November – Instant Vegetable Stock

November – Instant Vegetable Stock

Ok, this isn’t exactly instant. It is, however, pretty darn close. And, it is a heck of a lot better tasting than those commercial canned or boxed vegetable stocks. It doesn’t require hours of simmering on the stove, it doesn’t take up half your freezer, and you don’t have to defrost frozen blocks of stock. You will have quarts of stock available in the time it takes water to boil. Is it sounding more instant by the minute? I find that canned or boxed stock are completely bland and out of balance, they can ruin a good soup or stew recipe. If you have the time, by all means make magic mineral broth, it is amazing. But if you don’t, keep a jar of this “instant vegetable stock” in your fridge and a few extra jars in the freezer.

Take a look at all these good things in this stock…

Instant Vegetable Stock

Instant Vegetable Stock

What do you think?

So, here is the trick. In careful proportions you process the above ingredients to a fine granular paste, add sea salt as a preservative, and portion into small jars. To make stock, add a rounded teaspoon (or more for a stronger stock) into a cup of very hot water and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Dada! Instant vegetable stock.

This is the time of year you need to have stock on hand for soups, stews, and gravy. Make a batch, it comes together quickly.

Instant Vegetable Stock Base

Instant Vegetable Stock Base

This makes about 4 8-oz jars. It halves well if you want to make less.

Ingredients, all measured after washing, trimming and/or peeling:

  • 9 oz leeks
  • 7 oz fennel
  • 7 oz carrots
  • 9 oz celery root
  • 2 oz sun-dried tomatoes (not the ones in oil)
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 1/2 oz Italian parsley
  • 3 1/2 oz cilantro
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fine sea salt

Method:

  1. A food processor is essential to this recipe. Simply put the ingredients into the processor and blend together until you have a fine, moist, granular paste.  My processor is not huge, so I made the stock base in batches, dumped each batch into a large bowl, and mixed it all together with the salt at the end.
  2. Spoon into clean jars with tight-fitting lids.
  3. Keep one jar in the fridge and put the others in the freezer. Use within 6 months.
  4. To use, stir about 1 teaspoon into a cup of very hot water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. If you need a clear broth, strain it after it sits.
    Vegetable Stock

    Vegetable Stock

    Instant Vegetable Stock Base

    Instant Vegetable Stock Base

    Note: This stock base is salty, you may not need to add any additional salt when using it. Consider using a teaspoon instead of salt in some recipes, it will enhance the over-all flavor of the dish.

I got this idea from the wonderful folks at Food52.

October – Jook or Congee or Rice Porridge

October – Jook or Congee or Rice Porridge

Jook or Congee

Jook or Congee

All 3 names (jook, congee, and rice porridge) refer to rice cooked in a lot of water to form a thick or creamy consistency.

The most accurate English name should be rice porridge. But in various parts of China and places with overseas Chinese, there are many variations in the names as well as how the rice porridge is made and served.

Jook/Juk is the English transliteration of the Cantonese name for rice porridge. It resembles a thick soup and ingredients like minced meat or seafood are served in the porridge, making it a one-dish meal. The proliferation of Cantonese-styled restaurants on the west coast means that this is the most familiar version of rice porridge.

Travellers to Southeast Asia will have encountered other types of rice porridge such as the Teochew (chiu chow) plain rice porridge, the Hokkien sweet potato porridge and the Teochew fish porridge, especially in Singapore. There are also the Japanese okayu, the Korean juk, the Thai jok, and the Filipino lugao and the rice pudding (albeit sweet).

Jook is a very forgiving dish. It doesn’t matter if you are a great cook or a rookie. It is a wonderful restorative soup. Have it sweet or savoury, thick or thin, luxurious or simple. It is up to you. It has a long history of use as dietary therapy. Some of the oldest Chinese imperial records have mentions of it as being a premier health food. Its healing power is entrenches in the chinese collective memory. When you are sick, eat rice porridge. Period. – See more at: http://www.homemade-chinese-soups.com/congee.html#sthash.J53eAebv.dpuf.

This is my go to soup when I am feeling under the weather, or felling like I am about to go under the weather. The basic ingredients are very simple, rice (white or brown), ginger, and water. Good for upset tummies or run down immune systems. In China this is often the first food fed to babies. You can fancy it up with chicken (a bone stock is wonderful and nutritious), pork, pickled vegetables, roast vegetables (winter squash, yum), garnishes, and a savory sauce. Or, simply eat is as is if you are feeling unwell.

Although not a favorite for anyone else in my family (they don’t know what they are missing!), I keep a couple of quarts in my freezer just for me. A few years ago when undergoing chemo for breast cancer it was the food I craved.

