Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Most Boring Sounding Soup Ever

Perhaps some of you have heard of or experienced this incredible weather we've been having here in the Northeast. Its just been really amazing with about 12 feet of snow every week or so. I just love it so much. So Much. Last Wednesday the office was closed, hence my first snow day of 2011! What else to do on a snow day to stave off the cabin fever but make a pot of soup.

I had a head and a half of cabbage in the refrigerator from our CSA. What in the name of farts I am supposed to do with a head and a half of cabbage?? If you search cabbage recipes you find a lot of slaw recipes. I can only eat so much slaw, people! And stuffed cabbage seems like just giving up on life completely. I am totally willing to be proven wrong on this point, so please, send me your recipes!

Olive oil
Stew beef (I had a pound, you could definitely use more)
2 Tbs flour
3 cups chopped onions
3 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups shredded potatoes
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup cream

Salt and pepper your meat and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Spread a couple tablespoons of flour on a plate and coat the meat with it. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in your soup pot and sear your meat. Remove from the pan. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the onions and cook until tender, seasoning with s&p and scraping up all the brown bits from the beef. Mix in the cabbage and potatoes and let cook for a few minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, add the stew meat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another 10 minutes, then check your seasoning. I thought the soup would be completely bland and boring, but I was shocked, SHOCKED I say, to find how delicious it was. This soup is super flavorful, hearty and will use up most of your cabbage.

Yes, I still have a lot of cabbage left. Any ideas??

Monday, January 17, 2011

Finally Made Short Ribs!

And they were very good. Don't know why I waited this long. Oh I know why, they're expensive. I had a groupon to a butcher shop (in fact, to The Butcher Shop) and got them for half price. Sorry for the blurry picture. We were too excited to start eating to take the time to set it up better.

Tomato and Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs
serves 6 reasonably, 4 ravenously

4-5 lbs short ribs
2 medium onions
3 carrots
2 ribs of celery
3 cloves of garlic
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes in juice
2 1/2 cups red wine
1 quart of stock or water
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of rosemary

for serving: a pound of wide egg noodles, boiled, drained and tossed with a tablespoon or two of butter, some chopped parsley, turnip and carrot chunks, roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper until tender and golden brown.

Season the short ribs with plenty of salt and pepper. In a big heavy bottomed pot (I used my dutch oven), heat about a tablespoon of oil and then brown the ribs thoroughly and deeply on all sides. While the ribs are browning you can cut all your veggies into chunks, and throw them all together into the food processor - grind them up to a fine paste. When the ribs are all browned, move them to a plate (remove some of the fat now in the pan, if there's a lot), throw in the minced garlic and stir around for about 30 seconds, and then add the veggie paste to the pot. Turn up the heat as high as it goes and let it cook - all the water will have to boil off first, and then it'll start to brown on the bottom of the pot. Anne Burrell says to let it brown and crust up on the bottom, and then scrape up the brown bits and stir them around, let it brown and crust up on the bottom again, scrape and stir again*. Add the tomato paste and stir around, let that brown really dark too. Then add the can of diced tomatoes and the wine, and a quart of either water or stock. Bring it to a boil, and let it bubble with the lid off until the liquid reduces by about a quarter to a third. Add the meat back in, cover it, and put it in a 375 degree oven for an hour. Reduce the oven to 300 and cook for another 3 hours.

At that point I took it out so I could bake a pie**, and so I let it sit on the stove top. Just before I put my egg noodles into boiling water, I removed the bones from the ribs, re-covered the pot, and put it back in the 350 degree oven for the 10 minutes it took to cook the noodles, etc. and then served it, with some roasted carrots and turnips.

*Full disclosure: during veggie-paste-browning-crust stage 1, I got distracted and accidentally let the bottom BURN. Not willing to give up/throw it away, I added some water and scraped up some of the bottom layer, then removed it all to a bowl while I cleaned the worst burned bits up off the bottom of the pan. Then starting with the cleaned pan, and feeling sure that those burned bits I had left in the veggie paste would just give the sauce a very deep rich flavor, I continued as if nothing had happened... and it turned out great. Even so I plan not to burn it next time, of course.

** here are some pie pictures, kind of like a before and after thing:

I made the crust with a mix of AP flour, white whole wheat flour and cake flour (because I was low on AP flour). It turned out great! Very flaky (I also credit this to the Cook's Illustrated method of substituting half of your ice water with ice cold vodka). Plus I used up the last of our malingering CSA apples all in one place. PLUS I had gotten some locally made SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM to put on top... so even cardboard would have been delicious that way, frankly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Curried Carrot and Potato Soup

Yet another nearly-no-ingredient recipe! For those of you in the northeast trapped in by snow, you might be able to make this soup without leaving the house for ingredients - at least for me, everything in this soup is usually in my house. I pretty much made this one up (though it does bear some resemblance to the leek and potato soup our mom makes), and I love how it turned out, plus I think it could be used as a template recipe, and swap out the carrots for any number of other vegetables (cauliflower, sweet potato, broccoli, squash of various kinds... totally bulletproof: vegetarian, rich and satisfying, yet low fat).

