In Praise of Soup
It is definitely soup season. With the appearance of real winter this year as opposed to the last two mild winters we have had in Maryland I am willing to bet soup consumption is up here and in most North American households. The great thing about soup is it does well as a starter, a snack or a meal.
I have been on a soup theme for a couple of months now with post like the lamb and dried mushroom stew recipe I developed,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/lamb-mushroom-stew/), Navajo Stew from the Moosewood Cookbook, (http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/cold-weather-special/0) , and back in October I developed a Beef and Mushroom Chile recipe for my friends at Phillip’s Mushrooms in Kennett Square,PA,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/soup-season/). All three of these are good choices for an entree type soup.
Lets take a look at some other great soup attributes. I suspect I’m not the only one that packs a lunch for a spouse that goes off to work Monday through Friday? My wife loves having a thermos of hot soup for lunch from the previous night’s leftovers,or freshly made that morning. There are several types of thermos bottles out there that will keep soup hot for hours if preheated properly. When your loved one opens up the thermos at work or school that day at lunch time out comes that wonderful aroma of home made soup. A much healthier and tastier way to eat at work, school or play.
Versatility is another great attribute of soup. You can tweak most recipes to your liking. If you want sausage, go ahead and add it t a bean soup, or Italian style tomato soup. If you want a cream soup but want to make it Vegan, just use coconut milk instead of cows milk. Vegetables are great in soups and you can find a soup recipe for just about any vegetable.
Soups can be very healthy too! Since we are coming out of the holiday season where many of us have eaten a fair amount of not-so-healthy foods it’s a good time to put healthy soups on the menu a couple times a week. Most bean soups are very healthy. Vegetable soups without cream are some of the best soups you can eat. One of my very favorite soups is my own concoction called Italian Tomato Soup,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/italian-tomato-soup/0 a soup I posted back in November of 2012 just after launching my blog. This soup has the heartiness of a stew, and the health qualities of a bean or vegetable soup all in one pot. It’s a Vegan soup that can be changed for meat eaters by adding pork or lamb sausage to it, and it cooks in under one hour start to finish!
Soups are ethnic food. Take a Cuban black bean soup, of Chinese hot sour soup for example. Many cultures have their special soups. I love a good bowl of French onion soup when I visit France. When I used to cook in restaurants Portuguese fisherman soup, of French bouillabaisse was one of my favorites. to make and eat. I guess American’s have their chili to represent them on the ethnic soup stage as our best known original soup. Without chili I think the saltine cracker would disappear.
Soups pair very well with salads, and sandwiches for lunch, and many restaurants serving lunch offer such combinations on the menu. Even in the winter I like a soup and salad combo at lunchtime occasionally. Recently I developed a new salad dressing using cranberries in a vinaigrette style dressing. It’s quick, easy and delicious. It could be used on green salad or on chicken salad too. This would pair well with my mushroom chowder(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/392/) or my butternut squash and curry soup. So give this a try while fresh and frozen cranberries are still available, and let me know what you think.
Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, or thawed frozen cranberries
1-2 fresh lemons juiced, about 3 tablespoons
1/2 cup walnut oil, or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
optional, a dash of Bragg’s Aminos, or soy sauce
optional, 1 to 1/2 package of stevia, or 1 teaspoon of agave
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with an immersion blender, or use a tabletop blender until cranberries are pureed. Makes about 18-20 1 tablespoon size servings.
Walnut oil works very well with this recipe, but it is more expensive than canola.
I like this dressing without the sweetener best.
This would work well with a variety of salads like green, chicken, pasta, or bean salad. Have fun experimenting.
Fresh cranberries freeze exceptionally well without any extra work. Just pop them into the freezer in the bag or plastic package they came in. I have used one year old cranberries from my freezer that had no freezer burn, or other bad taste.
It’s been a busy week here a the fast and furious test kitchen with lots of great things from my favorite farms. I’ve been getting the tastiest farm fresh lima beans ever from K.P. Huber’s Farm in Kingsville, MD. These are the best looking and best tasting lima beans I have ever bought! At $3 per quart sized basket they are a deal.
Just up the road at Wilbur’s Farm I’m getting great organic produce that my garden doesn’t have, or is struggling with. They have the sweetest white corn I have ever tasted, and everything they sell is certified organic. I like their potatoes, onions, green beans, eggplant, and zucchini. I just made a lovely ratatouille last night from their zucs, and eggplant and my tomatoes. Good stuff indeed. If you have not tried making ratatouille you should. It’s good hot the night you make it and if not overcooked it’s quite good at room temperature for leftovers. It stays fresh for several days after cooking too.
