Archive for 21 February 2011

Monday Green Board: Tomato Mushroom Soup

21 February 2011

First, an announcement … Sunday Green Board is hereby known as Monday Green Board. First reason is that Sundays are getting too busy for me right now to both prepare a special vegetarian dish and then get it into a post that evening. The next reason is to align with the current Meatless Mondays movement. I may not agree with them on some things, but I’m all for health, and people eating more vegetables is a good thing.

This week we have another damned soup, and to be honest I feel slightly upset about it, but it’s what I came up with yesterday so that’s what we’re working with. If you are sensing a theme right now, and you think that theme may have something to do with winter comfort food with Italian-American influences, then you would be right. Bring on Spring already, we’ve suffered enough.

Exhibit A: this week’s Tomato Mushroom Soup. You will need:

Tomato Mushroom Soup

Tomato Mushroom Soup

  • sea or kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • at least two dozen crimini mushrooms, the larger ones sliced thick (~1/2 inch)
  • six sprigs fresh thyme, substituting dried if you need to
  • medium sized zucchini, peel and diced, seeded if necessary
  • 1/2 yellow onion, roughly diced
  • 1 T fresh oregano, substituting dried if you need to (reduce the amount accordingly)
  • 1/3 cup good quality port
  • 28 ounce can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes … the Italian ones, not the American ones named San Marzano, unless that’s all you have … crushed by hand, with the basil leaf removed, and WITH the juice
  • flat leaf parsley and freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesan

The preparation this week takes place in two stages: first we cook the mushrooms so they retain their shape and texture, and then we cook the stuff that makes the soup, adding the mushrooms back at the end right before garnishing. Another thing to note is that this soup doesn’t require stock, which is a nice time saver when you’ve used your reserves and won’t make more until the weekend.

  1. Heat the butter and a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the thyme sprigs and mushrooms, toss, and cook for around 4 minutes, until the mushrooms have released some liquid and have shrunken a bit. You want them to remain meaty.
  2. Remove the mushrooms and stash away in a bowl. Add the onions and zucchini and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. If you need to add more oil, do so.
  3. After around four minutes, remove the thyme stalks. Many of the thyme leaves will have come off — this is what you want, just remove the woody bits. Add the oregano and continue to cook.
  4. About 8 to 10 minutes later, when the onion and zucchini start to brown, deglaze the pan with the port, transfer the entire thing to a stock pot, and return to the heat.
  5. Add the tomatoes (and juice) and one can (the same San Marzano can) of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Using a stick blender, food processor, or regular blender, working in batches of you need to, turn the contents of the pot into soup. The texture can be a bit rustic, you just don’t want any chunks of zucchini or tomato left over.
  7. Turn off the burner, and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. A splash of hot sauce wouldn’t hurt here, just don’t go overboard, this is about earth, not heat.
  8. Return the mushrooms to the soup. The residual heat will bring them back to temperature.
  9. Dish the soup into bowls and garnish with the parsley and cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the top and serve with some good crusty bread. If you feel luxurious, use truffle oil.

You should have enough for four people, and this keeps quite well in the fridge. Enjoy, and share your hints and tips no Twitter, Facebook, or here on the web site.

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Mojo Rojo

15 February 2011

OK, I owe you a Sunday Green Board. This will have to do for now. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Today’s treat was inspired by two things: a random memory of an old friend now living in Lanzarote (Hiya Joe!!!) and the opportunity for cheap, cheap airfare to Barcelona. It’s a wonderfully piquant sauce / condiment called either mojo picon or mojo rojo — essentially a vinaigrette flavored with garlic and chile peppers, similar in nature to a romesco sauce.

Whether you call it picon or rojo depends upon on the heat of the peppers you use … more heat means picon, less means rojo. I like to use dried pasilla chiles; they’re spicy, but not overwhelming, and their pleasant smokiness underscores the paprika, so mine’s a mojo rojo. If I used something with more heat, I’d call it mojo picon. It doesn’t really matter; there are dozens and dozens of extremely similar sauces out there, and in the end, what you call it is an order of magnitude less important than how it tastes.

We use the mojo rojo on boiled potatoes here (papas arrugadas to be precise), but it’s awesome on random veggies and meats, and absolutely stunning on scrambled eggs. Use it anywhere that needs a punch of spice without the overwhelming heat of a hot sauce. For something slightly more sophisticated, substitute it for Frank’s RedHot when you make Buffalo wings.

