Wednesday, December 21, 2011

another quick and easy savory soup!

    Warm soup on a cold day, an enchanted meadow full of frolicking unicorns, winning $1,000 - all of these things are AWESOME. Literally. I was watching a comedian on comedy central a while back and he was talking about how if things were ACTUALLY awesome that everyone called awesome, everyone would walk around in constant astonishment. I don't think that C that you managed to pull in science is "awesome." I don't think that you running 3 heroic dungeons back to back is really all that "awesome," either. But I digress, SOUP!

    I first made this one for thanksgiving and I thought it was so delicious, I made up a big batch of it the next weekend too and ate it throughout the week. This sweet potato soup with buttered pecans is a fun way to have sweet potatoes on the table without your traditional disgusting can of yams, Grammy's delicious sweet potatoes (see previous post), or putting your whipped sweet potatoes right next to your mashed potatoes. And if nothing else, just make the buttered pecans. Butter really does make EVERYTHING better.

Sweet Potato Soup with Buttered Pecans

turns out i only took one TERRIBLE picture of this soup. Sorry!

time: total, about 1 hours, 30 mins active
makes: 8-10 servings

(for the soup)
3/4 c finely chopped onion
1 c finely chopped leek, WASHED WELL and drained (they pile mud around these to grow them, so don't skip the wash otherwise you'll have gritty leeks)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 pounds (about 3 large) sweet potatoes, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
a 1/2 pound russet (baking) potato
5 c chicken stock (plus additional if you want to thin the soup)
3/4 c dry white wine (i used Cupcake chardonnay... never use a wine to cook with that you wouldn't drink! and believe me, what didn't go in the soup went in my belly!)
1 1/2 c water

(for the buttered pecans)
3/4 c pecans (chopped or whole, depends how meaty you like your nuts. <snicker>)
2 tbsp unsalted butter

How to make the soup:

1. In a large stock pot, melt the butter and cook the onion, the leek, the garlic, and the carrots with the bay leaf over moderate heat until the vegetables are softened. Season with salt and pepper. Don't be shy about it either - I put about 2 tsp of salt in there because the potato will act as a bit of a salt eraser. The more well seasoned the base of your soup is, the more flavorful the soup will be overall.

2. Add the sweet potatoes, the russet potato, chicken stock, wine, and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are very tender. 

3. DISCARD THE BAY LEAF. Don't blend that bad boy up. No one wants a bay leaf chunk.

4. Just like in the carrot ginger soup, an immersion blender will make your life so easy here. If you have one, stick it in and get to work. If you don't: In your blender, puree the mixture in batches until it is very smooth, transferring it as it is pureed to a large saucepan. Add the additional broth to thin the soup to your desired consistency, and season it to taste with salt and pepper.

How to make the buttered pecans:

1. In a skillet, cook the pecans in the butter with a pinch of salt over moderate heat, stirring often for about 10 minutes or until they're golden brown. Transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

SO EASY! When you serve it, put the soup in a bowl and top with buttered pecans. If you'd like a little creamier soup, put a dollop of sour cream in there too and let it work its magic. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

easy holiday recipes!

    It's December! Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, or whatever you choose to celebrate or not celebrate during this time of year that may or may not be merry and bright for you.
    I found the most ridiculous list on the internets (they never fail to give you an endless load of things that can really piss you off and shake your faith in humanity) of stores that you NEED TO BOYCOTT because their ads don't say MERRY CHRISTMAS. They seem to find it 'un-American.' Yes, apparently the "american family association" as they call themselves frowns upon anyone who doesn't celebrate christmas. Sorry, Jews, you're not real american families. Any of you pagans that put the tree in your house to have the evergreen represent life through the dead season? You don't count either. Don't even get them started on the gays.

Look! A distraction! I made some awesome anise seed cookies!

