Friday, June 29, 2012

The Soup Storm

There's a soup storm coming

I sat down one afternoon last week and fell into a fugue state. When I awoke to the reality of the 95 degree afternoon here in DC (albeit safely ensconced in my air conditioned house) it was to find a sheaf of pages from my note pad. They were covered with soup recipes. Holy cow, they were covered with summer soup recipes, each intended to be eaten chilled or at room temp.

Being the generous spirit that I am (yeah, right) I will be sharing these with you. It will probably be at a rate of two per week. After all, I owe it to you to actually prepare these divine delectables before pressing you to make them in the safety of your own homes.

It wouldn't be any fun if I left it at that and didn't give you anything to get your appetite wet (as my mother would say).

I do want to be sure to assure you that Stephen, yours truly, me-myself-and-I created these soups without the assistance of any mood-altering concoctions. I think of them as bowl games (oh, stop with the sophomoric humor already).

Let's start with something not particularly unusual, although I would be surprised if anyone reading this has made it in the last month. Tell me if I'm wrong. Stand by for vichyssoise. Don't worry, I actually made this last weekend.

butter and olive oil
1 lge onion - finely chopped
3 large leeks - trimmed and finely chopped
4 medium potatoes - peeled and finely chopped
1 quart of stock
1 cup milk
juice of ½ lemon
ground cumin
ground coriander
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Gently saute the onions and leeks in the butter and oil in a heavy pan until soft and beginning to turn translucent, 15 minutes.
Add the potatoes, stock and milk. Add salt and pepper, cumin, coriander and garlic powder (all to taste). Bring to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Don't let it boil.
Turn the heat off, add lemon juice and let it cool completely. Puree in batches in your food processor. Add more stock as necessary to achieve your desired consistency.
Chill in the fridge until time to serve. Garnish with some julienned zucchini if you wish. And perhaps a drizzle of olive oil.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saturday saturnalia

I had other plans for Saturday's dinner until, much to my surprise, I espied a lovely duck breast at the Giant. I've cooked whole ducks quite a number of times, but breast alone only a couple of times. There's nothing complex about it: score the fat in a diamond pattern; render it for 6-8 minutes, pouring off the fat halfway through; turn it over to the lean side and saute about 3-4 more minutes; let it rest; slice it and serve.

The zucchini rounds are the one sure-fire method for cooking this ubiquitous (as in it may take over the world some summer) veg. I was too lazy to do the flour, egg, crumb thing. I salted the rings and let them exude moisture for a half hour while I was doing other things. Gave them a quick rinse and dried them well. Seasoned them with salt, pepper and paprika and saute in butter and oil for 3 minutes per side (until nicely colored).

We had a couple of boxes of middle eastern grain preparations in the pantry. I chose the one with couscous and just did what the box told me to do.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Friday Fish Feast

I know that catfish is not high on the wish list of some folks. But ever since I had some for the first time - it had been pulled out of the Mississippi River - (I was in Memphis) I have been hooked (not to make a pun ... ok, to make a pun). There is a curious thing about catfish filets. If you turn them over (flat side up) you will see a line more or less down the middle. Along that line is a gelatinous, slightly chewy strand of material. I cut the filet in half lengthwise along that line and then slice that peculiar edge away on an angle. Then into fingers they go.

The coating is mayo mixed with some olive oil and some hot sauce followed by unflavored bread crumbs. Please don't use the Italian flavored crumbs. They taste like your Aunt Minnie's spaghetti and meatballs from the '50's. Okay, okay, off the soap box Stephen.

I only do shallow frying - for such things as milanesa. I do absolutely no deep frying. I have my reasons and they actually don't matter here. Heat your oven to 400 degrees and bake the fingers on a baking rack over a pan for 20 minutes max, until golden brown and crunchy.

