Tangled Branches: Satiated

riveting tales of how we sustain ourselves

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Madhur Jaffrey Does It Again: Lentil Soup

You know how lentil soup can be kind of heavy and stodgy? What would you say to one that isn't? Madhur Jaffrey makes a lentil and shrimp soup inspired by a Filipino dish of mung beans and shrimp - she's written it up in her excellent book, Madhur Jaffrey's Cookbook. I changed it a bit to suit the ingredients I had on hand.

I've been trying to keep the fridge and pantry lightly stocked lately - the fridge failure made me realize that it's not all that efficient to store large quantities of perishable food. Too many things are wasted because they're second or third choice, and I leave them in storage until they go bad.

I had some chicken wing tips in the freezer, cut off and saved the last time I broiled chicken wings. There's no requirement that you must make a huge batch of chicken broth - you can make a very small one with just a few pieces of chicken leftovers, a small amount of water and a few seasonings.

And there was some fresh salsa leftover from the previous night.

Half a bunch of cilantro (store-bought, sad to say).

And about a third of a bag of lentils in the pantry.

I always have onions, garlic, limes, and olive oil on hand.

The only thing I needed to buy was shrimp.

My adaptation from Madhur Jaffrey's Cookbook, Lentil Soup with a Flavor of the Philippines, p. 219:

Chop 1 medium-large onion finely. Heat a spoonful or so of olive oil in a large saucepan (I used my 3.5-quart "everything" pan). Cook the onion until it starts to brown. Add 3/4 cup sorted and rinsed lentils, and 4 cups chicken broth. Cook 20 minutes and taste for salt, add if needed. Continue to cook until lentils are cooked through.

Meanwhile shell, devein, and slice lengthwise 1/4 lb. medium size shrimp. Chop 3 cloves garlic finely. Heat a few spoonsful of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped garlic and stir it around for a few seconds until it smells good and is starting to brown. Add the sliced shrimp and stir until just cooked through. Remove shrimp to a plate (leaving the oil and as much garlic as possible in the pan). Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add leftover salsa to the frying pan. If I didn't have leftover salsa, I'd use about a cup of chopped tomatoes and chiles (Ro-tel would be good). Cook and stir until the liquid is reduced somewhat and add the whole contents of the frying pan to the lentils in the saucepan. Reserve one half shrimp as a garnish for each serving and add the rest of them to the saucepan. Cut one very thin slice of lime for each serving. Chop or tear apart some cilantro leaves and sprinkle them on top of the soup. Taste - you may want to add salt, lime juice or pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top each with a slice of lime and place a piece of shrimp on top of the lime.

The tomatoes, garlic, chiles and lime really brighten up the flavor of the lentils. I'm defintely making this again.

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posted by Entangled at 11:00 AM 1 comments

Monday, April 07, 2008

Green Garlic Soup v1.0

I still remember the first time I ate green garlic. The spouse and I stopped for lunch at the (lower priced, no reservations) café at Chez Panisse. This was at least 15 years ago, probably more. I don't remember what else I ate there, but we still talk about the green garlic soup. It was such a revelation. I remember it as being a pale green potato soup and one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.

I think that version must have been made something like this, but yesterday I concocted my own version, and it went something like this:

Chop one half a medium size yellow onion. Cook it slowly in 1 tbsp. butter until soft. Add 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes and 3 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced crosswise. Stir this around for a minute or two and add 1 pint chicken broth (store-bought in this case) and 1 pint milk. Season with black pepper, but hold off on the salt for now (store-bought broth is usually so salty).

When the potatoes are very well cooked, mash them with a fork (or potato masher), and then puree part of the soup in small batches. This leaves you with a silky textured base, but not totally smooth. Taste first, then add salt if needed. I added a small amount of half & half just before serving, but it really wasn't necessary.

Now, this amount of garlic wasn't enough to really tint the soup green, and while the garlic flavor was there, it wasn't dominant. Perfectly acceptable for a business lunch or any other social occasion. We liked it a lot, but I plan to do it again with more garlic. And next time, I'm going to save some of the green leaves to chop as a garnish.

Alice Waters' latest cookbook (the only one of her books I own), The Art of Simple Food, has a green garlic soup recipe that's thickened with semolina instead of potato. We're very fond of potatoes, so I probably won't try that one until I've exhausted all the green garlic/potato possibilities.

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posted by Entangled at 6:05 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Alsatian Gazpacho

I never really liked gazpacho in its original form. Tomato puree thickened with bread is a waste of bread and tomatoes, if you ask me. But the gazpacho at L'Auberge Chez Francois is a very different thing, and I always order it when it's on the menu. (We don't go there very often - it's been our Occasion Restaurant for many years.) Their gazpacho is more like a slightly chunky version of V-8 juice. The recipe is in The Chez Francois Cookbook, but I've adjusted it to suit our tastes. For us, this amount serves 2 with leftovers.

3 cups fresh tomato puree, from peeled and seeded tomatoes

How you get the fresh tomato puree is up to you, but I just bought a food mill, and I think that's the way to go. I cut up some very ripe Striped Roman tomatoes and put the pieces in the food mill, mashing them slightly so the food mill could do the rest. A few turns of the handle, and you have perfect fresh tomato puree.

Mash 1 clove of garlic with salt in a mortar and pestle. Or you could just put it in the food processor in the next step, but the mortar and pestle will give a smooth paste.

Chop the next ingredients very finely in a food processor:
1 carrot, peeled
1 small pickling-type cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 stalk of celery
1/2 of a medium sized yellow onion
1/2 of a green bell pepper
1 fresh red New Mexico-style chile pepper, seeded
1 tiny red Czechoslovakian Black Pepper
I realize that if you're not growing your own, the last two peppers are going to be difficult to obtain. I think you could substitute a very small amount of any fresh hot chile pepper, to your taste, or leave them out entirely.

Add the tomato puree and the mashed garlic to the food processor and pulse a couple of times, just to blend everything. Remove the mixture to a bowl, and stir in by hand: salt to taste (I use something less than a teaspoon; the original recipe called for a tablespoon), 1 teaspoon or less red wine vinegar, several tablespoons of olive oil, and a small amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Taste and add more salt if needed. I had to add a tiny bit of sugar to this because the tomatoes were tart and the teaspoon of vinegar pushed it too far.

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posted by Entangled at 8:06 AM 2 comments