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
  • 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
  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

Pressure Cooker Venison Chili

Look!  Two recipes in one week!  I must be on a roll.

For those of you who may not know, I was once a professional cake decorator.  It’s a hobby now (you can find photos of some of the cakes I’ve done here on the blog if you do a search for “cake” and sift through the recipes), and I enjoy doing it – so much so that I’ve recently acquired an airbrush and a very nice caddy for my supplies.  Which beats dragging a huge box off the top of the freezer in the garage and digging through it when I need something, let me tell you.

At any rate, the son of our beef farmer is getting married this year and I offered to do the wedding and groom’s cakes.  As payment, I received a box of approximately 50 pounds of mule deer and antelope meat after their hunting trip to Wyoming last fall.

I love the barter system.

We’ve slowly been working our way through all of this wonderful game, revisiting some of our favorite venison recipes.  The antelope is just wonderful – flavorful and sweet; the mule deer, however, is a bit different from the Ohio whitetail to which we’re accustomed.  It definitely has a “gamey” flavor.  Not bad, just kind of strong.

There are things you can do to mitigate the strong, “wild” flavor typical of some game meats.  One is to soak it, either in milk or a good marinade, for several hours before cooking (coconut milk works fine if you have problems with dairy).  Another is to cook it with bold spices and other strong flavors.  I did both with this dish, soaking the venison in milk before preparing it in the pressure cooker.

The result was a spicy, complex and deeply flavored chili, without any hint of gaminess, that is simply delicious.  The coffee and chocolate were inspired additions which contributed to the rich and complex flavor, but it seemed a bit bitter when I tasted it before locking the lid on the pressure cooker, hence the addition of the honey.  You can certainly leave it out if you prefer.

Like most chili and stews, this is even better the next day.  Of course, you can use beef in place of the venison if you like.

Note: If you don’t own a pressure cooker, you can cook this in a cast iron Dutch oven (either enameled or plain) on the stove.  Once all of the ingredients have been added to the pot, cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours, then cook uncovered for another 30 minutes or so, or until the chili has thickened to the desired consistency.

Pressure Cooker Venison Chili.  Rich, delicious chili for dinner on a weeknight?  Break out the pressure cooker!

Pressure Cooker Venison Chili
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed tallow
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 large jalapeño peppers, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons honey (optional)
  1. Heat the tallow in a 4- to 6-quart pressure cooker over high heat. Sprinkle the venison liberally with salt and pepper and add to the lard; cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is nicely browned.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, peppers and jalapeno. Continue cooking until the onion has softened, about 5 more minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and increase the heat to high until the cooker reaches full pressure (15 psi). Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and do a quick release of the pressure.
  4. Carefully remove the lid from the pressure cooker. Stir; bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chili has thickened to the desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 352 calories, 13.3g total fat, 32.2mg cholesterol, 299.9mg sodium, 670.5mg potassium, 22.6g carbohydrates, 4.2g fiber, 12.4g sugar, 37.8g protein

Irish Lamb Stew

Happy Wednesday, everyone…I guess.

I don’t about all of you, but the holidays are rushing at me at the speed of sound and I simply don’t know how I’m going to get everything done that I need to in time.  So, I’m going to get down to business right away today.

I’m sure you’re all very grateful. 😛

So.  I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this stew, but that’s pretty much irrelevant: it is delicious and comforting.

As well as simple, as most stews are.  It takes time, yes, if you simmer on the stove per the recipe, but it can also be made in the pressure cooker.  How do I know this?  That’s how I made it.  Simply follow the recipe to the point you cover and simmer it, and pressure cook for 20 minutes as opposed to the 1 1/2 hours.  Do a quick release of the steam, add the vegetables and pressure cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, depending on how small you dice the vegetables (I kept the pieces fairly large, because I like my stew chunky).

Voila, the quick version of this Irish Lamb Stew.

In order to keep the recipe grain- and gluten-free, I’ve used tapioca and potato flours – tapioca because it stands up well to high heat and/or prolonged cooking (unlike arrowroot powder) and potato to help with the “gumminess” that often happens when thickening with tapioca alone.  The result was a marvelously silky gravy that was neither too thick nor too thin.  You can, of course, use 3 tablespoons of regular all-purpose flour if you like.  If you don’t consume pork, substitute the lard with ghee (I think both tallow and coconut oil might be too strongly flavored).

Sub the red-skinned potatoes with sweet potatoes and this becomes Whole30 compliant, although I don’t know if you can rightly call it “Irish” then.  But who cares?  It’ll still be delicious and comforting.

Note:  Like most stews, this is even better the next day, and reheats beautifully.

Irish Lamb Stew. This satisfying stew, filled with tender lamb and root vegetables, is just the ticket on a chilly evening.

Click the image to enlarge

Irish Lamb Stew
Serves: 4
  • 1 pound lamb stew meat, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 2 tablespoons lard, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
  • 3 large turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pound red skinned potatoes, diced
  1. Pat the lamb dry with paper towels, In a large bowl, whisk together the salt, pepper, thyme and flours. Toss the meat in the seasoned flour mixture until well-coasted and set aside.
  2. Heat the lard in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the lamb to the pan and cook, in batches if necessary, until the well-browned. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.
  3. Slowly stir in the chicken stock, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Return the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 1 to 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
  4. Add the vegetables to the stew. Continue to simmer over low heat, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 445 calories, 15.5g total fat, 88.1mg cholesterol, 1041.6mg sodium, 1425mg potassium, 43g carbohydrates, 6.7g fiber, 14.9g sugar, 33.1g protein


French Onion Oxtail Stew

This is one of those rare dishes that I liked a WHOLE bunch, but Beloved was kind of lukewarm about… although the fact he’s been fighting off a low-grade stomach virus for the last few days may have something to do with that.

