Thursday, June 23, 2016

Smores for St John the Baptist


Last year, I was grieving a miscarriage when the feast of John the Baptist rolled around. To distract ourselves from the reality at hand, my family decided to hold an impromptu neighborhood gathering. I sent my husband to the grocery store for s'mores ingredients and whipped up a pitcher of lemonade for general consumption and cocktails for the adults. While we weren't able to have a St John's bonfire, we made do with the flames of the grill while making the s'mores. The serendipitous evening requiring minimal effort has now become an annual event- now with bonfire!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chilled Soup for Hot Summer Days

The weather has been hot, but that's no reason to put away your soup tureen. I serendipitously discovered that pureed cold vegetable soups are an easy way to get my picky vegetable eater to get important nutrition as well as to make use of some of the less popular portions of the plant- all the benefits of hot soup, with no burned mouths. 

 

This chilled cream of tomato soup is so easy that my incoming kindergartner can make it. Puree one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes with a 15 oz can of coconut milk until smooth, then stir in a pinch of dried basil and white pepper. Chill at least two hours and serve in chilled bowls.

Broccoli was one of the first vegetables to come in at our farmers' market, and my family has been enjoying it grilled. But what to do with the stalks? Turn them into a delicate, fresh green soup. Dice three or four stocks very finely, and blanch stalks and a few scallions trimmed of roots, and a few stalks of any fresh herbs you can spare (lemon thyme is my favorite). Then puree the vegetables with 6 cups of stock and a dash of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, white pepper, and dill.  Chill at least two hours and serve in chilled bowls.

Both recipes serve four.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer

Temperatures have broken the three digit mark multiple times over the last few weeks- summer is here! 

Farmers' market produce has been gracing our Friday night pizzas.



The strawberry season was mostly washed out, but I did can a small batch of jam (though I had to stretch it with rhubarb)











But peaches! Local peaches started last week, and at the farmers' market this past weekend, I bought a quarter bushel of seconds. About half a dozen were perfect for eating, another for a pie, 6 half pints of peach ginger fruit butter, and three pints of spicy peach preserves.  I have also been hard at work on my six pack- the hardest preserve category of the county fair, which consists of six different half pints of jam. So far I have five of the six canned- blueberry, peach, rhubarb, cherry rhubarb, and strawberry rhubarb.


















And of course there is the on-going task of keeping a growing family clothed. In some ways, it will be easier this year, since my older son will be wearing a school uniform. In an effort to clear out the winter merchandise, our parish thrift store had a sale on separates last week. My younger son fell asleep in the stroller, so I was able to really look through the books and found some classics for our home library, including a beautifully illustrated copy of King Arthur as a Fathers' Day present.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Neighborhood waffle night for the Annunciation

Last year's Annunciation Day evening was snowy and blustery, but inside the mood was cheerful. Waffles were the star of our breakfast for dinner neighborhood party, rounded out with sausage and potatoes, quiche, and fruit salad. Why waffles, you ask? Because Our Lady didn't waffle in giving her fiat.

And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Lk 1, 30-33)



Friday, March 11, 2016

40 Meatless Meals: Migas


Crispy strips of stale tortillas (or tortilla chips- I won't tell) are scrambled with eggs and cheese. What's not to love? This recipe is inspired by The Homesick Texan, but my crew favors a heartier ratio of tortilla to egg (and as with the slow cooker tortilla soup, I prefer baked tortilla strips to fried). My youngest son is allergic to dairy, so we pass the cheese at the table. This quick supper easily becomes a meal when combined with a salad and slow cooker re-fried beans. Serves 4.

Vegetable oil
8 corn tortillas

8 eggs
1/4 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup grated cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 400. Brush tortillas with vegetable oil and cut into strips. Arrange on cookie sheets and bake 10 minutes or until crispy and golden.  Reserve.

Whisk together eggs and spices in a bowl.

In a skillet, saute onion in oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook a minute more. Add tortilla strips and egg mixture, scrambling gently until eggs are set but not firm. Top with cheese and cook until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.










Friday, March 4, 2016

40 Meatless Meals: Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup


Think of this soup as a great way to use up all the leftovers from taco night- corn tortillas (of course),  rice (Spanish or otherwise), grated cheese, even some pico de gallo, sour cream, or guacamole if you have it. Inspired by The Homesick Texan, but with the heat level turned down a bit, because even my crew (who eats South Indian food most nights) found the original too spicy. Also, I maximize tortilla strips (baked, instead of fried) for direct consumption and thicken the soup with cornmeal instead. The tortilla strips and tomato/chile blend can be prepared ahead of time (refrigerate the latter until needed). Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 dried pasilla chile, stem and seeds removed
6-8 corn tortillas
vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 t chipotle powder, optional
2 t ground cumin
2 t dried oregano
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 T cornmeal
1/2 t anchovy paste or Worcestershire sauce
1 t paprika
2 T lime juice
salt to taste 
1 cup cooked rice, optional
cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, or guacamole for garnish (optional).

Cook soaked beans in 6 cups water in a slow cooker on low for 6 hours.

Place the chile in a heat proof bowl or jar and rehydrate in boiling water for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400. Brush tortillas with vegetable oil, then cut into strips. Arrange on cookie sheets lined with foil and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Reserve.

