Friday, October 28, 2011

Lentil Soup with Smoked Sausage

Hi, I'm Elizabeth.  And I'm addicted to soup.

All: Hi, Elizabeth.

I'm also addicted to eating soup in mugs.  It makes me feel like I'm sitting in a French bistro.

I really have no idea if French bistros serve soup in mugs.

I suppose there are worse addictions.

But that's not why I'm here.

I'm here to tell you that you must make this lentil soup ASAP.  Regardless of whether you're addicted to soup.

I love several things about this soup.  One, it's healthy and it tastes delicious.  I'm pretty sure that lentils are on the list of super foods.  You can google it if you want to be sure.  Or you can just take my word for it.  Other than that, it's full of veggies.  And that's a well-documented fact.

We have a lot of chopping to do, which is good because I love to chop.  I have a thing about knives.  So you'll need onions, leeks, garlic, carrots and celery.

Do you know about leeks?  Well, let me tell you about them.

They're grown in sand.

Which makes them very sandy inside.

Unless you want to ruin your delicious soup with sand, wash them well.

Like, really well.

Or you'll be really, really sorry.

So just let all the veggies saute until they start to get soft.

While the veggies are cooking, it's a good time to soak the lentils.

I'm using my very special Italian lentils that I bought at a very authentic Italian grocery store in Chelsea Market.  Like, the Chelsea Market right under the Food Network.

Yeah.  I know.  It was awesome.

Lentils are sort of like beans - they have to be soaked in hot water before you cook them.  It sort of gives them a head-start on the cooking process.

Now you can drain the lentils and add them to the veggies along with the chicken stock and tomato paste.  And toss in some spices and herbs while you're at it.   Salt, pepper, cumin and thyme.

Let it cook for an hour or so.  The lentils should be tender but not mushy.  Now we can add the sausage part of the soup.

I like to use turkey Polska kielbasa and I chop it like this so that I get as many bites of sausage in the soup as possible.

I'm compulsive too, you see.

This soup tastes best when made in a yellow circa-1970 pot.  It's that old-world French bistro feel you're going for.

Not everyone in my house likes soup in a mug.  So sometimes I break out actual bowls.

Either way, put Parmesan on top.  Just because.

Lentil Soup with Smoked Sausage
Adapted from Ina Garten

2 T olive oil
1 lb carrots, peeled and diced
1 small bunch celery (about 6 stalks), diced
2 large onions, chopped
3 leeks, light green part sliced in half, chopped across and soaked in cold water to rinse off the sand
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 T cumin
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1 bunch thyme (about 6 stems) or 1 T leaves (or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves)
8 cups (2 quarts) chicken stock
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 lb turkey Polska kielbasa, cut into half lengthwise and then sliced into half-moon shaped pieces
3/4 lb lentils, soaked in the hottest tap water for 15 minutes then drained
2 T red wine vinegar
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Over medium-high heat, saute the chopped vegetables - carrots, celery, onions and leeks - for about 20 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and saute for another 5 minutes.  Add the cumin, salt, pepper, and thyme and then the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and add the tomato paste.  Stir in the lentils that have been soaked and simmer for about an hour, until the lentils are cooked.  Stir in the chopped sausage and cook another 10 minutes, until the sausage is heated through.  Stir in the red wine vinegar.  Serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beef Stew

So this is probably the ugliest meal I've posted.  To date, anyway.

It's not beef stew's fault that it's ugly.

But regardless of how it looks, you should still make it.

Because it tastes really good.  And that's all that matters.  Because I'll pull my hair out the next time some Food Network celebrity chef says "You eat with your eyes first."

I don't.  So there.

Besides, who doesn't love a pot of tender, flavorful meat and vegetables?

It's a lot of steps, but it's an inexpensive meal with a lot of flavor.  And it spends most of its time in the oven, where the meat gets super tender.

So we're going to start with some olive oil.

So now we want to get out the beef cubes and toss them with some flour.

And now we have a mound of floured meat.  Time to brown it in the olive oil!

I had to do it in three batches - don't overcrowd the meat in the pan.  That is a cardinal sin in the making of beef stew, because then the meat will just steam and get gray (ew) instead of get brown and crusty on the outside (which is exactly what we want).

You'll need to add about a tablespoon of olive oil into the pot for each batch.  After three batches, our mound of floured meat looks like this:

See how nice and brown it is?  Oh, and you don't need to cook it through here - it's going into the oven for a couple of hours and it will cook then and become fall-apart tender.

When the meat is browned, you can toss in the veggies that sister helped chop:

Stir it around and let it get coated in all of that browned goodness in the bottom of the pan left behind by the meat that you browned.

Add the meat back to the pot

and then pour in the stock and tomatoes

and add some herbs while you're at it

Cover the pot and stick it in the oven for a good couple hours.  The meat will get so tender and the herbs will flavor the stock and all the flavors will have a party and get married.

You'll see what I mean when you make this stew.

Okay!  After a couple of hours, poke the carrots to make sure they're tender.  And then stick a fork in the meat to make sure it's super tender.  It should be.  If not, stick it back in the oven for another 15 minutes and check it again.

Now we're going to finish the stew with sauteed mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, and peas.  And we're going to thicken the sauce just a tad with some cornstarch.

So melt some butter and saute the mushrooms.