Mojo Rojo

Mojo Rojo on papas arrugadas with seared flank steak ... what a crappy picture, eh?

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled (and degermed if needed)
  • 3 pasilla chiles, rehydrated, stems removed, or any other dried chile peppers you may like
  • 1 teaspoon good paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, the best you can get
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, the best you can get, again
  1. Boil some water in a kettle or pot, remove from heat, and add the chile peppers. Cover with a pot or bowl to keep them submerged, and steep for 45 minutes or more to rehydrate them. After they’ve steeped, cut out the stems and scrape out most of the seeds.
  2. Combine everything but the olive oil into a food processor or blender and pulverize into a paste. If you’re using a food processor, drizzle in the oil while pulsing to form an emulsion, as you would with a mayonnaise or vinaigrette. If using a blender, add the oil and emulsify.
  3. Taste, adjust the salt content, and savor.

Refrigerate the unused portion, but bring to room temperature before serving.

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Light Lunch: Leftovers Salad

07 February 2011

The concept is simple: use what you already have before it’s too late.  The benefits are that you feel thrifty, creative, and healthy.

Pasta and Green Leaf Lettuce Salad with Red Peppers, Onions, and Chicken

Leftovers Salad: Pasta and Green Leaf Lettuce Salad with Red Peppers, Onions, and Chicken

We had leftover roast chicken, green leaf lettuce, a red bell pepper, a red onion, a lemon, and some cooked farfalle. We covered the bottom of a salad bowl with the pasta and dressed it with some extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar. We washed the lettuce and tore it into reasonably-sized pieces and heaped it over the pasta. We washed, cored, and seeded the red pepper, sliced both it and the onion into thin rings, and placed it on top of the lettuce. Next, we removed the breast from the (cold) chicken, sliced / tore it into 1/4″ strips, and placed it on top. Finally, we hit it with some kosher salt and white pepper, and squeezed a nice portion of lemon juice over the whole thing. Toss and enjoy, ten minutes start to finish.

We all hate waste — what clever techniques do you use for dealing with leftovers?

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Sunday Green Board: Pasta with Veggie Marinara

06 February 2011

Yeah, I know, it’s a cop out. It’s pasta in marinara sauce with some veggies thrown in … but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome, and when the clouds are hanging heavy and the streets are covered with an inch of salt and three inches of slush, it can really hit the spot and help you forget about all that.

Basic Pasta w/ veggie loaded marinara

Farfalle in Marinara with Seitan, Crimini Mushrooms, Onions, and Basil

Forgive the picture, it doesn’t do it justice.

The exact amounts you need will depend on how much you want to make, but you’ll have to collect the following:

  • a basic marinara sauce, like we talked about in part one of the Italian Wonton post; we used about two cups
  • some chopped onion; we used half of a medium-sized yellow onion
  • around 4 ounces of ground beef-style seitan; we used Upton’s Naturals, but substitute anything you want, even real meat if you aren’t committed to the idea of the Sunday Green Board, or just like it better that way
  • some crimini or other tasty mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced, equal in volume to the amount of onion you are using; we used 8 baby bellas
  • some olives, about 1/2 the amount of the mushrooms; we used 8 pitted kalamata olives
  • fresh basil and freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste; we used a dozen basil leaves and a good 12 tablespoons of cheese
  • your favorite dried pasta, or at least something you have in the cupboard already; we used around a pound or so of farfalle from Trader Joe’s. It would have been better using fresh pasta, but we were lazy today … it is Sunday, after all.
  • a bigger pot than you think you need, 2/3 full of boiling, salted water
  • sea or kosher salt, freshly ground black or white pepper, and decent olive oil

