Friday, June 21, 2013

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Asparagus

Currently listening: Vedera

It's that time of year when you remember all the things you made six months ago in the dead of winter, when it was so cold and you were going stir crazy, and you thought, "I should make a bunch of this and freeze it all! I have a deep freezer and I'm going to USE it!" Certain things just end up getting thrown out after the year mark in a fit of quiet shame, like the forgotten enchiladas or the questionably freezer burned diced onions*. But homemade stock is a different story. I rarely have the time around the house to boil water, veggies and a bouquet garni with chicken carcasses (nor do I normally have two chicken carcasses just sitting around) so stock is a rarity here and a precious commodity. We normally just buy it in bulk from Costco, which works fine in certain recipes. But in the case of homemade soup, it's a must.

A certain person wasn't feeling well earlier this week, and I realized that I had all this stock on hand that I needed to use - plus, what feels more therapeutic than homemade soup? So I made it with the likeliness that he (and subsequently I) would get a summer cold. Thankfully it didn't turn into that. But now I have all this soup. Probably should find a use for it. :) My first thought was to make straight up chicken noodle soup, but it seemed too wintry, so I decided to spring it up with lemon and asparagus. And now it's summer. ah well.

By the way, the Parmesan cheese rind is entirely optional. But I would recommend that whenever you buy a block of fresh Parmesan, keep the rind and toss it in broth-based soups while they're simmering for an incredible deepening of flavor. Because it's a hard cheese, it won't melt into the soup. It will just make it taste super.

And yes, you can freeze onions. And bell peppers too! It's pretty nice to have on hand in a pinch.

Springtime Chicken Noodle Soup

3 qt homemade chicken stock
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup dried orzo pasta
juice of 1/2 lemon

1) Heat up chicken stock in a large (5 - 6 qt) pot, the Parmesan rind. Meanwhile, heat up olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 additional minute. Add onion and garlic to stock.
2) When the stock is at a boil, add the raw chicken breasts (whole) into the stock. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook 6 - 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Take the chicken out and make sure it's cooked through. Then cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.
3) Bring stock to a boil again. Add asparagus and orzo to the pot. Let cook 5 - 7 minutes until both are tender.
4) Add chicken back to pot and lemon juice (can add more if desired), salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tomato basil soup

You know how you pin all these things on Pinterest and never make them? Me too. Here's a good one that I tried today. Just salt very liberally at the end to taste. It was delicious with a drizzle of basil olive oil (regular olive oil would brighten it up too). Served it with broccoli cheese quiche. 

Tomato Basil Soup with Greek yogurt

2 (28 oz) cans of diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups broth
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cheddar, grated
1/2 cup fresh basil chopped, loosely packed
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, add olive oil to a large pot. Add the chopped onion and cook until tender, 5 - 10 minutes. Add garlic, cook for additional minute.

Pour in the cans of tomatoes (juice included) and the stock. Stir in the basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover the pot and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in the greek yogurt and cheddar until well blended. Use an immersion blender to puree. Garnish with chopped basil and cheese.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grits. Say it with me - GRIH-YETS.

Currently listening: Diamonds by Ben Howard

A few weeks ago, I took a really awesome road trip to Kentucky with Nicole, Lisa and Jeanine to visit eight bourbon distilleries and a moonshine distillery. We trekked all across central Kentucky (which is stunningly beautiful, by the way), learned a vast amount about the process of making bourbon, ate a lot, and basked in the adorable accent of the rural Kentucky residents. Quick background - what makes a whiskey "straight Kentucky Bourbon whiskey" is not actually its location. Well, it is and it isn't. It's not that it has to come from Bourbon County, but in fact 95% of the world's bourbon comes from a 100 mile radius of that area precisely because of the limestone filtered water from the springs and rivers found there. It cuts down on the iron which would leave an otherwise bitter taste. It also has to do with the federal regulations placed upon bourbon regarding the ratio of ingredients (must be at least 51% corn), the proof at the time of placing in barrels and again at the time of bottling, the type of barrel it must be stored in, the prohibition of adding any flavoring, and the minimum amount of aging. After we tasted at least 25 different kinds of bourbon, I can say that my favorite to sip on, with a tiny bit of water, is either Eagle Rare Single Barrel or Four Roses Small Batch.

I digress, because this is a food blog! I love bourbon, and we certainly brought home enough to merit some raised eyebrows, but I didn't really appreciate its value beyond sipping until I realized how MUCH you could cook with the stuff. It has wonderful vanilla and toffee notes that lend itself well to baking, but it can also be used in a host of different ways. I picked up this cookbook at the Maker's Mark distillery and will be working through it the rest of the summer :)

I picked up this rather large bottle of Four Roses Yellow Label for cooking. It's pretty solid stuff. 

Before I get into my love affair with grits, here's a really easy and good steak marinade. Let it sit for several hours in the fridge, turning a few times.

1/2 cup bourbon + 6 Tbsp soy sauce + dash Worcestershire + 2 tsp garlic. 

