It was 39 degrees F this morning. 39, people. Two days ago the high was 89! I don't know if I should buy sandals or gloves. There is one decision, however, that is easy to make this time of year. And that is that soup fits when autumn comes along in her indecisive, but beautiful way.
Check out the dual bowl poetry below, with recipes at the end of each feature!
Warm, Fast, Fun Food 1: Butternut Squash, Oyster Mushroom, Corn and Wild Rice Soup.
I'm going to share two one-pot meals in this post. One is vegetarian but exceedingly meat friendly. It's that beautiful, golden bowl of fall harvest color you see above. Butternut squash is the star as it floats in a lovely broth surrounded by two kinds of mushrooms and hearty wild rice. I just love when you get your Dutch oven out, prep your ingredients, and the kitchen does not look like you've exploded a shopping cart because it all happens IN ONE PAN. This was fast, bright, fresh and perfect for falling into fall. It took about 30 minutes to make. That means that hungry and confused diners can be eating in no time. And you can be nourishing them without a lot of fuss.
I served it with this a spinach salad adorned with jumbo shrimp, San Marzano tomatoes and a lime, cilantro vinaigrette. But you could just as easily add some chicken to this soup and have it represent the whole meal. Or add veal. Or even hamburger if you have a carnivorous bunch. A dash of bright parsley keep the spoons full and coming back for more.
RECIPE: Butternut Soup / Click here for Printable Version
3 T butter, unsalted
2 T oil
4 C diced butternut squash
1 ½ C oyster mushrooms sliced
3/4 C baby bella mushroom sliced
1/3 C white sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 – 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
1 15 oz can corn, no salt added (or 1 C frozen corn and 1/3 C water)
½ C jasmine rice/wild rice medley*
4 C good chicken stock
1 C water
1/3 C white wine (optional)
1/8 t Duxelles seasoning**
1/8 t dried thyme
1/8 t nutmeg
1/4 t ginger powder
Salt and pepper as needed (see method)
Optional: ¼ C preserved lemon, sliced
¾ C fresh parsley
In a large Dutch oven pan, heat the butter and oil. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook on high until browned, about 3 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the can of corn, the stock, the wine, the seasonings, and stir until bubbling. Add the squash, the lemon, and the rice. Lower heat, cover and let lightly bubble for 20 minutes, or until rice is done and squash is soft. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. (I ended up using probably 1 t at least of kosher salt and ½ t black pepper.) Stir in the parsley, serve!
*I used a jasmine and wild rice medley that said 20 minutes cooking time. But I find that some wild rice medleys take MUCH longer. If your rice package says it takes longer, start the rice and don’t add the squash until you are about 20 minutes away from the soup being ready to serve.
**Duxelles is an herb medley with a mushroom base that can be found at specialty stores. The deep, earthy sweet flavor is what really makes this soup memorable. I bought mine at Savory Spice Shop®. I encourage you to find and use it often! It SINGS in deviled eggs!!!
Warm, Fast, Fun Food 2: Italian Meatball, Vegetable Stew
You see it, don't you. This is REAL food. Potatoes, carrots, onions and yes, Brussel sprouts. All swimming in a deep, dark, savory gravy. And crowned with the greatest comfort of all, Italian sausage meatballs. But when you bite into it, there's another bit of spice that absolutely makes every flavor more real and more exciting. And that is the addition of a bit of Singapore Seasoning from Penzys Spices. Which is a sophisticated blend utilizing the Chinese 5-Spice medley but deeper, more savory, more perfect.
This is why it is warm, fast, fun and perfect!!
RECIPE / Click here for printable version.
