Soups & Salads

Miso Wasabi Salad Dressing

Miso Wasabi Salad Dressing

 

The Japanese ingredients say a lot about this zesty salad  dressing, but it is surprisingly compatible when served with non-Japanese dishes as well.

As always, shop for the very freshest organic ingredients you can find. What I do love about this dressing is how the wasabi note heightens  the crisp garden fresh flavor of the assorted salad components. Perfect for late summer and fall salads!

 

Miso Wasabi Salad Dressing     Makes 3/4 cup

  • 3 tablespoons light miso
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated garlic
  • ¼ cup Japanese rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Tamari soy sauce, or regular soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted  sesame oil
  • ¼ cup light vegetable oil, or light olive  oil
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons wasabi paste
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

Combine all the ingredients except the water in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until the dressing is completely emulsified. Add the cold water and shake once again until combined. Refrigerate the dressing until well chilled for serving.

 

Suggestions For the Salad

  • romaine lettuce, leaves cut into thirds
  • baby cos leaves, halved
  • radicchio leaves, torn lengthwise
  • iceberg, torn
  • arugula (rocket) leaves
  • celery leaves
  • mizuna sprigs
  • julienned carrots
  • julienned radishs
  • snap peas, blanched and chilled
  • radish sprouts
  • small vine ripe tomatoes, halved
  • toasted sesame seeds  (see recipe here)

Place the romaine, baby cos, radicchio, iceberg, arugula, and celery leaves in a large bowl and toss. Add a couple of teaspoons of dressing and toss to coat the leaves evenly.

Plating and Serving the Salad

Fan the mizuna leaves on chilled individual salad plates and mound a handful of tossed lightly dressed salad leaves onto each plate. Scatter the top of each salad with the julienned carrots and then the julienned radishes. Tuck the snap peas and halved tomatoes into the salads and lightly drizzle a little more dressing over each salad. Garnish with a flourish of toasted sesame seeds and serve.

 

Mexican Sopa dde Elote

Mexican Sopa dde Elote

 

Sopa de Elote is a Mexican corn soup that has many faces ranging from a modest broth based soup to a thick rich creamy soup gilded with molten cheeses and assorted garnishes. keeping in mind it is the corn that is the star ingredient here, shop for the freshest locally grown organic sweet corn you can find and let that be your guide. The remaining ingredients needed are more or less rudimentary and easily found in most local markets.

While you are cooking this soup a  heady combination of flavors and aromas will reaffirm the enduring appeal of truly traditional Mexican cookery.

 

Mexican Sopa de Elote         makes 3 quarts

Mexican Sopa de Elote

Mexican Sopa de Elote

 

Ideally, cooking the chicken and making a stock the day before you plan to make the soup lightens the time spent in the kitchen the following day.

Before you even begin to cook, remove the husks and corn silk from 4 ears of fresh sweetcorn corn and discard them. Then cut the kernels off the cob into a deep bowl. Scrape each cob with the back of a knife to extract the sweet milk from the cobs. Reserve the cobs that you will be using later, and cover the bowl with the kernels and scrapings and refrigerate as they will be added to the soup the following day.

Ingredients for chicken and stock

  • 1 whole chicken
  • water to generously cover the chicken
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, skin removed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into three pieces each
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cilantro ( coriander) roots, crushed
  • 4 reserved corn cobs

Rinse the chicken and place it in a large stock pot. Add enough water to generously cover the chicken. Place the pot on the stove top over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Add the salt, vinegar, peppercorns, diced onions, carrots, bay leaves, cilantro roots, and the reserved scraped corn cobs. Give the pot a good stir and cook the chicken at a simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Skim off any foam and fat that forms on the surface and discard.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set the chicken and the stock aside to cool.

Fish out the carrot pieces in the stock pot, place them in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.

Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones in generous chunks and place them in a bowl. Leaving the chicken in larger pieces will give the soup a more substantial profile and tenderer meat when reheated. Cover the pulled chicken with cling film and refrigerate.

Put all the chicken bones back into the pot of stock and return the pot to the heat. Bring the contents to a low boil and cook until the stock is reduced by a third. Once again, skim off any foam and fat that forms on the surface and discard.

Remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool for 20 minutes or so. Then strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large container and set aside to cool to room temperature. Discard the bones and solids after straining the stock.

Once the stock is cooled, cover the container and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning skim off the fat that has solidified on the surface of the stock and save for another use or discard it.

Ingredients for the soup

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 4 garlic, cloves, minced
  • 2 large gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 quarts prepared chicken stock
  • 5 jalapeno chiles, seeded, quartered, and flash fried
  • 2 cups home cooked pinto beans (or canned), drained
  • reserved cooked diced carrots
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram  or oregano leaves
  • sea salt to taste
    fresh lime wedges
  • 1 pint crema (sour cream thinned slightly with whole milk)
  • sprigs fresh coriander leaves
  • corn tortilla chips (pictured, blue corn chips)
  • ground red chile as a final seasoning (optional)

Place 3 tablespoons olive oil in a stock pot set over medium heat.When the oil is nearly smoking until the oil dd the onions and celery and lower the heat to medium low and saute, stirring now and again, until the onions and celery are very soft and translucent, about, 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small fry pan. When smoking hot add the quartered jalapeno chiles, skin side down in the pan and flash fry until the skin is blistered. Flip the chiles and fry another minute or so. Remove the chiles from the pan and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle pull off the blistered skin and discard. Then dice the chiles and set aside.

