Posts tagged “easy

Bacon Tomato Jam!

This is the good stuff!

This is the good stuff!

Well, that’s it. I’ve gone nuts… Or have I? Actually, no. This is absolutely delicious. The best part is that it is really easy too! Maybe the best part is how good it tastes. This is a great way to add loads of flavor to roasted chicken, pork, turkey, fish, or use it as a spread on a sandwich. Hell, its good on a spoon! Sweet, smoky, tomato-y, and very flexible.

How do you make this wonderfulness?

Core and dice 1 pound of tomatoes

1/4 pound bacon, cooked crispy, and crumbled

1/2 onion

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar (The recipe I had called for cider vinegar, but sherry is tastier!)

salt and pepper

1/2 Tablespoon dried thyme

Combine the tomatoes, sugar, onion, thyme and vinegar in a pot, and bring to a boil. Add the bacon, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about an hour, stirring frequently. By this time a lot of the the liquid will be evaporated, and what you will have is a jammy consistency from the tomatoes and onions cooking down. Taste and season with salt and pepper. That was pretty easy!

With this combination of flavors you may have a hard time deciding where not to use it. Once you’ve made it, I’d be willing to bet that you’ll make it again!

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Carrot and Ginger soup!

There are some flavor combinations that just work. Carrot and ginger are two flavors that really go well together. In this pureed soup, you’ll get the spicy ginger flavor complimenting the sweetness of the carrots. When you add the amazing orange color of this soup to the flavor, this is sure to be a big hit with everyone!

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This is a very easy soup.

vegetable oil

1 medium onion diced

1 stalk celery diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2″ long piece of ginger minced

1 pound carrots cubed

1/2 pound potatoes cubed (The carrots and potato should be about the same size so they cook evenly)

water, chicken or veggie stock to cover

2 bay leaves

1 pint heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

pinch nutmeg

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil.  Put in the onions and celery, sweat until tender, and then add a little salt.  Add the garlic and ginger and sweat until fragrant.  Lastly, add the carrots, potatoes and bay leaves and cover with stock or water.  Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Simmer until the carrots and potatoes are tender.
imageWhen the vegetables are tender, remove the bay leaves and discard.  Now puree the soup.  How you do this depends on what you have on hand.  If you have a food processor drain all of the liquid, and puree just the solids.  If you use a blender you will need some of the liquid to make everything go.  The last way would be to run the soup through a food mill, but most people probably don’t have one.

Once you have everything pureed, put it all back in the pot, and return to a boil.  Whisk in the cream, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.  If you wanted a vegetarian option you could very easily use coconut milk, or soy milk.


Gluten-free Chicken and Wild Rice Soup!

I make a LOT of soup.  Soup is especially great when the weather is less than warm.  Like now, for instance.  There is snow on the ground, although the temperatures are finally above freezing during the day.  Sounds like perfect weather for soup, doesn’t it?  I’ve been kind of avoiding writing about certain kinds of soups.  What I mean is that I haven’t written about soups that are thickened.  There are quite a few ways to thicken soups.  You can use a slurry, a roux, cream can give body, eggs can give body as well(They are a little hard to hold for long though.), and sometimes the ingredients of your soup will cause it to thicken, potato, and bean soups do this fairly well.  What generally gives us trouble is when a soup is thickened with a roux.  Generally, a roux is equal parts flour and butter.  It doesn’t have to be wheat flour though, and in this case we’re going to take advantage of that fact.

What we’re going to be making is called a velouté. That translates as velvety, or smooth on the palate. The velouté is one of the five mother sauces.  In this case it’s not really a sauce so much as the base for our soup.  To make it into a soup we’ll be adding some different flavors, and more ingredients.  When I make this soup I generally go for a Cajun flavor.  I looked for a blackened seasoning, but couldn’t really find one I was comfortable with.  I made my own.  I had everything I needed, although I would have added a few other things if I had them.

2 TBSP paprika

1 TBSP cayenne

1/2 TBSP kosher salt

1 TBSP thyme

1 TBSP black pepper

1/2 TBSP  oregano

I would have added granulated garlic and granulated onion if I had them.  Mix everything well, and set aside.  We’ll get back to it.

