2.28.2011

Meatless Monday: Sweet Potato Risotto with Spicy Maple Glazed Walnuts

Amy writes:

There are moments, albeit few and far between, in every home cook's life when she is pretty impressed with herself. I had one such moment tonight with this week's Meatless Monday recipe "Sweet Potato Risotto with Spicy Maple Glazed Walnuts."

Let me give some important background details. To start with, "meatless" has never really been my thing. I love meat. Of all kinds. But I know that a healthy diet must be balanced, and I know I need to try new things, and I know that going meatless once a week isn't going to kill me (quite the opposite, actually, right?).

Then there's risotto. Regardless of the fact that I once took a cooking class in Rome and have always felt that Italian cooking was one of my "things," I had never made a risotto until I met Chris. Chris taught me the art of making risotto. Or maybe he taught me the skill of having the patience to make risotto. Or maybe he just always makes the risotto when we want to have it at home. Or maybe it's a mixture of all three of these. 

Finally, the sweet potato. It's only within the past couple of years that I've become a fan of this interesting tuber that to me seems so unlike its distant relative the "actual" potato. My mom never made it for me when I was a kid, and it became one of those things I was convinced I didn't like because, frankly, I had never really tried it. Chris loves the things, and kept nagging me to try them, and to cook them. Then last year, we made these amazing little Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratins, and I was pretty much hooked.

Which brings me to the point that I've been thinking about risotto and Meatless Monday and sweet potatoes for about a week, and this recipe is the end result. It was ready to be served about five minutes after Chris walked in the door, home late from work. He took a bite and I waited. Then, the verdict: "This is one of the best risottos I have ever had." He asked what I did and we picked it apart as if we were our own judges on Top Chef. Sweetness? It has it - from roasted sweet potatoes and hints of maple syrup. Spiciness? Also there - a bit of cayenne in the walnuts puts some heat on the tongue that along with the cinnamon gives warmth and depth to the dish. Herbs? Can I ever make anything without them? I thought rosemary would go nicely with the other flavors, and I was right! And what about textures? Indeed - creamy risotto, crunchy walnuts, soft onions. It's one of the best risottos we've ever had.

Tonight, I guess, the student has become the teacher. And I remain pretty impressed with myself.

For the spicy maple glazed walnuts:

Ingredients:

1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons real maple syrup

Place the walnuts in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salt, cayenne, cinnamon and pepper and cook 1 minute or so until spices become fragrant and nuts begin to toast. Add the maple syrup and swirl the walnuts in the pan until they are well coated with the spices and syrup. Pour onto a cookie sheet and set aside to cool.

Start with chopped walnuts

Add spices

Add maple syrup


For the risotto:

Ingredients:

4 cups (about 2 medium) peeled, diced sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 cup real maple syrup

Heat the oven to 400 degress. Spread the diced sweet potatoes in one layer in a glass baking pan and drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil. Toss to coat and roast for 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, pour the vegetable broth into a saucepan and place over medium-low heat to become warm. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and cook until onions become translucent. Add the rice and continue to cook until rice starts to toast. Add the warm vegetable broth to the rice one ladle at a time, stirring constantly, and waiting until all the broth is absorbed by the rice before adding more. This could take up to one-half hour. When the broth is gone and the rice is done (not too firm, not too mushy), stir in the chopped rosemary and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Fold in the roasted sweet potato pieces and spiced walnuts, then turn off heat. Add the maple syrup, stir so that everything is well combined, serve and enjoy!

The star ingredient


Sweat chopped onions in olive oil and butter


Add the rice and cook to toast


Patiently add broth one ladle at a time until all liquid is absorbed

2.25.2011

Connecticut Community Works to Save Local Farm!

What does a community do when one of their best local farms has a disaster? Topmost Herb Farm, a grower of medicinal and culinary herbs located in Coventry, Connecticut was one of many casualties of the heavy snow that New Englanders have gotten this winter. Their greenhouse collapsed under the weight of the snow and ice, and buildings such as this are not insured. The Coventry foodie community is coming together to save this small farm, one from which many locals rely for pesticide-free herbs and incredible heirloom tomatoes.