In a skillet, saute onion in oil until tender;  add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Put onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, chipotle powder, cumin, oregano, cloves, cilantro, and cornmeal in blender; blend until smooth, adding 1/2 cup bean liquid if necessary. Cook tomato mixture in skillet for five minutes, then stir into beans. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Stir in anchovy paste, paprika, lime juice, salt, and rice just prior to serving. Garnish as desired.








Friday, February 26, 2016

40 Meatless Meals: Carrot Lentil soup

 

Simple pantry ingredients thoughtfully flavored come together in this hearty soup inspired by Zuppe: Soups from the American Academy in Rome

1 1/2 cups dry lentils
2 lbs carrots, divided
1/4 cup vermouth or 2 T cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pinch paprika
1 t fennel seeds
red pepper flakes, optional
salt
1 t lemon juice

Cook lentils in 6 cups water for 6 hours on low in slow cooker. Lentils should hold their shape but not be crunchy.

After lentils are cooked, prepare carrots. Peel them all, then cut half into large coins. Microwave cut carrots in vermouth and 1 cup water until tender; puree. Grate remaining carrots and reserve. 

Saute onion and grated carrot in olive oil in a skillet until onion is translucent. Add garlic, paprika, and fennel seeds and cook one minute more.

Stir pureed carrots and onion mixture into lentils. Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Cook on high for 15 minutes, then add lemon juice just prior to serving.
 

Friday, February 19, 2016

40 Meatless Meals: Provençal Seafood Stew (Weeknight Bourride)

 Reading through the second volume of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I was intrigued by her recipe for bourride, a Provencal fish soup enriched with aioli, with the bouillon and fish served separately. I have learned so much from Julia Child, but my inner frugal soul can't bring myself to use cups of vegetables only to flavor a broth or marinading a roast in a bottle of wine when a cup or two will suffice. So I took the ingredients of the bourride, increased and retained the vegetables, and served it as a stew. With the fish stock prepared ahead of time, this dish can come together quickly on a weeknight. Serves 6-8.

 
Seafood options are limited here in the wilderness, and the firm white fish Julia recommends are non existent. I opted to bolster the softer catfish with a bag of mixed seafood. 

An herby olive bread just crying out for aioli

It might have been a weeknight, but I pulled out the soup tureen.

  
Soup

3 T olive oil
2 cups each: thinly sliced onions, carrots, leeks
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
2 quarts fish or shrimp stock (can be part clam juice)
2 cups dry white vermouth
1/2 t each: fennel seed, thyme, and minced orange zest
1 T turmeric

3-4 lbs firm white fish, cubed or other seafood

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Sautee onions, carrots, and leeks until tender. Stir in tomatoes and their juice, fish stock, vermouth, and spices; bring to a simmer. Prepare aioli (recipe below).  Bring soup to a boil and add fish/seafood. When fish is cooked through, whisk in half of the aioli. Serve immediately with remaining aioli with bread.

Aioli
3/4 cup prepared or homemade mayonnaise
4 egg yolks
6 garlic cloves, minced
Blend all ingredients together until smooth.



Friday, February 12, 2016

40 Meatless Meals: Cream of Fennel Soup

 

Fennel lovers, this soup is for you. Inspired by Twelve Months of Monastery Soup, this frugal and nourishing soup uses all parts of the vegetable. Serves 6.

2 T butter
1 leek (white and light green parts), chopped
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb parsnips or carrots, peeled and chopped
2 fennels: bulbs chopped, stalks finely chopped, greens finely chopped and reserved
1/4 cup flour
10 cups vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t fennel seeds
1/8 t red pepper flakes
Juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large Dutch oven or soup pot. Sautee leek, potatoes, parsnips, fennel bulbs and stalks. When vegetables are all dente, work in flour to form a roux and cook until golden brown. Whisk in vegetable stock, then add garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until no lumps of flour remain.  When vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes, blend soup in batches until smooth, then return soup to a simmer. Stir in fennel greens and cook until they are wilted in the hot soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Soup books for a winter's day

We've had a mild fall and winter so far, but a warm bowl of soup has still been appreciated, especially on days when it was just warm enough to turn off the furnace. Here are a few soup books that I have found inspirational:

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila Latourette

As a young wife, I learned so much about frugality from this book, especially about making stock, so I now give this book as wedding shower present. Each month's chapter features seasonal produce. When I have a certain vegetable that I need to use up, I often find myself flipping to the index to locate one of the many recipes for each vegetable. The recipes are simple, and sometimes could benefit from some Maillard reaction and a heavier hand with seasoning. I often end up sauteing the base vegetables before adding the liquid. Almost all recipes are meatless. Also of interest is the Catholic origin of soup kitchens included in the introduction.





Zuppe by Mona Talbott

This compilation of recipes from the American Academy in Rome is organized by season. The recipes excel in drawing maximum flavor from easily available vegetables and pantry staples. I was initially daunted by the amount of time needed to prepare some of these recipes until I realized that I could start the legumes simmering in the slow cooker and add the remaining sauteed ingredients closer to meal time (a few of these will be shared on Lenten Fridays). Most recipes are meatless and freeze well.






Soup: A Way of Life by Barbara Kafka

I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative of this book, although I found the recipes were either well known or called for ingredients not available in my small town.
The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

My well loved copy of The Joy of Cooking (1981 edition) was a gift from Margaret Mary. While some of the soup recipes are of the "dump three cans together" variety, the book also includes soup recipes that have either fallen out of the collective memory or may not be popular in your region, such as Manhattan Clam Chowder.





All books were either purchased myself or checked out from the public library.