soup

Avocadon’t blame me if you eat the whole thing

I am an avocado whore. I’m not even lying when I say that there are very few things in this world I wouldn’t do for something avocado related. A couple of guys in my class made avocado ice cream the other night and it took everything I had not to eat it right out of the ice cream machine. I love avocados with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Conversely, I really don’t enjoy having to stand over a hot stove for too long during the summer. The idea of having more than one burner going at a time for longer than 15 minutes makes me a little stabby. That’s why this recipe for avocado-cucumber soup is so perfect. It’s chock full of cool, creamy avocadoey goodness, and there is no heat required at all. It’s super easy, and uses a minimum of kitchen equipment so clean-up is easy so you can get back to standing directly in front of the air conditioner.

Equipment:
Blender or food processor
Knife and a cutting board
Measuring cups/spoons (or a scale that weighs ounces)
Some sort of stainless steel container (a 9×11 cake pan would work great)
Spoon or ladle

Ingredients: blog_meez
1/2 C (4 oz) heavy cream
1 1/4 C (8 oz) Avocado, scooped out and cut into rough chunks
1 C (6 oz) Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into rough chunks
1 T lime juice
1 C (8 oz) plain yogurt
1 garlic clove, rough chop
1/2 C (4 oz) sour cream
1 T dill, rough chopped
1 T parsley, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C (8 oz) milk

Garnish (anything you want to put on there will work, but these are just some suggestions you can play with):
Sour cream
Thinly sliced green onions
Diced avocado
Diced cucumber
Wedge of lime |
Sprig of parsley or dill

Put everything except the milk in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

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Add the milk a little at a time and blend until the desired consistency of soup is attained.

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Pour the soup into a stainless-steel container. Place a wet paper towel or two over the surface of the soup, and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap  to prevent discoloration. Chill the soup in the fridge until it’s cold. blog_chill
While you wait, maybe clean out the blender and make yourself a blender drink. A margarita would be nice right about now, yeah? When it’s all chilly, ladle it into some bowls and garnish it however you like.

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And there you go! The soup is done. By the way, this would be a wonderful soup to serve as a shooter at your next party. Add a little extra lime juice to help prevent quick oxidation so you don’t have to serve it all right away, and serve it up in those little shot glasses you can get at the dollar store or something. Enjoy!

I seem to be leeking…

At first, I couldn’t think of any soup puns, but then I remembered there were leeks involved in this recipe and, well, there ya go. The Universe intervened so you didn’t have to feel the deep void that comes from missing out on one of my clever little puns.

Anyhoots, it’s Spring for real. The sun is shining (mostly), and the little buds on the trees are opening. There’s asparagus bigger around than a chopstick in the grocery store. And there are leeks. I love leeks. I love that they’re kinda oniony, but milder, and they’re just so pretty and so many shades of green. I find myself throwing them into everything, because to me they just taste like Spring. So, I was delighted to find vichyssoise on the menu for class last week. It’s such an old school thing to serve, but so easy to pull together. Technically, warm potato-leek soup is called something else, while it’s the cold version that bears the name vichyssoise, but that’s the only difference. I actually prefer the warm version, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s tasty, and light, and a snap to throw together. All the ingredients are easily obtained this time of year, and none of them are terribly expensive, so despite the fancy French sounding name this soup does not require a special occasion. Because it also doesn’t need strict temperature control, it travels well. Pack up a container or a thermos of it for a picnic. Half a sammich and a piece of fruit and you’ve got a pretty delicious little lunch on your hands.

Just one note on leeks. They’re grown deep in very sandy soil. The bottom part is white because it doesn’t see sunlight. It can get pretty dirty in between all those layers, which means you need to wash your leeks really well before you use them in anything. This leek cleaning tutorial from Simply Recipes is great.

Equipment:

Medium soup pot
Knife and cutting board
Potato peeler
Spoon
Blender

Ingredients:
3 C (12 oz) leeks, white part only, sliced
1/4 C unsalted butter
1/2 C white onions, 1/2 in. dice
2 C potatoes, peeled, 1/2 in. dice
3 C (24 oz) chicken stock
3/4 C milk
1 C heavy cream
1/3 C snipped/finely diced chives (for garnish)

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Split the leeks lengthwise, wash well to remove all sand and grit, then slice them.

Heat the butter over medium heat and add the leeks and onions. Cook slowly, browning them very lightly.

Add the potatoes and chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the leeks and potatoes are very tender, approximately 45 minutes.