On to the business …

  1. Get that water going in the big pot … the more water, the better. Salt it so it tastes salty like the ocean, but not briny like something you would see in a grade school chemistry experiment.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the onions, reduce the heat a bit, and sweat them for a couple minutes. Add the seitan, mushrooms, and olives. Cook, stirring occasionally, so that everything heats evenly.
  3. When the onions are soft, add the marinara, stir, and cover. Continue heating, stirring every so often. Taste and then adjust the seasoning if you need to, but keep in mind that with the olives, you likely won’t need any more salt.
  4. After around 20 minutes, drop the pasta into the boiling water and hit it with a splash of olive oil to help reduce the odds of an over boil.
  5. When the pasta is cooked al dente (read the label but usually between 8 and 12 minutes), remove the pot from the heat and drain, allowing the pasta to dry for a few minutes in the colander or strainer before returning it to the empty and now dry pot. Hit it with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and stir if it’s sticking together.
  6. We’re serving 1970’s Italian-American style, so for each serving, plate a cup or so of pasta (more or less depending on whether it’s a starter or a main course) onto a warm plate, spoon over some of the veggie marinara, and top with torn or chopped basil and some grated cheese. Pour a chianti or some other rustic, tomato-loving red wine to keep it company.

Note: If you have a red checkered tablecloth, now is the time to break it out.

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Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

01 February 2011

As mentioned previously, roasted red peppers are a thing of beauty, and so is this simple bisque … soup, if you must … provided by Humboldt Kitchen’s “Currently Residing in the State of Missouri” contingent, known simply as R. I am hoping he will forgive the tweaks I made to augment his comforting, elegant, and wonderfully silky roasted red pepper bisque.

But first … a follow up to the roasting of red peppers question … I tried out a few different ways this evening, and for a home kitchen, I think the simplest and least messy of the lot is to preheat your oven to 500 degrees, stem and seed the peppers, slice them once so you can “unroll” them, and trim off the bitter white “ribs.” Lay them out, skin side up, on a sheet pan, and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so that they aren’t burning or sticking. When the skin is sufficiently charred, put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When they’ve cooled enough to handle, pull off the skin with your fingers. Done.

The following recipe makes around 5 quarts … one pint per punter gets you 10 servings. In case you don’t have that many at your table, you can refrigerate this for a couple days and freeze it for longer.

On to the show …

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

  • 14 ounces chicken stock or broth (Homemade? GREAT! In a container? No worries, this is soup, just make sure you avoid MSG and too much salt. If you can heat some up and it smells and tastes good, hopefully a bit bland, it’ll be fine.)
  • 2 (or 3) roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 tablespoons (half a stick) butter
  • 1 large russet or other high starch potato; cleaned, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 cups heavy cream … yup, 2 cups. Yup, heavy.
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • chopped chives or (the green part of) green onions (1 tablespoon per serving)
  • some thinly sliced crimini mushrooms (2 per serving)
  • some slices of baguette (3 per serving) with butter to spread
  • enough cheddar cheese to cover the bread
  • black pepper for the croutons

OK … you don’t need to use white pepper, you can use normal old black peppercorns, but I like the white here because there won’t be any brown specks interfering with the smooth and gentle texture and color of the bisque.

Now the fun part …

  1. Put a stock pot over medium heat. When hot, add the butter and let it cook until it melts, and then foams. As the foam subsides, add the onions and sweat them until translucent. Take care not to brown the onions or the butter.
  2. Add the potatoes, peppers, chicken stock, and a pinch or two each of salt and white pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for half an hour. The potatoes should be very soft.
  3. Add the cream, stir, bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every so often to keep things honest. 🙂
  4. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor (in batches if necessary) and puree, or better yet, break out the stick blender and process the mixture into a smooth, silky bisque. Remove from the heat and cover.
  5. Butter the bread slices and top with cheese. Give each of them a twist of black pepper. Toast in a toaster oven or under a broiler until the cheese melts.
  6. If you’re in the mood, “mount” the bisque with butter and plate into serving bowls. If you don’t know what “mount” means in this context, keep reading Humboldt Kitchen, ignore that part, and just ladle the soup into your serving bowls.
  7. Place three of the cheese croutons around the rim of each bowl, and sprinkle some green onions and crimini mushrooms in the center of the bowls. A cynic might drizzle a little truffle oil over the top, or maybe some nice cheese.
  8. Serve with some mixed greens and vinaigrette on the side, and perhaps some crusty bread for when the croutons run out, and you’re done. Eat.

Please keep in mind that this is FAR from a diet dish … that cream and butter will add up in the calorie and fat department, so portion accordingly.

Feel free to send R your comments via the website, Twitter, or Facebook, but above all, enjoy!

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