The Coventry Regional Farmers Market (at which Topmost is a vendor) has been instrumental in leading the charge. They've organized some fund-raising efforts what we'd like you to consider. From today until March 4, the "Grow the Greenhouse" online auction of good and services is open for bids. Cash donations are being accepted here. Now is your chance not only to get an amazing and unique deal, but to do so knowing you are helping to save a small farm, and rebuild their greenhouse this spring, in time for growing this year's herbs and tomatoes. If you can, please help.

2.22.2011

Hung Won, Colchester, CT

Amy's aunt works once a week at a small Chinese restaurant in Colchester, Connecticut called Hung Won. For years now, Aunt C has asked us to go eat there, not because she works there, but because she has proclaimed that it is "the best Chinese around." She raves. She boasts. She repeats. With her birthday around the corner, we decided, at long last, to go. Which is how we found ourselves, last Friday night, in the back seat of Cousin D's car, heading out to Colchester. About 30 minutes from our house, in the middle of what seemed like nowhere, there it stood: Hung Won Asian Grille on New London Road.

Steamed Veggie Dumplings

Scorpion Bowl for Two




We were greeted with wide smiles by our server Jason and the bartender Jen. After ordering drinks (we think Aunt C's first Scorpion Bowl is guaranteed not to be her last!), we settled in to peruse the vast menu of authentic Chinese classics, signature dishes and specials. Having some experience as a part-time worker there, Aunt C made many suggestions and our rumbling stomachs led us toward some usual Asian favorites (duck for Amy, of course).

Cashew Shrimp Combo



Crispy Shrimp with Honey-Glazed Walnuts













You know what? Each bite was better than the last, and we ooh'd and aah'd our way through this incredible Chinese feast. In fact, it turns out, this really is the best Chinese food that we can ever remember having. We especially loved the use of lotus flour, a gluten-free flour made from the roots of lotus water lilies; it offered a nuanced flavor and light, crispy coating to the fried duck and shrimp. Vegetables were crisp and done to a perfect tenderness. The fried rice had a wonderful smoky flavor that was nicely enhanced by the toasted macadamia nuts and the sweet pineapple chunks in it. And oh, the sauces! Such amazing flavors! Every dish tasted fresh and was obviously made with high quality ingredients, vast knowledge of Asian flavors, and, most of all, great care and love.  
Polynesian Duck

Clams in Black Bean Sauce











Owner and chef Po was a gracious, warm and charming hostess. She made us feel like family, and even brought over a couple of special things for us to taste. We chatted with her far longer that we should have, given that she had a party of 70 coming in for a late-night dinner, but she was so nice to talk to! We're very much looking forward to returning, especially in the summer, when Po's mother coaxes fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden behind the restaurant and uses them in daily specials. But we're sure to be back much sooner than that, and quite often too, because we're already craving another taste of this wonderful Chinese cookery.

Panang Curry Chicken

Macadamia Fried Rice












So, yes, Aunt C, you were right. We'll say it again: You. Were. Right. Hung Won truly is the best Chinese around. Thank you for introducing us. We'll never be satisfied with our usual delivery place again. The Chan family has spoiled us for life. And readers, trust us (whether Aunt C works there or not), this excellent restaurant is soooooo worth the drive. You'll be thanking us soon enough. See you in Colchester!
Hung Won Restaurant on Urbanspoon

More About the Summer in the Kitchen Blog Party

Laurie at Food is Love has done a great job organizing the Summer in the Kitchen Blog Party. Check out her post about our BBQ here and read on to see recipes and stories from the other participants. Thanks again, Laurie!

2.19.2011

Summer in the Kitchen Blog Party: Spicy Honey Mustard Ribs

After being buried under almost 90 inches of snow and ice, having nine snow days and hearing daily reports of collapsing roofs, we were more than thrilled to hear about Food is Love's Summer in the Kitchen Blog Party and just had to participate. Then Amy got a cold, and work was crazy-hectic when she returned, and the weather became sunny and (gasp) warm - 63 degrees! So when we were finally able to have our summer-themed party, it was much easier to get in the spirit! Thanks to Laurie of Food is Love for organizing "The Revolution" and for the inspiration!


A bright yellow tablecloth, a rack of ribs, some baked beans, corn on the cob and watermelon. This is summer to us. Unfortunately, our grill is still somewhat surrounded by snow, so we made our ribs in the oven and they were still falling off the bone flavorful. Our secret is a wonderful seasoning we discovered from Red Monkey Foods called Stone Ground Spicy Mustard. We love its spicy kick, but any ground mustard would work in this simple recipe. While the ribs were cooking, we set up our table, set our I-pods to play some Jimmy Buffett and made some spiked lemonade. We could almost feel the sun shining on our backs and the grass beneath our feet. Almost!


