jump to navigation

My Mother is from Boston February 26, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Family, food porn, random stuff.
comments closed

. . . and my father is from California.

And I was born in Chicago.

And you thought your childhood was screwed up.

So anyway.  My mother is from Boston, and if there’s one thing Boston people know, other than seafood, it’s beans.

Photobucket

My mother even had an honest-to-god bean pot and everything.

Seriously.

And she even used it on occasion, too.  She probably still has it, for all I know.

Unlike me.

I found a mini bean pot at the pottery shop a few years ago, and I had to buy it.

And I’ve never once used it.

Actually, it’s too small for a full batch of beans.

Photobucket

A half batch, maybe, but if you’re going to make beans, who wants to make half a batch?

Anyway, a couple of months ago, I was sorting though some of my old recipes, and I actually found the “recipe” my mother gave me for her baked beans.

I say “recipe” in “quotes” because, like so many of my mother’s recipes, it’s essentially a list of ingredients (sort of) with something that might be construed as directions.

PhotobucketIn this case, the “recipe” was written, in pencil, by me, on the back of a sheet of spiral notebook paper.  Judging by what was on the front of the paper, my best guess is that my mother told me how to bake beans over the phone when Surly Boy was an infant.  That would be, um, in the 80’s.

Yeah.  We can do this.

Photobucket

The first thing I did was take a pound of great northern beans and sort through them, rinse them, and soak them overnight.  In the morning, I drained the beans.

Then I took about 1/4 lb. of salt pork (yes, it’s actually available in the supermarket – you’ve just gotta look for it) and a couple of slices of bacon, and diced them, which gets browned in a dutch oven (so much handier than a ceramic bean pot, you’ve got to admit!).

While the pork products are rendering, we dice a decent sized onion then measure the rest of the ingredients:

  • Photobucket½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1-1/4 tsp. salt

Meanwhile, once most of the fat has rendered from the salt pork and the bacon, we cook the onion just until it’s softened.

Photobucket

Then we add the beans, along with the molasses mixture, and a couple of quarts of water.

We actually only had black strap molasses in the house, and we really don’t want a molasses flavor quite that robust – go with something milder if at all possible.

Besides, it’s fun to go to the supermarket and ask for the Mole Asses.

Where was I?

Crank up the heat to medium-high, and bring the whole thing up to a boil.

Boy, that’s a lot water, isn’t it?

Photobucket

Once the bean and water mixture comes up to a boil, slap a lid on it and shove it in a Low and Slow oven. . . and by that, I mean 300°.

Did I mention we’re going to be here all day?

You’ll thank me later.

Shove the  “bean pot” into the oven and just walk away.  Walk away for at least 4 hours.  You can check after 2 hours, and stir if you need to, but seriously, just let it cook.

Then you can pull it out and take a look.

Photobucket

There’s still an awful lot of liquid there – so just remove the top, shove it back in the oven, and let it reduce for a couple more hours.Photobucket

And you might want to start scrubbing the lid.  😯

Photobucket

Check for seasonings – salt and pepper.

Then it’s ready to go.

However, sticking it in the fridge for a couple of days certainly won’t hurt, and then you have the option of hot OR cold beans.

Yum.

We were very fortunate to enjoy that rare  animal – a February evening that’s not quite dark by dinnertime, and warm enough to get out the grill.  We were able to enjoy grilled white hots and baked beans, along with homemade mac salad and coleslaw.

I miss grilling season.

Photobucket

Thing #36 – Croissants January 8, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in 101 Things, Cooking, Food, food porn, What we're reading.
comments closed

I like to think of myself as efficient.  Mostly, anyway.  Take these croissants, for instance.  Croissants.  Mmmm. . . flaky bits of buttery goodness.  I have wanted to try my hand at making them for years – so much so that that was one of the tasks that made it to my 101 List.  🙂

Imagine my excitement, then, when we decided to participate in Thursday Night Smackdown‘s “First Thursday” challenge – this month’s challenge being, well, to challenge yourself.  Great – I can play along AND accomplish one of my Things.  Maximum return for minimal effort (sort of).  I’m all about that.  Did I ever mention the time I turned in the same paper in college for three different classes?  And two with the same professor?  Talk about efficient! 😉

So rule number one, if you haven’t clicked over to TNS’s  “First Thursday” page, is to dig out one of our many cookbooks and follow a recipe.  A challenging recipe.  🙄

Photobucket

Peeps started thumbing through his copy of The Nero Wolfe Cook Book.  If you’re not familiar with Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries, well, the first thing I’m going to suggest is that you shut down your computer, go to the library, and check out as many as you can find.  Seriously.  Failing that, rent (or buy – would I steer you wrong?) the A&E series on DVD.  Rex Stout, through Nero Wolfe, was THE original foodie. . .