Tuesday was a big day for me as I was able to drive down to Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. There I walked the farm to see if what I have read is true about Joel Salatin turning the farm world on its head by developing sustainable methods of raising cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and more on his 450 acre family farm. It seems all true, and I witnessed happy cows in a beautiful pasture, and happy pigs in the woods about a mile up the hill from the farm house.
I bought a chicken from the farm store to test in the FFC test kitchen tonight and tomorrow night. Tonight it’s a French style roasted half chicken with fresh garlic and dried rosemary. Tomorrow night it’s Filipino Chicken Adobo. Come September 16th I’ll visit the farm again to be guest chef for Joel’s family, the farm workers and apprentices for dinner. That night I plan to cook the same two chicken dishes for all 21 people on the farm. Lucky for me the cook, Brie, will be helping me in the kitchen.
With all the great tomatoes my garden has been putting out I decided to buy some salad greens to pair with them. Last week I had some leftover bread from our supper club dinner and decided to turn it into fresh croutons. These are better than store bought by far, and almost as addictive a Doritos for munching. It does help if you use good bread like a whole grain loaf, or even ciabatta works well. I made another batch today and took a sample across the street for Wendy and Mary at Moore’s Orchard to taste and both of them liked the croutons a lot. Therefore I share with you now another fast and furious cook original recipe to try in your kitchen. This will take about 15 minutes to make , and lasts for 2-3 days if you don’t eat them all the day they are made.
As always, please try the recipe and comment on my blog.
Pan Toasted Spicy Croutons
2 1/2 cups day old bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano, or mixed italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or fresh thai peppers sliced thin
optional, 1/4 teaspoon salt
optional, 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Add oil to saute pan and heat on medium low for 10 seconds or so.
Add the bread and toss well to distribute the oil on the bread cubes.
Continue cooking on medium to medium low for 5-7 minutes tossing or stirring every minute or two.
Add oregano, and chili and cook for two minutes on low heat.
Remove from saute pan to a sheet pan to cool for 3-5 minutes before adding to a salad.
Use regular olive oil in place of garlic infused and add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder with the chili and oregano.
finely shredded parmesan cheese is a nice addition at the end. Just add after the heat is off and toss or stir well to distribute the cheese.
Great with soups or salad.
Cooks best if your saute pan is big enough to keep the bread cubes at just one layer. If the pan is too small the cubes will stack up and won’t brown properly.
Most of us Americans live busy hectic lives with lots of complicated tasks facing us daily. I’m in the middle of refinancing my mortgage and let me tell you that is complicated. On any given day the lender might call me up to ask for a document filed log ago in some faraway place in my home. We all have these challenges living our complex lifestyles, but why take that into the kitchen? Case in point is summer foods that offer the best in simplicity due to the heat.
Not many of us want to be in the kitchen any longer than it takes to put together a meal, but that doesn’t mean it has to be junk food. Take the humble egg. There has been a lot of talk about it being healthy or unhealthy. It is however a great item for fast eating whether it’s a quick omelet, scrambled eggs, or egg salad. I don’t eat eggs often as I pretty much agree with the book “The China Study”that they are high in cholesterol, and not the most healthy food for us, but about once a year I fall prey to the siren song of comfort foods of my childhood.
I get those warm and fuzzy memories of mom serving us up egg salad sandwiches and potato chips for a perfect lunch, and want one soon. Yesterday I planned ahead and boiled up six eggs and whipped up a quick egg salad for today’s lunch. It was close to my mom’s way of making them that includes chopped dill pickles, chopped celery, mayo, salt and pepper. I added to that some pickled jalapenos for a bit of a kick, and Spike seasoning salt. Instead of serving it on white bread I used my home made whole wheat bread and garnished it with fresh basil and cherry tomatoes from my garden. The result was a trip down foodie memory lane that tasted great and brought back wonderful memories of a simpler time. So please join me in welcoming the humble egg salad sandwich to you home for lunch soon and enjoy a great lunch food for these hot summer days.
6 large eggs hard boiled
1/3 cup celery chopped fine
1/3 cup dill pickles chopped fine
1/4 cup mayonnaise or low fat yogurt
1 teaspoon Spike seasoning salt, or just salt and pepper
4 cherry tomatoes for each sandwich garnish
1 bunch fresh basil sliced or whole leaf
sliced pickled jalapenos, optional
Chop eggs and set aside. Mix celery, pickles, Spike, and mayo together and add to eggs until blended.
Serve open or closed face on the bread of your choice.
