Simple cabbage soup

Soup can seem intimidating. There are so many variations — brothy, cream, puréed, and then by cuisine. However, if you get into the flow and understand its component parts, you will be free to cook soup with the seasons and subject only to your imagination, seasonal ingredients and your desire.

It’s a beautiful fall weekend day and I’m in the mood for kitchen puttering. I cut up some refrigerator-staple vegetables and made vegetable stock — 45 mins on slow simmer: 2 onions, quartered, shallot, carrots in 1-2” chunks, celery in 2” pieces, garlic cloves at the bottom of the garlic bowl thrown in whole and in large number (garlic is a major food group for moi), parsley sprigs, a bay leaf, pinch of peppercorns, and some quartered mushrooms that are on hand.

Pinto beans in the instant pot. (45 mins with spring/filtered water from coop for about 1 # beans, picked over and rinsed, and put in pot with water up to 1/2 way mark and a good pinch of kosher salt. (My hard water does not let beans cook properly to soften). Let pressure release naturally.

Brown rice in the rice cooker to eat rice and beans —or maybe soup? — later in the week. It’s a pleasure to have cooked ingredients on hand to give one a leg up when it’s time to make a meal. Water is 2x rice. I like medium grain brown rice.

Here’s the cabbage soup I made:

Cone cabbage, cut in half, cored and sliced.
Mirepoix: onions, carrots and celery (except oops! First batch burned so I restarted soup and there was no more celery.)
Sauté mirepoix for 6-8 minutes in olive oil over low heat — and don’t do what I did and leave at higher heat and leave the room and return to find them burned. If that happens you have to start over. There is no resucitating burnt vegetables to make soup.
Add in some thyme, salt, perhaps some fennel/anise seed, and a bay leaf (because well, soup).
Add in cabbage, stir, add salt & pepper. Add vegetable stock and also some plain water to cover — or more if you want — and let cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until cabbage is soft but not entirely wilted. Taste and see if it tastes cooked.
Add leftover cooked chicken sausage, and heat through.
Put cooked beans in bottom of soup bowl, and ladle soup on top. Try not be all smug about this amazingly delicious soup you just whipped up out of really nothing more than 1/2 head of cabbage and some vegetable stock. This delicious soup made at home on a fall day is almost as embracing as a kind hug to help mend a sad heart. And there will be more soup!

Pan seared brussels sprouts with maple syrup and mustard

I love Brussels sprouts. Especially after the first frost when their flavor intensifies. Heck I’ll eat ‘em whenever (except spring and summer).
But the problem is the challenge in cooking them well. I grew up detesting them because when they are steamed to mush they taste vile, thanks to their cabbage lineage, and stink cabbage-like too with an unappealing mush. Then I grew up and happily threw them into a steamer to just tender, douse in butter and enjoy as a side dish for dinner. Pretty good.

One great way was to stick in a earthenware covered pot with pancetta, S&P, and bake the life out of ‘em. Somehow they went past the vile mushy stage to pure indulgence. Very good.

Then I tried the cut-in-half-and-roast technique which was invariably frustrating and somewhat stressful because they burned and also didn’t soften. But I know that roasting vegetables is great for flavor.
Then . . .. enter Dorie Greenspan, the doyenne of home baking, out with her here’s-what-I-like-to-cook-at-home cookbook with a new twist on Brussels sprouts cooking technique: Par-cook ‘em (hold for a day in fridge if you like) and then cut in half and sauté over high heat. Stir in mustard-maple syrup mixture, cooked bacon or pancetta, and then sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. Brilliant.

Here’s how:

Toss brussels sprouts with slivered garlic, shallots, S&P, and steam until just barely tender.
Dump into bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Hold at room temp or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Mix together: 1 T Dijon mustard (grainy/smooth combo is best)
2 T maple syrup
Cut Brussels sprouts in half
Cook 1 slice of bacon, or equivalent pancetta, diced, until crispy.
Pour out fat leaving 1 T in pan.
Add 1 T olive oil, and sauté over high heat, stirring to get sprouts caramelized in spots.
Turn heat down to medium low, and Add in mustard mixture, stirring.
Remove from heat and put in bowl.
Sprinkle apple cider vinegar on top.

Goes great with Fennel-encrusted pork chops and roasted sweet potato wedges (with thyme).

Chicken cacciatore

I love cookbooks and recipes. But . . . the problem for many is that they are too precise. You don’t want to set up a science lab every evening as you’re getting ready to make a meal. For me that means I open the refrigerator and then close it, unmotivated to go the distance. What’s great about becoming an experienced home cook is that you get a feel for cooking. So once I have the parameters of the cooking technique and ingredients, I can put away the recipe(s) and work intuitively over the stove and cutting up vegetables. Here’s what I did yesterday to make chicken cacciatore:

Cut up some onion, peppers, mushrooms, garlic. Opened a can of tomatoes and heated up frozen chicken stock. Went out to the garden and cut some oregano and rosemary. Threw in some pitted olives because… why not?