Blackened seasoning (see above)

1 4oz package of wild rice (prepared according to the directions)

4 chicken breasts cubed, seasoned lightly with  blackened seasoning, and cooked

1 large onion diced

2 carrots diced

4 celery sticks diced

2 quarts low sodium chicken broth

2 bay leaves

2 quarts water

2 sticks butter

8oz (weight) flour or starch of your choice (I used potato starch)

salt and pepper as needed

Wild rice is not actually rice, but it is gluten-free and very tasty.  Wild rice is actually an aquatic grass. It is also very easy to cook, but takes a little bit of time.   I found a 4oz package of it.  Bring 2 cups of water and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil.  Stir in rice, bring it back to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  By that time most of the water will be absorbed, and the wild rice will be tender.  Drain any liquid, and cool in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

Next we want to move on to the chicken.  I had four breasts which I cubed into small pieces, tossed with some of the blackened seasoning, and cooked in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Later, I chopped them up a bit so that they would be small enough to fit on a spoon easily.   Set this aside in the fridge as well.

Next up, mirepoix.   You should have 50% onions, and 25% each celery and carrots.  You’ll need about 2 cups total.  Figure one large onion, three or four celery sticks, two or three carrots.  This should all be a nice medium dice.  Having everything exactly the same is not super important, but it helps to be close.  That way you don’t get a piece of raw onion in a bit with nicely cooked onions.  Whenever you’re cooking you should always try to cut things in similar sizes.  Since food is cooking together if your onions are all the same size they will all be about the same doneness.  Again, put all of this in the fridge, and we’ll get to it in a bit.

If you’re wondering, breaking a project down into manageable steps is a big part of getting things done in a restaurant kitchen.  I can have all of these containers on a tray in a cooler, and add things as I do them.  Then if I have to stop I can step away, do what I need to, and come right back to my soup when I have a few minutes.   The wild rice takes the most time to cook, so you can really just set a timer, and walk away to do something else.

Our next step is to get the broth heated up.  Two quarts of chicken stock, and two quarts of water, plus a couple of bay leaves.  In a large pot, and bring it up to a boil.  This will take some time.    You have everything else ready, right?

Now, what we’ve got to do is make our roux.  In this case I used potato starch.   I was expecting the potato starch to thicken more than it did.  I ended up making a slurry of potato starch and water to get the consistency that I was hoping for.  A roux made with wheat flour thickens at a nice one pound per gallon rate.  Other starches, and flours will have different thickening abilities.  You’ll have to play with them a bit.  Generally a starch like potato or corn will thicken more than flour.  Also if you’re using a wheat flour roux the darker the roux the less it will thicken.  You will get more flavor from a darker roux though.  Gluten-free roux will scorch before it will brown, so I wouldn’t try.

Since we’ve got a gallon of liquid on the stove to thicken, and the amount of roux we’re going to be needing is a pound (apparently) start by melting half a pound of butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Once it is fully melted, add a half pound of your flour or starch(Yes, you should weigh your flour. This goes for you gluten eating folk as well.).  Whisk it into the melted butter. (Do NOT use your non-stick skillet for this.)  You want to keep stirring the roux.  You’re cooking the flour, but don’t want it to burn.  When it is ready it will have a nice nutty smell. At that point season your roux with the blackened seasoning you made earlier.  You’re not trying to make this soup super spicy, just a little.  At work since I can’t taste the soup I go by smell when I season the roux. When I can smell the spices I know I am good.  Remember, you’re going to be putting this into a gallon of liquid with vegetables, rice, and chicken.  Cooking the spices helps the flavors develop, but if you end up a little mild you can adjust, after the fact.  Next, pour in the mirepoix, and sweat the vegetables in the roux.  You’re looking for the onions to start to get tender.  They will simmer for a bit so they don’t have to get fully cooked at this point, but you do want to get them started.  Once the onions are starting to get tender set the roux aside, and let it cool.

Once your liquid comes to a boil scoop a bit of the cooled roux mixture onto your whisk, and mix it in a bit at a time.  As you do you’ll notice that the soup starts to thicken up, and you’ll see that the liquid will cloud up a bit.  If you’re using wheat flour it will look almost creamy, and I would imagine that if I had made my roux from the usual flour blend that I use it would look creamy as well.  Hopefully, you get a nice velvety consistency from your roux. If you decide you would like a little thicker soup (like I did) make a slurry of your starch and water, and whisk that in slowly.  Whisking will prevent lumps of whatever thickener you have decided to use. 

At this point simply add the cooked chicken and the cooked rice to the thickened soup.  Bring it back up to a boil, and turn it down to a simmer.  Taste your soup, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and maybe a bit more of your blackened seasoning if you want it! Let your soup simmer for about 20 minutes or so. If you want your soup to be a bit richer you could add cream while it simmers. Serve, and enjoy.

