Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon

Also known as avgolemono, this soup has been a longtime favorite of mine.  I’ve made several version of this Greek soup and this recipe stands up with the best of them.

It's delicious, though it doesn't make for a thrilling photo...

It’s delicious, though it doesn’t make for a thrilling photo…

No matter what recipe I’ve used, this soup is remarkably simple, only 5 ingredients plus salt and pepper (I refuse to count a garnish as a legit ingredient, so the dill from this recipe is not included in my calculation).  And it always tastes delicious.  It is both super comforting and incredibly light at the same time.  The lemon is refreshing and makes you think of the springtime.  I particularly enjoy this soup in the deepest, darkest part of the winter (the short hours of sunlight in January, ugh).

This recipe includes chicken breast which helps fill out the soup.  I personally enjoy it even without the additional meat, but the Bear needs something heartier so this recipe actually works better for us than the other versions I’ve made in the past.

I know I often tell you try give a recipe a try.  But seriously, give this recipe a try.  Try it during the next snowstorm, when you don’t feel like the spring will ever come and you are overwhelmed by the grey and gloom.  It will make your heart happy.  Seriously.

Mexican food can be fussy, you know

Green chile posole with black beans

D wants to know why hominy is always squeaky.  Good question.

D wants to know why hominy is always squeaky. Good question.

French food has a reputation for being very complicated, difficult, and time-consuming to cook.  But I’d like you, dear reader, to compare this recipe linked above to a recipe for Potage Parmentier.  Which one would you pick for a weekday?  This recipe has no fewer than 15 ingredients, not counting the salt and pepper and the cheese on top.  You have to chop a lot of them.  The “active time” of 10 minutes on this recipe is nonsense.  It’s more like 20-30 minutes of prep before it gets cooked for 45 minutes.  Looking back, the most complicated dish I’ve ever made was chicken mole.  So I think that Mexican food deserves a little bit of the fussy reputation that French food gets.  It’s not all beef tacos.

Ah, but how does the soup taste?  Delicious.  The parsley, cilantro, and spinach make for a green and fresh soup. We had this as an appetizer before our New Year’s Eve dinner.  It served as an appetizer/first course/salad.  I also think that the allspice made this one special.  It gave the soup a spicy earthiness.  It’s certainly spicy, but not too hot.  It’s like an excellent salsa verde, but deeper and richer.  If you’ve got the time to make something like this, I recommend it.

Vegetable-Bean Soup

Finally some soup that supplies leftovers!

Vegetable-Bean Soup

And the obligatory grilled cheese!

And the obligatory grilled cheese!

I made this soup when we had our first truly cold (meaning below zero) snap of the winter.  It was nice and hearty and full of vegetables when I started to overload a bit on holiday sweets.  The best thing about it (or maybe the worst?) was that it tasted better a few days later.  Unfortunately, by that point there was only one bowl left.  I only made one substitution and that was to use chicken stock instead of vegetable.  I’m sure it would be quite tasty with vegetable, but I tend to enjoy the richness of chicken broth in most things.

Since we are coming into the New Year, I think you should all make this as a healthy start!  You’ll feel good about yourself and your waistline and you’ll also feel good because it is so tasty.

Ending November on a High Note!

Well, sort of.  The recipe is delicious.  But once again, the recipe is not online.  Thanks November!

Mmm... Oniony...

Mmm… Oniony…

I made this one afternoon thinking we would have it for dinner and for a few days for lunch.  Then I ran into my lovely neighbor (remember from Thanksgiving?).  I offered her some soup.  Then a couple of friends stopped in.  I offered them some soup.  By the end of the afternoon, the soup was pretty much gone.  I was sad.  It was really delicious.  And heart warming.  And comforting.  And full of onions…

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs olive oil

4 lbs onions halved and thinly sliced (seriously people, get out your food processor on this one)

4 garlic cloves thinly slices

salt and pepper

1/2 cup port or Marsala wine

2 cans each of both chicken and beef broth (14.5 oz cans)

Crusty baguette

Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Get out your biggest pot (I used my 7.5 qt dutch oven – 4 lbs of onions take up a lot of space!).  Heat the butter and the olive oil over medium, then add your onions and garlic and season them with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook until the onions have softened, be sure to stir occasionally so the onions on top get cooked down a bit too.  Then uncover and continue to cook until the onions have caramelized and turned a nice golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes more.  The recipes says to add 1/4 water if the pot gets too dry, I did this.  I scraped up the brown bits of goodness on the bottom in the process.