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Puree the soup in a food processor, blender, or food mill, then run through a fine strainer. Note: I actually skipped the straining step. Most really good blenders can puree this well enough on the first pass that straining becomes pretty unnecessary. You will probably want to puree it in a couple of batches to make sure you can get it completely smooth, and to avoid the inevitable volcanic eruption that happens when you overfill a blender with hot liquid.

Return puree to the heat and add the milk and ½ cup of cream. Season to taste and return to a boil.

Let cool, then add remaining cream. Chill thoroughly before serving, garnished with snipped chives.

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Easy, right? The 45 minutes of simmering gives you time to pull the rest of the meal together. Or clean up a little. Or mix yourself a beverage. Or maybe even take a nap.  I support you, however you choose to utilize your simmer time. Do you consider the “inactive” cooking time in recipes an opportunity to relax, or do you stay in the kitchen the whole time? Let me know in the comments!

I’m not down with the sickness

I’ve had a stomach thing the past couple of days. I ate fast food fried chicken on Saturday, and without getting too graphic, my body rejected it. I should have known better. Since I’ve had my gall bladder out, I’ve had to be careful about eating high fat foods because… well… I promised I wouldn’t get graphic so… reasons.

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Anyhoots. I cooked one thing this weekend, because I had a deadline for this really cool thing I did that I’ll tell you about on Friday. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some good recipes for that “just getting over an unhappy tummy” thing that happens when you are not quite feeling better but you don’t feel as bad as you did before.  Of course, ideally someone else is there to make these things for you, but since no one has shown up at my door with declarations of undying affection and a bouquet of wooden spoons or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer yet, I guess I’ll just call these The Foods I’d Like To Have If I Felt At All Like Cooking Food.

Ginger is known for it’s tummy soothing properties. I always carry ginger tea with me when I travel because I get air sick and car sick kinda easily. This Cleansing Ginger-Chicken Soup from Bon Appétit is packed with ginger, but not a lot of other complicated flavors that might irritate a delicate stomach.

The active component of mint, menthol, works as an anti-spasmodic and muscle relaxer, which can help calm stomach cramps and relieve nausea. Of course, the easiest way to get a little mint inside you is mint tea, but if you’re not a tea person, try modifying this Mint, Basil, Cucumber, and Lime Fizz I found on Yummly.com. I say modify, because this recipe as its written calls for a lot of sugar so I’d probably cut that down quite a bit because you don’t need to load your system with a lot of sugar at this point.  But, the mint and cucumber, combined with the stomach settling effects of the bubbly water, sounds pretty soothing.

Once you’re ready to start introducing more solid foods, you might start with this Quinoa Salad with Lime and Fresh Mint from the Gluten Free Goddess. After I’m done being sick, I still don’t want anything too heavy or processed for several days. This salad sounds clean and fresh, and can be customized to whatever fresh veggies you have on hand, just in case you’re not ready to face the masses at the grocery store yet.  You can start with a small portion and see how you do before moving on to regular food.

Another snack sized option is this recipe for Fresh Spring Rolls I found on RawFoodRecipes.com. If you’re like me, you almost always have a cucumber and some sort of lettuce/salad green type something in the fridge along with some other basic salad/stir fry veggies, so this is another one that can be customized to whatever you have handy.

I have a kitchen lab at school tonight and tomorrow night, and to be honest, I’m not exactly looking forward to having to do a lot of cooking just yet. I’m going to volunteer to take care of any veg recipes, and let the other folks on my team deal with the heavy stuff. Hopefully by tomorrow I’m mostly back to normal and I can get excited about Roasted Meat week.

If anyone has any other ideas for “post-stomach thing” foods, feel free to drop me a line in the comments!

Chicken Water-what-i?

It’s soup week at school. One of the things I’ve always loved about making soup is that it’s low maintenance to prepare. At least, my way it is.  You get a good flavor base going with some onions and garlic, maybe throw in some celery and carrots, some sort of protein, stock or water and some sort of seasoning, and then let it all simmer for awhile while you go read a book or take a nap or binge-watch Supernatural on Netflix. (Maybe that last one is just me.)

The soups we made this week, or rather, the recipes we used to make the soups we made this week, were a lot higher maintenance than what most home cooks are used to. Maybe I shouldn’t speak for all of us. All I know is that I’ve never put this much effort into a soup before. I’ll admit, though, that the efforts were totally worth it.

