don't worry if this is a little longer)
  2. Add the broth and increase the heat to medium. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. (more like 45. I cooked until I could easily mush my largest bit of carrot against the side of the pot)
  3. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, (stick blenders are good here if you have one) blending in batches if necessary. Season with sea salt to taste and serve immediately.
You can refrigerate the soup for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 6 months.
As I'm sure you expect of me by now, I did several things differently and was very happy with the results. Often when I see recipes online I think they are going to be too mild so I will increase the spices, and sometimes even the main ingredients. I bought two pounds of carrots. I don't know if between peeling and chopping off ends that I actually got rid of half a pound of carrot, but it didn't seem to be worth worrying about. This is me not worrying about it. I increased the ginger by 50%, doubled the lemongrass, and started with 1 cup of onion and about 3/4 Cup of shallots. I've taken to keeping a pound of shallots on hand. They keep better than onions, and can usually be substituted for them, while the reverse is not necessarily true. I love their nice sharp flavor and if you fry them to a crisp they're good on top of many things.

I don't use my kitchen mallet very often. Usually it's for when I make chicken or veal Parmesan and I want to flatten a cutlet, all the better to crisp you my dear. This time, it was just a couple of whacks to each stem of the lemongrass. They immediately released their delightful fragrance into the air, so I know I did that right.

An option to consider next time is half vegetable broth and half chicken broth, but I wasn't going to do that this time. I had the luck of my dinner guest offering some of his homemade chicken stock so of course I used that.

I served the soup with a sous vide chicken breast that I spiced with garlic and ground chile pepper. I wanted some of those tiny Thai peppers, but my nearest grocery store did not have any, so the garnish was some chopped scallions, which worked pretty well. I dunked a bit of chicken in my soup and that was unexpectedly delicious.

Questions? Comments? I always love to hear from you.  

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Studio Living (1 of many)

Hi everyone. 

I've talked about tuna melts a few years ago, but I didn't put in a recipe for tuna salad, so I thought I'd add a supplementary post. Currently, I'm cooking for one, but I think this will scale pretty well. 

Our ingredients:

  • 1 5-ounce can of your favorite tuna
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonaise (if your tuna is packed in oil, you start with one)
  • I Tablespoon finely chopped shallot (I'm going to use more next time. Onion will also work just fine here and I recommend a yellow one)
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seen
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 short fat bell pepper (I have a fondness for yellow or orange ones)
  • 1/4 cup shredded or thinly sliced cheese (today's was an Italian blend because it's what I wanted to use up)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil

Drain your tuna well, flake into a small bowl and mash with a fork (I usually use a salad fork for this, I find the shorter, thinner tines to be helpful) to separate the chunks. Add your shallot, spices and mayo, mash together until all the mayo and spices are well mixed. 

Set your oven to broil. If you store things in your oven because you have a tiny kitchen, take them out first. Don't ask. Put olive oil in an oven-safe pan or dish. I used a small Pyrex casserole dish (I was not paid to mention Pyrex, but will happily take money for it.)

Cut your bell pepper in half, scrape out seeds carefully. Don't take off the stem because it will help keep the filling in the pepper. Add your filling, then place on your baking dish or on a cookie sheet. One can of tuna fits pretty well in one pepper. Mash down as necessary. Top the tuna with the cheese. Check your text messages, slip on the wet floor when you go back in the kitchen and knock all the cheese on the counter. Yeah, that's a thing that happened, but I was able to rescue most of the cheese.

Put your dish in the center of the oven. Check after five minutes if you want the cheese gooey, about seven minutes if you want it brown and bubbly.

I served this on a bed of spinach because I'm always looking for ways to get more vegetables (you may be seeing this a lot in upcoming posts) and had a few crackers on the side. If you're making more, you can probably do half a pepper per person if you're serving soup or a full-blown salad, but I find this is a great as the star of the show.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Another recipe I thought I’d Saved: Spicy chick peas

I have probably mentioned I’m quite fond of chick peas. I made something like this recipe a long time ago, but did not save it. I’m rather annoyed with myself because one of the reasons I started this blog was to keep track of recipes that worked.

Anyway, chickpeas are cheap and tasty and versatile. I wanted them as a side dish for cumin chicken (that did not come out well enough for an entry) and I’m really happy with these. I’ll be eating leftovers for dinner tomorrow.

  • 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 shallots, chopped fine
  • 1jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • black pepper to taste
  • Lime juice to taste
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium for about a minute. Add your shallots, stirring often, until they start to turn brown. Add the chick peas, stir well, then add the chili powder. Let cook for about three minutes. This will give the flavors time to meld and make the chick peas soft and creamy. Stir in the jalapeño and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and add your avocado. Stir well. Taste, add lime juice as desired. Serve.

If I make this for company and use more chick peas, I’m considering putting them in the oven for a few minutes before adding the avocado, it will add some crunch and give the tongue textures to play with. 

I really like the shallots, but may try a version with purple and green onions.

I’m going away this weekend and when ai get back, there may be chili. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Breaking in the New Kitchen: Potato Soup (seeking perfection)

I've moved again, due to life complications. I'm still lucky enough to be in Manhattan, which means I have access to so many wonderful things it can be overwhelming.

