Sunday, March 5, 2017

The best Asparagus Soup I have ever tasted...

Great title - heh?

So, this recipe was adapted from a recipe for "Slimming Asparagus Soup" that was included in the "Super Shred Diet" book that was all the rage a couple years ago.  It's a terrible name. I never made this when we were on the Shred plan, but I tried this version recently and wanted to share - it's better than I thought it would be.

1 lb fresh asparagus
2 cups of water
1 TBLS of vegetarian stock base
2 potatoes, peeled and diced into a 1/2 inch dice
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 TBLS olive or coconut oil
1 small onion, diced
1 shallot diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (to measure about 2 tsps)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups water or vegetable stock

Trim the woody stems from the asparagus and set aside (you'll need them shortly). Cut the remaining asparagus into 1 inch pieces and set aside.

In a big sauce pan, bring the water, stock base, potatoes and the woody asparagus ends to a simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender - roughly 10 to 15 minutes (if you're unsure, a paring knife should pierce the potato with no effort - no crunchiness). When the potatoes are done, remove all the asparagus stems with tongs. Discard or compost the stems.  Set the rest of this aside.

In a sauce pan heat the oil over medium heat, and add the onion and shallots, and cook until they are translucent - about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the asparagus pieces, salt, cayenne pepper and cook for about 3 minutes stirring frequently.

Dump everything in the big sauce pan that the potato mixture is in, add the water or vegetable stock.  Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat.  Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Add the whole lot to a blender and blend until smooth - or use one of those hand blenders.  It should be creamy, and the consistancy of cream of wheat. If it's really thick, use vegetable stock to thin.

You can serve this for company, if you are hosting vegetarians top this with toasted breadcrumbs, or those commercial fried onions. If you are hosting omnivores, top with bacon or proscuittio -everything is better with bacon, amiright?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Vegan Chili con Veggies

Long time no post, it's been almost two years!  Tempus sure does fugit, don't it!  

This is a vegan chili recipe, that I adapted from one on Epicurious.  One thing that they don't specify in the other recipe is about the bulgar. Bulgar is a wheat groat that has been boiled and dried, it's used a lot in middle eastern and east European dishes.  It has a sort of meat-like quality when it's added to this and other dishes, but if you cook it too long, it gets a bit mealy.  So, cook the 1/2 cup of bulgar, according to the package directions, then just add it at the end.  Bulgar is usually found in the grocery aisle with wild rice, quinoa, spelt, millet and other weird grains. 

I am not vegan, but I am really making a concerted effort to consume less meat in my diet.  I am a committed omnivore. Don't judge.

Anyway, I really like this.  The barbeque sauce adds a nice sweetness.

            1 T, Sunflower Oil
·         1 Onion, chopped
·         1 cup Carrots, shredded
·         2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced
·         3 cloves Garlic, minced
·         1/2 cup Bulgur
·         2 T chili powder
·         1 T  Cumin, ground
1    1 tsp Chipotle pepper, ground
·         1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
·         1 10-oz can ROTEL Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
·         ½  cup, Tomato sauce
·         ¼ cup, Tomato paste
·         1 cup water
·         1 14-oz can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
·         1 14-oz can Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
··         ¼ cup Barbeque Sauce
      Salt to taste

1.       Cook the Bulgar according to package directions, and set aside to add at the end.
2.       Add the oil to a soup pot over medium-low heat, and heat until shimmering.  Add:
§  Onions, carrots and garlic until the onions saute until the onions are translucent. Do not burn your onions, turn down the heat if it's cooking too quickly.
3.       Add the Chili powder, Chipotle powder and cumin and saute with the vegetables for 1 minute.
4.       Add the crushed tomatoes, ROTEL’s, tomato sauce, tomato paste and water, stir until blended well.
5.       Bring the mixture to a low simmer, and cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
6.       Add the Black beans, Kidney beans and Barbeque sauce.  Bring back to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes.
7.       Add the Bulgar and stir to combine throughout.  
8.   Adjust seasonings to taste, you may need to add salt.  Add a little more water if it's too thick.

Serve hot –add ins are cheese and sour cream if you aren’t being vegan, corn chips, green onions, etc.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 New Years Cocktail - The White Squirrel

OK, every year for the last several years, my spouse and I have rung in the new year with our dear friends, M and D. About 3 years ago we started including another couple, B and R.  The six of us have season tickets to a local theater company, and always attend a Sunday matinee together then head out for a dinner somewhere afterward.

So the six of us do this collaborative 5-course dinner for New Years Eve. This year I am responsible for the cocktail, the soup course and the seafood course.

The cocktail always poses a quandary, these dinners are an endurance event, wine with each course so you can't get too liquored up during appetizers or  you won't be able to enjoy the rest of dinner!  Let's just say, it's happened.  SO. I want to make something in the Cosmo-family of cocktails but not quite so boozy as a Cosmo - which are usually mixed with mostly vodka and cranberry juice dribbled in for color.