When your onions are caramelized, add the Marsala or port (I used Marsala) and cook until the liquid reduces.  Stir in the broths and two additional cups of water.  Check your seasoning again and add more salt if necessary.

Then serve with cheese toasts.  Do I need to explain those?  You cut slices of baguette… Then you toast or broil them with some shredded cheese on top.  Then you eat them…

*adapted from November 2007, issue 47, pg. 70

One word of warning.  Four pounds of onions will make you cry.  A lot.  You will also cry when your lovely soup is gone in a few hours.  This was technically a Freeze It recipe… Oh well.  Enjoy!

And get ready to welcome in December!!!

Nothing Says November Like… Acorn Squash

That’s right!  We are officially onto blogging about November!  And it’s still November!  This is a major accomplishment.  Be proud, be very proud.  We did this for you.  We want you to hear about glorious Christmas cookies and Holiday feasts in a timely manner.  You are welcome!

And now I am going to tell you all about acorn squash.  Acorn squash was the In Season highlight for the issue we chose, November 2007, no. 47.  I may have previously mentioned that I have a half bushel of acorn squash in my coat-closet-turned-pantry so this issue was an obvious selection for us.  The good news is that the rest of the issue is pretty awesome as well.

I started with Garlic-Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash. I couldn’t find the recipe online so if you have the magazine, you can find it on pg. 34.

No, that is not a pork loin… It's another freakishly large pork chop.

No, that is not a pork loin… It’s another freakishly large pork chop.

So here’s the gist if you don’t have the magazine.

Ingredients:

Olive oil

4 garlic cloves

Pork loin roast (about 1 3/4 lbs) or as you see in the picture above a couple of decent sized pork chops

2 acorn squash

1/4 cup sour cream (the recipe calls for reduced-fat, but I try to go for the real thing where dairy is concerned unless it’s milk)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

The idea in the original recipe is to cook everything at the same time in a 450 deg. oven.  Since I was using pork chops I assumed they wouldn’t take quite as long to cook because they aren’t as thick so I actually used to pans.  Prep the squash by cutting them in half lengthwise and scooping out the seeds (if you are a fan of roasted pumpkin seeds you can use these the same way).  Prep the meat by finely chopping the garlic.  If you have a garlic press, it makes this job much easier. Once the garlic is well chopped, sprinkle it with coarse salt and smear it with the side of a chefs knife until it forms a paste.  Then smear that paste along with some olive oil, salt and pepper on whatever meat you choose.  If you are doing the loin put that in the center of a baking sheet and arrange the squash cut side down around it.  Pop that into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Since I did chops I started those on the stove on a medium heat while I put the squash in the oven.  After getting some color on both sides of the chop I added that to the oven as well and used a meat thermometer to make sure it was cooked through.  I timed it so the pork went in the oven when there was about 20 minutes left on the squash and the timing worked out pretty well that they both came out at the same time.

Once the squash is out you scoop it into a bowl with the sour cream and brown sugar and mash it all up.  Then you are ready to go!

This was an incredibly flavorful meal.  The garlic rub was incredible.  I am definitely going to use that method again.  The mashed acorn squash was subtle but really delicious as well.  I was thrilled with how these went together and I was so satisfied by the end of the meal.

I also made the Acorn Squash Bisque.

And of course, served it with grilled cheese!

And of course, served it with grilled cheese!

This was not only really simple, but so so so so so (imagine about 5 more so’s) good!  It’s like liquid autumn.  It tastes incredible.  The thyme goes so well with the squash.  It is also rich but not so rich that you can’t easily have seconds.  I highly recommend this one to anyone with a blender or food processor!

The only squash recipe that I wasn’t thrilled with was the Chili-Roasted Acorn Squash. When I say “wasn’t thrilled”, I mean “wasn’t blown away by”.  This recipe was still good, just not my style as much as the other two.

IMG_0826

The magazine claims that once the skin is roasted it becomes “soft and tasty”.  It does become soft.  And yes, it was edible.  I think “tasty” was a bit of a reach.  I didn’t love it.  There wasn’t much flavor overall, but it was faintly bitter.  Also the texture of the skin was a little annoying.  It wasn’t pleasant to chew through.  Unfortunately, since the squash was cut so small, it was difficult/messy to eat if you didn’t want to eat the skin.  It meant pealing each little piece before eating.  Not worth the effort.  I think if I want to achieve this flavor in the future, I would just leave the pieces as halves or quarters and scoop the flesh out of the skin as I went rather than take the time to cut into small pieces.