In honor of soup week, I thought I’d give you all a little peek at one of our recipes from this week. It’s for a soup called Chicken Waterzooi. This is a good recipe for beginning culinary students because it not only builds on material we’ve already learned (stocks and sauces), but it provides some great opportunities to work on knife skills and learn a few new cooking methods.

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Chicken Waterzooi is a funny name for what is essentially a chicken and vegetable soup, but it’s finished with something called a liaison, a mixture of heavy cream and egg yolks in a 2:1 ratio that is added to the soup just before serving to add richness and body. It might sound kinda weird, but it really does bring something special to the party. Waterzooi originates as a Belgian stew, and the funny name comes from the Dutch word “zooien,” which just means, “to boil.” The original stew was made with fish, but this chicken version is more common.

The recipe from our textbook is for one gallon of soup, but I’m going to cut it in half for you, so it will yield two quarts. I’ll warn you about a couple things:

1. This is a long recipe with a lot of steps. If you’re the kind of person who just enjoys reading recipes, you’ll like this one. If you get exhausted halfway through just reading this thing, I won’t blame you if you move on. I’m sort of using this recipe to demonstrate the differences between how we cook as home cooks, and the methods professional chefs use in the kitchen. 

2. This is a one shot only soup, meaning, once you add the liaison, you need to use up all of it at one meal. If you try to reheat it later the eggs will scramble. I’ll also link you to definitions for some of the culinary terms that might not be familiar. The equipment list will show the equipment we used in class, but use what’s available to you.

Equipment:
2 Large soup pots or stock pots, large enough to hold two quarts of liquid
1 frying pan/sautee pan, whatever you call it
Scale that will measure to the ounce (In class we’re taught to measure by weight, but if you want to measure by volume I’ll provide those measurements, too. Just know that the amounts are not exactly the same. Or you can just eyeball it.)
Tongs
Vegetable peeler
Knife and cutting board
Whisk
2 medium sized mixing bowls
Containers for your mise en place 
Measuring spoons
Cheese cloth and twine
Fine mesh strainer

Ingredients:
1 ½ – 2 lbs chicken (include fat, skin, and bones)
2 quarts chicken stock
Vegetables, to be cut into a 1 inch julienne:
     * 2.5 oz (5 T) Carrots
     * 2.5 oz (5 T) Celery
     * 1.5 oz (3 T) Turnips
     * 4 oz (1/2 C) Russet Potatoes
     * 2 oz (4 T) Leeks
3 oz (6 T) All purpose flour
3 oz (6 T) unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
10 oz. heavy cream
Salt
½ tsp white pepper
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped – save the stems!
6-8 peppercorns
Small bunch (3-4 stems) fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove
Ice and water

Directions:
First, make your sachet d’epices by placing the peppercorns, parsley stems, garlic clove, fresh thyme and bay leaf into the center of a 4 x 4 inch, double layered square of cheesecloth. Tie it into a little purse with the kitchen twine.

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Add the chicken, chicken stock, and sachet to the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Skim any scum that rises to the top if necessary.

While the chicken cooks, julienne all your vegetables.

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In your second pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil, and add ice and water to your first mixing bowl. Blanch each vegetable separately. After removing from the boiling water, immediately plunge the vegetables into the ice water bath to stop the cooking and lock in the colour. Once the vegetables are cool, drain and transfer to one of your mis en place containers and reserve. Rinse out that 2nd pot right away, because you’ll need it again soon. (I’m trying to help limit the already ridiculous amount of dishes you’re going to have to do after completing this recipe.)

Now it’s time to make the roux, which will help slightly thicken the soup. If you’ve ever made a good sausage gravy, you know the general principle of making a roux. Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add the flour and whisk it into the butter. Keep whisking for about 4 minutes, until the flour has cooked and your roux has turned a pale golden color. Mine actually came out just a little darker than that and everything was fine so don’t freak out if it gets a little darker than “blonde,” but don’t let it get any darker than what you see here or it will affect the flavour and colour of your final product.

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Once the roux is cooked, pour it into another mis en place container and set aside to cool.

Turn the heat off under your broth. Remove the chicken pieces with your tongs and allow them to cool. Strain the broth into your second pot to remove any floating bits, return to the stove, then whisk the cooled roux into the broth. Make sure the roux is at least room temperature before you add it, because adding hot roux to hot broth is a recipe for lumps. (Science!)

Bring the broth back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to an easy simmer and let it cook for another 40 minutes.  The chicken is probably cooled off enough now for you to pick off all the meat and dice it into ½ inch pieces. Put the chicken into another mis en place container and set aside.

