Brothy Asian-Inspired Soup

March 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

Hearty soups … yes, I love them. And the ones I make are nearing the definition of stew. But every once in a while I will be in the mood for something light, breathy and brothy.

This Asian-Inspired Soup is a riff on something Mark Bittman published in March 2011. He gave three simple (very simple) recipe suggestions in each of four categories: creamy, brothy, earthy and hearty. The second and third recipes are slight twists on the first in each category. By the end of making the twelfth, he says, you’ll never need to follow another soup recipe.

With a package of firm tofu and some leftover chickpea broth (remember that from Pressure Cooker Basics?), I twisted Mark Bittman’s own Asian twist on brothy soups.

Ingredients ingredients for Brothy Asian-Inspired Soup

  • 8 cups water, in this case chickpea broth and water
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (about 3-4)
  • 1 package firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 4 oz oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sesame oil

-To a large pot add the water or broth, scallions, tofu, mushrooms, soy and sesame.

-Heat over a medium-high flame to just boiling, them bring to a quiet simmer, partly covered. Let simmer for … 15 minutes? 20 minutes? It’s up to you and how tender you like your oyster mushrooms. Check it at 15, then check the mushrooms every few minutes.

oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms - aren't they just beautiful?

-Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a few chopped scallions. You might enjoy a crispy baguette to dunk.

Asian-inspired soup

Brothy Asian-inspired soup

Seriously, I tried to make this soup sound difficult/complex/sophisticated/finicky. But that’s just impossible. This soup is just way simple. And delicious.

Any Asian-inspired and simple soup suggestions or ingredient ideas? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Pressure Cooker Basics

March 12, 2012 § 15 Comments

And boy do I mean basics. I’m not a pressure-cooker expert—far from it. But I’m writing this because:

  1. My friend Katherine hinted that she’s always been a little uneasy using pressure cookers, and perhaps a Dainty tutorial was called for (um, Katherine, you’re a DOCTOR, and likely have had your hands elbow-deep IN people or delivered babies – my lord, if you can do that …)
  2. Pressure cookers are totally useful kitchen tools—they can cook some long-cooking bean or stew or hunk of meat in much less time. Who doesn’t need to shave some time off the cooking process without totally bailing and ordering take-out? If I can help spread pressure-cooker love to just one more person, then my mission is done (well, not done but I’d certainly feel good about it).
  3. I just pressure-cooked a pot of chickpeas, and since I need something to post about, why not this?

Again, I am sooo noooot a pressure-cooker expert. These are just some quick tips and bare-minimum suggestions from someone who was once afraid of the device and is now totally cool with its use.

Completely forget the stories your Mom or Grandma told you each summer … the story about their pressure cookers explosively losing their lids as their batch of homemade tomato sauce was being sealed and canned for winter. Sauce everywhere, they said, and you didn’t believe a word until Mom redid her kitchen and they moved the stove and found the tomato splatter evidence. THAT’S. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. Not nowadays. Not with a) today’s technology and b) today’s litigious society. A lid explodes, a child gets hurt … that can’t happen.

Spend the money. Buy a good, reputable brand. Jennifer bought a Kuhn-Rikon. It’s Swiss. And you know those Swiss.

Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker

Read the manual. Seriously, do it.

Get a specialty cookbook with pressure-cooker recipes. We have Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. It’s very useful.

The gasket is important. It fits in the inner lip of the lid and helps create a seal within which the air pressure can increase. A damaged gasket? A missing gasket? No seal.

Make a match. Most lids fit on the pressure cooker pot in a certain way and require a certain action. Ours requires that the arrow on the lid match with the arrow on the pot handle, and with those matched up, you then twist and lid into a LOCKED position. With the lid locked, it’s not going anywhere.

Twist the lid on.

It hisses. When the pressure inside the pot increases to a high level, it will start hissing. Putting my “I’m not an expert” hat on, I believe the hissing happens when the pressure inside is too great, and the hissing is the “I’m too pressurized!” value releasing the excess pressure. The hissing is also a noise that reminds you, “Oh, right, I gotta turn the temperature down now.”

Leave it be. When your beans or stew or whatnot is done, just turn the heat off and let the pressure come down naturally. There will be some sort of indicator on your lid that will tell you when that happens (more of an explanation below). The steam within the sealed pot is SUPER heated and can severely burn you. So, take your time opening the lid and always open the lid AWAY from you. IF YOU MUST open the lid soon, you can place the sealed pot under running water to help bring the temperature and the pressure down. Again, the indicator on the lid will tell you when they’ve come down.

By way of example, here’s a simple recipe for cooking dried beans of any kind, and we used chickpeas.

