Sweet & Sauerkraut Soup

Sweet & Sauerkraut Soup

Here’s a nice eastern-european-style vegetable soup that you can make if you happen to have apples and sauerkraut as I did, leftover and seasoned from making Baked Pork Chops. The soup starts with a light chicken or vegetable stock (8 cups), then seasoned with thyme (1 T), dill (1 T), garlic (6 cloves, minced), mild paprika (2 T), ground pepper and/or peppercorns (1 t), salt to taste. Next add a couple tablespoons each of tomato paste and mustard (I used a smooth Dijon mustard). Sauté vegetables in a couple tablespoons oil until just slightly browned/carmelized: diced red and/or yellow onions (1 each, medium or large), diced green and/or pepper (2), green cabbage (~1/4 head, sliced), celery (2-3 stalks), diced potatoes (2 large), and about 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut (seasoned with about 1 T brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon and allspice and sautéed lightly); add these to soup, bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until potato is tender. The sweet part of the flavor is aided by slightly carmelizing the vegetables and by adding diced apple (2 small, e.g., Gala) for the last 15 minutes of simmering (so that they don’t disintegrate).

I served this topped with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of dried dill, and sourdough croutons.

Overall, it’s something like an onion soup crossed with a mild chinese hot and sour soup. Tasty!

Here are some related recipes that I consulted for inspiration:

“Croatian Sour Soup”
http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Croatian-Sour-Soup-Recipezaar

“Sour Cabbage Soup”
http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Sour-Cabbage-Soup-Recipezaar

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Rigatoni and Mornay Sauce

Rigatoni and Mornay Sauce

This is pretty much an upscale version of mac and cheese.

For 6-8 servings, it’s rigatoni (1 pound dry pasta), prepared al dente, mixed with chopped stewed tomato (1 can, drained), one finely diced large jalapeno (with seeds), all tossed with cream sauce, then put in a baking pan (10″ x 10″ x 2″), topped with more cream sauce, and sprinkled with red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and optionally 1/4 pound of bacon pieces (cooked in advance). Then it was baked for 30 minutes at 375°F until lightly browned. Set for perhaps 10 minutes then served topped with thinly sliced fresh jalapeno pepper.

The somewhat thick sauce is a Béchamel sauce, of butter (~1/4 cup) and flour (~1/3 cup) roux with milk or cream (~2 1/2 cups), with a bit of shredded sharp white cheddar (~1/4 pound) and powdered garlic added:
“Mornay sauce”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mornay_sauce

Related recipes:
A friend recently inspired me by posting this recipe:
“Macaroni and Béchamel Sauce”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8VI6FzZXfs

Also, I’d recently seen an episode of Cook’s Country (from America’s Test Kitchen on PBS) with this recipe; if you want to make your own mac-and-cheese, this is a great place to start:
“Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes”
http://www.cookscountry.com/recipes/Macaroni-and-Cheese-with-Tomatoes/23438/

Poached Tilapia with Creamy Shiitake Ragoût

Poached Tilapia with Creamy Shiitake Ragoût

I poached the tilapia fillets in the cream sauce with the vegetables, i.e., a sauce of vegetable stock, heavy cream, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, dijon mustard, fennel seed, thyme, salt and pepper. I used dried mushrooms, but the texure of fresh mushrooms would likely be better with this delicate fish.

I prepared couscous in vegetable stock and served it layered in the middle.

This was inspired by a related recipe for Pan-Seared Cod with Creamy Fennel Ragoût.

Chicken Fajita Salad

Chicken Fajita Salad

Marinate chicken breasts (one per serving) in lime juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, ground cumin, and crushed whole dry mexican oregano (i.e., oregano with buds).
I suggest marinating them for 8-48 hours.

Prepare pico de gallo: diced tomato (cored), finely diced jalapeno, minced garlic, minced onion (white), chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt.
Optionally add diced ripe (but not too ripe) avocado.

Prepare a creamy cilantro-lime sauce of: sour cream, heavy cream and/or milk, fresh cilantro leaves, fresh lime juice, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, cumin powder, fresh ground pepper, and salt.
Purée this in a food processor or blender.

Pan fry strips of corn tortillas in olive oil until crisp.

Grill or pan fry the whole marinated chicken breasts in oil and marinade; blacken and sauté red pepper strips. Slice the chicken breasts (across the grain) and serve with the sautéd red pepper strips atop chopped Romaine lettuce. Top with cilantro-lime sauce, pico de gallo, crisp tortilla strips, and garnish with slices of lime, ripe avocado, and cilantro leaves.

