Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Aftermath of the Killer Potatoes

Nearly eleven p.m. and the allergies have not subsided. Potatoes are my own personal kryptonite.

What was so strange about this Sunday Soup is that I had to serve soup that I couldn't taste! My taste buds are completely out of whack due to the allergy attack, and a half hour before it was time to serve, I was panicking because the soup tasted...well...I'm not sure what it tasted like, but not like something delicious to serve to guests. The Southerner had a bowl though and said it was great. And he never lies. Not even to spare my feelings. Trust me, he can't even lie when it might behoove him to! Most everyone had seconds and since they didn't know that I had no idea how it tasted, I think they actually liked it and didn't do it just to save my feelings. Since I made up the recipe, I guess I better write it down. I froze some so I can taste it myself when the allergies go away.

I didn't make a lot of soup since it's Canada Day Weekend and lots of our friends had plans or guests or both. Plus it was gorgeous and 30 degrees today, so that's pretty much sweltering around here (mid-eighties Fahrenheit, Yankees!) and doesn't really get the masses thinking about a nice hot bowl of soup. As it turned out, most of the regulars showed up anyway (including Calvin, the cat itching for a catnip fix). N
one of the three Steves from last week were here, but Steve O. finally took a day off from selling houses and showed up to represent the Steve contingent of the town (and to eat lots of Canada Bars).

Canada Bars were my surprise. They are actually pumpkin bars dyed red with food coloring and frosted with white cream cheese frosting. Very popular, I must say!

Last week when I told Carol that The Southerner considers "soup an appetizer" and that he actually expects me to make dinner after everyone leaves, she thought I was kidding. Tonight, when I put the casserole in the oven while they were still sitting around, she realized I wasn't. I told her that next time someone asks me, "What can I bring to Sunday Soup?" I'm going to say, "Bring a vegetarian casserole so I don't have to cook The Southerner dinner after y'all go home!" The Southerner did not find that amusing, so whatever you do, if you're reading this, DO NOT BRING A VEGETARIAN CASSEROLE. I mean it. Don't do it. ;-) ;-)

Happy Canada Day, y'all!
(I bet you thought I was going to say "eh?" didn't you?)

Attack of the Killer Potatoes

I have always had a slight allergy to raw potatoes. When I cook them (often), it usually makes me sneeze once or twice when I cut them up (don't worry, I never sneeze on the potatoes and I wash my hands afterwards!). I rarely peel potatoes, mostly because I buy red or white and like the peelings, but also because of the sneezles!

Well, yesterday I threw caution to the wind (okay...I forgot all about it) and peeled six white potatoes for my Roasted Garlic, Potato and Red Pepper Soup (original recipe!). By the time I was done peeling, I had a full-on allergy attack. It was almost as bad as spring in The South (which, since I'm married to The Southerner, you might've guessed is where we came from before settling here). This allergy attack was the whole thing, the real deal and it didn't go away either. In fact, for the first time in twenty-four hours I'm starting to feel the effects subsiding! So what is the lesson for the future here? All potato peelings, and even cutting up potatoes, from now own will be delegated to my fabulous sous chef, The Southerner. He already does the onions because I bought him a food chopper thingie which is kind of like a toy because you get to pound it up and down and it slices and dices very effectively while making a loud boy-noise. The reason it is not like a toy is because it has really sharp bits, so I always wash it afterwards since he cut his finger the time he tried to wash it.

For bread, we're having the braided challah bread. I think I mentioned making it once before, but that was just for practice, not for Sunday Soup. I think it looks very impressive and since my soup is fairly simple, I thought the bread should really stand out. It's on its second rise now, and I'll pop it in the oven as soon as I've done the egg wash, which will make it all shiny and then it will look like one of those pictures in food magazines.

