Corngasm

IMG_1.JPG

If all of the scientists in the world got together with all of the chefs and brought a giant pile of corn to a mystical temple of food and drink, with muses and angels dancing around them, they could not produce a more rapturous dish than the dish you see above: Jasper White’s Corn Chowder (click those words for the recipe). It has bacon, it has butter, it has cream. It has tumeric, which turns it that gorgeous golden color. A pount of Yukon Gold potatoes makes it hardy, but it’s the corn (fresh from the farmer’s market) that shines in this dish. I served it with a simple tomato salad–bright red tomatoes, red onion, basil–and then a peach plum cobbler for dessert. Summer doesn’t get better than this–make it while you can!

Hey Muchacho, Make Gazpacho (and Parmesan Grilled Cheese!)

IMG_1.JPG

Hot? Hungry? Have I got a solution for you. It comes courtesy of Suzanne Goin and her “Sunday Suppers at Lucques.” It’s her recipe for Yellow Tomato Gazpacho and you can read it here. It’s INCREDIBLY easy, and INCREDIBLY rewarding. All you need are yellow tomatoes, a jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Oh, and a cucumber. I leave the cucumber for last because there’s a funny story about me buying the cucumber that involves a FOOD CELEBRITY from TV, but you’ll have to click ahead.

Continue Reading

Green Garlic Soup

IMG_1.JPG

At the farmer’s market last week, I spotted green garlic and I recalled a whole section about green garlic in my favorite cookbook: Chez Panisse Cooking. On page 105, Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters write: “Garlic is commonly used as a mature plant when the bulb containing many cloves has formed. Green garlic is the same plant pulled from the ground at a much earlier stage, before the bulb forms and when the plant resembles a leek, with a stalk about 1/2 inch in diameter. Until recently, green garlic never appeared in the market and was largely unrecognized by cooks. The quality of green garlic is unique and of great use in the kitchen. When cooked it has none of the hot, pungent qualities of fresh garlic cloves. Its flavor, although unmistakably associated with the mature form, is much milder.”

When I got home I took their advice: “The flavor of green garlic is most clearly captured in a pureed soup made with new potatoes and finished with cream.” Here’s how you make it.

Continue Reading

Fall Out Of Fall With A Matzah Ball

Every year, around this time, it happens. The weather turns cold and I get a cold. And when I get a cold I make chicken soup. But this year, instead of the usual egg noodles I add from the bag, I decided to make my first matzah balls using the recipe from Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking In America.”

IMG_1.JPG

Doesn’t that soup look great? Let me let you in on a secret.

Continue Reading

Make Room For Mushroom Soup

There are certain recipes that, when you begin them, you instantly know that this is something you will want to do again and again: that these steps, these mini-procedures, have an intrinsic logic to them that will contribute to a glorious whole, even before the glorious whole is achieved. That’s how I felt tonight making the mushroom soup from the Balthazar cookbook. (Note: Someone recently gave me the Balthazar cookbook. That’s why I have the Balthazar cookbook.) The end result, in my mind, is the Platonic ideal of mushroom soup. As you can see, I served it with a salad that had a sliced Bosc pear and goat cheese crumbled up, and some bread.

IMG_1.JPG

The rosemary garnish in the soup is there to indicate–and I learnt this trick from (who else!?) Ina Garten–that there’s rosemary in the soup itself. In fact, rosemary is where this recipe begins. [Well, sort of, after all the prep work.] Click ahead and see why this soup recipe may be one of the most sensible and worthwhile recipes I’ve yet encountered.

Continue Reading

Why Bad Soups Happen To Good People [Plus: My Newest Kitchen Gadget!]

Usually I put the name of the dish I’m writing about in the title of the post, but if I were to do that here you’d probably say: “Ummm, Adam, it’s Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage Soup. That’s gross. Of course it’s nasty.” And, inevitably, if I linked to it you’d discover its source: Emeril Live. You’d judge me cruelly and take away my foodie license. But for what it’s worth, here’s the finished product:

IMG_1.JPG

It doesn’t look bad, I’ll concede, but it’s not a soup I’d make again and it’s certainly not one I’d recommend. Mostly, it just tastes bland; and when it doesn’t taste bland, it tastes like sausage—but not good sausage, just greasy and a bit grimy. It reminds me of the episode of Roseanne where Becky has a hangover and Darlene’s trying to make her puke. “You know when you bite down into a sausage, and there’s that little hard bit?”