Note: I use a pastry cutter for chopping the eggs instead of a knife.
There is a whole world of salads out there in food land for us to choose from. Since it’s summer I like to make salads as a main dish once and a while. I have had a bean salad idea brewing in my mind for the last three days and today I put it into a recipe for myself and my readers. When I was starting out in the cooking business as a young cook in the US Coast Guard I had to make many a dish that I didn’t like.
Three bean salad was one of those. It didn’t help that all the beans were canned. I didn’t like it until just a couple years ago when I tried one that was pretty good, and that got me thinking of ways to make my own version of this common salad. I set out to make it uncommon though, and today I whipped up what’s sure to be a classic(Three Bean Salad with Sweet Corn) for you all to try.
Hopefully you all are staying cool enough to go into your kitchen and make something quick and healthy from scratch like I do here at the Fast and Furious Test Kitchen. It’s important to have dishes like this one that you make once and can eat two or three times over the course of four to five days.
This isn’t just your every day three bean salad. I sought to make it healthy, quick and delicious while being different too. I decided to use fresh green beans, and edamame to make it non-conforming. Then I added fresh basil for another twist. I thought about using garlic infused olive oil, but will try adding that some other day to see if it adds or detracts from the overall taste.
Usually I would add hot peppers to something like this but I wanted a baseline recipe first to see how it tasted before tweaking it much. After all one could add hot sauce or peppers at the table and it would still get the job done. Since we are in the third day of a heat wave it’s a great time to make a refrigerated salad that can have the hot stuff added later on the whim of the person eating it. So give this one a try, and tweak it if you want. Please leave feedback so I can gauge how popular this recipe is. Stay cool until we meet again and look for my Facebook posts from Alaska starting July 25th.
Three Bean Salad with Fresh Corn
1 1/2 cup green beans, fresh, frozen or canned
1 can of kidney beans rinsed and drained
1/2 cup ready to eat edamame beans, or frozen
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 cups fresh cooked corn off the cob
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup fresh basil sliced thin or left whole
1/4 to 1/2 thin sliced red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons natural apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 avocado for garnish
1 fresh tomato for garnish
If using frozen edamame heat 4-5 cups water to boiling and cook for 3 minutes. If using frozen or fresh green beans cook with edamame. Drain and cool. Add all ingredients except oil, vinegar and salt in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and stir it in. Add oil and vinegar and mix well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or more and serve with sliced tomatoes or avocados for garnish.
I’m from Colorado but I’ve lived in Baltimore going on 5 years this November. I grew up not knowing much about humidity. Baltimore has furthered my education in humidity though. In the almost 5 years here in humidity central I have learned to deal with this minor nuisance. After all, my garden is quite happy with the way the weather is here, and the tomatoes seem to love this hot humid weather the best. About every 5 to 8 days we tend to get a gift from drier climates west of here and dry air blows in from somewhere out there.
On these special days I pay extra attention to what chores there are to do outside and I also like to go for a good hike while this gift of great weather is with us. My wife and I celebrate these special days and say something like, “wow, it feels like Colorado weather”, or something like that. This summer is different though. So far it seems there have been twice as many dry weather days than the first 4 summers had, and they string together for 2-3 days in a row instead of 1-2. We are in the midst of one of those stretches now with 3 in a row and counting. To celebrate the great weather I already played in the vegie garden and harvested a mixed bag of beets for a special salad, and plan to hike the Gunpowder River later today to celebrate this wonderful dry and not too hot day.
Before going off on a hiking adventure with my 14 week old German Shepard puppy Tucker I decided to test a beet recipe that was forming in my mind. I suspect there may be a similar recipe out there in foodie land, but it’s a first for me. I wanted to join beets, goat cheese crumbles, fresh squeezed orange juice and toasted walnuts together to make a salad fitting for a beautiful summer day. This salad will grace the dinner table alongside fresh green beans from Huber’s Farm just up the road in Kingsville, sauteed Swiss Chard from my garden, and King Salmon from Alaska.
All of these foods are summer foods, and go great together. The citrus in the beet salad will complement the salmon nicely, the chard will be good and full of galrlic goodness, and the green beans will add a nice color to the plate.
Even though the salad is not as fast and furious as I would usually do I don’t mind waiting 35 minutes for the beets to simmer. After cooking and cooling the beets the salad goes together quickly, and some things just can’t, or shouldn’t be rushed. It should turn out to be an excellent summer meal, and with any luck we can enjoy it ourt doors on our patio. Now that it’s officially summer I wish you the best of fun and food with family and friends, and be sure to celebrate beautiful weather where ever you live, or vacation.
