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I know, I know, more soup?! This one is almost entirely leftovers and maybe something you can make with those holiday leftovers of your own.
Soup is a great excuse to get rid of leftovers, as a way to move through vegetables before they go bad, as a quick fix when you don’t want to cook, when sick, for an easy work lunch, and more. It’s just so easy to make a big batch of soup and freeze it away for a cold day.
Our freezer is stockpiled with all sorts of soups: carrot ginger, coconut pumpkin, cauliflower and so many subtle variations of these I often don’t see a reason to post them (like butternut sage, broccoli or carrot parsnip). I recently started labeling the containers with masking tape, marking soup type and date made. It sounds totally neurotic, but when you have two single serving sizes and carrot ginger looks a lot like carrot parsnip, it makes a difference.
The best part of making soup is that it is so cheap to make a filling and delicious meal. I have many friends who purchase soups at stores or restaurants for lunch or dinner and I just have to laugh. I have one friend who calls local restaurants asking each one what kinds of soups they have until he finds one he likes. In the 30-45 minutes it took him to make those calls he could have made his own soup! I know, not everyone thinks he has the time to make soup (really, just 30 minutes), but when you’re dropping $6 or more for a small bowl of soup and know it really only costs about $10 for a 16-serving pot you would laugh too.
I should go into the soup business.
I made the above soup with Thanksgiving leftovers and froze it immediately because I could not eat another bite of turkey. I de-thawed it today for a quick lunch and thought it can just as easily be made with Christmas leftovers. (Especially easy if you served a turkey or chicken and still have the carcass to make a rich stock.) The kale was leftover from another dish, but can just as easily be leftover green beans, broccoli, spinach or Brussels sprouts. The broth looks so creamy because it is enhanced with leftover mashed potatoes. The overall result is a delicious soup that brings holiday cheer back to a bowl.
Tuscan Kale & Bean Soup
Serving Size= 8 servings. Prep/cook time= 20 minutes. Inactive time= 15 minutes.
3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 leek or yellow onion
4-6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons parsley (or combination of aromatics like sage, rosemary, basil, oregano)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
1 bunch, 2-3 cups packed, Tuscan kale (also called dinosaur kale or any leftover green vegetables)
4 roma tomatoes (optional) (can substitute 1 4 ounce can tomato paste)
1 can kidney beans, washed and drained
1 can butter beans, washed and drained
5 cups chicken or turkey broth and meat (if any is leftover), can substitute low-sodium boxed stock
leftover mashed potatoes (optional) can substitute heavy cream if desired
1) Warm olive oil in a stock pot on the stove top over medium-high heat. Slice onion thinly and add to pot. Saute 3-4 minutes. While warming, smash and chop garlic. Add to pot and saute 2 minutes more. Add dried parsley, bay leaf and salt.
2) Role 3-4 kale leaves at a time into cylinders and slice into 1/4 inch strips. Continue until all kale, including stems, are cut. Add to pot, saute until darkened and slightly wilted, 5 minutes.
3) Roughly chop tomatoes and add to pot along with washed and drained beans. Stir to incorporate.
4) Add broth and mashed potatoes. Stir to break potatoes into broth. Add water if too thick. Cover and bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt/ pepper if needed. Serve with good crusty bread.
A friend forwarded the video, The Story of Stuff, the other week, linked below. It moves a little slow (if you already know the info) but there are some good scary factoids in there. I figured in our post-holiday haze of stuff, it would be an informative little clip. What is your reaction after watching the video.
It does not directly mention food, but many similarities exist.
Want more soup recipes? Check out my most recent article in The Queens Chronicle, Brave the Winter Cold with Soup.
This is a soup for people who think they cannot make soup. It is also the soup for people who think they do not like cauliflower. This time of year, with its super dose of vitamin C, cauliflower is something you want to be eating to keep healthy.
The cauliflower base is so simple and the add-ons are endless. In this soup, I paired the base with a slightly unusual combination of beets and a sprinkle of nutmeg. The result is a surprisingly savory combination that looks fabulously festive. Together, it makes a great meal with some crusty bread, or a beautifully simple holiday starter. The best part is that it is so easy to put together, feeding yourself something healthy becomes one less thing to worry about.
