Monday, November 29, 2010

turkey soupy noodles

Many people say the best part of Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers, and I have to agree. This year, I bought an over-sized turkey with that in mind, and after many sandwiches and turkey dinners I still had a pretty hefty carcass left to attend to - the turkey's, not mine. (sorry)

I knew I wanted to make soup, and I wanted to start with stock made in a pressure-cooker to extract the most flavor in the shortest amount of time. I had previously made chicken stock this way based on a recipe in Gourmet Today cookbook (not sure what is it with the two Gourmet Magazine cooking tomes but I seem to be using them a lot lately) and it was so good for such a small effort I thought I'd never buy canned stock again. I noticed the same cookbook had a "chicken soupy noodles" recipe consisting simply of stock, vegetables and broken lasagna noodles, so I decided to try it using my fresh turkey stock and whatever meat was left clinging to the bones.

This soup is a good antidote to Thanksgiving gluttony, chock full of slurpy noodles but not too rich or heavy.

The recipes below are pretty close to the originals, except for substituting fresh butternut squash I had on hand for some of the carrots in the soup and adding peas at the end for color and pop.

If you don't own a pressure cooker, or what I fondly refer to as a "precious cooker," please go out and buy one! Mine, a Kuhn Rikon, is a regular little workhorse. I'm sure I'll be posting recipes in the future illustrating its usefulness, but Lorna Sass's pressure cooker cookbooks are a great place to start right now.

Pressure-Cooker Turkey Stock

1 meaty turkey carcass, broken down to fit into pot easily
2 celery ribs, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 medium onions, left unpeeled, trimmed and cut into quarters
1 garlic clove
1 bay leaf
large pinch dried thyme leaves
5 black peppercorns
7 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Put all ingredients in pressure-cooker; mix well.

Lock top on cooker; bring up to high pressure and cook for 30 minutes, lowering heat if necessary to maintain steady pressure.

Remove pot from heat; run cold water over lid until pressure is completely reduced.

Remove lid; strain stock through sieve into large bowl; retain solids.

Remove meat from bones; chop roughly.

Skim surface fat from stock with large spoon. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Turkey Soupy Noodles

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, dark green parts removed; cleaned and coarsely chopped
3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
7 cups pressure-cooker turkey stock
1/2 cup fresh butternut squash, coarsely chopped
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Barilla brand)
1/3 cup frozen peas
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
fresh grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large soup pot; add leeks, celery and carrots and cook over medium high heat until leeks are softened but not browned. Add turkey stock; simmer until vegetables are tender - about 10 minutes.

Add butternut squash to soup; then break noodles into fairly large pieces and add to pot. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas; simmer a few more minutes until noodles are cooked to your liking.

Serve with grated cheese on the side, if desired.

Serves 4-6 as a main course.

*Recipes adapted from Gourmet Today; edited by Ruth Reichl; 1009

Recommended reading:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

mabel's raw cranberry sauce

This cranberry sauce is named for my 95 year-old grandmother Mabel, who gave the recipe to me and whom I seem to recall originally got the recipe from her cousin Mildred.

Although Mabel and Mildred were probably preparing this before canned sauces were even conceived, I'm impressed by how well it has stood the test of time. In fact, if you hadn't eaten raw cranberry sauce before, you might think it a modern, fresher alternative to the somewhat stodgy cooked stuff. It offers a pleasingly tart, crunchy contrast to typically rich Thanksgiving side dishes.

Mabel's Raw Cranberry Sauce

1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
2 large stalks celery, diced
zest of 1 orange, finely grated
segments of 1 orange, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
scant 1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger, optional

Roughly chop cranberries in food processor. Place in mixing bowl. Add celery, walnuts, sugar, salt and ginger, if using.

Finely zest whole orange into mixture in bowl, avoiding white pith. Pare pith away from flesh of orange with sharp knife and discard. Holding orange in hand, cut segments out between membrane as pictured below. Roughly chop segments and add to bowl. Squeeze juice from remaining orange membrane into mixture.

Mix everything together, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for at least 3 hours - preferably up to a day - to allow flavors to develop. (Sauce tastes less tart after it sits a while, so resist adding more sugar at this point.)

Give sauce a stir occasionally, and taste before serving. If it still tastes too tart, add more sugar to taste.

Makes about 3 cups.

