Winter Minestrone Soup

ei1b02_winter_minestrone.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape One of the best parts of Fall is undoubtedly soup. There are so many varieties to choose from. From delicate purees to hearty vegetable stews, there is something for everyone.

This has become one of my favorites for its rich yet varied offering. Do give it a try.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 russet potato, peeled, cubed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, pancetta, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard and potato; saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan cheese rind to the vegetable mixture. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole beans and parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard Parmesan rind and rosemary sprig (the leaves will have fallen off of the stem.)
  3. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

SERVES: 6

NOTES: If you can’t get pancetta, use bacon. If you can’t get swiss chard, use spinach. I buy my parmesan in bulk so when I have shaved off to the rind, I throw it in a bag for the freezer. It’s a great addition to any soup.

SOURCE: Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

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Mexican Corn Soup

chicken-corn-chowder-4-16-10 If it’s fall, it’s time for soup. And for me, any soup that contains corn is a good one.

The problem can come in when you want a naturally thickened soup. Pureeing the corn can lead to problems if the hulls aren’t pulverized. It leaves a chewy residue if not.

So pay close attention to the directions to avoid the problem.

And then sit back and enjoy the taste!

INGREDIENTS

4 ears fresh or 3 cups frozen, thawed corn kernels
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 slices thick cut bacon
1/2 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup queso fresco, fresh farmer’s cheese, feta cheese, or sour cream, optional
Tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips, optional

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. If using fresh corn, scrape kernels from cobs using small sharp knife or spoon. Place half of the corn kernels in blender with tomatoes, 2 cups of broth, and oregano.
    Puree until smooth. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook bacon, turning once until brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Set aside. Add onion to bacon fat in saucepan and cook, stirring frequently until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic and stir for another minute.

3. Add tomato-corn puree to saucepan with remaining 2 cups of broth. Bring to a low boil and add remaining whole corn kernels. Simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally and remove any foam as it develops with a large flat metal spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Mix in half of the parsley and cream, if desired, and heat through.To serve, garnished with crumbled bacon, remaining parsley, crumbled cheese and tortilla chips or strips.

SERVES: 4

NOTES: The important thing is to use a high speed blender like a Magic Bullet. You need a powerful motor to puree the corn husk of the kernel properly. Do not use an immersion blender, it is not strong enough, and frankly I’d be concerned that even a Cuisinart won’t be enough. If you don’t have a big motored blender, then I would consider skipping the puree step and leave the corn intact.You might also consider roasting/seeding and pureeing with the rest some chiles if you would prefer a more spicy soup.

SOURCE: Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffmann

Gumbo Chicken With Pizazz

tumblr_lvrhyfJtK21r4vlobo1_400Oh Cajun loves come this way!

I love Cajun food, and this is pretty darn good.

This recipe comes from Simply Recipes and I changed very little. I thought it was perfect.

For those of you who hate to spend extra for somebody else to mix your spices and herbs, then listen up too for the Cajun spice mix which is simple but perfect and can be used for other things as well.

Do try to get fresh Andouille sausage. It’s so much better than any of the commercially packaged kinds, but of course availability does depend on location.

