Friday, January 23, 2015

Turkey Posole Soup

I have an old cookbook called Half a Can of Tomato Paste and Other Culinary Dilemmas. It's one of my favorites because it has recipes for using up little bits of this and that. Like a cup of milk or half a can of tomato paste (something I don't have to deal with much now since tomato paste started coming in squeeze tubes). It was published in 1980 and the culinary world has changed quite a bit since then. This recipe for turkey soup was inspired by that book - using up leftovers in an interesting way.

Back in the day, everyone had a bottle of ketchup in the fridge for who-knows-how-long. Now, it's a jar of salsa. This recipe is a good place to use up that old red or green salsa. Any brand you like will do but I like green salsa best.

Posole is dried corn, commonly used in the Southwest. The kernels are whole. It was a wonderful corn flavor and a chewy texture. You can find it dried or easier still, rehydrated in cans. The canned posole makes this soup soup-er fast.

Though this is a turkey soup - because I had leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer along with homemade turkey stock - you could make this with cooked chicken and commercial chicken stock for an even easier version.

Turkey Posole Soup
(serves 6)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced into thin half moons
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed in your palm
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ to 1 cup green or red salsa
8 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 pound 9 oz can posole, drained
2 cups chopped turkey meat
salt (may not need any if using commercial stock)

Possible Garnish
chopped avocado
crushed tortilla chips
grated jack or cheddar cheese

Heat up the oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add carrots, celery, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir around and cook for a few more minutes. Add the salsa, turkey stock, posole, and turkey meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, until carrots are tender. Taste for salt; add more if necessary. Serve with your choice of garnish on top.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meatless Monday: Low Lactose Mac and Cheese

My lovely daughter spent 6 weeks in Southeast Asia last summer. Not a whole lot of dairy in that part of the world. At some point, she was able to get a latte chai. Little light bulb went off - maybe dairy and me don't really get along? She tolerates many cheeses because they are low in lactose. Milk and cream are chock full of the stuff. Sure, there are lactose free milks but they don't taste quite the same. Of course, neither does coconut milk but she really likes coconut milk. So, that's where this recipe came from. Many people have trouble digesting lactose so I offer this recipe to all those lactase-challenged people out there.

When shopping for a low lactose cheese, check the label for sugar. Lactose is the sugar in milk products. Cheeses that are low in sugar have very little lactose. Aged cheeses usually have low levels of lactose so a nice medium cheddar is a good choice here. Don't use processed cheese. They are very high in lactose because whey or milk (both high in lactose) are added during processing. Really, don't use processed cheese even if you can tolerate lactose. That stuff is a poor substitute for cheese, taste-wise.

If you don't have any trouble digesting lactose, you can use cow's milk in this recipe for the sauce. But, give the coconut milk a try and see what you think. Different flavor but still real good comfort food.

Saucy Stovetop Low Lactose Mac and Cheese
(serves 4)

2 cups elbow macaroni
salt for the pasta cooking water
1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
a pinch of powdered garlic, optional
a pinch of powdered onion, optional
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 ¼ cups coconut milk or other non-dairy milk
8 oz. low lactose cheese such as a medium cheddar, grated
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco or other vinegar-based hot sauce
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add about 1 Tablespoon kosher salt (a little less if using regular salt). When the water comes to a boil, add the macaroni. Cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain well, run under cold water to stop the cooking, and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and cook until golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the powdered garlic, powdered onion, and dry mustard. Stir to combine. Whisk in coconut milk. Keep whisking until sauce thickens and the sauce comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese a handful at a time, whisking to melt it after each addition. When all the cheese is added and melted, add in black pepper, salt, Tabasco, Parmesan cheese, and cooked pasta. Stir to cover all the macaroni with sauce. It will be saucy. Taste, add more black pepper, Tabasco, or salt, if desired. Serve while really hot.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Honey Lemon Peach Compote

Yummy topping for pancakes with some chopped almonds for crunch

Here's a tasty way to add some fruits to your diet. I was inspired by the very popular peach teas out there. Why not use those flavors in a saucy compote that you can mix with your yogurt, pour over your pancakes, or spoon over ice cream?

