Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cream of Mushroom Soup

IT HAS NOW BEEN RAINING STEADILY FOR five days. Steady rain day and night, fog, and cooler temperatures mean it is time to bring out the soup pot.

Soup is actually my favorite thing to cook and I made this one especially for my husband who is an avid mushroom enthusiast. I like mushrooms just fine but he really loves them. Any mushroom or a mixture of different mushroom will work equally well in this flavorful and creamy soup.

I believe in washing my food. I wash eggs before I crack them and bananas before I peel them. I wash bagged lettuces that claim to have already been washed forty-seven times. And I wash my mushrooms, just before I use them. I place mushrooms in a colander, then using my faucet's sprayer, spritz away all the black matter clinging to them. Dry on a kitchen towel and proceed with the recipe.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
3 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream

Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and salt lightly. A few minutes later, add mushrooms and cook until onions are tender.

Stir in flour until thoroughly mixed. Add milk, continuing to stir until mixture thickens and is smooth. Add vegetable stock and soy sauce, stirring until smooth. Cover and simmer over very low heat for 10 - 15 minutes.

Just before serving, add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and sour cream. Serve garnished with paprika and an additional dollop of sour cream.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Rosalynn Carter's Baked Eggplant

WHEN I FIRST SAW THIS RECIPE on Melynda's blog, Our Sunday Cafe, I knew I would make it. The first reason is that I love eggplant and they are in season. Secondly, I am a fan of former president Jimmy Carter and his beautiful wife, Rosalynn. Like most Southerners, the Carters love vegetables, but the eggplant is undoubtedly Jimmy Carter's favorite vegetable.

When we recently heard that President Carter had been diagnosed with cancer, I felt a bond with him on a completely different level. Besides his peace keeping missions, his food preferences, his dignity and courage, his charming  Southerness, when given a diagnosis of cancer, you inadvertently become a member of a club to which you had no desire to be a member. I have been a member of the club for about 3 years. To not leave anyone in mystery, here is a brief post I made about it back then.

Because this is a food blog, not a health blog, I give you the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Rosalynn Carter's Baked Eggplant
1 large eggplant
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Slice eggplant about 1/2-inch thick. Place on a rimmed baking pan, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until lightly browned and fork tender.

Meanwhile heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet; add onion and cook until golden. Add garlic and tomatoes, cooking until beginning to thicken. Stir in seasonings and bread crumbs.

Spread the tomato mixture over the broiled eggplant then cover with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Southern Salmon Croquettes

SALMON CROQUETTES ARE SOUTHERN PATTIES made with canned salmon which is cheap affordable and nutritious. Most of all it is delicious. Salmon croquettes are very popular in soul food cookery where they are generally served for breakfast with grits and scrambled eggs. It is also very popular to serve these croquettes with hot, fluffy, white rice.

I like mine with macaroni and cheese and a fresh vegetable, this time it was ripe summer tomato slices.

I really love these patties and every time I make them I question myself about why I don't do it more often. Kids love them too. They are very easy to make. I use my black iron skillet and very little oil, so there isn't even that "fried food" messiness. The only drawback is that the aroma is very, um, assertive. Pritchard Parker knew what we were having for supper before he even got in the house.

Any brand of canned salmon will work and some people even use canned mackerel, which is even less expensive, yet still has all the great nutrients.

I open the can and pour out all but about 1/2 cup of the liquid, and dump the remaining contents into a bowl. Some people like to remove the bones, but I don't.  They are very fragile, basically disintegrate in the process, and are an excellent source of calcium.

Salmon croquettes are sometimes served with tartar sauce but the child in me likes them with ketchup.

Salmon Croquettes
1 (14 oz.) can salmon
1 egg, lightly beaten
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. old bay seasoning. or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup, as needed, cornmeal mix

Drain all but about 1/2 cup of the juice from the salmon. Pour the remaining contents into a bowl and flake with a fork. Add egg, lemon juice, old bay, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine and add 1/3 cup of cornmeal mix. Mix and add more cornmeal, if needed so patties can be formed.