For instance I can’t really get much fresh okra here or at least I haven’t seen it, so I used frozen, which I don’t think changes the taste at all.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 lb bacon, diced
  • 2-3 lbs of chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1-2 lbs andouille sausage
  • 1/2 canola oil
  • 1 c flour
  • 2 medium green peppers, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • 4 gloves garlic, microplaned or minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 qt of chicken stock (unsalted preferred)
  • 1 qt of water or as needed to get the consistency you desire
  • 1/2 – 1 lb of okra, or 1-2 cups frozen
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped
  • Approx. 3 tbsp of Cajun spice mix (store-bought or home-made–as much as you wish)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cook the bacon until crisp in a large stew pot (Cast iron would be perfect). Remove the bacon and set aside.
  2. Set the thighs skin down and brown well. Salt the meat while it is cooking. Don’t move the chicken for a good 4-5 minutes. It tends to release and turn easily once the skin is nicely browned. Turn and brown the other side.
  3. Remove the chicken. Brown the sausage. Roll as needed to brown all sides decently. Remove this to the chicken.
  4. You need about 1/2  c of fat from all this. If you don’t have enough, use the canola oil up to that level. This isn’t rocket science, just be in the ball park. Once heated up, stir in the flour and stir. At first stir almost continuously, then every couple of minutes. Turn to low-medium heat and cook until the roux is a dark caramel. This will take about 30 minutes. Don’t let it burn, cuz if you do, it’s a complete loss. So watch carefully.
  5. You can warm the chicken stock and water in the microwave, but it’s not essential. It makes everything blend a little faster is all.
  6. Add the veggies all nicely diced to the roux when it is ready and stir often for about 5 minutes until they are softened. Add the garlic, and continue cooking and stirring for about 2 more minutes. Add the tomato paste and whisk into the roux and veggie mix.
  7. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, whisking it in a bit at a time until you have it all in. Continue to scrap the bottom of the pot, and whisking away.
  8. Stir in 3 tbsp of the Cajun spice mix, taste, and add more in you desire.
  9. Add the thighs back in. Simmer for 90 minutes. Remove the chicken, let cool.
  10. While chicken is cooling, cut the sausage into discs and add to the gumbo. Then add the okra. You can cook this for 1 hour or if you wish, longer to cook down the soup. It’s your call as to how thick you want things. If it’s too thick for you now, add water or more stock.
  11. Pick the meat off the chicken bones and chop and add back in.
  12. Add the green onions, parsley and bacon back in at the very end before serving.
  13. Serve over rice or with bread.

Serves: 10-12

Note: This makes a big pot, but this freezes really well. I thought it was better after it came out of the freezer frankly.

Sunday Football Chili

Chili is kind of a national food in the US. There is Chicago chili, Kansas chili, Texas Chili, South Carolina chili and a zillion others.

Some swear by beans, others loathe them. Some insist on chunks of meat, others demand hamburger. There is venison chili, chicken chili, turnkey chili, white chili, and chili without tomatoes. Some of it is utterly bland, some so fiery hot that only the expert heat masters can tolerate it.

So I don’t claim anything extraordinary here. Just the basic chili I grew up with and then added much more heat. So take a look if you dare, and play with the chilis until you can eat it!

It makes the best, on the stove meal for football on Sunday.

There are plenty of condiments to add: shredded cheese, raw onions, sour cream, saltine crackers. And don’t forget the cornbread!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lbs ground beef or venison
  • 1 c diced onions
  • 1 sweet pepper, diced
  • hot chiles (2-3) Serrano, jalapeñ0, ancho, anaheim, Hatch,–whatever you like and as much
  • 1 qt tomatoes, chopped and with juice
  • 1 1/2 c corn (I know it’s weird but we like it)
  • 2 cans rinsed canned beans of your choice, red, pinto, kidney or chili beans
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/3 c chili powder
  • 2 tsp smoky paprika
  • 1 tsp chipotle or cayenne pepper
  • 1 TBSP red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 TBSP dutch cocoa powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato paste (if needed to thicken)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Brown meat, onions, peppers,  and all spices and herbs.
  2. If using fresh chiles, roast them on an open flame (gas stove)or under broiler until charred. Place in a plastic bag and leave for about 15 until they have sweated and cooled. Scrape off most of the char, chop and add to the pot.
  3. Add all the rest and simmer for a couple of hours. Covered or partially covered.
  4. Check occasionally and stir, adding water or tomato juice if too dry, or adding the paste if not thick enough.

Serves: 4 or more

*Note: this freezes very well, and if possible is even better when thawed and reheated. Oh and a bottle of dark beer never hurts either!