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Recipe: Bolivian Soup with Wheat Berries (Sopa de Trigo)

29 Jan

There are probably as many versions of this soup as there are Bolivian families, and all of them likely to be delicious, but this is the version that has evolved at our house over the years. I love the bright-red color that comes from the tomato and chili pastes; it brightens even the coldest, most dreary day. I also love the soup’s many layers of flavor, each one contributing to the overall symphony. It’s even better the next day, so it’s a great make-ahead dish. And it’s very adaptable: make a vegetarian version by eliminating the beef/lamb, adding more veggies, and using vegetable broth/bouillon. Or substitute quinoa for the wheat if gluten is an issue.

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Bolivian Soup with Wheat Berries (Sopa de Trigo)

Wheat/Hominy:
1/3-1/2 c. dry wheat berries/trigo pelado
1 can (14 0z./400 gr.) cooked hominy/mote blanco, undrained
–OR 1/2 c. dried cracked hominy (maiz blanco trillado)–see photo below

½ c. freeze-dried potato/black chuño (optional)

Soup broth:
12 c./3 liters beef broth
1 lb./500 gr. meaty, bone-in beef or lamb
1 large onion, halved
1 large tomato, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
beef bouillon cubes (optional)

Soup Vegetables:
3/4 c. petite peas
2 large carrots, julienned
3 large potatoes, julienned (it’s traditional to julienne both the carrots and the potatoes, but I have been know to dice both instead…)

Sofrito:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. onion, finely diced
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1-2 tbsp. red aji (chili) paste (aji colorado/aji panca)–see photo below
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried oregano
coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

Toppings:
2 green onions, finely sliced
1 tsbp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp. finely chopped  fresh mint

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Dried cracked hominy

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Red aji (chili) paste

Preparation:

  1. Note: If using  the optional freeze-dried potato/chuño, soak it in warm water overnight prior to making the soup. Before adding it to the soup in step #5, drain it and squeeze as much water out as possible. If necessary, chop into small pieces.
  2. Place the wheat berries (and, if using, the dried hominy) in a medium saucepan, cover with several inches of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 60-90 minutes or until both wheat and hominy are soft. Drain and set aside. If using canned hominy, pre-cook only the wheat, and add the undrained canned hominy to the soup in step #5.
  3. Meanwhile, add the broth and meat/bones to a large pot and bring to a low simmer, skimming periodically until no more foam is produced. Add the halved onion, quartered tomato, halved carrots, and the bay leaves and continue simmering slowly until the vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes. Check the seasonings and add beef bouillon cubes to taste, if needed.
  4. Remove the beef/lamb to a dish and let cool. Strain the broth through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl, mashing the tomato pieces to extract any remaining liquid. Return the broth to the pot and discard the vegetables.
  5. Shred the meat, discarding the bones and any fat, and add the shredded meat to the pot along with 1 c. of the cooked wheat, the hominy, the freeze-dried potato/chuño (if using), and the peas, carrots, and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the sofrito: Heat the olive oil  in a skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion, and cook until soft and slightly golden. Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, to make a fragrant paste. Add the paste to the soup pot, stir to mix, and continue simmering the soup, covered, for 15 minutes or more to develop the flavors and ensure all vegetables are soft. If the soup seems too thick, add more water. If it needs more salt, add another bouillon cube.
  7. Serve with the sliced green onions and herbs sprinkled on top, and with plenty of crusty bread.

Recipe: Coda alla Vaccinara (Oxtail Stew) with Rigatoni

2 Dec

One of the pleasures of being in a new place is tasting local dishes and then trying to figure out how to make them. In Italy, part of the fun lies in consulting butchers, greengrocers, cheese purveyors, wine merchants, and really, any Italian who eats, because they are all happy to offer advice. As soon as the days grew cooler, I knew what I wanted to make: Coda alla Vaccinara (Oxtail Stew) served over rigatoni–an old-style dish appearing on many Roman menus.

