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Posts tagged “comfort food

Creamy Mushroom and Leek Soup

These wintry days call for warm soothing meals at home.  Soup  with savory leeks and mushrooms in a creamy broth is the ticket.  Leeks are of the mildest among the onion family.  They cook up to be so tender and tasty and paired with the mild taste of mushrooms, this soup will melt away those chilly winds and give you plenty of energy to shovel the sidewalk yet again.  It’s so easy to make too.  All you need are:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks cleaned and chopped in 1/4 inch slices
  • 5 mushrooms (any kind) thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 quart low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup cream (I used heavy)
  • 3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First saute the leeks and mushrooms in the olive oil until  tender.  Add the garlic and stir it in to bloom the flavor  Add the broth, milk and cream and stir in the potato flakes.  Stir in the remaining seasonings and let it simmer about 3 minutes.

Now at least six of you can have a nice hearty bowl of soup to warm you up all over.  For extra hardiness you could add some left over chicken cut into cubes  or add more pepper flakes to clear the sinuses during a nasty cold.  This soup will provide relief and give you energy to muddle on through all that snow.100_1118

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Ratatouille fresh from the garden

100_0433The quintessential vegetable casserole is what the French call ratatouille.  It’s sort of the comfort food of summer gardeners.  There are many variations but I kept mine very simple with only zucchini, tomato, onion, cabbage, garlic and 100_0442herbs in a creamy Gouda cheese sauce.  Nothing says summer like vine ripened tomatoes and I’ve recently found myself up to my ears in them 100_0444thanks to my friend Gayle.  She and her husband put in at least six ten foot rows each year.  The yield this year is off the charts.  We’ve had lots of good rain this spring and it seems to have been spring for half the summer here in St. Louis.  Only recently have we had the traditional high humidity and heat.  That’s what those tomatoes love.  So just now those juicy fruits are going strong on hearty vines.  Even the ones in pots on my porch are 100_0447producing well.  Every windowsill has at least six tomatoes glowing red in the sun.

100_0449I chose five medium and very ripe ones along with half of an overgrown zucchini to make this dish.  First, I preheated the oven to 375° then I 100_0451sliced everything uniformly and arranged the vegetables in neat rows of alternating vegetables.  In a skillet I made a roux with olive oil, garlic, a hunk of chopped cabbage, a diced onion and a couple of tablespoons of flour, salt, pepper and freshly chopped thyme and parsley.  I cooked it all down until it bubbled into a golden brown.  A cup or so of milk went in a little at a time and was whisked together until it thickened.  Gouda cheese which is sharp like cheddar and melts very well was shredded along with  a bit of leftover cheddar, added to the skillet and was whisked in as well.  The sauce became nice and creamy and I poured it over the tomato and zucchini.

100_0454For a topping I pulsed a few slices of bread in the food processor with a pinch more of the herbs from the garden , pulsed in a dash of olive oil and sprinkled the top with the crumbs.  Into the oven it went for about 45 minutes until the top was crisp 100_0457and golden and the sauce bubbled up the sides.  Before we could dig into this casserole, it needed to cool down quite a bit before it could be served.  100_0464We survived the wait and boy, was it worth it!

You could use a wider variety of vegetables in this dish.  Often mushrooms Green peppers and eggplant are sliced and arranged in layers too.  Fresh herbs from the garden like basil, thyme oregano, tarragon and parsley can be added…what ever suits your taste.  I went the simple route and worked with what was abundant at the time.  I will have the opportunity to try more of a variety the next time.  My peppers are getting bigger and I just bought some porcine mushrooms.    Stay tuned!100_0467100_0505


Steak Soup

100_9898A while back Mr. Delicious and I bought a portion of a grass fed cow.  We have a freezer full of a nice variety of meat now…some of the best meat I’ve ever tasted.  Even the cheaper cuts turn out to be something special.  I’ve already posted a 100_9922recipe for Swiss Steak made with the round.  It was so good I had to make another one.  I did it the usual way, pounding and pricking, salting and searing, adding flour then liquid, then onions and mushrooms and letting it braise for hours in the electric skillet.   Being a rather large piece of meat there was plenty left over.