Serving Size= 4-6 persons. Active time= 10 minutes. Inactive time=50 minutes (with beet)
2 medium-sized beets (optional)
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup cream
2 teaspoons nutmeg
salt/ pepper to taste
parsley for garnish
1) Wash beets under cold water and slice greens off, leaving 1 inch attached to beet bulb (reserve beet greens for another use). Place whole beets in boiling salted water for 30-40 minutes, until a fork pierces beets easily. Under cold water, push the skin off the beet, if it is ready, it will fall off easily. Set aside.
2) In a medium-sized sauce pot, bring 4 cups fresh salted water to a boil. Wash cauliflower and slice off florets in 2-3 inch pieces. Cut any white stems into 2-3 inch pieces. Add cauliflower and stems to boiling water. Boil 4 minutes, until cauliflower is soft.
3) Use a slotted spoon to transfer cauliflower to a blender, filling the blender 3/4 full (you may have to blend in two rounds). Slowly add cauliflower cooking water to the blender, bringing it to half the level of the cauliflower. Add cream and nutmeg, blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4) Transfer to serving bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and add a dash of nutmeg. Slice beet if using and sprinkle over top along with chopped parsley.
In the fading hours of December 17th, a big happy birthday goes out to D. His very decadent chocolate cake layered with chocolate and peanut butter mousse will find his belly on Wednesday. Until then, he must survive on the lemon curd, brandy butter, and clotted cream rations I gifted him. Oh the pains!
It is when you partake in those lightest of sweets mentioned above that a meal like this one pictured is necessary. Remember that braised pork belly way back when? It seems like a dream. But the meal above was an equally delicious dream that came out of that meal.
It is difficult for me to make just enough food for one night’s meal. Extra mashed potatoes from dinner can find their way into breakfast patties, extra pork belly can take a whole new turn, extra rice can inspire something totally unlinked to the original intent.
A few weeks back I was in our local fish monger asking for sepia ink. As an aside, I have now turned into the local loon asking for esoteric food items. In the butcher, I am constantly asked why I don’t buy any more foie gras. I keep telling the staff if they are offering me their employee discount I am happy to buy them out. Instead, they tell me they can get me truffles and if I’m still interested in buying grass-fed beef they will order me a cow.
So back at the fish monger, I asked for sepia ink (also known as cuttlefish), which they happily sold me a frozen sac of. When I returned a few days ago asking for fish roe I was told I was in the wrong neighborhood. Sepia ink yes. Fish roe no. But fish roe goes into taramosalata, a Greek spread?! No luck.
I bought the sepia ink out of curiosity with no ideas of how it would be used. I knew I wanted to use it, but no inspiration had yet found me. When an excess of rice found its way to the plate, I knew I had my use.
If I was making black rice I needed something that would look striking against it. Black rice seems so sophisticated, elegant– snooty even. Back at the fish monger scallops jumped out. Seared until golden, I knew they would be equally stunning on the plate. (Okay, my first choice of lobster really would have been a hit, but we make sacrifices.) With the leftover rice, this dish was a snap to throw together. It looks totally impressive and utilizes an ingredient that many probably wouldn’t consider using.
Ask your fish monger for sepia or cuttlefish ink. It should not be too expensive (I paid $3 for 2 sacs of ink) and it is simple to use– just let it thaw, cut it open, then invert and remove ink. The ink has a slightly grainy texture and will dye anything it touches so beware. If you cannot bring yourself to use it, you can always make some ink for your quill drawings.
Black Rice with Seared Scallops
Serving Size= 2 persons. Active time= 10 minutes. Inactive time= 10-40 (if rice is not cooked and depending on white or brown rice)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
1 tomato, sliced into chunks
2 sepia ink sacs
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro plus extra for garnish
1.5 cups cooked white or brown rice
2 tablespoons butter
salt/ pepper to taste
1) Warm the olive oil in a medium-sized sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, sweat for 3 minutes. Add tomato and sepia ink, cook for 2 minutes more.
2) Add cilantro and rice, stir to combine, cover and reduce heat to medium. Allow to warm through.
3) Warm the butter on a skillet over medium-high heat. Salt/ pepper scallops. Once bubbles have subsided, sear scallops 2-3 minutes each side, depending on size of scallops, until nicely browned and firm to the touch.
