Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup

I almost didn’t post today – we’re taking the day off, stretching our weekend to four days – and I keep thinking it’s Saturday (“It is!” says Beloved gleefully. “For the next 3 days!”).

Anyhoo, I thought I’d post a beautiful, completely seasonal recipe today.  It’s a reworked version of one I posted 3 years ago, so it’s not exactly new.  What it is, however, is greatly simplified and somewhat improved.

When I posted this recipe originally in late August of 2011, I had not yet discovered the wonder that is a food mill – I was still peeling and seeding tomatoes by hand and pureeing them in the food processor.  A food mill, either a small one, like I used for this particular dish, or a large one, which is indispensable when making and canning huge batches of tomato or apple sauce,  is an absolutely marvelous gadget and I don’t know how I ever managed without either of them.  Basically, I just cut up the tomatoes we’d gotten that week from the CSA – there was quite a variety of them – and cranked them through the small food mill until I had a beautiful puree.

Sooooo much easier than cutting an X in the bottom of the tomatoes, dropping them in boiling water for a minute, shocking them in ice water, then peeling, cutting them in half, squeezing/digging out the seeds then chopping them by hand or running them through the food processor.  Trust me on this.

At any rate, this not only cut down the preparation and cook time, it also allowed me to increase the ratio of tomatoes to chicken stock, which made for a slightly thicker – and much smoother – soup.  I also increased the amount of sweet corn (we are just swimming in it this year) and used Cajun seasoning rather than just cayenne.

The result was simply out of the world.  It was just delicious and I felt so virtuous as I ate it I could barely stand myself.  Literally everything in it, spices aside, was local – the butter from a local dairy that pastures their cows, the tomatoes and okra from our CSA share, the sweet corn from the tiny farmer’s market where we meet our poultry farmer for eggs during the summer, the chicken stock from the backs and feet of the pastured chickens we get from the same farmer, and that I made and canned myself.  “Fresh” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In addition to be it being about as local as possible – when you live in the suburbs, at any rate – this soup is incredibly nutritious to boot.  It is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin E, phosphorus, copper, magnesium,  manganese and fiber.  Eat this with a nice salad of fresh greens topped with a tasty homemade dressing, some simply grilled meat and a few Dilly Beans and you’ve got meal that you can feel smug about, too.

Note:  You can, of course, use canned tomato puree if you don’t have a food mill and/or access to tomatoes in season.  If you can’t find fresh okra, frozen should be fine (the same goes for the corn), assuming you can find it without breading.  Depending on how you view the inclusion of certain grains in your diet, this is paleo-friendly as well.  It is certainly gluten-free as written.

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup. A Southern favorite, this soup is about as seasonal as it gets.  Bring on the late summer harvest!

Click the image to enlarge

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups tomato puree
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 2 cups corn kernels, freshly cut from the cob
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, or to taste
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat; cook the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the tomato puree, chicken broth, okra and corn; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in the Cajun seasoning. Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender and the mucilage has cooked out of the okra, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 216 calories, 6.9g total fat, 15mg cholesterol, 358.2mg sodium, 1153.4mg potassium,34.1g carbohydrates, 5.6g fiber, 14.5g sugar, 9.4g protein

The Popcorn Ripple Afghan

I haven’t had a whole lot of time to crochet lately, but I managed to make The Young One a winter scarf – there will be a hat to go with it, so I’ll post it when the pair is done – and finish this lovely piece of work.

It’s a gift for someone (I can’t say who just yet) and took quite a long time to make, since I’d put it down from time to time to work on something else.  The pattern itself is pretty easy, but the yarn I chose for it – Caron Simply Soft – is a nightmare to work with.  As a friend of mine said, “It splits if you look at it cross-eyed.”  Indeed it does, and it slips off the hook constantly.  However, it is really soft and the end product, if I do say so myself, is just lovely.

The Popcorn Ripple Afghan

For those who are interested, you can find the free pattern here.  I used a size H/8/5.0 mm hook and Off-White Caron Simply Soft yarn; I do not remember how many skeins, but I bought quite a few and have 3 left over.  I’m thinking I’ll make a baby sweater and matching booties with the remainder (and probably curse like a sailor the entire time).

Between now and Christmas I’m concentrating on scarves, hats and Christmas ornaments, so you’ll probably see quite a few more crochet-related posts in the next few months.  In the meantime, tomorrow or Friday I’ll have a really marvelous late-summer recipe for you.

