Thursday, March 25, 2010

Easy, Delicious, Cheap Carrot Soup

I made this soup on Tuesday night for dinner after experiencing a strong craving for carrot soup that afternoon. All the carrot soups I have had and made before involve ginger, which means peeling it and grating: kind of an annoying and time-consuming process.

This soup was different! Pure carrots, onion, and broth (plus spices). It's seriously a no hassle dinner, and you may even be able to make it from your pantry/veg drawer--you know, if you have carrots. Also, if you have an immersion blender (which, if you don't, Go get one, crazy!) you can just blend it up right in the pan. So, so easy.

Also, the soup tastes like it has cream in it because it is so rich and...well...creamy. It doesn't. Seriously, these are all the ingredients:

(minus the beer. That was my "to drink while cooking" beer.)

This is called Moroccan Carrot soup and is from the most current issue of Bon Appetit. I guess the spices are what makes it Moroccan? Eh, who cares. It's yummy.

Moroccan Carrot Soup
Bon Appetit April 2010

makes 4 [small] servings

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped white onion
1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.

Belated: Irish Soda Bread

I'm starting a drunken brawl with the first person today who stereotypes the Irish

I've been making soda bread for as long as I've been baking. I still remember idly searching through my mother's recipe box and stumbling upon "Mary Cuthbert's Soda Bread." Mary was a neighbor of my grandparents: both sets--my parents grew up catty-corner to each other...awww. Mary's bread was a success the first time I made it and really delicious. My family gobbled it up immediately and then broke into rousing renditions of Danny Boy and The Fields of Athenry. Or something. When my mother mentioned to my grandmother that I had made it--and that it was good--my grandmother was amazed because "whenever she tried to make soda bread the only thing it was good for was throwing against a wall."

This Paddy's day I decided to try another recipe, one that, because it used whole wheat flour, is closer to the brown bread I ate and loved and miss in Ireland. This one is Mrs. O'Callaghan's (also a Mary, no joke) and is from the March issue guessed it...Bon Appetit. The other reason I had for using this recipe is that the one from Mary Cuthbert has you turn the dough out into a cask-iron skillet in order to get the right shape. I, ashamedly, do not have a cask-iron skillet. (My birthday is October 4th, but I accept gifts year-round.)

The one from BA turned out pretty well, but it didn't really cook all the way through, even though my oven is really hot and I left it in for about 15 minutes more than the recommended baking time. I could eat the edges, however, and they were very good and pretty damn close to Irish Brown Bread. I'll definitely make it again, but next time I might try leaving it in for about an hour. One weird thing about the recipe is that it tells you to stir until the dough is "shaggy." I'm not sure what that means, but I think mine was more Scooby, or Scrappy.

For your baking pleasure, here are both the Irish-American Soda Bread (with raisins and caraway seeds) from Mary Cuthbert and the Irish Brown Bread from BA.

Mrs. O'Callaghan's Irish Brown Bread
Bon Appetit March 2010

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled margarine or butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray heavy baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk both flours, sugar, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Add margarine and cut in until margarine is reduced to pea-size pieces. Add buttermilk; stir until shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 7-inch round. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough.

Bake bread until deep brown and bottom sounds hollow when firmly tapped, about 40 minutes [check it at 40, but be prepared to keep going]. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

Mary Cuthbert's Irish [American] Soda Bread

3 TABLESPOON BUTTER, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in large bowl. Using pastry cutter or your hands, blend in butter until the dough resembles corn meal. Add rest of ingredients and stir until a dough forms, adding more flour or buttermilk if necessary.

Turn out into cask-iron skillet, that has been greased with either butter or vegetable oil spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fettuccine di Vino with Beets

I've been craving beets lately, which seems like a strange thing to crave. I had never even had anything but canned beets until a few years ago. When I was growing up, my mom almost never used canned vegetables...except for beets. I think she justified it because they take a long time to cook and the canned ones have a similar taste and texture to the fresh ones, in a way that canned green beans or carrots don't (mush city).

Beets are also kind of a weird vegetable because people don't usually think to put them alongside dinner in the same way they might with asparagus or corn. Their flavor is pretty distinct, so they're a little harder to pair with a main dish. They're also purple, which makes them seem a little bit like something you might be served at the mess hall of the Yellow Submarine. Which is possibly a little too psychedelic for some.

The following recipe is from The Spirited Vegetarian by Paulette Mitchell, a cookbook I bought shortly after my 21st birthday and, unfortunately for the book, right before I started eating meat again. So, shamefully, I haven't really made that many recipes from it. I've had, however, great and delicious success with the ones I have tried.

All the recipes have booze in them, which is a good excuse for buying wine on Monday night. And, like this one, many of the recipes are easily made vegan (useful if you're feeling like you need to balance out the naughtiness of pouring booze into your saucepan and, let's be honest, mouth).

The original recipe uses spaghetti instead of fettuccine. I swapped it out because I have a longstanding and inexplicable hatred of spaghetti. Feel free to use whatever long pasta you prefer.

Fettuccine di Vino with Beets
from Paulette Mitchell's The Spirited

makes 4 servings (or 3 if you're hungry)

3 medium red or yellow beets, scrubbed, with 1 inch of stem still on (set aside greens)
8 oz. Fettuccine
2 TB olive oil
1 large sweet onion
2 cups finely chopped reserved beet greens
4 garlic cloves
3/4 c. Merlot or other full-bodied, plummy red wine, with medium tannins
1/4 c. dried currants (don't skip these if you can! they add an interesting sweetness)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 TB lemon juice (from 1 juicy or 1 1/2 lemons)
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
Feta cheese for garnish (I also added pecorino romano because I love cheese)

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the beets and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the beets can be pierced with a knife, about 30 to 45 minutes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins (you can score the skin with a paring knife if you need to). Cut the beets into 2" x 1/4" strips, placing wax paper on your cutting board to protect it from purple fever.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fettuccine 2 to 3 minutes less than the package directions suggest. (The pasta should be slightly undercooked, but not crunchy.)

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beet greens and garlic and stir constantly until the greens are wilted, about 1 minute.

Stir in the beets, wine, dried currants, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. The wine should be reduced but not totally evaporated. Stir in the lemon juice.

When the pasta is cooked according to the above instructions, drain it well. Add it to the beet mixture. Stir over medium heat until it absorbs the wine and turns red. Remove from the heat. Add the pine nuts and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. (Remember that the feta will add saltiness.)

Garnish plated servings with pepper and feta cheese.