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Archive for December, 2001

Charles from sixdifferentways writes about his Spanish Stew:

The Soup Lady said I could send a stew recipe and it would still count as soup. I lost the recipe for this stew long ago, but make it often enough that I basically have it memorized by now. I call it “Spanish stew.” I think the original recipe was in some magazine or something, as being typical of a dish made in Spain. The southern region near the French border. This was discovered in college. It’s the
best kind of meal: delicious, easy, one-dish, freezes well for those times when
you are short on time, and relatively cheap. Some of the ingredients are a bit
pricey, but you have to figure this recipe makes two dinners for two and a couple of lunches. I still bring leftovers of this for lunch. It is better than
anything you can buy out.

Spanish Stew – footnotes included*

1 – 1 ½ pounds of beef or lamb stew meat, cut into cubes [1]
¼ cup of flour
olive oil
1 – 1 ½ heads of garlic (not cloves and NOT chopped)
4-5 whole shallots (NOT chopped)
1 – ½ cups good dry red wine [2]
2-3 carrots, sliced
2-3 stalks of celery, sliced (I like including some of the leafy parts)
½ cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
5 or 6 WHOLE new or small white or red potatoes
7 or 8 whole cloves
1-tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons other dried herbs [3]
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or a few dashes of hot sauce (optional, but I am from Texas)
½ cup fresh-grated Parmesan-Reggiano (pricey but so
worth it)
1/2 cup good quality fresh black olives (i.e., not in a jar or
tin)
(optional) 2 pinches of saffron
(optional) 1 baguette or other fresh bread – this is really part of the stew, a necessity and not “on the side”, even though it’s on the side.
Salt [4] and fresh-ground pepper.
a few tablespoons of European butter

To make this, you need a slow cooker, sometimes called a “crock pot.” (I suppose you could use a pan over low heat, but a crock-pot is one of the best inventions of the 20th Century. Everyone should own one. You can make stuff and forget about it. It won’t overcook. It won’t heat up the kitchen in the summer. It is idiot-proof.) You will also need a food processor of some sort or maybe a blender.

Toss the cubes of meat in the flour. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the meat until slightly browned all over. Spoon all this into your crock-pot. Stick the whole cloves into the potatoes. Add all of the vegetables and herbs except the saffron, and wine to cover. Turn the crock-pot on for several hours (6 hours or less turn on “high”, 8-12 hours on “low.”)

After this time, you need to take a slotted spoon and carefully remove the potatoes, garlic cloves, and shallots. Remove the cloves from the potatoes best you can. Chop the potatoes a bit and add them back in. Here is the essential trick: This stew is not thickened by flour or anything like that. The mashed garlic and shallots thicken it. So take the whole garlic cloves and shallots, and add them to the food processor with a bit of the juice and the saffron. Process until you have a thick paste. Use a spatula and scoop every bit back into the pot. Continue to cook on “high” for another 2 hours or more. Taste for seasoning. You may want to add a tablespoon or so of extra virgin Olive oil to finish if you use no olives.

Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of the parmesan and the sliced bread. If you want to be really decadent, finish each bowl with about 1/2 a teaspoon of the butter, in the French manner. The butter is good on the bread, too – but the stew is rich enough you don’t really need it if you want to cut back on the fat a bit.

I think that’s it. I may have forgotten something, I’m just writing off-the-cuff. However, it should be very good. It’s stew, you can add other vegetables or seasonigs or whatever you like or have around. Play around. You’ll like it.

Note: This is really good if you keep it in the refrigerator overnight
after you cook it. It also freezes wonderfully. In fact, if you have a big enough crock-pot, make double the recipe and freeze some for a quick meal later.