P.S. It is almost Canada Day and so I made something special, but I'm not telling what it is here because some of you read this before coming over and I don't want to spoil the surprise!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Corn Bread Recipe

Ha! Actually, I'm not buried in dishes due to the fact that The Southerner and one of the many Steves who come to Sunday Soup washed a whole bunch of them, more than once, during the festivities. That was because they're nice guys AND because we had so many people AND we were celebrating Carol's birthday so we needed to re-use the bowls and plates for dessert. It was a successful surprise, in fact, so successful that she was singing happy birthday along with us before she even realized we were singing to her! Granted, she thought no one knew it was coming up on Tuesday, but if you tell me once when your birthday is, I remember.

That reminds me, something I've never mentioned here before is that when we started this whole thing, we decided to make it as low-impact on the environment as we could. This means we use real dishes, real silverware, glass glasses, and cloth napkins. This also means that if we get a ton of people, like we did today (they heard that there was going to be cake!), then dish washing is a must. We also bought some extra bowls at the recycle centre (thrift store) and today we actually needed them for the first time.

The Southerner did the cornbread today which meant that he really never left the kitchen. Beforehand, I mixed up three batches of his dry ingredients for him, and while everyone was eating, I mixed up two more while he whipped out cornbread like a pro! But he was not fast enough for this hungry hoard. It is approximately ten feet from the oven to the deck and he was not two steps out onto the deck with a fresh plate of cornbread before he looked down and saw the plate was empty. As promised, the recipe will be included at the bottom of this post.

The soup was quite well loved today too, and while I'd been a bit worried that we'd have tomato orange soup coming out of our ears for the next week (I made nearly 9 quarts), there's hardly any left and I can honestly say that if there hadn't been dessert, I don't think there'd be any soup left at all.

For dessert I made a chocolate rhubarb cake, served warm, with hot English custard. Yeah...yummmm! The cake was my own concoction, but I had tested it out last week to make sure it worked. Everyone who tried it said, "Chocolate Rhubarb? I've never heard of that." Yep...that's because I made it up. Just in case you're thinking of trying it, don't forget to stew or roast the rhubarb with some water and sugar (and drain) beforehand, or I don't think it will work out very well. The cake recipe I tweaked is supposed to have sauerkraut in it, which I left out and replaced with rhubarb. While you might not believe me, it's excellent with sauerkraut too. We also had a towering apple pie that one of the other Steves brought. When someone asked him if he made it he said, "I don't make pies, I eat them." It looked delicious and I managed to sneak a piece
when no one was looking into the cupboard for later tonight.

Anyway, thanks to all of you came today! It was lots of fun to have so many people, and don't forget to come early next Sunday to help clean out the gutters. Every week, as things are winding down, the subject seems to turn to things that might need to be done around our house...luckily for me, most of these jobs seemed aimed at The Southerner. Tonight it was brought to his attention that the gutters have plants growing in them. We're so glad to have made so many friends in our new home that are willing to give up their Sunday afternoon to help deforest the gutters. Y'all are really too kind!

And now for the famous cornbread recipe:

From Cook's Illustrated "The Best Recipe".

4 teaspoons butter
1 cup stoned ground yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the drippings in a 8-inch cast iron skillet and set on the oven rack.
Measure 1/3 cup of the cornmeal in a bowl. Whisk the remaining cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in another bowl.
Pour the boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal and stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in the buttermilk in a stream. Whisk to remove lumps until the mixture is smooth.
Whisk in the egg.
Stir in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Do not overmix.
Pour into the preheated skillet.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
You would probably bake it the same amount as you did for your smaller skillet.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tomato Orange Soup Recipe

This week's soup is Tomato Orange. It's a pretty fabulous recipe and we refer to it as "butter soup" because four servings has a whole stick of butter in it. This time, I am making a batch that is 6 x the recipe. Seriously. I am making so much for a few reasons. The first is that it's a thin soup. The second is that it is a DELICIOUS soup. And the third is that I invited extra people this week, my neighbour invited extra people, and The Southerner invited extra people for tomorrow. And if no one comes, we'll happily freeze and enjoy for a long time to come!

Because this is not my own (secret) recipe, I'm going to publish it here for your enjoyment. Also, I will follow it with a few changes I've made.