Ingredients:

note: we used Red Monkey Foods Stone Ground Spicy Mustard and wildflower honey

1 rack of baby back spare ribs
2 tablespoons ground mustard
3 tablespoons honey

The night before, rub the ribs all over with the ground mustard or mustard seasoning. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to prepare, heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a large baking pan with enough foil to "tent" the ribs. Place the ribs on the foil, bone side down, and make a loose tent around the ribs so that the foil does not touch the top of the ribs. Fill the bottom of the pan with about 1/4-inch of water and place in the oven. Cook for an hour. Remove the ribs from the oven and unwrap them. Place them, uncovered, on a baking sheet and brush them with the honey. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and cook another 15 minutes. If not browned to your liking, put the ribs under a high broiler for a few minutes. Allow to rest, cut and serve.

2.17.2011

Stylish Bloggers, We Are!














Many thanks to "Lo-Mo" at Little Kitchen on the Prairie who bestowed upon us a Stylish Blogger Award. It's our first award, and we are both honored to receive it and proud to be part of the ever-growing, always amazing food blog community!

There are some rules that come with acceptance of the award, and we are happy to follow them. They are:

#1 - Thank the person who awarded it to us and link up to their blog. (DONE - see above)
#2 - Share 7 things about ourselves (DONE - see below)
#3 - Pass the award on to 15 recently discovered great bloggers (WILL DO!)
#4 - Contact those bloggers to tell them about their award (GOT IT!)

Seven things about us:

1. We got engaged in Italy while we were traveling along on someone else's honeymoon (yes, we were invited!).
2. We had our wedding reception in a museum.
3. Because of #2, there was a mummy at our wedding reception.
4. We love to travel and in our going-on-13-years together have gone: up and down the East Coast of the U.S.; to St. Louis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles in the U.S.; to Italy, France, Czech Republic and Hungary; and to Montreal, Toronto, and Newfoundland in Canada.
5. We are both teachers in "real life."
6. We have two cats - Newfie (named so because we got him shortly after we came home from Newfoundland) and Louie (named so because we got him shortly after we came home from St. Louis).
7. We both just got smart phones (I-Phones) and we are becoming addicted to them already.


We hereby pass the Stylish Blogger Award to:

Laurie at Food is Love
Krissy and Daniel at The Food Addicts
Chrystal and Amir at The Duo Dishes
Adriana at Great Food 360
Kat and Matthew at A Good Appetite
Cheryl and Adam at Picture-Perfect Meals
Jessica and Jason at Bacon and Souffle
Eftychia at Dream of Cakes

Happy blogging, everyone! And thanks for reading!

2.14.2011

Shrimp Alexandros for Two

It's Valentine's Day and Amy's home sick with a bad cold and a sore throat. Thankfully, we enjoyed our romantic dinner out over the weekend. Still wanting to make something special, we turned to a restaurant classic for inspiration. Maybe you've heard of Shrimp Alexander, the appetizer of breaded shrimp served in a lemony butter sauce made famous by Morton's the Steakhouse. It's a very good appetizer, but we wanted to make it into a meal, something romantic, something different, something with a Greek twist. Something we've coined Shrimp Alexandros.

Alexandros is a common Greek name that, according to Greek-names.info, derives from the words “alexo” and “andros," which, in ancient Greek, mean “hold off” and “of man” respectively. The name Alexandros was used in Ancient Greece both as a name and an epithet (adjective) describing a person who is unbeatable. That's not to say we think our shrimp dish is unbeatable, rather since we're giving a Greek twist to the dish, we're also giving a Greek twist to the name.

One of the things that makes this a perfect Valentine's dinner is that it works best with more than two hands. One person can take care of coating and baking the shrimp and making the spinach mixture, while the other person can make the sauce. As our motto says, "The couple that sautes together, stays together!"

We loved the crunchy garlicky shrimp atop the bed of spinach with chopped tomato and feta for a contrast of colors and flavors. A soft drizzle of lemony beurre blanc was reminiscent of the steakhouse original. The flavors were not overpowering, but strong enough so even Amy, with her stuffed-up nose, could taste them. This one is going into the "keeper" files - think how much better it will be with a gorgeously fresh summer tomato. Lovely!