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In previous times, the slaughterhouse workers of Testaccio (the vacccinari) were given offal and oxtails to pad their slim salaries. Their wives rose to the challenge and created dishes that made the most of the available ingredients. In Coda alla Vaccinara, the oxtails are braised in a sauce made with pancetta, lots of celery, onions, carrots, tomatoes, wine, and spices, though the stew is open to interpretation; everyone I asked prepares the dish in a slightly different way. Some people make it with red wine instead of white, some add water, some forego the carrot, some add raisins. Large pieces of celery are de rigueur, but in a rebellious break from tradition (and knowing I wanted to turn the entire stew into a sauce), I finely diced all the celery and survived to tell the tale.

However, I did not escape looks of shock and dismay on the faces of two Italian friends when I mentioned I had added a pinch of cinnamon to the stew. “Cinnamon? CINNAMON? No. NO.” But I say “Yes.” In addition to cloves, cinnamon very frequently appears in recipes for Coda, which is meant to have a warm-scented, delicately sweet undertone. So here is the resulting recipe, a hearty interpretation perfect for autumn and winter. And following on the advice of Alessandro Volpetti (and I’m happy to take the word of anyone at Volpetti’s), I topped the Coda with grated Ricotta Salata cheese, one of my favorites. But omit the cinnamon if you prefer, top with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano instead–this dish is yours to interpret.

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Rigatoni with Oxtail Sauce (con Coda alla Vaccinara)

1-2 tbsp. olive oil
2.2 lb. (1 kg.) oxtails
salt and pepper
4 oz. (about 112 grams) pancetta, cubed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely diced (or coarsely grated)
5 stalks celery, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/8 -1/4 tsp. chili flakes
4 whole cloves (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1.5 tbsp. tomato paste
1.5 c. white wine
1 large (28 oz./800 grams) can peeled Italian tomatoes
fresh parsley and marjoram (or oregano)
tiny pinch sugar

1 lb. (500 grams) rigatoni
Ricotta salata cheese, grated

Preparation
1. Lightly season the oxtail pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven, then brown the oxtail pieces, turning them on all sides. Remove from the pot and place in a bowl.
2. Add the pancetta to the pot and cook until mostly crispy and the fat has rendered; do not drain the fat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until soft, deglazing the pot as you go. Sprinkle the onion mixture with more black pepper, add the garlic and bay leaf, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chili flakes, cloves, and cinnamon and cook for a minute or two while stirring. Add the tomato paste and the wine. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly.
3. With clean hands, take a peeled tomato from the can and crush it into the stew; repeat with all the tomatoes. This is a very satisfying technique—but moderation is key; if you are too enthusiastic, you may end up shooting tomato bits across the kitchen. If you prefer a slightly less visceral experience, you can cut the tomatoes while in the can, or remove them and dice, adding all the tomatoes and all the tomato sauce/juice from the can to the pot.
4. Mix in the pinch of sugar, nestle the oxtail pieces into the vegetable mixture, pour in any liquid from the bowl they were in, sprinkle with more black pepper, and then scatter some of the herbs on top.

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5. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender when pierced with a fork (it may take longer depending on the oxtails). Remove the oxtails, place on a dish, let cool, then pull off as much meat from the bones as possible (this will require some patience). Return the shredded meat to the sauce; keep warm.
6. Cook the rigatoni according to package instructions until al dente, drain, return to its pot, and then mix in the Coda sauce. Scatter more fresh herbs on top and serve with the grated cheese.

