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Well this post will be nothing if not random. Living up to the name I guess. A few weeks ago, through the Boston Brunchers, I was offered free tickets to the Boston Ballet’s Fall show with the understanding that I would in turn post something on it. My sister was a ballerina growing up all through high school, so I’ve seen a lot of ballet through the years and didn’t really think I’d go too much as an adult. It had been a while since my wife and I have had a date night out (plus her birthday was that week), so I jumped at the chance… then started the struggle of finding a babysitter on a weeknight.

I did not do too much research into what was in the fall program prior to the night, though I had heard some rumors of the first number. The show opened with Rooster. All eight songs in the piece were Rolling Stones music set around a theme developed during the first number of “Little Red Rooster.” The dance was humorous enough that at several points the audience found themselves chuckling. The next piece was Awake Only. This piece was what I view as more along the lines of traditional contemporary ballet… if there is such a thing. Both my wife and I interpreted it a little differently, as it was far less literal than Rooster, but we both enjoyed it. The last piece was The Second Detail. I don’t think it would be possible to fit more energy into the choreography than they have. At one point it was so exciting an audience member in the row behind us let out a loud “whoop.” The dancing was clean and emotive and had us captured all evening long. The set was stark for all three pieces, but there was no need for any stage dressing – the dancing was gorgeous.

It was a great night out, I would recommend it. We did get our tickets for free, but looking at the prices, each ticket is very reasonable starting at $29. I went for a little bit of literal inspiration for a recipe to go along with this post. I call it Red Rooster… because …well it is red and chicken. I know, mind blown, right? Well its simple and delicious and can be made easily on a weekday night.

Red Rooster

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • drizzle of Honey (optional)
  • Olive oil (enough to rub on the chicken)
  • 1.5 – 2 lbs Chicken parts (I used chicken legs and thighs – dancing legs, get it?)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Rub chicken with olive oil
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients and rub all over the chicken
  4. Place on a pan in the oven, cooking until an instant read thermometer reads 165 F, this could be up to an hour depending on the parts you are using.
  5. Drizzle with a little bit of honey.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 00:10

Cook time: 01:00

So one lesson I really need to learn is that I need to pay more attention to what I am doing in the kitchen when experimenting. I often have a tendency to just wing it. Not really paying attention. Often this turns out well. Sometimes this turns out great… this is unfortunate when I didn’t measure a single ingredient in the entire process. So the recipe below if given with the extreme caveat that I am guesstimating amounts from what I remember putting in, so taste as you go (you should be doing that already anyways). That being said this turned out too good to not share.

Yesterday was National Pie day so I could not let that go without being celebrated (though I more thoroughly celebrate this on Pi day – March 14th). I planned on making a quiche until I saw we had only 3 eggs. I wanted to stay true to meatless Monday this week so I went for a vegetarian take on a pot pie using what I had in the freezer. This really hit the spot… a sweet spot in the Venn diagram between fresh, hearty, and comforting.

Veggie Pot Pie

 

Veggie Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS butter
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed or finely minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 diced onion
  • 16 oz frozen peas
  • 8 oz frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • 1-2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pie crust from your favorite recipe enough for a top and bottom (I cheated and used a prepared one)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. In a deep pan sauté onion until translucent, add peas and spinach stir and take off heat.
  3. Place bottom crust in a pie pan and bake for 5 minutes then set aside to cool.
  4. Make a roux by melting the butter in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute then add the flour cooking until a light brown. Add the vegetable stock in small amounts at a time, whisking constantly until absorbed into the flour.  After all the liquid has been added the mixture should resemble a thick sauce. Whisk in the yogurt, salt, allspice, and cumin.
  5. Combine the roux with vegetables and pour into the pie shell. Lay out the pie crust and crimp with your thumb to seal. Cut holes in the top crust order to vent out the steam. Beat the egg and use as an egg wash by brushing on top of the crust.
  6. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, cover the rim to keep that crust from browning with foil or a pie ring then continue to bake for another 20 – 30 minutes.
  7. Set pie aside to cool then dig in. *

Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 00:10

Cook time: 00:45

* Note: if you do not let the pie cool for a bit the inside will be somewhat liquid. I was impatient and didn’t wait which is why there is no picture after it has been cut in.

This is the third addition to the #SouperBowl lineup. We were challenged to make a German soup with the ingredients of beer, cheese, and bread. This was significantly less of a stretch than Moroccan for me. I took a family recipe and tweaked it a bit and this is what I came up with. The rules we are running under were originally posted at Nickel Moon. If you have been following along you know that there is a nationality picked and three ingredients that must be used, everything else is fair game.

This soup turned out great. My wife who does not like beer or sauerkraut  enjoyed it as well and made her coworkers jealous when reheating the leftovers the next day in the office microwave. I only simmered it for 45 minutes, but I think that a longer simmering time really would have brought the cheese flavor out more. Next time I make this I plan on making it in a crock pot, simmering throughout the day with better beer than I happened to have on hand. This received a partial seal of approval from the little guy. He enjoyed the broth but wasn’t as much into the rest of it.

