Category Archives: soup

avgolemono with chicken and dill

a week or two back here in central texas, we had this crazy weather pattern happenin’. one day i was walking around in flip-flops, minding my own business, when i heard that it would be 20 degrees the next day. well, i scrambled home and harvested every scrap of green from my ‘winter’ garden: spinach, arugula, parsley, fennel, mint, and dill. the oregano i covered with a sheet and three days later, when the freakish weather ended, it said ‘meh’ and went right back to growing like a weed. even the scraps of mint i was unable to pull out in time are now back to their regular ol’ selves again.

whenever i comes across dill’s intoxicating aroma, i have an unending desire to make this soup. it has been a tried and true favorite of mine for many years,  just the thing when winter gloom sets in; warm and filling, but bright and sunny all wrapped up together. early that frigid morning, i managed to make it to the farmer’s market to visit a chilly friend who works at vital farms and sells eggs there on the weekend. i also found a farmer who sold me these beautiful green onions next to her booth. i already had a little piece of chicken (did you hear what he called you? a little piece of chicken! bonus points for naming that movie) at home in the fridge and some homemade chicken stock in the freezer from another adventure just waiting to fulfill it’s destiny in something as warm and soothing as this.

avgolemono means egg + lemon. makes sense, right? you’ve heard it before, but i’m sure there as many versions of this as there are cooks in greece, it’s country of origin. traditionally it is made with chicken stock only, not chopped chicken, and i think adding dill is also an americanization of this soup. but i’m ok with that. i have let go of many of my purist ways over the last several years, as long as the spirit of the dish remains the same, i can let it go. especially if it tastes good!  i do also feel some sentimentality as it was with this recipe that i learned the skill (and importance) of tempering an egg.

my ‘rescue’ dill:

avgolemono (serves 4-6)

2 tbsp olive oil

4-5  green onions, thinly sliced and divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4-1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped

6 cups fresh chicken stock

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, small dice

2 eggs, separated

juice of 2 small lemons

1 cups white rice or orzo

kosher salt

lots of freshly ground black pepper

heat olive oil in medium stock pot. add all but 2 tbsp green onion and garlic and saute for i minute. add chicken stock, bring to a boil and toss in diced chicken. bring back up to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until chicken is tender. add 1 cup rice or orzo and cook until tender. this will add starch to the mixture-you want that. meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg whites by hand (or with a stand mixter) until soft peaks form. add egg yolks and lemon juice and whisk together. slowly add 1 cup hot soup stock to egg mixture, whisking continuously. this is a very important step (you are tempering!). you do not want to add the eggs to the pot before you do this or you will end up with some form of egg drop soup. add egg mixture back to soup pot, stirring as you add it so eggs do not scramble. remove from heat and add  dill and salt to taste. top with remaining green onion and lots of freshly ground pepper.

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Filed under main dish, soup

white grape gazpacho

 grape gazpacho close3

ok,  so while most of you are getting out your sweaters and jackets, here in texas we are simply pretending it’s fall. we finally got a break from the 100 degree days this week, and by the looks of it, you’d think 95 was the most refreshing temperature imaginable. it’s all relative, I suppose. this is all to let you know that while you may no longer be in the mood for chilled soup, we are still right smack dab in the middle of enjoying such things.

now while i’m not a big fan of  ‘fruit’ soups in general (to me, they’re just a smoothie in a bowl that is frustratingly difficult to drink with a spoon), this is a very unusual blend of refreshing ingredients. althougth there is an element of sweetness from the grapes, it is gently tempered by the nut meats, fresh bread crumbs, and garlic. i told you this was unusual. in fact, at first i wasn’t even sure that i liked it. but it definitely grew on me. give it a try (even if you have to wait until next summer!)

white grape gazpacho (4 first course servings)

adapted from great cold soups and the new york times

3/4 cup toasted blanched almonds or marcona almonds

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

2 1/2 cups green grapes

1 cup white grape juice

1/2 cup water

2 slices day old hearty white bread, crusts removed and cubed

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

a few tbsp walnut oil for finishing

place blade on bowl of food processor. with processor running, add nuts and garlic until finely minced. then add grapes, grape juice, water, and cubed bread and puree until smooth. strain mixture into a bowl through a fine sieve. chill for at least 3-4 hours. meanwhile whip heavy cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. fold into grape mixture gently. garnish with sliced reserved grapes and drizzle with walnut oil.

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Filed under appetizer, fruit, grapes, side dish, soup

le bon temps roulait!

beads

yes, the good times rolled at our house over the weekend. i know, mardi gras isn’t really until tuesday, but since it always falls on a school night, and we since we had a few birthdays to celebrate, we chose saturday night to make some seafood gumbo and get our mardi gras on!

getting the holy trinity ready ( i used an orange bell pepper instead of green) :

holy-trinity-chopped

gumbo can be quite an undertaking if you don’t enlist the help of friends. thankfully, Dr. Mark assisted by making the shrimp stock and some other goodies ahead of time. you could also use the method below for making the  stock.

this story now becomes the saga of the roux and how i won. it’s like a fairy tale, really. the first roux was too light. the second one was too dark (like burned!). the third one was just right. i had never made gumbo before, but i had made a roux–i just don’t know how i got into this mess. i highly recommend that you do this part before having a glass of gruet sparking rose the way i did. the pictures could be better but hey, it was me or the roux and i was in it to win it.

very blonde roux:

blonde-roux

golden roux:

golden-roux

and darker still:

darker-still-roux

i took just a bit darker before adding the veggies and stock, but i could not get a shot of it without burning it (believe me i tried).

