Sunday, August 13, 2017

Roasted pepper and tomato soup

This is a sort of/kind of recipe for soup using my roasted/canned red and yellow bell peppers. You can use canned roasted red peppers just as well and fresh tomatoes too.

This is a basic soup, but you can dress it up anyway you like as you go.

What you need:

One medium onion,  chopped
Two medium carrots, coined or chopped
Two stalks celery, diced
(or any combo of these that you have in the fridge)
Oil for cooking veggies
2-4 tbsp smoked paprika (or not, depending on taste)*
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or just a pinch)*
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (to taste)*
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup Red or white wine
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth (boxed/canned is fine)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pint of roasted red peppers with some of the juice
1-2 cans diced tomatoes (Italian or Mexican spiced up to you, but I use plain)
1 cup half and half or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream or coconut milk

Basically, whatever you have in the fridge, cupboard or can borrow. The main thing are the peppers and tomatoes. Everything else is to taste or if available.

In a large pot (this is a one pot operation) heat oil until hot. Add the veggies and saute until starting to soften. Add the paprika, cayenne, Italian seasoning and tomato paste and stir well. Cook until the spices bloom (smell good). Deglaze (meaning pour into the pan) the wine and cook until mostly gone. Add the stock, vinegar, peppers, tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a boil and simmer until the flavors have melded and the carrots are soft (they take the longest to cook). You can taste it now but don't have to.

Blend with an immersion blender or a regular blender until it is as smooth as you like. Fancy  restaurants like to strain out the fiber, but that is part of the benefit of this soup. Almost no fat and little salt, no sugar. Return to pot and stir in the cream (or not, but it really makes this soup) and season with salt and pepper. I added my cayenne at this point and was a bit too generous for some palates, but it was still good. Do not boil, but bring to heat and serve. It keeps well in the fridge.

*You can make this into an Indian soup with curry powder. Use coconut milk for sure for this.

Serve with some creme freche or chopped basil and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Roasting and Preserving your Own Roasted Sweet Peppers

Roasting and preserving your own roasted red peppers is fun and economical. I bought a bunch on sale at Safeway and proceeded to can three jars of them. I used this same recipe to can Hatch chilies this week. It is simple and easy to do. 

What you need:

4 pounds of peppers
1 cup bottled lemon juice
2 cups white vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
1 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 pint jars for canning

First thing you need to do is start your water in your canner or what ever you are using as a canner. See the link below for information on equipment I recommend if you are going to get into canning.

This article is great and has all of the basic information you need to can and pickle your own veggies:

How to Quick Pickle Any Vegetable

I have used it to pickle cucumber slices at work twice and they came out great.

This is five pounds of cucumbers pickled to go with southern Hot Chicken sandwiches.

This is something anyone can do. 

Once the water is going you need to work on the peppers. Using a chef knife, cut in half,removing the seeds and veins from the insides. Wash and drain you peppers. If you are using a hot pepper wear gloves to handle the peppers. 

Once washed and drained turn on your broiler and put the peppers in one layer on a sheet pan, brushing oil on them. You may have to do it in two bunches as I did. Broil until they are charred onto and blistered. Put into a large bowl and cover and allow them to steam the skins off.

While they are steaming put the lemon juice, vinegar, salt and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally to mix it together.  The water should be hot now. Remove the lids from  your jars and submerge in the hot water while you prep the rest. Put the lids in  a pan of hot but not boiling water now.

Once the peppers are steamed remove them from the bowl and peal them. Be careful and I would wear  kitchen gloves. 

Remove the jars from the hot water and  put on a clean towel on the counter. Pack the peppers into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Pour in the hot liquid over the peppers, again, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  I recommend a canning funnel for this as it pretty much goes 1/2 an inch into the jar, so just fill to the bottom of the funnel. Make sure you get a clove of garlic in each jar. 

Use a chopstick to run around the sides of the jars to remove the air. Wipe the tops of the jars and cover, tightening them just hand right. A lid tool is good for getting  the covers on without too much of a mess. Put the jars into the canner and process for 15 minutes. Remove carefully and put on the counter to cool. The tops should pop down and seal. If a jar does not seal put in the fridge and use within 2 or 3 weeks. 

