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Showing posts with label Homemade Stock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homemade Stock. Show all posts

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Perfect Soup - Healthy, Delicious Creamy Kabocha Squash Soup

I love soup. A cold soup in summer and a hot soup in winter are wonderful comfort foods. The best soups for me are ones that not only nourish but delight with layered flavors.  In summer a light and spicy watermelon-gazpacho takes the edge off soggy, sultry days. In cool weather, a satisfying soup of roasted squash is filling and refreshing.
With cooler weather approaching, a great many varieties of squash will be available in farmers markets. My favorite is the Japanese squash kabocha. A squat round squash with a flecked dark green outer skin, the flesh can be bright yellow or pumpkin orange. Similar to butternut squash, kabocha is sweeter and cooks more quickly.
I first enjoyed kabocha as light and crispy tempura at Yabu, a sushi bar in West Los Angeles. Included in an order was a sheet of seaweed, shrimp, shiso pepper, shiitake mushroom and kabocha. With only one slice of each to an order, my wife and I divided up the sampling but we always shared the sweet flavored kabocha.

Over the years, I tried preparing kabocha using different techniques. Boiling, steaming, roasting and deep frying. Boiled, the flesh absorbs too much water and becomes soggy. Deep frying is specific to tempura. Steaming softens the flesh. Roasting puts a crust on the outside.

I discovered that combining steaming and roasting created full-of-flavor, firm fleshed pieces. We serve steamed & roasted kabocha as a side dish to accompany grilled fish, chicken and meat. Cut into bite sized pieces, the kabocha is delicious added to soups, stews and braises. Pureed, kabocha creates a deliciously sweet and creamy soup.
For a pot-luck brunch at a friend's beach house, I decided to make kabocha soup. Still out of season locally, kabocha can usually be found in Asian, Latin and Persian markets.

To make a vegetarian/vegan soup, I used homemade vegetable stock. Homemade chicken stock can also be used because of its light flavor but I wouldn't use beef or seafood stock because they are too strong.

Homemade stock is much preferable to store bought because the flavors will be cleaner and the salt content will be much lower. We always have a good supply of homemade stocks in the freezer so I can make soup at a moment's notice.

Making vegetable stock is easy, with a little planning and one important kitchen tool: a food mill. Vegetable stock can be made with a variety of your favorite vegetables. Dice and simmer carrots, celery, onions and mushrooms for an hour with water until soft. Run the liquid and softened vegetables through a food mill to create a delicious stock with pulp, ideal for making soups and sauces.

An alternative method is the one I prefer. During the week I collect vegetable trimmings as I prepare salads and stir fries. I place them into a sealed bag in the freezer. When we have corn on the cob, we put the cobs in the freezer as well. Once there is a large amount collected, all the trimmings and cobs go into a large stock pot. I add enough water to cover and simmer uncovered for an hour or more until the stock has flavor. Then the trimmings, except the corn cobs, go into the food mill as described above. I freeze stock in 16 and 8 ounce sealed containers for times when I want to make a soup or a braise.

Richly Flavored Kabocha Squash Soup

If kabocha is not available, butternut and acorn squash are good substitutes. But they are not as sweet.

If shiitake mushrooms are not available, brown and portabella mushrooms are good substitutes.

The slow roasted tomatoes are easy to make. While you sleep or read or work around the house, the tomatoes cook in the 225 F oven. Slow roasting removes the tomato's water, concentrating the flavors, bringing out sweetness. After the tomatoes are removed from the oven and cooled, they can be refrigerated or frozen in an air tight container. Remove the paper thin skins before using.  The skins aren't edible but they add a wonderful flavor to vegetable stock.

To puree the soup and create a creamy texture, use an immersion blender or a blender. I like the immersion blender because of the easy clean up. When blending, no need to remove all small vegetable bits. A bit of texture is good.
As a topping, homemade croutons or charred greens (escarole, spinach or kale) and onions are good.

Serves 4 (entree) or 8 (starter)

Time to prep: 30 minutes

Time to cook: 60 minutes plus 6 hours to make slow roasted Roma tomatoes

Total time: 90 minutes plus 6 hours to make slow roasted Roma tomatoes

Ingredients

2 large Roma tomatoes, washed, stem removed, cut in half from stem to tip

1 1/2 pound kabocha squash, washed, skin on, quartered from top to bottom, seeds and pulp removed and discarded

1 cup sliced mushrooms, preferably shiitake, washed, pat dried

1 medium and 1 small yellow onion, washed, root and stem removed, skin removed and discarded

2 cups kale leaves, washed, stems removed, finely cut

6 cups homemade stock, vegetable for vegan and vegetarian soup or chicken stock

1 cup escarole, spinach or kale, washed, finely shredded

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne (optional)

Directions

Before you go to bed or while you are working around the house, preheat the oven to 225 F. Place the halved Roma tomatoes on a Silpat or parchment sheet on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven 5-6 hours. Remove when the tomatoes are still plump and they have reduced their size by half.
Remove tomatoes and allow to cool. If using immediately, remove the skins and discard or use to make vegetable stock. Finely chop the roasted flesh and reserve.

