Puréed Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup

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Guys, I’m sick. I caught a beast of a cold earlier this week and I am one grumpy Sara. I’m achy, I’ve been sneezing, and if I’d known this was coming, I’d have purchased stock in tissues. I’ve been spending a lot of time in bed, but I’m awake now and before I head back to the warmth of my blankets, I wanted to share this recipe with you. This soup won’t cure your cold, but it’ll sure make you feel better.

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Green Soup

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If you’re anything like me, you tend to overindulge during the holiday season – we’re not even to New Year’s, yet – and then regret it later.  I know that after rich, decadent meals and equally sinful desserts, all I want is a Big Salad, à la Elaine Benes.  My body craves vegetables, leafy greens, and no meat whatsoever.  Let me introduce to you the Green Soup.

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White Chicken Chili

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This semester has been absolutely hectic and my absence from blogging has been weighing on me.  I apologize to those of you who follow and read my musings and recipes; hopefully this delightful and hearty soup will make up for my inability to keep more than a few plates spinning at the same time.

We’ve entered Autumn in the midwest; my favorite season.  The air gets crisp and clean, the windows are open, and the sweaters have been unpacked.  I love baking and cooking during this season, as it lends itself to some of my favorite recipes: roast chicken, shepherd’s pie, chicken noodle soup, lasagna and chili.

Recently I was craving the latter, but was also craving a change.  Rather than go with the usual tomato-based chili with pinto, black, and kidney beans, I opted for simplicity: chicken thighs and cannellini beans.

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Chicken Laksa (Southeast Asian Chicken Noodle Soup)

Last weekend it was really rainy and overcast here in Omaha.  Yes, it’s June, but because of the weather, I was craving chicken noodle soup.  I didn’t want to do the expected noodle soup; I wanted to do something spicy, tangy, something that took me to another place when I ate it.

To the internet I went!

On one of my favorite websites, Food Republic, I found just what I was looking for: something called Chicken Laksa.  One look at the ingredient list told me it was just what I wanted.  And I only had to buy a few items!

I cook with a lot of different spices, so I was glad to see that I had pretty much every spice on the list: coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, and turmeric.  These spices featured a lot in Thai and Indian recipes (which I love) so I always have them on hand.

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I absolutely love going to the Asian market here in town.  Shopping there transports me to another place.  I can spend at least an hour in there, just walking around, discovering ingredients I’ve never seen before.  I fully suggest you do the same.  Find your nearest ethnic market, walk in, and immerse yourself in the food of that culture.  You might be surprised what goes home with you in your shopping bag.

This soup is really easy to put together.  After you grind your spices, chop your shallots and garlic, smash your lemongrass, and cut up your chicken thighs, it pretty much all goes into one pot and boom! you’re done.

I suggest giving this one a try.  If, for any reason, you don’t have a spice or coffee grinder,  you can use pre-ground spices from the market.  Also, if you can’t find shrimp paste (I absolutely had to go to the Asian market for it) I’m sure you could substitute fish sauce.

However, I know that I really loved the boost of flavor the shrimp paste gave.  It doesn’t smell good, but boy, it was a lovely addition to the soup.  If you do substitute, just be sure to taste, as both are salty and exact substitutions might be off.

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Chicken Laksa (Southeast Asian Chicken Noodle Soup)
Adapted from Food Republic

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you really like it spicy)
2 lemongrass stalks
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
8 ounces mung bean sprouts, rinsed
8 ounces wide rice noodles
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn
lime wedges
Sambal Oelek chili paste (can find at Asian market)

Method:

In a spice or coffee grinder, place first seven ingredients and grind to medium-fine powder.  Set aside.  Peel off outer layers of lemongrass stalks and give them a good whack on your counter.  Or, if you’re feeling inclined, smash the core with a heavy skillet.  Basically, you’re crushing them in order for them to give off their lovely lemony flavor (you’ll take them out of the soup at the end).

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  When hot, add the cubed chicken, shrimp paste, shallots, and spice mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Add coconut milk, broth, sugar, and salt.  Add cinnamon stick and lemongrass stalks.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes.

In a separate pot, bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil.  Toss in bean sprouts and blanche them until softened, about 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon or a spider, transfer sprouts to a bowl.  Add noodles to same pot and cook until firm, but pliable, about 4-5 minutes; drain.

Divide sprouts and noodles among bowls.  Remove lemongrass and cinnamon stick from soup pot.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with cilantro.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over soup and add as much Sambal Oelek as your tongue can handle.

If you’re going to store this for leftovers, be sure to keep components separate.  When reheating, pour soup into saucepan and heat on stove over medium.  There’s no need to reheat the noodles; the soup will take care of that.

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Roasted Carrot Soup

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The weather here in Omaha is on the fence.  It doesn’t know what it wants.  Sunny?  Overcast?  Chilly?  Rainy?  Make up your mind already and move on!  Yes, it is Spring, but my brain wants nonstop sunny weather.  Anyway, I woke up the other morning unsure of what to make for that night’s dinner.  I knew I had some things going on during the day, so standing over the stove for hours wasn’t an option.  I wanted something fresh, something Spring-like, something easy.

