Cauliflower subs for potatoes in this fall comfort supper soup. Loaded Cauliflower Soup
6 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup chopped leek
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups chopped cauliflower florets and steams from 1 (2-1/2 lb) head)
3 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 pz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp – 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pan, discard excess drippings.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add leek, celery and garlic to pan; cook, stirring often, until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes). Add cauliflower, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduced heat to medium. Simmer until cauliflower is very tender – about 15 minutes.
Remove 1 cup vegetables with a slotted spoon; finally chop.
Pour remaining mixture into a blender; add half-and-half. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape. Place lid on blender and cover opening with a clean towel. Process, starting slowly and increasing speed until contents are very smooth. (I use the puree setting on my 1970’s vintage Osterizer for about a minute). Return to pan with chopped vegetables and cook until warmed through – 2 or three minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with bacon, cheese and chives.
NOTE: This is a rich and satisfying soup. I felted it needed a little something extra so I wrapped peeled and deveined large shrimp with bacon and broiled them three minutes on a side (Turing once) for a tasty garnish. I allow three shrimp per serving. Without the shrimp and bacon it would still be a pretty good vegetarian soup.
As a devoted omnivore with carnivore proclivities the occasional experiment with vegetarian and vegan recipes can be an adventure. It is interesting to see how many “V” recipes are base on a combination of sweet potatoes and black beans. And is is great that this combination works so well in so many different ways. This Sweet Potato Tostadas recipe is about as far removed from a Mexican tostada as one can get, but it is delicious and will probably show up on the Gringo Gourmet menu again!
SWEET POTATO TOSTADAS Ingredients
3 sweet potatoes (about 1-1/4 lbs) peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 small head red cabbage, shredded )about 1-1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
1 canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo plus 1 – 2 tsp adobo sauce from the can
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 15 oz can refried black beans (vegetarian if desired)
8 tostada shells
1/4 cup Mexican cream or sour cream
Put sweet potatoes in a large skillet using enough water to cover, season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender – 20 – 25 minutes. Drain, return to skillet and set aside.
Meanwhile, mix the cabbage, 1 Tbsp lime juice and a pinch of salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Pineapple Salsa: Toss 1 cup pineapple with the cilantro and 1 Tbsp lime juice in a small bowl and set aside.
Pineapple Sauce: Puree the remaining cup of pineapple with 1 Tbsp lime juice, the garlic, chipotle and adobo sauce, cumin and water in a a blender until smooth. Stir this pineapple sauce into the sweet potatoes and cook over medium heat until warmed through – 3 – 4 minutes.
Put the black beans into a small sauce pan, add 3 Tbsp water and warm over medium high heat.
Spread black beans on tostadas; top with sweet potatoes, pineapple salsa and cabbage. Drizzle with the crema.
NOTE: These tostadas boast wonderful flavors and textures, but are very rich. Spread the beans and sweet potato mix thinly. If you spread the sweet potato mix to thick, it can be a bit much! The photo includes a few slices of prickly pear fruit (tunas). Sometimes the fresh tunas from the grocery store are not glochid-free. Carefully check and removes the glochids from the “spots” on the tunas, or peel them. You might like to wear rubber gloves so you don’t get glochids in your fingers.
Mid-September and our daytime temps are still in the high 90’s! Food magazines from more temperate climes are featuring tempting recipes and photos for soups, stews, braises and tempting riffs on harvest vegetables that have me doing fall cooking despite the heat!
I found a brilliant photo of Charred Red Cabbage with a Butternut-Miso Mash that I just had to make. I wanted to try it so much that I waited two days for white miso to arrive at the grocery store. It was worth it!
The butternut-miso mash is a puree of butternut squash, butter, white miso and crushed red pepper. Red cabbage is pan charred on the stove top and it is all brought together with a drizzling sauce of toasted sesame oil, lime juice, lower-sodium soy sauce, honey and fresh ginger. Garnished with fresh cilantro and cashews, it all came together with a slightly Asian feel.
I made is as the recipe instructed, but when I make it again, I’ll add more crushed red pepper. As a border guy, I crave more heat than northerners would. Also, when it came time to do the dishes, I found the flavors in the mash had come together and were more satisfying than when they came right out of the food processor.
I think this recipe was created as a side dish. My meal needed protein, so I grilled an inch-thick pork chop with Williams-Sonoma’s Habanero Citrus Rub. It was a good compliment for the Asian-feeling mash and cabbage and, surprisingly, was not overly spicy from the habanero chile. I wonder why I haven’t been using it more often! I think white beans – navy, great northern or cannellini – with a hint of garlic or onion might be a good way for vegetarian or vegan folk to add protein.