1 lb ground Italian sausage
½ medium yellow onion, sliced
2 large carrots
10-12 Brussel sprouts ends removed and halved
5 small new potatoes cut in chunks
1 ½ C beef stock
2 t flour
2 T butter
1 t Penzys Singapore seasoning
½ t dried oregano
1/3 C Italian flavored bread crumbs
3 T heavy cream
2 T oil
Salt and pepper to taste*
In a large glass bowl combine the sausage, egg, cream, dried oregano and about 1 t salt and ¼ t black pepper, and combine. Add the breadcrumbs and combine. Mixture should stick together nicely but not be too dry. Form into small meatballs, set aside. In a large saucepan, heat the 2 T oil. Add the meatballs and cook by browning on both sides for about 3-4 minutes but NOT cooking them all the way through. Remove, cover meatballs.
In the same saucepan, add the onions, carrots, brussel sprouts, potatoes, and Penzy’s seasoning, along with a little salt. Stirfry on medium high until the carrots begin to soften. Then add the stock, and stir until bubbling, reducing slightly. Mix the flour with a little water, whisking to smooth the flour into the water. Remove pan from heat and stir in the flour mixture, using a large spoon to move the roux through the stock until it thickens. It shouldn’t be too thick at this point and it will tighten as it finishes cooking. Now add the meatballs back in, and let it bubble for about another 4 minutes until meat is cooked through.
Serve in bowls with your choice of bread.
*If you buy a pre-made beef stock, the saltiness may vary. Taste often throughout the process for proper seasoning.
Beautiful, silky, shiny, chocolate ganache. We have all seen it, tasted it, and wished it was considered an appropriate breakfast. But when it is cooled and covered in cocoa, or powdered sugar, or nuts, it is elevated to that most stylish of chocolate desserts: Truffles.
Part of their mystery is that they are named after something decidedly unlike the sweet, rich chocolate that makes them so amazing. If you Google "truffle," this is probably what you'll find:
YES. You read correctly. A "strong smelling underground fungus...found...with the aid of pigs." And the chocolate version is listed second? And wait, what is calcareous soil, anyway? Oh, my!
Whew, let's get back to the yummy chocolate. Look at it below, all piled and waiting for hot cream to make it come to life...
So then why the moniker?
Well, if you've ever tried to roll chocolate ganache in your hands and then roll it in cocoa and endeavor to maintain a round shape, it is pretty much impossible. And so, when you're trying to roll ganache it just comes out rough, ruddy, uneven and...yes... looking like a Truffle.
On the left, the beautiful, misshapen, chocolately truffle. On the right...you guessed it.
Now there is a time and a place to expound on the virtues of the earthen truffles. They have an absolute amazing flavor that is quite delicate and certainly transforming. But we're just gonna keep making fun of it in this blog.
And I will bet that serving a fungus with Amaretto soaked Blackberries has yet to be done. But never say never.
Lest we drift away from our original intent, below you will find the recipe. No need to bring pigs or dogs to find it. In the meantime, I will continue to eat and test these in my continuing effort to find trouble with truffles.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Truffles rolled in Chili Cocoa Powder and served with Amaretto Soaked Blackberries.
Makes 10-15 Truffles / Click here for Printable Version
8 ounces or 1/2 lb semi-sweet baking chocolate cut into very small, fine pieces
1/2 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 t strong brewed coffee
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t cayenne powder
1/4 t cinnamon
1 pint blackberries
1/4 C good Amaretto liquor
Place the rinsed berries in a bowl and add the Amaretto. Set aside for at least 4 hours.
Shave the chocolate until it is in very small, fine pieces. Place in a large glass bowl. Bring the cream to steaming and when you see a bubble or two, just a smidgen past scalded, pour the cream into the chocolate and quickly add the coffee, vanilla and salt. Begin to stir and blend with a spatula, making sure all the pieces have melted into the chocolate. If your chocolate is too coarse, or your milk not boiling, you will have lumps. You do NOT want to have to microwave this to melt the rest of the pieces. It will ruin the chocolate. Now, some recipes say leave on the counter to set up. I found it very valuable to put in the fridge until set. When it is the consistency of stiff fudge sauce, use a small melon baller and scoop out the ganache, forming a ball with your hands. (Here's where the whole "truffle" thing comes in. Don't worry about making them perfect. They're not supposed to be.) Drop them into the cocoa powder mixed with the cayenne and cinnamon and cover. Place on a clean dish and refrigerate until served or serve right away, like it did, next to a small bowl of the blackberries!