Hofbräuhaus Sauerkraut Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 strips of bacon diced
  • 4 knockwurst sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 cored, peeled, grated apple
  • 2 beers (preferably a dark German beer but I used an American lager and it was good)
  • 1 can pureed tomato
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2-3 cheese ends * (Parmesan if you have it)
  • 1 lb sauerkraut drained
  • 1 Russet potato grated
  • Salt to taste
  • Bread cut into rounds toasted
  • 5 TBS or more grated Swiss cheese

Instructions

  1. In a dutch oven or pot with cover, saute bacon until crispy and set aside.
  2. In the bacon grease sauté the knockwurst until just browned and set aside as well.
  3. Sauté onion until it start to get soft; add the grated potatoes and apple and saute for an additional 5 minutes then add the sauerkraut and toss together.
  4. Add the cheese ends, caraway seeds (in a tea ball or wrapped in cheese cloth), tomato puree, beer and beef stock and bring to a boil.
  5. Cover then set to a simmer for 45 minutes to 8 hours. Remove the cheese ends and spice packet.
  6. Add the bacon and knockwurst to a pot and continue to simmer for at least another 5 minutes or unto ready to serve.
  7. Serve out the soup into your bowls, top with the toasted crouton and cover each with a bit of grated cheese and melt under it a broiler..

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 00:10

Cook time: 01:00

* Save your cheese ends in a bag in a freezer whenever you finish a hard cheese. Cut off any of the wax or other inedible coating and use it to deeper the flavor of soups. It’s free flavor, do it.

When Janis announced that the second #SouperBowl  challenge was to be a Moroccan soup that  included garbanzo beans, ginger, and pasta, I was a little taken aback. I have not really worked with Moroccan food much at all. So I read up and grabbed some ingredients from here and there and hopefully embraced some of the flavors and feel of Moroccan soup. I saw several soups with carrots and sweet potatoes but seeing as I needed to incorporate a pasta I thought – why not a sweet potato spaetzle.

Boiling Spaetzle

Cooked spaetzle

Frankly this ended up tasting far better than I expected. I may bump the spices up a notch next time, but my wife thought it was spot on. The texture was great, the carrots were smooth, there was a little texture from the garbanzo beans, and the spaetzle burst with salty sweetness that really added to the dish. This did not get the toddler seal of approval, but what can I say toddlers are fickle, some other day he may have been licking his bowl.


Moroccan Ginger Carrot Soup with Sweet Potato Spaetzle

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Onions diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves minced
  • 1 finger sized piece of Ginger peeled and minced
  • 8 medium Carrots peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups of Garbanzo Beans soaked overnight
  • 2 quarts of Chicken broth
  • Dash of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Curry Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 large Sweet Potato
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • small bunch of cilantro chopped with stems

Instructions

  1. Saute onions, garlic and ginger in olive oil until onions are soft
  2. Add garbanzo beans, carrots, broth and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer until carrots are tender. While soup is simmering, start the spätzle.
  3. Cook the sweet potato until tender. To do this quickly, wrap in plastic wrap and microwave on high for 10 minutes.* Scoop out potato from skin and cool.
  4. Once cooled, stir the flour and eggs into the sweet potato until completely combined. It should resemble the texture of a thick pancake batter.
  5. Boil a pot of heavily salted water and have a bowl of ice water on hand.
  6. To make the spätzle, push a small batch of the batter through the holes of a colander (or as I had to do the holes in a spoon) into the boiling water – the spätzle should resemble small short strands. After 1 minute, the noodles will have slightly changed color. Remove them with a strainer and place in the ice water to stop the cooking. Repeat the procedure until done with the batter.
  7. Strain the noodles from the ice water and divide them among the bowls.
  8. When the carrots are tender and the garbanzo beans have a bit of bite blend soup with a stick blender until smooth **
  9. Pour soup over the noodles and garnish with a heavy handed batch of cilantro

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 00:10

Cook time: 01:20

* You can bake or boil and drain the sweet potatoes until tender if you prefer not to microwave.

** If you do not have a stick blender, I strongly recommend getting one. Every time that I read a recipe for soup where it calls for cooling down the soup then transferring it in small batches to a blender I maniacally laugh while blending away in the pot that I am cooking in (careful not to splash, it is usually hot). Besides, it means one less thing to wash and my wife always appreciates not having to wash those tiny blender parts. The stick blender you get ought to be all plastic or all stainless steel – any that combine the two just tend to snap as they’re not really well bonded together. The part that gets all dirty goes into the dishwasher. All in all, it makes soup making (and a variety of other things) nice and easy.

Edit: that was 8 cups or 2 quarts… not 8 quarts.

 

Last Sunday I had the privilege of joining a group of Boston Brunchers in the area for brunch at Harvard Common Press (twitter tag #HCPbrunch). During the meal we learned a lot about the cookbook publishing industry and the work that goes into publishing a cook book. We did this all while making new friends, meeting up with twitter buddies, and eating a great meal put together from the Harvard Common Press crew.

