Monday, November 29, 2010

Mulligatawny Soup

In keeping with my promise and my theme of soothing sick-people food, I made my first batch ever of Mulligatawny Soup, and, shockingly enough, it was edible! It didn't miraculously cure the common cold (would have been nice though) but it did provide a comforting dish that my patient could actually taste (a major feat given the amount of nose-stuff-y-ness).
This dish will forever remind me of Seinfeld. For those of you who haven't seen the Soup Nazi episode, it is a must. In choosing my recipe (lots of careful research) I stumbled upon the recipe from the show . . . I have no idea what this means given that it is a show with fictitious characters and fictitious soup, but anyways, here is the "real" recipe.

I loosely followed a recipe that I found on Epicurious, making my own substitutions and altering things as I went along. To begin, caramelize 1-2 whole diced onion(s).
When the onions begin to turn a nice tawny shade throw in 1 cup chopped carrot followed by 5 cloves chopped garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or so and then throw in your spices (2 tbsps each of garam masala and cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, and 2 bay leaves). I like to let the spices get a little toasty (not burnt) and then add in 2 cups dry red lentils.

Stir the mixture up to coat the lentils (I like to do a round of seasoning here, the soup will need some salt in spite of the stock that goes in) and then add in 8 cups chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes or until your lentils are tender. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaves. Puree the mixture.
Once mixture has been pureed, add in 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk and the juice of one nice fat lemon. Taste and add salt if needed (I will say that I reheated this soup as leftovers and I added a little more salt and a little more cayenne the second time around and it was a big improvement). Your soup is technically ready to go but here's how I finished mine. I put a little scoop of cooked basmati rice in a big soup bowl, topped it with a healthy portion of chicken that I roasted and shredded, and finished the whole thing off with a dollop of greek yogurt and some cilantro (as I've probably said before, I think cilantro makes virtually everything better, but that's me).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter in California

Persimmons fresh from the tree (before the birds got to them).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cardamom-Infused Quinoa Pudding with Caramelized Apples

I am living with an invalid at the moment so decided to make some flavorful, slightly spice-y food to heal him (and in the hope that he could actually taste it). Being the health nut that I am I figured we should start with dessert first. The weather and the invalid called for comfort food so I decided to make a version of Indian rice pudding - subbing quinoa in as my grain. I used cardamom and cinnamon to flavor the dessert and topped it off with some caramelized apples.
To begin combine 2 cups whole milk (or lower percentages if you are feeling strong-willed), 1/3 cup cream, 2/3 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean if you have it - I didn't), 1 teaspoon of cardamom pods, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan.
Heat on medium heat until it is almost boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 3/4 cup of quinoa, 1 cup golden raisins, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and stir. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the pudding has thickened and the quinoa is tender, you are all set and can turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
While the pudding is cooking (or after, depends if you are a multi-tasker) take peel and dice one large granny smith apple.
Heat a pan over medium heat and throw in a pat of butter. Toss in the diced apple along with a tablespoonful or two of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Saute until caramelized (I like mine a little crispy, leave them in longer if you like yours tender). Everything is ready! Throw the pudding into a bowl, spoon some apples on top and sprinkle on a little extra cinnamon and eat up.

Next up, part two of my nursing-a-cold-cooking-weekend: Mulligatawny Soup!
For a gorgeous and somewhat Spring-ier quinoa pudding recipe click here to take a peek at Cannelle et Vanille's version.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Skillet in SoMa

We were picking up a friend in the loin and decided to take a jaunt across Market and try out Little Skillet, the sister restaurant of Farmer Brown.
The menu is straightforward soul food-y and revolves around their fried chicken and waffles. I must admit I was a bad person and didn't go the waffles route but I was smart enough to order the chicken (after all, it did make Bon Appetit's top 10 places for fried chicken list) .
We tried the bbq pulled pork with grits which was AMAZING. Everything about it was delicious. The grits were perfectly creamy and the ratio of pork to grits worked out nicely with the bbq sauce carrying through each bite, mmm.
As for the fried chicken, it was really tasty as well, good flavor and wonderfully moist. Although I must say, the jalapeño cornbread that they serve with the chicken out-shined the main dish. It was one of the best little squares of cornbread I have encountered, with a touch of heat and a wonderful pepper-y flavor. The only downside to the meal, were the fries. I don't mean to be picky but I must confess I am somewhat of a fry connoisseur (and by that I mean whenever I see fries on a menu I can't resist ordering them). On this particular day I was actually (I feel like it is almost a sin to admit this) considering ordering coleslaw just to cut they fried-richness of everything else I was going to consume but the woman at the counter urged me to go with the fries. Maybe they had just gotten a little cold, who knows, but they were lackluster.
To top off my heart-healthy meal I bought a mini-pecan pie which turned out to be completely scrumptious. The crust was light and flaky and the filling had a nice maple flavor putting me in a perfect fall food coma. I had a very pleasant Little Skillet experience, not to mention, they have a great little hole-in-the-wall storefront, very SoMa chic. I will be heading back to fulfill my next jalapeño cornbread craving . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Satsuma Marmalade with Vanilla Bean

