Tuesday, February 16, 2010

White Bean Soup

I am quite fond of soup, I think I have mentioned this before. Soup makes everything better, it makes your house smell good and pairs perfectly with fresh bread. Which is why my friend and I are supposedly going to write a book on soup, a sort of cross cultural, through the ages look at soup with some recipes thrown in for good measure. This bean soup is really simple, it only has 6 ingredients, so each flavor really comes through. Also, only blending some of the beans gives is a great creamy texture AND it gave me an excuse to use my immersion blender, which as we all know is super exciting (it is fire engine red after all). I think I may need to get married just so I can register for kitchen gadgets.... that and you know, true love and all that jazz.

Start with dried cannellini beans, soak them overnight. It is really helpful if you remember to do that step before you go to bed, otherwise you may have to creep downstairs at one in the morning to do it.

Take your soaked beans and drain them, then add the chicken stock.

Let the beans and stock simmer together for a few hours, or until the beans are done. When they are tender take your immersion blender and blend away, but not too much, you want to leave about half of the beans unblended (you could always do this in the blender too). Then bring the soup to a boil and add some pasta.

Now grab some garlic. Chop it up.

Throw it in a pan with some olive oil so that good garlic flavor infuses the oil and so that it cooks before you add it to the rest of the soup.

Stir the garlic and olive oil into the rest of the soup. Let it all hang out together on the stove for a bit. Now is the perfect time for wine time.

Serve it up and enjoy.

White Bean Soup (from Italian Cooking)
Serves 4
1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water
7 cups chicken stock
4 oz. soup pasta (I used ditalini)
6 tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
salt and pepper

Drain the beans and put them in a heavy-bottom pot. Add the stock and bring to a boil, partially cover, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender.
Blend about half the beans, either in a blender or with an immersion blender.
Bring the soup to a boil and add the pasta, cooking for about 10 minutes or until the pasta is done.
Meanwhile heat 4 tbs. of olive oil in a small pan and add the garlic, cooking over low heat until golden.
Add the garlic, and parsley to the soup, salt and pepper as needed.
Serve, drizzling the remaining olive oil over the soup.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hoisin and Orange Salmon

I wanted to make this salmon for quite some time, the orange, ginger and hoisin combo seemed quite tasty, and while packets of fish may not be things that normal people think about for days, well, I have never claimed to be normal... Anyways, when I finally got to make these, the fish did not disappoint, although I did discover that I don't really care for bok choy. I have since made these packets with tilapia instead of salmon and spinach instead of bok choy and that combo was good too, but the spinach does cook down to basically a single forkful despite the fact that I piled the spinach onto the tinfoil and made spinach mountain. There is something about the packets (I should probably look up the fancy french name so that it sounds more appealing and less like something you would get when you register for a conference or something) that I love, perhaps it has to do with the fact that I never really fully embraced sharing as a child combined with getting to unwrap it like a present.

Start by mixing up the sauce. The recipe was for 2 packets and I made 3, but I doubled the sauce instead of one and halving it, but I like things saucy.

Then take your baby bok choy (one for each packet) and cut into sixths.

Take a big square of tin foil for each packet and put one baby bok choy in the middle of each.

Put a piece of salmon on top of the bed of bok choy.

Pour a third of the sauce over each piece of fish, then sprinkle with coriander and salt.

Grab a bunch of cilantro. Have someone else wash and chop a bit more than a quarter of a cup (I hate prepping fresh herbs).

Split the cilantro between the packets.

Then seal them up so as to trap all the steam and the good flavors in.

Bake for about 15 minutes, then serve.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dinner Party

I know all of you out there are super curious about what I would serve at a dinner party, aren't you? Lucky for you I just took pictures of the food at a lovely little dinner party we had here! It was a low key, light friday dinner for 7, in case you were wondering. This is a bit of a different kind of post that is less about the cooking and more about the eating, I will however link you to the tomato soup recipe, so there you go. I feel the need to mention the fact that it is snowing right now for some reason (this is turning into a grab bag of a post, I may as well throw in a few pictures of Hazel while I'm at it.....). The fact that it is snowing is not actually relevant to my life as I neither drive a plow nor do I go to school, so it's not as if I am wishing for a snow day, but it is pretty, and I do enjoy throwing snowballs for Hazel and watching her either eat them with surprising gusto or being very befuddled when they seem to vanish into thin air. Where was I? O yes, dinner party.

