Posts Tagged ‘soup’

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Dreamy. (LAKSA TOFU)

January 4, 2016

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Soup is on and I’m psyched. Lately I just want to take care of everyone and there is no better way than a big soup. It’s also handy to fight the chills, sharpen immunity and transform refrigerator odds and ends into a delicious, shareable meal.

As it’s finally winter in my hometown, I can’t help but dream of a Gilligan’s Island, where it rains coconuts and fish sauce douses everything. I am not sure where that crew landed, but Southeast Asia, and its exceptional array of cuisine, is where my mind is going. All the fresh ingredients that grace the plate and techniques that conjure flavor and texture, make complex dishes of rather straightforward ingredients. Deeper studies reveal an endless tome of recipes, unique to each person cooking. Paradise in more ways than one.

In hopes of bridging my desire for exotic beach holidays and wintry wonderland realities, I spent some time cooking laksa, a coconut-based soup that is served over noodles, the result of a fusion between Chinese and Malay cooking. Laksa is also hearty with protein, vegetables and spices, it will ground an appetite with satisfaction and warmth, while the mind gets in a boat and sails.

In Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Southern Thailand, laksa is wildly popular and comes in many varieties, sporting tofu, fish, poultry or beef  intermingled with an endless parade of vegetables. I fill my quota with a couple of contrasty colors like orange, green, red, white, thanks to things like winter squash, green beans, tomatoes, parsnip, eggplant, or whatever seems logical. A simple homemade spice paste, with a healthy dose of curry and turmeric, sets the backdrop a golden yellow. A handful of bean sprouts adds crunch on top. Like many dishes from this part of the world, garnishes are key. Bright, aromatic lime, chilis, fresh herbs and extra fish sauce complete the dish, and the daydream.

LAKSA TOFU

Spice paste:
2 stalks lemongrass
1/2 cup roughly chopped shallots
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts or almonds
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Soup:
1/4 cup oil
2 cups cubed eggplant (1 inch cubes)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 can coconut milk (14 ounces)
3 cups water
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 cups cubed butternut squash (1 inch cubes)
1 cup sliced napa cabbage
1/2 pound tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 scallions, chopped
1 cup mung bean sprouts, plus extra for garnish
cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
red chili slices for garnish (optional
kosher salt
1 lime, cut into wedges

your favorite noodles, cooked

Remove the tough outside layer or two from the lemongrass stalk.Slice off the hard end (root end) and discard, along with the outer layers.

Make thin slices, starting at the root end, up the pale part of the stalk just until it starts to become deeper green. Reserve the green stalks.

Place chopped lemongrass in a small food processor (or blender) along with shallots, garlic, nuts, oil and salt. Puree the ingredients to form a paste-like consistency. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a medium sized pot. Fry the cubes of eggplant with a generous pinch of salt until golden brown.

Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

In the same pot, fry the spice-paste until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the curry and turmeric, and sauté for another minute or two before adding the coconut milk and water. Scrape the bottom of the pot to release any cooked bits that are clinging.

Toss in the kaffir leaves, sugar, fish sauce, a teaspoon of salt and squash. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the leftover lemongrass stalks, using them to stir the soup occasionally. Simmer until squash is almost cooked, about 8 minutes.

Add in the cabbage, tofu, scallions and sprouts along with the cooked eggplant. Simmer all together for another 5 minutes and taste for seasoning.

Add more salt, sugar or fish sauce as needed. Remove kaffir lime leaves before serving. Place a serving of noodles in each bowl. Ladle soup on top and garnish with fresh mung bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, lime wedges and/or chili slices.

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Not missing a pig. (VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE)

February 17, 2015

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As the chill seeps through the crack under the door, our heaviest defense is in our soup pot. I am a soup person. In addition to being the perfect immune-boost, to me it is the best comfort food. And though it is quaint to work all day on a home cooked meal, I would secretly trade slow cooking for fast any day of the week. This shouldn’t mean that your food isn’t awesome. There are plenty of express meals that will keep the whole family happy, satisfied and fit, and come flying out of the kitchen in under 20 minutes.

Soups are especially good for this. It’s the ultimate one-pot meal. My auto correct wanted to write ‘unlimited’ instead of ‘ultimate’ and it is that too. A soup can be as decadent or as lean as the cook wishes. Many classic soups have a base of salt pork, hock, belly or some other flavorful cut that appreciates in taste with a long cooking time. I definitely support this style but when you want to get dinner out a bit faster or cook a little leaner, the pig can easily be
omitted from any recipe. The trick is to make up for that missing savoriness by building flavors as you go. Starting with garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes or onions with a little extra caramelization and finishing with a touch vinegar, olive oil or sea salt can really bring a soup to the next level. The recipe below features smoked paprika, or pimenton de la vera. It has a deep smokey spice akin to chorizo, without the fat and calories.

