Wednesday, September 30, 2009

As Per Request

Apparently, the word "soup" means different things to different people. To me, "soup" means pretty much anything that must be eaten with a spoon (cereal and ice cream being obvious exceptions). Stew is essentially a soup as far as I am concerned, so is bisque. My step-father, on the other hand, equates the word "soup" with "broth", which is another thing altogether. "Broth" is the stuff that when you add stuff to it, becomes soup. At least, that's how it works in my mind. So when I offered him some of the roasted eggplant parmesan soup I made yesterday, he was expecting something a little less.... hearty.
Have you ever had eggplant parmesan? This was like that but more liquidy. It definitely needs to be eaten with a spoon, but this stuff is a meal unto itself. You could have it with bread, and I would recommend that, but you don't need the bread to fill out the meal like you might with a "thinner" soup. My step-father was surprised that it was so filing and informed me that he very much enjoyed it. He had two helpings, so I think it was a success.
I used the recipe from "The Daily Soup Cookbook" and only tweaked it a little. And most of the soups look fantastic in that book, if you like soup, and can find the book, get it. It's well written and has interjections of humo(u)r throughout.

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan Soup

3 medium eggplants, halved
3 large tomatoes
2 Tbs butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 celery stalks chopped
2 Tbs thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 ts cayenne
4 to 6 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and diced
1 (3-inch) hunk of parmesan rind
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut one of the eggplants into 1 inch cubes, spread the cubed eggplant, and the other two eggplants (halved) AND the tomatoes on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray. Brush the veggies with olive oil for good measure. ( The book didn't say anything about peeling the eggplants or the tomatoes so, I didn't) Roast in the oven for about thirty minutes.
Remove from oven and when you can touch them without burning yourself, core the eggplant halves and puree the centers, then cut the remaining shells into cubes (1 inch).
Melt the butter in a large stockpot (think 6 qts plus) over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, shallot and one of the garlic cloves and sweat until just translucent.
Add the thyme, bay leaves, salt, and cayenne and stir well, you want to coat the vegetables.
Add the eggplant cubes, and puree, and the tomatoes both roasted and canned, and the parmesan rind, AND the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add both the basil and the parmesan.
Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind before serving.

The above was adapted from the one in the book. I added my tweaks, since that was how I made it.
Today's endeavor? The poblano corn chowder. With minor tweaks (I can't find all the ingredients).
It's a good thing soup freezes well. I think I need to set up a sort of soup-schedule. Make a few different soups one week, freeze it in small(ish) batches and use when needed. It really only is good for a month, so two or three different soups ought to do it.
I think next week I'll try the Cheddar cheese with potatoes and bacon!

--Little bird aims to please

Monday, September 28, 2009

Soup On The Brain

The weather has turned cold again, so thoughts have turned towards soups. After making the tomato basil soup, and the french onion as well, I realized I like making my own soup. It tastes better than the stuff in cans. So this week I think I'll try a roasted eggplant parmesan soup. And maybe a poblano corn chowder. I have a cook book that is devoted entirely to soup, and I think I've really only made one of the recipes in it. And that was chili, so it's time to get my money's worth out of the book!
I've also made those tarts again, the new one- the one with the apples and brie, turned out incredibly good. So good I cannot make it again. So good, it likely has 5000 calories per whole tart. But Mama Bird and I picked up some more veggies at the farmer's market to try still more variations of the tart. Leeks, sweet red peppers, mizzuna (we have no idea how that will turn out) and eggplant. The eggplant probably won't make it to the tart, but rather the soup.
This past weekend I went to a friends house and we made pot roast, a dish that I normally don't really like all that much. It turned out pretty good! We started out with what looked to be a 5 pound chunk of chuck roast and added potatoes and onions and carrots. You know, along with the beef stock, wine and spices. He (the friend) now has enough food to last the rest of the week! Of course, he also made chili the next day. Not my chili recipe but his own. The words "Melt Your Face Off" appear in the title of his version of chili. I'm a little afraid to try it.
I haven't been getting my 4 hours a day in the kitchen in every day, but this Thanksgiving ought to help me average it out a bit. So will Christmas. Did I mention that this Thanksgiving I'll be roasting a Turducken? I will be. For the staff at my building again. One of the guys on the staff buys the ingredients, I cook it and he keeps whatever leftovers are, well, leftover. For this service I have asked for a $40 gift card to Sur La Table. That way I can get some more fun kitchen gear. I will also get to have some of the Turducken, something I have never had the opportunity to try. It ought to be.... interesting.
Yesterday Mama Bird and I went to IKEA. Amazingly we spent little more than an hour and less than $100!!! And we are already talking about going back. I'm sure my step-father will request to be left out of that trip. There are stlll some things we need to get, and a few items we just plain want. Really, one should only go if one has a set list and amazing will power. And really good walking shoes.