 

susan, the birthday girl waiting in line for her gumbo (that’s Dr. Mark on the right).

birthday-girl-waiting-in-line

seafood gumbo (adapted from poppy tooker, self-described new orleans food activist)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

2 gumbo crabs*

3 lbs. shrimp

1 onion, chopped

1 bellpepper, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lb okra, sliced 1/4″

1 leek (white and light green part only) sliced into 1/4″ rings

oil for frying okra and leeks

1 – 16 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 quarts shrimp stock

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

3 thinly sliced green onions

salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce to taste 

* because i did not have access to gumbo crabs, i used a lb of fresh lump crab meat.

option to make shrimp stock: peel shrimp and combine peels, onion skins and tops in a stock pot. cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. strain and reserve. 

fry okra and leeks in very hot oil until lightly browned. you can bread them before frying like we did, if you like. allow to drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. set aside.

on a low to medium flame, make a dark roux with the flour and butter, stirring almost constantly with a wooden spoon, cooking until golden brown. Add onions, stirring together until the roux darkens to a milk chocolate brown. be careful not to burn the roux. you will know immediately if this happens–it is very pungent. do not use if you burn, the whole soup will taste burned. start over and be patient–it is a learned skill! add celery and bell pepper and garlic and saute for a few minutes, stirring frequently. 

 add the gumbo crabs (if using), tomatoes, herbs and the shrimp stock. simmer 45 minutes or longer, adding water to thin if thickens up too much. 

ten minutes before serving add shrimp and lump crab meat (if using) and green onions. taste to correct seasonings, adding salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce. ladle over steamed rice and top with fried okra and leeks.

and then there was cake…

birthday-cake

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Filed under seafood, soup

yes, soup for you!

library-25631

 we have had some absolutely gorgeous ‘winter’ days here in texas lately. somewhere between 65-75 degrees and sunny constitutes a near perfect day in my book. although we don’t have as many of those here as my days in california, i do love them more than because they are now precious and few. with this sunny and clear weather, we also have some pretty chilly nights, hovering somewhere just above freezing. the first culinary thought that comes to mind during this time of year is a big batch of homemade soup. i love making soup and pasta e fagioli (literally ‘pasta and beans’) is one of my faves.

learning how to make soup is more of a method than a following a recipe. you can make a soup thicker by cooking it down without a lid, pureeing a portion of the ingredients in a blender, food processor or by hand, or adding a ‘slurry’ of flour mixed with water. and you can thin a soup by just adding some more water or stock back into the pot. you can make soup out of just about anything; veggies, meat, beans. the most important thing is to just use the freshest and best ingredients you can afford. and when you combine that with a few do-ahead activities (such as making your own stock and beans), the results are phenomenal.

white-beans-uncooked3

i did hear the collective groan with the mention of these (supposedly) labor- intensive jobs, but in reality, the stock takes about 30 minutes–make it on the weekend and keep in freezer in 1-2 cup portions–and the beans took just just over 2 hours, mostly inactive and i made them the day before. after picking through 1lb of dried great northern beans to get rid of any rocks or old shriveled up beans, i covered them in cold water and used the quick soak method of preparing them to cook. then i covered them with fresh water and cooked them without a lid after adding 1/2 a chopped onion and a few bay leaves.

this what your beans look like after you cook them for about 45 minutes-1 hour:

white-beans

 get your ‘porky trinity’  ready (onion, garlic, bacon):

porky-trinity

i also added a bit of celery and sauteed it all in the bacon fat which had been rendered. if you watch anne burrell on the food network, she’ll tell you what we’ve all known for years, that “brown food is good food”. so true, and so this pot of goodness stayed on low to medium heat about 5 more minutes before the tomato paste and stock were added. 

library-25511

add your homemade stock like this:

library-2553

 then you will add the remaining ingredients over the next 10-15 minutes. with some do-ahead prep all told you’ve been in the kitchen for less than 45 minutes.

 

pasta e fagioli (adapted from gourmet)

serves 2-4

    

ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small rib of celery, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, sliced thin
  • 1  1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups fresh cooked white beans or 1-16 oz can white beans rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup tubetti or other small tubular pasta, like shells or elbows
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • freshly grated Parmesan and good quality olive oil as an accompaniment

preparation

in an unheated heavy saucepan cook the bacon over low-medium heat, stirring, until it is crisp-the cold pan and low heat will allow all the fat to render off the meat–i.e. melt and flavor the rest of your dish. pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, and in the remaining fat cook the onion and the garlic and celery, stirring, until softened. add the tomato paste and stir for about 1 minute, then add the carrot and the broth and simmer the mixture, covered, for 5 minutes. in a bowl mash 1/3 cup of the beans, stir them into the bacon mixture with the remaining whole beans, and simmer the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. stir in the tubetti, simmer the soup, covered, for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente, and if desired thin the soup with water. check pot every few minutes and add water or broth as needed-you don’t want it to run out and scorch your dinner. let the soup stand off the heat, covered, for 5 minutes, stir in the parsley, and serve the soup in bowls sprinkled with the parmesan and drizzled with some of your best olive oil.

 

yesterday was rocket’s birthday. he slept through most of it, but did manage to get a few treats down, however.

rocketboy1

 

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