Ingredients:
6 colossal (U-12) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 pound spinach
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

In a large skillet, melt one tablespoon butter with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and stir for one minute, taking care not to burn it. Add the panko and cook, stirring often, about five minutes, until toasted. Transfer the breadcrumb mixture to a separate bowl and set aside. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Dip each shrimp first in the melted butter then into the seasoned panko until shrimp are coated with the breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for five minutes. In a large skillet, saute the spinach and tomato until the spinach is wilted. Stir in the feta cheese and place the spinach/tomato/feta mixture in the middle of a plate. Place three cooked shrimp on each plate, over the spinach mixture. In a small saucepan, combine shallots with white wine and place over medium heat. Reduce until liquid is halved. Add lemon juice and continue to reduce until liquid is halved again. Remove from heat. Slowly whisk in the butter one piece at a time until well combined. Drizzle the plate with the sauce and enjoy with a chilled, buttery Chardonnay.

2.09.2011

Roast Wild Boar

"Meat from feral swine." That's what it said on the package of the D'Artagnan Wild Boar Mini-Roast we picked up a couple of days ago at our favorite supermarket. That awful scene from the movie Hannibal aside, there was no way we weren't going to buy it after reading that. That's practically a double-dog-dare!



We've had boar in the past, particularly in Tuscany where it is commonly served roasted, in ragus, and in sausages. And although we've never made it, we decided to treat it essentially like a little 1.5-pound roast pork, which in many ways, it is.


We made a bed of vegetables (namely onion, garlic, fennel, celery, and carrots) tossed in olive oil and placed in a small roasting pan. We seasoned the meat with salt and pepper and seared it on all sides in a cast-iron pan on the stovetop. After it was nicely browned, we rubbed the boar with an herb-garlic-and-olive oil paste, set it on top of the vegetables with a bundle made from the remaining herbs, added some water, covered the pan and roasted it for a half-hour at 375.

We used oregano, thyme and rosemary, and those flavors were prominent in every bite of meat and vegetables. The vegetable mix was the perfect accompaniment to the boar, particularly the sweet, flavorful fennel. It was a lot like roast pork, except the meat is much leaner and richer tasting. We will certainly make this dish again, or come up with other ways to use this exquisite, novel product.



Ingredients:

Note: for vegetables, we used 1/2 fennel bulb, 1 white onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks
Note: for herbs, we used a bundle of thyme, 3 sprigs of rosemary, and a handle of fresh oregano leaves

approximately 3 cups of roughly chopped vegetables (see note)
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1.5-lb. wild boar mini-roast
fresh herbs (see note)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss the chopped vegetables in 1/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay them in the bottom of a small roasting pan and set aside. Heat a skillet on high heat until very hot. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and sear the roast on all sides. While the meat is searing, take about half of the amount of fresh herbs you have and chop them finely. Tie the remaining herbs together with butcher's twine and throw into the roasting pan. Place the chopped herbs in a small bowl, and add the minced garlic and the remaining olive oil; stir to form a loose paste. After the boar has been seared, rub it all over with the paste and set atop the vegetables in the roasting pan. Add the water to the pan, then cover the pan and roast for 1/2 hour, or until internal temperature reaches 155-160 with a meat thermometer. Allow to rest before slicing and serving with the vegetables. 

2.07.2011

Meatless Monday: Scarborough Fair Pasta, or A Pasta for Your Valentine

Amy writes:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.
-Simon and Garfunkel



The ancients strongly believed in the power of herbs: for hurting or healing, for enchanting or repelling, for life or death. While listening to the Simon and Garfunkel song Scarborough Fair on the radio, I started thinking about the power of the four herbs parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Then I started to do some research. I used the internet at first, and then I remembered a book I have (yes! an actual book! with paper pages!) called Leaves in Myth, Magic and Medicine by Alice Thomas Vitale. This is what I learned.


The Greeks and Romans both believed parsley (Petroselinum crispum) to be an aphrodisiac, and its stalk was used for creating love potions. Sage (Salvia officinalis) was such an important herb to the ancients that they believed it could conquer death and proffer wisdom (hence the English definition of sage: a profoundly wise person; a person famed for wisdom - from dictionary.com). According to Vitale, "In the ancient world rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) was considered an aid to memory," its rejuvenating properties caused it to be used in beauty potions, and, "...small sprigs inserted into a bridal bouquet ensured a happy marriage." Finally, the scent of thyme (Thymus vulgaris) was deemed so irresistible that a line from a fifth-century B.C. Greek drama referring to the herb reads, "Who could forbear to kiss / A girl who's wearing this?"

