Saturday, January 19, 2013

Meat and Three Soup (Lima Bean, Greens and Ham Soup)

I was playing my favorite kitchen game yesterday; what can I make with the ingredients in my kitchen, freezer, refrigerator and garden?  In the process of rifling through my eclectic pantry I came across a bag of dried lima beans.  Not the little ones, but the big giant white ones, which when cooked become even bigger and extremely creamy.  Clearly I had to use these.

I usually keep these beans on hand because I love to cook them up in some ham stock and serve them as part of a classic Southern tradition: Meat 'n' three.  Meat 'n' three is on the menu of every respectable southern diner worth its salted pork.  It's sort of the blue plate special of the South.  The meat can be fried chicken, or pulled pork, a juicy ham steak or chicken-fried steak with white gravy.  The "three" refers to the 3 vegetable side dishes you can choose to go with your meat.  In most places you can choose from greens, butter beans, green beans, lima beans,cornbread,  fried okra, stewed tomatoes, macaroni and cheese etc.  When I am picking a meat 'n' three plate I always choose the same three sides:  greens, lima beans and cornbread.  Then I slather them with a good vinegary hot sauce and I am in heaven.

So yesterday I decided to try to capture the flavor of my favorite meat 'n' three plate in a pot of soup.  Lima beans and turnip and mustard greens are slow-cooked with ham hocks and ham.  To top it off I served it with my ridiculously easy version of hush puppies.  The result was a big bowl of steaming, comforting soul food.  The perfect thing to ward off cold weather and short days.

Meat and Three Soup
serves 8

1lb dried lima beans
boiling water

1 lb boneless smoked ham hock (or 2lbs bone-in smoked ham hock)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cracked black pepper
12 cups water
2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 lb cleaned and torn mustard and/or turnip greens
1 cup diced ham

In a large bowl, cover the dried beans by about 3 inches with boiling water.  Let stand for one hour )the beans will swell dramatically).

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add ham hocks and sear well on all sides.  Add onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft.  Add garlic, thyme and black pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

Add 12 cups water, salt, honey and vinegar to pot.  Drain the beans and add to pot.  Bring soup just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for one hour, skimming any foam from the top.

After one hour, add the greens and ham and gently stir into the soup taking care not to mash the beans.  Cook, uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 additional hours on medium heat (until beans are very very tender). If you used ham hocks on the bone, remove the bone from the soup and cut off any meat and return the meat to the pot.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Serve hot with your favorite hot sauce and accompanied by Mama Ozzy's Easy Hush Puppies.

Mama Ozzy's Easy Hushpuppies

Hush puppies are a southern staple and are served alongside a variety of foods from BBQ to burgers.  They are delectable nuggets of cornbread and onions deep fried until they are crispy and golden.  I can eat my own weight in hush puppies and still not have enough.

This incredibly easy recipe comes to us from the people at Jiffy.  I always keep several boxes of Jiffy cornbread in the house because I use it all the time.  Its a great product, ridiculously easy to prepare and best of all very inexpensive.

To turn a Jiffy cornbread mix into hush puppies you simply need to add a little extra flour and some green onions to the mix.  I like to add self rising flour because it results in an ethereally light hush puppy.  Yum.
Simply fry them in oil and drain on paper towels and you are good to go!

Mama Ozzy's Easy Hush Puppies
makes about 2 dozen

1 8.5 oz package Jiffy corn bread mix
1/2 cup self-rising flour
2 green onions, chopped
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
Oil for frying

Preheat oil to 375 F.

In a mixing bowl whisk together egg and milk.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Drop tablespoons of batter into hot oil and fry until golden brown, flipping once (about 3-4 minutes).  Drain on papaer towels.  Serve hot.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Avgolemono with Spinach and Quinoa (Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup)

In the middle of January I always crave summer.  Usually that comes in the form of a soup like Avgolemono, a classic Greek soup made with Chicken, lemon and eggs.  It tastes like sunshine.

Traditionally avgolemono is made using rice, but I prefer to substitute quinoa.  Quinoa (keen-wah) is a South American seed crop that when cooked tastes similar to couscous.  The Incas thrived on it for centuries and a quick look at the nutritional profile of quinoa will tell you why it is considered a superfood.  Eat one cup of quinoa (a single serving size), and you’ll consume:
  • 220 calories (70 percent carbs, 15 percent fat, 15 percent protein)
  • 40 grams of carbohydrates (13 percent daily value)
  • 8 grams of protein (16 percent of daily value)
  • 3.5 grams of fat (5 percent daily value with no saturated fat)
  • A glycemic load (blood sugar spike) of only 18 out of 250
  • 5 grams of fiber (20 percent of daily value)
  • 20 percent of daily value of folate (various forms of Vitamin B)
  • 30 percent of magnesium daily value (beneficial for people with migraine headaches); 28 percent daily value of phosphorous; iron (15 percent); copper (18 percent); and manganese (almost 60 percent) The Mother Nature Network
And as if that wasn't enough nutrition for you I like to add spinach to my avgolemono.  I love the way the earthy flavor of the spinach contrasts with the bright sunny flavor of the lemon and hearty chunks of chicken. Happiness in a bowl!

Do take the time to follow my instructions for making your own chicken stock for this soup, the difference is incredible.  While the recipe calls for using 10 cups of stock, you will probably have that much leftover.  Simply freeze it until you make your next batch of soup!

