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Haitian Independence Soup

14 Nov

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow onion, small diced

2 carrots, small diced

3 ribs celery, small diced

1 turnip, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cube vegetable bouillon

SOFTEN: Place cubed butternut squash in large pot.  Cover with water and add sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer until squash is completely softened (15-20 minutes).

PUREE: Using an immersion blender (or blender or food processor) puree water, sugar and butternut squash combination until smooth.  Set aside and keep warm.

SAUTE: Heat 1 spin of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add carrots, celery and onion.  Saute until softened (5-7 minutes).  Add turnips, potatoes and salt & pepper (as desired).  Stir and cook for another few minutes (3-5 minutes).  Add garlic, stir and cook one additional minute.

SIMMER: Add butternut square puree to the other veggies.  Add water to desired consistency, if needed.  Add bouillon cube, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.  Stir in cilantro.  Simmer together, the longer the better (at least 15-20 minutes).

Adapted from Chantal Powell in Soup & Bread Cookbook

This is the first recipe in the newly published Soup & Bread Cookbook.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Soup & Bread, be sure to check them out.  S&B was started by Martha Bayne who was bored of spending cold, not-so-busy Wednesday nights tending bar at The Hideout so she invited some friends by to make some soup, share, mingle and eat.  She encourages local professional and amateur chefs to bring crockpots filled with their favorite soup or some tasty loaves of bread to share.  Everyone pitches in a donation which is then given to local charities, particularly the Chicago Food Depository.  She also has plenty of tips for getting similar initiatives started in other cities.   S&B is a great homage to soup itself, which has been building community, stretching foods to help ease hunger and keeping us warm through many winters.   Be sure to come out for the next S&B series in Chicago which starts this January.   The S&B Cookbook is a compilation of favorite soups brought to S&B over the years, with helpful tips and entertaining stories on using soup to foster community building.

This recipe is absolutely delicious.  Adding just a touch of sugar to the butternut squash as it boils adds a subtle sweetness, almost similar to sweet potatoes.  I added a little cayenne pepper which created a nice balance of spicy and sweet.  I love the simplicity, adding only cilantro to spice it up; yet simmering the cilantro into the soup prevented the cilantro from overpowering the it which I’ve found cilantro has a tendency to do.  Great start to an excellent cookbook.  More soup recipes to come..it’s only November.

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Spicy Tomato Salsa

11 Sep

9 dried chili peppers

Hot water

12 cups diced cored peeled tomatoes (1/2 inch/1 cm dice) * See How to Peel Tomatoes.

3 cups chopped red onion

1 1/2 cups tightly packed, finely chopped cilantro

15  cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped * If you like your salsas extra spicy, leave in all or a portion of the seeds and membranes.

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp salt

3/4 tsp hot pepper flakes

1. In a heatproof glass or stainless steel bowl, combine dried chilies with hot water to cover.  Weigh chilies down with a bowl or a weight to ensure they remain submerged, and soak until softened, about 15 minutes.  Drain off half the water.  Transfer chilies and remaining water to a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree until smooth.

2. Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine chili puree, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno peppers, vinegar, salt and hot pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

4. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa.  Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process both 8-ounce and pint jars for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving, Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.

I haven’t been able to stop talking and thinking about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which chronicles the year she and her family  committed to eating 100% local produce.  She talks about asparagus the way some men talk about women in fishnets; and I can tell you, I’ve been as excited to see asparagus in local markets after a long, food-dull winter as many are to see beer, nachos and Bears football today. Maybe the book has stuck with me because I share her utter excitement in juicy, sweet tomatoes after months of unripened, tasteless toms from god-knows-where at grocery stores, but really, it’s just that she makes it sound so incredibly easy and doable.  And it turns out, it is.

I don’t live on a farm and I share my yard with 6 other units (currently 11 people total) so although the City of Chicago does allow its residents to raise and keep both chickens and roosters on their property within city limits, I figured all 11 neighbors would not be welcoming to a little brood of chickens between the 3 grills,2 tables and my garden.  Space is tight as it is.  These were the sorts of things I thought immediately as she described ordering her little box of chickens and the variety of wild turkeys for her property.  Literally every can-not that I’ve come up with has been followed by a very easy solution in the city.  For example, Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen, which is 3 blocks from my house, sells free range, organic chickens from a farm in Wisconsin and there are nearly always local eggs and meat at the farmers markets (and there is a farmers market somewhere in this city every day of the week).  I haven’t fully boarded the all-local-bandwagon (it’s so hard to resist avocados in summer) but I would estimate that well over 80% of the items I’ve cooked at home this summer have been local.