In this recipe, a take on a Sopa Verde, the ingredients are really flexible. The greens can be swapped out for any hearty leaf like chard, turnip greens, escarole, mustard greens or spinach (which will wilt straight into the finished soup –no cooking required*). You can also use any kind of broth or even water. Another way to get a little extra flavor if using plain water is a splash of white wine or beer.

 

VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE

6 main course-sized servings

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups stock/water
1 pound white or sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale and collards, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cans (15oz, each) white beans (great northern or cannellini)
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
a few dashes hot sauce (optional)
Kosher salt
Black pepper to taste

cilantro leaves for garnish

• Warm the oil and butter (if using) in a large saucepan. Add the
onions with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sauté on low heat until soft and
translucent, about 5 minutes.
• Stir in smoked paprika and garlic.
• Pour in the 8 cups of liquid, raise heat.
• When it begins to simmer, add sweet potatoes.
• Bring the soup up to a boil and add the greens (except if using
spinach*). Boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to simmer, add beans.
• When the sweet potatoes are cooked through and greens are tender, remove from heat. (If using spinach add at this stage, stir until wilted*)
• Add another tablespoon of salt, mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of red
wine vinegar.
•Taste!
• Adjust the flavor to your liking with another spoon of vinegar,
salt, black pepper and/or hot sauce, if using.
• Serve the soup warm with fresh cilantro leaves and a few slices of
jalapeño if you love heat.

Like most soups and stews, the taste gets better as it sits, especially the next day! MMMMmmmm…leftovers!

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This is a great base recipe with plenty of possibilities. Personalizations can be beans, croutons, pumpkin seeds, dried chilies, mushrooms, tortilla strips and on and on.

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Don’t quote me. (THE CHELSEA MARKET COOKBOOK)

October 14, 2013

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A while back MG and I contributed some recipes to a secret project. Now the official Chelsea Market Cookbook is here! Let the world be exposed to Metalbelly‘s Texas Chili and my own golden garlic butter, that mysteriously tastes just like movie popcorn, as well as great stuff from people way more famous than us… lots of them! Check it out at Amazon.

One of my recipes, originally titled ‘Market Fish Stew’, was retitled Provençal Fish Stew and likened to a bouillabaisse in its description. While the use of leeks, fennel and pastis are typical of Provence, I have to admit my dish is way too simple (and adaptable) to hold court in the tradition of bouillabaisse. If the recipe I developed for the Chelsea Market Cookbook is a speedboat, the bouillabaisse I ate many years ago, at a tiny port restaurant in Marseille, was a French naval ship.

That first time, I didn’t really know what I was in for while hunting for the historic soup, but my goal was to find the perfect place to eat it. It should be noted, this was before personal opinions could be publicly accessed with ease. I couldn’t look at scores of reviews, there was no googling to be done. These were my early days of culinary exploration and because there were fewer resources, I was honing the skill of spotting a real deal restaurant by wits alone. With each new travel, in seas of tourist traps and among hordes of menus and foreign words, finding the local gem just by scanning the immediate details became my superpower.

The day I went shopping for bouillabaisse, I was on a solo mission with no one to translate or steer. As I wound through the streets of the port I scanned for a place with just the right light, a healthy level of sound, happy relaxed guests and staff, good smells. My ideal was smallish in size and maybe a bit off the path. Scan the menu, is it traditional and also unique? Is there variety, is there a clear specialty? This is the first glance.

I found my spot and ordered a bouillabaisse. Soon after, the waiter presented me with a plate of raw Mediterranean fish and various sea animals. However confused, I signed off with a nod. He disappeared leaving me to devour a whole basket of bread and rouille, a garlic and saffron ailoi, named for its color (rust). Rouille is a mandatory part of a bouillabaisse, meant to be sunk in the bottom of the soup, making the broth thicker and richer –not eaten as an appetizer. The waiter came back with a huge bowl brimming with the seafood in an incredible broth, thick with fishy shrapnel and a little gritty with seasonings. As I worked my way through that bowl of perfectly cooked fish, my guy refilled broth from a tureen and bread/rouille as needed. It was impossible to stop eating this bottomless bowl, and I probably took down enough for four people.

