Chili Lime Soup with Yams

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I have been meaning to write this soup up for quite a while.  Since we cooked it again on Sunday (my bother in law, Greg came by for lunch), I had another shot at it.  I think that one of the reasons that I keep forgetting to write something about this soup is that it is there really is nothing to making it.  It is the sort of soup that doesn’t require an especially long cooking time or extensive preparation.

DSC_0023Despite being very easy to prepare, you get a fine reward.  The roast chilies are accented wonderfully by the sweetness of the softened yam.  There is a slight amount of heat from the chopped jalapenos and a wonderful tartness from the lime juice to clean things up.  If you roast the chilies ahead of time in bulk, they freeze very well and will allow you to throw this together pretty much any time you want.

I really like this soup topped with fried tortilla chips, but I realize that I am somewhat spoiled with a really nice deep fryer.  They are totally optional and can be mad in a small wok with oil since you don’t need to fry up too many.  Just make sure to get the oil heated to somewhere below smoking temperature and get the tortilla strips nice and crisp.

One of the things that I really like about this soup (aside from the rich, bright flavor and satisfying thickness) is that the flavor profile goes with just about any other dish you should choose to serve.  For our Sunday lunch, we served it with kefta, chicken emanadas, and a nice tapas of chickpeas and chorizo.  Cornbread rounded things out.  But heck, it would have been fine as a stand along or with a simple dinner of grilled chicken with salad.  Looks pretty good too!

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Chili Lime Soup with Yams
 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Latino
Ingredients
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large red onion, half chopped and half thinly sliced
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • ½ to ¾ lb. red yam, peeled and cut into ½ inch thick slices
  • 1 to 2 jalapenos, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Poblano Chili, roasted, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 4)
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 2 corn tortillas, cut into strips and fried until crisp
  • 2 tbs. cilantro
  • sour cream
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan, saute the onions and garlic until softened.
  2. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add yams and cook until yams are softened; about 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Add the chilies and simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors. Add lime juice and serve. Garnish with cilantro, fried tortilla strips, and sour cream to taste.

 

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

Chicken Tagine with Apricots

This is the main dish that we made for Friday dinner with my friend Jason this week. The concept originated from recipe in Paula Wolfert’s book Food of Morocco, but ended up straying a bit far from the original. For those of you not familiar with tagines, the term refers to both a slow cooked dish and the lidded clay vessel in which it is cooked. For this one, chicken thighs are treated with a spice rub and allowed to rest overnight prior to slow cooking them in our large tagine for over an hour. At about the half-way point, vegetables and a reduced orange and apricot sauce are added. Shortly prior to serving, finishing vegetables are added and the dish is garnished with almonds and cilantro.

The end result is a delightfully flavored dish of melt off the bones chicken that is, surprisingly, moderately spiced. The apricot reduction adds tartness that accents the piney flavor of the parsnips perfectly. A couple of notes on ingredients: 1) this dish uses saffron-infused water in the spice rub. This is a much more efficient method for using saffron as it reduces waste and adds consistency. There is a link for making saffron water at the bottom of the post. 2) We buy our ras el hanout from a local spice vendor, but it is fairly simple to make. The formulation on food.com is pretty similar to what we use. 3) As noted above, this dish mildly, but adequately spiced. If you are looking for a more intensely spiced tagine, I recommend adding additional spices to the apricot reduction, add a bit more fluid (stock) and add it to the dish earlier in the cooking process.

For the rest of the meal, we served ground nut soup, steamed asparagus with vinaigrette, and a semolina-based yeast bread for dipping. Hope you enjoy!

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Chickpea and Spinach Soup Flavored with Cumin and Tahini

Garbanzo Spinach SoupThis is a rich one…and considerably less spicy than most things that we have on our table.  I do believe that this particular soup will be a repeat visitor to our table.  It fills a somewhat special niche in the soup world; it is a creamy soup that does not involve cooking with cream.  For anyone that has had the unpleasant experience of breaking and thereby rendering a cream-based soup…unpleasant (or at least very unattractive), you will probably understand the immediate appeal.  Instead, this soup uses a combination of tahini and starch to lend a thick, rich texture that, while not a direct substitute for cream, gets pretty close.

This soup packs highly flavorful punch from the combination of cumin and coriander.  I think that the combination of the chickpeas and potatoes softens the impact of this spice combination, allowing the distinct flavor of the saffron to shine.  The flavor profile is finished off with a small dose of cayenne.  The cayenne doesn’t really provide much heat, but has a sharpness that balances the dish.

This was a great lead in to a period of soup experimentation that we went through last month.  This soup spree was kicked off by the arrival of our flameware dutch over from Clay Coyote Pottery.   This is an amazing piece of gear.  Stylish, durable, and really, really consistent in application of heat.  The best part is that it can be use on flame, electric, glass, whatever.  I couldn’t be more pleased with this new addition to the kitchen.  It pretty much lives on our stove top and will probably be supplemented by on of their flameware tagines.

