Tag Archives: food

Hot and Sour Soup

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To my faithful readers, I know it has been a while since I have posted but the extreme heat and flurry of the summer’s activities, both good and bad, has left me feeling uninspired and void of creative spirit.  I decided rather than force the issue I would use the time for reflection, rest and healing much like a fallow field left unplowed and unseeded while it rejuvenates.

That said, we recently had a brief period where the weather felt like Autumn and my upcoming soup classes in the near future served as inspiration to develop a new recipe.  I am sure I have mentioned how much I love, love, love making soups.  There are always the stories that accompany each creation telling of its origin, the inspiration and creative process which delight me.  Here’s my story.  I have been thinking for sometime now that I should develop a recipe for my husband’s favorite Chinese soup, that is how it started.  Next I was talking to my BFF and she was describing what was on the menu as she prepared for having a dinner guest.  Turns out her first course was Hot & Sour Soup so I requested the recipe.  Having it in hand, I printed out several other recipes to compare and see how I could make it a bit simpler so it would appeal to my culinary students.  Since this soup is what my husband uses to evaluate every Chinese restaurant he visits, I was very pleased to receive high praise and accolades.  It was a huge hit!

 

Here is how it went down.

HOT & SOUR SOUP                    Serves 4-6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

4 dried Chinese mushrooms such as, wood ear

6 oz cremini mushrooms or white button

2T neutral cooking oil such as, grape seed

1- piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

1T sambal oelek (red chili paste),reduce if you want less heat

1/4 c naturally brewed soy sauce

3T rice vinegar

1T sweetened black vinegar (or 4T of just the rice vinegar)

1t sea salt

1t freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch of sugar

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock infused with Asian flavors (see recipe below)

8oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into thin strips (about 1/4-inch)

2T corn starch mixed with 1/4c water (if you prefer a thicker soup, use 3T of the corn starch)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 scallions (mostly green parts with some white), sliced thin

1/2c cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

  1. Reconstitute wood ears by soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes.  Drain and cut into thin slices, discarding any hard spots.
  2. Trim the bottoms of the fresh mushroom stems and slice thick, about 1/4 inch.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the ginger, sambal oelelek and both mushrooms.  Stir to incorporate the flavors and cook for about one minute.  Combine the soy sauce, vinegar(s), salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl.  Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  4. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the pot and toss with the mushrooms.  Cook for a minute or two and add the stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tofu and continue cooking for 3 minutes.  Add the corn starch slurry and continue to simmer until soup is thickened to your liking.
  6. Remove the soup from the heat and using a whisk swirl the soup in one direction until you create a whirlpool.  Slowly add the beaten egg in a steady stream to the center.  The egg will cook almost instantly. Serve hot garnished with the scallions and cilantro, of using.

ASIAN INFUSED STOCK  Makes 2 quarts

2 quarts + 1c of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or commercial will do)

1 medium onion, quartered

4 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed

3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

1t whole black pepper corns

Bring the stock and remaining ingredients to a boil in a large pot.  Lower the heat and simmer for an hour.  If time permits, remove from heat and allow to steep for another hour.  Strain through a fine sieve or strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Chill if not using immediately.

Can be made several days ahead and stored in refrigerator.

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Although I used homemade chicken stock, it is not necessary and if you want it vegetarian, use vegetable stock and if vegan, skip the egg.  Making the stock ahead is great as it is there when you need it.  The remainder of the process comes together quickly.  I chose to make mine without meat but pork is often seen in this preparation as is chicken.  Make it your own.