Charred Red Cabbage with a Butternut-Miso Mash Ingredients
1 16 oz peeled, seeded and cubed fresh butternut squash
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
I Tbsp white miso
1 garlic clove, grated
1/4 crushed red pepper (needs more!)
1 small head red cabbage
I Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp kosher dalt
2 Tbsp toasted sesame il
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1’2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup unsalted roasted cashews, roughly chopped
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Adds Squash and reduce heat to medium; simmer until tender – about 10 minutes. Drain. Combine squash, butter, miso, garlic and red pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth.
Cut cabbage in half lengthwise. Cut each half into four equal wedges. Heat canola oil in a large heavy skillet over high. Add cabbage, cut sides down; cook until charred, about five minutes. Flip cabbage and cook until charred on second side. Remove from pan and sprinkle with salt.
Stir together sesame oil, lime juice, soy sauce gibes and ginger in a small bowl.
Place 2/3 cup squash mistuned in each of 4 bowls. Top evenly with cabbage wedges and drizzle with sesame oil mixture. Garnish with cilantro and cashews.
NOTE: Because I was serving this as a side dish, I plated it with the pork shop instead of using a bowl. When I make this again, I’ll make the butternut-miso ahead of time and let the flavors blend more. I liked the drizzling sauce so much, I’m going to make more and try it on grilled chicken.
Playing with hasselback chicken...
Hasselback potatoes and sweet potatoes are a special treat for the eye and the palate. Stumbling across a recipe for hasselback cajun chicken was a new and intriguing idea. Sometimes one doesn’t have everything on hand for a new recipe and that means it is time to play with it and make your own version. No green bell pepper. No andouille sausage and no cajun seasoning nixed the original recipe. Yellow and zucchini squash, red onion, a poblano chile pepper and an assortment of chile powders seemed like good way to try hasselbacking a chicken breast, but with a southwestern flair.
Roughly 50+ miles east of El Paso off I-10 is Fort Hancock, TX. It is a community of about 1,750 people in a green farming band along the Rio Grande in contrast to the sand, creosote and mesquite desert on the eastern side of the interstate. It is home to a modest trading post that has been in the same family for more than 100 years and to Chipotle Texas, a chile company that produces some wonderful chile powers and blends that make it worth a stop for several different kinds. My newest flavor blend is a Zesty Tomatillo Blend that is a bit on the mild side but has a wonderful complex flavor. Experimenting with it us an ongoing adventure. Visiting the store is a treat or you can also check out their website, www.chipotletexas.com and shop online. The company now takes credit cards. Not too long ago, they would take your check for mail orders but wouldn’t ship your order until the check cleared. It is great that they have grown enough to be able to accept credit cards. If you are a chile fiend, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Hasselback is a term for making narrow slices almost through a base vegetable or meat, rubbing it with oil and seasoning it or inserting something into the cuts and then roasting it. The easy way to make the cuts is to put a chopstick or pencil on either side of what you are slicing to prevent your blade from cutting all the way through. Putting things into the cuts with out breaking the vegetable can be delicate work.
Below is the southwestern version of hasselback chicken stuffed with slices of poblano chile, red onion and squash. The Tomatillo Zesty Blend coated the chicken and was sprinkled in the cuts. It was mild and very tasty, but not quite spicy enough for my taste. Next time a little hotter chile powder will be added to ramp it up a bit. The chicken breast was cooked about 20 minutes at 450º on a foil lined baking sheet.
Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is trendy right now. We’re finding poke on menus, in specialty restaurants and even on food trucks. It is raw fish with an assortment of sauces and it is very good!
Running across a recipe for a “tuna and avocado tostada” was just another way of enjoying poke with a little Mexican twist, so, por que no? (why not).
Toss 12 oz diced sushi-grade tuna with one tablespoon each soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. Stem, seed and mince one serrano pepper (two might have been better), and season with salt and pepper.
Mash one avocado with the juice of half a lime and a little salt. Spread the avocado side to side on 6 tostadas. Tope with the tuna drizzle with chipotle mayonnaise and sprinkle with shredded red cabbage and cilantro and crispy fried onions.
Notes: Make your own tostadas by baking corn tortillas in a 375° oven. Spritz the tortillas with a little cooking spray, turn at five minutes a couple of times until they are lightly browned and crisp. You can use 6″ tortillas. I used three 3″ tortillas and heaped on the poke and avocado to make a meal for one.
Make your own chipotle mayonnaise with two to three tablespoons of mayonnaise and a teaspoon or so of adobo from a can or jar of chipotles en adobo. Thin with a little water to make a drizzling consistency.