Sorry to report that I don’t know the restaurant name or the street it was on. I didn’t write notes on food then or take pictures of my meals with the enormous Nikkormat I was probably carrying. Since this momentous meal, I have researched and discussed many more details of regional French cooking, learning that there is much debate about what an authentic bouillabaisse really is; seasoning, type of fish, order of plating, etc. In my food-obsessed travels I realize that eating any dish in the place of its origin is such a unique sensory experience that it is hard to describe the final criteria when looking for the best local spot. One might say that you have to give yourself over to the place you are visiting, and its customs, in order to be admitted passage to an authentic experience. If you search for a restaurant with ketchup bottles on the table wherever you go, it is sure you will be denied this.

I walked Marseille top to bottom, letting it take me where it would. On a desolate road that ran alongside the sea, there were signs indicating boats in transit to/from Corsica, Italy and Algeria. I remember reading the exotic port names and feeling small and far away, isolated from the rest of the world (remember, no cellphones). I accepted that no one on the continent knew where I was at that moment and I could be anywhere according to the rest of the world. I continued into the ‘the pannier’ or old town which was a tight maze of narrow corridors. It must have been during a particularly quiet siesta because what was described to me as the must-see, crazy, condensed part of town was silent. The strange, lonely feeling deepened but didn’t last long. The noise level rose as the streets pointed back toward port and I turned a corner just in time to see an outdoor beer garden full of people (travelers) just like me. I hung with them for a bit before the desire to continue my loner journey resumed.

I bought some cheap cigarettes in an alleyway. I happened upon a gallery opening in a cavernous garage-like space with minimalist paintings and loads of wine. Way earlier that day I trekked around the moon rocks of the Calanques peering down at the very place the delicious bouillabaisse fish come from. Traveling with my stunning vintage Laguiole (like a good Frenchman), I sliced saucisson and broke bread under the immense statues of the Palais Longchamp before wandering the fine arts museum inside. At night I sketched the illuminated windows of St. Vincent de Paul and pretended I spoke only Bulgarian to maintain my solitude when approached by curious passers by.

I fell in love with Marseille and its briny breeze. Was intrigued by the local accent and its choppy Italian inflection, the cultural mash-up, the crossroads and that overall, “hey! we’ve got a port so we can go anywhere, but we stay right here” kind of feeling. And after taking all that in, I’m pretty sure I had a spot on bouillabaisse that day.

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A little lesson. (FARMERS MISO SOUP)

September 19, 2013

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I am a miso lover. I need to have miso soup at least once a week, usually as the precursor to some sushi even though that feels like the lazy way out. Miso paste in general has so much more potential than a few cubes of tofu and some lonely sails of seaweed. By learning a few different (easy!) ways to use it, miso can be a staple in your fridge forever and ever. You, as the owner of a high-quality tub of miso, can reap the many health benefits for just as long.

Since it’s a fermented food, it is important is to avoid boiling miso. High heat will harm the living enzymes that make this a genuine superfood as it will also dull the unique flavors. Use miso to ‘finish’ dishes that you have created rather than adding it when there is still cooking to be done.

Miso to-do list:

-Mix into softened butter to make ‘miso butter’, the best topping for seafood ever.

-Mix with minced garlic and chili paste as a condiment for grilled meat.

-Whisk into salad dressing or marinades.

-Just miso solo in a bit of simple broth.

-I’ve seen people use it in pesto as a substitute for parmesan but…

Below is a hearty soup recipe that uses a bunch of fantastic end-of-summer vegetables, but any mixture of veg would work. Once the soup is off of the stove, dunk a measuring cup into the broth, scooping out about one cup of hot liquid. Drop a few spoonfuls of miso into measuring cup and whisk/stir until it is dissolved. Pour the miso mixture back into the soup pot and adjust to taste. You can simply repeat this process until you have reached the desired amount of umami.

Try potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, spinach and/or noodles. This recipe can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like, the main thing is hot (not boiling) liquid*, dissolve miso, enjoy.