They will keep for a couple of days covered in the fridge.
You can roll some of the in powdered sugar, or finely chopped walnuts. You can replace the coffee with liquor.
You know that feeling as you prep for a party. You're asked to bring something to a potluck. You are not given direction as to what genre your food should fit into. You're not even given an idea of the dress code! So aside from the perilous wardrobe challenge, now you have to decide on a crowd-pleasing dish to bring. Oh, and no pressure, they all know you're an amateur chef!!! (Pant, pant.) My point is that your goal in this endeavor is to create something that everyone eats, which is tough. There's NOTHING worse than collecting your dish and spoon at the end of the evening and finding that YOUR food was rejected and you take some home! AARGH!!!
There are no secret dishes that will always find their way into the hearts of strangers, and I took some real chances with this one. For instance, I could have discovered that everyone had a shellfish allergy. Or, it could have been that no one really cared for mushrooms. (I'm not sure I trust people who don't "get" mushrooms, but that's another blog post.) And the worst of all? This could have been a room full of people with a gluten intolerance. (That blog post will really take up some space!)
Lucky for me, or for the guests if you look at it from the perspective of satisfaction, this salad seemed to be an overwhelming success.
There are a few flavor cues here I want to talk about. Because flavor cues, (isn't that an awesome term?) end up giving you some solid direction for the whole dish. If you're looking for Asian, or spicy, or crunchy, or sweet, you can build upon those ideals. In my case, I wanted a bright, spicy salad. Thai flavors are so fun and blend with most other foods.
And can I just say what a miracle food ramen noodles are. Curly, sturdy, thin, versatile and affordable! Yeah!!! They're so cheap you don't even have to keep the flavor packet! (But I do. They're great for salad dressings!)
And don't be afraid of herbs. This one combines basil and mint and both completely complemented the dish.
I talked about mushrooms and you may wonder why I added them. First of all, you find a LOT of mushrooms in Asian cooking. Their umami flavor is perfect against the spicy notes. And the texture is fun in your mouth alongside the peppers and cukes. What made them great was sauteing them in butter along with a plethora of Asian spices, and then adding it to the cold salad. Yeah, looks gorgeous, too!
So here's the happy news: The serving bowl was totally empty at the end of the party. (Phew, reputation intact!)
More good news? It was really easy to make. And the best news of all? You can make it, too. The recipe is below!
RECIPE: Thai Shrimp Cold Noodle Salad with Mushrooms and Mint
Serves 8-10 / Click here for a printable version.
1 lb frozen cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 C sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 red pepper sliced into thin, 2” strips
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
2 scallions, sliced up into the green
1 small jalapeno
2 packages of ramen noodles
2 T butter
1 t Penzys® Sate seasoning*
4 T oil
1 t sesame oil
¼ C rice wine vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 T white sugar
1 t kosher salt
½ t black pepper
1 T grated fresh ginger
About 5 large leaves of basil cut chiffonade
1 T fresh mint cut chiffonade
Thaw shrimp, remove tails if needed, pat dry, add to bowl. Add the red pepper, cucumbers, scallions, mint and jalapeno. Bring 8 C water to boil in a large pan, cook the two packets of ramen noodles for three minutes, until al dente…about 3 minutes. DO NOT ADD the seasoning. You only want the noodles. Drain, drizzle with about 1 T oil and toss. You can use a knive and cut them a bit so that they’re easier to blend. I took large, sweeping cuts so that each noodle on average was about 4 inches long. Then add to the shrimp mixture. In a large saucepan, melt 2 T butter in hot pan and add the mushrooms, letting them sear and brown. Add the Sate seasoning. Remove and add to the shrimp mixture.