Hmmm...lust, wisdom, memory and irresistibility...sounds like a love potion in the making, and Valentine's Day is drawing near. Unable to pick these herbs from our covered-in-80-inches-of-snow-garden, I bought them at the market with the intent of making a meatless (it's Meatless Monday!) dish that would be perfect for my Valentine, my husband Chris. Thus we bring you "Scarborough Fair Pasta," or "A Pasta for Your Valentine." Fragrant. Spicy. Garlicky. Herby. It would be a great primi piatti (first course) for any romantic Italian dinner, we think (wink, wink).

Ingredients:

1 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
1/2 pound bucatini, spaghetti rigati, or other thicker, longer pasta shape
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pasta pot with water, salt it, and set it over high heat to boil. In a large skillet, melt the butter with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and stir for one minute, taking care not to burn it. Add the panko and cook, stirring often, about five minutes, until toasted. Transfer the breadcrumb mixture to a separate bowl and set aside, keeping skillet out. Prepare pasta in boiling water according to package directions. When ready to drain, reserve a cup of the pasta water for later. Return the skillet to medium-low heat and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the chopped sage, rosemary and thyme, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook for a minute, then add the pasta to the skillet and stir to combine. Add enough of the pasta water to moisten the pasta, then and the last tablespoon of olive oil and toss until coated. Add the chopped parsley, lemon juice, and parmesan and give it a final toss until well combined. Top with the garlic breadcrumbs and enjoy it with your Valentine, anytime. 

2.05.2011

Super Picante Pepper Jack Sliders

A few days ago, we received two complimentary jars of Pace Picante Sauce and a challenge to create a recipe using the sauce that would be perfect for a Super Bowl party. What fun! We decided to mix the picante sauce with ground beef and make sliders stuffed and topped with pepper jack cheese. After delivering them to our football-fan neighbors, we realized we had a hit on our hands, and vowed to use the second jar to bring another batch to the Super Bowl party. Serve these sliders on your favorite bread or bun; we tried them on Portuguese rolls and three-cheese bread and both were yummy. Thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and Pace for the SUPER ingredient that really spiced up our sliders!

Ingredients:

(makes 16 sliders)

1 1/4 lb. ground beef
1 8-ounce jar Pace Picante Sauce (mild)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 lb. brick pepper jack cheese, halved then sliced
additional salt and pepper to taste
buns, rolls, or bread cut to slider size

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, picante sauce, salt and pepper. Using your hands, form the beef mixture into small slider-sized patties. Flatten each slider slightly, top it with cheese, and re-form the slider so the cheese is stuffed inside (see photos below). Season the top of each slider with additional salt and pepper. Heat a skillet or grill to high heat. In small batches, grill the sliders about four minutes on one side. Flip each slider and top with additional cheese. Cover the sliders in the pan to steam them while they are grilling on the second side. When cooked to preferred doneness, serve on bun, roll or bread, toasted or grilled if desired.


The star ingredient - Pace Picante Sauce, mixed into the ground beef

Flatten patty slightly


Top with cheese


Re-form into slider-sized patty


Buffalo Chicken Pizza with #FranksRedHot

It's almost time for the Big Game, so we thought we'd share our recipe for Buffalo Chicken Pizza made with Frank's Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce. This is one of our favorite pizza recipes because of its many flavor nuances - vinegary spiciness from the pepper sauce, creamy tanginess from the bleu cheese, and well-seasoned tender chicken, all on a crisp, chewy crust (purchased from our local grocery store). Cut into small squares, this would be a nice addition to any Super Bowl party!

Note: The crust crisps best when done on a pizza stone.

