Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thai Noodle Soup

Yep…I’ve been on a soup kick lately so you’ll just have to bear with me…it’s what I crave when fall and winter turn the weather chilly. One of the quickest and easiest soups to make is ramen noodles—the quintessential fast food. In college it was a staple, and it never fails to be the perfect canvas for the creative ‘dump cook’—see sidebar. Also, it’s a perfect way to use up that leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.

My sister-in-law, May, taught me to make this delightfully easy version for more sophisticated pallets. I love the versatility of this recipe and hope you will too.

Thai Noodle Soup
Serves one

1 package Ramen Noodles
½ Cup Fresh or Frozen Vegetables of choice—carrots, green beans, scallions, kale, pea pods, broccoli, asparagus etc.
¼ Cup Protein of choice…Cooked chicken, turkey, beef, pork, or egg—optional
½ tsp Fish Sauce
1 Tbs Fresh Cilantro-minced
Lime—cut in wedges
Dried Red pepper flakes or spice of your choice

In a small stock pot, boil water for noodles as per the package directions. Slice vegetables and protein into bite size pieces. When water is boiling, add vegetables and cook 1 minute before adding noodles. Cook 3 minutes and remove from heat. Pour off some of the water, if you like a stronger broth, and then add seasoning packet, fish sauce, protein, and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice (or lemon in a pinch) over noodles and garnish with pepper flakes to taste. Enjoy!

Dump Cook Notes: as a traditional dump cook, I don’t measure anything that goes into this soup so all measurements are approximate. Fish sauce is fairly strong (don’t smell it…it tastes way better than it smells) and I usually use just a splash or two from the bottle. Experiment. In Thai cooking it is used the same way we use salt…so start with a little and don’t be afraid to use more if you want a stronger flavor. The same goes for the lime juice…I usually use a wedge or two…it blends well with the fish sauce and cilantro to meld the flavors nicely. For spice we use Thai Fried Chili Paste—photo here, but dried pepper flakes—preferably Thai chili flakes, work just fine also.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup

More Soup…
I got this recipe from the kitchen ladies at work. It comes from an institutional cookbook—or maybe more accurately described as a booklet, which was published sometime in the 1940’s. It was missing its cover, so I don’t have a clue of its name or publisher…all I know is that it makes a great pot of soup. The recipe has measurements for 10, 50, and 100 servings and if you want to make it for more than the 10 serving batch I’m posting here, let me know. I’ve always loved tomato soup but never come across a recipe I really loved until I stumbled upon this one. Of course being a good 'Dump Cook’(see sidebar) I tweaked it a little. I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

This recipe is also a great one to make with kids...the perfect little science experiment—watching what happens when you mix an acid (tomato) with a base (baking soda). They love it.

Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup

2 14 ½ oz. cans Tomato’s—pureed
1 tsp sugar
½ Cup celery (about 3 stalks)
½ Cup onion (about ½ a medium sized onion)
¼ tsp baking soda
½ Cup butter (see notes below)
4 Tbs flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1 tsp white pepper
3 Cups chicken broth
3 Cups half and half
2-3 Tbs fresh basil, minced
Tomatoes, fresh diced (optional)

Combine tomato puree, sugar, celery, and onions in a large stockpot. Simmer covered for one hour. Add baking soda.
In a separate pan, melt butter, add flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. Whisk in chicken broth and stir until smooth and thick. Add thickened broth mixture to your tomato puree. Stir in half and half. Heat for about 10 minutes but, Do Not Boil. Stir in basil, taste and adjust for seasonings if necessary. Serve garnished with fresh chopped tomato if desired.

Notes: The original recipe calls for the celery and onion to be minced and cooked with the tomato puree. Usually I puree all three ingredients in the Cuisinart, and cook them that way. This gives a creamy soup with lots of body. If you want a chunkier soup, follow the original recipe and mince the onions and celery. It also calls for one bay leaf instead of the basil. If you want to use bay leaf, add it to the tomato puree and let it cook for an hour to release its flavor. Remove before serving.

To make this recipe a little healthier—back in the 1940’s I don’t think they were so concerned with a heart healthy diet; I usually decrease the amount of butter I use. You really just need enough to moisten all the flour in making your roux…so 3-4 Tbs would probably do it. Also, I have substituted both low fat milk and whole milk for the half and half, and thought the recipe tasted just fine. If you’re wowing guests however, and have no care for their hearts, make it as the recipe calls for…it’s sinfully delicious.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Soup's On...

Remember this?

Soup has always been a comfort food for me. Rich, creamy, warm, and delicious…there is nothing better, in Fall, than a cup of soup to warm you all the way down to your toes. When I was living in Portland, there was an old European Bakery on Morrison St. that served the most delicious Hungarian Mushroom soup. The Three Lions Bakery, (which I hear has unfortunately gone out of business) served this soup with crispy bread sticks. The soup is creamy, a little spicy, and will lead your imagination to faraway lands.

I’ve adapted the Three Lions Bakery recipe, that I clipped from the Oregonian newspaper back in 1994. To get the best flavor be sure to use real Hungarian Paprika—other types won’t taste nearly as good.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Makes about 8 cups

6 Tbs butter
1 ½ Cup chopped onion
4 tsp Hungarian paprika
4 tsp dried dill weed (fresh is better, if you have it available)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 Cup all-purpose flour
1 2/3 Cup milk
2 2/3 Cup chicken broth (original recipe calls for water)
2 Tbs Tamari (or soy sauce)
2 Tbs lemon juice
½ Cup sour cream
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
4 Cups sliced mushrooms

In a large saucepan, melt butter and sauté the onion along with the paprika, dill weed (unless you use fresh, in that case add the fresh dill weed just prior to serving and decrease the amount to 3 teaspoons), salt and pepper until the onion is tender. Whisk in the flour and then the milk and chicken broth. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the soup begins to thicken, then add the mushrooms and cook for additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Tamari, lemon juice, sour cream and parsley. Serve immediately.

Note: If your local grocer doesn’t carry real Hungarian Paprika you can get it here. Penzey’s Spice Company is where I get most of my spices. Their selection and quality is hard to beat. For this recipe I use the Hungarian Half Sharp.

Also, because I think it's hilarious, here is The Best of The Soup Nazi…enjoy!

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