Now G is going to tell you about Wild Rice Stuffed Squash!

Yeah, I am!  G here, and here is my beautiful friend:

You can't tell me that doesn't look like November

You can’t tell me that doesn’t look like November

As the recipe is written, this is a vegetarian main dish.  But….you know me, I had to substitute.  In fact, there are a couple substitutions with this recipe.  The first is the wild rice mix.  I know what they meant.  They meant one of those boxed mixes with some brown rice, some white, some wild.  The recipe says this mixture will all cook together in 25 minutes on the stove.  Well, I only found this at the store:

insert rice gone wild joke here

insert rice gone wild joke here

That’s Minnesota “wild” rice.  Just the long, black grains.  The bag said it would take just under an hour to cook on the stove.  Shoot.  I had waited until there was about 25 minutes left for the squash to roast in the oven before starting the rice.  No time to wait for this stuff to cook.  So I followed the microwave directions and cooked my “wild” rice in 1 cup low sodium chicken broth and 1/2 cup water.  It took roughly a half hour to cook that way.  That’s yet another substitution.  I cooked the rice in a broth and water mixture because I wanted to add more flavor.

On to the bigger substitution.  I added a 1/2 lb ground turkey, browned, to the stuffing.  I browned it in the skillet immediately after the “shallot” (I substituted red onion…shoot!  That’s another substitution!), garlic, and sage were done sautéing.  I also added grated parmesan cheese to the top of the heap and browned it all together in a 350 degree oven for five minutes at the very end of cooking to bring the flavors together and the melt cheese.  I still think the stuffing flavor could have oozed down into the squash a little more.  The next time I make this, would undercook the squash a little and let it finish cooking with the stuffing inside it.  I think this recipe was more like squash with the side dish heaped inside than something truly stuffed.

One more substitution: I used dried cranberries instead of dried cherries.  Why?  Because I’m cheap and craisins are delicious.

This winds up being a very filling and delicious recipe, but I have a hard time imagining it without the turkey.  It really adds a lot.  Perfectly appropriate for a main dish once you make these changes.  I think otherwise it’s a side dish.  Sorry vegetarians!

Oh, and if you’re at all curious whether this is appropriate for a baby, I made one of the squash halves just for J.  I omitted the wild rice and the cranberries because they both seemed like potential choking hazards.  He really enjoyed this one.

J's is the top left

J’s is the top left

 

skillet recipes, redeemed

Beef stroganoff

Shout out to Great Lakes Brewery!

Shout out to Great Lakes Brewery!

Ok, ok.  I know I can get a little cranky about these recipes, especially when they don’t go my way.  Like my diatribe about the shrimp jambalaya recipe.  Here I am, back with another skillet recipe and this one fit just fine.  So there is no vast conspiracy to get me to buy an oversize skillet.  I just need to watch the size of my produce a little better.

Also, we had this recipe without the egg noodles.  It was totally fine.  If you’re looking to skip some carbs or cholesterol, know that you won’t miss the noodles.

 

Unimpressive pastas

Whole-wheat pasta with kale and fontina

Fork desperately seeking bacon

Fork desperately seeking bacon

Tortellini in broth with escarole

Yay...

Yay…

I’ve got to say right off the bat how hilarious and fitting it is that I got a picture of both of these in their leftover containers.  They were so forgettable that I didn’t even remember to take a picture. Well, I had company over for the first one, so I was a little distracted.  But still.  Those pictures sum this up quite nicely.  I didn’t even plan it like that.

Everyday Food has a bad habit of including recipes for pasta dishes that don’t really have a sauce, they just have some ingredients to top the pasta and some directions about using reserved pasta water and the residue from other ingredients to “coat the pasta.”  These recipes are almost always disappointing.  These two were prime examples.

Take the whole-wheat pasta with kale and fontina.  It has bacon and garlic in it.  It’s got kale.  It’s got cheese.  Okee doke, right?  Eh, not really.  The kale, bacon, and cheese kind of clumped together, so those bites where you got those were amazing, but all of the other bites were just a mouthful of wet noodles.  Not great.  I did appreciate that this recipe used chicken broth instead of water.  That definitely gave it more flavor than the “add reserved pasta water” recipes.  And it gets points for bacon.  This one gets a B-.

Before I move on, I should mention that this recipe was made so D could carbo-load for the marathon.  Go D!  Run run go fast!

The tortellini in broth with escarole gets a C.  It too uses chicken broth instead of water and, again, that’s a good thing.  But it is otherwise just a glorified soup.  Broth and bay leaf, escarole (I could only find kale), and cheese tortellini.  It’s not bad.  It’s just average.