Add 3 quarts of reheated stock to the sauteed onion, celery, garlic mixture. Once the stock begins to boil, add the diced potatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. Using an immersion blender (or blender) puree the contents of the pot until smooth and creamy.

Return the pot to the heat and add he beans, reserved diced carrots, marjoram or oregano, diced flash fried jalapenos, and the reserved fresh corn kernels. Cook for another 15 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently so soup does not scorch on the bottom of the pot. Taste and add salt as needed.

When you are nearly ready to serve, add the pulled chicken to the soup. Allow the soup to come to a very low simmer and cook for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serving

Ladle the soup into individual bowls, mounding the chicken in the center. Garnished with fresh cilantro sprigs and serve.

Place a bowl of crema on the table along with a bowl of corn tortilla chips which can be added to the soup. Include a plate of fresh lime wedges, and a  small container of ground red chile for those who want to crank up the heat  bit. 

Guacamole is always a nice accompaniment along with the corn tortilla chips as well. 

This soup freezes beautifully and always nice to have on hand for a last minute meal on demand.

Buen provecho!

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken

 

Early summer is a perfect time to utilize fresh from the garden produce for light soups that are as lively and colorful as they are delicious. Freshly made soups are ideal for easy summer meals that celebrate the season’s ever evolving bounty. A beautiful soup accompanied with a crusty loaf along with a freshly made pesto (see recipe here) is a perfect summer meal in and of itself!

 

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken       Serves 4

  • 2 ears sweet corn
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • handful of celery leaves
  • 1 cup diced onions, divided
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  •  sprig of Italian basil leaves, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • whole basil leaves as a garnish

First thing you want to do is cut the corn kernels off of the cobs and set them aside to use later. Then holding the cobs vertically in a small bowl, scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to extract the corn milk and set the milk aside to use later. Reserve the scraped cobs.

Fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and add the bay leaves, celery leaves, ½ cup diced onions, peppercorns, the scraped corn cobs, and the reserved corn milk scrapings. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the whole chicken breasts to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the pot side, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then using tongs remove the chicken breasts and set them aside in a bowl to cool.

Remove the corn cobs from the pot and discard them. Then pour the contents of the pot into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Press all the liquid out of the solids. Discard the solids and set the broth aside.

Rinse out the pot and return it to the stove top, add the olive oil, and set over a medium flame. When the oil is hot add the remaining half cup of onions, the diced yellow and red bell peppers, diced jalapeno, and saute until they soften about 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, celery, and potatoes, and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Then add the reserved broth to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, but still holding their shape. Then add the reserved corn kernels.

Gently pull the chicken breasts apart and into bit size pieces and add to the both. Stir in the sliced basil and season to taste with salt. Add the saffron threads and stir to combine and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Just before serving stir in the lemon juice.

Serving

Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with whole basil leaves and lemon slices.

French Tarragon Vinaigrette

French Tarragon Vinaigrette

At last, with the arrival of spring crops coming to market, it is time to let green produce be the star attraction. By that I mean salads composed using the freshest greens along with some early baby green beans, freshly picked herbs, and crisp sliced radishes tossed with an herb vinaigrette to really savor the fresh flavors of spring. I always gravitate towards the subtle anise like flavor of fresh French tarragon accented with a hint of lemon in a vinaigrette that pairs beautifully with freshly picked garden greens.

For this salad I have used a combination of leafy greens as well as a deep green curly leaf kale, but use any fresh greens that are available.

 

For the vinaigrette, use fresh French Tarragon leaves if available. Tarragon has been loved by French cooks for centuries for its fresh clean subtle flavor and aroma. The small yellow flowers are edible by the way so do include them in the salad . Otherwise a good quality dried French tarragon will be just fine.

 

I like to make the vinaigrette a day in advance so that the flavors have a chance to coalesce.

Fresh Tarragon Vinaigrette:  makes 6 oz/ ¾ cup

  • 1 ½ teaspoon grated (microplaned) shallot
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder 
  • 1½ teaspoons minced fresh French tarragon leaves; or ¾ teaspoon dried
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup light olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon minced lemon zest
  • pinch of sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until the vinaigrette is emulsified.

Alternately, You can combine the shallots, mustard powder, tarragon, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a non reactive bowl and whisk to combine. Then begin adding the olive oils in a slow steady stream while whisking vigorously until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Then add the lemon zest and sugar and whisk until combined.

Ideally, cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette for 24 hours before using.

For the salad:

  • assorted leafy greens
  • curly leaf kale
  • baby green beans (haricot vert)
  • radishes, thinly sliced
  • fresh herbs; marjoram, oregano, or lemon thyme
  • freshly grated Parmesan
  • flaked sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

If you are using kale, remove the center rib from the leaves and discard. Tear the leaves and place them in a steamer basket.

Trim the green beans and place them in the steamer basket along with the kale. Set the steamer basket over simmering water and steam until the kale is tender, but al dente. The beans may take a few minutes longer, but should also be al dente. Set both the kale and the beans out on a kitchen towel and cool. Once cool refrigerate both until you are ready to assemble the salad.

Assembling the salad:

Place the greens, including the chilled kale leaves, in a large bowl and toss to combine. Then add the green beans on top. Spoon a few teaspoons of the vinaigrette over all and toss to combine.

Transfer the mixed greens and beans to individual salad plates. Tuck the radish slices randomly into the greens. Spoon more vinaigrette over all sparingly. Lightly grate the Parmesan over the salads and serve.

Place a small bowl of additional dressing on the table along with the crystallized sea salt and a pepper mill.

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