* Footnotes:
[1] Being Spanish, you could probably also use some seafood instead – shrimp, crabs, etc. Just don’t add it until about the last 15 minutes of cooking – and maybe use white wine instead of red.
[2] You should always cook with wine that is, at least, drinkable. “Cooking wine” is an abomination and should be banned. This is cheap, leftover wine that is salted so much it can be sold as cooking wine and not a beverage. You see no cooking wine on grocery shelves in France. There is a reason for this. You don’t have to use great wine for cooking, but it should be decent.
[3] I like to use a quality fines herbes or “Herbs from Provence” mix, from Morton and Bassett in San Francisco. They sell it at a lot of markets here or http://www.mortonbassett.com – which has chervil, rosemary, tarragon, lavender, marjoram, savory, tyme, and parsley. Use whatever you like, but some rosemary and tarragon in the mix are recommended.
[4] Like a lot of slow-cooked dishes, one trick is to season this throughout the cooking stages if possible. I like to add a bit of kosher salt in the beginning. After processing the garlic and shallots, I’ll add a pinch of pink Alaea Hawaiian sea salt, Tinged pinkish from contact with iron oxide inherent in that region’s waters, large crystals of this unique Hawaiian sea salt add complexity to the dish (it’s great on any grilled meat or vegetables, too.). Right before serving, a sprinkling of snow-white a French fleur de sel, in particular that gathered only in the Summer from the ile de Re. Yes, I have eight different salts in my cupboard and none is a cardboard cylinder of iodized stuff with the slogan “when it rains it pours.” Though that will work, too. I am just a saltophile.

Cheers, Charles!

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Tomato-Thyme Soup

IN THE KITCHEN WITH MISS PIGGY – Fabulous Recipes from My Celebrity Friends – 1996

This cookbook is a compilation of the prized personal recipes of the friends of Miss Piggy. I am suspicious. I find it entirely believeable that Liz Taylor knows about Spicy Chicken or that Willard Scott has spent years perfecting the recipe for Brown Sugar Pound Cake. But one must suspend
reality to fall for Ivana Trump cooking Goulash or Robin Leach making
Chicken and Pasta Salad. Or is that just me? Yo-Yo Ma’s Barbequed Spareribs with Beer and Honey or Barbara Bush’s Bologna for a Cocktail Buffet – the jury’s still out.

In a failed attempt to broaden the Teen Queen’s list of acceptable foods, this book was a gift to her. The first recipe she chose to make was Frank Oz’s Glop, a concoction of zucchini, spinach and broccoli steamed together, run through a food processor and baked after adding butter and mozzarella cheese. Did she eat it? She declined.

What we have here is a book containing 50 recipes that are clearly written and easy to follow using common ingredients. Each offering includes a beautiful color photo of the finished dish, and Miss Piggy appears in a fabulous outfit on each page with tips and enhancements of her own. Originally produced as part of a fund-raising effort for Citymeals-On-Wheels, a private program that feeds homebound elderly people, it can hold it’s own against many other cookbooks on the shelf and definately outshines the pretentious Williams-Sonoma series. It includes four recipes for soup, only one of which is worth mentioning:

KATIE COURIC’S ZESTY TOMATO-THYME SOUP

The Description :
This is a chunky soup with a light, fresh taste.

The Recipe:
1. Coarsely chop one medium onion and two cloves of garlic in a food processor. Remove the mixture; set aside. Chop two stalks of celery and 1/4 cup (packed) of fresh parsley. Remove and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, warm one tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and garlic and stir-fry until the mixture begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 16-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes and their juice, 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth, two tablespoons of tomato paste, two tablespoons of grated orange zest, one teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and the celery and parsley.
3. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
4. Serve hot, at room temperature or slightly chilled, but not cold. Offer with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Microwave Version:
To save time, you could make this in the microwave. Here’s how: Combine the oil, chopped onion, garlic, celery, and parsley in a 3-Qt. microwave-safe casserole. Cover loosley and cook at 100% for 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, the chicken broth, tomato paste, orange zest, thyme and pepper. Cover and cook at 100% for 6 minutes, then at 50% for another 7 minutes.

The Review:
Our panel of judges went to the test-kitchen and came back with this report:
The College Man “This is great.” He had two servings and used light rye bread to mop the bowl. That is the sign of a tasy broth.
The Teen Queen Declined to partcipate.
The Girlfriend She doesn’t usually care for canned tomatoes, but in this case, she admitted she was pleasantly surprised. She said she wouldn’t make it in her own home, but retracted her statement within a week. The Cook I liked the microwave version better on this one. It didn’t seem so dark and heavy as the stove-top version and the orange zest was a little brighter this way. Easy to make for a quick lunch of soup and sandwich. Whenever a recipe calls for canned crushed tomatoes, I use canned whole tomatoes and squeeze them through my fingers. They have a much better texture.