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Curry Roasted Walnuts
1 bunch of beets,about 1 1/2 cups cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon minced chives
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon minced orange zest
2 teaspoons walnut oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Trim and boil or roast beets, about 35 minutes, then cool, peel and cut into bite sized pieces.
While beets are cooking toast walnuts in a saute pan with 1 teaspoon of the oil. This takes about 6-8 minutes on medium to medium low heat stirring or tossing often. Add curry powder, salt and pepper after 5 minutes of cooking.
Mix beets, orange juice, orange zest, goat cheese, 1/3 cup walnuts, chives, salt and pepper until just combined. Serve on top of leaf lettuce or shredded lettuce with a few more walnuts for garnish.
I call for 1 cup of walnuts so you have extra for snacking on as they are delicious.
Salad oil, or olive oil will do instead of walnut oil.
After six visits to Japan over the last 15 years I was ready to try a five star hotel, and when the Chanzanso Hotel Travelzoo deal showed up in September of 2012 we jumped on the offer. Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is set on a hillside that was called Camelia Hill until 1878 when prince Aritomo Yamagata purchased it and named it Chinzanso. The gardens that he and later owners established are there for all to see and enjoy, not just hotel guests. This is one of the nicest gardens attached to a hotel that I have ever seen! The camellias and cherry trees were in full bloom for our visit. The rest of the garden sights like the three story pagoda that is around 500-600 years old, are worth noting too. The garden lists the “Ten Scenic Spots at Chinzanso” that are all worth seeing. I loved the little statues found along the garden path that I called “Japanese garden gnomes”. The sacred tree of the garden is about 500 years old and stands magnificently towards the bottom end of the garden close to the soba restaurant. They also have a stone lantern from around the 12th century.
As if the garden isn’t enough of a reason to stay at Chinzanso we found the room, restaurants, and staff to be excellent. Our room was large by Japanese standards, and in excellent condition. The large bathroom had a tub and separate shower as well as L’Occitane toiletries. We were given room number 1001 which had great views of both the gardens and the city of Tokyo. We found the location of the hotel to be much quieter than any other we had stayed at in Tokyo. I had read in previous reviews online that the hotel is kind of far from restaurants and shopping, but we found that the restaurants in the hotel and nearby were very good and many to choose from. The concierge told us about a nearby 175 year old Unagi restaurant the was Michelin rated and quite good. The train station is a 15 minute walk and the Metro is 10 minutes walk from the hotel. Or you can take a taxi for 710 Yen. The hotel is serviced by the Friendly Airport Limousine bus from Narita Airport, and is a good way to and from the hotel.
All in all I can’t think of any other place I could recommend more than this hotel for comfort, and service. We will never forget the service from the concierge desk just hours before we checked out. We had lost our camera two days before, but when we were packing up to leave the room my wife found a taxi reciept from the ride we had taken the day the camera was lost. On a whim we had the concierge call the taxi company to see if the camera had been turned in. It had, but they had sent it to the police lost and found. The concierge called the police, but they couldn’t find it so the concierge called the taxi company back, found the camera and got it to us an hour before we left for the airport. Now that is great service.
The foodie part of the trip was great as usual. We started out by having lunch at the Unagi (eel) restaurant near Chinzanso. For about $40 each we had a great lunch in a Michelin starred restaurant that seemed to be a small mom and pop type place.
The next morning we went to the Tsukiji Fish Market and had sushi for breakfast at Sushi Zanmai. I had a great Tuna Sampler for just $30 that was as good as it gets. For dinner that night we went to a fancy sukiyaki restaurant called Asakusa Imahan to meet friends. It was a lovely traditional sit around the table and eat a big Japanese meal. It was fun during the part of the meal where we got to do a bit of the cooking in the frying pan at the table conveniently placed in front of us.
The next evening we ate dinner at the soba restaurant on the Chinzanso Hotel grounds. This was one of the best soba meals I have ever had! It was enhanced by the view of the gardens lit up at night just in front of our table. The soba itself was cooked just right and the sauce was excellent.
The best meal of the trip was at the Japanese restaurant in Chinzanso Hotel. They called it a buffet, but what it was is a menu of about 35 items that you ordered from at will. There was sushi, hot pots, appetizers, desserts and more. We couldn’t believe it was all you can eat. The quality of the food was superb, with the exception of the hot pot that was a bit weak on flavor. The appetizers were great, the sushi was great, and the cherry ice cream at the end was great! Apparently they have this deal all year, but the menu varies with the season. For about $100 you get an amazing meal. Next trip to Tokyo I would definitely go back to this restaurant.