Curried Carrot and Potato Soup
serves 6 generously

2 tbsp ghee* or 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil (or just 2 tbsp oil if you wanna go vegan style)
2 large or 3 medium onions, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno (or any green chile), minced (I took out almost all of the seeds and the soup was nice and spicy... you should check your chile's spiciness before deciding how many of the seeds and ribs to include)
8 carrots (4 cups coarsely chopped)
2 big potatoes (4 cups coarsely chopped)
2 quarts of water
1 tbsp of your favorite curry mix, or a tsp each of ground cumin, turmeric, coriander; 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom, and maybe some allspice
salt and pepper

for garnishes you could throw on: plain yogurt, chopped cilantro, a little sprinkle of garam masala, crisp toasted pita chips**

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat ghee (or oil, or oil and butter) till it's nice and hot, and add the onions, sprinkling on a little salt to help the onion to soften. Let them cook on medium high for about 7 minutes, till they're soft and a little bit golden. Add the garlic, ginger and chile. Let all that cook for another 5 minutes, till it smells awesome. Then add all the spices, and some salt and pepper. Let the spices toast a while, and then add the carrots and potatoes. Turn the heat down a little, and stir everything around and cover partially. After about another 5 minutes, add 2 quarts of water. Bring it all to a boil over high heat, then turn it down low and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are very soft. Puree the soup, either in batches in a blender*** or with a stick blender (definitely the best way! You should get one if you don't have one), until nice and smooth.

We had this with a big salad and it was a great dinner on a very cold night, garnished with a dollop of plain yogurt, a sprinkle of garam masala and some chopped fresh cilantro. This froze really super well, also.

*you can make your own ghee really easily! Melt any amount of butter (this stuff keeps for a long time in a jar in the fridge) - I did 2 sticks - in a heavy bottomed pan. Let it cook over low heat for... a long time. Scoop the foamy stuff off the top and discard, and some solids will fall to the bottom and brown (don't let them get super dark, just golden). Strain it through cheesecloth and store it in a jar in the fridge.

**The pita chips I had made a while ago by baking fresh pitas in 350 degree oven till it dried out and then broke them into pieces; the second time we had this soup, I decided to turn the remaining pita chips into croutons - I heated some olive oil in a big frying pan, added some crushed red pepper and a minced clove of garlic, then added the pita chips and browned them, and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. They were super great in the soup - salty and crispy.

***if you use the blender, be really careful, maybe let the soup cool down a while before pureeing, if you have time (you can make this ahead easily and re-heat when it's dinner time). Also when you put the top on your blender to puree hot stuff, you should take the middle cap out of the top of the blender and put a kitchen towel over the hole and hold it on securely while you puree - that way the head of steam won't blow the lid off and spew boiling soup everywhere. Be really careful, start the blender on low and increase the speed gradually. I only go so far as to mention all this (which I'm sure you all know already) because I have blasted hot soup all over my kitchen and myself before, and want to spare you the experience.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Baked Galletti with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

For my birthday, our beautiful friend Rebecca gave me David Tanis' cookbook A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes which is an absolutely gorgeous book and I can't wait to make every single thing in it. David Tanis is the part time head chef at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters' restaurant in Berkeley. As such, he obviously puts a lot of emphasis on eating seasonally and locally. The idea of a recipe for a "platter of figs" is clearly silly since that would require no recipe at all. But the point is that if you are eating seasonally, you really don't need to do much at all with your ingredients – they are already absolutely delicious as is.

Anyway, last night I made his Orechiette with Fennel Sausage with some slight modifications. As you know, we like to cook what we might already have around, so I used a galletti style pasta instead of orechiette, since I had that in the pantry. Galletti means cocks combs and they do look like little rooster combs, semi circular with a little ruffle on the edge.

Instead of making my own fennel sausage as the recipe suggests, I just bought some at the store. GASP! This was a hearty and delicious baked pasta dish, but the addition of broccoli rabe and the use of only one type of cheese lightened it up in a really great way so it wasn’t as heavy as you might expect.

Ingredients: (this is cut in half from the recipe)
1 lb short cut pasta
1 lb sausage (we used a mild Italian, not in the casing)
1 bunch broccoli rabe
½ lb ricotta cheese
Grated pecorino
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper
Butter for baking dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and then salt it generously. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Strain pasta out of the water (you will use the same water for cooking the broccoli rabe so don’t chuck it down the drain) and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick together.

Add broccoli rabe to the pasta water and cook for one minute. Strain and roughly chop.

In the meantime, heat olive oil in a pan and add minced garlic and crushed red pepper. Add the sausage (removed from casing, if applicable) and brown.

Combine the pasta, broccoli rabe and sausage in a bowl and then add your ricotta. Stir to combine and pour into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with grated pecorino (I used about ½ cup) and cook covered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then uncover and cook for an additional 5 minutes to brown the top.