Notes: Obviously, my grandmother didn't own a food processor; she actually ran the cranberries through a manually-cranked meat grinder. Also, the optional fresh ginger is my addition, but I like this sauce equally well without it. Finally, the original recipe did not contain salt, but I find it really brings out all the flavors. This is a great recipe to play around with. Fresh pears or pineapple are tasty embellishments.

Monday, November 22, 2010

potato, leek & kale soup with chorizo

For all the people out there who know they should eat more dark leafy greens but either have an aversion to them or don't quite know how to fit them into their diets, this soup is for you.

When I saw this gorgeous kale at a local market, I couldn't resist it - but then I had to figure out how to make it palatable to my husband. I have long been a fan of traditional Portuguese potato and kale soup, but since the flavor of kale tends to predominate I knew I'd have to counterbalance it with another assertive ingredient to slip it past him. As luck would have it, the same market also had beautiful all-natural Spanish chorizo - perfect for contributing a bit of smoke and chew.

Since I chopped the chorizo in a food processor, a little bit went a long way and I was able to keep the overall fat content low.

I also chopped the kale well before adding it to the pot as a final stealth move; it blended well with the other ingredients and could almost be mistaken for chopped parsley visually.

This soup passed the test. Aaron loved it and insisted it was "blog worthy!"

Note: Spanish chorizo is cured pork sausage colored and seasoned with smoked paprika. Portuguese chourico and linguica are similarly flavored, and while the level of spiciness may vary between sausages and brands, all may be used in this recipe.

Potato, Leek & Kale Soup with Chorizo

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 6ths
1 bay leaf
3 ounces Spanish chorizo, finely chopped in food processor
8 cups reduced salt chicken broth
1 bunch washed kale (3-4 ounces deveined leaves), finely chopped in food processor

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until heated through but not browned.

Add leeks, potatoes and bay leaf. Cover vegetables with foil, pressing directly onto surface. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened but not brown and potatoes are "sweating."

Add chorizo and stir to combine. Pour in broth (broth should cover vegetables; add a bit of water if needed).

Raise heat to medium-high; bring soup to a simmer.

Simmer soup, covered, until potatoes are soft. If fat rendered from the chorizo appears on the soup's surface, skim excess with a large spoon.

Mash vegetables roughly with a potato masher, leaving some larger chunks of potato for texture.

Add kale; simmer about 5 minutes, or until kale loses its raw flavor.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve.

Serves 4-6

Sunday, November 14, 2010

rotini with roman beans, cherry tomatoes and feta

Five years or so ago, I discovered a fantastic source for dried heirloom beans online at Rancho Gordo in Napa, California ( Since then, I've seen the company written up in quite a few newspapers and cooking magazines, to the point where I selfishly worried they wouldn't be able to keep up with increased demand and I would go bean-less.

Not that you can't buy dried beans elsewhere, but Rancho Gordo has cool-as-hell beans, with names like "Eye-of-the-Goat,"and "Good Mother Stallard." The website has beautiful photos and descriptions of each bean, and I have ordered many varieties over the years, including the less exotic "Borlotti," which is a favorite in Italy but was foreign to me at first.

One taste of the Borlotti bean though, and I was a believer. Maybe I had just become bored with the old bean standbys, but I couldn't get over its chestnut-like flavor and satisfying, meaty texture.

The only other beans I had enjoyed equally were those my father-in-law grew in his garden in Maine, which he referred to as "shell" beans. I raved about them so much he planted an extra row afterwards just for my husband and me. I canned most of them, and as we were eating our way through them it struck me one day that I loved them so much not only because they were grown with love by my father-in-law, but also because they tasted almost exactly like the beloved Borlottis.

So - back to the internet, where I discovered the same beans that are known as Borlottis in Italy are called Cranberry beans, or Roman beans in this country, although some sources suggest Borlottis have been bred to have thicker skins. Since I recalled seeing canned Goya Roman beans at the grocery store, I bought them and compared them with my home-canned beans. Bingo. Both looked the same, and although the home-canned beans had a fresher quality, they were very close in flavor. The Goya beans would definitely do when the Maine shell beans had run out and I hadn't thought ahead to soak the dried Borlottis.

The lesson of this tale is, if you aren't familiar with any members of this wacky bean family, you've been missing out.  I hope the recipe below helps you on your way to bean nirvana. It is based on a Food and Wine recipe by Christophe Hille using dried Borlottis. While that version is wonderful, I have adapted it using canned Roman beans for convenience and have embellished with feta, spinach, basil and lemon.

