Monday, January 28, 2008

Chunky Potato Soup with Dill

Gourmet Magazine arrived over the weekend and an entire section was dedicated to meals in minutes. My kind of meals. One that got my attention right away was a simple soup recipe that reported belonged to one of the staff members Polish Grandmother that everyone wolfed down fast. Worth a try. It was actually quite tasty and reminded me of the dilled new potatoes my Mom would make when I was a kid. The recipe:

Chunky Potato Soup with Dill

  • 2 large carrots - cut into 1/2 inch chunks
    2 celery stalks - cut into 1/2 inch chunks
    1 1/2 los Russet potatoes (about 4 large) cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 4 c water
  • 2 T fresh chopped dill (I used dry as fresh is rarely in stock in my fridge)
  • 1 1/2 t salt
    1/2 t pepper
  • 1 c WHOLE milk

Heat butter in large stock pot. Add vegetables and 1/2 t salt. Cook over medium hit for 10-15 minutes stirring occassionally until the vegies begin to brown and stick to bottom of the pot.

Add water, remaining salt and pepper. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes until vegies are cooked through and easily pierced with fork.
Ladle off 2 cups of soup into blender. Add Milk. Process until smooth. Use caution when blending hot liquids, put a towel over the lid to catch any steam or liquid released while blending.

Return puree to the soup and heat through. Add Dill.

All in all it was a pretty tasty soup. It would work as a vegetarian meal but not vegan because of the dairy. Regardless with a simple salad and a glass of milk it made a good winter meal.

I think next time I make it I will use chicken stock instead of the water for a fuller depth of flavor. I would probably add another carrot or two for that added sweetness in the back. I'd consider garnishing the bowl with some fresh parsley and sour cream (bacon bits?) and still keep its simple flavor.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Baked Cod with Roasted Garlic Aoli

I got the idea from this months gourmet, but I couldn't find the fish they called for and I happened to have a head of roasted garlic in the fridge begging to be used. So ever the industrious one in the kitchen I improvised.

Baked Cod with Roasted Garlic Aoli
  1. 3 Cod fillets approx 6 ounces each
  2. 2 T olive oil
  3. 1/4 c mayonnaise
  4. 1 T coarse ground Dijon mustard
  5. 3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed

Preheat oven to 450. Oil the bottom of the baking dish. Lightly salt and pepper the fish fillets. Place fish into baking dish. Mix mayo, mustard and roasted garlic. Divide mayo mixture and spread over the top of each fish fillet. Bake 10 - 12 minutes until fish is just cooked through.

There you go one of those ridiculously easy dinners that is on the table in minutes. But I have to ask you, does it crack you up to have them call it "aoli" when it really is just mayo? At a fine dine experience its a way to charge a couple of extra bucks, but at home who are we kidding?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Easy Mac n Cheese

Somethings can't be improved upon. Velveeta is it in my book. Not an artisan cheese, but one crafted with love and chemistry by Kraft. Who cares it's tasty and the center of many a comfort food back in the Midwest where I grew up.

Among the favorites we had growing up was Mac N Cheese. None of that fussy grating cheddar and making white sauce then baking the beast. Velveeta had it on the table in no time and was a staple growing up. Round it out with Zup's Smoked Polish Sausage and life is good. (I order the latter every couple of years when my horde smuggled to CA by my Mom runs out).

Anyway for the recipe, and this is easier than it looks.

Fran's Mac N Cheese
  • 1 lb macaroni
  • 1 lb Velveeta - cubed
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1/4 - 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 t pepper

Cook macaroni according to package directions in well salted water, drain. Add 1/4c milk and butter to pan, heat on low and stir until butter is melted. Add hot macaroni. Add Velveeta and stir until melted. Add the additional 1/4 c milk to get to desired consistency. final note while pulling the link for Zups I noted that they now have a weather icon with real time's almost midnight there and MINUS freaking 24 below zero. I honestly don't know how my parents and grandparents lived there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Soupa Toscana (Tuscan style potato soup)

Back in the day when I was a cube dweller in Glendale our Fun Friday lunch where took a lot of extra time we'd walk down to the Olive Garden and do the all you can eat Soup n Salad. My favorite soup was the "Soupa Toscana". Of course they don't give out the recipe but I figured out most of the ingredients and put together my own version pretty close to what they have.

The recipe....
Soupa Toscana (Tuscan style potato soup)
  • 1 lb pork sausage links – cut into ½” pieces
  • ½ white onion chopped
  • 1T chopped garlic
  • 1 large russet potato cubed into ½” square pieces (about 2 cups)
  • EVOO
  • ½ t celery seed
  • 1 T fennel – lightly crush
  • 1 t white pepper
  • 1-2 t sea salt to taste
  • 4 cans chicken broth
  • 1 C instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 bunch escarole (can substitute regular spinach)
  • 3T fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

    Lightly coat stock pot with EVOO. Heat to shimmering add pork sausage and stir often. When starting to brown add onion. Lightly grind celery seed and fennel, add to meat. Add white pepper. When onion translucent and starting to caramelize add garlic and potato. Stir and brown another 5 minutes.

    Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Test for salt and add sea salt to taste. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add 1/2 instant mashed potato slowly, stir in well to prevent lumping. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Add additional instant potato in 1 T increments to get a thick soup consistency.

    Add chopped parsley. Rinse escarole well. Chop to bite size pieces. Add to soup. Simmer 5 minutes until escarole wilted. Stir in to soup.