Chicken Jook or Congee

  • 6 chicken thighs, skin and any visible fat removed
  • 1 cup of rice, any kind
  • 8 cups of water
  • I large knob of ginger, peeled – about the size of a wine cork
  • Garnishes such as chopped scallions, fried shallots, pickled or fermented vegetables, chopped roast peanuts, soy sauce, roast sesame oil, chili sauce, and Yum Sauce
  1. Place the chicken in a large pot, cover with the water and add the ginger.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low and cover.
  3. Simmer for 60 to 90 minutes until the rice melts into the soup.
  4. Cool, shred the chicken and add back into the soup.
  5. Reheat and serve garnished with your choice.
  6. If reheating you will probably need to add more water as it thickens on cooling.
Jook with Yum Sauce

Jook with Yum Sauce

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Congee or Jook

Congee or Jook

A quart of this soup in your freezer is an insurance policy against those days when you are feeling under the weather and/or in need of comfort. They sell this in the International Terminal at San Francisco Airport, I almost always have a bowl before embarking on a grueling flight to Europe or elsewhere.

March in the Kitchen – Avgolemono Soup (Greek Lemon Soup)

March in the Kitchen – Avgolemono Soup (Greek Lemon Soup)

Are you feeling under the weather? There are certainly some horrible colds going around, and they are going around…and around…and around again. This soup is warming, nutritious, easy on the stomach, and quick (as well as gluten-free if you use rice). Please use the best stock you have on hand, this is the perfect time for magic mineral broth or Parmesan broth or your homemade chicken stock (or in a pinch the best commercial stock you can find).

Avgolemono (or Greek Lemon Soup) is a classic Greek dish. Some recipes add cooked chicken at the end, but it’s not necessary. Make this soup with rice or orzo pasta. I prefer rice as it thickens the soup slightly, giving it more body. The snap and snow peas are not a classic part of the recipe. I picked a handful in the garden just before making the soup for lunch. I was lucky to have stock in the freezer and some leftover rice from takeout Chinese. The whole thing took about 15 minutes from start to finish!

Avgolemono soup

Ingredients for Avgolemono soup

Avgolemono (egg and lemon) Soup (2 lunch sized portions or 4 starter portions)

  • 4 cups of broth (chicken, vegetarian or Parmesan)
  • 1 cup of cooked long grain rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 lemons (juice and zest of one), plus extra juice if needed at the end
  • Optional small handful of snap and/or sugar peas – sliced thinly lengthwise
  • Sea or kosher salt
  • Parsley for garnish
Avgolemono Soup

Avgolemono Soup

  1. Bring stock to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the rice to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the optional snap/snow peas to the saucepan.
  4. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk the eggs and lemon juice until frothy.
  5. Add one cup of hot stock to the eggs, whisking to combine.
  6. Transfer the egg/stock mixture back to the saucepan
  7. Cook, while stirring for about 2 minutes more. DO NOT LET THE STOCK BOIL AS IT WILL CURDLE THE EGGS.
  8. Taste to see if you need some more lemon, the soup should have a definite lemon flavor.
  9. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Soup

Avgolemono Soup

December in the kitchen – Pear and butternut squash soup

December in the kitchen – Pear and butternut squash soup

Heavy rain was forecasted for the San Francisco bay area today, I think there was way too much media hype about this storm. It frightened everyone, they even closed the schools. This is how winter used to be before the drought of the last three years. A tree came down at the end of our street and there is some minor flooding in the neighborhood because of fallen leaves in the storm drains. It’s a perfect day for staying in and making soup.

I’ve wanted to make this recipe for some time; it is adapted from one in the cookbook “plum gorgeous” by Romney Steele. The original recipe calls for a medium butternut or kabocha squash, and curry powder. As usual, I ended up improvising. I couldn’t find the curry powder (the spice drawer needs a major overhaul) and my fridge only had 2 cups of cut-up butternut squash, not enough. I wasn’t about to brave the storm for a trip to the grocery store. I used the butternut and added 2 small sweet potatoes. As a substitute for the curry powder, I used Ras el Hanout. It’s a spice blend I purchased a few weeks ago from the Oaktown Spice Shop. You’ll find a link to their website here. If you get a chance to visit, don’t miss it. It’s heavenly just walking in the door, the aromas are amazing! Ras el Hanout is a custom blend of paprika, cumin, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, cassia, turmeric, grains of paradise, allspice, nutmeg, mace and cayenne. Wow! They recommend using it to season chicken, lamb tagines, or scent rice. Using the curry powder suggested in the initial recipe would also be excellent. Mine eventually turned up in the back of the drawer, too late for the soup.

To make this recipe vegan, I used coconut water instead of chicken broth and added a cup of coconut milk at the end for richness. It ended up being both warming and delicious, perfect for a stormy day.