Yes, well.  Since TNS has that “challenging” stipulation, I guess we won’t be doing ham sandwiches.  Ah, but thumb forward a few pages, and what have we here?  In The Golden Spiders, Sergeant Purley Stebbins, the sandwich swiper in the above clip, has been encouraged to enjoy several crescents with plenty of fresh coffee, and, as Archie Goodwin puts it,

“no man who has ever tasted Fritz‘s Sunday-morning crescents could possibly turn them down.”

We have a winner!  Here it is:

Nero Wolfe’s (Fritz’s) Sunday Morning Crescents

Photobucket

The first thing we do, which is something I haven’t done in years, is scald some milk.  I probably should have used whole milk, or at the very least, cut my 1% with some half and half.  Too late now.  🙄

To the scalded – NOT boiled – milk, we added some melted butter, sugar and salt.  Now dump the whole mess into a mixing bowl.

PhotobucketNow I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly certain that, had it been available in  the 1930s (when the Nero Wolfe books were originally published), Fritz would have had a big ol’ Kitchen Aid in his kitchen.  Maybe even two.  I’m just sayin’, that’s all.  😉

While the scalded milk is cooling, we also proofed some yeast – the original recipe called for “½ cake compressed yeast” – I used ½ Tablespoon of regular yeast.  I kinda doubt Fritz had instant yeast, either.  😀

Now the recipe also called for 2½ cups of “sifted all-purpose flour.”

OK, here’s the thing.  A couple of things, actually.  First off, there is NO WAY I’m going to just assume that I would measure flour the same way as Fritz, or even Wolfe, did (or would have if, you know, they weren’t fictional) 75 years ago, let   alone Rex Stout.  So I hauled out the scale.  I’m kinda nerdy like that.  😳

PhotobucketA cup of flour should weigh about 5.5 oz.  A cup of sifted flour, about 1 ounce less, or 4.5 ounces.  So 2.5 cups times 4.5 ounces would be 11.25 ounces.  About.  😀

And secondly, I am NOT sifting flour.  Nope.  It’s a gigantic pain in the ass neck, and it’s all going to be mixed back in with liquids and become dough.  Whisking will aerate the dough just fine, thankyouverymuch.
Photobucket

I’ve gotta draw the line somewhere, you know.  🙄

So anyway, we used the mixer to, as directed, “stir into a soft dough, adding more flour if necessary.”  Boy, it’s just a good thing I was so scrupulous about weighing, huh?  🙄

PhotobucketOnce the dough pretty much came together (I was expecting a soft dough, and boy, I was not surprised!), we turned it out onto a very lightly-floured  counter and and kneaded gently until the dough was “smooth and elastic.”  Surprisingly, it did not take more than about 5 minutes, and it was one of the softest, nicest-to-work-with doughs I’ve seen in a long time.  Huh.

The next step is pretty standard bread-making 101 – form dough into a ball, place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Photobucket

Then  punch dough down and chill for 1 hour.  OK.  So we just, well, did that.  After the hour’s chill  (the FIRST hour’s chill, I might add), we need to do two things.  Peeps takes 2 sticks of cold butter – half a pound – and flattens them into a rectangular shape.  As it happens, we, uh, forgot to check and make sure we had 2 sticks of butter in the fridge, so it ended up being one stick of cold butter, and a second stick of frozen butter.

Photobucket

It seemed to work out for him – he cut each stick of butter into 5 slices, laid them out between a couple of sheets of waxed paper and just pounded the crap out of them with the nifty implement of paillardage.

PhotobucketMeanwhile, back to the dough. I rolled the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. 😯

Dude.  Seriously.  Who takes a yeast dough and rolls it to 1/4 inch thick?

Crazy French people, that’s who.  Ooh la la.  🙄

Photobucket Photobucket

We centered the mashed, still cold butter on the flat, thin dough, then folded the whole mess into thirds – kind of like an envelope.  Rolled that thin again, and folded into thirds again, until we have a nice neat packet to wrap in plastic and shove back in the fridge for, guess what, another half hour.  🙄

Photobucket

PhotobucketThen you pull the dough out and roll it out again.  Fold in thirds, pinch the edges, roll again, and fold in thirds.  Then put it in the fridge for yet another half hour.  You repeat this a total of three times.  You could probably do it more, but if you do, you’ll never finish the croissants because you’ll have jumped off a bridge before they’re ready to bake.