You may accompany these morsels with anything you like. I made fried rice (leftover rice from last night) and a simple green salad with a vinaigrette. It's Friday! It's fish! And I'm not even Catholic. (Don't get your knickers in a wad if you are one of the Pope's faithful) - it's just that when I was growing up Catholics were constrained from eating meat on Fridays. If it weren't for that fact we might not have frozen fish sticks (which frankly would be a good thing). Go cook something and write about it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Thursday supper

Out of the blue yesterday I conjured up a hankering for sweet and sour shrimp. Nothing particularly unusual about it: pineapple, apple cider vinegar, pickled ginger, scallion, sugar (I subbed in Splenda), some cornstarch, some red pepper flakes and a pinch of cayenne. It tasted swell over brown rice (which I do not prefer to white rice, but I made it anyhow) and accompanied by some blanched green beans served room temp with a Caesar-like dressing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Wednesday Dinner

I know you all wake up very early in the morning wondering, with great anticipation, what Stephen is going to post today. So do I. What you see above is last night's dinner: pork milanesa (1 minute per side in screaming hot oil), an unusual potato salad (dressing comprised of miso paste, fish sauce, hot sauce, pepper, olive oil, apple cider vinegar) which knocked Peter's socks off (very hard to do when he's wearing shoes); then there was spinach salad with radishes and the remnants of an Asian-style citrus vinaigrette. Not pictured is a bowl of fresh pineapple combined with avocado as a "salsa" for the milanesa. Wish you could have been here to share with us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chinese sausage with Brussells sprouts

I happened upon this concoction when surfing for ideas using Chinese sausage. The sausage is a bit fatty and a bit sweet. Both of these attributes contribute to the final product. I served this with a side of quasi pad Thai udon noodles with peanut butter, scallions, sesame oil and lime juice. If I make this again I will use bok choy instead of sprouts.

Chinese sausage with Brussels sprouts
12 oz sprouts, shredded or finely chopped
3 oz Chinese sausage, fine dice
peanut or other neutral oil
1 – 2 Tbs fish sauce (to taste)
red pepper flakes (optional)

Start sausage in cold wok
When sweating push up the sides, then remove and set aside when cooked
Raise heat and add sprouts and 1 Tbs water
When softened to your liking add fish sauce
Add back sausage and some pepper flakes if using
Toss, heat through and serve with white rice

It is best to cook this in a wok, but a large saute pan will suffice. Heat 2 Tbs water in the water until ready to boil. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes until heated through and its fat rendered. Remove the sausage from the wok, leaving as much of rendered fat behind as possible. Add in sprouts and cook, stirring often, until tender – 6-7 minutes. Add the sausage and fish sauce and a little more water if it seems dry. Toss to heat through and toss in a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired. Serve with rice.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Catering 101

I have fallen into the good fortune of having a regular and serious catering client. On Friday I will serve up a picnic for 33 guests, my third gig for Mariann in a month. I had a practice session with my friends Leslie, Bill, Dottie, and Cait (and Peter of course) last Sunday evening. It went very well. 33 is a large number to feed, but I'll do it with the courses you see pictured here: mac and cheese pasta salad; a salad of mixed greens; my infamous breadstick loaves; and (my recipe for baked) chicken nuggets with sauces of yogurt/horseradish and mustard/molasses. I did all the shopping this morning, although the inevitable happened - I forgot one or two things. I can snatch them up quickly tomorrow. Off we go!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A loaf of bread ...

What a whimsial discovery. A loaf made from breadstick dough? Who knew? When I firsr tried to make the breadsticks the way I was supposed to, the dough was so sticky I ended up with mis-shapen long skinny blobs. Oh, and I burned them to death and had to start over. Then one day, about two weeks ago, the 5-watt bulb went off in my head and I said to myself, "Self, why not leave that sticky dough stuck together and see if it turns into a loaf of bread. It DID!!! I had to follow my own invented plan. The dough went into a well-buttered loaf pan and was pressed in to fill it from edge to edge. It was then covered with plastic touching the surface and left sitting on the counter for a couple of hours. It rose a bit, but not a lot. More guesswork: I heated my oven to 400 degrees and baked the dough for 14 minutes. The loaf that emerged from the oven was a thing of beauty and, when tasted, was yet again beautiful. From now on I go back to making my breadsticks with puff pastry and cute loaves of bread from the breadstick dough. I will be serving several loaves of it at a picnic I am catering Friday evening for 33 guests. Wish me luck!!!

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