Sunday, January 17, 2010

Everything I Love in a Bowl, or Tortilla Soup

I assured you in my long-overdue return to posting back in November that we have still been cooking on Wednesdays, despite the fact that we haven't been posting about them (in fact – ack – I just discovered we haven't posted about a Wednesday dinner since April!). Now here's the first bit of proof that our collective mid-week experiments are still alive.

We started this blog (just over three years ago) to keep track of the great things we were creating together, mostly improvised from whatever drew our eyes in the grocery store. We thought it was important to document the great eating that is easily within reach on a weeknight with little forethought and lots of faith in experimentation. This is why I think we need to still be posting about these Wednesdays amongst all the other food adventures – so many great things come out of them that I'd like to be able to return to when I'm stuck for ideas in the middle of the week.

Last Wednesday we created a meal in this original spirit, I think. Over email during the day Alisha, Michelle, and I made plans – we nailed down the location (my place, as I had the giant Christmas crossword we needed to finish, and Michelle's pretty umbrella I needed to return to her) and tossed around ideas for the menu. Michelle suggested tortilla soup and that was the end of the discussion for me. I've always wanted to try making it, as it seems like a chance to unite a bunch of my favourite things in a somewhat unusual form.

Michelle brought a couple of recipes that we smashed together and added and subtracted from as we wished. The recipe below is what we ended up with. It was delicious. Rich and filling, with so many different textures and tastes all at once. A thick and smoky roasted tomato broth, fresh creamy avocados, meaty shredded chicken, three kinds of chilis, loads of cilantro, melty cheese, crunchy tortillas... So this is our version (on the first attempt at least) of that which there seem to be a million versions of. Not definitive necessarily, but delicious and a very satisfying, easy weeknight dinner.

Another one to try sometime is this
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup from 101 Cookbooks. Looks great – cherry tomatoes, shoestring tortilla strips, soft goat cheese, yum.

Wedine's Tortilla Soup
[serves 4]

6 roma tomatoes
5 chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano chile, diced
1 dried
guajillo chile, soaked in boiling water until soft, then diced
1 L chicken stock

2 avocados, diced
grated cheese (whatever melty kind of cheese you like best – we used Kashkaval, a Bulgarian sheep cheese that melts really well)
a large handful of chopped cilantro
1 serrano chile, diced
fresh corn tortillas, cut into strips and baked or pan fried until lightly browned and crispy

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the whole tomatoes in a baking dish and roast until the skins split and they begin to blacken (about 30 minutes).

2. Boil a pot of water to poach the chicken. Add whole chicken thighs and poach until cooked through. Shred the meat and set aside.

3. In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil for a few minutes until translucent. Add garlic, poblano and gaujillo chilis and saute for a few more minutes. Then add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. When tomatoes have finished roasting, peel and add to the soup pot. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and stir to combine. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Continue to simmer for a while, or serve right away if you're hungry (as we were!)

4. Pour soup into bowls. Top with shredded chicken, avocado, cheese, cilantro, minced serrano chili, and tortilla strips.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spicy Pea Poached Eggs or Spicy Pea Soup, You Choose!

I'm on my own this week, so I'm cooking for one and wanting cheap and cheerful meals.

Last night was French Onion Soup, tonight I've gone experimental(in-a-what's-in-the-fridge way). Building on Meg's post here is a quick, delicious sauce for poached eggs.

Ingredients: Eggs, Peas, Bread, Garlic, Lemon & Zest, Spices, Salt, Pepper, Oil

  • Toast some bread (leftover French bread from yesterday).
  • Poach some eggs.
  • For the Spicy Pea sauce:
    Sauté a diced clove of garlic with the lemon zest, add 1-2 cups peas (I used frozen peas, reheated with hot water before adding to the pan).
  • Put mixture in blender with a little water,juice of half a lemon, salt & pepper to taste and some spices (I used a mixture of paprika, cayenne, oregano, cumin, tumeric - maybe 2 tsp total), blend smooth.
  • Assemble your plate.

This was delicious, just enough spice to give a great flavour without too much heat. The blended peas were wonderfully creamy. My eggs were somewhere between runny and hard which worked well, covered in this sauce. Total cooking time was 15 minutes.

Come to think of it this sauce would actually make a great soup. You choose, enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Poached Egg, Lardons, Salad

This past weekend was a strange middle ground between indulging in holidays and returning to routine with new resolve. So the brunch I ordered on Sunday had to straddle that same divide of course.

And the place Shula suggested for our post holiday catch-up – La Brasserie – had the perfect thing. A salad of fluffy, sharp tasting frisee, studded with decadent lardons and brioche croutons and topped with my favourite, a poached egg. Decorated with swirls of mustard vinaigrette. Yum. I love nothing more than egg yolk spilling over other tasty things, and this salad seemed like a slightly healthier way to enjoy it than my usual benny.

I wasn't exactly sure what Lardons were before this, but they sounded meaty and fatty and delicious, and they were. And the brioche croutons, after initially surprising me by being much softer than I'd expect a crouton to be, were perfect for soaking up egg yolk and provided a tiny bit of sweetness that was welcome.

Beside the fact that it was the perfect combination of decadent and healthy for January third, I was drawn to this salad for another reason too. I had developed a curiosity for brunch salads with poached eggs while whiling away time searching for holiday recipes. I had found this Eggs Benedict Salad at Epicurious which I suggested to Mom for our Christmas day breakfast. She politely let me know that she found the idea of salad for breakfast kind of unappetizing. I started to think she might be right when I thought a bit harder about eating radishes and edamame early in the morning. But I'm not sure. Since the Brasserie salad was so delicious, maybe I'm ready to step into more extreme salad-as-breakfast territory?

What do you think – are rich morning salads inspired or weird? Have any favourite breakfast salad recipes I should try?

And in case you were worried, our salad-free Christmas breakfast was perfect. Fresh homemade blueberry muffins (thanks Mom for indulging my every request!), local pepper bacon, and poached eggs, washed down with both soy lattes and mimosas as is our tradition. The bacon – which we cut into thick slices ourselves – was to die for. Made by Galloping Goose Sausage Company it was definitely the best bacon I've ever had. Laura and Michelle – I was wishing I could send you guys a slice or two. Maybe it'll be worth a trip to Victoria...

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