Basic Beans in Aromatic Broth (based on the Pressure Perfect recipe)

  • 1 lb. dried beans (in this case, chickpeas), rinsed and with bad beans removed
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbs oil (helps prevent foaming)
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, leave skin on
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large celery
  • Leek greens (if you have them)

-Add all ingredients in a 6-qt. or larger pressure cooker. Lock the lid according to your manual.

Everyone in the pool!

-Turn the heat on high and bring the pressure within the cooker to high. AS AN EXAMPLE, high pressure is indicated on our Kuhn-Rikon when two red bars appear.

The two red bars indicate high pressure has been reached.

-Turn heat down so it’s just hot enough to maintain the pressure at high. In our case, we turn our gas from high down to just between “2” and “lo.” That works perfectly.

-Maintain high heat for the number of minutes indicated in your pressure cooker book for that specific bean. For chickpeas, that would be 28-30 minutes for a firm bean (for stews and such) and up to 35 for a softer chickpea that would be used in purees such as hummus.

-When the timer goes off, you can let the pressure come down naturally (15-20 minutes or so) or put it under cool running water until the pressure comes down. TILT the lid away from you no matter what. You gotta be careful.

Chickpeas in their broth after about 28 minutes at high pressure followed by about 20 minutes on a natural cool-down.

-Try a few. Too firm? Hard, in fact? Put the lid in place, lock it, and bring it up to pressure again for between 1-5 minutes, depending on how firm you think they are. Go through the same depressurizing process.

-Look at that! You made beans!!

-Lorna suggests that if you have the time, let the beans cool in their liquid. That way they will complete the cooking process. Meanwhile, remove the carrot, celery, bay leaves and garlic, and discard.

-When you are ready to drain, you should totally reserve that cooking liquid. It’s ideal as a water or veggie stock replacement in soups or stews. So, put a colander over a bowl to catch the brothy goodness.

Reserve the tasty liquid and use it as a replacement for water or stock in soups and stews.

Still on the fence about using a pressure cooker? Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand!

Hearty Soup: Potato & Kale

March 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

We’re nearing the end of Hearty Soup season. And I feel like it got short-shrifted this year. Bone-warming broths, stews and soups weren’t really needed so very much this winter. And it’s too bad—hearty soups are my favorite to make.

We were able to squeeze in a batch of Potato & Kale Soup earlier this week. Thank goodness, because a winter soup season shouldn’t go by without this cooking on the stovetop at least once.

Jennifer and I tag-teamed this recipe. I chopped and prepped late in the afternoon, then she came home and cooked, giving it her special touch while I lunged and downward-dogged and shavasana’d. The potatoes and kale really satisfied a hungry yogini.

Full disclosure here: Full credit goes to Jennifer, who got this recipe from a soups class she took back in the late ’90s. We’ve adjusted a bit here and there. But not spectacularly so.

Potato & Kale Soup

Potato Kale Soup

Potato-Kale Soup with a drop of sherry vinegar

  • 1+ tbs evoo
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thin (we omitted, used extra onion)
  • 6 cups water (we used 4-6 cups leftover chickpea broth – remember that from the chickpea stew and hummus?) PLUS 2 additional cups water/broth
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into medium-sized cubes (~4 cups)
  • 2 tbs minced fresh parsley
  • 3 carrots, trimmed but whole
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed but whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 lb kale (we used an entire bunch of kale as bundled by the local neighborhood grocery)
  • sherry vinegar

-Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions (and leeks if you have them) and sautee until soft and translucent.

-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots, whole celery, bay leaves and 6 cups water or broth, and season with salt and pepper (several good pinches of salt/twists of the pepper grinder). Cover. Simmer on low to medium low for about 45 minutes.

-While the soup is simmering, wash the kale and remove the thick ribs. Tear the kale into a size that won’t annoy you – i.e. not too big. You’re going to steam/cook the kale in about a cup or two of water/broth in a high-sided skillet with a lid. Boil that water, add the kale, cover, and let it cook for not that long – 4-5 minutes. You want it tender but not melty-mushy. Drain out the water and set the kale aside.

-When the soup base has simmered 45 minutes, remove and RESERVE the carrots. And remove and DISCARD the celery. Puree by using a light touch with an immersion blender—you want part of it pureed but you still want some chunks of potato in there. OR, just puree half of the soup in a food processor and return it to the soup pot.

-Stir in kale. Chop the reserved carrots, add them back in there, too. Heat until nice and hot. Give it a taste – add salt and pepper as necessary.