4) Plate a scoop of rice, top with scallops and garnish with cilantro.
Instead of the way too simple, uber elegant dish I made with the leftover rice, I leave you this:
L-l-l-l-latkes golden brown
L-l-l-l-latkes eat ‘em down
Fry them in oil, wrap them in foil…
It’s the song I learned in school that made me hate them. I was unable to eat them for years. Fry in oil and wrap in foil?! That just sounds like it would end as a humid soggy mess, not a crisp and delicious treat it is supposed to be.
So on this, the last night of Hanukkah, I leave you with latkes, golden brown, crisp and delicious. No fancy tricks, like a salsa topping, or cumin spiced. No mango chutney or made with celariac instead of potatoes. Plain, traditional, never boring, very delicious, potato pancakes. My favorite way to eat latkes is as a base for poached eggs. Today, it’s a simple and easy snack.
Active time= 15 minutes
1 pound russet potatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons flour
1) Rub and wash potatoes clean. Use a food processor with a grater setting to shred the potatoes. Remove potatoes and spread them on a paper towel, set another on top and press to absorb as much water as possible.
2) Scramble eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Add garlic powder and flour, mix until combined.
3) Heat oil, enough to come 1 inch up the sides of a pan over high heat. Oil will be ready for frying once a wooden spoon, inserted upside down bubbles.
4) Add potatoes to egg and flour mixture. Stir to combine. Form small handfuls into flat pancakes and fry, 5-7 minutes each side, until golden. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or applesauce.
A little less talking and a little more cooking, eh?
Feast your eyes on the image above. Very fresh looking, right? This meal was so good I could stare at this photo to remember it all year. I won’t bore you with nothing while I drool, so let us continue.
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A few weeks back I ordered a slab of pork belly from one of the farmers associated with my Community Supported Agriculture program. The pork these folks raise is tremendous. D and I always stuck with the pork chops, frankly because they are fast and easy. Truly, I cannot remember when I have had such delicious pork. Always juicy and full of flavor, it is what pork should be. So I finally ventured into the realm of belly.
D and I had the opportunity to visit this farm over the summer. It was fabulous to see not only our pigs, but also our cattle (they also raise grass-fed beef) in action, knowing what we purchase is actually what we are told. (Rather than “free-range”– what does that really mean?!) It is also an amazing opportunity to not only speak to the person who raises your food, but see their practices. Admittedly, to see these animals and think, “I’m going to eat you next month!” is sort of twisted in our modern detachment of food systems. (Going to our CSA’s vegetable farm and noting all the vegetables soon to enter my belly was much more hilarious.)
Our gracious host had us safely in her car as we careened around the 400 plus acreage, showing off vista points, watering holes and different grasses the cattle eat. Next stop was the pig field for feeding time. As we opened the second floor to the barn we saw the pigs in the distance, racing as a seemingly wild pack out of the distant trees for their feed. “They eat a lot of grub and whatever they find in the woods,” N explained, “but we give them a little more protein and grain as supplement.”
With that, she dropped a bucket of grain from the second floor, crashing on and around the pigs, who well, went hog wild pigging out. Piglets were shoved to the outer circle picking at scraps while the more assertive animals took center stage. Once feeding had subsided the pigs headed off to a small pond to retreat in the cooling waters, “Miami Beach,” N noted.
Back to the belly of the matter…
Pork belly comes from the same cut as bacon, though bacon has been smoked or cured. Pork belly is fresh, uncured meat, just as fatty good as bacon. (Mmmm, bacon.) The cut is ideal for braising. The technique leaves the skin crisp, fat oozing and the flesh velvety soft. If you can manage all three in one bite, try not to fall out of your chair as you swoon.
For this cut I adapted a spice rub I found online and braised it about 4 hours. The pork was served as an appetizer at a dinner party that was picked at throughout the night. I was lucky enough to stash away a few pieces for lunch the next day, bulked up as you see it, with rice, pickled daikon radish, fresh carrots, scallions and cilantro. The result? Really, a picture says a thousand words. I’ll just say one more: divine.
I made the daikon radish a day prior to the dinner party. The pickled radish played the perfect part to accent the pork’s flavor and cut through the fat. The only problem? Pickled daikon radish has a horrendous smell. Think men’s used gym socks. But, like many other things that can produce a horrific funk (think some wines), once you overcome your initial fear you’ll be glad you took the plunge.