Tomato Orange Soup
4 servings

2 14.5 oz cans unsalted diced tomatoes (I often just use a 28 oz. can and don't worry about the salt)

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

½ medium onion, diced

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp pepper

¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp dried thyme

1 cup fresh orange juice

½ cup whipping cream

In a saucepan, melt butter, add onion and sauté until translucent. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, baking soda and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Puree in food processor or blender; strain through a sieve or food mill. Return to saucepan and stir in orange juice and cream. Bring to a simmer and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve hot.

If you use tomatoes with salt, reduce or eliminate salt.

Elephants Delicatessen, Portland OR November 15, 1994

Now for my notes: The recipe doesn't say whether you should drain the tomatoes or not. Usually I do, but this time I didn't and it was fine and it gives you a bit more soup for your buck.

I have made this with thyme every time I've made this, but my poor plant needs to grow some before I harvest anymore of it. At the market today I got a lovely bunch of basil, so today I subbed fresh basil. It turned out lovely. I'll use some for garnish tomorrow too.

Also, because I was making so much, and I'm not rich, I only used a pound of butter (instead of a pound and a half) and then added 2/3 cup of olive oil. The Southerner and I agreed that next time I make it for us, I will try reducing butter & adding a bit of olive oil and that we think it will work just fine and make it a little healthier.

I used 1/2&1/2 instead of whipping cream, but mostly because I had some in the fridge. I think I've made it both ways.

Oh, and the last thing is that I used my boat motor blender thingie and I didn't bother to strain it. I have strained it most times before and it's always a pain and I feel like you lose so much of the body of the soup. We like it a little bulkier.

The bread for tomorrow is by special request, The Southerner's cornbread, which means I'm off the hook for bread this week!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Clean Bowl Club

Today's the first Sunday that we've eaten all the soup. There wasn't a particularly large number of people, but the soup was yummy and I didn't make a lot. We had all the regulars plus two newbies. One of them, Steve, said he'd definitely be back because the food was good and the price was right!

The Soup - Vegetarian Corn Chowder. This one is based on a recipe but I left out the red peppers because I don't really like them and well...I'm the I'm only putting in things I like. Ideally you make this with fresh corn, but it's not in season yet, so I used frozen and it was pretty delish anyway, so I'm happy with the results. The main seasoning is thyme, which I cut from my herb pot and embellished a little with French Thyme from my seasonings drawer. I would've had to give the plant a buzz cut to get enough for this dish. Normally I make this soup using Morning Star Sausage Crumbles (fake meat) instead of bacon, but I can't get that here in Canada, so I used diced up Tofurky Sausage. Not quite as good, but no one complained, even the meat lovers.

The Bread - Being married to a Southerner has basically left me afraid of trying either cornbread or buttermilk biscuits. He makes the cornbread and until yesterday, I'd never tried making biscuits. Ummmm....guess what? They're really friggin' easy! And very yummy. They were a big hit. I did the practice ones yesterday and then today I made a couple of batches. My husband said it was like being back in his grandma's kitchen, so I guess I must've done just fine despite the fact that they were made with butter instead of lard or Crisco!

The Cats - Really, I don't HAVE to talk about the cats every week, but so far Carol is one of my only readers and she comes to Sunday Soup every Sunday and she likes to hear about the cats, so here's the update. Calvin and Tigre (yep...spelled it wrong in previous posts, sorry Tigre) came along to visit this week. Calvin discovered the catnip plant and basically it was all over for him. In a matter of seconds we were trying to disentangle him from it (and the poor plant had already suffered several attacks by our cats, including one by moonlight last night that left it in the yard with teeth marks all through it). We gave Calvin a leaf of his own and he rolled around, drooling happily and then he had to go home for a nap.

The Music - Alison brought her guitar and she and Victor played tunes for the second half of the night. It was really very lovely.

The Uninvited Guest - towards the end of the evening, we did have to go inside due to swarms of mosquitoes (the first of the year). Being that mosquitoes look at me as an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, I was the first one to give up and run screaming into the house, but the others followed!