After my day’s activities, I stopped at the market.  Wandering around the produce section, I spotted some bright orange carrots.  They were exactly what the overcast day called for.  I thought, “Well, I could roast these and maybe have pork chops or something on the side.”  But I wanted to do something more with them.  Carrots are an under-utilized vegetable, if you ask me.  They have a natural sweetness that comes out during the roasting process, but I didn’t want to stop there.

Soup.  I came up with soup.  Sounds boring, right?  Or weird, maybe?  Well, you’d be wrong on both accounts.  This soup was easily one of the tastiest vegetable-centered dishes to come out of my kitchen.  I could hardly believe it!  Not that it was without faults, but those aside, it was hearty, spicy, a little sweet, and totally satisfying.

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This recipe was also just enough for Scott and I to have dinner and then leftovers the following day for lunch.  It reheated on the stove quite nicely and paired well with a sliced baguette and salted butter.

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Roasted Carrot Soup

**You’ll need an immersion blender or regular blender for this soup.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 – 2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds or half-moons
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
cracked black pepper
kosher salt
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced lengthwise and then into half-moons
3 large shallots, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ginger paste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (adjust if you like it a little spicier)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 quart chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want to go vegetarian)

Method:

Heat oven to 400ºF.  Place carrots in a medium bowl and drizzle evenly with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and kosher salt.  Toss with your hands so the carrots are evenly coated and turn out onto a large rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove from oven and set aside.

When carrots are done, heat remaining 1 tablespoon in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add shallots and leek to pan, sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked black pepper and sauté until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often.  Be mindful not to burn the shallots and leeks, adjust heat if necessary.

Add minced garlic and ginger paste, stir well.  Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in crushed red pepper flake, ground cumin, and ground coriander and stir until fragrant.  Add sherry vinegar and honey, stir into mixture.  Add roasted carrots and chicken stock.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer for at least 15 minutes.  Use an immersion blender or regular blender to purée.  Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil.  A dollop of crème fraîche or some chopped fresh cilantro would be lovely, as well.

 

 


Too Busy To Cook??

Yes…it’s true.  The past two weeks have been two of the busiest weeks so far this year.  School is really throwing down and it seems like just when I have it all under control, my classes knock me down again.  Oh, and I should mention our furnace died earlier this week and it’s winter in the midwest.  Stressed!  Fear not, though, as a new furnace is being installed at this very moment!

My sincere apologies to all of you dear and devoted readers.  You are out there, right?

I have only made a few things worth sharing in the last two weeks – ramen and some lovely snacks I brought to an Oscar party.

The ramen:

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Now, this dish was no easy feat.  Just ask David Chang, as it was his recipe I followed.  I’m absolutely loving my Momofuku Cookbook and I’ve been trying to make at least one thing from it every week.  The ramen broth was quite an ordeal.  I had to order five pounds of pork bones from the butcher and then wait.  And wait.  After about five days, I got the call that they were ready.  I had all the other necessary ingredients: kombu, dried shiitake mushrooms, scallions, chicken legs, smoky bacon, onion, and carrots.  I couldn’t wait.  Into the oven went the pork bones!

Before:

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After:

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Just let me tell you, after all was said and done, after all the roasting, simmering, and waiting – the flavor of the broth was divine.  I wish I could hug David Chang and thank him for bringing something so amazing into my life.

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Hog #50 (Pork Chili)

Going to the market is one of my favorite things.  But so is not going to the market.

I love looking in the fridge and pantry at dinner time and realizing that I have everything I need to make a dish.  Especially after the day I had yesterday.

6:45 a.m. came way too early yesterday and almost everything that happened after the alarm went off wasn’t ideal.  Do you ever have those days when you feel like you’re just one step behind?  Or those days that you should just spend in bed with a good book and a cuddly pet?  Well, that was yesterday.  All.  Day.

The Halloween costumes we ordered were too small.  Like, waaay too small.

I opened our front door on my forehead so hard I saw stars.  Now it’s swollen and starting to bruise.

The cake I baked fell in the middle.  It went in the trash.  Ugh.

Fraudulent charges were made on my credit card.

That was my day.  Luckily, dinner was the easy part.  As you all know, over the summer I bought a quarter of a hog (#50) with my friend Sarah.  Slowly but surely, we’re eating our way through all the porky goodness.

We had one package of ground pork left, and chili was just what the doctor ordered after the day I had.  Chili is one of those dishes when a recipe isn’t really necessary.  You just add what you like or what you have on hand and voila!  Chili!

I went for ground pork, red onions, garlic, vinegar, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, and my favorite spices.  But really, the beauty of chili is that it’s flexible.

So, take a peek in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Here in Nebraska it’s cold and wet outside.  Weather like this demands chili.  Throw it all in a pot, let it simmer away, eat it and forget about your bad day.