Do not be daunted by these recipes. They are simple to make and most of the involvement is inactive time. It is a fabulous dish to make on a weekend lounging around the home.
Pickled Daikon Radish
Adapted from epicurious
Serving Size= About 1 radish per 3 persons. Active time= 8 minutes. Inactive time= 24 hours.
equal parts plain white vinegar and sugar
1/4 part salt
1) Julienne the daikon radish (cut into matchstick thin slices) and place in a non-reactive container.
2) Add equal parts white vinegar and sugar until just covered, add 1/4 the amount of salt (to the vinegar quantity).
3) Mix, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.
Braised Pork Belly
Adapted from Dan Barber
Serving Size= 6 persons. Active time= 10 minutes. Inactive time= 8 hours.
1 -3 pound pork belly
4 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups cure mix:
1/4 cup fennel seeds
1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/4 cup ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 cup salt
2/3 cup sugar
1) Make cure mix, using fresh whole seeds and grinding, if possible.
2) Rub mix all over pork belly, cover and refrigerate 4 hours.
3) Preheat oven to 250F. Remove pork belly, rinse the cure mix off lightly, place pork in pan and pour in chicken stock, without fully covering the pork. Cook for 4-5 hours.
4) Remove from braising pan, drain, slice and serve.
To Finish the Dish as Above
Serving size= 2 persons. Active time= 10 minutes. Inactive time=30 minutes plus pork belly
1/2 cup uncooked rice, white or brown (I used Basmati)
1 carrot, sliced into matchstick slices
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
pickled daikon radish
red chili flakes
1) In the last half hour of cooking, make rice and prepare vegetables.
2) Assemble rice on plates, add sliced pork belly over top, a scoop of pickled daikon radish. Divide carrots, scallions and cilantro sprinkled over top. Finish with a pinch of red chili flakes.
A few days ago I saw the film Mississippi Chicken. It is an interesting look into the lives of immigrant workers in chicken factories. It explores how mistreatment in their lives seeps into other domains of life, from housing to simply driving down the street. I renamed the film Pecking Order. A much more fitting title I think, as the film is less about the chicken industry in Mississippi specifically, and more about the lives it touches.
I would have loved a camera inside the factory, or more on the conditions inside, but this is nearly impossible. As an aside, doesn’t it frighten you when someone refuses to show you how your food is produced? Are conditions so horrible you would gag the next time you put a conventional chicken in your mouth? (Yes.)
This film sets aside our usual understanding of industrial farming and the mistreatment of animals (cut off beaks, pens too small to move in, body sores, and breasts so large the animals cannot stand) and focuses more on the people that bring us our food.
The film takes us into the lives of workers who risked their life to come to this country, and continue to risk it daily to bring us our food. It is by no means a feel-good-save-the-world film, but can be seen as a step towards uncovering a part of industrial farming so rarely looked into (chicken factories) and highlights a controversial subject without becoming preachy (immigrant labor).
In a slightly related topic, D and I have been discussing mistreatment of immigrant workers lately. Here is a recent story from Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) about immigrant pay wages on tomato farms for companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and others in the fast food world. More interesting though, is the treatment of laborers on organic farms. People so readily eat and praise organic food these days because it is healthier for the environment and our bodies. But all this do-good attitude is still often at the expense of others’. Treatment of workers on organic farms (especially industrial organic) are often just as bad as they are on conventional farms. Just something to think about.
On a random, interesting note, I was at a food conference the other week and Aaron Woolf, director and producer of King Corn was a speaker. He mentioned being so appalled by his findings during the film, he is setting aside film making for a bit to open a grocery store in Brooklyn, stocked with food found within a 100-mile radius of New York City.
It’s time to nominate your favorite food blog. The lovely folks at the WellFed Network are hosting the awards again this year. While I am slightly miffed to see the category for best recipes gone– and I believe there are others that could be added (breaking boundaries in food: food science or food policy awareness), there are plenty of other great categories available.
Nominations are due by Wednesday, December 5, 11:59PM. The top 5 nominations will be posted by December 10 at which point voting will begin. Voting will last until Monday, December 17.
To nominate and vote, head to the WellFed Network by following this link. Spread the word and let the voting begin.