So as fall is setting in, I’m contemplating how to continue supporting local farming and how to save the tastes of summer.  This weekend was momentous because I finally started jarring.  This was yet another task that I had found completely daunting, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy and, between you and me, fun it can be.  I started with this salsa recipe but I also made a peach salsa that I hope to post soon.  It’s so convenient to have homemade salsa available when you need it and each of the individual ingredients shine in the homemade salsa rather than condensing into a homogenous stew like many of the store-bought options.  If it seems like too much work for you alone, get friends together to split the jars (this recipe makes 12 8-oz jars).  And I happen to know the local Ace Hardware on Lincoln Avenue is having a sale on jars and canners through the end of the month.  I’m happy to burst your can-not bubble, but no excuses,  you can do it too.

Spicy Corn and Crab Chowder

23 Aug

1 medium poblano chile
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup half-and-half, divided
1 (8-ounce) russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 (8-ounce) container crab claw meat, shell pieces removed

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Place poblano on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 8 minutes on each side or until blackened. Place pepper in a small zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and chop.
3. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper) to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn; sauté 2 minutes. Remove 3/4 cup corn mixture from pan. Combine 3/4 cup corn mixture and 3/4 cup half-and-half in a blender; process until smooth. Add potato to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes or until potato is almost tender. Reduce heat to medium.

4. Combine remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half and flour in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return corn puree to pan. Stir in poblano, milk, and crab; bring to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light, August, 2010

As you may know, my favorite things to cook are breads, pies and soups.  So, when the weather turned chilly (and by chilly I mean high 70s to low 80s, but it’s all relative, right?) I wasted no time getting back to chop-stir-simmer-enjoy business.  I love that you can leave most soups to boil away, filling the house with complex yet comforting aromas and a steamy heat you can’t find anywhere else.   As such, I was a little disappointed to find that while this chowder did provide the hoped-for olfactory excitement,  it did require quite a bit of hands-on time and sagged on flavor.   The lack of sit-and-simmer time  may have contributed to the disappointing outcome of the chowder in which the flavors both failed to come together or to shine individually.  I love poblanos and could barely taste them.

If I made this again, I would add additional poblanos, sweet peppers, potatoes and possibly even bacon to to add a little something extra.  I would decrease the milk added in the last step as it seems a little watered down or, well, milky.  I would also add some additional spices such as thyme, chili powder or paprika (though not all at once) to spice it up a bit.   This could make for a good base upon which to develop a more complex chowder, but let’s face it, there’s much better recipes out there already.

Grilled Grape Leaf-Wrapped Goat Cheese

12 Jul

6 to 8 grape leaves (sold in a jar), drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 3/4-to-1-pound round piece goat cheese, such as bucheron, at room temperature (or 2 smaller pieces, stacked)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt
Crusty bread, for serving

Preheat a grill to medium high. Wrap the grape leaves around the cheese to cover it completely; tie with kitchen twine.

Brush the wrapped cheese with olive oil and grill, turning once, until the leaves begin to char and the cheese is soft, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, the rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt to taste in a bowl.

Transfer the warm cheese to a serving plate, pour the oil on top and remove the twine. Serve with bread.

Food Network Magazine, June 2010

This recipe absolutely made my Sunday night.  This is so incredibly simple, but packs enough flavor that you’ll be thinking about those last few bites for days.  Tom and I made this as an appetizer for our Shrimp and Charred Lemon and Zucchini dinner.  There is nothing better than sitting out on a hot summer night, drinking chilled white wine, playing dominoes and eating this.  If you’re free tonight…

My food pyramid already has a solid base of cheese, beer and chocolate.  Slightly melted, warm goat cheese is downright dangerous.  Add a little olive oil, rosemary and crushed red pepper and I’m a goner.  Plus, its always an extra bonus when I find new ways to use my 5+ year-old rosemary plant in new and easy ways (hands-down, the easiest herb to grow).  Goat cheese is the perfect choice for its sweet, tart flavor and it maintains its shape during grilling better than most alternatives might.  The rosemary adds the perfect earthy spice which complements the slight acidity of the brined grape-leaves.  Crushed red pepper for a bit of spice and you have created the perfect starter.  Perfect for date nights or hosting friends.  Serve with sourdough or nice french bread.