We had a gray weekend and I was in the mood for what I consider to be a big cooking project so I decided to try my hand at marmalade. My mother has, for years, reminisced about a particular jar of bitter Seville orange marmalade that she got in England some years ago, which inspired me to attempt a bitter (pleasantly so) marmalade. Here's how it went:
  • I started with about 4.5 pounds of satsuma tangerines, 1 immense grapefruit and 3 lemons.
  • To begin, use a peeler to remove the zest-y layer from all of the citrus. For my tangerines, the skin was very thin and did not lend itself to being peeled. So I just peeled the entire thing and used it all.
  • Once peeled, finely slice all of the zest-y bits.
  • Next take all the zest and throw it in a non-reactive (stainless is an easy way to go, le creuset if you are fancy:) along with 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about a half an hour, or until the zest is tender.
  • While that is happening take all the fruit (from which you have stolen the zest) and slice off the remaining peels. Then proceed to "supreme" your citrus - slice out the meat and leave the membrane and pith (set all of this aside and reserve for later use). I did this for the lemons and the grapefruit. For the tangerines, I recommend breaking down some of them and getting about 1.5 - 2 cups worth of fruit (I took a couple of the fatter sections out and then set aside what was left). With all of the remaining tangerine (and you could just do this with all of them from the beginning and forget the meat) I juiced them and once again reserved the membranes for later.
  • By this time your zest should be done boiling. Turn off the heat and drain the zest, reserving the cooking liquid.
  • Tie all of the reserved pith and membranes in a cheesecloth bundle.
  • Once again, in a large non-reactive pot combine 4 cups of the zest-cooking liquid, the tangerine juice, 5 cups sugar (add 1/2 -1 cup more if you want a sweeter marmalade), 2 vanilla beans (split and scrape the seeds into the mixture), and the bu

  • While the marmalade is cooking, place all of your jars (recipe fills about 10 12-ounce jars), rings and lids in a large pot.

  • Your marmalade should set up without the addition of any additional pectin (based on the natural pectin in the citrus) if however, you have problems I found that you can add 1/2 a packet of pectin (1.5 ounces) and then simmer for an additional 15 or 20 minutes.
Finally, your jam is complete and all you have to do is can it!
  • Remove the rings and lids from the pot of boiling water and place on a clean dish towel.
  • Take out the cheesecloth bundle and discard.
  • Remove a jar from the pot and ladle (or use a wide mouth funnel) in some marmalade until the jar is full, leaving 1/4-inch space at the top of each jar. Quickly, using tongs, place a lid tightly on the jar and flip upside down. Repeat until you are out of marmalade.
  • Leave all of the jars upside down until they have cooled to room temperature.
Side notes: To seal the jars you can use the USDA-approved (woot woot) boiling water method. If you use the flip method, make sure the jars are as hot as possible when you are filling them. Finally, and I have to be reminded of this quite often because I thoroughly enjoy popping down the lid tops, when the jars have cooled to room temperature and you flip them over, do not push the lid down, it should go down by itself in 10 minutes or so. If the lid doesn't depress it has not sealed properly and you should store it in the fridge and/or gobble it up immediately. mm

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sweet Corn Soup with Fresh Crab

My favorite corn man at the farmer's market still had some end of the season sweet corn so I couldn't resist buying more ears than I could eat. I am not always a soup person (I didn't like the texture when I was little, it has grown on me though) but it just sounded like the perfect meal to compliment the fall crispness in the air.
To make (adapted from Bon Appetit's Summer Corn Soup recipe . . . what isn't helped by the addition of bacon?):
  • Roast two poblano chile's over an open flame and once they are uniformly charred/cooked and then pop them into a paper bag and fold the bag to close. Set aside.
  • Shuck three or four ears of corn and cut the kernels off.

  • Break the cobs in half and toss them into a pot with 3 cups of milk, a couple sprigs of fresh thyme, two bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring just to a boil then reduce and let simmer for 5 before turning off. Set aside.

  • In a separate pan drop a tablespoon of butter and saute chopped bacon (about 1/2 cup).
  • Once browned, add in 2 diced carrots, 1 diced onion, 3 cloves chopped garlic and the majority of your reserved corn kernels (I saved some for garnish - they were delicious raw). Cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the carrot is tender.
  • Remove your poblanos from the paper bag and just rub off the charred skin (it should slide right off). Cut off the stem and remove the seeds then chop up the meaty goodness.
  • Add the milk mixture in with the vegetables along with a handful of cilantro, 2 cups of water and your chopped poblanos. Once again, season to taste, if necessary (bacon = salt). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minute
  • Remove the corn cobs and bay leaves then place everything in a blender and give it a zap (to your preference - chunky to silky).
  • I finished by putting a big lump of crab meat on top along with some fresh sliced avocado, a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of raw corn kernels (& cilantro! - i put it on everything).
I served the soup with sliced radishes and fresh baked biscuits. I am completely biased, being the maker, but I will definitely make this again. One of my favorite homemade meals of late.