Photobucket See, here’s the thing.  Even in the middle of winter, when you spend enough time working butter, it tends to get soft.  And melt.  And stick.  And it gets all over the place.  All over your  counter.  All over your hands.  Pretty much everywhere, except in the Frickin’ Dough Where It Belongs.

So after the second time rolling and folding, when we ended up with lovely buttery counters (and lovely buttery hands which the dog seemed to find particularly, well, lovely), we realize that Desperate Measures Must Be Taken.

What would Fritz do? Well, I don’t think he’d go tell Wolfe that he wasn’t getting his croissants.  Oh, no.  He’d find a way.

A pan of ice water on the counter, to start with.  Keep the work surface cold, slow down the butter meltiness. . .

Photobucket

Try again.  Roll the dough, fold in thirds, roll some more, fold some more.  At this point, I’m not even trying to get it thin – I’m just trying to keep it from sticking too much to the not-so-chilled counter and the even-less-cold rolling pin and maintain some integrity in the “layers.”   🙄

PhotobucketLast trip to the fridge.  An hour and a half, then the Final Rolling And Shaping.  This dough is so soft at this point that there is no way I’m going to be able to roll it into a 1/4-inch sheet (oh yes, 1/4 inch!), cut it and roll it into little croissant shapes.  Not even after an hour and a half in the fridge.

Freezer.  It can certainly set in there, on top of the ice, double-wrapped in plastic wrap, at least until it firms up enough to give me a fighting chance. . .

Photobucket

So here it is, a couple of hours later.  The ridiculously soft dough has stiffened enough that I should be able to quickly roll it out one more time.  The recipe says

“roll the dough into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick and cut the piece into 3/4-inch squares.  Cut these squares in half diagonally to form triangles.  Roll up each triangle and curve the ends to form a crescent shape.”

Hold it.  Wait just a minute.  3/4-inch squares?  Oh no.  HELL no.  There is NO WAY that a 1/4-inch thick yeast dough is going to be cut into 3/4-inch squares, then cut in half then rolled into a croissant.  NOT gonna happen.  I’m sure there’s some sort of physics reason it can’t happen, but I don’t care what it is – I know Fritz wouldn’t try to make 3/4-inch squares, and neither will I.  I mean, can you imagine trying to feed Nero Wolfe 3/4-inch croissants?  😯

PhotobucketThat’s got to be a mistake.  (Did you ever follow a recipe – to the letter – only to find that there was a typo or some other mistake?  AFTER, say, you put a whole Tablespoon of salt in Emeril’s recipe for focaccia?  Yeah, I hate that.  A lot.)  That “3/4-inch squares” has got to be something like, maybe “3-4 – inch squares” which would make a lot more sense.  We’ll go with that.  😀

PhotobucketOnce the dough is cut into squares (we used our handy-dandy pizza cutter – it’s not just for pizza, you know!), the squares get cut into triangles, which need to be rolled into, well, croissants.

The directions simply say “roll up each triangle and curve the ends” – there’s no mention of which side to start rolling the right triangles – I was inclined to start at the hypotenuse  because it just feels more even, but Peeps said to start at one of the other sides.  That’s probably why his croissants were more, well, crescent-like than mine.  🙄

PhotobucketOnce shaped, we brushed with a little egg yolk-half & half wash – after all, once you’ve folded half a pound of butter in, what’s a little egg and cream to top it off, right? – then into a hot oven.  After 5 minutes at 400°, we backed the heat down to 350° and let the rolls finish baking, in this case, 17 minutes  – until they were GBD, of course.  😉

Photobucket

Timer goes off, we pull the little morsels out of the oven, and voilá!  While some of them might be a little, uh, unprofessional looking, maybe even downright homely . . . they’re croissants.  Real, honest-to-god, layers of pastry and butter croissants.

Photobucket

And really, how better to enjoy an honest-to-god, layers of flaky pastry and butter croissant than by smearing a little more butter on it?