I must say I have missed you and it feels very good to be back.  I hope your summer has been filled with the things that make you most happy and that you made some memories by spreading the love, one dish at a time. For those returning to school, I wish you a most successful year as you move on with your journey.  Until next time, sending love from my kitchen to yours.  JeanneIMG_1003

New Discoveries & Kindred Spirits

This is a very exciting post for several reasons.  First it is #100 since I began my blog In April 2012.  I have 195 subscribers for which I thank my friends, family and loyal readers.  It is just shy of the goal I set for 200, but it is it a lofty effort and I hope you will all continue to spread the word about Queen Jeanne’s Cuisine.  I am on a mission to support small family farms while bringing delicious recipes and food talk highlighting seasonal and local ingredients.  As you know, I love healthy eating but we must start with the finest ingredients to get that mouth-watering dish.  OK, enough about me.  I am here today to share a story about a kindred spirit and her wonderful retail establishment that I recently discovered.

Her name is Debora Morton and her fabulous must see Organic Market & Deli is Driftless Depot located in Spring Green, WI.  I first read about this place in a local newspaper who featured Deb and her place in a wonderful spread last Summer.  When I read it, I knew I had to meet her and experience first hand what they were talking about.  I was not disappointed.  I not only got to have a first class shopping and eating adventure, I also met a woman who is truly a kindred spirit and hopefully a lifelong contact and friend.  It turns out our husbands  even have the same name and we drive the exact same car, make and color. No joke.  We were definitely destined  to cross paths.

I set out with my buddy and cooking assistant, Cathy, on a beautiful summer day in search of this place.  I had contacted Deb first via email to introduce myself and ask if it would be okay to take photographs for my blog.  After checking me out she wrote the most welcoming note saying she couldn’t wait as she could tell we were in sync regarding our attitudes and philosophies about good food.  We are in fact, soul sisters.  Here is how it went down.  We pulled up to this delightful cheery place and the signs and entry said it all.

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IMG_4840IMG_4857IMG_4836Mindfully selected, seasonal choices, great local finds as well as specialty foods from around the globe is what you will find here.  The operative word being mindful.  Everything from the products to the décor scream thoughtfulness.  This is not just a grouping of things but is rather a collection where everything in it has its purpose and place.  To quote Deb, “Our food lover’s store offers conscientiously sourced, quality, organic, local & global food, drink, and related specialties for all occasions.”

We were greeted at the entry with shelves of books, many of which I owned and admired.  IMG_4828Next we saw the delightful indoor dining area (she also has patio dining).  It was intimate with artful decorations including baskets made by a local artist and other items of interest.   I must add that we later enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches so memorable we are still talking about them.  For real!IMG_4832

Then came the most delightful part of the experience, meeting Debora.  She is a warm and passionate woman whose need to have access to good food in her rural environment led her to open this market/deli and fill it with beautiful food items and things that makes her happy.  How fortunate for her community that she supports local growers (of which she and her husband are included) and producers but community members now have easy access to these items as well. IMG_4780

She began with her story and a tour of her inventory much of which came with its own story.  You could feel the enthusiasm radiate from her and she spoke of each hand selected item.  We followed her into the kitchen where she, in the style of a true artist, prepares her lunch orders and food for a catering event scheduled for the next day.  Her food is like a giant hug just when you need it most.  As she moves through her tasks, she takes time to talk further.  It turns out she is also a writer.  She writes articles for a publication, Nature’s Pathways.  Her first article, published July 2013,  was titled In Praise of Eggs, which I found to be ironic since my very first blog  post was  also about eggs,  What Came First?,  published April 14, 2012.  Both spoke to the importance of freshness as well as the health benefits offering cooking tips and a recipe.  Again like minds.  From our love for eggs, olive oil to the use of real butter, the story goes on.  Let’s take a little tour.

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IMG_4793IMG_4798This is just a snapshot into this world of good food and gracious hospitality.  I hope it tempts your taste buds and gives you that push to venture out for a unique and joyous experience.  If you live in the area, you can stop by to shop or for lunch.  They also feature Friday night trout dinners (reservation only) which I have yet to partake but a local business owner sang its praises so I am sure it will not disappoint.  We walked away with our shopping bags full of tantalizing goodies and thoughts of all our future food creations.  We will be back!