I was too lazy to fry onions and didn’t want to buy a whole can of fried onions this time. Maybe nest time!
Have the guy at the meat counter get your tuna from the freezer, not the tuna that’s been in the display case for who know’s how long! It will be frozen and easier to dice and better tasting. Remember, you’ll be eating it raw “cooked” by the citrus juices in the marinade.
Many fun meals have been made using a small, hand-held, inexpensive OXO spriralizer to make colorful and delicious vegetable “noodles”. It has become more fun with the introduction of a three-blade option allowing a choice of three sizes of noodles. This new toy and discovering a new recipe calling for zucchini noodles made experimenting mandatory.
LEMON-BASIL CHICKEN WITH ZUCCHINI NOODLES Ingredients
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 oz each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ shallot, finely chopped
½ cup torn fresh basil, plus 2 tsp finely chopped stems
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1-1/2 lbs zucchini noodles
Red pepper flakes for topping (optional)
Spread ¼ cup flour on a large plate. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredged in the flour; shake off excess flour.
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add chicken and cook until golden and almost cooked through (5 – 6 minutes per side).
Push chicken to the edges of the skillet and add shallot and basil stems to middle of skillet. Cook about 1 minute until soft, but not browned. Stir in remaining tablespoon flour and cook 1 minute to make a roux. Add chicken broth and lemon juice, bring to a boil while scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat and simmer, turning the chicken occasionally until cooked through (165°in thickest part of breast) and sauce is thickened (3 – 4 minutes). Turn off heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons butter until melted and add the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until just softened (2 – 3 minutes). It is easy to overcook the noodles and make them too soft! Toss in half the torn basil. Divide among 4 plants, top with chicken, sauce, remaining basil and red pepper flakes.
Long ago, The Gourmet Dad, by Dean McDermott, caught my attention on a Denver bookstore shelf. It promised “Easy and Delicious Meals the Whole Family will Love.” It had great recipes that included modified versions to appeal to children. A surreptitious photograph of book cover was taken to remember to look at the book in more detail after the trip.
Stumbling on that photo a couple of years later prompted a visit to Amazon and subsequent purchase of the electronic version of the cookbook. It does have some very good grown up recipes; even the kid versions sound good. The books photos attest to the plating skills of an accomplished professional chef and inspire emulation.
McDermott has a wife and five children which seems to a cadre of sous chefs in the house to help with the prep of the books “easy” meals. There are no quibbles with the “delicious” description.
The below recipe with the Fennel F-word begged to be made. Seared scallops with it made it imperative! As a single empty-nester with no sous chests around, prep for most recipes takes some time. This recipe was worth the time on multiple levels. As a desert dweller, using watercress was a new adventure well worth the price for a handful. Who knew it has a peppery bite! It is always a thrill to try something new. McDermot’s instruction on searing scallops is simple and produces beautiful results. Gaining a new skill is always appreciated.
McDermott’s original recipe is for four salad servings topped with two scallops each. Hah! Reducing the volume of apple and fennel and upping the count of scallops to six per serving and the addition of a little garlic and herb bread made in a meal instead of a side dish. No point on shorting oneself on scallops, or fennel! A bonus was some leftover roasted shallot vinaigrette for another evening.
Seared Scallops, Shaved Apples and Fennel with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
4 shallots, peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus ½ cup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
Juice of 1 orange
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced Salad Ingredients
8 sea scallops
1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced (may substitute Pink Lady, Gala or Jonagold)
2 fennel bulbs, stem trimmed and shaved
Juice of 2 lemons, halves reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch watercress, all but ½ inch of the stems removed
1/8 cup hazelnuts, toasted and crushed, plus 1/8 cup for garnish Method
Preheat oven to 400°
Spread shallots on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the thyme and two springs’ worth of the rosemary. Roast the shallots until tender, 10 – 12 minutes.
Allow the roasted shallots to cool, then mince them. Combine them with the remaining rosemary, orange juice, lemon juice and zest and garlic in a small bowl and mix well. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup olive oil and season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Pat the scallops dry and allow them to come to room temperature. In the meantime, combine the apple, fennel, lemon juice and lemon halves in a medium bowl and set aside.
Preheat a large sauté pan over high heat. Using a sharp knife, carefully score the top of each scallop in a crisscross pattern and season both sides with salt and pepper and a drizzle of grapeseed oil.
When the pan is hot, carefully place the scallops in it with the crosshatched side down. Do not move the scallops until they release from the pan, about 3 – 4 minutes to get the best sear and coloring.
Once the crisscross side releases and is a golden brown, flip the scallops and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, baste the scallops a few times and then remove the pan from the heat. Residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the scallops to perfection.