But whether or not he cared that much for it, I am here to tell you that ohmygawd, this is really, really, really good.  It is rich.  It is decadent.  It is intensely flavorful and simply delicious.

Yes, it takes time – you start by browning the oxtails on the stove, then transfer them to a slow cooker, then slowly caramelize the onions (which took about 2 hours in my case) before transferring the contents of the slow cooker to the pan with the caramelized onions and cooking it all a little bit more.  But it is completely worth it.

At least, I think so.

Since the recipe is based on French onion soup, there’s a lot of onions in it – 6 large ones, which gives you about 12 to 14 cups of sliced onions, so use your mandoline if you have one.  A wide, heavy pan is best for caramelizing them; they’ll cook down quite a bit, but you’ll need the space in the beginning as well as the end, when you add the oxtail and liquid from the slow cooker to it.

By the time the dish is complete, it should be more the consistency of a stew than a soup – I guess if you really want soup, you can add more beef stock.  Made as written, though, this is just wonderful over potatoes or cauliflower mashed with chives and Gruyere cheese.

Yum, yum, YUM.

Note:  If you use olive oil instead of butter, the recipe, as written, is dairy-free.

French Onion Oxtail Stew. Rich and decadent, this play on French onion soup and oxtail stew is just perfect on a cold, dreary evening.

Click the image to enlarge

French Onion Oxtail Stew
Serves: 6
  • 1 oxtail, separated at the joints
  • 2 tablespoons tallow or other cooking fat
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 sprigs thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 6 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 6 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  1. In a heavy pan or skillet, heat the tallow over high heat. Season the oxtail liberally with salt and pepper; place in the hot fat and cook until the meat is well-browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic; continue cooking for another minute or so or until the garlic turns golden and fragrant.
  2. Transfer the oxtail (and garlic) to a slow cooker. Add the wine, stock and thyme. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Before the oxtail is ready, melt the butter in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized – they will be a deep golden color. (This step could take as little as 40 minutes or as long as 2 hours.)
  4. Once the oxtail is done, remove it from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork. Skim the fat from the liquid in the slow cooker, if desired, and transfer the contents along with the meat from the oxtail to the pan with the onions.
  5. Cook the stew over medium heat for about half an hour. Remove the thyme stems and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over Gruyere-mashed potatoes or cauliflower.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 437 calories, 27.5g total fat, 78.6mg cholesterol, 529.1mg sodium, 951.1mg potassium, 19.2g carbohydrates, 2.7g fiber, 7.7g sugar, 22.3g protein

Hungarian Goulash

Goulash means different things to different people.  Depending on where you live (or where your grandparents are from) it could mean a hearty, thick beef stew with few to no vegetables (although dumplings are common) or it could be a richly flavored soup with meat, potatoes and root vegetables, both generally characterized by generous amounts of paprika.  Or, if you are from certain parts of the northeast or midwestern United States, it’s a mishmash casserole of ground meat, tomato sauce and macaroni or rice.

Growing up in Texas, we generally ate the latter kind, although it wasn’t necessarily called “goulash” – at least, not in our house.  My mother called it “stuff” and she was very good at making it.  As a result, I was also very good at making it when my kids were growing up, although I tended to call it “hurl it in a pan and pray.”  (Kudos to anyone who can tell me where that came from.)

At any rate, it’s the time of year when the leaner, quicker cooking cuts of meat in my freezer are dwindling, but that’s okay because it’s the season for roasts, stews, soups and casseroles; dishes both Beloved and I are very fond of.  So recently, when faced with a rolled chuck roast and no real idea of what to do with it, since I wasn’t in the mood for pot roast, I decided to find out exactly what was in a more traditional goulash.

Like I said, it really all depends on where you live and who you are, especially if you’re of central European descent, and even then what the goulash is composed of and how it’s prepared is really dependent on the cook – like chili or gumbo, everyone seems to have their own recipe.  So I decided to make something that was somewhere between the soup and the stew versions.

Mainly because I like stews and I like vegetables in them.

I was extremely pleased with how this came out; it was just delicious.  And, like most slow-cooked stews, it is even better the next day – it made a marvelous lunch a couple of days later – so don’t be afraid to make it ahead.  It reheats really well, and is so incredibly comforting.

Note:  This can be made Whole30 by substituting the Yukon gold potatoes with turnips or white-fleshed sweet potatoes.  I also used sweet Hungarian paprika; if you want a goulash with a bit of a kick, use a hot paprika.

Hungarian Goulash. Beef chuck is slowly stewed with onions, root vegetables and paprika for a delicious, comforting dish.

Click image to enlarge

Hungarian Goulash
Serves: 6 to 8
  • 3 tablespoons tallow or lard
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 pint tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  1. Heat the fat in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Increase heat to high; add the beef and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, until the meat is browned, about 5 or 6 minutes. Stir in the paprika, marjoram, caraway, and garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute or two.
  3. Add carrots, parsnips, tomato sauce and beef stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, until the beef is tender and the liquid has begun to reduce somewhat, about an hour.
  4. Add the potatoes and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 494 calories, 25.8g total fat, 110.7mg cholesterol, 222.4mg sodium, 1551.8mg potassium, 39.7g carbohydrates, 8.4g fiber, 9.4g sugar, 27.6g protein