For starters I made these lovely twirlys, and yes that is their technical name and yes they are very easy to make. All it is is a box of frozen puff pastry, some pesto and goat cheese. Thaw the pastry, unfold it, spread pesto on one sheet and goat cheese on the other, roll each of them up, slice and bake.

For the salad course (not that I really believe in distinct courses unless you have waiters and chefs who are going to do all the necessary work to make that happen, we just serve everything at once) we had a spinach salad with figs, spiced pecans, blue cheese crumbles and a sherry vinaigrette. I was a bit suspicious about the figs, but they balanced the flavors nicely.

We also had cheesy bread, here it is about to go in the oven. This time I used a mix of cheddar and gruyere cheese, and seasoned it with basil and garlic powder. Delicious. There was some debate about if some of the bread should remain plain, after myself and both my parents declared we would not eat the boring bread it was decided it all must be cheesed, which was a good call.

The 'main course' is this sherried tomato soup. You should probably make it this weekend. It is from the Pioneer Woman, who I absolutely love. I am making these cupcakes this weekend for the Super Bowl and I may be more excited about them than the game (I do like football, it's just that I don't feel a very strong connection to either of the teams, and the cupcakes have 3 different kinds of chocolate......).

Last but not least, a Bakewell tart for dessert. I developed a taste for these lovely almondy, raspberry tarts when i was in Ireland, they are just so good. This is a Nigella recipe from her book How to Eat. So there you have it, an Emma's Eats style dinner party. And now for some nice pictures of a crazy dog, just 'cause.

Crazy Hazy hanging out under the desk right after I made her stop obsessively licking/trying to eat said desk.

Crazy Hazy on top of the couch.

Crazy Hazy with her gum ball, kicking it in the sun.

Stuffed Polenta

I saw this recipe online and had to try it right away, glorified pasta sauce, polenta and cheese? Sign me up. I swear this is easy, I know I say that about everything on this blog, but I really mean it. If you are like me and don't do much with your days, you can start the sauce whenever and let it cook for as long as you want (I am of the school that the longer things cook the better, except for of course some things, like fried eggs where the whole point is the runny yolk). For example, I started this sauce around 1:30 for dinner at 7, besides making it taste really good, and making the house smell good, it makes you either seem impressive or like you have way too much time on your hands when you mention that it has been cooking literally all day when you serve it. Also, I followed the recipe (well mostly, I can't help myself from tweaking a few things) and I ended up with a ton of sauce compared to the polenta (later I realized the recipe says you will, but still....) I ended up freezing about enough sauce to go on a box worth of pasta, which is going to be delicious at some point in the future.

Start with butter. Most good things start with butter. It's just a fact of life. And according to my dad when someone comments on how good something is, there is nearly always butter in it.

Add an onion to the butter.

Then sausages, I used mild but you can use spicy if you like. O and you will have to take them out of the casings, which can be mildly unpleasant, and cold, just warning you.

Once the sausage is browned and broken up, add the mushrooms. The recipe tells you to dice them, I sliced them. I am wild and crazy like that though.

Then play with your eggplant. I find the texture of raw eggplant very odd...

Or be an adult and just cut it up. Sidebar: Do you salt your eggplant and squish out the water before you use it? I researched this very important topic and I think it doesn't really matter unless you are using lots of oil which I am not.

Add the eggplant to the sausage mixture. This is what I call building layers of flavors when I want to sound fancy.

Moving on from the eggplant, toss in everything else, the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic (I grated it in with my microplane) and whatever else you think it needs. Simmer for at least an hour, tasting every once in awhile to adjust the seasonings.

About half an hour before you want to put it all together, make the polenta. I added 2 bullion cubes to the water I used when making the polenta because that is what Nigella calls for in her polenta recipe and she is really cool so I did it too (I know, I know, would I jump off a cliff lemming style if Nigella did it? Probably). Spread half the polenta in an oven proof dish.

Cover the polenta with a decent layer of the sauce. Then dollop ricotta cheese over the sauce, I think I used more than the recipe called for, but I cant be sure because I didn't measure.

Add the rest of the polenta on top, smooshing it out as best you can (kudos to you if you can get it to cover the bottom layer, I couldn't for love nor money). Top with a bit more sauce.

Add the finishing touch, mozzarella cheese.

Bake until hot and bubbly. (o and in case you missed it earlier, the recipe can be found here)