Today my extended family is celebrating Christmas. Which means we’re having a potluck dinner. There won’t be a lot for my sister and I to eat, but that’s ok. My sister, in addition to having celiac also has to watch her carbohydrate intake, so I decided I would make a pot of lentil soup, because in addition to being highly nutritious, and tasty ends up being something she can eat about as much as she wants to. I found this in a book that the sous chef brought in to work a while back, and I made it there a few days ago. It was a hit there, so it should be a hit today as well. It is called Faki, and it is a fairly traditional Greek lentil soup.
I’m making a pretty good sized batch so you may want to scale down the ingredients a bit.
1 pound onions roughly chopped
1 pound carrots roughly chopped (I like carrots)
several cloves of garlic, minced (how much garlic do you like?)
2 pounds of lentils, sorted for extraneous crap, and rinsed well
2 cans diced tomatoes
4 bay leaves
2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp herbes de provence (I love this stuff, and it goes so well in lots of things)
salt and black pepper
water to cover, and more as needed.
red wine vinegar 1 cup (to taste)
This soup is a very easy one to get together. Start by sweating the onions and carrots with a dash of salt in a little vegetable oil until the onions are translucent. Then add the lentils, and mix them in. Next add the tomatoes, bay leaves, all the herbs,and water. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. It will need to simmer for roughly 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
That is it, then about five minutes before you serve the soup, add the vinegar. You don’t want it to be overpowering, but you do want to taste it. It will bring a nice balance to the earthiness of the lentils. Serve with some crumbled feta, and enjoy.
This really is a fantastic soup for a cold day, the omnivores will never miss the meat, and your vegetarian friends will be happy too!
Hope everybody had a safe, and happy holiday!
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.
Rice is a pretty amazing thing. Obviously, there are quite a few different kinds, and each of the different types gets handled in a slightly different way. Although there is quite a bit of overlap in the methods the differences can make a big difference. Various cultures have different ways of handling rice. These can depend on the type of rice, as well as what other foods are available. Think about the number of rice preparations that spring to mind. Pilaf, fried, boiled, sushi rice, polow(a middle eastern method), baked, risotto, just to name a few.
Tonight Amy and I decided to have risotto. It is fairly quick, very easy, and very tasty. It is also extremely versatile! Almost anything you want to eat with your risotto can be used to flavor it. Tonight we had some asparagus in ours. I have had pancetta, sausage, mushrooms, shrimp, and saffron. Really, whatever you feel like can be used, but if you use something like sausage make sure to cook it before you start the rice.
So, what do you need to make risotto? Not that much really.
Arborio rice, or a similar short-grain rice
double (maybe a little more)the amount of rice of water/chicken broth/veggie broth
fine diced onion
wine (optional, but nice) usually white, but reds can be used!
grated asiago or parmesan (and by parmesan I do NOT mean that crap in the green can!)
salt and pepper
That is it, really, aside from whatever you want to put in it. With the asparagus, I cut it into bite-sized pieces. This part you will have to kind of decide how to deal with it on a case by case basis. Saffron, for example, goes into the liquid when you heat it up. Cooked sausage would get stirred in at the end, as did the asparagus.
You will need two pots. One will have the broth or water. Bring this up to a boil, and then turn it down to keep it fairly hot. The second pot is where all of the action takes place.
Heat your second pot, and add the vegetable oil. Once you see that it is hot, add the rice. Using a wooden spoon or a spatula stir the rice. This coats the rice in oil, and helps create the proper texture. When you smell a toasty, nutty aroma, and the outside of the rice has become clear you are ready to add the onion.
Once the onions have cooked, and are more or less clear start adding liquid. You would add the wine first if you are using it. Then add the 1/4 of the broth. When do you add more liquid? When you pull the spatula across the bottom of the pan, and the rice sticks to itself and leaves an empty spot in the bottom.
Keep stirring the rice, and adding more broth as it needs it. After you have added broth a third time, taste the rice. You want it to be tender, but each grain should be distinct. At this point you should also adjust seasoning, such as salt and pepper. If it needs to cook longer, keep checking. With the asparagus I added it with the last liquid. This would give it time to cook, and still have a nice color. Once the rice is tender, and the liquid is absorbed remove it from the heat, and stir in the cheese. The rice should have created its own creamy sauce(for lack of a better term), and the cheese will add to that. I try not to go overboard with the cheese, but I also want to have plenty!
So, there you have it, risotto. You always thought it was hard, and took a long time, didn’t you? It does take a little time, but it is certainly not hard to make, and it can be a nice light meal, or a side in a hearty meal. You can even make it into an amazing appetizer that will amaze your friends and family. They are called arancini. They are little balls of risotto, you bread them, and then fry them. Add a little tomato sauce, and you are set. I made them for a party, and used gluten-free flour, and Rice Chex to bread them. It worked great, and everybody loved them!