Mother’s Challenge

My mom often has a little trouble in restaurants. She is a vegetarian. And she’s allergic to onions. And she only likes romaine lettuce. She doesn’t like heavily spiced food. Or salty food. And there are quite a few other things she doesn’t like. (mushrooms)

Now before you get all judge-y, just picture a nice little lady who wants a salad without iceberg lettuce and more veggies than old shredded carrots and radishes.  That doesn’t seem hard right? Especially in the nice restaurants where the chefs aim to please, where the fresh produce is in abundance, where the chef is professionally trained?

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a decent salad these days. or heck, how about some pasta with a few hot veggies on it. Sometimes she even has trouble in vegetarian restaurants because this community relies so heavily on the use of onions (basis for just about everything) and mushrooms (often a “meat substitute.”)

It amazes me each time we go out to dinner how hard it is for a restaurant to accommodate. Sometimes they can’t even grasp substituting the romaine lettuce that they are already serving  for their Caesar salads as the lettuce for their garden salad. Anyway I digress.

Each time she comes to my house I make it my personal challenge to make delicious, vegetarian, onion-free food for her. (And of course it helps that I know all her likes/dislikes too.)

But if I can do this…

Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup
Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup with cream swirled in at serving time.

6-8 medium size carrots roasted on a sheet pan brushed with the tiniest bit of oil and the tiniest bit of salt and pepper.**

1 small head of garlic roasted in a foil packet with the same tiniest bit of oil.**

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp honey or agave syrup

1-2 tsp dried dill ( or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)

blend the carrots, ginger, agave/honey and 2-3 of the cloves from the roasted garlic head in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the dill. Add enough water till you have your desired consistency. Heat thru. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper if you need/want it.  Ladle into bowls and swirl a little cream, milk or half and half on top for extra creaminess.

**I roasted these a couple of days ahead when I had the oven on for something else. That makes this soup as easy as opening a can.

Author’s Notes

don’t add too much roasted garlic or this can easily become orange-colored garlic soup – which is okay if that is what you love.

Stock or milk could be used for all or part, as a substitute for the water.

Makes about 2-4 bowls depending on your level of consistency.

carrot soup in pan

Leftover Soup

"Everybody in the pool!"

“Everybody in the pool!”

Like most folks I had more food than people at my Christmas table, so that presents lots of leftover opportunities. And like most folks, soup was the perfect thing to throw some of the items into and create a whole new meal.

Leftover baked ham got sliced into bite size pieces. A random potato or two rolling around the crisper drawer was diced small. There is always an onion available in my kitchen. A can of beans and the extra kale from the salad made the “nutritious factor” sky-high.

Method

Saute the diced potato, onion and ham in a little butter (or fat of choice) and once they start to soften, add some smoked hot paprika, a dash of grated nutmeg and some red chili flakes. Now add a box of stock and another box’s worth of water. (Adjust the liquids based on your amount of leftovers and how hardy you want the soup.) Simmer for about 20 mins and add a small can of beans.(Rinsed and drained first.) I like to add my kale at the end and simmer about 10-15 mins more but if you want your kale cooked even more, than go longer.

I served it in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! Some shaved Parmesan would have been good too!

hot soup 2

Chicken Corn Stew

chicken corn stew

Ingredients:

1 forgotten random frozen chicken breast on the bone (split breast)

1 large-ish onion peeled and quartered

a pinch of whole peppercorns

1 peeled but whole garlic clove

salt – liberal amount

water – about 6 cups

slow cooker and about 4-6 hours to run it on high

“almost-caramelized-but-not-quite” onions – start with about 1/2 of a large fresh one.

2 +/- tbsp butter

couple diced bacon strips if you happen to have some on hand.

couple cups of frozen corn

roux:  2  +/- tbsp flour   Or   slurry: 2 +/- tbsp water and 2  +/- tbsp arrowroot, mixed

chopped up leftover fresh herbs hanging around the refrigerator from who knows when. (thyme, sage, rosemary, etc)

a couple of red potatoes. dice small and/or parboil if you wish.

Method:

Combine the top 6 ingredients together in the slow cooker and turn on high for 4-6 hours. Turn off and let cool while you brown-almost caramelize- a fresh 1/2 onion sliced thin (In the bacon fat/slices if you are using  – plus 2 tbsp of butter) in a heavy-bottom large pan. Now add the flour for the roux method and cook a minute.  (otherwise skip this step and move on)

Deglaze the pan with the strained stock from the slow cooker. Whisk and cook a few minutes. If using slurry method instead of roux, add your slurry now and whisk.

Add the fresh herbs, the cooked chicken meat from slow-cooker breast, the frozen corn, and the potatoes. Salt and pepper liberally. Thin with plain hot water if need be.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked and you can no longer stand the yummy smell filling the house. Serves 4 heartily.

A “Soup-er” Thanksgiving!