In a small bowl combine 3 T oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, salt, pepper, grated ginger and whisk well to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. Pour over the shrimp mixture and blend very well. Chill until ready to serve. At the LAST minute, toss with the fresh cut basil!
*Can add other Asian or Thai seasoning blends of your choice. Or you can use one of the seasoning packets from the ramen.
I consider it a compliment when the grocery checker asks you about the food you've purchased, because they don't know what the heck it is. It's hard for me, really, not to say, "You work here, why don't you know?" But that's not my style. So I take it upon myself to enlighten them about the object and then launch into a treatise about how to prepare it.
I love how they look at me, too. Like I'm the secret keeper of the produce section. But most of what I learn comes from simply experimenting. Like when I decided to buy the 99 cent cactus pear and see if I could give it a whirl in my kitchen. They didn't need to know I was a cacti-newbie! That was my secret.
First of all. Cactus pears are SWEEET! And they are full of seeds that resemble those dotting a strawberry. But they're three times the size and will flip a filling right out of your tooth if you're not careful. If you're thinking biting into one, be CAUTIOUS. I peeled them and pureed them with lemon juice, then pushed the flesh through a strainer resulting in a beautiful claret colored juice.
When I first saw this little beauty...well, this ugly beauty, I thought about a salsa. Sweet and hot go so well together, and the little red hot chili pepper hiding underneath the bananas and bread in my basket was just begging for recognition. When I got home and saw the clementines and the pineapple on my counter, I immediately started to thaw the fish and set out to dazzle the little filet with color and flavor. (Ron was pretty dazzled, too!)
Now there's no need to tell you how good fish is fried in butter and coated with cornmeal. That's like saying chocolate is good with marshmallows and graham crackers. DUH!!! But when you put sweet and hot salsa on it...well...it just turns heads!
The moral of the story is be happy when you have to educate the grocery staff. It makes them remember you. And that comes in handy when you need help. Or more cacti. In any event, make this dish and take those folks in aprons and sensible shoes a few servings. You won't be forgotten after that!
RECIPE: Butter Fried Tilapia with Cactus Pear Pineapple Salsa
Serves 4 / Click here for printable version.
1 ½ lbs tilapia cut into 4 equal portions
½ C heavy cream
1 C corn meal
2 t kosher salt, divided
½ t black pepper
½ t coriander powder
¼ C sweet white onion diced small
1 ripe cactus pear, peeled
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 C pineapple chunks, small (fresh is okay)
4 clementines, skinned, deveined & divided
4-5 large basil leaves julienned
1 t grated fresh ginger
1 T hot red chili pepper diced
1 T jalapeno diced
3 T butter, divided
2 T olive oil
(Serve with black lentils or black rice, or your choice of starch)
Black sesame seeds for garnish
Place the tilapia in the cream and let sit for about 15 minutes. Blend 1 t kosher salt and the pepper and coriander powder with the cornmeal in another wide dish and set aside.
Peel and cut cactus into large junks. Place in a small food processor with 2 T lemon juice. Process until smooth. Run through a mesh strainer and push through with a spatula to make sure all juice is extracted and no pith or seeds are in the juice. Add the fresh grated ginger to the cactus juice. In a small saucepan, melt 1 T butter. Add the onion and the two peppers, and 1 t kosher salt and cook for only a minute. You don’t want the butter to brown. Add the pineapple, clementines, and stir until hot. Add the cactus juice, turn the heat to medium low and let it reduce by half. Remove and cover until served.
In another clean pan, add the oil to a hot pan. Dredge the cream-soaked tilapia in the cornmeal and place in hot oil. Turn when the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Brown other side for 2 minutes. Turn to medium low and add t T butter. Let bubble and melt, making the edges of the fish crisp. To serve, place a serving of the salted lentils on the plate, top with the fish, and spoon a serving of the salsa over the top. Sprinkle with the basil and with the black sesame seeds. Serve!
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.