I thought I would make a sweet clear cocktail using Citrus infused Vodka (I used Burnett's, which is a middle shelf brand), DeKuyper's Triple Sec, and WHITE Cranberry juice (which is mostly white grape juice when you read the label)

We have had an unusual resident in our yard this fall and winter.  He/She is a White Squirrel!  Have you ever seen one?  He doesn't seem to be albino, because he's got black eyes and a black snout.  He's been hanging out here since late fall.  He's a beautiful squirrel, we call him Whitey - being really creative people as we are, so this cocktail is in his honor.

I tried this first without lemon juice because I wanted a totally clear cocktail, but it was too sweet. So I added the lemon juice to cut through the sweetness, and it works!  The lemon juice makes it slightly cloudy, but the taste is there, so that's the main thing.


2 oz Citrus Infused Vodka (Burnett's Citrus)
1 1/2 oz White Cranberry Juice
3/4 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Thyme Simple Syrup*
1/4 oz lemon juice

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice, shake, pour into a martini glass or coupe. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

*Recipe for Thyme Simple Syrup

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil and dissolve:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water

When it comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat, add 6 to 8 sprigs of thyme and steep for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and cool.  Use in whatever you want.  It's great in iced tea, lemonade and sparkling water!  It keeps in the fridge indefinitely.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Clark's Ham Potato Corn Chowder

Long time, no post.  I'll try to fix that this year.

This is something to do with leftover ham from Christmas.  It relies on a LOT of convenience items (condensed soups) that I don't use a lot.  These Cream of Whatever soups are fantastic shortcuts in the kitchen, but they tend to be a little heavy on sodium and bland - so you really need to add your own flavors to make the dish special.  

In a large skillet or sauce pan:
2 tbls butter

Add to the pot, and saute, until onions and celery are translucent:
2 medium onions, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced or shredded
1/2 cup celery, diced

Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender
3 cups potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth

1 can, Campbells Cream of Celery Soup
1 can, Campbells Cheddar Cheese Soup
2 - 3 cups diced ham
1 can of creamed corn

Simmer for another 10 minutes, and the chowder is ready to serve.  However, if your are feeling extravagant, and want to really bump up the comfort-and-joy you can add:
1 cup of heavy cream (optional)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Best enjoyed with some sourdough bread! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Lemon Cheese...because Lemon Curd is a little too fussy.

I am sure you are wondering what I filled that awesome Shortbread crust.  Lemon Cheese, of course!  This was adapted from an old Nathalie Dupree cookbook, New Southern Cooking.  I cut it by 1/3 because it's the perfect amount for a 9-inch tart, her's was created for a 12-inch tart crust.  But the great thing about it is that you can adjust up or down depending on how much you need.  The magic ratio is:

1 egg
1 lemon (juice and rind)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbls butter

Adjust up from there...

Lemon Cheese differs from Lemon Curd in that it's much, much less fussy.  Lemon Curd requires you to separate eggs.  I don't like separating eggs. [I know I did separate an egg in the previous recipe, but that was only one, and I used the white immediately in a quick morning scramble] Lemon Curd usually uses 4 - 8 egg yolks - which means you have to figure out what to do with your 4 - 8 egg whites - not a tragedy, but long after separating eggs I have often come across a container with an un-determined number of eggs whites/egg yolks...of in-determinant age.  Sometimes, there were smells...eww.

Anyhoo.  This makes about 1 1/2 cups of delightful, lemony goodness!

In a sauce pan, add:

2 large eggs
2 lemons -
[OK, this is a little fussy, use a microplane or other implement and remove the rind from both lemons, just the yellow, not the white pith, which is bitter, if using anything other than a microplane mince the lemon rind finely. Then juice and strain both lemons]
2/3 cup of sugar

Whisk this well, then add:

4 Tbls butter

Cook over medium heat for about 5 to 10 minutes stirring constantly. The butter will melt and it will be loose, like this...

Then all the sudden it will seize up, and become "custardy" like this. See how it becomes lemon yellow and much thicker?  It should JUST come to a slight boil, but don't let it boil, remove it from the heat immediately. By the way, if you let it boil, the eggs will scramble and you just have to throw it away and start over. [Voice of Experience, or VoE, again]

Ok, so Lemon Cheese is actually rather fussy, but well worth it.  Mrs. Dupree used it to fill a pie shell and she topped it with blueberries.  You can use this in all sorts of ways, though - a parfait, with alternating layers of fruit, whipped cream and Lemon Cheese, perhaps?  Buy those pre-made dessert shells and fill with Lemon Cheese and top with fruit?  You can do all sorts of stuff with this.