These are great for making soup. See my next post on how to make great roasted pepper/tomato soup with a pint of these chilies and a recipe for green Hatch chili enchilada sauce. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pickling and Preservation

I think a lot of cooks are afraid of getting into pickling and preserving foods because of concerns over food safety. In the last month I have done more canning and pickling than I had my entire life and have developed a certain confidence both in method and result.

One of my favorite pickles is Bread and Butter pickles, shown here. They are sweet-sour and spicy. I can eat half a jar in one sitting. They are very easy to make and in the end, fun. When you consider the $3-6 cost of a small jar of these you can see why they are economical. I love cooking anything, so that is another benefit.

I got this recipe from Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan. It is a relatively small, but information filled book that really explains how to can and preserve food in your own kitchen. During my recent experience I got the time to complete the process down to a little more than an hour.

Some tips for your adventure.

  • Get a canner with a rack.
  • Buy the best, freshest veggies that you can.
  • Process tips:
  • You can buy jars at thrift shops or garage sales and save money
I recommend starting with something you and your family really like. If you have a garden then this process is even cheaper, as you have a free source for many of your veggies. 

Have fun!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Vinegar is One of the Secrets of Good Cooking

This is my vinegar of choice. There are many, many kinds of vinegar, but apple cider vinegar, unfiltered and unadulterated is a very nice vinegar with great flavor. If you read about what the makers and aficionados think of it you will think it is a super food. I do not hold with that, but using it to cook with is great. One example are my bbq beans. Here is a recipe what uses this vinegar.

A glug of oil or three pieces bacon diced 1/4 inch
One large (28 ounce) can pork and beans (any brand) drained and rinsed
One medium onion diced
One jalapeno pepper diced (seeds and stems removed)
Two garlic cloves minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Bbq Sauce
2 TBSP honey
2 TBSP dijon mustard (any kind you like)
2-4 TBSP apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil  or cook the bacon until it renders the fat in a pot and add the onion, garlic and pepper and saute until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Taste. Add honey, mustard or vinegar to adjust flavor. It does not take much salt, if any but fresh ground black pepper helps. Let simmer to meld the flavors. If want really deep flavors put in a slow cooker for 4 hours.

If you want to you can cook the beans in a pressure cooker first and then use with this recipe, but that is a lot of work. It is up to you. Cook about 1 pound of dry beans to have the amount you need for this. What kind? Pinto or kidney would both work for this dish. Doctor it as you wish, of course.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dragoon’s Beef Chili with Beans

Dragoon’s Beef Chili with Beans

1 can (28 oz) tomatoes, diced
1 lb thin sliced beef (stir-fry beef works great)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cans (15 oz) pinto beans
1 each onion (diced)
1 each red bell pepper cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 bottle beer (I used coors)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Ancho chile powder
1 Teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
½ tbsp cumin seed, ground
½ tbsp oregano
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
⅛ bunch cilantro (chopped)

  • Diced onion and red bell pepper and chop the garlic.
  • Heat oil in a large pot and add onion and red bell pepper. Sauté until onion starts to get soft.
  • Add garlic and all of the spices and tomato paste to the onion mixture and stir to combine and coat the vegetables. Cook until the spices have bloomed and it smells wonderful.
  • Add the meat into the mixture, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned on all sides.
  • Add the beer, the tomatoes and beans and stir it all together. Bring to a brisk boil and turn down to medium low and simmer until the beer has cooked out, 30-45 minutes, depending on how strong the beer is.
  • If you like it soupier add beef or chicken stock or even another beer, but I like it thick.
  • Add the cilantro.
  • Check flavor and add salt and pepper. I needed about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of ground black pepper to bring the flavors out.
  • Garnish with sour cream, cheese and/or jalapeno peppers, but I needed no additions.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Recipes Lie


Now, I love reading recipes. I collect recipes. I have two entire three ring binders of recipes in document protectors. Someday I will get around to organizing the things in a meaningful way but I am not retired yet. That said, as Anthony Bourdain said, “Recipes lie.” They lie in many ways.

First, is the number of servings you get out of the recipe. If you are serving children then maybe you can feed eight with a chicken, but more like four to be safe and even that may not be OK if one of those persons is me. I love chicken, especially a brined, well baked whole chicken.

