Saturday, June 25, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

The second in the series is one of my favorites so far, potato leek soup. It has a full, rich flavor and will fill your stomach without any need for a side dish. Plus, I was able to make it with some really great vegetables grown in my Aunt De and Uncle Ron's garden, where they did use composting and did not use synthetic chemicals to grow some really delicious vegetables. I was so excited about these, I took some pictures:

Here, we have the pear-potato.

Next is the impressively-sized garlic bulb that is larger than the palm of my hand.

And here are a number of potatoes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, coexisting peacefully.

Accompanying the potato diversity and many cloves of garlic in this soup is the leek - in my opinion, one of the most undervalued and best-named vegetables.1 And so, without further adieu, the recipe:

Superlative soup.
Potato Leek Soup2
(Fills a 2-quart slow cooker, about 3 bowls)

1 tbsp dried thyme (can substitute fresh thyme)
1 tbsp dried rosemary (can substitute fresh rosemary)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1.5 large or 2-3 small leeks,  chopped
2-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1.5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
5-6 cloves roasted garlic
Whole milk, half & half, or cream, added later

To roast garlic:
Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the cloves attached. Cut off the top of the bulb so that the cloves are exposed. Cover in (olive) oil, wrap in aluminum foil, and place on baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the cloves are soft. Remove cloves, being sure to separate from the skins.

To make the soup:
Add all but the dairy to the slow cooker, making sure everything is submerged in the broth and water. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4. For a smooth soup (recommended), put soup and dairy product of your choice into food processor and puree.

(Oh hey, the footnotes:)
1. For example, shouting "I've got a leek!" Also, imagining the scene if this were actually Benny Franklin's quote: "A small leek can sink a great ship."

2. Recipe ganked and modified from here.

African Peanut Soup

Here, 5 months after writing the drafts, are my 2 posts in the "souper bowl" series:

The day I bought my $5 slow cooker1 from the big box store that shall not be named2 was the day my life changed. Before that day, having soup either meant eating canned, high-sodium stuff or running a very high risk of having to talk to crazy people at The Table3. But no more. Through the power of the slow cooker, I could make a great variety of high-quality, healthy soup. So here begins my series of soup recipes.

The first soup I made was the one that always lured me to The Table despite the crazy people and awkward conversations. The African peanut soup there is really delicious. This recipe doesn't quite match the flavor, but it is still pretty good. The essential ingredients are red pepper, crushed tomatoes, onions, and peanut butter4. The secret is getting just the right amount of peanut butter.

Don't judge a soup by its color.

African Peanut Soup5
(Fills a 2-quart slow cooker, so about 3 bowls)

1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 green onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
14 oz crushed tomatoes, with liquid
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 t black pepper
Dash of cumin, and
A bit more coriander
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
6 oz peanut butter (to add later)

Put all ingredients but the peanut butter into the crockpot.
Cook them on low for 6-8 hours or on high for about 4. The soup is done when the onions are fully cooked and are translucent.
Stir in the peanut butter and cook on high for 20-30 minutes, or until fully heated through.
For chunky soup, serve as is. However, I like my soups smooth so I put it in the food processor for a little.
Serve immediately, or let it cool in the refrigerator and then reheat, allowing peanut butter taste to become even better.

(Oh hey, the footnotes:)
1. I use the term slow cooker because calling it a crockpot is like calling off-brand facial tissue Kleenex. (Or, in SAT terms, slow cooker: crockpot :: facial tissue: Kleenex.) It will be understood, but it is not terribly accurate.

2. It's this one. Also, I may or may not have gone in the early morning hours of the reviled day of consumerism. While I was there from approximately 1-2:30 AM, elderly employees gave me both donut holes and 5-hour energy. ♥ America.

3. For those not familiar, The Table is like a soup kitchen for college students and graduates, many of whom study/ied the humanities or social sciences, and so are more likely to be unemployed through choice or circumstance and thus have little money1. It also seems to attract a number of conspiracy theorists and general jabberers, but surprisingly few homeless people.

4. I've been using the peanut butter machine at Open Harvest, which has the benefit of not having extra oil and being organic while also not being terribly overpriced2. Plus, it's pretty fun to be able to press a button on a machine that (magically?) turns peanuts into peanut butter.