Soup - pear, butternut squash, and sweet potato

Pear and butternut squash soup

Pear, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 cups cubed butternut or other squash
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 large or 3 small pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of Ras el Hanout or curry powder
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skinned and finely grated
  • 4 cups of coconut water or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the squash into large chunks and arrange in a baking pan, cut side down. Prick the sweet potatoes and add them to the pan (cut them in half if large). Add about ¼ cup of water to the pan, drizzle with coconut oil, and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. They should be soft.
  3. Cool, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a heavy pot. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook on medium heat until lightly browned and soft. Do not let the garlic burn.
  5. Stir in the Ras el Hanout or curry powder and fresh ginger. Mix with the vegetables for about 30 seconds, until aromatic.
  6. Add the squash, sweet potato, pears, coconut water or stock, and ½ teaspoon of salt to the pot.
  7. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the vegetables and pears are soft.
  8. Puree in the blender or with an immersion blender.
  9. Add the coconut milk and gently reheat, thin with water or stock if needed.
  10. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.
Pear soup

Pear and Butternut Squash Soup

This soup was perfect, a little sweet but with a spicy kick.

I think the folks at Gluten Free Fridays will like this one since it is both gluten free and vegetarian. Come see what else is cooking.

October in the kitchen – Roast Squash Soup with Cumin, Coriander, and Turmeric

October in the kitchen – Roast Squash Soup with Cumin, Coriander, and Turmeric

Have you ever fallen in love with smells and flavors? I can’t seem to get enough of this combination. It is the essence of autumn. This mix of spices has taken hold of my imagination and I’m running with it. You’ll find the same spices used in my post “Chicken with Cumin, Coriander, and Turmeric”. As I said before, I didn’t invent it and can’t take credit. It first came to my attention in a recipe for roast carrots in the New York Times. Martha Rose Shulman used the same spices in a recipe for “Roasted Carrots With Turmeric and Cumin” (and she based hers on one by Suzanne Goin in the “The A.O.C. Cookbook”). That Cookbook is definitely on my holiday wish list!

This soup has that same winning spice combination; plus it’s the signature color of October and Halloween, bright orange. I used a combination of Red Kuri (a Japanese variety, tear drop shaped, in the picture below on the far right) and banana squash. You could use butternut or almost any other variety now available at your local farmer’s market or grocery store.

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This is the perfect warming soup to serve in pretty mugs while you greet the little ghosts and goblins at the door on Halloween. Our doorbell rings constantly and it’s difficult to find time to eat a regular meal.

 

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Turmeric is a very powerful medicinal spice and is frequently used in traditional Chinese and Indian cooking. It gives food that lovely mustard yellow color. It has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The presence of black pepper is said to enhance the absorption of curcumin (active ingredient in turmeric) by 2000%. Make sure you add it at the end.

This recipe is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and delicious!

Roast Squash Soup with Cumin, Cardamom, and Turmeric

Serves 4-6

  • winter squash, seeded, cut into wedges, enough to make 4 cups, cooked
  • 4 tablespoons of olive or coconut oil – divided
  • Handful of thyme branches or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chili flakes, depending on how spicey you want it
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can of coconut milk, I used low fat
  • 2 cups of coconut water or vegetable stock, plus additional to thin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped cilantro, pumpkin and pomegranate seeds as a garnish  

First roast the squash:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add the squash
  3. Brush the squash with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (melted if required), top with the thyme leaves or branches, and about 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  4. Roast for 1 hour until soft and browned in places
  5. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh into a 1 qt. measuring cup or bowl. You should have about 4 cups of cooked squash.

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While the squash is cooking, prepare the spices:

  1. Toast the cumin and cardamom seeds in a small dry skillet over med-high heat, keep tossing and watch carefully so they don’t burn
  2. When they start to brown and fill the kitchen with the most amazing aroma, remove them from the heat to a small plate
  3. Once cool, grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
  4. Mix with the turmeric and chili flakesIMG_0157

Prepare the soup:

  1. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat
  2. Sauté the onion until soft, about 10 minutes, don’t let it brown
  3. Add the spice mixture to the skillet or pan and stir until combined and aromatic, about 30 seconds
  4. Add the squash to the pan, sauté for a minute
  5. Add the coconut milk and water
  6. Bring to a simmer
  7. Either blend with an emersion blender or cool slightly and use a regular blender. Be careful to vent the top and fill it no more than half full so you don’t burn yourself
  8. If the soup is too thick, add more coconut water or regular water. The amount you need will be somewhat dependent on the type of squash, I used another 1 1/2 cups.
  9. Return the soup to the pot (if you used a blender) and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
  10. Taste for salt (it might need quite a bit) and add some freshly ground pepper
  11. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, toasted pumpkin and pomegranate seeds

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I’m taking this soup to Fiesta Friday, hosted by Angie at The Novice Gardener, and Friday Favorites, hosted by Jennie at The Diary of a Real Housewife. Take a peak at the wonderful Autumn recipes on these two websites.

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Note: There are garlic cloves in the pan with the squash. I decided not to use them in the soup so have not mentioned them. You won’t miss them and I think they would distract from the other flavors.