Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chicken, Shiitake, Wild Rice and Lemongrass Soup

I dreamed this up a few weeks ago when I was feeling a cold coming on. It's a snooty urban twist on the ol' chicken soup comfort soup solution.

No photos because I haven't made it in a while, but I'll add a few next time I brew this up. It is rather yummy.

5ish cups chicken stock
1 cup rice - I used a mixed wild with short grain brown
2 chicken breasts - sliced
2 fat carrots, sliced
1 onions, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced*
1 stalk of lemongrass, finely diced
fistful of dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in a few cups boiling water (reserve water) and thinly sliced
2-3 chubby cloves of garlic, minced
thumbish sized chunk of fresh ginger, grated
juice of 2 limes
pinch of saffron, just because
fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste

Pour your stock in a large pot. Set to a jaunty simmer.

Add rice.

While rice is simmering get your veggies and such sliced, diced, chopped and otherwise ready.

Add carrots, onions, celery, lemongrass, mushrooms, garlic and ginger. G'head and toss that shiitake water in too.

Add chicken.

Add saffron, some salt and pepper, and juice of one lime.

Give it a few minutes to simmer (no salmonella wanted here!) and give it a taste. The other lime and more salt and pepper (and possibly more ginger and garlic) might come in handy here.


Also delicious with rice cracker crumbs sprinkled on, tortilla soup styles.

I didn't go all hog wild on the usual chicken herbs because I didn't want them brawling with the lemony limeyness. If I had fresh thai basil I'd have totally gone there though.

*Last time I made it I didn't have celery so I used a diced apple instead. It was a pretty tasty substitution.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Must be Winter, I Smell Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup is a fall staple for me. It's so warm and inviting - like a warm hug on a cold day* ... from a mom that loves you enough to make soup from scratch rather than just opening a can and adding equal parts milk and water.

I had a recipe at one point, but now I just wing it. This is how it went down today.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 white onion, diced
1 apple ( I prefer organic Breaburn for those of you keeping track) peeled, cored and diced
I  carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh grated ginger
Fresh grated nutmeg
Ground cloves
3/4 to 1 litre vegetable stock
1 small can of cocount milk or coconut cream powder
Butter or olive oil
Fresh parsley and/or chives for garnish

In a large pot, sautee onion and garlic in a bit of butter or olive oil. Add squash, carrot and apple and cook until soft.
Grate in a thumb sized chunk of ginger.
Add a touch of  fresh grated nutmeg, a dash each of of cinnamon and ground cloves, and salt and pepper. Go easy, you can amp this up later.
Add about 3/4 to one litre of vegetable stock. Simmer about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat. In a blender, blend (in several batches) until smooth.

Back in my dairy days this is the point where I'd add it some milk or cream to smooth it out a bit. Now that dairy and I are frenemies I use coconut milk. Sadly I only had a large can, which would have been way too much, so I resorted to the powdered version instead. It's fine in a pinch, but I would recommend adding one of the little kiddie cans of coconut milk. Or real milk or cream if you are so inclined. I've also used soft tofu (be careful not to get the flavoured dessert variety) for many soups, it works quite well though tends to require a little water to be added to thin it out.

Once your soup is all blendy smooth return to the pot and simmer a bit longer, tasting and adjusting the flavour as necessary. I invariably end up adding more ginger and nutmeg, because that's how I roll.

If you wanted to be all impressive you could swirl in a dab of cream, coconut milk or sour cream when you serve it, or make a leafy shape or heart if you have mad barista skills (which I don't). A sprinking of chopped fresh parsley or chives are a nice touch too.

* Dear Campbell's Soup, please don't sue me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You Got Your Stuffed Trout, Your Trout Omlettes, Your Smoked Trout ...

Several years ago I went with some friends on a fly-in fishing trip in northern BC. It was the best vacation ever. We spent all day slaying trout and drinking beer, and all night eating trout and drinking wine. And a little time taking unflattering photos of me behaving inappropriately with my future meal.

What's not to love?

Now, I grew up saltwater fishing and have a keen appreciation of the many ways cod, salmon their ocean buddies can be prepared, but I was sort of a newbie with the genteel trout. I learned many things on that trip (even a song that, swear to god, lures trout to your, um, lure), chief among them that I have the potential to be the Bubba of trout. Per the title of this post we had it smoked, omletted, stuffed, among others. I've had my fair share of trout since then, generally stuffed and pan fried. As I'm a 'the heck's in the fridge?' kind of cook the stuffing always varies, but it always has a rice (a wild mix preferred) base.

The one I made today went something like this.

Pan Fried Trout

Toss a handful of cashews in a hot, dry pan until starting to brown. Chop and set aside.
Saute 1/3 of a large white onion (finely chopped) in a little olive oil.
Toss in a small, finely chopped portabella mushroom.
Add 1/4 each roasted red and yellow pepper.
Add pinches of parsley, rosemary, and thyme (fresh is always better, natch) and the cashews.
Add about a tablespoon of fresh dill.
Add about 2 cups of cooked rice - I prefer a wild/brown mix.
Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 to one lemon.
Stir in a thumb sized chunk of Macedonian feta.