You could never overcook round steak.  Cooking it only makes it more tender and that’s what makes it the perfect meat for a hearty soup.
I began by cutting up the remaining steak into tiny cubes.  The gravy made by braising the steak really offered tons of good flavor so I made sure to reserve a bit of it to add as well.  In a heavy 100_9931enameled pot, I sauteed the usual vegetables…carrots, celery, and onion.   Frozen green beans cut in small segments were also added.  I want this soup to have good body so I sprinkled about three tablespoons of flour over  the vegetables, stirred it all in and let it cook a minute or so to form a brown layer on the bottom of the pan.

A few more seconds and this brown layer could turn to a burnt layer so I quickly poured in some water to capture this perfect stage of golden brown and prevent it from going over the edge.  100_9937The water soon began to blend everything together and thicken.  I added the rest of the water, totaling two quarts then added the meat and remaining gravy with all of its sumptuous flavor.  At this point some final seasoning needed to go in the mix.

100_9938Red wine added a deeper color as well as deeper flavor so about a quarter of a cup went in.  As the soup began to boil, two teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of pepper didn’t hurt.  100_9943Finally, to give it a hit of zippy tang I added about three tablespoons of A-1 sauce (I would never put this on a steak but I love how the stuff adds brightness to sauces and soups like this).

All that this soup needed now was to simmer and let its variety of colors and flavors blend and become a very special tasting soup.  In the wintertime in St. Louis (or really anywhere) enjoying a soup like this is a perfect way to stay happy and warm.

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The Taste Of Summer Tomatoes On This Cold Winter Day

As expected the weather here in St. Louis took another turn.  Our dear Stan Musial was laid to rest on a brisk Monday, it got even warmer the next day. While it reached 70° yesterday, it is now 30°, flurrying with snow, and so windy it feels much colder.  It seemed just like summer yesterday…as if I could go out, listen to the Cardinals on the radio, and pick green beans, peppers and tomatoes from the garden.  But to go out among the bare trees and dried grass and scrub to fill the bird feeders, gave me a good shove back to reality…it sure is January!49236

My craving for the taste of summer was satisfied by thinking up a meal made of summer tomatoes I canned, herbs I grew and dried, and fresh onions which I always keep in the ‘fridge.   And this meal of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches is how I transported myself back to summer while enjoying, warmth and comfort in winter.  For the tomato soup I used:

  • 49237One quart size jar of canned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • one finely diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

To make this soup saute the onion a bit in the olive oil using a good size pot.  Add the herbs and garlic, and cook until the onions are nicely browned on the edges.  Add the 49227juice only from the tomatoes to deglaze the pot.  Using a processor or blender, puree the onions, herbs and the juice from the pot, add the 49229whole tomatoes and pulse a few times until the mixture is finely chopped…don’t forget to pull out the bay leaf temporarily.   Put the mixture back in the pot replace the bay leaf , add the dairy products, the 49230sugar, salt and pepper, then  let it simmer a while.  Check the flavor and add what it might need.  Mine needed a pinch more salt and sugar.

While the soup was simmering, I cut up some vegetables…green peppers and cucumber, and I got out the griddle and made grilled cheese sandwiches on buttered French bread with American cheese…a fine fusion.

49228When everything was done, I plated up  this meal of what I call the ultimate comfort food.  We were definitely comforted by 49233these warm summery flavors, the warmth of the soup, and especially the warmth of each other’s company.  We all had fun reminiscing about summer, all those lovely tomatoes, and while I cleaned up I enjoyed watching Jeff and Julia have a heated match of Battle Ship, one of our favorite board games.  Julia’s naval prowess was superior and she soundly whipped her father at sea.49235


Soup For A Snowy Day

When the in laws were in town over the Thanksgiving holiday I made this delicious tortellini soup.    Snow is in the forecast for Christmas and I want to have a big pot of

The meaty part of the soup

The meaty part of the soup

soup ready for the next set of relatives that might happen by.  Today this Christmas eve, with wind chills in the 20’s and a leaden sky, it’s the perfect day for a flavorful savory soup like this.  I’m making a huge pot to feed as many cold and hungry travelers as I can in the next couple of days.  It’s so easy to make too.