FARMERS MISO SOUP

(serves 4-6)

2 quarts stock or water

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cubed into small chunks

1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup chopped kale leaves

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 pound tofu, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 splash of rice vinegar

a few red pepper flakes

1/4 cup wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water until softened

1/4 cup miso paste (any color)

1/2 carrot

1 inch ginger

chopped chives to garnish

  • Place the stock in a large pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add onion, kohlrabi and celery. Simmer about 10 minutes. 
  • Add kale, garlic and tofu. Cook until all vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar and red pepper to season. Taste and adjust. Add wakame.
  • Take one cup of stock out of the pot and place in a bowl or measuring cup. Whisk miso into the hot broth and pour it back into the soup. Taste and adjust.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and using a fine grater (preferably a microplane), grate some carrot and ginger into each soup and sprinkle with chives to garnish.
  • When reheating the soup, warm it but don’t boil. I’ll say it again.

*Make your own stock! I love stock making.

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/elaborations-veggie-dashi/

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/balancing-it-out-alkalizing-broth-2/

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Balancing it out. (ALKALIZING BROTH)

April 19, 2013

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Remember the science lesson about acids and bases in the form of a number line? Seven is neutral, like water, right in the middle of both states. Anything over 7 is a base (alkaline) and anything under is acidic. Our blood, which our body maintains at a pH of 7.35-7.45, is therefore slightly alkaline. The thing is, many of the foods we eat are acid-causing, even some pretty healthy ones.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, most grains and legumes in excess and without balancing are not the only things that have the power to make us acidic. Some of our experiences like stress, lack of activity and poor diet choices in general can also be culprits of this undesirable condition. And though we need both acid and alkaline to be in balance, when too much acid is present, the body works overtime to keep the blood in its proper state. Foods that are alkaline*, most fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, seaweed, miso, olive oil, for example, are not only important for daily functions, but when ingested regularly will more readily balance out the less than perfect moments in our lives.

All that to say, hey! eat your veggies!

Lately I have been making extra effort to do just that by keeping the fridge stocked with beautiful organic produce and cooking lots of healthy dinners. Also trying to keep my fridge from being a graveyard of dead leftovers or, even worse, perfectly good uncooked stuff going to seed. One of the ways I like to stretch my organic grocery bucks to the fullest is by making stock. All of the lovely and delicately aromatic things that make for a good, clear stock (carrot, celery, onion, leek, fennel, thyme) go into freezer bags until I have stockpiled enough to be dumped into a big pot with some water, simmered until a lightly golden stock is born.

A few months ago, while doing a cleanse, I learned about alkalizing vegetable broth. It broke every classic culinary rule for stock-making which advises no leafy greens, no cabbage, no squash, no root vegetables, no radish. Each one of these things said to make the stock cloudy, sulfuric, bitter, etc. but the recipe included all of these things. The product was delicious, had none of the qualities Escoffier warned about. Now I am happily breaking the rules and adding all of this stuff to the freezer bag to create broths that can double as alkalizing tonic. The broth is dark and rich and can stand alone warmed  with a little extra sea salt (also alkalizing). The recommendation is to drink it several times daily. That is a great theory and I enjoyed it when I was eating strictly, but I am more often using the stuff in soups, stews, curries and risotto in lieu of more boring stocks, giving a nutritional boost and extra flavor.

ALKALIZING BROTH

You can really be creative with the vegetables you put in there, this is just a guideline:

1 onion, quartered

(plus shallot, onion, leek or scallion trimmings)

3 carrots

3 celery stalks

2 fennel tops

4 cloves garlic

2 cups green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, collard, beet greens, etc.)

1/4 head of cabbage + the core

peels, trimmings (no seeds) of one (organic) butternut squash

1 sweet potato, large dice

1/2 cup seaweed (I like kombu)

2 cups mushroom stems (or 1 cup dried mushrooms)

1/2 bunch of parsley or cilantro stems with or without leaves

1 cup of radish (with or without tops) -optional

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

4-5 quarts of water (enough to cover all of the ingredients by a few inches)

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot.
  • Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  • Immediately turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook about 1.5 hours.
  • Strain out the vegetables and save the stock in containers.
  • Freeze what you are not using. Defrost as needed.

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Scrap bag! Red cabbage, mushroom, leek, scallion, celery, sometimes chicken bones too.

In culinary school after  pastry classes when we were ingesting sugar all day long, we were told to go home and alkalize with a hot miso soup. Yea! I give it to my kid too, after parties and stuff.

*A proper alkalizing food chart lives here. These sistas are serious!

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For the many. (GREEN CURRY PASTE)

September 14, 2012

World Map: Ink on Paper, 2007

Curry means different things to different people and cultures and that’s cool except when you only think of one and leave out all the others. When I was a kid it was a noxious yellow powder that my mom put in some sort of vegetable casserole, turning everything in the pan a florescent color. Bad news. By now I have long since (almost) buried that memory under many happy moments eating curries from the Caribbean, India and Nepal, China, Japan and different parts of Southeast Asia.