Pour a coating of oil (I use peanut) into a heavy skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the patties and brown on each side. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

BLT Salad - as a meal

AUGUST MUST SURELY BE MY FAVORITE MONTH. Summer fruits and vegetables are at their peak of ripeness, abundance, and affordability. Brilliant pink crepe myrtle and golden black-eyed Susan on every corner cheer me. The scent of lavender fills the air.

Our back yard is alive with butterflies and hummingbirds. Not to mention all the other critters--birds, bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, an occasional raccoon and snake, even a bear. I have seen foxes and deer around town, but so far not in our yard.

Suppers are casual and relaxed and we often dine by fireflies.

Our next door neighbor gave me a bowl full of cherry tomatoes which inspired a BLT salad. I roasted the tomatoes and also made croutons with some leftover chiabatta bread. I cooked the bacon until crisp, thinly sliced some red onion, chopped an avocado, and served it all atop a bed of freshly washed and dried, crisp lettuce, and topped it with homemade blue cheese dressing.

BLT Salad
Freshly washed and dried lettuce
Thinly sliced red onion
Crisp bacon
Diced avocado
Roasted cherry tomatoes
Homemade blue cheese dressing (Recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place cherry tomatoes on a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and spread into a single layer. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.

Cube day old French bread or ciabatta into bite sized pieces. Place on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and spread into a single layer. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Arrange the onions, bacon, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and croutons on top of a bed of crisp lettuce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with blue cheese dressing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Freekeh Tabouli

NOT TOO LONG AGO, I WAS SHOPPING at a lovely locally owned natural foods store. I had a list but I was also browsing, for inspiration and ideas, at some of the other beautiful and well selected foods offered.

I love shopping in small specialty food stores. The prices are often very good and the service is usually excellent. Not to mention they sell food. Only food. I am so weary of giant stores. If I have a small list of fresh produce, brown rice, olive oil, yogurt, and feta cheese, I really don't want to wade through lawn chairs, market umbrellas, stack after stack of soft drinks, a pharmacy, stinky scented candles that make me sneeze.

I shop for food almost everyday. That way, my food is always fresh and I don't waste. I typically shop for household supplies--dish soap, laundry detergent, bathroom tissue, etc. monthly. So I don't appreciate my food having to share space with all that merchandise.

I know the concept--everything you need in one "convenient" location. Between the huge store, the huge parking lot, the long lines at checkout, it takes seemingly forever to shop at those places.

Back to the lovely food store. . .

A small bag of freekeh, roasted, cracked green wheat, caught my attention and into the shopping basket it went. I had no idea what I would use it for, but I love designing recipes around newly discovered and healthful ingredients.

Several weeks later, I was staring out my kitchen window while washing dishes. I was admiring the beautiful stand of parsley growing in the border garden and thought to myself that tabouli would be a delicious way to enjoy it. I remember the freekah in the pantry and, click, this recipe came together.

Normally I make tabouli with bulghur which is traditional. The taste of this tabouli was not that different but the grain, freekah, had a different and pleasant, slightly chewy texture. It was so, so, very refreshing on the hot day I made it, and we both loved it very much.

Freekeh Tabouli
1 cup freekeh (roasted green wheat)
2 1/2 cups water
2 bunches parsley (about 6 - 8 cups)
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 - 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 - 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded. and diced
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Place freekeh and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer about 25 - 30 minutes, until water is absorbed and freekeh is tender. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, wash and chop the parsley and mint,  slice the scallions, dice the cucumbers and tomatoes, and squeeze the lemons.

Add the cooled freekeh to a large salad bowl. Stir in the parsley, scallions, mint, cucumber, tomatoes, olive oil, and lemon juice. Let sit for 30 minutes or more, then stir, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.