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Monday, November 19, 2007

Corn and Red Pepper Soup

This is a favorite soup of mine. The vegetables taste great together, and it's a thick soup that I serve with sour cream, chopped avocado, and finely chopped red pepper on top. Hearty yet elegant, it's a great soup, and it's easy to make. You don't have to puree it if you don't want to, but I like the creamy texture it gives the soup. As always, I have made it vegetarian, but you can use chicken broth if you prefer. I've also made it fairly thick, but you can thin it down with more milk if you like it thinner.

Corn and Red Pepper Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 pound fresh or frozen corn kernels or 2 cans of corn, drained
1 large tomato, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups vegetable broth, canned or homemade
2 cups cream or milk (fat-free, if preferred)
Red pepper, to taste
Salt to taste
Sour cream, chopped avocado, and finely chopped red pepper, for topping.

Melt butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add corn, tomatoes, pepper, onion and garlic. Stir vegetables over medium-high heat until lightly caramelized. Add flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add broth, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Puree in batches until smooth. Add milk to pan and reheat gently, never boiling. Season with red pepper and salt.

Serve soup topped with diced avocado, diced red pepper, and sour cream.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Welsh Tomato Rarebit

This tasty cheese dish is perfect for a snack, or makes a great light dinner or lunch. Just add a green salad on the side, and maybe put some ham or bacon as a topper to the toast you serve it on. It's great for the chilly days and nights of fall, and it's a snap to make. This is a bit of a variation because I've added the tomato, but I like it better that way. You can leave it out if you want.

Welsh Rarebit

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/4 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red pepper
2 eggs
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy Saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, then continue to cook and stir until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Gradually stir in milk and simmer until thick, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat.

Stir the tomatoes into the sauce. Whisk together the mustard, pepper, worcestershire sauce, and eggs; stir into tomato mixture. Set the saucepan over very low heat or a double boiler.

Stir in the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese has melted.

Serve over whole grain toast.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Black Bean Soup

This is a great, quick bean soup. You cut time by using canned black beans and refried beans, but don't add any extra salt. There's plenty in the canned beans. You can cut down on the salt content by using your own beans, or by rinsing the canned black beans.

This soup is wonderful on a cool night. I love soup, and this is one of my favorites. It's very filling and satisfying. I make a lot of my soups vegetarian, since I live with one, but you can always substitute chicken broth for the vegetable stock that I use, and you can add cubed ham if you want. It's good either way.

Black Bean Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups salsa
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a saucepan or large pot over medium heat. Add all but 1/4 cup of the salsa and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the refried beans, black beans, and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Top with some of the remaining salsa and the sour cream and cilantro.

Butternut Squash Soup

This is one of my most favorite soups. It's great in the fall, when butternut squash are in season. Mildly sweet, it's perfect for those cool nights (or even when it's still warm). I like it with lots of black pepper, as a counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash. It's a simple yet elegant recipe; you can't mess this one up, it's just too easy.

Butternut Squash Soup
4 leeks, rinsed and chopped *see note on how to clean and rinse a leek below*
1 butternut squash (2-3 pounds), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup shelled raw pumpkin seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons olive oil
Black pepper, to taste

Place the leeks, squash, bay leaf, salt, and broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the squash is tender, about 12 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Puree the soup in batches and rewarm over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile,roughly chop pumpkin seeds and rosemary on a cutting board. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds and rosemary, stirring occasionally until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the seeds and rosemary. Sprinkle with black pepper, to taste.

*How to Clean and Rinse a Leek
Leeks are often very dirty in between the layers, especially if you buy them from a farmer's market. To clean them without making a huge mess, this is an easy way:
Cut off the dark green part of the leek, and peel one layer off the outside. Then slice the leek lengthwise, almost all the way to the root, but do not cut through it. Rinse the leek under cold running water to remove the dirt between layers. It won't fall apart because you haven't cut it all the way down, but you can separate the layers with your fingers as your rinse.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Roast Chicken or Turkey

Perfect Roast Chicken or Turkey
One chicken or turkey, any size (if you have brined your fowl, no salt is required in the seasoning of your bird. If you salt it after brining, it will be too much)
Olive oil
Onion, quartered
Carrot, unpeeled, chopped roughly
2 or 3 garlic cloves, whole
Dried parsley or fresh, chopped roughly
Dried thyme or fresh, chopped roughly
Butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add thyme and parsley to room temperature butter and stir together.

Rub fowl with olive oil all over and place herbed butter under the skin, especially on breast area.

Season the cavity with herbed butter or just herbs, and stuff with onion, garlic and carrots.

Place breast side down in a large roasting pan. I know most people will tell you breast up, but this will result in a much juicier breast. The last twenty minutes of roasting you can turn it over to crisp up the breast skin. Alternatively, you can use one of those roasting bags, and there will be no turning required.

Roast for 20 minutes per pound, or until fowl is golden brown and tender and juices run clear.

That's it. It's that simple, and it's good.

Brining Chicken or Turkey Before Roasting for more flavorful, juicier meat

Brining will provide juicier and more flavorful meat. Chickens or turkeys you buy in the store don't have the flavor those old barnyard chickens used to have, so brining is a perfect way to add in the flavor.

The brining process forces water into the muscle tissues of the meat by a process known as diffusion and osmosis. The additional moisture causes the muscle tissues to swell and hold more water, and will make the meat more moist and tender. Any spices, herbs, or other flavorings you add to the brine solution will get taken deep into the meat along with the water.

The brining mixture and the chicken are placed in a large pot and stored in the refrigerator during the brining process, or alternatively, you can put it in a cooler and close the lid. Leave the chicken or turkey to soak for approximately one hour per pound. If your chicken or turkey is large and needs to soak a while and you're using the cooler, you can add ice periodically or use those blue ice thingies in the water. But I recommend using the pan in the refrigerator. Keep the fowl down in the water by weighting it with a brick or a plate or anything heavy in a freezer bag (or just turn it over once in a while).

Be sure to rinse well before cooking.

Perfect Brining Recipe

1 gallon water

3/4 cup kosher salt

2/3 cup sugar (only if grilling, frying, or broiling the chicken or turkey, not if you're roasting. See note below.)

3/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon each of dried tarragon, thyme, black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Start by boiling the water and then adding the salt and sugar, so that it will dissolve easier. Then add the spices to the hot liquid so that the flavors are extracted. Cool the brine solution.

**If you're going to broil, grill, or fry the turkey or chicken, you can add sugar in amounts equal to the salt. Sugar, in the brining solution, will add flavor to the chicken and will improve the natural caramelized flavor that occurs when the meat is grilled or fried. Don't use it if you're roasting, if the pan drippings are going to be used for making gravy, or if you're cooking any vegetables in with the fowl, adding sugar to the brining solution may result in gravy and vegetables that are too sweet.