Place 2" water and kosher salt into the bottom of a large pot. Place a steamer basket into the pot with the quartered kabocha on top. Cover. Bring water to boil. Cook 10 minutes or until a pairing knife can be easily inserted into the flesh. Remove and cool.
Using a pairing knife, remove the kabocha skins and discard. Place the steamed kabocha on the Silpat or parchment sheet covered baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Place into preheated 350 F oven. Cook 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a large pot. Sauté but not do not brown mushrooms, medium onion slices and kale. Cut roasted kabocha into quarter sized pieces and place into the pot. Add stock. Stir and simmer 30 minutes.

Heat a teaspoon olive oil in a small frying pan. Saute the sliced small onion and chopped escarole, spinach or kale until charred. Remove and reserve.

Taste soup. Adjust seasoning with sea salt and/or black pepper. Taste and add cayenne (optional).

Using an immersion blender or blender, puree soup until smooth allowing for some vegetable bits.

Serve hot with the charred escarole and onions sprinkled on top.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

You are Busy and Hungry, What is There to Eat? An Easy to Make Pasta is the Answer with Chorizo, Green Beans, Scallions and Anchovies

Maybe you are rushed because your work day is long or you are preparing a big meal for a party of relatives who are coming the next day. Taking care of yourself is important. A well-made, hot meal on a cold, wet and windy night is essential.

One of the easiest meals to prepare is pasta which cooks al dente in about ten minutes. In that short amount of time you can make one dish that will be a full meal if you include not just sauce but lots of good vegetables and proteins.

So no excuses about being too rushed or too tired.

Cook, eat and be merry
Tonight I used what I had in the refrigerator. Luckily I had some very good ingredients. I used green beans I bought at an Asian market in Little Saigon 30 minutes south of Los Angeles International Airport. I don't know why but the green beans I buy anywhere other than an Asian market are not good. Even at farmers markets.

At any rate, I had green beans because I like to make a salt-boiled green bean salad with shallot slices charred in a carbon steel pan. That was for tomorrow night. Tonight, I used a handful of the green beans, but if I had kale, spinach, broccoli or broccolini, I would have used those. The point is to use a "green" vegetable because it helps balance the richness of the chorizo and butter (which is optional but adds a wonderful silky sweetness).
The chorizo was a doggie bag treat that I brought home from a lovely lunch at chef Jason McLeod's Ironside Fish & Oyster restaurant in San Diego's Little Italy (1654 India Street, San Diego). Several years ago I met chef McLeod when he was in charge of the kitchens at the Toronto Four Seasons when I was producing an ABC pilot. He was kind enough to let me take over a station in his kitchen so I could cook for our lead actors and my fellow producers. The experience was fun and good relief from an arduous shoot. I learned an important lesson on that show. When you get really cold, like when you have been scouting a roof-top location at night in Toronto during the winter and the wind blows across a very frozen Lake Ontario, you will find it very difficult to get warm. Not a hot bath. Not several layers of clothing could get me to stop shivering. I think I finally got warm by standing next to a fireplace and drinking a tall whiskey.

Chef McLeod and I kept in touch for several years as he moved from Toronto to Whistler and then we didn't connect again until I happened to notice he had opened Ironside Fish & Oyster in San Diego. When I saw him last week, we caught up and then my wife and I had lunch while chef went back to running a very busy kitchen.

He treated us to an amazing appetizer of sea urchin, which I love and which he is able to source locally in the waters off San Diego. We had fish and chips, which came with very good cole slaw and seafood paella, which normally includes a generous helping of sautéed crumbled chorizo. Since my wife is pescaterian, the chorizo came home with us.
Hence it's availability for the pasta.

If you don't have crumbled chorizo, use crumbled crisp bacon or any kind of Italian sausage you enjoy, but do remove the sausage from the casing so you can create a crumble when it cooks so it combines better with the sauce.

The butter is certainly optional as are the anchovies. But I would recommend both. The anchovies disappear in the sauce and reveal themselves combined with all the other flavors.

A Quick and Easy to Make Pasta with Anchovies and Chorizo

Choose whatever pasta you enjoy, but preferably a bite sized pasta like ziti, penne or bowties because they coat well.

Use homemade stock because canned and frozen stocks have a high sodium content. When you roast a chicken, boil the bones, strain and reserve the stock to freeze in pint and half pint sizes. When you make shrimp or lobster, boil the shells, strain and reserve the stock to keep in the freezer. That way you will have a ready supply of healthy broth to use for sauces, stews and soups.
If you have uncooked chorizo and sausage, remove the casing. Heat a sauté pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Crumble the chorizo or sausage with your hands as you add it to the hot pan. Further crumble the meat with a fork as the sausage cooks. Remove when the sausage is lightly browned.