Perfect (and super easy) Shortbread Crust

A few years ago, my friend, St Cheryl of Shirlington, gave me a recipe for a Shortbread tart crust that I thought was pretty much perfect.  It had 3 ingredients - flour, confectioners sugar and butter, was quickly assembled in a food processor, patted into a tart shell and baked.  I have been using it ever since.  Over Christmas this year, I found a recipe on the Martha Stewart site for a Press-In Shortbread Tart Crust.  It's brilliant, and the perfect amount for a 9-inch tart pan. It similar to St. Cheryl's, but a bit richer.  It has a single egg yolk, regular sugar, butter and salt.  Martha assembled it by hand, which I file under "Life Is Too Short", so I used the food processor - if you don't have one, I highly recommend one, I have had this Cuisinart for over 20 years.  I also reduced by half the amount of salt, because I thought it was too salty.

So here goes.


In your food-processor bowl, with the blade attachment inserted, add:

1 cup AP Flour
4 Tbls. Butter, cut into 4 or 5 pats
3 Tbls Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt (I used kosher salt)

Pulse the processor about 10 times or so, until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Add through the food-tube:

1 large egg yolk

Pulse about 5 times until the yolk is completely incorporated.

Dump the mixture into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and press the crumbs into the pan and up the sides of the pan.

Note that I put it on an aluminum pizza pan, those removable bottoms can be tricky and this ensures that you don't make a mess (voice of experience, again).

Place in the freezer, and freeze for at least 20 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and bake in your pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, turning the pan after about 10 minutes, remove when the crust is slightly browned - do not over cook.

Allow to cool.

Then comes the fun part.  You can fill this with anything your heart desires.  Make a chocolate ganache with some chocolate chips and a bit of heavy cream, top with fruit.  Make some pastry cream and top with fruit. If you don't feel like cooking anymore, soften 8 oz. of cream cheese and sweeten with some confectioners sugar, top with get the idea.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What's for lunch? A Refridgerator-Clearer Frittata

Frittatas are a go-to leftover clearer in my house.  Leftovers present a challenge to cooks that have finicky eaters in the house. I happen to love finding things to do with them, but I have run across finicky eaters that don't like leftovers, or anything do to with them.  Frittatas, which are essentially a baked omelet, are a great disguise for anything that you need to rid of in your fridge. 

Last night was a "Wii Kirk" at our little Presbyterian church in Arlington, VA. WE have about one a month in the cooler times of the year.   The pastor's wife, St. Cheryl of Shirlington, and I bake a total of about 20 to 30 pizzas for whoever shows up, we set up a big screen with a Nintendo Wii attached for the kids or whomever to play.  People bring things to share, like salads, dessert, wine, home brewed beer, etc.  It's a grand way to start the weekend!

Anyway, I found myself looking for something to make on Saturday for lunch.  These were the things that fell out of my 'fridge, some were left over from the Wii Kirk ...

 So above we have, clockwise from the far left in the rubbermaid plastic bowl - sauteed peppers and mushrooms, in the small container above there's about 5 cloves of roasted garlic from something I made last week, in the center is a single carrot, above that 1/2 a yellow pepper, then 10 spears of asparagus, at the top there's a small container of leftover roasted potatoes, on the right that's about a single onion, thinly sliced, 3 eggs, and finally at the bottom fresh basil.

 Above are these things all prepped - from lower left, those roasted potatoes, 1 shredded carrot, those peppers and mushrooms, the green stuff next to the carrots is the basil, between the carrots and basil is that roasted garlic minced, next to that is the yellow pepper, and in the ramekin in the upper right is the asparagus.
To start I added 1 Tbls of olive oil to a saute pan and heated for a couple minutes over medium heat:

Add, and saute until the onions are translucent:

 Add, and saute for about 3 minutes, do NOT overcook the asparagus, or it will get stringy and gross [bleah]:

Roasted garlic
roasted potatoes
sauteed peppers and mushrooms

At this time also add whatever herbs/spices you'd like:
I added about 1/2 tsp of salt, some freshly ground pepper and a sprinkling of Italian Seasoning.

 Break the 3 or 4 eggs into a bowl and scramble well, pour over the vegetable mixture and make sure that it's well incorporated throughout the dish.  Allow to cook on your stove top for about 2 minutes so the eggs are starting to set.

Remove from the cooktop, and place under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. Don't let it burn, it can happen quickly, so you need to watch it.  You can't walk away or you can have a disaster on your hands.  Voice of experience here...

SO this is the finished product, this was enough for the two of us, but if you have smaller appetites you could stretch this to feed four - add a salad and some bread, maybe. That's dinner!  I served this with my Faux-oli - Mayo, dijon mustard and horseradish and a slice of my Knearly Kno-Knead Bread.  It was pretty choice, and my 'fridge is cleared of a LOT of stuff!

You can really put anything you can imagine in a frittata,