Wednesday, January 26, 2011

another good soup

There is something about black-eyed peas that makes me happy. First, their name: little winking eyes on the small tan beans. Then there is the ease of cooking them and their all around usefulness: hot and cold Then, the taste! Earthy, but still fresh. Wintry, but you can taste spring in the distance.

A retired minister member of my church passed his own black eyed pea jalapeno soup recipe to me several years ago. It was pretty good. I had some dried black-eyed peas waiting in my pantry and I was again hankering for another soup. This is my spin on the original recipe:

1 pound dried black-eyed peas. Cook in a lot of water over low heat til soft. This will take 45 minutes or so. Drain.

1 cup chopped leeks. You could use onion. I had leeks in the garden.

3 or 4 large cloves garlic, smashed and chopped. Add these to the leeks and soften in a little olive oil in a heavy pot. Add a generous handful of salt. As these approach doneness, add 1 qt. good chicken broth. (I used Progresso, low sodium, no msg. It was on sale so I tried it. I liked it a lot.)

Add 3/4 of the cooked beans into the liquid mixture. Mash up the beans with a stick blender or by hand. Then add the remaining beans. Add water to desired thickness. Then add 1 small can salsa verde. Taste. Chop up a fresh jalapeno and add. Taste. Add another jalapeno if you like.

For our dinner I added diced avocado as a garnish. By the way, odd as it may sound, soup is a great breakfast!

I have been eating legume-based soups as a breakfast for the past several weeks. They are easy to heat, taste great and leave your stomach feeling content.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

a good mutt

It was our third day of house arrest: Deep Freeze 2011. Actually, we ventured out mid-morning yesterday to shop for dog food and home repair project supplies while the roads were somewhat melted. We had to go the long way around to the center of Snellville because our road was too icy.

Anyway, despite going out for provisions, at around four o’clock I found myself pondering what to make for dinner. In addition to dog food, I’d bought fresh spinach, and some crackers and a hunk of parmesan, soymilk, clementines and some apples and four bottles of red wine: none of these in any combination seemed like dinner. I found about three quarters of a cut up free-range chicken in the freezer. I knew a good braise was on the menu.

This is sort of a mongrel coq au vin: a mutt.

Reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms: about 1/4 cup chopped up. Save liquid. ( If you have fresh mushrooms, chop in half and sauté: use as many as you like. )
A good carrot, cut in about 1/2 “ pieces.
A large onion, chopped small
I had a shallot.
You could use all shallots if you had enough to make about 3/4 cup chopped.
As many garlic cloves as you like, peeled and smashed. I used around 5.
Put all the above into a heavy casserole, add some kosher or sea salt.

Chicken legs, cut up, breast, cut in half. Brown skin side down in a tiny bit of oil.
Use medium heat to start to render out fat, then turn heat up to finish browning.
Put in casserole on top of vegs, add some kosher salt and a hefty grind of pepper.
Drain out any oil in pan, deglaze with a bit of wine. Add to casserole.

I went outside to get some rosemary, thyme and sage. The rosemary was completely under ice, but I was happily able to secure 5 good size springs of thyme and 4 sprigs of sage from my pot on the deck.
I resorted to dried rosemary chopped up, about 1 T.

2 C chicken stock. (I used the turkey stock from Thanksgiving that I had in the freezer)
Approx. 1 C white wine, or enough to just cover other ingredients with liquid. Add the mushroom liquid, too, if you have it.

Bring all to boil on top of stove, remove immediately from stove when it boils.
You want this to cook slowly. Put covered is preheated 325 oven. Check in about 15 minutes, if still bubbling, reduce heat. Taste, adjust seasonings as this cooks. It is done when meat is nearly falling off bone. This took about 1.5 hours.

Remove chicken pieces and mash solids. I used my handy stick blender for this, always a terrific tool. Thicken (you just want to make it into a sauce with a teensy bit of body) any way you like: you can make a little roux with some butter and flour, you can use equal proportions of raw flour and butter and mash together as a paste and add to liquid over med. heat, or you can do what I did: I used about 1 T or 2 of Wondra flour (perfect for such an occasion!)

With this we had cauliflower purée with a bit of horseradish stirred in.

Now I have to plan tonight’s menu. We’re iced in again.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

holiday recovery

We survived the holidays: the rich food and the dessert and the parties and my gosh all that chocolate. We’re home, after a nine-day visit with our New England family. It’s time for soup again: hot, spicy, delicious filling soup. Here’s what I put in the pot that’s simmering on the stove:

3 andouille sausages (1pound), sliced
1 chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces
1 largish onion: chopped medium
1 bunch kale, cleaned, stemmed and chopped small-medium
1/2 sweet potato: peeled, diced approx. 1/2 “
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 qt. chicken broth
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes and 1.5 cans water
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
pinch or more hot pimenton
1tsp. honey

I put the chopped onions and the sliced sausage in the pot together and let them cook, covered, on medium low (with about a T of canola oil), stirring a couple of times, til the onions were soft. Then I added the rest of the ingredients, except the chicken breast. When the mixture was nearly boiling, I added the chicken, and brought the temp. down to a simmer.

I am theorizing the sweet potato will sweeten the kale, the kale and pinto beans will add earthiness and the andouille sausage will provide zing. I like the connection with the past by using these traditional southern ingredients, especially this time of year when the garden is asleep.