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Recipe: Creamy Double Mushroom Soup with Green Onions

5 Mar

Mother Nature is really letting us have it this winter; we have been hit with yet another snow storm. The government has shut down and so has my office: today is an official snow day. Being home on a day such as this, my thoughts turned to warm and comforting things such as soup. Specifically, to an earthy soup featuring two types of mushrooms and lots of green onions–hence the name. I might have called it quadruple mushroom soup because it features mushrooms four ways: dried (and soaked) mushrooms, sautéed sliced mushrooms, fresh chopped mushrooms–and sliced raw mushrooms as a garnish. This is definitely a soup for mushroom lovers, of which I am one. But it is also a good soup for anyone needing some flexibility (that would be me, too). Not enough dried mushrooms on hand? Add more of the fresh ones. Don’t like (or have) button mushrooms? Substitute portabella or another type. Use one, two, or all three of the broths suggested below. Make it vegan, or not (see below). This is a forgiving soup perfectly suited to an unforgiving day.

Mushroom Soup

Creamy Double Mushroom Soup with Green Onions
Serves 4-6

2 oz. dried mushrooms (porcini, shitake, etc.)
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
20 oz. white button mushrooms–slice half the mushrooms, finely chop the other half (save two mushrooms to slice later for garnish)
2 bunches green onions/scallions, trimmed at both ends, rinsed clean, and thinly sliced (save one green onion to slice later for garnish)
3 cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground pepper, to taste
dash of dry sherry or splash of white wine (optional)
5 c. beef broth (or veggie broth or miso broth, or combination of broths)
1 tbsp. soy sauce (optional)
pinch of sugar (about 1/2 tsp.), to taste
1 c. heavy cream (or unsweetened coconut milk or soy creamer)

Preparation
1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over them to cover; soak for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat, add the sliced white mushrooms, and sauté until they start to turn golden; remove the mushrooms from the pot and reserve.
3. Add  the remaining olive oil to the soup pot and sauté the green onions until soft. Add the minced garlic and pepper; cook for another two minutes. Add the sherry/wine (if using) and reserved sautéed mushrooms. Turn heat to low.
4. Strain the soaked mushrooms through a fine sieve, saving the dark mushroom liquid. Rinse the mushrooms twice in a small amount of water, adding the first rinse to the dark mushroom liquid and discarding the second rinse. 5. Add the rinsed mushrooms to the soup pot. Strain the saved mushroom liquid and add it to the soup pot, along with the broth, soy sauce (if using), and sugar. Turn the heat back to medium high.
6. Using an immersion blender, blend the contents of the soup pot (or blend in batches in a blender and return to pot).
7. Add the chopped mushrooms to the soup and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the heavy cream (or coconut milk/soy creamer). Check seasonings, adding more pepper, soy sauce, or sugar as desired.
8. Serve soup in individual bowls and top with a few thin mushroom slices and a sprinkle of sliced green onions.

Recipe: Bolivian Peanut Soup with Chicken (Sopa de Mani)

3 Mar

Bolivian Peanut Soup is a one-bowl wonder, the ultimate comfort food–especially with fried potatoes and queso fresco (or the un-Latin American but perfectly substitutable feta cheese) sprinkled on top. Traditionally, the soup is made with beef bones, but I prefer to make it with small pieces of boneless chicken breast instead; chicken and peanuts have a natural affinity for each other, and chicken makes the soup a bit lighter. This can easily be made vegetarian or vegan, too, by omitting the chicken and making the soup with vegetable broth. The 1 tbsp. chili paste listed here adds a mild kick to the soup–if you like heat, add more.

Bolivian Peanut Soup with Chicken (Sopa de Mani)

1 c. roasted unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp. peanut or canola oil, divided in half
2 large boneless chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lb. total), cut into small bite-sized pieces (about 1/4 inch)
1 lg. white onion, diced
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. turmeric (or palillo)
1 tbsp. aji amarillo paste (yellow chili paste), available at international/Latin food markets
2 lg. potatoes, peeled and diced
6 c.  chicken broth
salt and pepper
chicken bouillon cube or powder (if needed)

Garnish
2 large potatoes, julienned, and fried in oil until golden
crumbled queso blanco (or feta)
chopped parsley or cilantro

Preparation
1. Grind the peanuts almost to a powder in a food processor (or pound them in a mortar and pestle in several batches); set aside.