I consulted these recipes for ingredient ideas:

“Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce”
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/creamy-cilantro-lime-sauce-10000000221985/

“Chicken Fajita Salad”
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-fajita-salad/

Mediterranean Veggie Wrap

Mediterranean Veggie Wrap

In olive oil, sauté sliced garlic, sliced scallion, red onion strips, tofu strips, and chopped mint leaves. Add red pepper and baby bella mushroom pieces, season with oregano and black pepper and sauté until those are slightly tender. Add chopped Romaine lettuce and sliced cucumber with a splash of balsamic vinegar and sauté perhaps 30 seconds and remove from heat. Wrap in a flour tortilla with hummus and tzatziki sauce.  (See this post for tzatziki ingredients.)

Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wraps

Failing to find a recipe that used a significant amount of whipping cream and Romaine lettuce, I settled on these lettuce wraps using just the lettuce. :-)

They’re much as set out in the recipe below except I used bacon (optional) and fried firm tofu… to see if I could cause a bacon/anti-bacon explosion. Oh, and I added chopped peanut… so, y’know, it was a typical sort of asian lettuce wrap meets BLT.

“Lettuce Wraps”
http://chinesefood.about.com/od/fusionrecipes/r/lettucewraps.htm

Here’s that P.F. Chang’s version that everyone seems to like:

“Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry Romaine Wraps with Citrus Soy”
http://www.pfchangs.com/chefscorner/ginger_chicken_stirfry.aspx

Spicy Cashew and Basil Curry

Spicy Cashew & Basil Curry

This is the first vegan dish that I’ve made… well, intentionally made vegan, anyway. So I didn’t use fish or oyster sauce. An inspiration for it is the whole basil curry at a local restaurant.

One unusual ingredient I used was tahini in the sauce; since tahini paste is just mashed sesame seed, I figured this is an alternative to sesame oil for flavor and may add substance to the sauce.

Ingredients: peanut oil, raw cashews, minced ginger, scallions, green cabbage, red bell pepper, baby bella mushrooms and whole basil leaves.

Sauce: orange juice, water, black bean paste, soy sauce (substitute tamari to be gluten-free), rice vinegar, palm sugar, tahini, chili garlic sauce, and cornstarch slurry to thicken slightly at the end.
(A similar sauce with coconut milk would be nice too.)

Here are some related recipes you might like:
“Spicy Beef with Thai Basil”
http://prettypeasrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/08/spicy-beef-with-thai-basil.html
http://thefoodaddicts.com/spicy-beef-with-thai-basil/
(I don’t know why they say the basil will turn black if you cook it… mine didn’t when I added it last with the mushrooms, and I wanted it wilted.)

Braised Chicken a la King

Braised Chicken a la King

This dish is a modification of Chef Ming Tsai’s “Braised Sake Chicken a la Ming” recipe:
http://ming.com/foodandwine/recipes/simply-ming-season-8/braised-sake-chicken-a-la-ming.htm

I added red pepper and garlic to the mirepoix, added a couple bay leaves with the stock, and substituted 1 1/2 cups of Sauvignon Blanc for the sake and substituted sour cream, thinned slightly with milk, for the creme fraiche.

Overall, I rate it 3 out of 5 starts, i.e., I wouldn’t make it again as-is. The chinese mustard and wine are a nice improvement from your (my) mom’s Chicken a la King, but it is still reminiscent of that fairly mundane comfort food. The chicken is super tender when cooked this way though… the knife turned out to be just a photo prop. :-)

Fish Roe Fried Rice

Fish Roe Fried Rice

My awesome ex-housemate left some interesting things in the freezer… including pieces of grilled fish roe. (I had to ask her what it was; I had no idea.) She said it’s good with rice, I used just a bit (as shown on left, which was plenty for flavor) for this serving of fried rice. It thaws and disintegrates almost immediately, even in your hand, because it is porous and the eggs are so tiny. These broken pieces (left photo) are browned on one side, which was the outside of the egg mass, as seen in this photo of grilled fish roe:
http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y15/odinchoy/japan275.jpg

Fried rice ingredients: canola and sesame oils, green cabbage, egg, scallion, sliced garlic, sticky rice, green peas, bean sprouts, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, black pepper, and grilled fish roe.