-Here’s the last bit that is Jennifer’s touch and it’s completely optional: Add a tad – let’s say a 1 tbs – of sherry vinegar. Not so optional, uh? That’s good stuff, that soup is.

A nice “creamy” soup—and absolutely no cream! And now that I think about it, it’s vegan. Bonus.

What’s your favorite hearty soup recipe? Drop in a comment and let us know.

Savory Steel-Cut Oats

March 5, 2012 § 7 Comments

I’m a fan of Steel-Cut Oats. We’ve established that before. I relegated the Quaker Oats man to just a few cookie recipes. Never shall a rolled oat appear in my breakfast bowl.

A quick recap of my steel-cut oatmeal recipe has me throwing in a handful of raisins when the oats are just about done and letting them plump up with steam. In the bowl they recipe a sprinkling of slivered almonds and a sometimes-generous pour of maple syrup. Five out of seven days that’s what I’m eating for breakfast. The other two days? I’ve skipped breakfast altogether.

Thanks to Jody and Ken over at The Garum Factory, I now have a new side of steel-cut oats to explore: the savory side. Their last post shined the light on how versatile steel-cut oats can be once you move beyond the sweet expectations. Exhibit A: Their Steel-Cut Oats with Eggs, Preserved Lemon and Olives.

For my first time exploring of the savory side, I tread a simpler path. I topped my Steel-Cut Oats with a poached egg, black pepper and parsley. Yeah, delicious. Really delicious.

Steel-cut oats with poached egg

I poached the egg separately, but a friend had a super suggestion: As the steel-cut oats are finishing—let’s say for the last three minutes—make a divot in the oats and crack the egg right into that puddle. Cover, and the egg “poaches” right in them there oats. And you only have to dirty one pot, she said.

Oh, to be as smart as she.

Have you explored steel-cut oats’ savory side? What yumminess have you found there? Do tell! Share your savory suggestion—I so want to give it a try.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

March 1, 2012 § 9 Comments

If you don’t like cumin, step away. You’ve made up your mind about the spice, and no amount of my praising it will change the way your taste buds feel. So, I’ll see you another day, okay?

But you cumin fans, lean in a bit closer—I have something to tell you. This stew … it’s awesome. Awesome as in delicious. Really. Super. Delicious. And it’s all due to the cumin.

It being from Bon Appetit may explain why it’s so delectable. Theirs is a meaty version. I’m sure the addition of chicken thighs is nothing but fabulous. I didn’t have them on hand—plus I’m doing a no-meat kinda thing currently. Still, this rocks with out the cluck factor.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided

    Chickpea Stew

    Chickpea Stew ala Bon Appetit

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs—optional
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs ground cumin—yes, that much
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained OR 1 lb. dry chickpeas cooked to firm
  • 1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar (I just roasted a whole large red pepper myself)
  • 2 tbs (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • country-style bread
  • 3 tbs coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

-IF you’re going the chicken route, heat 2 tbs of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

-IF you’re not using chicken, heat 2 tbs of oil to medium low, add onion and garlic, and saute for 5-6 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.

-IF using chicken, add it back into the pot along with bay leaves and 4 cups water and dislodge any of the brown chicken bits that might be on the bottom of the pot.

-Just a quick note: I used dry chickpeas and cooked them in a pressure cooker with 9 cups water, kosher salt, a celery stalk, a carrot, 2 bay leaves and 3 whole garlic cloves for 28 minutes. When I drained the chickpeas, I reserved the liquid and used that in place of 4 cups water. Mmmmm … more flavor.

-Bring everything in the pot to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, with occasional stirring. IF using chicken, let it simmer until chicken is tender (20 minutes). Sans chicken, 10 minutes is enough to get the flavors to meld.

-Transfer chicken to a plate (if it’s in there). Add chickpeas to pot and bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Shred your chicken off the bone and add it in there. Otherwise, skip it. Add in the red peppers and stir in remaining 2 tbs of oil (but only if you want – you don’t need to).

-Don’t skip this part: Give it a taste. Good, right? Yummy power-packed cumin flavor. Okay, now add in 2 tbs of lemon juice (or about half a lemon). Let it simmer for a minute. Now give it another taste? Better, huh? Yup, that lemon is a major major plus here. Adjust seasonings with salt and maybe more lemon if you think it needs it.

-Serving: Bon Appetit says to cube crusty bread, put it in an individual bowl, and ladle the stew on top. DO NOT even attempt. All you get is soggy bread. Bleck. But DO enjoy a nice slice alongside, dipping it to your liking. Oh, and sprinkle some parsley on top, too.

Good, good stewy stuff. There’s no room for cumin haters here.

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