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Chickpea and Spinach Soup Flavored with Cumin and Tahini
 
Adapted from 400 Soups by Anne Sheasby
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ½ large red onion, ½ chopped, ½ thinly sliced
  • 1½ tsp. cumin, roated and ground
  • 1½ tsp corriander, roasted and ground
  • 3 cups stock
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • pinch saffron
  • 1½ to 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • ½ tsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 Tbs. Tahini
  • 5 oz. spinach
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
Instructions
  1. In large stock pot, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic over medium-high heat until softened. Stir in the cumin and corriander and cook until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the stock, the saffron, and potato. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas and simmer an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the cornstarch, water, and tahini. Add to soup incrementally while stirring, Add spinach and cayenne. Simmer an additional several minutes to blend flavors and thicken.

 

Anchovy and Olive Crackers

Anchovie and Olive Crackers

Ok, I know how it sounds…not good.  All I can ask is that, as you think this concept through, you keep in mind that there are a lot of people out there right now eating horrible little yellow fish crackers.  These are better.  They are probably the original fish cracker; and they actually contain fish!

I dredged this recipe up because we are in the middle of a binge on soups and these little treats are a perfect accompaniment to the vaguely Mediterranean soup that I have slotted for this evening.  Although they may sound like a strange concept, these beauties are a sharp-flavored, simply wonderful companion to a wide range of soups and are generally a welcome addition to most table settings as a simple side dish.

These crackers actually don’t really taste very fishy.  They have a ton of butter in them and I think that this washes out a lot of the fishiness that a lot of people would usually associate with anchovies.  You just get the sharp salty flavor of the anchovies as an accent to the Parmesan cheese, and a little richness from the olives.  Vary the spices to suit, but I like a pile of crushed black pepper accented with some cayenne.  Try to make sure you use grated Parm rather than the sawdust stuff in the tube and chop both the olives and fish up pretty well before you blend them with the flour.  It works better with an even distribution of bait chunks throughout the dough.

If you have a food processor, a rolling pin, and a baking sheet, this recipe is a snap.  Just grind the stuff up to form a coarse dough ball, chill it down for about 30 minutes, and roll it flat.  After that, all that remains is cutting somewhat triangular shapes and briefly baking them on a baking sheet.  Baking time will vary wildly depending on oven setup, so just bake until the corners turn a nice golden brown.  Trust me, you should not be able to fuck this up.

Once baked, cool your lovelies on a wire rack and bag up the ones that you are not going to use immediately.  They will keep a very long time; weeks in the refrigerator and months in the freezer.  That’s right, you can resurrect them down the road for a tasty soup-based lunch.  No effort or forethought required.  Every time I cook these, I ask myself, “Self, why do you not do this more often?”.  The fact is that the simplicity of this recipe kicks it further down the memory hole than I should allow it go. These crackers really are a great addition to the table for a lot of meals and I should make more of an effort to have them on hand.

Accept the anchovy challenge and make a batch for yourself and bake a batch up…this week!  As always, let me know what you think and what you served them with.  Cheers.  Off to cook the soup now.

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Anchovy and Olive Crackers
 
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup chilled butter, cut into chunks
  • ½ cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz. canned anchovies, drained
  • ¾ tsp. cayenne
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper, crushed
  • kosher salt to top
Instructions
  1. Place flour, cheese, and butter into a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add cayenne and black pepper and blend until combined. Add anchovies and black olives and process until mixture forms a dough. Turn out onto a counter and lightly knead for about a minute. Form into a ball and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to about ⅛ inch thickness using a rolling pin. Cut into 2 to 3 inch strips using a rotary cutter and then cut crosswise into equal-sized triangles. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake in preheated over for 10 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool on wire rack.

 

Steamed Mushrooms with Yams

Steamed Mushrooms with YamThis simple dish is unimaginably good, and I can imagine some pretty good things.  It’s origins are in Japanese temple cuisine and it is just one example that showcases how incredibly satisfying and flavorful vegetarian food can be. The Japanese monks and nuns that originated this type of cooking, called shojin ryori, did not eat anything that could consciously try to avoid being eaten, such as animals.  As a result of this restriction, they developed a cuisine that is highly dependent on wild plants, seasonal vegetables, and of course, soy products.

To those skeptics out there, this type of cooking is very different from the type of food that is typically associated with western vegetarian or vegan cooking.  There is no attempt in this cuisine to recreate a meat-like effect using plant products.  No veggie burgers or Tofurkey to be found here. Instead, these are direct formulations that are devoid of some of the forced, strained, or desperate feeling that I get when I look at recipes from a lot of the western vegetarian/vegan movement.  I admit that I have a strong bias against a bunch of the crap food that has come out of folks trying to be vegetarians in America.  I am sympathetic to the desire for people to do as their conscience (or health) dictates, but a lot of it seems forced.  If you don’t like eating meat, stop trying to recreate it in soy and gluten…. 

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