Stewing Over The Weather

May 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm Leave a comment

   Let’s see now:  We had summer in early April and autumn in early May.  The poor little irises were quaking in their roots, but we bravely carried on, fueled by comforting culinary concoctions.  As I savored a few days of freedom to steam up the kitchen, I reminded myself that I’ll be wishing for a little of this “coolth” when I’m sweltering away in – oh, I don’t know…October, maybe?  Or perhaps next Tuesday. 

With last week starting out gloomy and cold, I made soup three times and stew once, so today’s ruminations are dominated by thoughts of one-mish-deals, as my dear father-in-law used to call them.  Wednesday, an unconventional but heart-healthy lunch of sardines on Rye Crisp® and a simple lentil soup made by softening 2/3 cups each of chopped red onion, chopped celery, and chopped green pepper in a bit of canola oil in a heavy pot, adding this to lentils (1/2 cup dried, cooked for 25 minutes in four cups of water), then “souping up” the combination with a 14 oz can of chicken stock.  Throw in a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning and there you go, or I went, or whatever.  You could add chopped ham for protein if you’re forgoing the sardines in spite of the testimonial below.  Makes about two servings. 

According to Buzzle.com, sardines are a storehouse of nutritional value offering omega 3 essential fatty acids, rich supplies of vitamin D, Vitamin B12 (for a healthy nervous system), and calcium – made more absorbable by the vitamin D.  They are also one of the few food sources rich in phosphorus (a boon to kidneys, bones, and teeth), and they are low in calories.  Enhance their mild flavor with a pinch of onion powder, perhaps, and munch them, bones and all, on whole grain crackers for a guiltless pleasure.  For a tongue-tantalizing treat, top off this meal with a few slabs of caramelized mango, peeled and cooked au naturel over medium low on a grill pan for at least 30 minutes. 

For the less adventuresome, how about a nice bowl of Pea and Sweet Potato Soup topped with Pulled Parmesan Croutons, Creamy Potato Soup with Gruyère, or Pork Stew with Garbanzo Beans.  And for dessert, a Brown Rice Pudding with Dates and Sugared Almonds – inspired by my well-worn 1965 Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Dare we call this a polite way to thumb our noses at Mother Nature?   The pea soup is my adaptation of http://www.cookingforseven.com ‘s adaptation of a recipe originally published in Taste of Home magazine: 

1 tsp canola oil + 1 tsp butter                1 med onion, chopped

1 C chopped celery                                    7 C water + 2 C chicken broth

16 oz dried green split peas                   3 C cubed sweet potato

1-1/2 tsp sea salt                                        1/2 tsp pepper

Heat butter with oil in a heavy soup kettle; add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until tender.  Stir in water, broth, peas, potatoes, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer for about 90 minutes.  Peas should be fully cooked and mushy.  Use an immersion blender (or a standard blender, used very cautiously with partially cooled soup) to blend soup until it is velvety smooth.  Makes six hearty portions. 

Serve with croutons: 

6-1 oz slices focaccia herb bread               olive or canola oil spray

2 TB fresh, finely grated Parmesan 

Pull bread into roughly bite-size pieces and spread out on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Spray with oil, then toss well and spray lightly again.  Toast for 10-12 minutes in a 350° oven, sprinkle evenly with Parmesan, then slide back into the oven for 1-2 minutes. 

For the potato soup

1 tsp olive oil                                                        1/4 C thinly sliced leeks               

3 TB soy flour                                                       3 C skim milk                     

1-1/2 C evaporated skim milk                       2-1/2 # Yukon Gold potatoes

7 C chicken broth                                               1 tsp onion powder                 

1 tsp dried dill weed                                          8 oz Gruyère or baby Swiss, grated 

In a large, heavy kettle heat oil, add leeks, and cook until tender – seven or eight minutes.  Sprinkle soy flour over cooked leeks and stir well.  Add milk, peeled and cubed potatoes, broth, onion powder, and dill.  Cover and cook at a simmer for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender enough to puree.  Use an immersion or standard blender (see above) until soup is well blended, then bring back to a simmer and add cheese, stirring just until melted.  Again, add some sliced turkey kielbasa for the final heating-through, and your meal is beefed up to one-dish-meal status – or sausaged up, I suppose. 

Or if you prefer, the pork stew:  

canola oil spray                                         1 med onion, chopped coarse

18 oz pork shoulder or boneless, country style ribs, well-trimmed, cut to 3/4″ cubes

3 lge cloves garlic, minced                      2 C cubed, peeled sweet potato

1 – 1 & 1/2 tsp ground ginger                  1/2 tsp @ salt and cayenne pepper

1 tsp Jamaican jerk seasoning-opt.      1-1/2 C chicken broth

1-1/2 C cooked chickpeas 

Heat a well-sprayed heavy kettle over med-high and add chopped onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes or until softened.  Add cubed pork and brown, stirring, for an additional five minutes.  Add garlic, sweet potato, ginger, salt and pepper, and Jamaican jerk – if using.  (Note:  If you use the jerk seasoning, use only 1/2 tsp ginger and omit cayenne.)  Gently stir in broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, stir in chick peas, cover, and let simmer for 60-90 minutes, or until meat is cooked through and sweet potatoes are tender. 

And finally, the slow-baked pudding, which a friend (who also suggested the addition of the cinnamon stick) reminds me is akin to the procedure for oven risotto: 

1/2 C uncooked brown rice                    4 C evaporated skim milk

1/3 C molasses                                             1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg                                             1 stick of cinnamon

1/2 C finely chopped dates                     2 eggs, well-beaten                              

1 tsp butter + 1 tsp canola oil                1/2 C slivered almonds                       

2 tsp raw or granulated sugar           

Preheat oven to 300°.  In a large bowl, stir together the rice, milk, molasses, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon stick.  Pour into a shallow casserole and bake, uncovered, for one hour, stirring three times to keep the rice from settling.  At the one-hour point, stir in the dates, and return the pudding to the oven for a leisurely one-and-one-half hours, while you read a good book or, more realistically, catch up on the laundry.  At the two-and-one-half hour point, stir in the well-beaten eggs, distributing them throughout the mixture.  

While the pudding finishes off, melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   Add the almonds, stirring for  two-three minutes, or until they begin to take on color.  Sprinkle the sugar over the almonds and stir until the sugar melts and begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes longer.  When you dish up the pudding, remove the cinnamon stick and sprinkle a spoonful of sugared almonds on top of each serving. 

Not quite enough to make a person wish for the return of unseasonably cold weather, but pretty darned close.

 

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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