Please do check out Rancho Gordo though! The aforementioned Eye of the Goat and Good Mother Stallard beans are wonderful, and their heirloom Borlottis really are the creme de la creme of dried beans. If you have them and you have little extra time, definitely cook them up and use them in place of the canned beans in this recipe.

Rotini with Roman Beans, Cherry Tomatoes and Feta

9 ounces rotini pasta (I like Barilla Whole Grain)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 large cloves garlic, finely minced or put through garlic press
1 can Goya (or other brand) Roman beans, rinsed well
8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 ounce basil leaves, torn into small pieces
4 ounces fresh baby spinach
3-4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled into chunks
12 pitted oil-cured black olives (easily pitted by hand), chopped
1/2 lemon
grated parmesan or romano cheese, to taste
1/4 cup pasta cooking water

Cook pasta in salted boiling water for the time allotted on the box.While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large saute or frying pan over medium high heat.

Add garlic to oil and cook 1-2 minutes until heated through but not browned. Add beans and toss well to coat with garlic and oil. Stir tomatoes into beans and cook until their skins start to wrinkle. Season lightly with salt (olives are very salty) and liberally with fresh ground black pepper. Stir in basil.

Spread spinach leaves and crumbled feta over top of bean mixture. Top with olives. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit a few minutes until spinach wilts and feta cheese starts to melt.

By now, the pasta should be cooked, or close to it. ***Before draining pasta, dip a glass measuring cup into pasta water, skimming off at least a 1/4 cup. Set pasta water aside. Drain pasta.

Add pasta to bean mixture in saute pan and toss all ingredients together, adding up to 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water to keep things juicy. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon over the top just before serving.

Serve with grated cheese on the side.

Serves 4.

Recommended reading

New York Times article:

"Heirloom Beans" is a wonderful cookbook written by Rancho Gordo founder Steve Sando utilizing many of the products available at his website.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

seared tuna with wasabi ginger drizzle

I had a "tuna burger" (actually, a piece of grilled tuna) with wasabi mayonnaise at a local restaurant recently, and while I enjoyed it, I would have really liked a sauce with more oomph. So when I saw especially good-looking tuna at the market yesterday, I decided it was my chance to come up with something better.

I wasn't aiming to reinvent the wheel, so I started with a heavy-on-the-wasabi mixture, then added other sushi complements that came to mind. Since I wanted a sauce I could slather on with abandon (!) I kept the fat content down by using equal proportions of light mayonnaise and nonfat greek yogurt as a base. Happily, it doesn't taste "light;" it is creamy, refreshingly gingery and clear-your-sinuses spicy - a perfect foil for seared tuna steaks. (Come to think of it, I'm sure it would be great on beef steaks too.) And if you have any left over, it would make a tasty spread for chicken, turkey or roast beef sandwiches.

Wasabi Ginger Drizzle or Sandwich Spread

1/4 cup Hellman's Light Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Fage 0% Fat Plain Greek Yogurt, or other Greek Yogurt
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons wasabi powder, to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped pickled ginger, to taste
1 teaspoon pickled ginger juice
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon

water, if needed for thinning

Mix all ingredients together except water. Allow to sit for at least an hour for flavors to develop. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.

If a drizzling consistency is desired, thin sauce with a little warm water. Otherwise, top fish with a dollop of sauce, or use as a sandwich spread.

Note: You should be able to find pickled ginger and wasabi powder in the ethnic food section of large grocery stores or Whole Foods. If all else fails, there is always "the internets."

Seared Tuna Steaks

tuna steaks
soy sauce
toasted sesame oil
sake or dry sherry
peanut oil

Marinate steaks in a splash each of soy sauce, sake and sesame oil for at least an hour in the refrigerator, while the sauce is developing.

Coat saute pan with oil and heat until very hot but not smoking. Pat tuna steaks with paper towels to dry well; add steaks to hot oil in pan. Sear until nicely browned and crusty on first side. Flip steaks and repeat on other side until cooked to your preferred degree of doneness. (Remember, fish will continue to cook by residual heat after it is plated, so remove from heat just before you think it is done and let it rest a few minutes before cutting into it.)

Serve on a sandwich roll or plated with sauce drizzled over.

Sauerkraut update: For those astute readers who are wondering what ever happened to the sauerkraut, I'm sad to say it over-fermented while I was out of town! I like assertive sauerkraut, but not that assertive. I'll be starting a new batch soon.