Tag Archives: soup

Accidental Vegetarian Week

Rob and I  find ourselves eating less meat these days. Not sure we could commit to full time vegetarianism, but we are finding that eating satisfying meatless meals is pretty easy and sacrifice free. When we do include meat, we splurge on high quality, local produce, which has a lower carbon footprint, supports local farmers and tastes better. Every two weeks or so we commit to a meatless menu for the coming week. This is what it looks like:

Monday, is the one night where neither of us has to be anywhere after supper so I usually choose a garlicky menu item. Also known as “Bottle-of-wine Monday”, tonight’s meal will be pasta — Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino or spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili flakes, and a nice Italian red.

The pasta is simple, but flavorful with a bite from the garlic and heat from the red chile. It’s rounded nicely with a grating of parmigiano reggiano, some good olives and a nice chianti.

Tuesday sees a rush at dinner hour. I have kickboxing and get home to three animals who need to be fed, so I usually choose something that I can prepare quickly or ahead of time. This week we are having Paneer and Tomato Curry. For this recipe I quarter 5 of the tomatoes and dice the other three. I add them all at the same time. I substitute garlic and ginger paste, available at any Indian food market, for the garlic and ginger. I find the garlic more mellow and does not repeat. Perfect for a chilly fall day, warm with Indian spices, rich with coconut milk and hearty with paneer, this dish satisfies. Rob stops at our local Indian take out on the way home for naan. You can serve this with basmati rice or grocery store naan, but tandoor-oven naan is really unbeatable. We often freeze the leftovers for another day. This recipe is filling, and satisfying. It’s excellent comfort food for a cold night and truth be told, it’s even better another day after some time in the fridge to let the flavours marry.

Wednesday I am preparing a Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup. It’s good to try at least one new recipe a week. This was cheesy, delicious. and quite thick. Thin with more broth if you like.

Thursday is quiet for me. No appointments, nowhere to be until 11 pm hockey. So it’s a day I like to cook something that takes a little time, iPod on, Josie at my feet, kitties sleeping on the stairs, something that makes the house smell good and blows raspberries at November weather. This week I’m making a creamy, cheesy, Mushroom Risotto. I use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. The mushrooms and liquid from soaking the dried porcinis makes this dish quite beefy tasting. Like every good risotto, this is creamy, rich and satisfying. The mushrooms provide a meatiness all to themselves.

Friday this week I have chosen something light but elegant that we can open a bottle of wine with and curl up in front of the TV and fire. We are going out to dinner tomorrow at Steven Beckta’s new resto Gezellig, so we will indulge or likely over indulge then. Tonight we will have to be satisfied with Peach and Brie Quesadillas and a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio. We used bottled peaches in juice and a white sweet onion instead of red.

I guarantee with a little planning around your schedule, you will be surprised that you can eat very well and not even realize you had no meat. That’s why we call it accidental vegetarian. We choose a recipe because it will be tasty specifically, not because it was vegetarian. That’s just a happy coincidence.

 

Best Ever Mushroom Soup

I’ve made this rustic soup for many years now as the autumn season draws to a close and the evenings make me want to cocoon inside by the fire. This quick soup can be made with chicken stock or with vegetable for an entirely vegetarian meal. Buy pre-sliced mushrooms and a baguette for a fast weekday dinner. If you love cream of mushroom soup, I doubt you will find a tastier one.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Adapted from Harrowsmith Magazine

2 lbs. mushrooms, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons Butter
6 tablespoons Flour
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups cream
2 cups skim milk

1. Melt butter in a stock pot. Saute mushrooms, onions, and garlic for about 5 minutes.

2. Remove vegetables with slotted spoon and set aside, leaving behind the butter and liquid.

3. Put flour into a bowl and slowly whisk a little of the melted butter liquid from the pot into the flour to form a paste and then a little more to make it fluid. Add the flour mixture back to pot and whisk to mix over medium heat. This will prevent the flour from clumping.

4. Add thyme, pepper and soy sauce. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Slowly stir in stock, then cream and milk. Cook until mixture is thickened and heated through. Return vegetables to pot. Serve with crusty bread or baguette and a salad.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

 

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!

As the joke goes, there are only two seasons in Ottawa: Winter and construction season. It’s kind of like that for me – Tomato season and “not tomato season”. During tomato season, I have them for breakfast, sliced on toasted bread, sometimes with cucumber and a little salt and pepper. For lunch and dinner in salads, and quite frankly any other way I can get them. Heirlooms, big ol’ beefsteak tomatoes and regular vine-ripened red tomatoes all float my boat in a big way.