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Persian Onion Soup

The Description:
A very different onion soup from the restaurant fare you are used to. Tart and spicy.

The Recipe:
Saute 4 medium onions, sliced in 5 tablespoons of oil for about 10 minutes. Mix 3 tablespoons of flour with one cup of water and add it to the sauteed onions. Add 5 more cups of water, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric. Simmer over low heat for 35 to 40 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup each of lemon juice and lime juice to the soup and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more. Stir in the soup spice mixture: one tablespoon of dried mint, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and remove from heat. In a seperate bowl, beat 2
eggs. Add a ladle of soup to the eggs, beat again and add to the soup.

The Review:
Our panel of judges went to the test kitchens ( and boy, I had to drag them in there this time ) and came back with this report:
The Mister He liked it. I served this soup with tabouleh, plain yougurt, and pita bread and it was a wild festival of extraordinary taste sensations. It also gave him the added opportunity of claiming that no mid-eastern country
except Egypt knows how to cook, which always veers off into how the Syrians ruin everything they touch in the kitchen. He feels he is entitled to do this becaue he is half Egyptian and half Syrian.
The College Man This soup got a rave review from him – he likes tart things and the flood of citus in this soup
provides a burst of flavor. The tartness is countered by the sugar in such a way that neither taste type takes over. The Teen Queen Declined to participate.
The Cook A very nice soup. The temptation at the start is to veer away from the recipe towards the usual French onion, but stick with it…it is a unique offering. Something sweet and creamy for dessert, such as coffee ice
cream or creme caramel, would be a good finish for this meal.

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The Art of Laze Cookbook

The Soup Lady does not endorse this cook book, she only presents it
here for your consideration : The Art of Laze Cookbook. It does have two soup recipes:

Ma’s Hand Me Down Bratwurst Soup
Chicken Pot Pie with Death Stars Soup

You know, this guy does a lot of thinking about his recipes, you have to hand him that. Altered thinking, but thinking none the less. Do be sure to check the cookbook for a special segment called Recipes For Things That Spread Out of Control. link via booboolina.

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I Told You So

Near the top of The Soup Lady’s wish list this year is the 40th Anniversary edition of Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Lousie Bertholle.

On the very first page of the newly written introduction, no less a personage than Julia Child herself reminisces about her dinner parties of her early years and says this: ” … jellied madrilene was a favorite fancy soup of the period.”

I told you it was something good. Apparently Julia agrees with me.

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Julienne Soup with Polpetti

The Description :
This is has an elegant look to it.The vegetables are cut in slender match-stick pieces, julienne fashion, and the tiny meatballs add substance and flavor.

The Recipe:
Combine one egg (slightly beaten), one tablespoon of milk, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/2 cup of soft bread crumbs. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup grated
parmesan cheese and 1/2 pound of ground beef and mix well. Shape into tiny meatballs (polpetti) the size of radishes. In a stock pot, heat 4 cups of beef broth. Cut one turnip, 3 carrots, 6 spring onions, 2 stalks of celery, and 3 medium red beets into julienne pieces (the size of matchsticks) . Add these to the broth along with one bunch of finely chopped parsely. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the meatballs and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve with 4 – 5 meatballs in each bowl.

The Review : The modified panel of judges went into the test kitchen and came back with this report: The Granny – enjoyed the soup and requested a second serving, but without the meatballs.
The Teen Queen – did not want to participate, but did it to please her grandmother. She tried a little bit of everything, rejected the meat ball, and seemed to prefer the thin vegetables to the broth.
The Cook – It was fun to make the julienne pieces. It required a bigger effort to keep the meatballs down to a small size, but when they went into the soup, it was worth the effort. There was something not quite right about the combination used in this soup – it was either too much or not enough. It would have been much more elegant without the meatballs. If you do make it with the meatballs, I would also add 1/2 cup of cooked pasta of a small size (ditellini, small shells, tubetini). Would I make it again? Yes, but probably without the meatballs.

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