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs

Earlier this week when I asked my daily “What do you want for dinner?” Beloved started rummaging around in the freezer.  After a few moments I heard, “Hey – we’ve still got a couple of pounds of ground lamb out here.”

So we took it out, and all that was left was to decide what to make out of it.

While I love lamb, ground lamb always seem to taste “stronger” to me than regular cuts – it’s probably due to the amount of fat.  It holds up well to bold flavors, though, so I decided something Moroccan-spiced might be in order.  After perusing the contents of my cupboard, fridge and spice rack I found myself putting this together.

Holy moly!  This was just marvelous.  The meatballs were moist and tender and deliciously spiced, and the sauce complimented them wonderfully; I served it over quinoa and alongside a summer squash sauté (I’m still trying to get rid of that stuff).  We loved it so much that we ate the leftovers for lunch for the next two days – it makes a ton.  I imagine it would freeze quite well, too.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients; the vast majority are spices, and this comes together pretty quickly and easily.  I like to pre-bake meatballs for dishes like this; it helps the meatballs keep their shape and renders out some of the fat so that you don’t end up with a greasy sauce.  In fact, both the calorie and fat content in the nutritional info are probably overstated somewhat because of this.

The best thing about this recipe – well, other than the fact that it’s incredibly delicious?  It’s paleo, and Whole30 compliant to boot.

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs.  Tender lamb meatballs in a delicious tomato sauce.  Fragrant and flavorful!

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • Meatballs
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped raisins
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped black olives
  • heaping 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • heaping 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 28-ounce can petite-diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Gently, but thoroughly, combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Form into 24 meatballs and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are in the oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Sweat the onions until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes; add the garlic cinnamon stick, cumin and coriander and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes more.
  • Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients except for the salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the sauce to a simmer and add the meatballs. Continue simmering until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf before serving.
  • Nutrition (per serving): 494 calories, 29.1g total fat, 165.1mg cholesterol, 899.8mg sodium, 1044.7mg potassium, 25.5g carbohydrates, 6.1g fiber, 6.3g sugar, 35.4g protein
Instructions

 

The Ninja Turtle Cake

Well, you had to have known there was a party and a cake in my future after Friday’s post.

The G Man is all about two things these days – Legos and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  So, naturally, he had a Ninja Turtle birthday party.  Meema and Papa got him some TMNT Legos, as well as a couple of Lego Movie t-shirts because I haven’t had that damn Everything Is Awesome! song stuck in my head nearly often enough.

Ahem.

At any rate, a Ninja Turtle cake was my challenge for the party.

It was the first time I had covered a cake in ganache instead of buttercream underneath the fondant and I immediately recognized the advantages – especially because I ran out of ganache and ended up covering the “sewer pipe”  topper (which was made from rice krispie treasts) in the classic chocolate buttercream that I used for the cupcakes beneath the fondant.  Which was a mistake, because by the time we got the party and I set it all up, it looked as if it were, well, melting.

In hindsight, I also should have made the “weapons” from gum paste, which would have dried into stiffer shapes.  I also discovered that the new Wilton Decorator Preferred fondant is a nightmare to work with, and wish I’d covered the cake with the homemade marshmallow fondant that I used for the sewer pipe and other decorations.

Ah, well, live and learn.  Besides, The G Man and his friends were very impressed with it, and that was the point, right?

Ninja Turtle Cake 1

Ninja Turtle Cake 2

Ninja Turtle Topper 1

Ninja Turtle Topper 2

Pizza Cupcakes

Pizza Cupcake Closeup

I was particularly pleased with the pizza slices for the cupcakes (because if you know anything about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you know their favorite food is pizza).  I just took circle of white fondant and airbrushed them orange and brown, then covered them with a slightly smaller circle of fondant that was a mixture of red, orange and brown fondant (because pizza sauce isn’t a bright, primary red), and cut them into wedges.  Then I drizzled them with a white confectionery glaze that I’d colored yellow and left them to dry overnight.

Bingo – cheese pizza.

I was also very, very happy with how the Ninja Turtles themselves came out.  They were sculpted from Wilton classic fondant because 1) it holds up well to molding and 2) no one was going to eat them (the stuff tastes pretty gross).

All in all, not a bad endeavor.  I learned a lot in the process and the cake was a hit with the party goers, especially the Birthday Boy – which is really all that matters.

The G Man Turns 5