Right, so I’m not selling you on the soup. Why in the world would you want to click to read more? Enter at your own risk. [NOTE: If you do enter, you’ll get to see my newest kitchen gadget!]

Continue Reading

Hallelujah! Chicken Soup From Scratch

Sisters and brothers! Brothers and sisters! Who among you is coughing? Who among you is sneezing? Whose throat is so sore it’s like you gargled sand paper? I’m Reverend Pastor Amateur Gourmet and I’m here to heal you with the yellow waters of homemade chicken soup. You may think to yourself: “Heck no! I ain’t go time for no homemade chicken soup! I’m opening a can!” But you’d be wrong, my friends, you’d be dead wrong. For one whiff of this Godly creation and you’ll be better restored than the Sisteen Chapel. Behold the vision:

IMG_1.JPG

A bowl of this is within your reach. Click here to read the recipe in great detail, or let me walk you through it. I’ll show you how easy it can be.

What you need, more than anything else, is a big ‘ole pot. My biggest pot is the Le Crueset Dutch Oven I purchased a while back. But even this holds little more than two quarts of water. How could I proceed when the recipe calls for four quarts?

Reach to the heavens and you shall find your answer. Or turn to the Steve Martin section at your video store and look for the title “Leap Of Faith.” That’s all it takes.

I layered a raw cut-up chicken on the bottom of my dutch oven. I didn’t use all the pieces, just as many as I could get in without overloading it. Then I poured in about 8 cups of water (that’s 2 quarts). I brought it to a boil:

IMG_2.JPG

I skimmed the fat off and then added all my vegetables:

IMG_3.JPG

That’s: 1 onion unpeeled (nice! you don’t have to peel it! (though, I did, ultimately, cut it in half to help it fit); 2 parsnips peeled; 1/4 cup chopped celery leaves, 2 stalks celery and their leaves; 1/2 a rutabaga peeled and cut in half again; half a turnip, peeled and quartered; 2 carrots peeled and left whole; 3 Tbs chopped parslsey; 3 Tbs snipped dill; 1/2 Tbs salt, 1/8th tsp pepper.

Once in, the very crowded pot looks like this:

IMG_4.JPG

You lower it to a simmer, you cover it, and you let it go like that for two and a half hours. Start this at 4 and it’ll be ready at 6. And look at the transformation that takes place. You start out with raw chicken, raw vegetables, and cold water and you end up with:

IMG_5.JPG

Hallelujah! You’ve got soup!

So then you fish out all the vegetables and dump them: they’re no good–they’ve lost their flavor to the water. (That’s what makes the soup taste so good.) Then you take out the chicken and you let it cool. When it’s cool, get rid of the skin and cut up the chicken into little pieces. You’ll only use about half, use the other half for chicken salad the next day (which I did and it was tasty).

Then with the remaining liquid, strain it into another pot.

Here’s where you’re supposed to refrigerate it and let the fat collect for you to skim off. I was too impatient to complete this step. So I put the stock back on the heat, I chopped up a carrot, some celery, some leftover rutabaga and added it to the simmering broth. Then I added some egg noodles (acutally, I added WAY too many egg noodles: the next day, when I went to reheat the soup, the noodles had absorbed all the liquid! So be careful!) and waited about 6 minutes for them to cook. When they did, I ladeled myself a bowl, garnished with dill and look how beautiful:

IMG_10.JPG

There’s nothing like making your own chicken soup. If you haven’t done it, I highly suggest you try it—you’ll never wanna eat canned soup again. And my cold? It’s getting better. True, I started an antibiotic yesterday (my throat was infected) but I only credit the antibiotic with 20% of my healing. The rest is in the soup. Can I get an amen?