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Add your reserved veggies in during the last 10 minutes or so, to allow them to finish cooking and get tender.

Right after you add the veggies, you can get your liaison together. Just whisk the two egg yolks with the heavy cream in that 2nd mixing bowl until well combined.

Just before you’re ready to serve the soup, you’ll add the liaison. Make sure the broth is just barely simmering. Add a small amount (maybe a cup or so) of the hot broth into the liaison as you whisk. This is called tempering. Basically, you’re trying to get your liaison closer to the temperature of your broth, so that when you add it the eggs don’t scramble.

Once your liaison is tempered, slowly whisk it into the soup. After it’s all in there, you can add the chicken meat and, still at a simmer, bring the soup up to serving temperature. Remember, do not let your soup boil after you’ve added the liaison, or (do I sound like a broken record yet?) the eggs will scramble.

Add a good pinch of salt and the pepper, then taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Serve it up into bowls and garnish with your chopped parsley.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, because you deserve it. Also, loudly declare to your dinner guests that, “She/He who cooks never cleans,” and give them all a meaningful look. Smile inside your head as you picture that sink full of pots and pans and mixing bowls, and then shoot out another meaningful look at your guests, just for good measure, so they understand that your intention is for all of them to clean up your mess after dinner while you enjoy a second glass of wine and the satisfaction of a job well done.

What Isn’t Holiday Food? (An Ode to Soup)

Are The Holidays officially over yet? Please tell me they are. I really need to give my guts a break.

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Don’t get me wrong.  From Halloween to New Years Day, I am a Holiday Food Goddess. I will kick out all the pumpkin flavoured, brown sugar covered, Christmas cookie’d, roasted stick of butter goodness you ask for, and I’ll keep doing it until everyone around me is simultaneously in a diabetic coma and lining up for double bypass. Come January 1st, however, I am ready for it all to stop. Actually, if we’re being honest I’d be ok with skipping straight to May, when rhubarb comes into season and tomatoes are right around the corner. This has nothing to do with the over indulging that inherently occurs during The Holidays…or maybe it does. All I know is that the chocolate dipped shortbread that sounded so flipping delicious on December 31st now makes me want to, pardon the unladylike expression, hurl. 

Folks, I’m not trying to write another one of those Holy Crap It’s A New Year So Let’s All Drink Kale Smoothies For The Next Month blog posts. The Interwebs will be filled with those, if that’s what you’re into. All I’m saying is that I’d really just like to have something that doesn’t require me to wait six hours before resuming normal human activity after eating it.

My answer to this… whatever it is I’m feeling… is soup. Delicious, layered with flavor, doesn’t make me feel like I’ve swallowed a bowling ball soup.  A soup kinda like this one…

Roasted Tomatillo-Poblano Soup

Ingredients
8 Tomatillos, husks removed
2 large Poblano peppers, deseeded to your liking (to control heat)
1 medium yellow onion, cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 T + 1 tsp olive oil
Kosher or Sea Salt

Equipment
Roasting pan
Large soup pot
Knife and Cutting Board
Measuring cups and spoons
Blender
Ladle

Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 375. Place the tomatillos, poblanos, and onions in a large roasting pan. Drizzle 1 1/2 T olive oil plus a generous sprinkle of salt over the veggies, and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a soup pot, and add two smashed garlic cloves. Cook on medium heat just until they become fragrant. Add the contents of the roasting pan and the cumin, then give everything a good stir. Make sure the tomatillos are smashed as you stir so they give off their juices. Add the chicken stock and allow everything to simmer for 15 minutes. 

Add the contents of the pot to your blender and puree. I like mine to be really smooth. If you like yours chunkier, just stop blending when you reach your desired consistency. Then, pour the blended soup back into your soup pot, check for seasoning (I usually add just a little more salt), and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream, sliced radishes, pepitas, or whatever else sounds good.

Poblanos aren’t really all that spicy, but the ones I bought did add just enough of a kick to wake up my taste buds. This soup makes enough so that you’ll probably have leftovers, and you can do a lot with them. It would make a great sauce for smothered nachos or burritos, or you could even make it heartier by adding potatoes and/or diced pork.

If you’re working through your own holiday food malaise, give this soup a chance. Or try your own soup!  I’ll bet if you check your fridge and your pantry right now, you’ll find five ingredients that would, with just a skosh of imagination, come together in a delicious, soul feeding soup that will put you well on your way to recovery.