The Italian part of the soup

The Italian part of the soup

 

These are the ingredients you’ll need to put in a good size stock pot:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 links of salcicca Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 32 oz. box of beef or chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 15 oz can of Italian style diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1  9-12 oz. package of fresh tortellini
  • 2 cups fresh spinach chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Brown the onions, the meat, and deglaze with a bit of broth

Brown the onions, the meat, and deglaze with a bit of broth

First, heat the olive oil in the pot, add the onion.  Let it get a bit browned on the edges and add the sausage.  Cook it thoroughly,

When the soup is boiling add the pasta

When the soup is boiling add the pasta

breaking it up while it browns.  Add a bit of the broth to deglaze the pot.  Stir, scraping the bottom of the brown bits until it is all

Add  the spinach and let it all boil for about 10 minutes before serving

Add the spinach and let it all boil for about 10 minutes before serving

dissolved into the liquid.  Add the rest of the broth, tomatoes, water, salt, and spices and bring to a boil.  When the soup is boiling add the tortellini and spinach and boil for about 10 minutes.  Lower the flame,  serve some up, and let it warm you all up on the inside.  With this in your tummy you’ll be able to tolerate scraping off the windshield, making snowmen, and shoveling off the walk so much better.  Have a very Merry (and warm) Christmas everyone!

Looks so Christmasy!

Looks so Christmasy!


A Worthy Tuber

I want to put as few words in this post as possible because words aren’t enough to describe the warm yumminess of the sweet potato.   Here’s the how to:  Two big baked potatoes, 10 minutes in the microwave, leave in for 20 minutes after cooking.  Cut open, add a dot of butter, and a teaspoon of brown sugar… but I’ll let the pictures do the talking. 

Enjoy!


Old Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

The best thing my Grandma Mary ever taught me besides how to be a good Christian, is how to make chicken and dumplings.  It’s one of those recipes that can be made with less than half a dozen ingredients.

  • 3 chicken leg quarters
  • 5 quarts boiling water
  • 1 tbsp salt in the stock, 1 tsp salt for the dumplings
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 5 cups flour plus some for dusting the work surface

In a large stock pot get the water boiling, add a tablespoon of salt, add the chicken and let that boil on high heat for about 45 minutes to one hour.  When the chicken is looking like it will separate from the bones easily, set it aside to cool but keep the broth on low heat while you make the dumplings.

For the strap-like dumplings, put the 5 cups flour in a large mixing bowl.  Add the salt and pepper, then with a ladle (mine has a 3/4 cup bowl) add three ladle’s full of the stock.  It is best to skim as much fat in these ladles as possible by just barely submerging the rim of the ladle as to skimming the surface.  When you have collected three ladles, stir the stock, salt, pepper, and flour together to make a soft sticky dough.  Turn one-fourth of the dough out at a time out on a generously floured surface and fold it over a few times making sure the dough doesn’t stick to the surface by adding more flour as needed.  With a dough this sticky you won’t need to worry about adding too much extra flour.  Just keep enough flour under the dough so it won’t stick to the surface, the rolling-pin and even your hands.  Roll out each fourth one at a time, each time making a sheet about 12 to 14 inches wide.  Using a pastry wheel, cut the dough in long strips about and inch wide.  They should be floured enough to slide off of the surface easily.  Collect all of the straps a few at a time and place them into the stock which should be back up to the boiling point at this time.

Boil the dumplings while you de-bone the chicken.  It should be cool enough to handle easily.  Remove the skin, any sinew, vessels, and of course the bones and cartilage and discard. Pull the meat apart into small bits and throw them into the boiling stock and dumplings.  Continue boiling for about 40 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally making sure nothing is sticking and burning on the bottom.  The stock will thicken and become a silky sauce.  The dumplings will have become nice and tender.  Check the salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.  Then dish up a bowl of pure country comfort to those you love.  I’m sure it will be a hit…even a tradition as it has been with my family for generations.