The cool part of this soup is that you now have a basis for making lots of other soups.  Shrimp bisque, for example, is only a few adjustments away.  You could even use a velouté asthe basis for making New England Clam Chowder, and I know you’ve missed that one!

Hope you enjoy your soup!


Pancakes! New and Improved! Now with NO Gluten!

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So, I’ve loved pancakes since I was a kid.  I guess that is probably not really a big surprise, I mean who doesn’t LOVE pancakes?  I’m going to go out on a limb here, and tell you that there is a pretty good chance that I have made more pancakes than you. (Unless you’ve spent some time as a short order cook, in which case, you win!)  When I was a kid I was in Boy Scouts, and every year we would have a pancake and sausage breakfast.  We skipped mass for that Sunday, and went to the school cafeteria early in the morning.  By early I mean 4:30am.  We had to get everything set up in time to feed people after 6am mass.  How long is mass?  At 6am, not very long at all!  Depending on the priest and his mood, 25 minutes wouldn’t be unheard of!  Masses were at 6, 7:30, 9, 10:30, and noon.  Six was pretty sparse, mostly a few older folks, and it would gradually build.  At 7:30 you got a fair number of people who wanted to get things done, and get the day started early.  Nine, 10:30, and noon would be more or less packed.  I would guesstimate that we made pancakes for 400+ people be the time it was all said and done.  I really couldn’t give you a count.  I just remember spending hours making pancakes at a flattop.  The grownups cooked the sausage, mostly because I think they figured it was a little safer.  We were more likely to get burned?  I don’t know, sure.  All I know is they mixed up batter in the (to me at the age of like 10) gigantic Hobart mixer. (Probably a really good idea. They are big and powerful, and could hurt us worse than the splatter of a little grease! The 30 quart one at work could probably break an arm, and it was probably bought used in 1968!)

What do we need in order to get started?  Well, in this case I will admit that I used a mix.  I used Pamela’s pancake mix.  I will admit that I have never made pancakes from scratch.  I used to always use Bisquick, and just follow the directions.  I guess I figured that it had worked for me in the past I may as well take a shot at it this time too.  Just like the Bisquick I used to use before, the Pamela’s mix had pretty much everything that was needed.  All you have to do is add a couple of things, mix, and cook!

1 cup of Pamela’s gluten-free pancake mix (the dark spots in the picture of the batter are almond meal)

3/4 cup water

1 large egg

1 TBSP vegetable oil

Stir to combine, and set aside.

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Next, heat your skillet or griddle.  In this case I was using the really nice Cuisinart Greenpan that I got when I returned a gift.  Just heat it over medium heat, take your time.  The pan doesn’t need to be screaming hot, but what you should do it sprinkle a little water on the surface.  When the pan is hot enough the water will dance on the surface.

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Once your pan is hot enough lightly coat the surface with a little vegetable oil using a paper towel. Pour the batter in your pan.  Make them pancake size, for lack of a better term.  In other words, You have to be able to get a spatula under them, flip them, and get them back in the pan without landing on any of the others.  How do you know when to flip them?  You will see bubbles form along the edges.  At first they will just pop, but then they will start to set.  When the bubbles pop, and leave little holes gently get your spatula under the edge, and then under, and flip it.  Just gently turn it over, and back into the pan.
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Amy’s little pancakes, flipped.
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Pancakes ready to come out.
How do you know when they are ready to come out of the pan?  There’s no real rule, but they don’t take very long once you have flipped them.  Since you were watching bubbles setting on the tops, they are probably better than 50% cooked.  Really all you’re doing is cooking the surface.  That won’t take long at all.
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Obviously you’re going to be making more than you can probably fit in the pan you’re using to make them, so turn your oven on as low as you can get it, and just stack them up on a plate until you have enough.  Make some extras.  Pancakes can be held very easily!  If you’re going short-term, just spread them out on the plate and stick them in the fridge until they are cool.  Then into a freezer bag.  Long-term?  Spread them out flat.  A cookie sheet will work for this.  Freeze them, then into a freezer bag.  Now, when you’re ready for pancakes, just take a few out of the bag, and reheat them in your oven or microwave.

 

A couple of things about this post:

1 This is a product review of sorts.  I guess, hopefully, you learned how to make pancakes if you didn’t know already.  Amy asked how you know when to flip them when I started, so I guess not everybody knows.  This was my first time using any of the Pamela’s products, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the results.  Not only did the results taste great they look like pancakes, which although not a huge issue is still important.

