Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Totally Non-professional vegetable stock

Someone emailed and asked how I make my veggie stock. This would probably make true cooks cringe, but it works for me! And I'm not getting any complaints. The only thing "official" is the time you simmer. That I got from that Culinary Boot Camp Cookbook.

Veggie stock is really simple. I usually save things like broccoli stems, asparagus stems, onion ends and onion peels, carrot ends, and potato peelings in a bag in the freezer. But you can also make it from fresh. If you're using scraps, just dump a couple of hand fulls (depends on how much you're making...) of everything in. If you're using fresh, cut an onion in half (leaving the peeling), cut a couple of carrots into thirds or so, and maybe a stalk of celery, and you can get away with just that, but it's much more flavorful if you've been saving up or have a bunch of fresh scraps (like cut up your potatoes and other veggies that you intend to use in your soup).
Anyway, cover them with as much water as you need to make as much stock as you want. Add salt...this you kind of have to determine by how much you're making, but not to worry, you can add it later (and if your soup is going to have lentils or beans, you may want to add it later anyway). Use cold water, bring it to a boil, turn it down to simmer, then set your timer for 30 minutes. Strain the vegetables out (I generally use a colander, but if you want to make it really clear, you need to line the colander with cheesecloth). Adjust your seasonings and that's about it. Some people add a bouquet garni with the veggies and sometimes I put peppercorns in a tea ball and throw that in too.
A really good trick, if you have one, is to use one of those stock pots that has the pasta insert...you know, kind of like a colander? I put the vegetables in that and then I just lift them out at the end.

Monday, May 26, 2008

May 26th, 2008

I like to think that not that many people came yesterday because it was such a sunny, glorious day, and it had nothing to do with my husband being out of town! My neighbour and two other friends dropped by and we had a really nice time, although there is a TON of soup left over! I was showing Carol the freezer containers from the past few Sundays and she said I should have a Soup Clearance Sunday. You know, instead of making a new soup, heat up all the different ones I have and let people eat them up. Not a bad idea, but they might have to fight my husband for them!

On the menu was potato leek soup. This is one recipe that I never mess with because it comes from the Cooking Queen, Julia Child. Actually, I think it's a pretty standard French recipe, but I learned it from her when she was a guest on Emeril Lagasse. It's basically even cups of potato and leek and then one cup of water for each. In other words...3 cups of potato, 3 cups of leek, 6 cups of water. And for that combo, you add 1.5 tsp of salt. You bring it to a boil, simmer away until it's all tender, pulverize with a hand mixer (or very carefully in a blender), add some warm cream (1/2 cup for the above amounts) and season with pepper. That's it. And sooooo lovely!

For bread, I made up a couple of batches of the NYT no-knead dough, and then I mixed in Italian herbs, garlic powder, and parsley. Then instead of baking it in the dutch oven, I divided the dough into sixteen pieces and put them in muffin tins. I topped half of them with a pinch of shredded parm and the other half with a dollop of chevre pressed into the dough. Then I cooked them at 450 like usual for about 20 minutes. They came out as small, kind of hard and crusty rolls, perfect for splitting and then dipping in soup. I was pleasantly surprised as this was just an experiment!

And while I don't usually make a dessert (I don't want to set a precedent!) I did make some Rhubarb bread, using my favorite quick-bread recipe for pumpkin bread and subbing 3 sticks of cut up fresh rhubarb that had been roasted for 30 minutes in a little sugar water. It turned out excellent and since there were only four of us, I did bring it out and we all imbibed.

And that's it for this week. Now all I need is to drum up a few readers!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

May 25th 2008

The first three Sundays

Ummm...yeah, I forgot I was going to blog about this Sunday Soup thing, so I started the blog and then poof! Totally forgot about it. But here it is Sunday, so I thought I'd recap the first three really quickly and hopefully I can stay focused enough to do these each week!

First Sunday - I made vegetarian chili from scratch...you know, dry beans, all that. And my husband made southern cornbread, being southern himself and all. Of course, also being a vegetarian, he made it with butter instead of lard. It was a BIG hit. The Chili was a recipe that I adapted and modified. It was actually two recipes, plus a bunch of my own ideas. All in all, I think about ten people came...maybe more. It was a pretty successful start considering my husband forgot to tell his friends.

Second Sunday - I made a vegetable soup with alphabet noodles. It turned out good, but the noodles sort of melted and fell apart. They were huge alphabet letters that I'd gotten at Trader Joe's and they looked cool, but they don't work so well for soup. Still, it tasted great. Also, ever since I learned from that cookbook from the Culinary Institute that I shouldn't simmer my vegetable stock for more than 30 minutes, it's much better. This was the best stock I've ever made. I've always dumped my scraps in the a ziplock bag and kept it in the freezer for making stock, but now that we're composting, my scrap bag is getting low. I'll have to remind myself to fill it occasionally. I made my usual bread from the New York Times no-knead recipe, except I kneaded in some chives, chopped garlic, and shredded cheddar. Oh, boy was it good! We had more people that week, I think.

Third Sunday - I made a Thai inspired with coconut milk soup. It had tofu and rice and vegetables in it. It was quite yellow because of the turmeric, but not spicy at all. I would've liked it spicier, but it was fine. People really liked it and we ate almost all of it, which is no small feat since there weren't that many people here and I made about 7 quarts or more. I made a foccacia bread for the first time. I thought it was a little dry, but it went fast, so I'm probably just a little critical! I topped it with herbs, carmelized onions, sundried tomatoes, and feta. Next time, I would definitely cook it for ten minutes and then add the toppings for the last ten minutes instead of topping it before I put it in the oven like I did.

And that's the first three Sunday Soups!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

About Sunday Soup

onion_sma0050.jpgMy all time favorite books are from the Betsy-Tacy series. Starting when Betsy is in high school, they have a thing called Sunday Lunch. Every Sunday evening (I know? Lunch in the evening?) they open their house to friends and family. Mr. Ray makes sandwiches out of leftover Sunday pot roast or chicken, and if there isn’t anything left, then he makes sandwiches out of Bermuda onions, salt, & pepper. There is strong coffee and sometimes a cake made by Anna or Mrs. Ray (but not always). Julia plays the piano and everyone gathers around and sings, or they just chat (and flirt…the girls are in high school so the place is overrun with boys) and visit.

All my life, I have dreamed of having both a house and friends so I could have Sunday Lunch at my house. Recently we moved to a small town and in this very friendly community, we have met so many wonderful people that we felt it was time to indulge in my Betsy Ray dream. On the first Sunday in May, we had our very first Sunday Soup. We’ve taken some liberties. First of all, it’s called Sunday Soup because being vegetarian, there really isn’t any after-church pot roast for sandwiches (And onion sandwiches? Ooooh! Ick!), so I’m making a different soup and fresh bread each week. And secondly, we dropped the “lunch” phrasing because we didn’t want anyone coming at noon, which is what lunch means to us west coasters. Lastly, we don’t have a piano, but there were guitars that first Sunday, and other friends sing, play the upright bass, dobro, and trombone, so you never know what will happen of a Sunday evening around here at Casa Bon Chance!

I’m one step closer to my lifelong dream of being Betsy Ray! Haha! Check back weekly for an update on Sunday Soup, what we had, who was there, how it evolves. Since almost all my soups are either recipes I've made up, or recipes I've significantly changed, I will share a recipe occasionally too. Welcome to Sunday Soup!