Drain the reserved apple-fennel mixture and discard the lemon halves. In a large salad bowl, toss have the watercress with the fennel-apple mixture. Add the reserved vinaigrette and 1/8 cup of the crushed hazelnuts and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the salad on four salad plates, and top each with two scallops. Scatter the remaining watercress on top and garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.
Notes: I forgot to buy hazelnuts, so I didn’t use them this time. I wonder how pecans might work instead. The garlic cloves I uses were quite strong, but mellowed nicely in the dressing as it sat on the counter for a few minutes.
The “3 Ways to Use Chard” feature in Cooking Light magazine has been the source of some great meals over the past several days. Chard with Shaved Fennel started the binge. Fennel is always a siren’s call around here. Then came Charred Chard and Shallots, just because it was fun to say out loud and charring greens in the oven or on the grill is a taste treat that keeps greens interesting. Completing the trifecta was a Sweet Potato and Chard Salad. The clincher on that one is farro.
It wouldn’t be honest to say the chard binge is over. There’s another bunch in the crisper awaiting another chard challenge.
SWEET POTATO AND CHARD SALAD Ingredients
10 oz cubed sweet potato – about ½ inch
6 oz chopped rainbow chard
1 cup hot cooked farro
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sliced scallions
Cook sweet potato in 4 cups water over medium-high heat. Bring water to a boil and reduce to medium low for three minutes. Stir in chopped chard and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain well.
Combine potatoes and chard, the cooked farro, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Toss well to combine. Sprinkle with sliced scallions.
This salad will be a hit at the next potluck dinner gathering.
Follow package directions for cooking farro. You can put the farro and water in the refrigerator overnight to soak and reduce it’s cooking time. This works with steel cut oatmeal, too. The texture and nutty flavor of farro made this salad extra special.
Good ol’ El Paso groceries… it took shopping in three stores to find tarragon vinegar. The Heinz tarragon vinegar was a disappointment. It was very weak and not really vinegary nor was there much tarragon flavor. Even with more than the recipe called for, it was sad. Next time I’m out of town, I’ll search for a more potent brand.
Doing fun things with greens keeps them exciting. Grilled romaine and steamed curly endive are welcome changes on the menu at my house. I found a recipe for charred chard. I enjoyed saying charred chard out loud (I’m easily amused). Saying “charred chard” three times must have been a mystical incantation because then the recipe demanded to be made.
Charred Chard and Shallots
1 lb rainbow chard
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper
Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Trim stems from rainbow chard. Divide chard leaves and shallots evenly between prepared pans. Spray vegetables lightly with cooking spray. Broil on high, one pan at a time until most of the chard is wilted and some is partially charred – 4 to 5 minutes.
Chop cooked chard into large pieces. Place chard mixture on a platter, top with golden raisins, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Do you ever really measure 1/8 of a teaspoon of anything? I keep a jar with a mix of 40% coarse ground black pepper and 60% kosher salt right by my stove for seasonings. A pinch or two of the mix does the trick for most things.
Watch the chard as it broils. You want it mostly wilted with a little char, not a pan full of ashes! The charred chard retains some texture and can be strongly flavored. It needs a touch sweetness.
I didn’t have golden raisins on hand. I used grape tomatoes on the side for sweet balance and was very happy with it. I’ll be making this again when I pick up some raisins.
The recipe suggests adding chickpeas and crumbled feta to make a vegetating main dish. I expect substituting a mildly salty vegan cheese world work, too.
Pure luck: Found a good sounding salad recipe and had the main ingredients oh hand – fennel and red chard. A little thinking and the richness of baked feta balanced with the mild tang of a Cara Cara orange sounded like the rest of a meal.
Confession: Only dinner was meatless. It’s a start.
Wilted Chard and Shaved Fennel Salad Ingredients
1 lb. rainbow chard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
¼ cup water
¼ cup chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp fennel fronds
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp kosher salt Method
Coarsely chop chard leaves; thinly slice stems to equal 1 cup. (Reserve remaining stems for another use.)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chard stems and fennel and cook, stirring often until starting to soften – about 3 minutes.Add chard leaves and ¼ cup water, cover until just starting to wilt – about a minute and a half. Drain. Toss with apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper.
Divide into four servings. Top each evenly with the chopped pistachios and fennel fronds.
Baked Feta Ingredients
Block feta to allow 4 oz. per person
Olive oil Method
Heat oven to 400º
Cut feta into individual servings. Brush all sides with olive oil.
Put feta on a foil-covered baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Turn on broiler and put feta under it for 2 – 3 minutes until it gets a little color. Carefully transfer to plates and garnish with a fennel frond or two. Serve warm.