Crushed peanuts

2. Heat 1.5 tbsp oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the chicken, and cook until no longer pink; remove the chicken from the pot along with any juices that may have accumulated, and keep warm.
3. Add the remaining oil to the pot, then cook the onion and carrots until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally.  Mix in the spices and aji amarillo (yellow chili) paste and cook 1-2 minutes.

One of the many brands of aji amarillo paste

4. Add the potatoes and peanuts to the pot, and stir well to coat.

Onions, carrots, potatoes, peanuts, and spices

5. Pour the broth over the vegetables, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer about 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Blend the soup with an immersion blender (or in a standard blender, in batches, returning soup to pot after it is blended). Add chicken pieces and accumulated juices to the soup  and simmer another 15 minutes, adding a bit more broth if the soup appears thick. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and/or a chicken bouillon cube or bouillon powder if needed.


Soup, pre-garnish

6. Before serving the soup, fry potatoes until crisp; salt lightly.
7. Ladle soup into bowls, top with fried potatoes, then sprinkle with cheese and parsley (or cilantro). Serve immediately.

Recipe: Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

19 Jan

One thing to appreciate about winter is that it is soup weather. Take a steaming bowl of hearty soup, add a crusty baguette and a crisp salad, and you’re set: both body and soul will sigh in appreciation. This soup features some whole-grain goodness in the form of barley, plus that deeply satisfying umami taste from the beef and mushrooms. More flavor comes from searing the beef and bones (which results in the rich crusty drippings known as sucs, or also in the United States as fond). That is followed by deglazing the pot with aromatic vegetables and a dash of soy sauce until the vegetables are also golden and offering up their own richness, and then continuing to build the soup from there.

*See note below for how to make a vegetarian/vegan version of this soup.

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup
Serves 8

2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lb. beef stew meat, trimmed of fat, and cut into small cubes
1 lb. beef bones
1 lg. onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 tbsp. soy sauce
8 oz.  mushrooms, diced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
freshly ground pepper
1 c. tomato puree
8 c. beef stock or broth (if using prepared stock/broth, find a low-fat, low-sodium brand)
2 c. water
2 beef bouillon cubes (optional, but if using, find a brand without MSG)
2/3 c. pearl barley
1 c. frozen corn kernels
1/2 c. frozen petite peas

chopped parsley as a garnish

Preparation

1. Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add the olive oil, and when hot, brown the meat and bones; you want to get golden-brown crusty drippings on the bottom of the pot. Remove the meat and bones and reserve.
2. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot and sauté for a few minutes, stirring often to deglaze the pot (to loosen the crusty drippings), until the onions begin to soften and turn golden brown at the edges. (If the vegetable mixture gets too dry at any stage, add a tiny bit of olive oil.)
3. Add the soy sauce to the vegetables in the pot; cook for a couple minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add the garlic, bay leaves, and thyme, and grind a generous amount of black pepper over the vegetables; cook for three to five minutes. Add the tomato puree; mix well.
4. Return the beef and bones to the pot, add the stock/broth, the water, and the bouillon cubes (if using); bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and begin simmering the soup.
5. Meanwhile, toast the barley on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for about 10 minutes, checking every few minutes, until the barley is golden brown. Carefully add the barley to the soup; there will be a very satisfying hissing and bubbling when you do this. Note: this step is optional; you can also add the barely to the soup without having toasted it. But toasted barley adds a nice nutty flavor.
6. Continue simmering the soup for about 30 minutes to an hour  — until the beef and barley are tender (the timing will depend on the size of the beef cubes). If needed, skim the top of the soup during the simmering stage  to remove any extra oil. Add the corn and peas for the last 15 minutes or so of the cooking time.
7. Remove the bones and bay leaves from the soup, and discard. If the beef cubes are on the larger side, you may want to take them out of the soup once they are tender and shred them (as I did for the accompanying photo).
8. If the soup has gotten too thick, add additional water or stock/broth. Check seasonings, garnish with chopped parsley if desired, and serve immediately.