Photobucket

Tuscan Kale & Beans November 18, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, food porn, random stuff.
Tags:
comments closed

You’ll recall that, on our last trip to the market, one of the mystery vegetables we acquired was Tuscan kale. Black kale. Cavolo nero. Dinsaur kale. I’m not sure if it’s a good sign or a bad sign when one vegetable has so many aliases. . . 🙄

However, this fall is the first time I’ve even heard of this stuff, and it seems that I can’t turn around without stumbling on another article about how “different” and “superior” Tuscan kale is – with, of course, accompanying recipes. So, you know me. Something is “different” and “superior” – well, I’ve gotta try it. (Unless it’s fish. My curiosity kind of wanes at fish. But that’s sort of a different story, isn’t it? 😉 )

Photobucket

So we’ve got a sizable bunch of this kale stuff, along with a pile of recipes, starting with directions for steaming. (It’s just like common kale and needs to be blanched first, for a really long time, then cooked. Unless it’s much more tender, and, therefore, one must be careful not to overcook it. 🙄 ) Um. . . great.

So we decided to go with something. . . different. I found a recipe for a dish called “Kale Farinata” – something neither of us has ever heard of, let alone tried. Good. Basically, the recipe appears to be a polenta with kale and beans. OK, we can get behind that. 😀

We made a few tiny changes to the recipe as we made it, and have further refined the recipe, so here’s my version of Tuscan Kale & Beans. I’m going to warn you right up front that this is not something you’re going to toss together after work one night – it’s a weekend project. But on the bright side, most of the time is spent either soaking beans or simmering, so it’s not like you can’t do anything else. That, and there will be a huge pot of stuff for later in the week when you’re done, too, which is definitely a good thing. 🙂

Since you have the actual directions right here, I’m just going to hit the highlights.

Photobucket

First, you’re going to want to soak ½ pound of dried white beans in a saucepan. I used great northern beans, but you could, I’m sure, use whatever white beans you want. Heck, you could probably use kidney beans, too, if you so desired, though I’m not sure how the finished product would look. Of course, you know about sorting and rinsing them – just like we did when we made the pea soup a couple of weeks ago. Let the beans soak overnight, and come back to them the next morning.

Add salt, rosemary, thyme, some sage, and a couple of cloves of garlic (you can leave them whole if you want – I did) and make sure the beans are well covered with water (by a couple of inches, anyway), and bring them up to a boil. Move them to the back burner and let them gently boil for a couple of hours.

Photobucket

Meanwhile, dice up a couple of onions (I used half red and half white), a couple of ribs of celery, a carrot, and mince a couple of cloves of garlic. In a good-sized dutch oven or other heavy stew pot, sauté in a few Tablespoons of oil, stirring occasionally, adding a bit of salt, until the veggies are nicely wilted. Just as an aside, when I’m sautéing garlic and mirepoix, I usually wilt the other veggies first, before adding the garlic. It’s way too easy to burn garlic, and who needs that? 😯

Now comes the cool part! Add this gi-normous pile of kale (cleaned and cut into ribbons) – and honestly, any kale, or even other green, would work just fine, I think. Give that a few minutes, then take a small can of tomato paste, diluted with a ladle-full of the liquid from the cooking beans – the bean broth.

Photobucket

You’re going to want to stir that up, then just cover it and let it cook on low for about an hour and a half, or until the beans are done. Yeah, remember the beans? 😉

Photobucket

Now, here’s where it gets weird. (In a good way, though.) Once the beans are done, take your ladle (or a slotted spoon, I guess), and scoop about a cup or so of the beans into the greens.

Take the rest of the beans – with the bean juice broth – and purée the whole works, until they’re the consistency of, well, puréed beans, I guess. 😕 Stir that into the kale mixture, and you’ve got a nice, warm, one-dish meal. Just stop right there, and either serve it right away with some fresh bread and a bottle of Chianti, or stick it in the fridge for a day or so, then serve it with the bread in the wine.

If it’s too thick, especially after being refrigerated, you can easily thin it with a little white wine. Serve with a sprinkle of parm and some fresh black pepper (and, of course, the bread and wine), and it’s just delightful as is. And while I do believe that this dish could be made using any kale or chard or other greens, there is a “green” flavor – more vegetal, I guess – to this variety of kale that I haven’t tasted in the common kale, nor in the various swiss chards or collard greens I’ve tried. It truly is a different flavor.

Photobucket

The original recipe (for farinata) directed me to add ½ cup corn meal and cook it until this turns into a polenta.

Don’t do it.