5. Recipe is ganked and modified from here.
1. Sadly, this will likely be true throughout their (our) lives.
2. Not always the case at the OH.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

With the sun coming up earlier and going down later everyday, it now feels safe to think of places with temperatures twice as warm as here. Places with warm water crashing on white sand, and exotic tropical fruits at every turn. Through the historical dirty dealings of businesses and the US government, both teaming up to take over our neighbors to the South, we have consistent and cheap access to one of these exotic fruits - the banana. Not just a pop culture image, a musical phone, or a noted phallic object, it is also a tasty and useful fruit. For better or worse (local foods-wise, that is), I used it in its latter function for these delicious banana chocolate chip muffins.

The nutmeg and cinnamon give these muffins a warm taste, while the banana evokes images of warm island nations. I like to imagine that the combination leaves the impression that you are on an tropical island rather than in the middle of the country, in the middle of winter. Plus, the inside has a nice color - brown and a pale yellow.

Recipe below!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
(Makes 12)

3/8 cup white sugar
3/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup banana, mashed
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chocolate chips (add more or less to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In larger bowl, mix wet ingredients (the first 6). In separate bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Whisk together. Add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to wet, stir a little, add second third, stir a little, then add final third and chocolate chips and stir until all wet ingredients are absorbed. Spoon mixture into greased or lined muffin tin, and put in oven for 18-22 minutes. You can check to see if the center is done by sticking a spaghetti or toothpick into the muffin. If it comes out clean, get those muffins out of the oven!

Wait until they are cool enough to eat (this is the hardest part), then enjoy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Vegetable Korma Curry

Ah, curry. An important part of vegetarians' diets everywhere. I had a hankering for Indian food, which, fortunately for me, was pretty easy to satisfy since I had a bunch of vegetables and newly purchased korma curry sauce. This was the result:

Like all things brown and chunky, it was hard to make it look good.

I used this curry sauce...
and really liked it. It wasn't very spicy, which is my preference anyway, and had a really wonderful cardamom-clove-coconut flavor. The vegetables I used - potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes, and carrots - went really well with the sauce.

Vegetable Korma Curry

olive oil
2 large or 3 small potatoes, parboiled and diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 can diced tomatoes (can use also use fresh)
1/2 cup cauliflower (frozen or fresh)
1 bag korma curry sauce (directions also on bag)

Sauté vegetables until mostly cooked, beginning with potatoes and carrots since they take longer. Then lower heat, add curry sauce, and simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Serve over rice - brown basmati is nice.

Summer Better Than Others

Potatoes, summer tomatoes, mozzarella (and not the subpar shredded kind). Drooling yet? Either way, take a gander at one of my favorite things to make during the summer:

This picture is from summertime, obviously.

"I just see a pizza," you say. But it has lovely, lovely parts that serve to make a greater whole. Those are fresh, juicy summer tomatoes just purchased from the farmers' market. The potatoes, too, have just been pulled from the ground. The cheese is freshly shredded. All this, plus oil, garlic and herbs, are on top of a pizza crust from Le Quartier. It is, in short, delicious. Here is how it's done:

Summer Pizza

1 large or 2 small local, organic tomatoes (because who needs that pesticide taste?)
1 large or 2-3 small local, organic potatoes, peeled and parboiled
(*I actually usually use spinach instead, but there's no picture of that. In any case, it's an easy substitute.)
4 ounces mozzarella, grated or sliced
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Herbs of choice - in the picture, I used dried thyme and rosemary.
1 Le Quartier Pizza Crust

Heat oven to 325° F.

Prepare vegetables by slicing potatoes into 1/2-1/4 inch pieces after they've been parboiled, slicing tomatoes to desired size, and mincing garlic.

Spread olive oil evenly on top of pizza crust. Add minced garlic, then potatoes (or spinach or both). Then add tomatoes. Top with cheese and herbs.

Put in oven for 10-15 minutes; take out after cheese has melted.

This is actually a very simple recipe, and one could substitute a number of vegetables that are available at your local farmers' market for what would certainly be a delicious meal. And, that, my friends, is why I miss summer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cooking Up a Storm

Hello, my friendly friends!
I've decided to join the food blog craze. Now that I'm all graduated and have enough free time to be nocturnal AND sleep 10 hours every day, I also have enough time to make tasty treats and share them all with you! Follow me on my fantastic food forays!