I'm in a studio, which I've nicknamed Small Spot. It's a cute place, but my counter space has been reduced by 60-75% and I'm getting used to a whole new setup. 

It's also winter. Grey days and life stress have made me want comfort food and this week it's potato and leek soup. I couldn't find the recipe I made years ago, but the ingredients were pretty simple. So I hunted down recipes, more to get the proportion of potatoes to liquid than anything else.

This recipe is the closest to what I made. It's a modification of a Julia Child recipe (that one is at the bottom of the page), and I think it could do with some more tweaking.

  • 6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces (most of the recipes I saw said russet, a few friends have since said Yukon Gold)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 T olive oil, divided(because I forgot to buy butter). This was actually truffle olive oil I had been given as a gift.
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts, washed, chopped and washed again
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cream
  • 12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
This is a really easy recipe. First, heat 1 T of the oil in a soup pot on medium-low heat and add your garlic. Sauté until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 5-10 minutes. Add the other T of oil and add your leeks, again stirring frequently until soft, about 5 minutes. Add your potatoes to the pot, add 1 T of dried parsley, the thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir well, coating the potatoes with all the other ingredients. Add the chicken broth and turn the heat up until the soup has come to a boil. Turn heat down to medium (there should still be bubbling) and cook for about 40 minutes or until potatoes are easily smashed with a masher or fork.

Turn off the heat, stir in the cream. Let your soup cool for about ten minutes. I mashed the potatoes a bit before a I put in the stick blender, but as you wish. Blend until smooth, totally okay to leave some potatoes unblended. Serve, top with crumbed bacon (figure 3 slices a serving).

While this smelled delicious and tasted okay while it was cooking, the soup came out a lot milder than I liked. Next time I make it, there are going to be more garlic cloves and twice as many leeks. Maybe a shallot or two. I experimented a bit with the leftovers. Sour cream was a definite win in the garnish Department. Some crushed garlic kind of got lost. I tried a heavy hand with herbs de Provence, which was interesting, but not quite there. The winner was shaking crushed dried rosemary into the soup before reheating. I did not measure it, but you could see it throughout.

If you try this, please let me know!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Variations on a Theme: Warming It Up

A while back I made beer-cheese soup using Rachel Ray's recipe and I was very happy with the way it came out. I'm not sure why it's been a few years since I've made another batch. While there's a lot of chopping, this recipe is pretty easy and doesn't take a huge amount of time.

I have access to a grocery store with a fabulous cheese department. Even better, it is easy to get samples. When I ran in for coffee a couple of weeks ago I walked past a table where a man was passing out samples of chipotle cheddar. I fell in love. It's not heavy on the spices, has just the right amount of smoke and I snapped up a 10 oz package.

I didn't decide on making soup out of it right away, but when I did it seemed like a perfect idea. I did have to grab some gouda (also chipotle) from the closer grocery store to bring the cheese up to the 3 1/2 cups. I love the way gouda melts and it adds a lovely richness when combined with cheddar. To review, here's the base recipe:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped (Rinse your leeks well. Then do it again)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 12 ounce bottle amber beer, such as Dos Equis (I used an Abita Amber. Abita is out of New Orleans and I like a lot of their beer)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I didn't use this, instead I added 4 teaspoons of crushed garlic)
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups) (I added more cheese to get it to 3 1/2 cups)
  • Croutons for garnish (I had warm tortillas on the side and some chorizo, green onions, and sweet bell peppers for garnish)
In a large saucepan (I used a sauté pan), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and leeks (I added the garlic here too), season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. 
Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beer and mustard and bring the soup to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking, until creamy and thickened, about 10 minutes. 
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cheese 1 handful at a time until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the croutons.
This recipe makes 3 generous servings, with the addition of the chorizo, it was a great main dish and Nexx let me have my fair share of chorizo.

Questions, comments? I'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I could have sworn I wrote this entry already

It's odd. I could swear I've written entries about tuna and white bean salad before. I've tried at least three different recipes for it. I can't think of a summer where we didn't have it at least twice. It's light enough for a sunny day, filling enough to be a satisfying meal, and the acid from the dressing is delightfully refreshing.

I've tried a few recipes. Several use lemon juice as the dressing, but this one from Giada Di Laurentis is the one I keep going back to, and there's only one thing I change, which you'll read below. 

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans dark meat tuna, packed in olive oil
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannelini white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup small capers, nonpareil in brine, drained and rinsed
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
In a large bowl, add the tuna, reserving the olive oil in a separate small bowl. Break tuna into bite-size pieces with a large fork. Add the beans and capers. Into the bowl of olive oil, add the red wine vinegar. You should have 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil - add more extra-virgin olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing on the tuna, bean and caper mixture and allow the flavors to infuse while slicing the vegetables. Add the onion and tomatoes to tuna mixture and toss gently.Place the arugula on large decorative platter and top with tuna mixture. Tear fresh basil leaves over the top and serve immediately.
Honestly, you can use any kind of tuna, even tuna packed in water. You'll need 2/3 Cup of olive oil total, whether you get it from the tuna can or from a bottle.
Funny story: In the snobbier grocery store in Stamford, there is a rack of imported canned and jarred fish labeled: "Serious Tuna." It took about five years for someone who worked there to laugh when Nexx and I asked where the silly tuna was.