A common bond that links this ambiguously named dish across the universe is that a blend of spices and aromatics usually comes together to create the base flavor. The curry could be saucy or dry, include any number of veg, protein and/or starches. It can be tart, sweet, spicy, ridiculously spicy, etc. The layout will be different in each region or in each town or even in each household. It’s a personal thing.

I have been experimenting with curry pastes reminiscent of Southeast Asia. Recently I made a green curry that is loosely Thai-inspired but really just a warm, rich and satisfying blend of herbs, spices and alliums. To activate the ingredients in the paste it is best to gently saute it for a moment in the pot and then stir in whatever liquid mixture (water, stock, coconut milk, beer, etc) you like. Simmer until the flavors fuse. A little bit of tweaking with salt, sugar lime juice, vinegar and a delicious ‘curry’ is born.

When I served this at a luncheon, I put an array of garnishes next to a pot of coconut milk-based green goodness so each person partaking in the meal could make their own perfect bowl using the curry broth as either a soup or a sauce, or not at all! With things like soba noodles, dry sauted tofu, chilies, marinated seaweed, mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, tiny tomatoes and fresh herbs everyone decorated their bowl. It was an interesting exercise in creating a balanced meal and everyone made a unique curry all their own.

GREEN CURRY PASTE

(makes about 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

15 black peppercorns

6 dried chilies, soaked in water and de-stemmed or three fresh chilies, chopped*

1/3 cup shallot, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems

7 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons lemongrass, chopped fine (reserve stalks)

1 lime, zested

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vegetable or flavorless oil

  • Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until frgarant, about 5 minutes. Grind to a powder with the peppercorns in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the mortar and pestle (or a food processor) and grind to a fine-textured paste.
  • Store in a lidded container in the fridge for one month or freeze for up to 3 months.

* more chilies = more heat… go for it!

(I’m not pretending to be primitive or anything. I throw that stuff in the processor.)

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Summer cravings. (VEGETABLE NOODLE SOUP)

August 2, 2012

I hear all of your summer sniffles. And I’m listening. Here is one of those things that seems counter-intuitive, a summer soup. It’s not gazpacho. It’s hot. Right now is the time for so many great veg that it only seems right that a chock full soup tonic comes to be. I got nine vegetables plus parsley in there, all from my super CSA (and friend’s dad’s garden). I mostly chose by varying color; yellow, white, red, green, orange, purple with light seasoning to guide it. It’s a goddamn Olympian of a soup. Everyone around the table agreed with surprise that it was just what they needed.

I’d like to call this an ‘open recipe’ because there is alot of subbing and interpreting that can be done. Here is how I did it but pleeeeeease stray using squash, parsnip, sweet potato, peppers, corn kernels, spinach, etc. Get in there! Enjoy.

VEGETABLE NOODLE SOUP

2 quarts of stock (vegetable or chicken work best or just use water)

1 parmesan rind* (optional)

1 yellow summer squash, diced

2 small potatoes, diced

1 medium turnip, peeled and diced

1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced

3 carrots, diced

1 small red onion, diced

a large handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths

2-3 tomatoes, diced (or 1 small can diced toms)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 drizzle extra virgin olive oil

1 splash red wine vinegar (or white or champ, or cider or sherry)

4 ounces egg noodles (or rice), cooked separately

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1/4 cup chopped parsley (or basil)

salt and pepper

  • In a pot, heat the stock or water with the parmesan rind and a dash of salt.
  • Once boiling, add squash, potatoes, turnip, kohlrabi, carrot and onion (or whatever mix of vegetables you choose). Reduce heat and let the soup simmer vigorously until veg are just tender, 15-20 minutes.
  • Add green beans, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.
  • Check for seasoning, adding more salt and some pepper as needed. Stir in noodles
  • Finish with grated parm and parsley and serve in bowls.

* If ever you buy a block of good Parmigiano Reggiano cheese you’ll notice the outer coating has a pinhole pattern. The dots spell out the name of the cheese and are a sign of authenticity. After you have cut, shaved or grated all the cheese away from this rind, hang onto it. Drop it into a soup for added flavor and nutrition.

** A couple of scoops of soup pulsed in the food processor made a great dinner for babe. Adjust the thickness by adding more or less broth.