Avgolemono with Spinach and Quinoa
serves 8-10

Chicken Stock
1 3lb rotisserie chicken.
2 stalks celery
2 medium carrots, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
cold water

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
10 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp salt
reserved meat from rotisserie chicken, diced
2/3 cup quinoa
2 eggs
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 16 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess water .
salt and pepper to taste

Remove all the meat from the chicken and reserve. Place the bones, skin, cartilage and remaining chicken carcass along with any drippings in a large stock pot.  Add cold water until the chicken is covered by about 3 inches of water.  Add celery stalks, carrots and bay leaves and heat over high heat until the stock just comes to a rolling simmer, do not bring to a boil.  Cover pot with a lid and reduce heat to medium to maintain a steady slow simmer and cook for 3 hours. Strain stock through a colander.

In a large soup pot heat olive oil and then add chopped onion and cook over medium high heat until onion is just translucent.  Add garlic and oregano and cook with stirring for an additional 2 minutes.  Add stock, salt and reserved chicken meat and quinoa cook for 30 minutes over medium heat until the quinoa is tender.

In a small bowl combine eggs and lemon juice and whisk until smooth.  Pour egg mixture into soup in a thin stream while gently stirring the stock.  The egg will cook in the hot stock.  Add spinach  and cook until heated through.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Carrot and Ginger Soup

In keeping with the theme of soup for the month of January here is a quick and tasty carrot soup I made for our "adopted" daughter Mary's birthday.  This soup is very velvety and smooth and loaded with vitamins.  The ginger adds a very nice spicy lemon flavor to the sweet carrots and onions.  I love it with a dollop of sour cream slowly melting into the bright orange-colored soup. It is a perfect first course for any meal and goes particularly well with a hunk of dark dense pumpernickel bread slathered with butter.

Carrot and Ginger Soup
serves 8

3 Tbsp butter
2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large onion diced
2 stalks celery chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
3 Tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
6 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 cup heavy cream

Sour cream and chopped parsley for garnish.

In a large pot over medium high heat, melt butter.  Add carrots, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally until onions are translucent.  Add stock, cover pot and cook for one hour until carrots are very tender.

With an immersion blender, puree soup until very smooth.  Add salt, white pepper and honey and stir until well mixed.  Add heavy cream and stir until blended.  Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream  and chopped parsley for a garnish.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mama Ozzy's Creole Turkey, Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo

Happy 2013 and Happy January! Happy Epiphany!

Today is the day I am taking down the Christmas tree.  When I was growing up we always put the tree up on December 6 (St Nicholas Day) and took it down on January 6 (The twelfth day of Christmas and Epiphany).  I find that interesting since both of my parents were atheists and we never attended church, but still observed more of the liturgical calendar than many of our practicing Christian neighbors whose tree would be at the side of the road at 7am on December 26, often with the tinsel still clinging to it!  These traditions have stuck in my psyche and even to this day I still honor and observe these days.

I have to be honest, I am always a little happy when the holidays are over, the decorations packed away for another year and life begins to return to normal.  After the excesses of November and December it's time to get back to the basics.  And for this reason I have decided to devote the month of January to posting some of my favorite soup recipes.

There is just something so honest and comforting about a pot of homemade soup simmering away on the stove top.  Particularly if you are making your own stock.  We were lucky enough to receive an entire Greenburg smoked turkey in the mail from friends of ours.  It was the best damn turkey I have ever eaten.  You can buy them here.

After stripping all the meat from the turkey, we saved the carcass in the freezer.  Today I took it out and am making turkey stock with it for this soup.  It smells incredible in the house!

Whenever I roast a turkey or chicken I always use the carcass to make stock.  It is the perfect chore for a Sunday afternoon and always makes enough to make a pot of soup and a couple quarts for the freezer.  The process is easy:  Place the carcass in a large stock pot with one onion, halved, a couple stalks of celery and a bay leaf.  Fill with COLD water enough to submerge the carcass, and heat on high until the stock just begins to bubble.  Immediately lower the heat to maintain a slow simmer and leave it alone except to skim any foam from the top.  No need to stir.  4 hours later, strain the stock and discard the solids.  Easy.

I have been making this simple gumbo for about as long as I can remember and it is really delicious.  Cajun cooking has only a few rules:  1.)  Always use the Creole/Cajun variation of mirepoix called "The Trinity"; onion, celery and green bell pepper.  This is not negotiable.  2.) You should always use all four colors of pepper: red; green; black; and white.  Green is covered in the trinity, so spices must have cayenne,white pepper and black pepper.  I also use dried thyme, oregano and of course gumbo file powder (powdered dried sassafras leaves).

Thats about it, from there you can take all kinds of liberties.  I like to use turkey, andouille sausage (or kielbasa), shrimp, okra and tomatoes and serve the soup over steamed fluffy white rice with plenty of hot sauce to be added to taste.

Mama Ozzy's Creole Turkey, Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
serves 8-10

3 Tbsp butter
One large onion, diced finely
3 stalks celery, diced finely
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced finely
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp gumbo file powder
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1  1/2 cup( 12 oz.) beer
8 cups Turkey stock (preferable home made)
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 Tbsp flour
1 lb. frozen sliced okra
2 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb sausage (andouille or kielbasa), cut into bite sized chunks
2 lb chopped turkey meat (smoked if possible)
salt to taste

In a large pot melt butter.  Add onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and cok over medium high heat until onion is translucent.  Add black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme and file powder to vegetables and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.

Add canned tomatoes, beer and stock.  Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simer for 30 minutes uncovered.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet combine vegetable oil and flour to make a roux.  Cook roux over medium high heat stirring constantly until the roux turns golden brown.  Remove from heat and add the roux, a little at a time to the soup, stirring until the desired thickness is achieved (you do not have to use all of it).

Add okra, shrimp, sausage and turkey to soup and cook an additional 20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings with salt and black pepper.  Serve hot over steamed rice with your favorite bottled hot sauce.