Clean it out and cook it up

Big-batch vegetable soup

D ran a marathon.  Go D!  :)

D ran a marathon. Go D! 🙂

This recipe is spectacular for a few reasons.  It’s a freeze it, so right away you know I’m excited.  It’s soup.  Soup’s a good thing (cite: David Sedaris…does WordPress do footnotes?  What’s the HTML tag for footnotes?  Please don’t tell me).  Here’s why this recipe is great, and it’s not something that jumped right out at me.  Take a look at the last ingredient:

8 cups mixed fresh or frozen vegetables, such as carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, peas, potatoes, and zucchini

8 cups of whatevs.  How great is that?  Random half bags of frozen veggies in the freezer staring you in the face?  Toss em in!  Recipe last night only used one of two potatoes now you’re stuck with one potato?  Toss it in!  I had leftover calabcita from September’s squash substitutions.  I had a bunch of lima beans from making a succotash for J.  I had a ton of frozen corn because Everyday Food recipes use a surprising amount of corn.  It all went in there.  I think I actually used 6 or 7 different vegetables.  I think this makes this a great recipe for times when your freezer or fridge has an odd glut of vegetables.  Or for when lots of things look good at a farmers’ market and you can’t think of what else to do with it.  No matter the reason, this is a tasty soup.  I look forward to having it some night when I’m too lazy to cook and too guilty/cheap to order in.

Martha Stewart is trying to sell me a giant skillet

Shrimp Jambalaya

Looking so pretty and well-behaved...

Looking so pretty and well-behaved…

How big is the biggest skillet in your kitchen?  My biggest is a 12 inch non-stick skillet.  I also have what the Cuisinart website tells me is a 3 quart covered saute pan.  That thing is fairly tall, but it’s still not all that wide.  I was under the impression that my 12 inch skillet was a large skillet.  After all, at some point a bigger skillet would be too big for the burner on a standard range, right?  Martha Stewart seems to think otherwise.

This recipe said to use a large skillet.  I was already starting to worry when I added the sausage.  That filled the bottom, but the sausage pieces did shrink a little when they cooked.  Then I added the onions, celery, and garlic.  That filled the skillet about 3/4 full.  At that point, I was already lying to myself.  The veggies cooked down a little.  I cut back the tomatoes from the 8 plum tomatoes the recipe called for (eight?!?! really?!) to 5.  By the time I added what amounted to a heaping soup bowl full of diced tomatoes, three cups of water, and a cup of rice, I was willfully ignoring the laws of physics.  I covered the skillet, as instructed, and felt the lid press down on the mound of food.  What, precisely, did I think was going to happen?  What did happen is that the meal cooked away for 15 minutes making ominous noises and occasionally boiling over onto the stovetop.  When 15 minutes was up, I lifted the lid to see this:

It is the beating of his hideous heart!!!!

It is the beating of his hideous heart!!!!

I should have shot a video of this.  The red area in the center was pulsing up and down, not unlike a giant heart.  Happy belated Halloween!  The recipe said to cook until the rice was cooked and all of the water was absorbed.  Well, the rice was cooked and the water remained.  I tried cranking up the heat to boil off some of the water, but it wasn’t going to happen.  This was, essentially, a stew bubbling all the way to the top of the skillet.  So I did what any intelligent human being would do, I added a pound of shrimp and covered it again.  The shrimp didn’t really cook under those conditions.  I uncovered the skillet and let the boiling off/shrimp cooking process work itself out.  Once the shrimp weren’t grey anymore, I called it quits.  The stew jambalaya (or, stewbalaya, if you will) was done.  It was a sloppy mess, but it was cooked.

I served it with a slotted spoon, and you know what?  It was delicious.  The andouille sausage spiced the whole stewbalaya beautifully.  It was hot and spicy, and we both loved it.

This brings me to my dilemma.  I’d love to make it again, but how?  I think I’d have to make a half recipe or cook it in my two largest pans.  Or, I could do as Martha seems to suggest, and buy an enormous skillet.  I found a 20 inch skillet on Amazon, but the description says it’s for camping.  Surely I’m not expected to start a campfire, Martha.  I think the biggest one I can find for indoor use is this 15 inch skillet.  Honestly, I’m not sure it would be big enough for this recipe.

This experience definitely makes me nervous about all of the other skillet recipes in this issue.  She drops back to punt to B….