Chicken thighs on the bone (3). Wiped dry and set on counter to come to room temp. Season w/ S&P

Onion, 1-1/2, sliced thin
Peppers — red is best IMO. I had mini peppers so that’s what I used. Washed and sliced after removing core and seeds
Canned tomatoes
Chicken stock — heated up frozen stock
Mushrooms, 4 cremini, sliced
Red pepper flakes
Fresh oregano and rosemary, chopped
Celery, 1 stalk, sliced (because I had a nice bunch of organic)

Heat dutch oven, add 2 T olive oil with bit of grapeseed oil. (Grapeseed is a higher heat oil, raising available temp of olive oil by itself)
Put chicken in pot skin side down over medium heat, which should sizzle when you put in. Cook about 4-5 minutes until browned, and flip over and cook on other side. Remove from pan and spoon out and remove oil to leave 2 T oil. Turn off heat and add onions, and season and cook, stirring occasionally for at least 5 minutes. Higher heat to sauté, not just sweat. Add peppers for a couple minutes. Then add mushrooms, hot pepper flakes, and garlic at end. Season again w/ S&P.

Cook until everything is wilted. Add chicken stock and cook a bit. Add in torn up tomatoes and fresh herbs. Put chicken back in, nestling into liquid. Don’t put in so much liquid that chicken is swimming in sauce — vegetables will release juices creating more as it cooks.

Cover and simmer on low for 35-40 minutes.
Serve over buttered noodles or soft polenta.

Roasted sweet mini-peppers

For when you purchase those sweet little sweet peppers.

Roast 1# peppers in 425 degree oven for 20+ minutes. Fit in a snug vessel, toss with olive oil and salt, and then balsamic vinegar. Roast until wilted; remove and let cool. Remove stems. Thanks Alexandra!

Make a pasta sauce:

Sauté 1/2 onion, diced or semi-sliced, in olive oil. Add marjoram and cream and salt and reduce. Set aside.

Cook pasta — trumpets are good.
Meanwhile slice 1/2 # peppers. Mix into cream, adding more cream if too thick.

Toss together: pasta, cream sauce. Voila!

Other ideas:

Ricotta with peppers.
Quinoa and peppers — cold salad

And here’s another idea to make a sauce with peppers and tomatoes.

Impromptu Thai-ish salad with leftover steak

If someone should give you a cooked steak to take home post-barbecue, this a nice way to see it again.

Dressing:

Lime juice — macerate red onions in this first
Fish sauce, same quantity as lime juice
Soy sauce (just a tad)
Ginger, finely grated
Salt
Sambal oelek — or other red pepper product for heat
Brown sugar
Dash peanut oil

Red onions, sliced or diced — macerated in lime juice
Cooked beans, such as cannellini
Watercress, spinach or other greens such as lettuce
Red pepper, diced
Carrot, diced
Radishes, sliced
peanuts, roasted and unsalted
Cold cooked steak, sliced

inspiration:

and Ellie Krieger

 

Roasted Chicken — boneless chicken thighs

I am in the habit of occasionally buying boneless chicken breasts for a quick easy dinner. Even better I’m here to say: boneless thighs! Two advantages: (1) thighs offer greater flexibility in timing — they stay moist even if cooked longer than necessary, and (2) these are less hands-on and frankly, easier. You stick ’em in the oven and do something else for 20 minutes, though turning them 1/2 way through is a good idea.

You prepare marinade and stick chicken in and leave on the counter for 1/2 hour + while you empty the dishwasher and/or prepare side dishes, such as 1/2 hour brown rice in Instant Pot.

425 degree oven
Roast 20+ minutes to 165 degrees
Tent and rest 5-10 mins

Marinade:

Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Peanut oil
Mirin
Hoisin
Ginger, grated
Ssam sauce
Black vinegar

Try to marinate for 1/2 hour on counter while you prepare other parts of meal.

Roast in oven 20 minutes, turning 1/2 way through. Take temperature — you want 165 degrees.

Serve with roasted asparagus — pour extra marinade over, and roast 15 mins.

Brown rice — pour on juice from cooked chicken pan. (Plan for over 1/2 hour for coming to pressure and letting pressure release naturally.)

 

Inspiration:
https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-boneless-skinless-chicken-thighs-in-the-oven-180140

Here’s another method from NY Times, adapted from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s “Skewered Boneless Chicken thighs with sweet and pungent soy baste and spicy cashews,” from Let the Flames Begin

Chick pea spinach salad

Preparing for a pot luck, I cooked some chick peas and then while the instant pot was doing its thing, I went outside to do some gardening and planting and cutting lilacs, and playing with the cat, and oh, planting a shrub. I came inside to find that the pot had reached its set 49 minutes oh, 27 minutes ago. Surely overcooked! I released the pressure and found the beans somewhat mushy and was immediately disappointed. Then I found this warm chick pea and spinach recipe that seemed like a good idea.

Then I was hungry and it being lunch time I thought: Hmm, freshly-cooked chick peas, I can serve myself some mushy beans. I went halfway with the ideas in that aforementioned recipe:
Spinach in a bowl sprinkled with olive oil and salt, topped with warm chick peas, to slightly wilt the spinach. Macerated some red onion in lemon juice, went outside and cut some chives; sprinkled beans with smoked paprika and then chives. Added cut up carrot, aforementioned onions, some feta and lots of olive oil and salt. Mmm. IMG_6602

Olive oil, spinach and beans are delicious. The subtle dark tone of smoked paprika sets off the flavor against the bright high-note lemon. I always like two familial flavors such as here red onions and chives. (I think next time I will macerate onions longer, and/or reduce quantity.)

Ingredients:

chickpeas, 1 # cooked with 1 T salt & 1 garlic clove (49 minutes in my Instant Pot)

Spinach
Red onion, cut into pieces, macerated in lemon juice for 2 – 4 minutes.
Smoked paprika (sweet)
Chives
carrots, 2 sliced
Feta