As part of the meal HCP let us take home a book of our choice and review a recipe in it if we wanted to. The book I snagged was New England Home Cooking by Booke Dojny. There were several recipes that I wanted to give a go. Many of them seemed pretty standard to me. This is by no means meant to be a bad thing. In general I cook a lot of New England style food and I wanted to see new versions of items I already prepared along with different items that I just don’t think of preparing. This book is quite large and contained that and more. In the 350 recipes there were a few surprises such  as items from other cultures that are made in various places in the region right alongside New England classics. Due to the lack of dinners at home this week I actually made a breakfast Sunday morning instead. The recipe I made was “Polly’s Pancake Parlor Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes”. I am always looking for the perfect pancake recipe to make for a good Sunday morning meal, and I have been to this pancake house several times and wanted to taste how close this recipe tasted to the original.

Recipe is as follows:

Polly’s Pancake Parlor Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes (from New England Home Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Whisk egg with buttermilk in a medium-sized bowl until blended. Whisk in the melted butter.
  2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk them together gently, just until the flour is moistened. Do not overmix. (It’s all right if the batter looks lumpy.)
  3. Heat a lightly oiled cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Make a test pancake to check the heat of the pan and the consistency of the batter. Stir in 2 to 3 more tablespoons of buttermilk if the batter is too thick.
  4. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook until the undersides are golden brown and the tops are speckled with burst bubbles, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until the undersides are lightly browned and the centers spring back when lightly pressed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven while making the remaining pancakes.

My thoughts: Overall, I loved these pancakes and so did everyone at the table. I served them with Vermont maple syrup and some thick cut bacon. This recipe came about as close to the recipe from the restaurant as I can remember it tasting. I love the crunchy feel that the cornmeal adds to the pancake, and I was surprised that just three tablespoons of cornmeal pulled that off. The pancake itself has a good amount of fluff to it while still being crispy on the outside. One thing I like to do when making a large amount of pancakes or waffles is use a cooling rack in the oven so that bottoms don’t get soggy while cooking the rest. The recipe says it makes 2 to 4 servings. I don’t know how many pancakes you eat at a sitting at home but there were four adults and a toddler at my table; we made a double batch and every last pancake was gone. I am not a huge fan of recipes that call for buttermilk only because I rarely have it on hand. Thie chapter does go into recommended substitutions for it though using either yogurt or milk soured with vinegar. In the end, I will be definitely be making this recipe again and look forward to trying many others.

Big Ole Disclaimer: As mentioned above HCP gave me the cookbook for free and also fed us food. In addition, by reviewing and writing about this recipe I have the potential to win a gift card as mentioned in the post by Harvard Common Press here. All that being said, everything in this post is completely my own opinions.

One of my favorite soups growing up was my mom’s garbage soup. We also called it escarole soup if we wanted it to sound more appetizing. I have been eating this for as long as I can remember and it is a family favorite. I have found that just about everyone else in the world already knows about it or something similar under the name Italian wedding soup.

When the SouperBowl challenge was first proposed on twitter I dont think it mattered what the mystery three ingredients were, I was making this soup as soon as I saw that the chosen type was Italian. In this case the three ingredients to use were orange peel, eggplant, and beans.

Replacing the potatoes in the soup with beans seemed easy enough (probably more traditional) as was adding orange zest to the meatballs, but where to put the eggplant. In the end I decided that I loved the smokey flavor of roasted eggplant and it might add a nice smokiness to the meatball. So I added roasted eggplant to the meat and an extra egg and bread crumbs to hold things together.

All in all I thought it was great. I would skip the eggplant next time but I might keep the orange and beans.

Everyone, even the most important critic at the table, liked it. Myself I thought the flavors were very good, however I had been eating my mom’s original version of this my entire life so I had a hard time getting past the fact that this was almost right, just slightly off.

This may go without saying, but I would recommend not dropping your soup on the floor. It looks remarkably less appetizing afterwards… though I still ate the meatballs.

Eggplant Escarole Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts beef stock
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 Large Eggplant
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (approximate just enough to hold things together)
  • 1 lb escarole sliced
  • 2 medium carrots sliced
  • 2 celery sticks sliced
  • 1 orange
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 30 oz cooked or canned cannellini beans
  • salt to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat Oven to 500 F
  2. While preheating chop and slice all your veggies and set aside
  3. Zest the orange and set aside
  4. Combine stock, tomato paste, and juice from half of the orange and bring to a simmer over a medium low heat
  5. Poke lots of holes with a fork in the eggplant and place on a baking pan in the preheated oven, baking eggplant for one hour until charred
  6. Scoop out the eggplant and cool by stirring in a metal bowl over a bowl of ice water
  7. Mix eggplant, orange zest, salt, garlic, eggs, meat, and bread crumbs (enough to hold together loosely)
  8. Form 3/4 inch meat balls and place in simmering stock cover for 10 minutes
  9. Add the carrots, celery and escarole and continue cooking covered, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or until the carrots are just tender
  10. Add the beans, stir and serve with Parmesan cheese grated over if you like

Yield: 6 servings

 

Prep Time: 00:30

Cook time: 01:40