Sure, your local supermarket sells something they call tomatoes all year ’round. Raised in hothouses, bred for uniformity, heartiness for shipping, and colour, and cross-bred in labs with chunks of styrofoam and flavour inhibitors, these are tomatoes like the cheese sauce on Seven-Eleven Nachos is cheese.

With local tomatoes at their peak flavour, we thought we’d do a sampling of recipes this week that highlight them in various forms.

The first was a Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup from Gourmet Magazine. It was full of bright, fresh tomato flavour and went very well with good bread from Art-is-in Bakery.

The second was a delicious appetizer of Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes with Fontina and Thyme from Closet Cooking, out of which we made a dinner. Fresh cherry tomatoes, mixed with herbs, garlic and oil, then roasted in the oven. When they were done, they were covered with a layer of shredded fontina cheese and put under the broiler until bubbly. Again this was served with a nice baguette. The richness of the fontina was a great backdrop for the sweet, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes.

Lastly, it wouldn’t seem right to finish off a week of tomatoes without making a pasta sauce. This dish was inspired by Scott Conant’s Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce – A “too simple to be THAT good” dish, served at his Scarpetta restaurants.

It involves blanching and peeling ripe tomatoes, crushing them into a pot, with an onion sliced in half, some minced basil and oregano as well as a large pinch of chili flakes, and simmering them down for a couple hours. In a separate pot I poached some local vegetables in olive oil  — mushrooms, red pepper and garlic, slowly for 2 hours.  When the oil was deeply flavoured with the vegetables, I added a 1/3 cup of the oil to the tomato sauce.

I also made an executive decision to dump the strained, poached vegetables into the sauce. The peppers added sweetness, the mushrooms added an earthy meatiness and the garlic dissolved and blended into the mixture.

I brushed the flavoured oil on thin slices of Art-is-in baguette with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and a light dusting of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to crisp in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. The rest of the oil has been set aside for salad dressings and cooking over the next couple days.

There’s no recipe here. I winged it and so should you. I used enough tomatoes for pasta for 4 – I figured 2-3 medium tomatoes per person. We served this pasta with a Caprese salad, made with Bufala mozarella, fresh basil and heirloom tomatoes with salt, pepper and a drizzle each of olive oil and basalmic vinegar.

It’s important to note, when we substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in the soup recipe, all three meals are entirely vegetarian. All three also have rich, meaty flavours due to the prime ripe tomatoes and the way they’re cooked. There’s leftover pasta sauce in the freezer, to be brought out mid-winter when I need a taste of Summer-becoming Fall.

Classic French Onion Soup

Growing up in the seventies we didn’t eat out often, but when we did French onion soup was usually on the menu, especially in finer establishments. At home, my dad would make it for company. I guess that’s why I view this very rustic soup as elegant and special. It was also memorable because my dad would prepare my bowl with extra cheese and forgo the bread because I didn’t like mushy bread.  Now older and wiser, I have learned to appreciate the crusty baguette soaking in the rich, beefy broth.

Essential ingredients

I haven’t had onion soup in a very long time. Restaurants rarely feature it any more and when they do it’s usually a salty commercial concoction that I find disappointing. I was going through an old family recipe book the other day looking for some comfort food when I spotted my dad’s nearly 40 year old recipe. Paired with a crisp salad or a warm winter roasted tomato salad and a soft zinfandel, it is a perfect mid-winter pick me up meal.

This recipe is classic, simple, and delicious. Rustic yet over the top elegant when flambéed, it is true comfort food.

Cognac makes it better.

 

 

Dad found this recipe he recalls, in either a magazine advert or brochure for OXO flavour cubes. It contains a secret ingredient: instant coffee granules. The coffee lends a rich, beefy quality but remains unidentifiable in the final dish. Dad tweaked the recipe a little with some booze, and since I’ve never had it any other way than the way he prepares it, the tweaks are no longer listed as optional.

Dad’s Classic French Onion Soup
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
3 chicken bouillon cubes
3 beef bouillon cubes
1/4 cup butter
5 cups boiling water
1 cup Dubonnet (sherry or Marsala can be substituted)
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. instant coffee
4 slices toasted or stale baguette
Mozzarella cheese, sliced to cover top of dish (gruyere can be substituted)
Parmesan, grated to sprinkle over top
4 tbsp brandy or cognac

Saute onions in butter until tender. Dissolve the bouillon cubes in two cups of the boiling water. Add the bouillon, remaining water, Dubonnet, pepper and coffee to the onions. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Ladle into individual oven proof bowls. Place a slice of baguette on top of each bowl. Cover with a thick layer of mozzarella. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler for one minute. Remove from oven. Pour a tablespoon of brandy over each bowl and flambe. This last step is both an elegant presentation but necessary as the brandy adds a bite and another essential layer of complexity to the final flavour of the soup.

Serves four

Click HERE to download the recipe.