Thanks again, Debora,  for a lovely day and for your contribution to good eating.  And thanks again to all of my followers and subscribers who have supported me along my journey.  Remember to spread the love, one dish at a time.  Sending you my love.IMG_4823

Roasted Peppers/ Eat, Preserve, Enjoy!

Every year I fall victim to over-planting something.  This year the crop of the year is chilies!  Jalapenos and Serranos abound in their red and green glory.  Part of the problem is that they look so beautiful hanging from their plants that I can’t resist!  The other problem is I suffer from memory loss in the Spring when I go to the nursery and see those tiny little plants barely an inch or two in height.  They just don’t look like they will grow to be the foot high and ever producing crop that they are.  In addition, they often come in a four pack.  What’s a girl to do?

After many batches of salsa and dinners of fajitas, I am faced with how to best use and preserve what remains.  I love the roasted peppers available in jars so I decided that was the way to go for my own harvest.  I should add this method works for all types of peppers.  So if you grow bell, banana, Italian or Anaheim this is a method that works perfectly.  Let me also add I usually leave my peppers on the plant until they ripen further and turn from green to red.  The red peppers tend to be sweeter and for my palate have generally more flavor than their green brothers and sisters.  This will vary depending on the variety so use your own judgement and tastes to determine your plan of action.

I used the grill for roasting but this can also be done under the broiler.  Either way, keep a close eye on them, turning often, so they char but don’t completely burn up.  Another tip I might pass on is wearing gloves.  I tend to dislike using gloves for almost any task but after handling and peeling this many chilies, my hands were on fire the remainder of the day and through the night even though I washed them often and thoroughly.  I even tried dipping them in milk but that offered little relief.  This is probably not so crucial if you are working with sweet peppers as opposed to hot. 

Here’s the process I used:

Roasted Peppers

  1. Preheat the grill or broiler to high heat.
  2. Place peppers directly on the grill or on a broiler pan or baking sheet (if using broiler).
  3. Watch carefully, turning occasionally until skins are bubbled and charred on all sides.
  4. Remove and place in a bowl.  Cover and allow to steam until they are cool enough to handle and skins are easily removed.
  5. Peel each pepper.  At this point you can leave the stem and pepper intact with the seeds if you wish but I stemmed, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and scraped out the seeds.
  6. Place in a jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil.  I refrigerate this for more immediate use, or….
  7. Place on a baking sheet and freeze (approximately 1 hour).
  8. Remove and place in a small container or freezer bag.  Store in the freezer for future applications.

 

 

 

 

Roasted peppers can be used in many dishes including but not limited to sauces, soups, eggs, casseroles, pastas, sandwiches, tacos or  as creatively as your personality and taste buds allows.  My husband used them this morning with eggs in a breakfast burrito, one of his specialties.  Delicious!  They will keep for up to six months in the freezer and up to 2 weeks in oil, covered and refrigerated.

If you enjoy peppers but don’t garden, visit your farmers market.  Right now they are plentiful, at their peak of flavor and inexpensive.  Their gorgeous colors of green, red, yellow, orange and purple provide a visual that is hard to duplicate.  Even if you don’t eat them, it is worth taking a look as it is nature’s gift of Fall art, right up there with the foliage, and not to be missed.

Hope you enjoy the smokey goodness of roasted peppers all Winter.  They warm you up and brighten almost any dish.  How do you use them?

Compound Butter—Lemon Tarragon Butter

When the herbs are plentiful in my garden and the garlic is harvested I start to think about ways to use and preserve them for when summer is long gone.  You can dry them, of course, and some even freeze well but it is my experience that they lose some of their vibrancy.  So I am always looking for ways to use them so they remain bright for future applications.  One of my favorite things to do with them is to make compound butters.  When you see that on a menu it sounds fancy and complicated but nothing could be further from the truth.  Compound butter is simply butter creamed with other ingredients such as herbs, garlic, wine, shallots and so on.  The French word for it is beurre compose.