The problem is – it never does become polenta. It becomes cornmeal-gritty greens. yuck.gif

There’s just not enough liquid in the dish to get soaked into the corn meal enough to soften it. And it’s not even like there’s really much in the way of liquid that can be increased in the recipe, other than the water that I cooked the beans in. ? And there’s certainly not enough corn meal to allow it to set up the way polenta does when cooled, to be cut into pieces and browned in a sauté pan.

All in all, though, I enjoyed this dish. I thought this was a great way to highlight the contrasts among the hearty greens, the whole beans, and the mashed beans (not so much the grittiness of the corn meal, though). The kale was neither overpowered nor overpowering – the unique flavor was highlighted and accented by the relative blandness of the beans and the sweetness of the carrots peeking through.

I will say, though, that after enjoying the swiss chard and beans for most of last week’s lunches, and this kale and beans for most of this week’s, I think I’m going to pass on greens and beans for a couple of weeks.

Unless, of course, we find awesome stuff at the market this weekend. . . 😉

Tuscan Pork Roast November 7, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Food, food porn.
Tags:
comments closed

I decided to take a couple of vacation days last week in order to get some stuff done around the house.

See, here’s the thing. I’ve been working for Mon Capitán doing, uh, legal things for many, many years. One of the advantages of working in the same job for a long time is lots and lots of vacation time. 😀

One of the down-sides of working for lawyers, even one lone lawyer, is not wanting to leave them alone for long enough to take a real vacation. 🙄 So essentially, what I end up doing is taking a day here and a day there, depending on my calendar and how busy the office is in general.

So where was I? Oh yeah. Taking a couple of days off. You know, there’s really nothing like a 4-day weekend to show you just how attractive a life of leisure would really be, is there? 😉

Photobucket

One of the things I wanted needed to do was find something to do with the fennel we got such a great deal on at the market. After all, it’s not such a great deal if it rots in the bottom of the refrigerator, is it? 😦

I love this stuff, I’ve gotta tell you. Peeps – he’s not such a fan, unfortunately. I could be philosophical and say, “hey, more for me” but, honestly, it’s not much fun cooking cool stuff if you’re the only one eating it, is it? 😕

But hey, we all do what we have to, right? Oh well. And he just doesn’t know what he’s missing, that’s all. yummy.gif

So anyway, anyone can braise fennel, and, frankly, I don’t have any problem with it. But what do you do with the fennel? 😕

Well, how about a Tuscan-style roast pork? After all, if their wines are any indication, Tuscany is a great place to eat. And my wine-and-food theorem tells me that if the wine is good, the food kicks ass. 😉

And we have a couple of boneless pork loin roasts just knocking around in the freezer, so why not, right?

We’re going to roll this roast, so the first thing I do is butterfly it.

PhotobucketIf you’ve never butterflied, I think a boneless pork loin is just about the easiest place to start.

Just start like you’re going to cut the roast in thirds, and don’t cut all the way through – leave about an inch or so to open it out. Then, starting at that cut edge, cut the other third, and open that out, so you have a long-ish sheet of pork. Just don’t cut all the way through, that’s all. A good, sharp knife is great for this – makes it almost effortless.

Sorry, that’s the best I can do to describe it. Next time I’ll do a better job taking pictures. 🙄

Anyway, we’ve got the roast butterflied, but in order to ensure tenderness, we’re also going to brine the meat. Modern pork loin is so lean, it needs all the help it can get to retain its moisture. 😀 Try saying that 3 times fast – out loud – pork loin is lean, pork loin is lean, pork loin is lean! 😆

Photobucket

In a large container (one that will fit in your refrigerator!), dissolve in 6 cups hot tap water:

  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • 10 cloves of peeled garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup dried rosemary

Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, add about 8-10 cups of ice to cool down the brine, then toss the meat in to season, 2-3 hours. If you’re going to leave it much longer than that, cut down on the salt – a lot. It really does permeate the meat after that. Go ahead, ask me how I know. 🙄

Photobucket

I know. It kind of looks like that scene in Independence Day where Data is showing off the aliens, doesn’t it? 😯

Photobucket

Don’t worry about it, though. Just shove it in the fridge and go take a nap. (Or go to the range, which is actually what we did.)

In the meantime, you can also prep your pork rub and fennel and what-have-you. 🙂

Trim as many fennel bulbs as you’re going to be using, reserving a couple of fronds. Alas, I only used one, but you could do two or three if you’re so inclined. Cut the fennel lengthwise into about 1/4-inch slices, toss with a little olive oil, and set aside.