2 I don’t use non-stick skillets very often.  For a lot of cooking I don’t think they are necessary.  I own two.  This one, and a smaller and very cheap one.  The smaller one I use for cooking eggs, pretty much exclusively. The nice thing about the cheap non-stick pans is that they are very smooth.  I make scrambled eggs in it without any kind of utensil, and almost no fat.

The one I was using today was pretty expensive, and is not Teflon based.  It uses a ceramic based non-stick, rather than petroleum based.  Regardless of the price you shouldn’t use metal utensils in non-stick.  Once you damage the surface you will have food sticking to your pan.


Lentil Soup:Eric Ripert vs. Lemmy Kilmister

«The Young Ones» en versió original subtitulada

Image by xcaballe via Flickr

I guess my past with lentils is a little strange.  I first heard of them watching The Young Ones on MTV when I was a kid.  Of course I had no idea what they were.  It was still funny to see Neil try to serve them in the episodes with all of the crazy things that went on in the show.  Tea kettles exploding, atom bombs, and then add in bands like Madness, Motörhead, and the Damned, and you’ve got a show that any 13 year old in 1986 would enjoy.

I first actually ate them at work, when I made lentil soup for the first time.  I had a recipe, and everything in it sounded pretty tasty together, and so I figured the lentils wouldn’t hurt anything.  One of the people I follow on Twitter is Eric Ripert, and from time to time he tweets recipes.    One day I saw this:

ericripert Lentil soup: lentils+onion+ carrot+bacon +water+
seasoning.when tender remove meat.Blend +butter to soup consistency.Chix stock even better.
9:04 PM Oct 19th via Twitter for iPhone

That sounded like as good a recipe as any, and maybe better than a lot of them.  Tonight for dinner, I’m making it.  Obviously, this recipe leaves plenty of room for improvisation, so I’ll do just that.

I could just leave you with Chef Ripert’s tweet, but I won’t.

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 stick celery, diced

8 oz lentils (weight, half of a one pound bag)

1 quart chicken broth (I use Progresso, low sodium) I didn’t use the whole thing

salt, pepper, bay leaves, herbes de provence

3 TBSP butter (divided 1 and 2)

Sort and rinse your lentils.  Always sort and rinse your lentils and beans.  This is important because they are small, and about the same size as a piece of gravel or rock.  Chomping down on a rock in the middle of your lentil soup would be “heavy, man.”

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a medium sized pot. Turns out I didn’t have any bacon, but I would have put it in once the butter had melted.  Add the veggies and a pinch of salt, and sweat until the onions are clear. Add the lentils, broth, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, and turn it down to a simmer.  You may need to add a little more broth or water as the lentils cook.  Once they are tender, remove from the heat, and puree the solids.  I strained the soup, pulled out the bay leaves, and used my little Cuisinart to do the job, but an immersion blender would do just as well. (Just a quick note, my sister knitted what I am using as a trivet in the above picture. )

Then I put the soup back together in the pot, and turned the heat back on, and added the final two tablespoons of butter.  This just added a nice bit of richness.    I always like to bring my soups back up to a boil before I serve them.  This soup could easily be made vegan by leaving out the bacon, subbing olive oil for the butter, and veggie broth for the chicken broth.  You’d still have a great tasting soup.  “Lentils are really good, you know? No matter how many times you have them, they never get boring.” — Niel


You can’t handle the soup!

Last night I was thinking, what would make a really good dinner?  Something warming, tasty, simple, and filling without being too much.  I decided soup.  I ran down a few choices for Amy, lentil, potato or black bean.(I pretty much had everything on hand for any of them.)  She picked potato.  I delivered what is probably her new favorite soup!  Loaded baked potato soup.  It is very simple, and very satisfying.  We both have some leftovers, and she’s even got some to run to her mom.

So, what do you need?  I can’t really give you quantities on a lot of this, because it wasn’t measured.

