Monday, December 5, 2016

Simply Tomato Soup

I love soup, and one of my favorite soups is tomato. Sometimes I like it with rice, sometimes I like it with noodles, and sometimes I even add carrots. I love tomato soup so much that I even like the stuff that comes in the red and white cans. And it makes a nice companion for a grilled cheese sandwich.

When I found a tomato soup recipe in a book called The Quick Six Fix, I had to give it a try. I mean, it's tomato soup. It would have been crazy for me not to give it a try.

The concept of the book is that there are pantry ingredients that you should have on hand at all times, and you should need no more than six additional items to make any recipe. Also, you should be able to do the prep work in six minutes or less, and the cleanup should also take six minutes or less.

Most of the recipes also cook quickly - 30 minutes or less. Some take longer, but it's generally hands-off cooking. And ... there are cleanup tips within the recipes. Like, if you've just emptied a pot in the middle of a recipe, it might tell you that you ought to soak the pot now for easier cleaning when you're all done.

As far as on-hand ingredients, most of us have things that we keep around at all times because they're the ones we know we like enough to keep them in the pantry or fridge.

What you keep in stock is probably different from what I have on hand, but there are probably some things that most of us have. The basics of salt, pepper and olive oil (or another cooking oil) are pretty obvious, but this book has a more comprehensive list of "must have" and "nice to have" items.

I agreed with most of it, except perhaps the coconut milk (I don't like coconut) and the heavy cream. I don't use heavy cream often enough for it to be something that's always on hand. I buy it when I need it for a recipe, then I find something else to do with the rest.

On the other hand, my list of must-have items is probably longer than what's in the book. I have more spices, for sure, and several types of cheese. And tortillas. And bread flour, whole wheat flour, semolina flour, dry yeast ... but that's just me.

If someone was starting a new kitchen, they could take his list to the store and have a good selection of food to work with. Of course, eliminating things that they don't like. If someone doesn't like olives, there's no reason to buy them right?

So anyway, when you get to recipes in the book, the non-standard items are in bold print, so if you actually follow the concept, you'll know right away what you need to buy. In this recipe, there were only two non-standard items: the baguette and the basil leaves.

I decided not to make the baguette toast, and I substituted a few other things. I always have tomato products on hand, so I used what I had and didn't go looking for San Marzanos. I knew it would be an annoying search to find exactly the tomatoes listed in the recipe. I know for sure that I can find whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, but I've never seen diced ones at the stores I go to. I'll look for them next time I'm raiding the tomato aisle, though. But I always have at least a few cans of other types of diced tomatoes.

And then I used some frozen basil that I had, rather than going out to the store for fresh. While fresh basil is great, this was getting stirred into a hot soup, so I didn't think it would make that much different. So I made this without needing to go shopping at all.

I'd suggest that if you make this, you add the chili flakes, salt, and pepper to taste. Particularly the chili flakes. Those can be fairly mild or they can be raging hot. So add as much as you like, keeping in mind that this is soup and not salsa. When it comes to salt, I usually start with about half of what a recipe suggests and I add more until it tastes right to me. Sometimes I don't need as much as a recipe suggests, and sometimes I need more.

A nice garnish for this soup is a little dollop of Greek yogurt. Or with crackers and some blue cheese, if you don't feel like making parmesan toast. Just my suggestion.

Simply Tomato Soup
Adapted from The Quick Six Fix by Stuart O'Keeffe

For the soup:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, or to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 28-ounce cans diced San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 basil leaves, torn

For the toast:
3/4 cup shaved parmesan
14-inch length of baguette. sliced diagonally into 1-inch slices

Heat the oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold all the soup ingredients. dd the onion, garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook for until the onions have softened, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and sugar. Simmer on medium for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off.

A couple notes here. First, I used chicken stock, because that's what I had. Also, it comes in 1-quart (4 cup) boxes. I measured out 2 cups to set aside, but my tomatoes were really thick, so I ended up using the whole 4 cups. And last, it took a while for this to come up to a simmer. So be prepared for that. Oh, and really last, you can let it simmer longer if you like.

Sprinkle the parmesan on the bread and toast under the broiler until the cheese has melted. Watch carefully. It goes from nothing to char pretty quickly. Timing depends on how close your oven rack is to your broiler.

Puree the soup, along with the butter. You can use a stick blender, or pour the soup into a blender.

Return the soup to the pot (if you used a blender) stir in the basil, and serve warm with the toast.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Chipotle and Orange Compound Butter

Earlier this month, I went to an event sponsored by Sprouts (they're a supermarket, if you don't know) and the Colorado Beef Council and hosted at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association office. It was an office, people. Not a cattle ranch.

The food was amazing (prime rib!) and we had a chance to play around in their kitchen.

I was in the group that made a compound butter and also I also rubbed the beef roasts before it was put into pans to get browned before roasting.

Other groups did other things, like making a pan sauce. and rubbing other beef roasts with different rubs. There were several different beef roast preparations demonstrated, with different rubs, and different sides. One group plated one of the meals, while the rest of it was served on platters for easier serving.