For a quick and affordable lunch it’s hard to beat the Sekiguchi french style bakery chain that has been around Japan since 1888. The baked goods are quite yummy, and at lunch you can get soups and sandwiches too. For about $10 each we had a very good lunch there. Their croissants are very good as well as the curry bread, and salads.
For a Japanese style salad dressing to commemorate the trip I made up this dressing today in the Fast and Furious Test kitchen.
Sesame Oil and Cider Vinegar Dressing
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, optional
Mix all ingredients in a bowl then pour into a salad dressing bottle. Best if you can refrigerate it over night, but plenty good just after it’s made too.
Try this pouring this dressing over bite sized fresh broccoli, cauliflower, red bell pepper and carrots. Put in refrigerator for 2-3 hours for best tasting salad.
14 oz firm or extra firm tofu cut into 1 inch cubes
2/3 cup of low fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
6-8 ribs of celery sliced diagonally
2 carrots shredded
1 red or green bell pepper chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons Spike seasoning salt
2-4 pickled jalapenos sliced
1 cup walnuts
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
Optional: 1/4 cup green onions sliced
In a medium mixing bowl combine yogurt, mayonnaise, curry powder, turmeric, and Spike. Gently mix in tofu. In a large mixing bowl combine celery, carrots, bell pepper and jalapenos and mix well. Gently toss in the tofu mixture to the large bowl then chill for 30 minutes.
In a saute pan heat the oil on medium heat for a minute or two then add the walnuts. Lower heat to medium low and stir for 3-5 minutes being carful not to burn the walnuts. Sprinkle a bit of Spike or salt then set aside. When serving the salad top with walnuts, and green onions.
Can be served on a bed of lettuce. Suitable for a main dish, salad or appetizer.
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups of water
1/2 cup of diced or sliced celery
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 carrot diced or cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 medium fresh tomato
salt and pepper to taste
optional, 1 jalapeno pepper diced
optional, 1/4 cup of sliced green onions
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of olive oil or salad oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
I like to cook the quinoa the night before by cooking more than what I need for dinner and using the rest for the salad the next day. That way it’s chilled and ready to go into this recipe. Just follow the cooking directions on the quinoa package, and chill it until you are ready to make the salad.
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add the peas. Cook for just 2 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to cool off the peas. Drain well before adding to the quinoa.
In a large mixing bowl stir the quinoa to break it up before adding all vegetables, except peas as they are fragile.
in a small mixing bowl add the lemon juice, vinegar, and herbs. Mix well with a whisk to moisten the dried herbs. Add the oil and mix well. Pour over quinoa and mix well. Add peas, salt and pepper to taste, and mix gently. Garnish with sliced tomatoes and jalapenos. Serves 4-6.
2 cup fresh cauliflower cut in bite size florets
2 cups fresh broccoli cut in bite size florets
1 carrot peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4 inch slices
1 small red or green bell pepper diced
1/2 cup prepared Italian salad dressing
Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Can be served immediately, but will have a fuller flavor if allowed some time to chill.
Note: I like a jalapeno or some other hot pepper to spice this up.
Here’s one of my favorite pasta salad creations that comes from years of fishing and catching Alaska wild salmon. Many times we would have leftover salmon from dinner the night before and it gets used up nicely in this recipe.
3 cups bow tie or shell pasta
1 1/2 cups cooked, flaked salmon, about 8-10 oz
1 cup diced or sliced celery
1/2 cup diced dill pickles
1-2 fresh jalapenos diced or sliced thin
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tablespoons of the pickle brine, or Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of Spike
Optional; 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
Optional; 2 tablespoons of sliced green onions
Cook salmon by baking it with a little olive oil, salt and pepepr the night before and chill in the fridge, preferably for dinner and use the planned leftovers for this recipe. Clean the cooked salmon of any remaining fat, and bones.
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Rinse well with cold water and drain.
In a large mixing bowl combine mayonnaise,yogurt, 1 tablespoon pickle brine, and Spike. Mix in pasta, celery pickles, jalapenos, and parsley. Carefully mix in the salmon being careful to leave some visible pieces for visual effect. Add more pickle brine if it looks at all thick. This type of pasta salad tends to soak up the dressing making it a bit dry if served hours after preparation. Chill for 30 minutes or more and serve with a bit of parsley on top if you like.
2-3 pounds of salmon filets
2 fresh jalapenos
fresh green onions, optional
fresh parsley, optional
Spike seasoning salt
1 box bowtie or small shell pasta