If using bacon, cook 6 pieces of bacon in a large frying pan, turning frequently until browned on both sides. Remove, drain and when cooled crumble.

Serves 4

Time to prepare: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 box pasta, preferably De Cecco, ziti, penne or bowties
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup green beans, washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4" lengths
8 medium sized shiitake mushrooms, washed, ends trimmed, thin sliced
4 shallots, washed, ends trimmed, peeled, roughly chopped
6 anchovies
1 cup homemade stock made from shellfish or chicken
2/3 cup cooked, crumbled chorizo or Italian sausage or 1/2 cup crumbled crisp bacon
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
1/2 cup pasta water
2 scallions, washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4" long sections
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne to taste (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water with kosher salt. Add the pasta and stir well. Cook approximately 10 minutes or until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat a large sauté or carbon steel pan on a medium flame. Add the olive oil and sauté the green beans, mushrooms and shallots until the beans are tender.

Add the anchovies. Use a fork to mash the anchovies against the bottom of the pan to break them apart.

Add stock and stir well to dissolve the anchovies. Cook and reduce the liquid by half.  Add the cooked chorizo or sausage. If using cooked bacon, do not add until just before serving to preserve the crispness.

Check the pasta. If it is al dente, get ready to strain out the water. Put a heat proof container in the sink. As you pour the pasta through a strainer, capture 1/2 cup of pasta water in the heat proof container and reserve.

Set pasta aside while you finish the sauce.

If the sauce is too thin, raise the heat and reduce the liquid. If there isn't enough sauce, add some of the pasta water and stir well. If using sweet butter, add and stir to dissolve.

Separate the individual pieces of pasta if they stick together and add to the pan.  Stir to coat with the sauce. Taste and adjust the flavor with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne (optional). Add more pasta water if you want more sauce.

Add scallions, toss well.

Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Risotto with Toasted, Crushed Hazelnuts - a Perfect Thanksgiving Side Dish

For Thanksgiving we have a menu we love. Roast turkey, corn bread stuffing with Italian sausage, shiitake mushrooms and Turkish apricots, baked sweet potatoes with butter, cranberry sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and sautéed string beans with garlic-toasted almonds.

Since I started doing travel writing, I like to include one dish I've learned to make on a trip. Last year, I made Moroccan style pickled vegetables to go with the Kosher dill pickles I've made for years. This year I am going to make risotto with hazelnuts.
On a month long trip in Switzerland, I enjoyed dozens of meals. Since I was researching local Swiss wines, those meals were wine-paired. Needless to say, I had a very good time. At one of the first stops on the trip, our group of six journalists was treated to a dinner at the chef's table at restaurant Le Mont Blanc at Le Crans in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. One of our group was a vegetarian. We always envied her meals, especially that night when she was served risotto with hazelnuts.

That dish made an impression. So, last night I made risotto and hazelnuts. The combination of creamy rice and crunchy nuts is hard to beat. I'm thinking it would be a great Thanksgiving side dish.

Herb Scented Risotto with Toasted, Crushed Hazelnuts

Last night's risotto was made with vegetable stock. Any stock would add to the flavors of the rice, but whatever kind of stock you use, it would improve the dish if you use homemade not store-bought stock. The salt content of processed stock is very high and the flavor is, well, not that great, in my opinion. Making stock is not difficult. Stock freezes so easily if kept in an air-tight container. It will keep for months with no lessening of flavor.

The recipe can be entirely vegetarian or can be adjusted to include meat, poultry and seafood. Adding more vegetables and protein will turn this side dish into an entrée.

If whole, toasted hazelnuts with the skins removed are not available, find whole, raw hazelnuts. Roast in a toaster oven set at 350 F for five minutes. Remove when hot and wrap in a cotton towel. Rub with your hands. The skins will come off. To crush then, place the roasted hazelnuts on a cutting board and press down on the nuts with the flat side of a chefs knife. That will crush them. Use the cutting edge of the knife to more finely chop the nuts. Reserve.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups risotto
4 cups homemade stock (vegetable, chicken, duck, beef, pork or shellfish)
2 cups leafy green (black kale, spinach, Italian parsley) washed, stems removed, finely chopped
1 cup yellow onion, washed, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins and root end removed, finely chopped
5 brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, pat dried, thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions

Heat a large frying pan with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the leafy greens, onion and garlic. Sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of the olive oil and heat over a medium-low flame. Add the risotto and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the rice is translucent. Add back the sautéed vegetables and stir well.

Add half a cup stock, stir well and let the rice absorb the liquid. Add a half of cup of stock as the liquid disappears. Continue stirring and adding stock until the rice is al dente. If you run out of stock, a little bit of water can be used.

Finish the risotto with a tablespoon of sweet butter and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.

Top with the crushed hazelnuts. Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese on the side.