Jam as much as you can into the cavity of a cleaned trout. There will be a lot left over. Thankfully it is pretty dang tasty on its own.

Heat a little oil or butter in a pan. (Make sure the pan is large enough for your fish. You don't want to look like an amateur trying to jam the tail in there).

Smoosh a few slices of lemon around pan. Why not?

Pop that trout in the pan. Fry 4 to 6 minutes each side, depending on the size of the fish. You'll know it's time to flip when the meat is no longer translucent and is looking a little flaky.

The skin should peel right off. I don't generally have a problem with bones (hee hee); you should be fine if you eat the meat off the top, then lift the spine and bones out. If reading that sentence gave you the skeevies, you should probably stick to canned tuna.

Variations on this have been known to include dates, mango, shrimp, apple ... pretty much anything you find in the fridge.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Behold the Humble Butter Bean

This little experiment was inspired by a dish I had at the Black Bottle in Seattle this past summer. I've eaten there my last two trips and oh god, do they ever do small dishes well. I'm not sure if the Portabello Grilled and Butter Bean Salad currently on the menu is the same one I had. I don't recall portabello, mostly I just remember firm, slippery dilly butter beans. I just had a flashback to taking notes (I'm a nerd that way); if I'd remembered that (and where they are) I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. I do recall the smoked chicken and cherry tomato flatbread pretty much blowing my mind. Oh goodness, mouth starting to water.

This Butter Bean

Not This Butterbean

Before that meal at the Black Bottle I was ignorant to the magic of the butter bean. I'm totally on Team Legume, but the butter bean had slipped past me. Because, well, they're lima beans, and lima beans are pretty much the Danny Wood of the bean world.*

I'm going to be all bougie and call them butter beans. It elevates them to Joe McIntyre status. **

I was working from the dried variety. Something about the slimy amniotic fluid of canned beans really skeeves me out, so I only use them in the case of emergency hummus. The bean bag said to put them in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil for two minutes, then turn off the heat and soak them for 1 hour. I was in a bit of a hurry so I ended up bringing the water back to a boil after about a 1/2 hour,  which would have been fine if I'd removed them from the water as soon as they hit the optimum soft-but-firm stage (did you just giggle? I did!), but I was stuffing a trout (that's for a later post) and let them sit. They were a little mushy. Lesson learned ... mind your beans.

Since all I could remember about my Black Bottle beans was that they were dilly and delicious I tried my butter beans two ways.

Soy and Dill Blackened Butter Beans

This was inspired by a few recipes I found from googling Dill Butter Beans. It's dead simple.

Heat approximately 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan.
Toss in 1 crushed garlic clove and about a tablespoon of chopped fresh dill.
Stir for a minute then add about 2 cups of cooked beans.
Add a dash of Braggs's (regular low-sodium soy will do too), salt and pepper and toss in pan until they begin to blacken, being careful to not burn.

Serve warm. Makes a fantastic side for trout. I could see it rocking up chicken or pork too.  Especially barbeque.

Chilled Lemon-Dill Beans

This is even dead simplier.

Toss about 2 cups of cooked beans with a dash of olive oil, several of white wine vinegar, juice of  1/2 to 1 whole lemon, about a tablespoon of fresh chopped dill, salt and pepper.

This version was best chilled. I imagine it would be very satisfying served with a crisp white wine in the shade of a willow tree on a spring picnic. Especially if that picnic had some cold barbeque ribs.

* Mid-thirties person joke for people who remember New Kids on the Block from the first time around. Danny was pretty much the New Kid that no one cared about. Though one of my Teen Beat/Bop/Big Bopper magazines said that he was left handed, so he was alright with me. Anyone want to fill me in on who the Jonas Brothers equivalent would be?

** I may or may not have been the person in the 76th row standing on her chair screaming 'Joe, I want to have your babies!', thus fully horrifying my mother who had accompanied my sisters and I to Vancouver for the show. Weird thing was, I'd always been a Jon Knight girl. But Little Joey ... I had no resolve against his stage charisima.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Because a Woman's Place is In the Kitchen

Oh, that got your attention, didn't it?

I'm starting a food blog because I want a place to post the magic wonders that come from Kitchen Staduim, aka my kitchen, and I want to keep it seperate from She's So Melicious. Because lawd knows food has no place being in the same vicinity as fashion.

I'm not a huge lover of cooking from recipes. Sure, on occasion I use them for inspiration, but I'm not a Julie & Julia kind of girl. I just kind of get in there and get 'er done. Robert Rodriguez once said 'not knowing how to cook is like not knowing how to fuck' and I fully agree with that. Sure, books are great for ideas and inspiration [oh my god! I wouldn't have thought of using a parsnip that way (don't know if I'm talking food or sex, do you?)] , but I think it's mostly instinct. As such, I probably won't be posting recipes in the tradition format of cooking time/temperature/ingredients list, but something a little less formal. We'll just truck along and see how it goes.

If I've made you something you particularly like and would like me to try to remember how the heck I made it, please leave a comment and I'll do my dangdest to accommodate.

Yours in experimentation (again, food or sex?),

~ m