Photobucket

For the rub, stir together in a small bowl:

  • the reserved fennel fronds, finely chopped
  • another 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, chopped (minced, ground, whatever) (what, you didn’t think we were just going to rely on fresh fennel for the flavor, did you?)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • just a pinch of kosher salt

Stir together to form a paste, then just set it aside – it won’t look like much, but it’s going to be so packed with flavor, you’ll be friffin’ amazed!

Photobucket

After the proper brining time, take your meat out of the brine and dump the brine. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°. Rinse and pat dry the pork, then rub the, uh, spice rub onto the inside (cut side) of the roast. Roll the roast up and tie in two or three places, essentially so it stays together and doesn’t spill its guts all over the roasting pan and burn. 😯

Brown the roast in an oiled oven-safe pan. Yum, maillard. Use a big pan – you’re going to want enough room for everything. 🙂

Photobucket

Remove the roast, and deglaze the pan with about 1/3 cup of dry white wine. Where would a nice pork roast be, after all, without a little dry white wine? Return the meat to the pan, and tuck the reserved fennel alongside. I stuck some potatoes, also tossed with oil, on the other side of the roast, but I don’t necessarily recommend that. The potatoes, because they were kind of tightly shoved in there, took longer to cook than the rest of the stuff did, and, as it turned out, I ended up nuking them for an additional 5 minutes or so. Not bad, and they had a nice flavor, to be sure, but still. Next time, I’d either use an actual roasting pan, or par-cook the potatoes. Or both, more likely.

Photobucket

Roast for about an hour – hour and a quarter. If you need to, you could add a little water if things look like they’re scorching. When you check the temperature of the roast, which I know you will, the center should register about 135° when you take it out of the oven. Relax. 🙂 Transfer the meat to a cutting board, and tent loosely with foil. Carryover, you know. 🙂 If you need to, you can shove the veggies back in the oven to finish cooking.

Photobucket

After about 15 minutes, the center of the loin will read about 145°, which, while not the cooked-to-death pork of years gone by, is perfectly safe. 🙂 And, to be honest, delightfully tasty and perfectly moist, too. Look how juicy that is – and almost no fat!

Photobucket

And, since we used a 2+ pound roast, there was plenty left over for sandwiches. And they made a yummy lunch, too, let me tell you. 🙂

Roasted Beet Soup October 17, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, food porn, random stuff, soupe du semaine.
Tags: ,
comments closed

OK, first I’m going to preface this by saying one thing – not all vegetables are created equal. 🙄 Encouraged by the delightful deliciousness that was my roasted butternut squash soup a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at featuring another much-maligned, super good-for-you veggie as the star attraction in soup – beets. Now, I already like beets very much, so it’s no problem for me. But you may recall – some of us don’t get the same thrill from a perfectly-done vegetable. 🙄

Anyway, using the squash soup as a starting point, I went to work on my very own beet soup. And just in case you’d like to follow along at home, here is the printable version. 🙂

Photobucket

So we basically followed the same procedure as for the squash soup – I peeled and chopped a “bunch” of beets (about 4 medium) into about 1-2 inch cubes. Then I peeled and quartered an onion and one apple – I used a Granny Smith – and peeled 4 cloves of garlic. My thinking on the apple was that it would help to kind of tone down the earthiness of the straight beets. And G. Smith is what I usually have in the house, if I have apples hanging around at all. 😉 And let’s face it – you really can’t have a vegetable soup without at least a little garlic. 😯

Photobucket

After tossing with a bit of canola oil (a couple of Tablespoons), I roasted the veggies (plus apple) at 425° for about an hour and a half, stirring halfway through.

Photobucket

And again, just like with the squash soup, once the veggies are soft, we’re going to scrape up the bits of fond, deglaze with a bit of chicken stock, and return to the oven until the liquid is mostly reduced.