And that's all for this Sunday. Eat well!

Monday, June 2, 2008

After the fact - June 1st, 2008

We had a rather small gathering, but it was extremely enjoyable and musical. One of our friends showed up with her guitar in tow and my husband already had his out. They proceeded to sit at the kitchen table, playing for two and half hours. It was great!

Our neighbour arrived right on time (island time, that is...we open the doors at 4pm and she showed around 5pm) with three of her four cats. One just explored the yard, but the other two made themselves at home, eating bits of stray cat food that had spilled out of the bowl when I hid it in the bedroom (they've been here before and I'm not sure she feeds them at home)! And they both checked out the couch for comfort and possible naps. As you can see, all are welcome here.

I think it's good for our two cats to have cat visitors, don't you? I mean, I'm basing the whole Sunday Soup on the Betsy-Tacy book idea of Sunday lunch and Betsy could always bring her friends. I don't have any kids to bring friends, so the cats are doing their part. They're getting along better too. Unlike last week when our cat Grinder took one look at them and hid in the yard until they went home, he actually touched noses with Calvin and Tigger and they all stayed on the porch for a while.

Later our friend Steve dropped by for the first time. He'd called and said, "I've just come in from painting. Is the soup still on?" I said, "Sure. Come on over." and then he said..."Do I have to get dressed?" Hmmmm...that's an aspect of Sunday Soup I hadn't considered! I told him, "Well, we'd prefer you wear something, but you don't have to dress up." He dressed up anyway. And brought wine. I think we sold him on the soup and that he'll be back again too.

Everyone liked the bread and while it was tasty with the soup, it proved really yummy toasted with jam & butter this morning and then later as sandwiches (black bean hummus, avocado, cheese, and olive oil). It's definitely a keeper.

Y'all come back now, hear?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

June 1st, 2008

You might think that because it's June, I would make something light and summer-like for soup today. Like, oh, I don't know...strawberry soup, but nope. I had a spaghetti squash that has been staring at me from the fruit bowl (yes, I keep the veggies in the fruit bowl so the bananas don't get lonely) saying, "If you're gonna use me, you better get on it. I won't last forever, you know?"

So, today's soup is a made up one. I roasted the spaghetti squash in the oven with some olive oil for a while and I also roasted a bag of frozen pre-cut sweet potatoes with some oil and garlic. Now, if you're wondering, "Who buys frozen sweet potatoes...I mean, how lazy can you be?" you're not alone. It was an ACCIDENT! We don't even like sweet potatoes around here. Anyway, I figured this was a great opportunity to get rid of them too...I mean, serve them lovingly to friends. So, while the veggies were roasting, I made vegetable stock, using the recipe in the post below this one. And then I tossed in the sweet potatoes and the squash (after scraping it out, of course) in the stock with the white parts of green onions (chopped). I simmered that for an hour or so and then pureed it with my little hand blender, added some cream, and salt and pepper and decided that it was all right, but a little thin.

One thing I do is make the soup on Saturdays because soup always tastes better the next day. Today, I boiled three white potatoes in some salt, mashed them up, added them to the soup, blended it again, and then added a couple of tablespoons of fresh time, more salt and pepper and voila! A quite tasty, light, summery soup, if I do say so myself.

The bread this week is honey wheat. I've been looking for a sandwich bread and I think this might be it. It's only 1/3 whole wheat flour, so it's got that taste, but isn't totally hippie bread or anything that will break your teeth. It's rather nice. I think it's a keeper.

Oh, and as long as we're talking about bread, just for fun, I tried making challah earlier this week. It was really fun! You braid it and I have to say that while it was pretty easy, it looked really gourmet and fancy. I'm slowly losing my fear of yeast bread. For a long time I wouldn't try it because my few attempts ended up in loaves even my husband wouldn't eat, and he'll eat anything! However, after using the New York Times No-Knead bread recipe for seven or eight months, I began to think I might be able to pull it off. And it's working out fine.

Did you make soup or bread this week?