The rare Everyday Food bust

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Issue number 45 September 2007 p. 78 (no link found online)

It even looks like a crime scene

It even looks like a crime scene

prep time: around 20 minutes, depending on how quickly you can chop broccoli; total time: 40 minutes

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 of a big, white onion or one medium onion, diced
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • about 30 ounces of homemade veggie stock (the recipe says to use reduced sodium chicken broth, more on that later)
  • 1 large head broccoli (about 3 pounds) with the leaves yanked off. cut into florets with the stalks coarsely chopped.
  • 1 medium baking potato, peeled and diced small
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons…LOTS more on that later)
  1. Saute the onions in the oil over medium until soft, roughly 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add broth, broccoli, potato, and 2 cups water.  Season with salt again.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender and return to pot.  Remember not to overfill the blender jar, and do the towel over the blender lid opening trick to keep the hot soup from exploding all over.  Stir in cream and lemon juice, season again.
  3. (I never got to the freezer part of these directions.  Suffice it to say you let the soup cool, put it in freezer-safe containers with room to expand and freeze for up to three months.)

-adapted from Everyday Food Issue number 45 (September 2007) p. 77-78

Have you ever been relieved to throw food out?  I hate to waste, so I rarely throw things away unless they’ve gone bad.  This soup was an exception.

Let me begin by saying everything that was right about this recipe.  It’s a “Freeze It” recipe.  I love those recipes.  Of all of my EF go-to recipes, most of them are Freeze It’s.  I like having some buffer in my meal planning, so I don’t have to pick from three choices: cook, order in, or heat up a frozen pizza.  The beauty of a Freeze It is that it’s as good and wholesome as cooking, but as fast as heating the frozen pizza.  So this recipe had that going for it.  Also, it’s cream of broccoli soup.  When has that ever not been good?  Not that I can remember.  I was somewhat suspicious because this is not cheese and broccoli soup.  Obviously, cheese improves all soups by a power of…let’s say five to be on the conservative side.  Well, as long as we’re playing the hindsight game, the recipe also had a note saying “Just a small amount of potato and a whir in the blender make soups smooth and rich-tasting, so you can get away with using less cream.”  Potato + air = cream.  Interesting….

So it should have been a creamy, yummy, freezer-friendly recipe.  What it turned out as was an oddly sour and thin soup that was thrown away soon after eating.  The pieces of bread you see on top of the soup were my own addition.  I figured if cheese would have made the soup better, then I could add cheese to the top.  Plus, cheese toasts would give us something to dunk.  And I like bread with soup.  The cheese toasts were the best part of the meal.  I toasted pieces of wheat bread, threw some grated Swiss cheese on top, and put them under the broiler for a couple minutes until they were melted.  The toaster and the broiler?  Yeah.  I don’t trust my broiler not to burn things, so I try to use it as little as possible.  If I had a toaster oven, I would have used that.

Back to the icky soup.  Where did it go wrong?

Some theories:  Theory 1: I used homemade veggie stock and it was too rich or intensely flavored for the soup.  The stock itself was very robust and flavorful.  If you’re at all curious, here’s a good post on how to do it.  I got the recipe from this amazing book, The Urban Homestead.  It’s also where we got the homemade yogurt recipe.  You know how usually veggie stock doesn’t taste like much of anything?  This tasted like earth and roasted veggies and strong coffee and going to see a man about a horse.  I think it’s possible that my brawny stock was too much for cream of broccoli.  The recipe might have just needed a base slightly more flavorful than water.  If I ever try and cross this bridge again, I think I would try store-bought veggie stock or, better yet, use the chicken broth the recipe actually calls for.  Chicken broth would give it saltiness and richness without overpowering the rest of the soup.  I have to disagree with the reduced-sodium idea, though.  This recipe needs salt badly.

Theory 2: There is too much lemon juice in this recipe.  The recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  Before the lemon juice went it, this was a lackluster soup with an off-putting earthiness that probably needed a ton more salt (and some cheese).  After the lemon juice?  Shudder.  It tasted like sour broccoli blended with milk and heated up, which, come to think of it, was pretty much true.  A quick squeeze of lemon juice might have brightened this dish up a little, but 1/4 cup was far too much.

All that wasn’t enough to make me throw it out.  I threw it out because we forgot about it after dinner and left it on the stovetop over night.  I’m kind of a food safety nut (a food safety nut who eats cookie dough, so that’s the glass house from which I throw all of my rocks).  I didn’t think it was safe to eat a cream soup that sat out for 12 hours.  Boo hoo.  Off to the trash, sour soup!

It was the rare Everyday Food bust.