Casting (Soupy) Spells with Other’s Ingredients

We went out for pho the other day.  As typical, there was about two gallons of soup on the table and when we were done there was about a quart of broth remaining.  (*burp*)  My wife suggested we take the broth and use it as a soup base.

She leveled up with that suggestion.

And the results were…  I heated the remainder of the soup and added 3 carrots and 2 stalks of celery roughly chopped [1].  I then added about 1/4c – 1/3c of barley (which was eye-balled, so impossible to be exact).  After letting that cook for 10 minutes I added 2 boneless chicken breasts which I had quartered lengthwise.  I then let that cook for 15 minutes.

Once the chicken was cooked, I removed it from the pot and shredded it.  I found that using two forks (one to hold, one to pull) is a great way to do this, especially with steaming hot ingredients…

The chicken was returned to the pot, 1 cup of peas were added, and probably a cup of water was added to get a better balance of broth-to-chunks.

The result was fantastic.  Happiness was conjured, resurrected from leftovers.  And with our different spicing preferences, the soup averaged out to a nice flavor neither hot nor weak.

[1] 1/4″ – 1/2″ slices.  I typically cut the carrots in half (i.e. half the length, not lengthwise).  I then cut the smaller part in half lengthwise and chop it.  I then quarter the thicker part lengthwise and then chop it.  That, more or less, gets even chunks.

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What To Do With Too Much Produce

Right now I have way too much of

  • tomatoes
  • bush beans (green and purple)
  • pole beans (green and purple)
  • basil, sweet (I haven’t even begun to guess what to do with the purple and the Thai)
  • oregano
I also had left over macaroni which had been tossed with peas, blush peppers, kalamata, shallots and black pepper.
So I boiled up some basic lentils until they were mostly done, and then tossed in large diced tomatoes, large diced beans, salt, zatar and black pepper.
Once done, toss with the left over pasta.
Why do I keep saying toss?
Anyway, this was brilliant tasty, and Friday vegan for the win.

Paella — but you can call me Goulash

When I was a kid, a family friend once entered the room with a bowl of some sort of food.  When I asked what it was he gave me a sinister look and declared “Goulash…”.  I’ve since looked up goulash, but whenever I see a mixture of stuff that is tomato-rich, I think of him.

I think this (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-paella-recipe.html) was one of the first vegan recipes I made from this book.  It is good enough to repeat and I think the presence of the cashews makes a nice crunch and adds a good flavor.  This was the amusing recipe I was thinking of that lists spices in the directions that aren’t in the ingredients list and the ingredients were very out of order.  I have fixed that below.

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2t chili powder
  • 12 oz. (300g) brown rice (1 cup)
  • 3 cups (800ml) of vegetable stock
  • 6 fl.oz. (150ml) dry white wine (or substitute with 1 tbsp vinegar)
  • 1 can (454g) chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2t tarragon
  • 1t basil
  • 1t oregano
  • 1T tomato puree
  • 1 red and 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 8 oz. (200g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 oz. (50g) mange tout [1] topped and tailed
  • 4 oz. (100g) frozen peas
  • 2 oz. (50g) broken cashew nuts (about 1/2 cup)

In a large, heavy saucepan saute the onion in 4T olive oil.  Add chili powder and the rice and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add vegetable stock, wine, tomatoes, tarragon, basil, oregano, tomato puree, . Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add peppers, celery, mushrooms, mange tout and cook for another 30 minutes until the rice is cooked. Add peas, cashew nuts, salt and pepper. Heat through until peas are ready and serve.

[1] The other fun I had was “mange tout”.  Being silly I wondered “what’s a mangy toot?”  It’s unripened pea pods for the not French among us.

Vegan Bourguignon

Original Recipe is from here:  http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-bourguignon-recipe.html.  Though I am reusing a lot of it, I am also adjusting it based on my experience.