--Little Bird is grinning

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When Tomatoes Attack

The past few days have been an extravaganza of tomatoes. Canning tomatoes, oven roasting (or attempting to) tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato basil soup (fabulous) and then, the best thing EVER. Rustic tomato tart. Hand made pastry crust (1 &1/3 cup flour and 9 tablespoons of cold butter, plus just a bit of water) topped with ricotta, chopped thyme, oregano, italian parsley, and basil, shredded caramelized onion cheddar, tomatoes (both fresh and roasted), and MORE of the cheddar. All baked at 375 for about half an hour. I got one piece. I took the whole thing over for my folks to have for dinner, asking that they leave me some. Apparently it went over so well Mama Bird had to stop my step-father from finishing it off! And I just ate the piece that was left me. It was like pizza, but better. Soooooo much better. I wish I had made another one! This Sunday I'll try a variation, same crust with brie and apples and watercress. I intend to use that cheddar again too. If you have access to a Trader Joe's, that is where the cheddar was obtained. And, dear GOD, is it good! I highly recommend it for any number of dishes. A grilled cheese sandwich with that cheese would be just this side of heaven. And no, not THAT type of grilled cheese sandwich! Ooh, and add bacon! That would be drool inducing!
See, last weekend Mama Bird and I got it into our heads that we would can tomatoes. Our plan was to go to a farm and pick 'em ourselves. Well, life got in the way of that plan so we got our tomatoes at the farmers market. All 25 pounds of them. Yes, 25 pounds of tomatoes. The idea was that we could can them and then make chili and pasta all winter without resorting to cans from the store. Interesting thing about tomatoes, they cook way down when you can them. We need at least ten more pounds to even try to make it through the winter.
But just since Sunday (I also made chili - with the help of a friend - that day) I have logged about 15 hours in the kitchen. I didn't do much today but warm things up for my meals. This coming week I have a few more dishes I'd like to make, and at least one of those Mama Bird wants to try. She never got any of the french onion soup, so that's on the list. Any diet plans I had have flown right out the window.

--Little Bird is getting fat, again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's a Learning Experience

As with everything in life cooking is a learning experience. Sometimes you don't know until you taste what you've made to know if it turned out right. Other times you can tell right away what you're doing wrong. The learning curve varies.
Fried green tomatoes is one of those things that you figure out right away what's wrong. So last night when I made them, you could tell which ones were done first, and which ones were done right. To make them, one must dip the slices in egg and milk, then in flour and bread crumbs before frying. But they were not coming out as fully breaded as I wanted. So I dipped them in those things twice, and lo and behold! Perfectly fried green tomatoes! I did the same thing with a couple of kosher dill pickle "chips" and they were even BETTER!
Also learned last night was that if you add a bit of milk and some minced cucumber to sour cream and onion dip (made from scratch) you get a reasonable approximation of ranch dressing. Who knew?

--Little Bird keeps learning

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Love The Smell Of Onions In The Afternoon!

There is such a thing as too much/many onions. If you've seen Julie & Julia, you have an idea of what too much/many onions looks like. Last night I made french onion soup. The recipe called for SEVERAL POUNDS of onions. There is no way I was chopping 6 onions. I barely made it through the two (huge) onions I did chop. The onion fumes were so strong I was blinded by tears before I was done with the first onion. I had to go to another room to wipe my eyes. But I finished and threw them in the pot with AN ENTIRE stick of butter. Mmmmmmmm! Once they were done, (a deep yellowy color) I added the tablespoon of flour. Slowly, just like the recipe said to. Why is there flour in french onion soup? I have no idea. But it was in the recipe, and didn't seem as objectionable as six onions, so in it went. After that, it was just a matter of adding beef broth, again, slowly. I didn't have enough beef broth as it turned out so I had to get a can of it (concentrated) and add that. Now, I didn't put as much water in (to balance out the concentrate) as the can said to, but it turns out I didn't need to. I also made the croutons that go in this soup. Slices of baguette, soaked in garlic and chive butter, then baked. Gruyere was the cheese the recipe called for, and was perfect! I had a friend over for dinner and we decided that the soup was perfect! We each had two helpings and my step-father ate ALL of the leftover soup for lunch today. Making it made me realize something. I will never buy french onion soup in a can again. I will only make it the hard way. There's a bit of an ego boost when you make it yourself, and it turns out the way you wanted it to. It's not just the food that tastes good, the success does too!
So today, the dish will be roasted fingerling potatoes, served with a dollop (on the side) of sour cream and onion dip/sauce. I'm going to roast some chicken breast too, so it's more of a complete meal, but it's the sauce that's the experiment.
No, I am not working my way through a cook book. I'm just trying to cook (really cook) every day. And I'm trying to cook some new things. Things I may not ordinarily try. Chances are, if it's not something that really appeals to me, my folks will love it! I've made things before that I despise (beets for example) for Mama Bird, simply because she likes whatever it is.
I'd like to ask again what your favorite recipes/dishes are. I need some ideas!!!

---Little Bird has a plan