This year I decided to try my hand at soup. Not just any soup but “pumpkin bisque.”

Now I would love to tell you that I used a pumpkin grown right in my yard. All organic and local and freshly roasted in my oven the day before.

But the truth of the matter is that even though I did actually grow a little sugar pumpkin this year in my front yard. (This picture is really from my front yard!!) It was just too cute (and too small!) to really be cooked. Plus I really liked admiring my handiwork once I picked it and put it on the front steps for fall!

So I did what anybody in their right mind would do. I bought organic, 100% pure pumpkin in a can. And you know what…it was delicious!
In fact it was “Soup-er!”

After doing a little research on soups, I settled on a simple approach. Apples for sweetness and whole milk for creaminess. A little roasted garlic goes a long way towards giving a warm “undertone.” I also decided to get fancy and make my own little brown-butter croutons and some fried sage. (Which by the way was harvested from my back yard herb garden!) I served it with wedges of Parmesan-sage cornbread.

The Recipe

2 cans (15oz) 100% pumpkin puree

1 box (32oz) low-sodium vegetable broth

1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 tb butter

2 cups +/-whole milk (depends on how creamy you want it)

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tb fresh sage, finely minced

1 or 2 small cloves of roasted garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the apple, sage and ginger in the butter until the apples are soft and slightly caramelized. Maybe 4-5 mins. Add the pumpkin and kinda ‘toast” it for another minute or two. De-glaze the pan with the broth. Puree the soup in the pan with one of those immersible stick blenders. ( If you don’t have one – get one – they are worth it! or I suppose you could use a blender and transfer it back to the pot.) At this point I taste for seasoning adding salt/pepper and if you want it sweeter, add some apple sauce or apple cider. I also judge at this point if I want to serve this quantity. Since I was serving a small crowd, I actually removed half of this from the pan, cooled and froze it as a “soup starter” for another day. THEN I added the whole milk (1 to 2 cups) to the remainder of the soup to create a creamy bisque. I just added and stirred until it got to the consistency that was right for me. Now I let this simmer on very low, covered until time to serve. The soup starter in the freezer can just be defrosted another day, heated up and have the milk added at that time.

The Other “Chowdah”

That would be corn chowder. (or “chowdah” as they say around here in Boston)

Clam gets all the fame but frankly I like a hearty cup of corn chowder much more than clam. Okay confession time: I hate clams and always have. Gasp! A native New England-er hates clams! Plus my dad who was from California preferred the red “Manhattan style” clam chowder that came out of a can! Double Gasp!! So that is what I thought all clam chowder smelled and looked like for a long time.

Basically I am saying it is not my fault that I don’t like clams.

Now my husband – he LOVES clams. So the real challenge was getting him to realize you can have chowder without clams!

Just add bacon. That makes everything okay. And he loved it. I know he genuinely loved it because he ate it two or three times over the next few days after I made it. And he hardly ever eats a leftover.

The Recipe

2 cups of corn kernels – I happened to have some leftover roasted on the cob from this summer in my freezer – but any will do.

2 cups potatoes, cooked but still firm and diced large – peel if you want. I don’t. ( I used leftover baked potato)

4 ozs of bacon – diced small – low sodium is nice to use.

1 medium onion diced small

1 can (14.5 oz) of creamed corn – a secret trick for “upping” that corny flavor and texture.

4 cups of whole milk – best if not super-cold from the fridge

2 cups of “half and half” – same temperature tip as the milk

1 tsp +/- of dried dill weed (Secret ingredient secured from my mom’s recipe – thanks!)

1 garlic clove, peeled but whole – for subtle flavor and to be fished out later. (Also thanks to mom for that one!)

salt and pepper to taste and a big pat of butter to enrich the soup before serving if you are feeling a little decadent.

Saute the bacon in a heavy bottom pot until it is about halfway rendered. Add the diced onions and continue cooking. When onions have softened a bit and turned golden, add the corn, potatoes, dill and some salt/pepper. Toss around the pan a bit. Add the creamed corn, milk, half and half and garlic. Turn down the heat so the milk/cream won’t scald but will still continue to gently cook. (barely a simmer) This might take some playing around with your burner heat. Watch it carefully. Let cook on low for at least an hour to really marry the flavors and the dairy will thicken just a bit. Taste for seasoning – add that butter if you dare and serve.

“If you want it thicker” Tips:

You can do an old-fashioned flour roux if you like at the beginning once the onions and bacon are merrily on their way.

You could add a slurry of “masa” (finely ground corn flour) and water to “up” the corn flavor and keep it gluten-free. 1 cup liquid to 1/2 cup masa. add it after you add all the other stuff.

Mom suggests you take an extra cooked potato and blend it down with a little of the soup or even some hot water and use that to thicken the soup. That is how she does it.

For the vegetarians

Just leave out the bacon and use fat-of-choice to saute the onions. Problem solved.