The thing is, not only is it easy to make, it freezes very well, lasts a long time and has many applications.  I have made ramp butter, basil butter, parsley and garlic butter and sage butter to name a few.  You can add things like white wine or in the following recipe, lemon juice or just use the herbs as is.  I have added crushed red pepper flakes when I have had an abundance of chilis and they are dried.  Freeze them in a log wrapped in plastic wrap and just slice off the amount you need.

How do you use them?  Let me count the ways.  I really can’t as you are limited only by your imagination.  I use them to baste chicken or turkey, as a topper for steaks, lamb chops, fish or shellfish, slather on bread, season pasta, rice or vegetables.  Match the herb with the dish.  For example, we know sage is often used with turkey so it would be a natural pairing.  Rosemary and lamb go well together so there is another.  Get the picture?

Today I made Lemon Tarragon Butter that I plan to use as a seasoning for smashed baby red potatoes.  This recipe, which came from the people from Organic Valley, can be adapted to any combination of herbs and flavorings you choose.

Recipe             Makes 12 or more servings

8T unsalted butter, room temperature

1T lemon zest

2t fresh squeezed lemon juice

2T fresh tarragon, chopped

  1. Put all ingredients in a small bowl.  Blend with a wooden spoon until creamy.
  2. Place the butter mixture in a log on a piece of plastic wrap, roll to shape it and twist the ends.
  3. Chill in refrigerator until butter is set, about 1 hour.  Or chill for 1/2 hr. and then use a pastry bag with decorative tip to pipe butter onto cooked fish, poultry or vegetables.  If you made a log, cut into rounds for serving.

If preserving for future use, place in a freezer bag after it is chilled and use as desired.

Tonight I am serving smashed baby reds with leftover grilled chicken.  To make them simply boil potatoes in salted water until they are fork tender (fork goes in and out of potatoes easily when poked).  Using a potato masher, smash them until they reach your desired texture .  Add lemon tarragon butter (amount depends on how many potatoes you are making) and mix gently.  Taste for salt and season as needed.  Easy, right?

Another favorite way of mine to preserve herbs is to make pesto.  It is not just for basil anymore! I will, however, leave that for future blog post.

I hope you will try your hand at compound butters and let me know what combinations you come up with.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Real Food/ Butter vs Margarine

Fair warning, this is a rant!

If you have been following this blog, you know I am all about real and natural foods.  I cringe at the idea of producing something fake to substitute for the genuine product.  That accounts for the subject of this rant, butter vs margarine.  Do you know the difference between the two? Both have the same amount of calories with butter being slightly higher in saturated fats, 8 grams compared to 5 grams.  According to a Harvard Medical Study conducted a few years ago, eating margarine can increase heart disease in women 53% over eating the same amount of butter.  Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients  in foods as well.  It has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few only because they are added during the manufacturing process.  We probably all agree butter tastes much better and it enhances the flavor of other foods.  Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has existed for less than 100 years.

Now for margarine:

  • Very high in trans fatty acids
  • Triple risk of coronary heart disease
  • Increases total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Lowers HDL cholesterol (good kind)
  • Increases risk of cancers by up to five fold
  • Lowers the quality of breast milk
  • Decreases immune response
  • Decreases insulin response

If that is not enough to convince you, here is the most interesting part.  Most margarines are but one molecule away from being PLASTIC!  This fact alone was enough to get me running away from margarine and keep me away for life.  This goes for anything else that is hydrogenated, meaning the molecular structure is changed by adding hydrogen.

Try this experiment.  Purchase a tub of margarine (I suggest doing it on the sly so your friends won’t see you), leave it in your garage or in a shaded area.  Within a couple of days you will note several things.  No flies, not even those pesky fruit flies, will go near it (that should tell you something).  It does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value.  Nothing will grow on it not even those teeny-weeny micro-organisms will find a home to grow.  Why?  It is nearly plastic!  Would you even think about melting your Tupperware and spreading it on your toast?  If you use margarine, that is close to what you are doing.

Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk.  That’s it!  Pure and simple it has no artificial ingredients.  Cultured unsalted butter, which is what I use for cooking (organic, of course), achieves rich butter taste by introducing a live culture and slowly ripening the cream.  European butter which has become very popular among chefs, has more intense flavor because it is higher in butterfat, around 82-83%, compared to American which is around 80%.  More butterfat = richer flavor.

Rendering, produces clarified butter or ghee which is frequently used in Indian cuisine.  It is almost entirely butterfat as the milk solids have been removed.  Once when I was teaching my class about clarifying butter I had a student asked me if you can clarify  “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”.  Clarified practically plastic?  Never tried it but feel quite certain the answer is a loud and absolute NO!!!  You must use real butter!

So, my friends, fear not.  Use real butter as the French do and enjoy a long and healthy life.  Real food is good food.  Do not be fooled by the imposters!

Napa Valley Chicken Salad

Years ago my sister-in-law gave us a copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook.  It was quite trendy for the times but has remained a staple in my collection along with its companion, The New Basics Cookbook.  I refer to it often for recipes like Ginger Candied Carrots, Linguine with Clams and Spicy Sesame Noodles but one of the best discoveries in this book was Tarragon Chicken Salad.  It is one of those recipes I have made many many times and have tweaked to make my own which I call Napa Valley Chicken Salad.  Granted the authors of this fine book are from New York but to me the addition of grapes, the toasting of the walnuts and the use of fresh herbs just screams California cuisine.  I love this salad for its  crunchy refreshing tastes and also because it is one of those things you can make from leftover chicken.  The original recipe gives instructions for cooking the chicken especially for the dish which I will pass on to you, but it is easily adaptable to leftover roasted, grilled,  or rotisserie chicken.  It can be eaten on its own, in a pita with garden lettuce, as a luncheon salad, or as a filling for a picnic sandwich. 

Recipe                                                              Makes 6 portions

Boneless whole chicken breasts, about 3 lbs., or equivalent of leftover chicken meat of any kind. 

*Note:  The original recipe called for boneless breasts but I like to cook chicken with the bone and skin on as it gives it more flavor.  A combo of thighs and breasts works well.  It is not difficult to remove the chicken from the bone after it is cooked and you can save the bones for stock.

1 c Creme Fraiche or heavy cream (for cooking, if not using leftover chicken)

1/2 c sour cream

1/2 c good quality mayonnaise or homemade

2 ribs celery, cut into a fine dice

1/2 c shelled walnuts or almonds, toasted and rough chopped (you could also use black walnuts, hickory nuts or cashews)

2T fresh tarragon, chopped (or 1T dried, crumbled)

Don’t like tarragon?  Try basil.

1c seedless red grapes, cut in half (preferably organic)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Arrange chicken breasts in a single layer on a large rimmed baking.  Spread evenly with creme fraiche or heavy cream and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until done.  Remove from oven and cool.  When cool, shred to bite sized pieces.  If using leftover chicken, remove meat from the bone and shred as above.
  2. Whisk sour cream and mayonnaise together in a small bowl and pour over the chicken.
  3. Add the celery, toasted nuts, tarragon and grapes.
  4. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste and toss well.
  5. Refrigerate, covered, for at least four hours to allow flavors to marry.  Will keep overnight.
  6. Taste and correct seasonings before serving.

*Note:  I toast nuts in a dry pan on top of the stove over medium heat.  They are ready when you begin to smell the aroma.  Immediately remove them from the pan onto a plate or they will continue to toast.  Allow to cool.  It may seem like nothing is happening but then they go fast so watch them carefully and resist the temptation to do laundry or walk outside while the heat is on.  Burnt nuts are trash!

Believe me when I say this recipe is a keeper. The crunch of the nuts and celery, the freshness of the grapes and tarragon (or basil) make this a hit time and again.   As I said I have been making it for many years and it has graced my table at potlucks, picnics, lunches and even brunch.  It is simple to assemble and dressy enough to be the main attraction, a side or a filling for a sandwich.  You decide how you want it to go down in your culinary rock star world.  Would love to hear how you served it!