    Serve with fresh parmesan and cracked black pepper.
I do prefer the escarole when I can get it as it has a bit sweeter taste and nicer texture than the spinach. More of a firm bite than the spinach, but either is quite tasty.

The most important step is adding the instant potato to thicken. Stir constantly to avoid lumps. After the first 1/2 you do need to be careful in adding the potato as the various brands don't absorb water the same and you do run the risk of having a pot of mashed potatoe instead of soup if you over do it or do it too fast. If you do over thicken you can add some additional stock to thin it down.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie

In all the excitement today I forgot a couple of things, the biggy was cookies for the lunches this week. Damn...but life goes on when you have a full pantry. Pinched for time, make it a "pan cookie" and move on. Thank gawd for Costco and their 5 lb bags of chips as I rarely am out.

The recipe:
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract (the real deal not imitation)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t soda
  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 C cocoa
  • 2 1/2 C Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9 X 13 pan.

Cream sugars and room temperature butter with the vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.

Sift together the salt, soda, flour and cocoa. Add slowly to butter mixture, beating well to incorporate. Fold in the Chocolate chips. Lightly spread the dough into the prepared pan. Bake 22-25 minutes until edges are just starting to look dry. Cool on rack 10 minutes. Score the cookies and allow to remain in the pan until cool to room temp. At that point you can move to a cookie jar.

I used the Nestle's Semi-sweet chips. The cocoa is the every faithful Hershey brand.

If you have the time and patience you can bake on an ungreased cookie sheet using about 1 heaping tablespoon per cookie. Bake 8-10 minutes until set. I do the traditional cookie rarely as I hate cleaning up baking sheets.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Salmon Steak over Fried Mashed Potato

Some days I like to go fast and this is about as easy as it gets. I keep the Costco frozen Salmon steaks on hand and a variety of premade marinades or the stuff to do them from scratch.

For the salmon tonight I grabbed the trusty bottle of Lawry Mesquite Marinade with Lime. I put about 2 T on the bottom of an 8X8 pan. I put in 4 of the thawed salmon steaks into the pan, spread about 1T marinade over each filet and then covered the dish with plastic wrap for about 30 minutes.

When it came time to cook I was totally lazy and went for the oven roast method. I sprinkled with McCormick Grillmate Montreal Seasoning. Preheated the oven to 375, convection roast and put it in the oven for 20 minutes. (Thickest portion of a fillet should flake easy and be cooked through). Pulled pan from oven and let it rest and carryover cook about 5 minutes.

The hardest part of the meal was the potatoes and even that wasn't a challenge. I took small red potatoes and quarted them (skin on), about 4 cups worth. I put them in a microwave safe bowl and zapped them on high for about 6 minutes. Then I let them sit in bowl, plastic wrap still on tight and let them steam on their own for about 10 minutes.

When potatoes were done I removed the plastic wrap. I seasoned with sea salt, pepper and 1t onion powder and gave them a quick rough mash with the classic wire potato masher. Set aside and in a nonstick frypan with lid fry up 1 strip of good thick cut bacon. Fry bacon until crisp. Crumble the bacon into the potatoes, fold in and add the mixture to the fry pan and hot drippings. Lightly press potato into an 8 inch or so square shape in the pan. Cut up about 2T butter and put on top of potatoes. Fry for about 5 minutes over medium high heat. Flip, add 2T more butter if needed if the potatoes look dry. Cover and cook another 5 minutes.

For plating divide potatos into 4 square portions. Top each portion with a piece of salmon. Round off the plate with a salad. I used the Fresh & Easy Baby Rocket mix with the Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing.
There you go a good looking dinner with no effort that tastes better than the effort put into it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Spicy Pumpkin Corn Soup

This soup came about from a couple of different recipes. Key was a version that gave me ideas how to make it so it didn't taste like pumpkin bread or spice cake. It's filling and a great winter warmer for the belly on a cold wet night like tonight.

I used home made pumpkin puree...was energetic and baked off, canned my jack-o-lanterns this fall. You can use any good pumpkin puree. Do not use pumpkin pie mix and read the can of what you do grab...some are mostly butternut squash that is tasty on it's own but doesn't have quite the same flavor as real pumpkin. The recipe:

Spicy Pumpkin Corn Soup
  • 2 15 oz cans pumpkin puree (or 2 lbs homemade pumpkin puree)
  • 1 lb bag frozen sweet corn
  • 1 14 1/2 can chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T garlic - chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger - grated
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 2 - 4 inch stalks lemon grass
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 - 2 green onions sliced, including the green tops
  • 2 T fresh chopped cilantro.

Remove outer leaves of lemon grass and rinse of any dirty bits. Mash and flatten the lemon grass with a mallet or heavy pan. Tie into the mashed grass into a bundle with the kitchen string.

Heat oil in large sauce pot until it begins to shimmer. Add garlic and ginger. Stir one minute or until it just begins to turn light brown. Add chicken stock and corn. Stir in salt, pepper, lemon grass bundles and cayenne pepper. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until corn is cooked through.

Add pumpkin, increase heat to medium and slowly bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove lemon grass bundle. Pour soup into batches into a blender and puree until smooth. (I use a hand blender for a bit more coarse texture to the final soup). Add additional water (sometimes as much as 1/2 c) to bring it to the right consistency.

Serve with sliced onion and cilantro on top as a garnish.

I usually use the "white" sweet corn variety as it has a lighter more grass like taste that is definitely much sweeter than the traditional "variety". Worth tracking it down if your grocer doesn't keep it in stock.

I'll have garlic bread on the side with a fresh green salad dressed in a light Sesame dressing to make it a full meal.