Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dreams Come True

I had a dream on Monday night that we had onion soup for dinner. I had bought a beautiful bag of yellow onions at Costco this weekend, and had most of the other ingredients on hand, so I decided that's what we would eat on Tuesday for dinner.

This is a simple, but time-consuming recipe. Instead of cooking the onions on the stovetop, most of the cooking is done in the oven. I cheated a little and shortened the oven cooking time, but the final soup was still quite flavorful.

I served this with some roasted delicata squash, simply dressed with butter, salt and pepper. The sweet, creamy squash was a lovely foil to the salty, cheesy soup. Altogether satisfying.

French Onion Soup

6 large yellow onions, halved, peeled, and sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups beef stock
5 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the sliced onions in a heavy soup pot; top with the butter and the salt. While the onions are cooking, make toasts. Slice the baguette into 3/4-inch slices. Paint each slice with olive oil and place on a cookie sheet. Bake until the toasts are just beginning to brown on one side; turn, and bake again until the other side is lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and reserve. After the onions have been cooking for 1 hour, remove them from the oven and stir; the onions will have wilted and given off much of their moisture. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on the stovetop over a medium flame. Cook and stir the onions until all of the moisture has evaporated and the onions begin to darken and caramelize. Add the wine. Cook and stir until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove the thyme and the bay leaf. Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls. Top with toasts and shredded Gruyere cheese. Place under the broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Turkey Meatball Soup

Here's another cheap dinner largely from the pantry. My son pronounced this a winner after slurping down two bowls!

I've been working a lot with ground turkey lately; it is an affordable, healthy, and versatile protein. I would have liked to add some chopped fresh parsley to the meatballs, but I didn't have any on hand. You could use any combination of vegetables for this soup--celery, spinach, zucchini would all be good.

Turkey Meatball Soup

1 slice bread
1/2 cup milk
1 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek
1 onion
2 carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups uncooked macaroni
1 1/2 cups green beans

Cut the bread into small cubes and place in a saucer with the milk. In a medium bowl, combine the ground turkey, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Squeeze most of the milk out of the soaked bread, and crumble the bread into the meat mixute. Combine well. Form into 3/4-inch meatballs and set aside. Prepare the vegetables. Slice the white part of the leek in half lengthwise and clean well under running water. Quarter and dice the leek. Peel the carrot and cut into small dice. Chop the onion and cut the green beans into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, and saute the leek, onion, and carrots for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the meatballs to the soup; simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the pasta and the green beans and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the pasta is done. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese for a garnish.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Homemade Gnocchi

I've been afraid to make gnocchi. I'm really a novice pasta maker, and I was fearful my first effort would culminate with chewy little bullets of starch. But recently purchased a potato ricer in anticipation of making lefse over the holidays, and I had a free afternoon and a bag of potatoes, so I decided to give homemade gnocchi a try.

I followed Heidi Swanson's recipe, except that I used a potato ricer instead of a fork to break up the boiled potatoes. I just about burned my fingertips off peeling the hot potatoes. In addition, I had some trouble scoring the nuggets with a fork; my final gnocchi were a little misshapen and lumpy looking.

Appearance aside, the gnocchi were delicious! Light little pillows of goodness, velvety in texture, with a delicate potato flavor. Much better than any store-bought product and surprisingly good for my first effort.

I dressed my gnocchi with a rich tomato-vodka-cream sauce, accessorized by a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. My family lapped it up.

Tomato-Vodka-Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup vodka
3/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over a medium flame. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Don't let the garlic burn! Add the tomatoes; smash the whole tomatoes up with the back of a spoon in the pot. Add the basil leaves. Reduce the heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover; add the vodka. Cook for an additonal 5 minutes until most of the alcohol has burned off. Add the cream and heat through. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Autumnal Chicken Soup

This week I've been challenged to cook from my pantry as much as possible in an effort to cut my grocery bill. I'm reaching the end of the line with proteins from the freezer, and I'm limited to the few root vegetables left in my crisper drawer. I invented this light but satisfying soup from what remained in my refrigerator. Roasting the sweet potato before adding it to the soup adds a lovely, burnt-sugar complexity to the dish. Barley is more toothsome than pasta and a nice textural contrast to the soft sweet potato. The orange zest brightens the soup and subtly reminds diners of summer as fall begins to wane.

Autumnal Chicken Soup

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 chicken breasts
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup barley
1 orange

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large soup pot, combine the chicken stock, water, and chicken breasts. Heat over a medium flame until the liquid begins to boil; reduce to a low simmer. Cook until the chicken is done, approximately 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, in another pot, combine the barley with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the barley is tender, about 30 minutes. While the barley and the chicken are cooking, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss them on a sheetpan with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven until the sweet potatoes begin to brown around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve. Drain the cooked barley and reserve. Remove the chicken breasts from the broth and let cool on a cutting board for a few minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off of the bones and shred into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken, barley, and roasted sweet potatoes back to the stock. Zest the orange and add that to the soup. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Variation: Add a bunch of chopped spinach or swiss chard at the finish and cook until wilted.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

White Chili

I'm not a big fan of traditional chili. It can be pretty heavy, heartburn-inducing, and sometimes greasy. Years ago, when my mother lived in Park City, Utah, I was introduced to a delicious white chili made with turkey by the Deer Valley Ski Resort. Although I haven't made it in years, I thought it might be a good dish for Halloween, because it would hold well and could be personalized by each of our guests with toppings of their choice. Previously, I made this with the mix sold by the resort; this time, I thought I'd try making it from scratch. Instead of turkey meat, I used ground turkey, which is readily available and affordable. I also packed as many vegetables in as I could, for a lighter, more healthful chili. With a side of fresh-baked corn muffins, this is an easy, crowd-pleasing meal.

Deer Valley Turkey Chili

2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 medium Anaheim chilies, seeded, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 leeks (white part only), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoons salt
1/8 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 29-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup corn flour

Brown the turkey in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Drain and reserve. Melt the remainder of the butter and saute the chiles, onion, red bell pepper, leeks, and garlic until softened, about 7 minutes. Return the turkey to the pan. Add the spices (oregano, cayenne, cumin, coriander, and salt), and stir over the heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes at a low simmer. Add the corn and the black beans and heat through. Add the corn flour to thicken the chili. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chopped cilantro.