Note: To make this vegetarian/vegan, omit the beef and bones and begin with Step 2 (sauteing the onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil). Double the amount of mushrooms used in Step 3. In Step 4, add two diced potatoes to the pot (instead of the beef/bones) and substitute vegetable broth for the beef stock/broth and vegetable bouillon cubes (or some nutritional yeast) for the beef bouillon cubes. Total simmering time should be about 30 minutes. 

Recipe: Easy Weeknight Chili

27 Mar

The snow from a few days ago is now gone, but spring is taking its time getting here. The blustery weather means warm and comforting soups and stews are still on the menu, but I don’t usually get home from work until after 6 pm, so I need quick and easy options like this chili. I make other versions that require more ingredients, more prep time, and more cooking time and though they are well worth the effort, this is my go-to chili for busy weeknights. If you have ground beef or turkey on hand, and canned tomatoes and beans in your cupboards, then you are good to go. We like to top this chili with diced onions, shredded cheese, and crushed tortilla chips. It also goes very nicely with cornbread, which can be made while the various parts of the chili are cooking.

Easy Weeknight Chili
Serves 6

3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1.25 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
1 large onion, diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes with jalapeno (or use plain diced tomatoes and add a 4-oz. can of diced green chilies)
1 (14.5-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15.5-oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained (but reserve liquid in case it is needed)
1 (15.5-oz.) can light red kidney beans, drained
pinch sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Cook the ground beef or turkey in 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot until no longer pink; remove from pot, drain if needed, and set aside.
2. Add the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil to the pot and cook the onion in the oil until it is translucent and beginning to turn golden at the edges. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, and oregano, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add the diced and crushed tomatoes, the reserved ground beef or turkey, and the beans; stir to combine. Add a pinch of sugar, then salt and pepper to taste.
4. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring periodically. If the chili seems too thick, add some of the reserved bean liquid. Adjust seasonings as needed.
5. Serve with the accompaniments mentioned above, and perhaps a green salad and fruit.

Recipe: Tortilla Soup

5 Feb

Twenty-four years ago today, my husband and I had our first date at an El Torito Mexican restaurant in Georgetown, Washington DC, whereupon I not only polished off a full platter of food, but found extra room for dessert, too. Ah, the joys of youth (and first dates). My future husband was amazed, but that was because he did not yet appreciate the magnitude of my sweet tooth — in my view, there’s always room for at least a little dessert.

The restaurant is now gone and my ability to eat that much dinner has gone with it. So on the anniversary of that first date, I present a light meal that was an El Torito favorite: Tortilla Soup. If you have this for dinner, you will certainly have room to satisfy any sweet cravings afterward.

This recipe calls for chicken, but a vegetarian version could easily be made without the chicken and using vegetable broth/bouillon instead of chicken broth/bouillon. A vegan version would also omit the cheese.

Tortilla Soup

[Updated instructions 2/7/2015]

3 chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lb.)
7 c. chicken broth
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 potato, diced
1/4 c. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 zucchini, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
chicken (or vegetable) bouillon powder or cubes to taste
juice of 1/2 lime

Accompaniments:
corn tortilla strips (see cooking instructions below; will need 5 corn tortillas and canola oil)
1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 avocados, sliced
3/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation

1. Heat the broth in a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, reduce heat, and gently poach the chicken. [Note: Whenever possible, I like to poach the chicken ahead of time and let it cool in the broth: bring the chicken and broth to a simmer, turn down the heat so that the liquid ripples but doesn’t actually boil, cover the pot, poach the chicken for about 15 minutes–skimming the broth as needed–then turn off the heat and let the chicken breasts cool in the broth for about half an hour. If time is short, poach the chicken for 20-25 minutes, skimming as needed, remove from the pot, and transfer to a plate to cool.]
2. Add onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, potato, tomato paste, bay leaf, garlic, oregano, cumin, and a dash of salt and pepper to the broth in the soup pot. Bring to a boil,  reduce heat and simmer, covered, 25 minutes.
3. While soup is simmering, cut the 5 corn tortillas into quarters and then cut each quarter into thin strips; leave the strips on the cutting board until ready to cook. Shred the cool chicken with a fork or clean fingers, and set aside.
4. Heat canola oil over high heat in heavy skillet (should be at least 1- to 1.5-inch depth of oil). When oil is very hot, add a layer of corn tortilla strips. Fry until golden, flipping as needed to ensure even coloring. Drain tortilla strips on a layer of paper towels. Repeat until all strips have been cooked; reserve.
5. Add zucchini, tomatoes, jalapeno, and shredded chicken to the soup pot, then simmer 10 more minutes. Check seasonings; if broth needs a bit more flavor, add chicken (or vegetable) bouillon powder or cubes and more pepper as needed. Add lime juice just before serving.
6. Serve soup in individual bowls, with avocado slices, jalapenos, tortilla strips, cheese, and cilantro as accompaniments.

Recipe: Light and Easy Cassoulet

29 Jan

A cassoulet is a slow-cooked one-pot meal, originally from the south of France. It typically includes an assortment of meats, sausages, duck confit, and white beans, topped off with crispy bread crumbs. In essence, it is a hearty bean-based casserole meant to stick to your ribs.  But delicious as it may be, duck confit can be hard to come by. And while I appreciate hearty dishes as much as the next person, I wanted to see if I could make an equally flavorful version that was just a tiny bit lighter, relied upon easy-to-find ingredients appealing to all members of the family, and took less than a full day to make. So, out with the pork sausages and duck confit, and in with some turkey kielbasa and diced chicken breast. This cassoulet is also fantastic the next day, when the flavors have melded and the beans have thickened it a bit more.

Light and Easy Cassoulet

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 lb. turkey kielbasa sausage, sliced  lengthwise and diced into quarters
1 lb. chicken breast, cubed
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, diced (or 1.5 c. grated carrots)
3 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 (14-oz.) cans small white beans (cannellini), undrained (or one large, 1 lb. 13 oz. can, undrained)
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with olive oil and garlic (or plain–see note below)
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (or plain–see note below)
splash white wine (optional)
2 bay leaves
lots of freshly ground pepper

Preparation

1. Cook kielbasa in 1 tbsp. olive oil in Dutch Oven (or other heavy-bottomed pot) over medium-high heat until nicely browned. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink; remove kielbasa and chicken from pot.
2. Add the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil to the pot, followed by the onion, carrot, celery, and a sprinkle of black pepper. Cook until soft, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the savory bits remaining from the kielbasa and chicken. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Return kielbasa and chicken to pot; mix into the vegetables. Add tomatoes, wine (if using), and bay leaves, plus another dusting of black pepper. NOTE: if using plain diced tomatoes, sprinkle roughly 1 tsp. each dried basil and oregano over top of the tomatoes. Mix well, then layer beans on top.
4. Simmer on low heat for about an hour, stirring gently every so often.
5. Serve cassoulet with hearty bread and a salad.

Recipe: Mulligatawny Soup (Curried Rice Soup)

11 Dec

What do you do when 1) you have omnivores and vegans coming to dinner, and 2) it’s cold outside and you want something warm and filling that everyone will enjoy? Well, you could offer your guests a deconstructed curried rice soup to suit every palate (and dietary preference). Mulligatawny–with or without chicken–is another example of cross-cultural fusion: an Anglo-Indian soup with a name that means “pepper water.”  And like many other hybrids, there are infinite variations on the theme; this is just one version that can be served two ways.