PhotobucketAnd just a word to the wise. The apple will cook to, essentially, applesauce, and both beets and apples have an awful lot of sugar. They will stick to the pan. I use a non-stick roasting pan, and, while it inhibits fond production a bit, it does seem to help when it’s time to clean up. Some. Just consider the trade-offs, that’s all. 🙄

PhotobucketAgain, we’re going to dump the roasted veggies into a dutch oven or soup pot with about a quart of chicken stock – you could probably use vegetable stock if you wanted to; I just don’t typically keep it on hand, that’s all. Actually, this time, I opted for a large can of store-bought chicken stock rather than the lovely smoked stock we canned. The big cans are slightly more than a quart – about 5 or 6 cups, I think. I could go check, but it’s soup, for crying out loud. 🙄 That’s why I said “about a quart.” 😀

Photobucket

So, to the stock and veggies in the soup pot, add about half a cup of red wine (that will give the soup some added depth of flavor) and a single peeled and diced potato. That should help add a little more body to the soup. Simmer for about 15 minutes or so, until the potato is completely cooked – obviously, exactly how long will depend on how small a dice the potato was, now won’t it? 😉

Once everything is nicely softened, you can hit it with the really cool stick blender. You know, that was one of the first kitchen gadgets Peeps bought for me, and I must say, it is still so awesomely cool! If you don’t have one, I would urge you to put it on your Amazon wish list – you can get a decent one for under $50. And, while you might not use it every day, the days you do use it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. 🙂

Photobucket

It really is cool!

PhotobucketAt this point, I added a bit of cider vinegar to just perk things up. I also picked a sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped that up, and added it, as well. Can I just say – I absolutely love fresh rosemary. I’ve been using dried rosemary for years, and I like that just fine, too. And I’ve used fresh rosemary, but I don’t remember enjoying it as much as I’ve enjoyed it this year. Whether it’s the particular variety of this plant, my wonderfully sensitive non-smoking palate, or just the satisfaction of having nursed this plant from a baby, I don’t know. And I don’t care. 🙂 I’m just loving this rosemary this year! 😆

I tasted the soup, and it was good. But I felt that it just needed something. I knew the flavors would mingle and, I don’t know, mature? in the refrigerator, but the earthiness of the beets, while not unpleasant, was just a tad overwhelming, so I thought about it. And I got out a little tasting bowl and experimented.

A bit of heavy cream, like we finished the squash soup? Maybe, but the cream seemed to be overwhelmed by the beets, unless I went nuts and dumped a LOT of cream in. Uh, not with my hips. 😯

A little molasses? Hmm. . . a nice addition to the earthiness, plus it added a bit of sweetness. . . but there was a bit of bitterness that was just less than pleasant. 😦

How about some more vinegar? Again, just something that’s less than pleasant. But the acidity seems to be on the right track.

Lemon. Citrus has some amazing powers, and a splash of lemon juice rarely goes wrong, especially with vegetables. It works and plays well with others, I guess you could say. 🙂

Photobucket

But I want to really make you sit up and say “hello!” How about some zest? Now that would be, uh, zesty, which is just what I need to complement the beets, I think. So I add the zest and juice from about half a lemon – just enough to get your attention, but not so much as to put you off. Remember, less is more. 😛

I just shoved the soup into a (stain-resistant) container until time to serve it, then we gently heated it for about 15 minutes, and voilá! Dinner is served!

Photobucket

PhotobucketWe picked up a loaf of Marco Polo bread at Wegman’s the other day, and I immediately shoved part of it in the freezer to go with this meal. And yes, I know, we’ve got our own sourdough, and that’s wonderful, and Wegman’s took our liquor store AND photo processing away and I’m still mad at them. But I’ve just always loved their Marco Polo bread, and in a moment of weakness, when I saw the ginormous loaf the other day, I couldn’t resist – all crusty and scabrous-looking on the outside, and deliciously soft and tender on the inside. . . mmmmm. If you don’t have a local Wegman’s, I’m sorry. 😥 Maybe you will soon. And if you do, and they don’t offer Marco Polo bread in their bakery, march in there and demand it. Really. It’s that good. 🙂

So the soup. Peeps opted to stir in a spoonful of sour cream, and I must say, it was rather good. 🙂 I, on the other hand, had mine nekkid au naturel. At least I did until I tried it all creamy and delicious-er. 😯

Photobucket

So, the verdict? It was mixed, I’m afraid. I thought it was wonderful. I loved the earthy beet flavor, paired with the intense rosemary and the bright lemon, then finished with just a dab of sour cream. Wonderful. I’m talking YUM.

And Peeps? Well, he thought it was “different.” And by “different,” he meant “weird.” But remember, he’s not a huge fan of vegetables in general, or beets in particular. 🙄

I would definitely make this again – for myself. But for a non-beet lover? Not so much. It’s pretty intense, and if you’re not a fan of beets, you probably won’t care for this. But if you’re already a fan? Hey, go for it! 😆