I don't suggest you go out and buy fresh peaches this time of year. They are probably from Chile, where they grow delicious peaches (I was there a year ago this month) but peaches don't travel well. Far too often, they are picked underripe so they can be shipped without turning to mush. Underripe peaches, even once they soften, taste bland and have a mealy texture. Trust, me, the peaches in Chile were nothing like this.

Frozen peaches, though they get a bad rap, are pretty good in a sauce like this. There is enough sugar and acidity to improve even frozen peaches. They are cheaper and far superior to bad fresh peaches, which is all you are going to find this time of year anyway.

If you are not a lemonhead, use the zest of ½ a lemon. The zest isn't tart but it packs a lot of lemon flavor.

Honey Lemon Peach Compote
(makes 4 servings)

1 pound of sliced frozen peaches
¼ cup honey
½ cup water
1 3" cinnamon stick or a big pinch of ground cinnamon
zest of ½ - 1 lemon

Combine everything in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow boil. It shouldn't look like a volcano but bubbles breaking on the surface without spraying peach everywhere. Cook until the liquid is reduced and syrupy and the peaches are hot. Can be refrigerated for up to a week, served hot or cold.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

5 Ingredient Pasta Dinner

Super simple recipe but it illustrates a few things.
  • The use of ready-made ingredients, like a commercial pesto, can elevate some simple things to delicious heights and save you a bunch of time.
  • In a recipe as simple as this, you have room for improvisation. Instead of chicken, use shrimp or a firm fish that will hold together like mahi-mahi. Instead of artichoke hearts, use cubed summer squash, halved cherry tomatoes, or lightly cooked broccoli.
  • Pasta water makes a good thickener for pasta sauces. It helps the sauce stick to the pasta better and stretches out a sauce without thinning it out.
And this whole recipe takes about as long as it takes to boil water and cook pasta.

5* Ingredient Pasta Dinner
(serves 4)

12 oz. chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
¼ cup white wine (or use broth or water)
8 oz. frozen artichoke heart quarters, thawed
1 pound short pasta such as penne or cavatelli
4 Tablespoons pesto (homemade or commercial)

Start heating up a pot of salted water. Cut the chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat a skillet over high heat. Add the oil, then the chicken pieces and sauté. As soon as the water boils, add the pasta and set the timer for 1 minute less than the suggested cooking time (how long depends on the shape). Cook the chicken until browned. Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the artichoke hearts, cover, and turn down the heat to low. When the pasta timer goes off, check to see that it is very nearly done. Scoop off a ½ cup of cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta, reserved water, and pesto to the skillet. Stir to cover the pasta with the sauce. Check for salt; add more salt if needed. Serve as soon as it is all hot.

*And, yes, I can count. I'm not counting the salt, pepper, or oil because they are pantry items. If I wanted to really push it, I'd say 4 because there is always white wine in my house. :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year's Resolution: Celebrate Veggies!

Happy New Year!

In 2015, School of Eating Good is going to celebrate veggies. There will be more veggie based recipes posted here. There are plenty of veggie recipes already but even more are coming. They won't be vegetarian, though there will be plenty of those too. A little bit of meat, if you don't object to meat for ethical reasons, is a great way to get most folks more excited about vegetables. As eaters, we need to tilt things a bit more to the veggies, beans, and whole grains and a bit less to animal products (and here's why).

This recipe for roasted broccoli uses cheese, olive oil, and some nuts to make things more interesting. Not that plain roasted broccoli is bad. It's wonderful. But, we all like variety, don't we?

Roasted Broccoli with Cheese & Nuts
(serves 5-6)

1 ½ pounds broccoli
2 Tablespoons olive oil
a few sprinkles of kosher salt
a few light sprinkles of black pepper
2 Tablespoons nuts (see Note)
¼ cup shredded Parmesan or Manchego cheese

Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you are using broccoli florets, pour them onto a large rimmed baking sheet. If you are using broccoli heads, trim off the end of the stem end. The stems can sometimes be tough, so you may have to peel thick stalks. Cut the broccoli however you like but keep the pieces in large-ish pieces (see photo above). Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 12 minutes. Turn the pieces with a spatula. Sprinkle on the nuts and the cheese and continue roasting until nuts are toasted, cheese is melted and broccoli is tender, about another 5 minutes.

Note: you can use whatever nuts you like. Chopped walnuts, pistachios, cashews, or silvered almonds are all good choices.