We grilled a flank steak marinated in this stuff and served it with an herb butter (which is basically a big handful of fresh herbs chopped and then cut into some softened butter, with some salt). It was gooooood. 

But grits. Or as the Kentuckians love to take a one syllable word and turn it into two, grih-yets. They have so little nutritional value, but when you slow cook them with milk, butter and add cheese at the end, it makes for some good eating. I've already written about my attempt to recreate Bluestem Lounge's Shrimp and Grits. There's a new restaurant in Westport now called The Corner Restaurant, and it's absolutely fantastic. Been there twice and really enjoyed what I've tried. They had a great dish called Loaded Grits, which had bacon lardons, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, green onions, shaved Grana Padano cheese, and an over easy egg on top of creamy stone ground grits. It was delightful. Since it seemed pretty straightforward, I made it at home for my friends Shanna and Skillet. They were in the stressful process of negotiating a used car purchase, made even worse if that's possible by the fact that they were doing it over the phone for a car in Ohio, so it was an interesting morning, but I'd like to think that the grits made things a little calmer. Comfort food has a way of doing that. 

So here it is!

Loaded Grits (many apologies to the amazing chef at The Corner Restaurant)

1 cup stone ground grits (such as Anson Mills)
2 cups water
2 cups whole milk, hot
4 slices thick cut bacon, thinly sliced into matchstick sized pieces
4 Tbsp butter
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
1 green onion, thinly sliced
A big handful of Grana Padano cheese (Costco has a dangerous container of the stuff)

1) Bring the 2 cups of water and 1 cup of milk (set aside the other cup) to a boil. Add the grits, stir, lower heat and cover and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes to remove lumps. Near the last 10 - 15 minutes of cooking, add the rest of the milk in increments and stir. My Southern friend Alan tells me this makes it creamy. It may just be superstition :) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 3 Tbsp or so of the butter at the end, plus quite a bit of the Grana Padano until you think it's cheesy enough.
2) Meanwhile, cook up the pieces of bacon until crisp but not too over done. Pat dry.
3) Heat a pan over medium high heat with 1 Tbsp olive oil, add onions and a big pinch of kosher salt and cook 10 minutes until softened. Reduce heat to medium for another 10 - 15 minutes until starting to darken. Set onions aside.
4) Heat up the same pan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp butter, and cook mushrooms until liquid is gone and mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of kosher salt, set aside.
5) Using a little bit of the bacon grease left in the pan you cooked the bacon in, fry up the eggs until they are sunny side up or over easy, to your preference. I just love runny yolk. 
6) Pour 1/4 of the grits on a plate, top with the onions, mushrooms, bacon, and scatter green onions and some more Grana Padano. Add some fresh cracked pepper, and some Louisiana style hot sauce if you feel like it. Die of happiness, and clogged arteries.

Serves 4.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Banh mi.

Currently listening: Conditions by The Temper Trap

I'm coming off a terribly long hiatus to this, because to be honest, Lisa has taken over the cooking for the most part during the last few months. I'm a little unsure of what it's going to be like when she no longer lives with us starting in June and it's up to Nicole and me to figure out grocery shopping and meal planning. I'm sure we'll adjust eventually...there just may be lots of either plan-a-big-elaborate-gourmet-production, or hey-lets-eat-eggs-again-because-we-forgot-to-buy-anything-else. At least at first. We bought a grill, though! $20 for a gas grill at a yard sale is worth dragging it across my neighborhood and being heckled by some people. I have some plans for naan, gyros,'s going to be awesome.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chicken with Caramelized Cauliflower and Olive "Pesto"

Currently listening: 'Swallowed In The Sea' by Coldplay

So this week I cooked something deliberately healthy, and wanted to share the recipe with you. Wait, don't go! See, it's not that I eat that unhealthily - I just don't make an effort to avoid food that I like eating from time to time, like a wine cream sauce, a piece of warm French bread slathered in butter, or anything involved salted caramel sauce. But I do like a challenge, and when friends have dietary restrictions (be it allergen-related or just for a short time) I want to enter into that, just because I think if you couldn't enjoy food as often with people you like because of something you can't eat, it'd be a shame. And so easy to fix! So that's what happened for a couple friends who are on a very restrictive P90X diet. I came across this recipe and would have kept looking had I not started liking olives a couple weeks ago. Green olives, that is. Baby steps.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Currently Listening: basically anything by Thievery Corporation

A quick update since this went over so well. I've made this meal twice this week because it was so wonderful. And easy. I'll walk you through it, and you can make your own substitutions like I did, knowing that as long as the stuffing tastes satisfactorily savory enough, it's going to be good.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cold weather warmth.

Currently listening: Old Pine by Ben Howard

It's finally starting to feel more like winter. It's about time too, because our house looks a bit like Christmas exploded and it felt out of place. I spent a lot of yesterday making truffles for the ladies in our Bible study and this meal, which was really pretty great. It didn't start out so good though.