Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hulling Strawberries with a Drinking Straw

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hamburger Soup

In some parts of the country, it's still soup weather. Here in North Carolina, I'm happy to say we are having honeysuckle weather. Unlike the North, honeysuckle here in the South is not a bush. Instead, it is rampant, wild vines. If you live near a wood, like I do, the scent is heady and intoxicating, especially at dusk when it is a bit humid and breezless. The scent literally hangs in the air for hours. I wish I could sip the scent through a straw!

While I may not be able to sip the air, I can slurp on some good soup!

I had some ground beef, sausage and bacon that needed to be used up. I fickled around the kitchen and found some other needed ingredients for this hearty, flavorful soup that uses the simplest of ingredients one most likely has on hand.

As with most of my soup recipes, it's a bit of this and bit of that ... as should yours be, too. Don't omit the smoked paprika which imparts that wonderful, woodsy autumnal flair. The smoked chipotle powder is wonderfully pungent.

Feel free to add any frozen veggies you have on hand. I had some corn and peas, so I threw in a handful. If you want more of a "stew," add less water--more for a standard soup. And be sure to taste as you go along.

The first time I made it, I used the standard, tiny elbow macaroni. Don't. It's boring and does nothing theatrical or utilitarian. On subsequent trials, I used mini-shell macaroni. It was perfect to catch bits of beef and sausage and an errant pea or kernel of corn. It performed admirably.

Soups by their very nature are forgiving in their assemblage. The result is always warm and welcoming. A great lesson for all us to learn.

  • 1 pound ground meat, you decide. It could be half ground beef and half Italian sausage or 3/4 ground beef and 1/4 Italian sausage. I use ground chuck and go about 1/2 and 1/2, using a mild Italian sausage.
  • 1/3 cup (about) chopped bacon meat. Pull the meat from the fat.
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup yellow onion, sliced and diced.
  • 1 cup carrot, sliced.
  • 1 cup celery, sliced and diced.
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup green bell pepper, diced.
  • Any frozen veggies you have on hand--about 1/2 cup (optional)
  • 1, 14 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, juice and all
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried Italian spices, gently crushed
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • smoked chipotle powder, just a shake or two or three (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 cups liquid, half water/half beef stock
  • Fresh-grated Parmesan for garnish*

Brown the ground meats. Drain and remove. Add the bacon, onion, celery, chopped garlic with just a drizzle of olive oil to a dutch oven or soup pot. Saute until wilted and the bacon has rendered its fat but is not crispy.

Add the cooked ground meats and stir. Sprinkle on the dried onion soup mix. Stir. Add the can of roasted tomatoes, the bell pepper, carrots, Italian spices and smoked paprika. Add your liquid and the soy sauce. Stir. Taste for salt and pepper.

Bring just to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for about an hour, tasting every-once-in-awhile and adjusting your seasonings. Towards the end, sprinkle with a bit of the chipotle powder if desired, and stir.

To serve, ladle into bowls, grate on some fresh Parmesan and garnish with a few celery leaves.

*If you have an old rind of Parmesan, throw that into the pot as the soup simmers and remove before serving, unless it has totally dissolved.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spicy, Savory Meatballs

It's easy to run into a recipe rut. Like meatballs. Onions, maybe some sausage, garlic, parsley, etc. Over and over and over.

Then I spied this recipe via The Bitten Word which tried them from Food and Wine. Ever since, it's been raining meatballs here at Kitchen Bounty.

The original recipe called for ground veal which a) is not always easy to find and b) it's expensive.

I opted for ground chuck and italian sausage. I have now made these several times and I never tire of them! Served over pasta (no tomato sauce, please) they are incredible.

I usually cook 1/2 of the recipe and store the remaining meat mixture in the fridge for the next day. Total, this will make about 16 meatballs depending on the size. I like about a bit smaller than a golf ball.

Don't omit the smoked chipotle. It is easily found in the hispanic section of most grocery stores. The little bit of caraway blends well with the other seasonings. I think it always bodes well with ground beef.

  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage meat
  • 1 - 3 teaspoons finely minced, fresh garlic
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup finely minced yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (or just rough chop with a sharp knife)
  • 1/8 - 1/16 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed (less is better than more, rough chop with a sharp knife) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • A sprinkle of dried Italian spices
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked chipotle powder
  • 1 sprinkle or two cayenne pepper
  • Parsley, either fresh or dried, a few tablespoons (but not cilantro)
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup dried bread crumbs*
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • Flour for dredging
  • Olive oil, butter, extra garlic

In a large bowl, gently mix the two meats to combine. Add the garlic, onion, spices, parsley, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix. (To mix, place your hands, curved, along the back of the bowl so the meat is resting in the palms of your hands with your thumbs free. Using only your thumbs, mix. Flip the meat, mix, repeat until everything is incorporated. By using just your thumbs, you are not compacting the mixture.)

Add the egg. Mix. Now begin to add the milk or cream. You do want the mixture to be wet, but not soggy. In fact, probably the worst thing you could do is not to add enough liquid.

Form into meatballs a bit smaller than a golf ball or about 1.5 inches in diameter. Gently roll in flour. The flour will give a nice crust.

Bring your salted, pasta water to a boil. Throw in one crushed clove of garlic. Add your pasta and cook until done. Drain, saving a bit of the water. Drizzle with olive oil and a pat or two of butter and stir. Add salt and pepper and several shaves of Parmesan. Taste. Re-season if necessary. If you like more garlic, use a micro planer and give several streaks of raw garlic. Keep warm.

To fry the meatballs: Add a bit of olive oil and butter to pan. When melted and just beginning to sizzle, add the meatballs. Lower heat to medium/low.Using a spoon, turn as needed so all sides are nicely browned (a spoon helps to preserve the shape.) Continue to cook and roll until done or, if desired, once the meatballs have a nice crust, finish by baking in a 375 oven for about ten minutes or so. (You can to this while the water is boiling for the pasta.)

Remove meatballs to paper towel to drain and rest a bit. If desired, add a bit of the pan juices to the pasta and or a bit of the pasta water.

To serve, mound pasta on a plate or platter, top with meatballs, a bit more Parmesan.

*You can also substitute dried breadcrumbs with two or three slices of crustless artisan bread soaked in milk and then squeezed dry. If doing this, add a bit less liquid. If you make fresh breadcrumbs, you may want to increase to maybe 1/2 cup.