    Speaking of poor vision (how do you like that transition there?), I also read an article that my good friend Lauren posted about how 85% of people don't take proper care of their contacts. "A new survey found that people have turned to beer, baby oil, Coke, petroleum jelly, lemonade, fruit juice, and butter as oh-so-wrong alternatives to contact lens solution. That was from an August 2011 survey in the United Kingdom by Bausch + Lomb, a lens solution manufacturer." WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING THAT ANY OF THOSE ARE ACCEPTABLE SOLUTIONS?! Now don't get me wrong, I love butter almost as much as Paula Deen, but DO NOT USE IT AS CONTACT LENS SOLUTION. 

    I seem to have gotten off topic. Christmas dinners! You need something to take, but you don't want to spend too long (or too much money!) but you still want to seem quite fancy. Well, my dear friend, I have 3 different recipes that will make you look like you're an amazing cook with only the smallest amount of effort involved!

#1 - Appetizer
    Courtesy of Anne Burrell and her amazing cookbook "Cook Like a Rock Star."

Figs stuffed with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
    (at this point you may be nervous with the words "fig" and "gorgonzola" used up there, but i've already made this for 3 separate events and they're always a huge hit!)

Takes about 15 minutes. SUPER EASY.

12 fresh Black Mission, Brown Turkish, or (in a pinch) dried figs
    I've always made them with dried Calmyrnia figs because i've never been able to find fresh figs. Best of luck.
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
8 ounces Gorgonzola Dolce, at room temperature
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted for 5 minutes at 350º

1. Preheat the oven to 350º
2. Slice the figs in half lengthwise, place them on a baking sheet, and dig a little hole in the middle with your pinky finger. Drizzle the fig halves with 2 or 3 drops of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt.
3. Fill each fig with Gorgonzola and top with a quarter of a walnut. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Fig out!

I love her little notes like "fig out" or "eggs-tradorinary!" throughout her cookbook. Definitely one of the best i've bought this year!

BUT DAN, you're thinking, I NEED TO BRING SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL THAN FINGER FOOD! Ok, ok, but please stop yelling. The next super duper easy recipe is a hearty soup that you will love.

#2 - First Course

Carrot Ginger Soup
Prep: 30 mins
cook time: about an hour
makes about 8 servings

2 tbsp butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped (you can chop pretty coarsely, it's all getting blended later!
6 cups chicken stock
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
sour cram
fresh parsley

1. Put butter and onions in a big stock pot and cook them, stirring often, until onions are limp.
2. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced. (about 30 minutes)
3. If you have an immersion blender, your life is about to be incredibly easy. If you have a blender, it's not as easy, but still not hard. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the soup IN BATCHES to the blender. Don't fill the blender more than halfway. COver the blender and then hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender. Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender HENCE WHY I TOLD YOU TO GET A TOWEL. Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth. 
4. After it is all blended, return it to the pan and add the heavy cream, stirring it over high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce and season to taste with salt and pepper. I even added about 1/2 tsp of allspice to help bring it together.
5. Ladle into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream, and garnish with fresh parsley. 

#3 - Side
    This recipe is courtesy of my Grammy. She's a badass. If she were an animal, she'd be a honey badger. A crazy honey badger that chairs political campaigns and cooks like a champ.

Grammy's Sweet Potatoes
prep: 30 mins
cook: 30 mins
makes 6-8 servings

6 sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup Karo Corn Syrup (there's a "brown sugar" variety that is especially good on these)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if available)

1. Preheat the oven to 325º
2. Boil the sweet potatoes until they're tender. Drain well.
3. Arrange sweet potatoes in a single layer in a 9x13 pan, bake at 325º for 15 minutes
4. In a sauce pan, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, heavy cream, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir frequently and bring to a boil over medium heat.
5. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes and baste frequently until glazed, about 15 more mins in the oven.

And there you go! 3 easy recipes that are inexpensive, easy, and really give you the most bang for your buck! If you make a soup people will already think you're a stud, and once they taste the soup, you may as well be Santa. My Grammy's sweet potatoes have made grown men cry, and figs are just exotic enough that you look classy and it will cost you under $10 and be greatly memorable.

I close with a picture of santa that I snapped a couple of years ago at a Colorado Mammoth lacrosse game. Merry Christmas to all, and to all some delicious food (and drinks!)