A clever title on this one eludes me as the adventure is in the original reading and making of this recipe. First, this recipe comes from a cookbook that we got from the UK. Many of the ingredients are by weight, not by measured cup, so this has made things interesting.  Having a kitchen scale helps.

Second the ingredients order and the cook times in the printed cookbook are out of order or wrong.  There’s even a recipe that the directions call for ingredients that aren’t in the ingredients list.  Fun!  This is cooking without a net nearly at its finest.

This recipe makes a baked dish that is potato-heavy in flavor.  I find that it is very understated and could benefit by being with something more flavorful.  I might even be tempted to add some hot spices to this in another incarnation to give it more characters.

  • 8 oz. (225g) onions, chopped — I used a whole “medium” onion
  • 8 oz. (225g) carrot, sliced — I used about 4 carrots which I think was more, but it came out fine
  • 1 lb. (450g) potatoes, diced — I made a wild guess and went with about 2c of potatoes diced
  • 4 oz. (100g) mushrooms, chopped — This is easy, it was half an 8oz package
  • Golden syrup — 1t, by the way.  We used honey as we’re not being that super strict with our veganism.
  • Plain flour — being “white” flour.  I use 1t of unbleached.
  • 7 fl. oz. (200ml) Vegan red wine — There are many sub-cup, non-fractional fluid additions to recipes that are amusing…
  • 5 fl. oz. (125ml) Vegetable stock — … this is another funny fluid amount  But trust it.
  • Tomato purée — I love this.  How much?  2T.  So I open a whole can just to use 2T?!  This means plan other meals that will also use this, even if only to add it to some spaghetti sauce to thicken it up.
  • Bay leaf
  • 1/2t salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4t pepper (or to taste)
  • 3 oz. (75g) frozen peas or green beans — My casserole dish filled up rapidly and I added these later.  It worked fine.

Preheat oven to GM 5 / 375 °F / 190 °C.

Fry the onions and carrots for a few minutes. Add the potatoes, mushrooms and 1 tsp. golden syrup. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add 1 tbsp. flour and stir. Pour in the red wine, vegetable stock, 2 tbsps. tomato purée, bay leaf and a little salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes. Put the mixture into a large casserole dish and place in oven. It should be baked for 1 hour, with the peas or beans being added halfway through.

Here’s one of those “I get the idea” recipes that I’m going to rewrite.

In a large[1] pan, sauté the onions and carrots over medium heat in 1T of oil (olive oil) until the onions soften — about 10 minutes.  Add potatoes, mushrooms, and 1t Golden Syrup (or honey).  Cook for 3-4 minutes to coat the potatoes and mushrooms in syrup/honey and warm them.  Add 1t of flour and stir well to coat as much of everything as possible.  Add wine, stock, 2T tomato puree, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Mix and “cook for a few minutes” to warm everything … so let’s say 5 minutes while stirring regularly.  Put mixture in larger casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove and add peas or beans.  Bake for another 30 minutes.

That adventure was relatively simple.  Overall I found the preparation relatively easy which ensures a place in a regular rotation of meals.

[1] I used a 12″ skillet and ran out of room.  So by large, I mean large.  A wok might even be a good idea here.

What Good Is a Spell-book Without a Pouch Full of Physical Components?

I have been wracking my brain trying to remember blatant “happy accidents” since John invited me to co-author on this blog, but so far, I haven’t been to sufficient therapy sessions, it seems, to un-repress them. Soon, I promise. Meanwhile, I will continue a bit on the theme from my first entry with regards to flexibility and working with left overs.

One key to establishing flexibility and adaptability in the kitchen is to develop a core set of “go to” items which you understand deeply and which occur over and over in your spell-book, ehem… cookbook. For me, these items include cans of stewed tomatoes, cans of tomato paste, marinated artichoke hearts, olives (green, black and kalamata), garlic, onion, capers, and then wet items such as olive oil, lemon juice, various vinegars, vegetable broth and then staples like lentils and barley. These are the physical components for casting the spells in your spell-book. I use these things to make everything from pasta sauce to tapenade, soups, stews, and cold salads. I buy them in bulk at warehouse stores. Seriously. Huge quantities. Notice that they’re all things which are unlikely to spoil. That’s the key.