Second, you cannot “caramelize onions” in under 45 minutes, and I like an hour. OK? So forget about that right now. You can get them a softened up and limp in about 10-15 minutes, but they will be pale and lack the flavor of truly caramelized onions until they are mahogany in color and have no crunch left. Got that? This is an article about the various levels of caramelization.

Not only do they lie about how long it takes to do many things, they may use ingredients like “Reduced sodium chicken stock” and (horrors) low fat butter substitutes. Just ignore that. Use unsalted butter, full fat chicken stock and full fat milk and cream (half and half works well for this as well). These have more flavor and are more healthy for you.

Everything in moderation. We all love sweets and many people love alcohol. You can’t eat sweets or drink if you are healthy, right? Wrong. A piece of pie or other dessert when you are out for your birthday or anniversary are fine. A large bowl of ice cream every night is not. Yes, that is a sacrifice, but there you have it. Enough of this preaching.

Do I follow recipes? Yes, no and maybe. If I am baking, then I follow the recipe to the ounce, gram or teaspoon. Baking is that way for me. If I am cooking most recipes are inspiration for me, not the gospel. A great example is the Pizza Sauce you will find in this book. Wine and red pepper flakes were not in the recipe. It used only chicken stock for deglazing the pan. Italian type food without some wine in the red sauce is just wrong as well as the pepper flakes. I did not think twice about using them, but in moderation. The sauce is awesome. It probably would have been fine without my additions, but I know it was better with them, and yours will be too.

There are some authors who simply really write good recipes. Bobby Flay, Ree Drummond and Jamie Oliver are some. Fuchsia Dunlop for Chinese food. There are others, many, but there are also a lot of hacks. Anyone can write a recipe, but it takes practice, testing and tasting to make really good, replicable recipes. The first web site I ever used for food was Chef John (not sure of his full name) is a great guy for home cooking recipes. Nothing I have made from his recipes has failed to impress me. The chili in this book is a riff on his Spicy Turkey Chili, but with beef and other stuff, but I learned to mix chili powder and other spices from this recipe, as well as they way to put the chili together in a way that tastes great.

You probably have recipes, cookbooks or memories from grandparents, parents or friends that are your favorites (as you see in this book) and that is great and I encourage it. These all invoke memories and connect us to our heritage. Keep them and used them, making them your own by making small changes or simply mastering them completely. It is really fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

It has been nearly 10 years since I blogged here about food. Hahahaha.. I thought I knew food then. I didn't. Since then I have fucked my life up and recovered. I have a degree in culinary arts now, but that was just the beginning of my rediscovering and maturing as a cook. Also, I found some old recipes I had forgotten about, which is cool, especially the Chicken Adobo. I need to review the rest of the posts and work on this blog.

Let's talk food for a moment. When I was writing this I was willing to buy frozen food in the supermarket and heat it up for dinner. I literally do not by anything frozen except fo vegetables or fruit now and then they have to be just that, no additives. All my food is made from scratch and I eat at most one fast food meal a week, and then from a known, trusted source. I am leaned to cook using very few recipes and rarely look at a cookbook any longer and if I do they are for inspiration.

Here is an example: Meatloaf

One to 2 pounds ground beef
2 TBSP oil
One medium to small onion (minced)
3-4 gloves garlic (minced)
2 TBSP worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup divided
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
1/2 or so cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

7Mince the onion and garlic (a small food processor is great for this) and heat the oil in a frying pan. Saute the onions and garlic until they are soft and fragrant. While this is going on mix the panko and milk in a small bowl and let it soak. Mix everything together in a bowl (reserving half the ketchup). Grease a medium loaf pan and slide the mixture into it. Smooth out and slather the rest of the ketchup on top. Put into the oven and cook for 45-50 minutes or until the center is about 155 degrees or more. Take out and let sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with boiled yellow potatoes and more ketchup and some roasted green beans.

Roasted green beans? Trim a pound of green beans. Toss with oil, salt and pepper and spread on a sheet pan. Put in the oven when the meatloaf is done and roast, stirring after 10 minutes, then taking out when they begin to caramelize (show brown spots). Delicious.