Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Puppy Love. Warning: Have Tissues Handy. Tear Zone Ahead.

This is all about the SOUL! This emotion is palpable. The main ingredients? Love. Gratitude. Sharing ... And lots of tears-- Happy, happy real holidays ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hobo Soup with Hamburger and Vegetables

I had forgotten this recipe was waiting in the wings of my "new post" file. I know I harp on and on about soups. But, honestly, they they are surprisingly, even amazingly, easy to prepare. They are nourishing. They use the most humble and inexpensive of ingredients. For some reason, people seem intimidated by making soups. Really, it's just about chopping and dumping. What could be easier?

I love the two vowels ... "o" and "u" supported by the the consonants ... "s" and "p." To me, soups are like poetry ... they insist on inspiration and creativity ... how to use what you have on hand ... how to understand ... your own experience ... ingredient by ingredient ... word by word ... Potatoes? Add it in. Or pasta. This is your poem. And, yes, you can do it. You will do it. And, trust me, all the flavors will rhyme.

This was a hearty and satisfying soup dashed together with ingredients I had on hand. (Had I bit of green pepper, I would have used it.) I love the canned combo of corn with okra and tomatoes. (Heated by itself, it's fun to put over white rice with a bit of shrimp and ham on the side.)

I suppose this is best categorized as a "hobo soup," which is any soup thrown together by opening up some cans. I enjoyed the simplicity of a veggie stock. I felt both chicken and beef stock a bit too overpowering. Don't omit the fennel, it's what raises humble hamburger to a kind of Italian-sausage level. The cream mellows all the flavors. I sprinkled each bowl with a liberal amount of smoked Gouda. Any cheese would work as well. Or none.

Served with a hefty chunk of crusty bread for soaking, sit back and enjoy your poem. As with any soup, this just gets better a day or two later.

  • 3/4 cup ground beef
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 3-4 medium garlic cloves, smashed, skins removed, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 rib celery, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste --- several squirts from a tube
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme flakes
  • 2 pinches dried red pepper flakes--or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1, 14.5-oz can corn/okra/tomatoes
  • 1 can rinsed, seasoned butter beans
  • 2 cups veggie stock
  • 1 good teaspoon beef granules ...
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Cheese for garnish
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream

Add a bit of olive oil to a stock pot. Add chopped onion, sliced garlic cloves, sliced carrots, and sliced celery. Sweat just until soft. Move to side of pot and add the ground beef along with the fennel seeds, thyme flakes and red pepper flakes. When brown, mix in the veggies and tomato paste. Cook for about one minute or so. Now add the can of corn/okra/tomatoes, seasoned butter beans. Mix through. Finish by adding the veggie stock, beef granules and smoked paprika. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a slow simmer. Cover. Continue to cook for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the cream and mix through. Re-taste for seasonings. Serve with grated cheese on top.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Coming up ...


This was a real delight ... pork with apples, parsnips, carrots a bit of fennel and a touch of heat slowly stewed in a broth of apple ale and stock. Served over tender egg noodles, it's a fantastic and easy dish to prepare for a soothing winter's night in.

Cherry Cobbler

Using my basic recipe for easy Peach Cobbler, I instead use a can of sour cherries. This is one of those recipes that is too easy not to make!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tomato Soup with Rosemary

If one were to think of clothing as food, then tomato soup is as basic as socks and underwear. You know what I'm talking about, that favorite pair of boxers ... and woolly, thick warm socks, past the ankle, to pad around on cold floors during frigid winter. Hey, I'm a guy ... so I won't go into bras. LOL ...

If you have a tin of tomatoes, a bit of onion and garlic--even a rubbery carrot and celery stalk, you can make this. Yes, you can! I'm leaving it rather basic--other than the rosemary, simply because I have an abundance of it right now--which includes a blue flower or two. How lucky am I?

If you wish to dress this up (bereft of blue flowers), here are your other accessories:

  • Saute the veggies in bacon or pancetta before adding the butter.
  • Add a can or two of white beans; preferably, seasoned and smoky.
  • Corn? Okra? Go for it.
  • Lightly brown diagonally-sliced hot dogs or sausages to multiply said equation.
  • Kale? Spinach? Go ahead.
  • Basil? By all means. One can not subtract from this recipe.
  • Do you live on the edge? Then you want a bit of citrus zest--lemon or orange.
  • Want to gild the lily? Want to thumb your nose at a Campbell's kind of world? Then cast your vote for cheese. A genuine winner. Smoked cheese. A swirl of tangy sour cream or yogurt. A sprinkle of goat cheese, flavored or plain. And, of course, blue cheese.
You get the idea. But, for now, let's start with the basic, comfy, sock-and-underwear version. And, hopefully, it will be shared ... Flowers? You decide. Although I believe ... ingredients such as these ... are our planet's greatest flowers.

  • 1 yellow onion peeled and sliced, a good 8 - 10 oz.
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped, about 4 oz.
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped, about 2 oz.
  • 2-3 plump garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 pinches red-pepper flakes or to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, preferably dark
  • 6-8 tablespoons butter (Yes ... you heard me!)
  • 1, 28-ounce can whole tomatoes or two 14.5 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1, 14.5-ounce can low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 to 4, 3-4-inch whole rosemary sprigs, unstripped
  • Salt, not too much--no more than 1/2 teaspoon
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 10 - 20 twists
  • Smoked Gouda for garnish

Using a low-medium heat, gently melt the butter without browning in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes. Lovingly and slowly simmer for about 20 minutes. The idea here is simply to flavor the butter and to stew the veggies. Put your face over the pot. Inhale. Are you happy?

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Add salt and pepper. Stir. Turn up the heat a bit. Add the brown sugar. Lightly bruise the whole rosemary stems with a rolling pin/wine bottle/soda can to release the oils. Sink them into the tomato mixture. Bring to a slow simmer. Add chicken stock. Cover and continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes until tomatoes are mushy and cooked through. Taste and re-season as necessary.

Remove spent rosemary sprigs. Here, you have two options. If you have an immersion blender, blitz the mixture until smooth; or, remove to a blender and whirl until smooth. I have an immersion blender and blitz until everything is well blended. Then I like to force the mixture through a sieve ... to make it even smoother.

Return to pan. Taste. Add another sprig of rosemary. Maybe a few slices of garlic. If desired, swirl in a few tablespoons of whole milk, half-and-half, cream. Grate with some smoked cheese ... Actually, I'm not too impressed with uniform grates of cheese ... crumble some with your fingers ... Feel it. Love it. Share it.