Ingredients:

1 store-bought pizza dough
flour to sprinkle on dough and on surface
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup bleu cheese salad dressing
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Sprinkle dough with flour and place in a bowl; allow dough to come to room temperature. Heat oven to 500 degrees and place pizza stone inside the oven. Heat a skillet to medium-high on the stove top. Season chicken breasts with salt, papper and cayenne and place in hot skillet. Cook chicken four minutes each side, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. In a small saucepan, put butter, a dash of black pepper, the garlic powder and the hot sauce. Place over low heat and stir until butter melts, making sure the sauce does not overheat and separate. Working on a lightly floured surface, stretch the dough and work it with your fingers or a rolling pin to form a circle the size of your pizza pan or stone. Carefully remove the stone from the oven and lay the crust on the stone. Brush the crust with a very thin layer of olive oil, then with a thin layer of bleu cheese dressing. Scatter the chicken pieces over the pizza crust, top with shredded cheese, and pour the hot sauce over it. Place in oven and cook at 500 for 10-15 minutes.

2.04.2011

Farewell to The Minimalist: Tomato, Fennel and Crab Soup

As you may know, Mark Bittman's New York Times column, The Minimalist, ran for the last time last week. The column was required reading in our house, where, like Bittman, we are proponents of good eating through simple cooking. To that end, we wanted to make one of Bittman's recipes with items we already had or could easily, and cheaply, get. It was the fennel left over from our wild boar roast that pointed us in the right direction. That, a coupon for some crabmeat, and items from our pantry, was everything we needed to make his Tomato, Fennel and Crab soup. This recipe is copied from epicurious.com. We'll miss The Minimalist but look forward to more from Mark Bittman.

Note: The only change we made was to include fewer onions (about 3 cups instead of 3 1/2).

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 medium fennel bulbs with fronds; bulbs cored, thinly sliced, fronds chopped and reserved
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups (or more) vegetable broth
8 ounces fresh crabmeat, picked over
Additional olive oil
4 1/2-inch-thick slices pain rustique or rustic whole wheat bread, toasted

Heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, fennel slices, and garlic; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until onions and fennel are tender, stirring often and adjusting heat to medium if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and 2 cups broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until flavors blend and vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in crabmeat and add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup, if desired; simmer just until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper. Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle each with chopped fennel fronds. Drizzle each serving with oil. Serve with toasts.


2.03.2011

Guest Post: Joanne's Chicken Tortilla Soup

Our second guest blogger is Joanne, bestie, foodie, fellow world traveler, and author of the blog I [Heart] Arugula. Joanne teaches with Amy and is also her lunch provider extraordinaire. Thoughtful and generous, she made the delicious chili we posted pictures of yesterday. Thanks, Joanne, for sharing your recipe for this soup. It's a very close second to your chili in the list of Amy's favorite school lunches.

(Note to JK: I wrote this intro before reading your post - S.P.!!!)

Joanne writes:

Most people remember their first loves and first kisses. I also remember the first time Amy, my best foodie friend, called one of my culinary creations “restaurant worthy.” Amy loves this soup—as much as she loves my chili. I’m happy to share both with her in our lunch club (I’ve had the pleasure of trying many of her and Chris’s recipes), and to share the recipe with you, A Couple in the Kitchen readers.

I first developed the recipe last February, while going through a Mexican food phase, to beat the doldrums of a cold and grey winter. As you can imagine, this smoky, spicy soup has become a weekly regular on our lunch menu this, much whiter, winter.

Heat 2 tbs. canola oil over medium heat in a 4 qt. pot.

While heating, dice 1 onion and 3 cloves garlic.

Add to hot oil and sauté until onion softens, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. adobo sauce and 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, sliced open, deseeded and minced.

Cook another 2 minutes.

Add 1 tbs. cumin and 1 tbs. chili powder.

Cook another 3 minutes to allow spices to bloom.

Add 4 cups chicken broth and 2 cups beef broth (or some other combination of 6 cups of broth)

Cover and bring to a boil (which will take about 10 minutes). (Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary.)

Once boiling, add:

½ cup canned black beans (rinsed and drained)
½ cup diced tomatoes
½ cup frozen (or canned) corn
1 cup water

Cover and return to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes uncovered.

Take off heat. Puree with immersion blender (or transfer to blender and puree) leaving some tomato chunks. Soup will lighten in color and become almost “creamy” from the starch in the beans and corn.

Return to heat. Add an additional:

½ cup corn
½ cup black beans
¼ cup diced tomatoes

Heat through. Ladle into bowls over shredded chicken.

Finish with a squeeze of lime.

Garnish as desired, with shredded cheese and tortilla sticks (recipe follows), sour cream and/or avocado.

Tortilla sticks

Slice corn tortillas in strips. Toss with canola or other vegetable oil and season with chili powder and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until crisp.