Call Me Corny But I Love Corn Soup with Salsa

The nicest thing about Alice Waters’ Vegetable book (which I’ve been raving about for a few posts now; and which, as I’ve mentioned before, was a gift from one of my readers) is that it helps you become a seasonal cook without having to make too many changes to your life. To really understand seasonal cooking, you’d really have to know a bit about the land, the climate, your part of the country. With this book, you really just need to know what looks fresh in the supermarket and the farmer’s market. Corn’s still in season and so I put two and two together, flipped to Alice’s corn section (that sounded dirty) and made this wonderful corn soup with salsa.

IMG_1.JPG

To start out, you should make the salsa. The salsa here isn’t really the kind of salsa you associate with “salsa.” It’s basically roasted tomatoes with sage, olive oil and corn. You’ll need:

1 large ripe tomato

1 sprig thyme

2 sage leaves

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbs fresh corn kernels

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Peel and seed the tomato…

Here I got to use my brand new paring knife that came with the knife set I bought through Elise’s site a few weeks ago!

IMG_2.JPG

It’s my new favorite knife, mostly because it’s really sharp. Where were we?

and cut into 1/2 inch dice. In a small baking dish, toss the tomato with the thyme and sage and 1 Tbs of the olive oil. (I couldn’t find any thyme at Whole Foods which made me sad because thyme’s my favorite herb.)

IMG_3.JPG

Put the dish in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the oven, allow to cool

IMG_4.JPG

and remove the thyme sprig and the sage leaves. Toss together with the remaining Tbs of olive oil and the corn, and season to taste.

IMG_5.JPG

As you can see, I added cilantro because I’m a big cilantro fan. I should also say here that this salsa is optional. Alice writes: “Other garnishes to consider [for the soup] are roasted red peppers, pureed or chopped; or chopped hot chiles and cilantro, with or without creme fraiche.”

Now then: the soup. I halved the recipe for myself but I’ll give you the full recipe here in case you want to make this for your family. You will need:

1 medium onion

1/4 small carrot

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1 small piece prosciutto or smoked bacon (I used bacon)

3 cups fresh corn kernels**

4 cups chicken stock

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs half-and-half

1 cup corn and roasted tomato salsa (which you’ve already made)

**To get the kernels off the corn without having the corn fly all over the place, I tried a technique I saw on Alton Brown. I may have totally misremembered this, but as it occurred to me you take a small bowl and put it in a pie pan and the walls of the pie pan catch the bits of corn as you cut down.

IMG_6.JPG

As you can see, I made a mess, but not as big a mess as I did the last time I cut corn.

Now then, the recipe.

Peel and finely dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and stew slowly in the butter with a little water, covered, until the onion is translucent. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and prosciutto or bacon, and stew for 3 or 4 minutes more. Add the corn and cook for another minute or so.

Pour in the stock, add the salt, bring the soup to a boil and shut off the heat. Cover and let stand for 3 minutes.

I should point out here that I used the Sarah Moulton technique of putting the cobs* in with the corn to add flavor. Since you’ll be pureeing everything in a moment, it’s very easy to take the cobs out afterwards. And even if it doesn’t do much, it feels like it does. [*NOTE: originally I wrote “husks.” That was wrong! Don’t put husks in your soup!]

IMG_8.JPG

Remove the thyme, bay leaf, pork (and the cobs!) and puree the soup in a blender for 3 minutes.

I used my food processor:

IMG_9.JPG

And encountered some trouble when liquid came pouring out of every hole:

IMG_10.JPG

But for the most part, the soup got blended the way it needed to be blended. Here it is, post-puree:

IMG_11.JPG

After that, it’s easy.

Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, add the half-and-half, reheat the soup to just below a boil, and serve, garnishing each bowl with a spoonful of the corn and roasted tomato salsa.

It’s cool because the salsa really acts as the soup’s–umm–“stuff.” You know like the stuff that’s in clam chowder? It’s the stuff you fish for when you eat. And it really makes the dish more colorful and vibrant. I served it with a simple salad and extra salsa on the side.

IMG_15.JPG

It’s a great recipe to make with the last of the summer corn. And if you’re not a seasonal shopper, what a great way to start. You can wear your seasonal shopper t-shirt.