When I am making this for the family, I prepare it with chicken broth and chicken as in the photo below. But it is just as good (and more versatile) made with vegetable broth and served with a variety of accompaniments on the side, so guests can add the ingredients they prefer.

Note: The instructions below are for making the soup to suit both omnivorous and vegan guests. If not meant to be vegan, the soup can be made with chicken broth and chicken; cook the chicken in the pot before you cook the onions, celery, and carrots. Remove the chicken from the pot when it is no longer pink, add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and proceed with the recipe as indicated below; return chicken to soup along with the apple and rice.

Mulligatawny Soup (Curried Rice Soup–with or without Chicken)

Soup Base

3 tbsp. canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely diced
2 carrots, grated
3 tbsp. flour
1.5 tbsp. curry powder
10-12  c.  vegetable broth (or water and equivalent bouillon cubes)
1 green apple, peeled, cored, and grated
1 c. rice (I usually use white jasmine rice, but have also made this with brown basmati)
salt and lots of freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (13.5-oz.) can lite coconut milk

Accompaniments
[Choose as many as desired and serve each separately alongside the soup]

2-3 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas/garbanzos, simmered in their liquid until warm, then drained
8 0z. mushrooms, sliced and cut in half, sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 zucchinis, sliced and cut into quarters, prepared same as mushrooms
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets and steamed
handful baby spinach, raw

Preparation

1. Saute onion, celery, and carrots in oil in large soup pot until soft and golden. Add flour and curry powder, and cook 5 minutes. Add broth (start with 10 c.), mix well, and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes.
2. Add apple, rice, salt, and pepper, and simmer 15-20 minutes more, or until rice is done. Add more broth as needed to maintain a fairly soupy consistency.
3. Just before serving, add coconut milk and adjust seasonings to taste.
4. Serve soup in bowls and allow your guests to add any of the accompaniments they desire.

Recipe: Potato Leek Soup

2 Nov

When it is cold, wet, and blustery outside, my thoughts turn to soups and stews–hearty, satisfying dishes that lift any spirits. And when a delicious soup can be made with only four ingredients (ground pepper doesn’t count…), what’s not to love?

This recipe came about by accident. Most potato leek soup recipes call for cream. But I forgot to add it once, and have never added it since–and no one has ever missed it. As an added bonus, this accident made the soup vegan friendly, too, and I like having delicious vegan dishes that everyone loves in my repertoire.

After experimenting with various toppings, fried onions were the clear winner. The crispy texture not only balances the smooth soup, but also adds another layer of onion flavor. My favorite places to buy the fried onions are 1) by the bag at Indian grocery stores, or 2) in small round cartons in the grocery section at IKEA (Swedish fried onions are very nice!). I like both those versions much better than the ones at our chain grocery store, but have used those in a pinch, too.

Potato Leek Soup
12 servings

4-6 leeks, ends trimmed, white and palest green parts only (use 4 leeks if they are large with long white sections; 6 otherwise)
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
5 lb. potatoes, peeled  and cut into chunks (Yukon Gold imparts a nice color)
10 c.  vegetable broth (or 10 c. water + sufficient vegetable bouillon cubes; Knorr brand is nice)
ground pepper

Preparation
1. Cut each leek in half lengthwise, then slice the halves into 1″-thick half circles. Put in a bowl of cold water and swish around to remove any dirt that may have gotten trapped between the layers. Drain and shake dry; I sometimes pat the leeks dry with paper towels (as much as possible without stressing over it).

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch Oven (enameled cast iron pot, or any other heavy bottom pot), add the leeks and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the broth (or water and bouillon cubes) and the potatoes, and stir once or twice.

4. Simmer until potatoes are tender, then blend with an immersion blender (or carefully blend in a regular blender or food processor, in batches, then return to pot). If soup seems too thick, add more broth. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper, and serve with fried onions.


Note: When heating up leftover soup the next day, you may need to thin with a bit more broth, or even water. It is a soup that keeps on giving.