We got to sample all of it, and there were also wine pairings discussed. I had quite a long way to drive, so I didn't indulge in any wine, but I like that they explained which ones paired best with different dinners.

So back to the compound butter. (Sorry, but I got distracted by all that beef!)

We made a bunch of rather large batches of the compound butter in our group, but the recipe they sent along was for a much more reasonable amount - it uses just one stick of butter, so it's probably enough for most home uses. And of course, you can double, triple, or make four pounds of it, if that's what you really want to do.

It's a good idea to start with softened butter, to make the mixing easier. In their kitchens, the people doing the mixing tried using spoons or spatulas, but some of them dug right in and used their properly-gloved hands to mix the butter.

At home, I'd just chuck it all into a food processor or use my stand mixer. That's why I own those things - to be my worker bees.

So what can you do with compound butter? Pretty much anything you do with regular butter. Except you need to be mindful of what you added. A cinnamon and honey compound butter would be great on pancakes. A chipotle compound butter would not be so great on pancakes.

Well, maybe it would be. You try first. I'll be waiting here.

This particular compound butter (recipe below) could be melted on top of some meat or vegetables. I happened to get a sample of it to take home, and I used it when I cooked some itty bitty potatoes in my sous vide machine. You could also boil potatoes and put the butter on afterwards. Or use it to cook vegetables for fajitas. Or put it on some cornbread to go with your chili.

Speaking of beef, the one thing that really surprised me was that the chef brined the beef before cooking. I'd never heard of brining beef before. I've brined chicken, turkey, and pork plenty of times. Never beef.

The brine recipe that they gave us was pretty simple - 2 gallons of water, 2 cups of kosher salt, and one cup of sugar. Let the beef sit in that overnight, and then roast it as usual. They used a rub on the beef, but the interesting thing to me was the brine. I think I'm going to have to try that one of these days.

Chipotle and Orange Compound Butter
Adapted from a recipe courtesy of the Colorado Beef Council and the National Cattlemen's Association

1 stick unsalted* butter, at room temperature; not melted
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon or the zest of one orange
Salt, to taste

Mix it all together using your hands (wear food-safe gloves) or mix in a food processor or with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

You can mix just to blend the ingredients, or keep beating it until it's lighter in color and fluffy. That whipped butter will be easier to scoop and spread.

Form into a log, wrap in parchment or plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Once you have a log and it's chilled, it's easy to lop off pieces to use. For longer storage, you can freeze it.

Or, if you don't want a log, you could put the butter into little ice cube trays or silicone candy molds or use a little disher to make little balls. Use them at refrigerator temperature or freeze, remove from the molds, then toss them into a zip-top bag and tuck them back into the freezer. Over time, they might start to stick together, but for short term storage, they'll stay reasonably separate.

Or, you could put the butter into a container and chill it that way. It just depends on how you're going to be using it, and what's most convenient for serving.

*Restaurants would normally use unsalted butter then add salt to taste. You can use salted butter, if you like. You probably won't need to add more salt, but taste it when it's done and see what you think.

Thanks to Sprouts and the Colorado Beef Council and the National Cattleman's Association for the fun event and the swag bag that came home with me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sous Vide Turkey Breast

That's cranberry jam on that sandwich!
It's not too late to talk turkey. Yes, Thanksgiving is over, but turkeys aren't done being sold. You can buy a lovey turkey breast all on its own, or do what I did - buy a whole turkey and cut it into reasonable pieces.

Right now, I have one breast and two thighs in the freezer. One breast has been cooked. The carcass, legs, and wings were roasted. Some parts became stock that then became gravy or soup. Meaty parts had their meat removed and added to the soup.

In years past, I smoked turkey breasts, or I cooked them on the barbecue grill. This time, I decided to go the easy route - I cooked it via sous vide. Some turkey went into sandwiches, and some went into other recipes. But mostly, I wanted that breast for sandwiches. It's one of my favorite things to do with turkey, and by cooking it sous vide, I had a super-tender breast that wasn't the least bit dry.

I'm finding that cooking pretty much anything sous vide is insanely easy now that I have the Anova Sous Vide with bluetooth and wifi which has an app with a bunch of recipes. I basically just typed in "turkey breast" and picked one of the recipes to get the time and temperature. I didn't continue with crisping the skin since I just wanted the meat for sandwiches.

Sous Vide Turkey Breast

1 boneless turkey breast (can be skinless or not)
Seasonings (whatever you like - I tried a smoked salt)
Butter or olive oil (optional)

Put the turkey breast in the sous vide bag along with whatever flavorings you like. I had gotten some salts (about a tablespoon each) as a sample, so I used some of the smoked salt. I didn't add any fat, but I considered it momentarily. But any herbs or flavorings you like would be fine, I'm sure. Seal the bag.

Set the sous vide for 145 degrees and three hours. Place the bag in the water and cook.

When the ime is up, you can brown the skin in a hot pan with a little oil (pat the turkey dry first), if desired I just let it cool and used it for sandwiches.

The turkey breast meat was cooked through, but it was definitely pink. If that bothers you, then you might want to cook it at a higher temperature. I thought it was fine. And when I used it in dishes where I heated it further it wasn't overcooked, so that was a bonus,