Bring the stew to a boil on the stove and stir in the mushrooms.  And then stir in the slurry of cornstarch and water that you made.  The broth should thicken immediately.  Now stir in the Worcestershire sauce and the peas.  As soon as the peas are hot, you're ready for dinner!

You should probably make some mashed potatoes and serve the stew on top.  I know it's retro, but it's the real deal.

And your family will totally love you for it.

Beef Stew

2 T olive oil
2 1/2 lbs beef chuck, chopped into medium cubes
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 cups beef stock
15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 T thyme leaves (about a small bunch) or a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves
1 T rosemary leaves (2-3 sprigs) or a teaspoon of dried
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 T butter
1 lb mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 T cornstarch
1 T water
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 T Worcestershire sauce
12 oz. bag frozen baby peas

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Mix the flour with the salt and pepper and toss the beef cubes in it.  Brown the meat in the olive oil over medium-high heat, turning to make sure each side gets brown.  You don't want to crowd the pan with beef so you'll need to do this step in several batches.  Remove the browned meat from the pan and let it rest on a plate while you're browning the rest of the beef.

When the meat is done, remove it from the pan and let it rest on a plate.  Toss the carrots and onions into the oil and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently until they are slightly browned and they start to tenderize.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Return the beef to the pot and add the beef stock, tomatoes, thyme, one tablespoon each of salt and pepper.  Cover the pot and bring it to a boil on the stove.  Once bubbling, place in a 300 degree oven to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is falling apart when you stick it with a fork and the carrots are very tender.

Remove from the oven and return to a simmer on the stove.  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and saute the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, until slightly browned and tender.  Sprinkle the flour on top of the mushrooms and stir it around, cooking the flour for a minute with the mushrooms.  Add the mushrooms to the stew and stir well.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir the frozen peas into the stew.  Stir well, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sausage-Cheese Grits

Another breakfast recipe.  Told you I was into breakfast these days.

Oh, how I love grits.  Especially this kind:

Because when they grow up, they look like this:

These sausage and cheese grits are my favorite thing to make with this bag of very special stone ground grits.

I hope Santa brings me another bag of stone ground grits from the mill this year.  Because I'm almost out.  Santa?  Are you there?

Oh, and here's the other reason I love these grits:

But you probably already knew that.

So you'll want to bring a big pot of water to a boil.  Because it takes a lot of water to cook stone ground grits.

While the grits cook, you can brown the turkey breakfast sausage.

When the grits are done, just toss everything in

And definitely don't forget your garlic.

Pour it into your baking dish

And bake it until it's all brown and bubbly and gooey and cheesy:

You could definitely make this on a breakfast-for-dinner night.  These grits are awesome.

Sausage-Cheese Grits
Inspired by Creating a Stir

1 1/2 cups stone-ground grits
5 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 lb turkey breakfast sausage, browned, crumbled and drained
6 T butter
2 garlic cloves, grated
12 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated and divided (about 3 cups total)
7 oz. can diced green chiles
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
1 tsp pepper
2 eggs, beaten

Bring water to a boil and whisk in salt and grits.  Cover and cook grits on low heat, stirring frequently, for about 25 minutes until they are thick and creamy.  Keep the grits on low heat while you stir in the sausage, butter, garlic, 2 cups of the grated cheese, green chiles, pepper and half-and-half.  When combined, add the eggs and stir quickly to keep the eggs from scrambling.

Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish and bake on 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.  About 10 minutes before removing from the oven, top with the remaining one cup of cheese and finish baking until cheese is melted.

Allow the grits to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bananas-Foster Breakfast Souffle

I've been really into breakfast lately.  I'm pretty much always into breakfast, actually.

But this is one of those things that you can serve for breakfast-for-dinner (one of my personal faves).

It's basically a skillet pancake - which of course is easier than doing individual pancakes because you just pour it into a skillet and bake it all together.

It's SO good, y'all!

This is easy to make but it has a couple of different steps.  So pay attention.

Basically we're mixing the wet ingredients together, the dry ingredients together, mixing the wet with the dry, then folding in beaten egg whites (to make a fluffy souffle).

Here are the dry ingredients:

And here are the wet ingredients:

Stir them together.  Now we need to fold in the egg whites.

Put your egg whites in a mixing bowl.

And beat them until they look about like this:

Now fold them into the batter.  Carefully.

This is the only delicate part of the process.  Just don't stir too hard or too much and you'll be fine.  You just want as much air as possible to stay in the egg whites.

Okay, now melt some butter and brown sugar together in a skillet.

This is the bananas foster part of the dish, you see.

Pour in your batter

and bake!

I had to dig around in the middle with a knife.  Just to make sure it was done enough.  It's a problem I have. Don't be like me.

It's fluffy and tender.  Simple.  And totally delicious.

Bananas Foster Breakfast Souffle
Inspired by Katie Lee Joel

2 T butter
2 T brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup mashed banana)
4 eggs, separated

Stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, vanilla and bananas.  Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring until just incorporated.

Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat on high speed until you have stiff peaks.  Fold the beaten egg whites into the pancake mixture carefully with a spatula.  Be careful not to stir too much or you will deflate the egg whites and your pancake won't be fluffy.

In a 10-inch skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the brown sugar.  Pour the pancake mixture on top and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-28 minutes until just set.  Serve immediately with butter and syrup.