Potatoes, I had seven, peel them, and cut them into small-ish pieces

bacon, 2 slices, split lengthwise, and then cut into small pieces

1 red onion diced, you could use a white onion here

1 TBSP vegetable oil

chicken broth and water

2 bay leaves

kosher salt

white pepper

cheddar cheese, I used about 4 ounces

heavy cream (whole milk would work too, or both which is what we had)

First, in a large pot heat the oil over medium heat, and add the bacon.  You’re looking to render the bacon, so you want to brown it, and cook down a large percentage of the fat.  This will give you a nice flavor.  Once the bacon is browned, add the onion, a little salt, and cook until the onion is translucent. Next add the potatoes, broth, water, bay leaves, and bring up to a boil.  I used roughly 50% broth.  Basically what I want to do is to cover everything, but that is it.  Once you have a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover it, and let it go for about 15 to 20 minutes.  You don’t need to cook the potatoes until they are mush, basically you want them to be tender.Once the potatoes are tender turn off the heat.  You have a few options at this point.  You could strain the soup, reserve the liquid and process the solids in a food processor, puree with a hand blender, puree in a blender, or use a potato masher.  However you do it you want to end up with a smooth soup.  I used a potato masher, and really liked the results.  It was a bit more rustic than a blender would have turned out, but it was also a lot less mess, and hassle.  You may also want to fish out the bay leaves at this point.  They aren’t poisonous, but they are not a lot of fun to eat.

Once the pureeing is done, return everything to the pot, and turn the heat back on.  You’re going to finish the soup.  Start by adding the cream.  I add it until I get a nice color, and flavor from it.  Next add the cheese.  How much is kind of up to you, and how much you like cheese with your potatoes!  Taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning with salt, and white pepper. Bring the soup up to a boil, and serve.  That is really all there is to it.  You could easily adapt this to be a vegetarian soup by dropping the bacon, and using veggie broth or all water, and since the potatoes do all of the thickening this soup will ever need the gluten-free situation is well in hand.Bowl it up, and enjoy!  Also, keep in mind if you have leftover potatoes that you want to use up, this is a perfect place for them!  In that case, all you have to do is get them hot, and soften up a bit.  That will save you some time.  This soup is very easy and perfect for dinner on a cold night!  OK, maybe you CAN handle the soup!


As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to make minestrone.

Obviously I’m going to be writing about soup, again.  Remember what I said last time about leftovers?  Well, this one is exactly what you need to get rid of all those random bits of leftover veggies.  Seriously, it almost makes no difference what it is.  What I’m talking about is minestrone.  Its a classic Italian soup.  Minestrone means big soup, and it is certainly big on flavor.  There is no standard recipe, and varies from family to family.  Traditionally, it will have beans, but they are not a requirement. Today I made a lot of minestrone.  This soup can very easily be made vegetarian or even vegan, depending on what you have around the house, and what you want to put in.  This is a vegetable soup, but it doesn’t have to be a vegetarian soup.  Through history meat wasn’t eaten as much as it is now, but it was eaten, and probably by almost everyone.  In a soup like this pancetta is used to flavor the soup, but it is a minor component in the actual ingredients of the soup.  If you don’t eat meat, leave it out.

2 TBSP olive oil

1/4 inch thick slice pancetta, diced

1 medium onion, medium dice

1 carrot medium dice

1 stick of celery, medium dice

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 TBSP crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 cup white wine

1 bay leaf

1 TBSP herbes de provence

Now, once you get to this point you’ll want to just eat it, but don’t!  This is kind of the base of the soup, so stick with it!

So, what do you have in the fridge?

Green beans? Corn? Gluten-free pasta? Kohlrabi? Broccoli? Cauliflower? Kale? Spinach? Zucchini? Squash? A can of canellini beans?

You’re also going to need some chicken stock or vegetable stock.

 

Ok, so lets get started.  You have everything cut up?  In a large pot, heat your oil, and then add the pancetta if you’re using it. With the pancetta you just want to render it over medium heat, until it is browned but not crisp.  Next, add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and  crushed red pepper.  Add a little salt, and sweat this over medium heat until the onions have started to turn clear.

 

Add the tomatoes, mix them in, and add the wine, and herbs.  Add the stock, bring it up to a boil,  and then depending on what veggies you have to put in the soup start adding them.  You’ll want to make sure that you add things that will take longest to cook earliest.  As you simmer the soup add things, keeping in mind how long they will take to cook.  The last thing I would add would be something like beans or pasta.  Beans and pasta taste great, but they tend to soak up liquid, and swell up.  They can very easily take over a pot of soup so add way less than you think you should!

 

That is really all it takes to make great minestrone.  No recipe at all, just go, and cook it.  Now, for the funny part… I actually adapted  this from a cookbook!  Henry Hill wrote a cookbook based on his life, and its called the Wiseguy’s Cookbook.  If you are a fan of Italian food, as well as the movie Goodfellas you’ll want to get a copy of this book.  There are lots of recipes, and its got some pretty interesting stories as well.  Not all of them are gluten-free, but a lot of them can be made gluten-free with a little playing around.