With careful honing of skills, advanced Kitchen Klerics can also use them to polymorph yesterday’s soup into tonight’s sauce or stew.

Behold.

Last night I made lentil soup (what is it with us and lentil soup?!?!). On purpose. Here was my approach for the soup:

Simmer half a cup of green lentils in water until nearly fork tender. I use roughly a 3 to 1 water to lentil ratio. The trick is to not go 100% dry when you reach “done-ness” but you don’t want too much left over, either. Saute chopped leafy greens in olive oil until soft but not disintegrating. Lightly pulse one can of stewed tomatoes w/ basil until rough chopped. Combine with vegetable broth to create 4 cups of flavorful liquid. Add new liquid and greens to tender lentils, retaining any water still not absorbed by the lentils. Season with salt, all three: hot, half-sharp and smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, dried oregano, sumac and dried cilantro. Bring all the new liquid up to heat quickly so the lentils and greens don’t go to mush. Add already cooked barley (see Alton Brown’s technique for baked barley) and serve.

To clarify, the salt, half-sharp paprika, cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, dried oregano, sumac and dried cilantro were in a blend provided by Penzey’s which they call “Turkish blend”. The hot and smoked paprika I added myself. Also, as a point of order, that’s as close to a formal recipe as you’re ever going to get from me. Fair warning.

Now, part of last night’s experiment was to avoid past disasters in which creating correct proportions between ingredients resulted in eight quarts of soup for two people. This was probably enough soup to serve four hungry people. I had some left over for lunch after last night’s dinner, and so tonight’s goal would be to use up what remains without simply eating more soup.

There was also a carton of mushrooms (baby portobello, which I think are really just re-branded button mushrooms) in the fridge. I hate mushrooms. I will eat nearly anything. Often in states of cooked or uncooked that would terrify most other people. I am a genuinely adventurous eater. My “no freaking way” list is very short. Wax beans are on it, and mushrooms are on it. Haggis is probably on it, but I intend to never find out. But we ended up with this carton of mushrooms because my wife wanted to make a particular recipe which called for them last Friday. I talked her out of including them in that recipe, but we already had the carton in the house. What to do? Clearly, I need a high level spell which will obliterate the evil fungus into something I can eat. This is where those “go to” components shine.

In a skillet saute chopped garlic and chopped mushrooms with a generous amount of olive oil. In a second skillet defrost a bag of sweet peas. Once the peas are no longer cold and the mushrooms have reduced down considerably, add a proportional amount of peas to the mushrooms (put the rest of the peas in the fridge and combine with black beans for a nice salad later in the week). Add some of the chopped leafy greens from the night before which didn’t go in the soup because you made too much of them (they were also from a frozen bag). Add chopped up artichoke hearts, drained of their marinade. Put last night’s left over lentil soup into the blender and render into a liquid. Add this to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and drive out most of the water. Serve over baked barley or pasta. If it isn’t Wednesday or Friday, add a hard, well aged cheese, shredded.

There is no way I am going to taste those mushrooms. Viola! Food doesn’t get wasted, I don’t have to hold my nose while I eat, and once again, my tried and true “go to” elements save the day.

Speaking of skillets, I remain relatively convinced that the only cooking vessels you really need to own are one large pot for boiling pasta, a Dutch (or French) oven, two cast iron skillets, a couple of simple steel sauce pans and a wok. If you cook eggs, you need something nonstick, otherwise you don’t. The only items here that may ever wear out are the pasta pot and the sauce pans. The cast iron and the wok should actually get better the more you use them. Think of these items as the armor which is permitted for your Kitchen Kleric. Huge arrays of shiny pans or entire sets of nonstick are out of bounds for your character class.

I promise not to mention lentils or lentil soup again anytime soon. Really.