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

Even Better Better Than Miracle Whip

Oh, look – I’m alive!

Sorry for the lack of posting, but real life has been, well, real.  Our garden is coming along quite nicely, although that is more Beloved’s doing than mine. The man has been a gardening maniac; I will have pictures soon.  The Young One is home for the summer, and gainfully employed – HOO. RAY.  Darling Daughter has completed her two week certification course for becoming a state tested nursing assistant; she’s busy looking for a job and studying to take the state test (they make them wait a minimum of 7 to 10 days after completing the certification course).  Jolly has landed a coveted field position within her company and is making ready to move to Michigan, which means we’ll have The G Man quite a bit this summer while she makes the transition at work and finds a good place (read: within a good school district) to relocate.

As for me, I’m looking for a new refrigerator, since ours is slowly dying, working on approximately 793 gum paste flowers for a tiered cake I’m doing in early June, planning a groom’s cake as well as a tiered cake for a fall wedding, and juggling two crochet projects and a cross stitch project while trying to work my way through season 6 of Sons of Anarchy.  All while working a 50-hour week and gearing up for what looks to be an incredibly busy season of canning, freezing and otherwise preserving the produce from not only our own garden, but the CSA as well.

If I collapse from exhaustion right before Halloween, you’ll know why.

Despite all the busyness, I do have things to blog about, including this little gem.  Since I posted it, my Better Than Miracle Whip has been been one of my most popular recipes.  However, as written, it requires a piece of equipment not everyone has in their kitchen: a stand mixer.  It also takes a bit of time and even then, the results aren’t always consistent – sometimes it thickens up really well; other times, not so much.  Recently, thanks to many demos on the interwebz, I’ve discovered a way to make it consistently and in a fraction of the time it takes in a stand mixer.

If you don’t have a stick blender, I suggest you buy one.  Like, right now – they are simply amazing, and you can get a good one for under $35.  Not only does it make the most amazing mayonnaise (or, in this case, Miracle Whip knock-off) consistently in under 2 minutes, it’s versatile as hell – we use it for everything from pureeing cauliflower to blending soups to whipping cream.

So here’s an updated version of one of my most popular recipes.  It makes a bit less than the older version, but is easily be doubled if you need more, and tastes even better than the original.  It really should be its own food group.

Note: Leave out the honey, paprika and garlic powder, sub the vinegar with lemon juice and presto!  You’ve got mayonnaise.  Also, do NOT leave out the water, or you’ll end up with Miracle Whip flavored soup (yes, I speak from experience).

Better Than Miracle Whip.  The deliciousness that is Miracle Whip, homemade in less than 2 minutes!

Click the image to enlarge

Even Better Better Than Miracle Whip
Serves: 16
[i]Makes about 1 cup[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 3/4 cup cold pressed, high-oleic safflower oil
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a tall, narrow glass or plastic container (such as the one that comes with the stick blender). Slowly and carefully pour the oil on top, taking care not to disturb the other ingredients more than you can manage.
  2. Insert the stick blender all the way to the bottom of the container. Turn it on and leave it there for at least 20 seconds – you’ll see the bottom part of the mixture begin to thicken and emulsify. Keeping the blender running, slowly pull it to the top of the mixture. Gently submerge it to the bottom again; repeat the process 2 or 3 times until the mixture is completely blended and thickened.
  3. Scrape the excess off of the blender into the container and gently mix it in, along with any oil that may remain on the top. Cover and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before refrigerating.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 98 calories, 10.5g total fat, 11.3mg cholesterol, 65.3mg sodium, 4.7mg potassium, 1.3g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 1.1g sugar, <1g protein

Lamb Dirty Rice

I can’t begin to tell you what compelled me to make dirty rice for Sunday brunch and serve it with Sous Vide pork belly (recipe forthcoming).  In fact, I can’t remember why I thought to make dirty rice in the first place – I’d never cooked it before, and I can’t really remember ever eating it.  Which simply cannot be, but I just don’t remember.

Maybe I’m just getting old.

At any rate, I’m so glad I did – this was simply incredible.  Now that I’ve made it, and know what I’ve been missing, I will make it again.  And again. And again.

It is just THAT good.

Dirty Rice is a classic Cajun dish consisting of rice, the Holy Trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper, bacon and some sort of meat – either ground pork or sausage, and often including chicken livers.  It can be made very spicy, or not spicy at all, whatever suits your palate.

This version isn’t spicy – the inclusion of an entire tablespoon of Cajun seasoning only gives it a bit of a tingle – but it packs a ton of flavor.  What made me decide to deviate from the norm of ground pork and chicken livers was simple convenience – I’m running a bit short on pork (we’ll be sourcing this year’s hog soon), but have 12 full pounds of ground lamb in the freezer.  I also would have had to thaw at least a pound of chicken livers, when I only needed half a cup, minced, but I had the liver from our lamb in there, which only ran about 6 or so ounces.  It seemed like a no-brainer, and you know me – I have no problem shaking things up with a recipe.

The result?  DELICIOUS.  Since I can’t remember eating dirty rice in the past, I can’t tell you how different it might be from a traditional preparation, and while the lamb flavor was noticeable, it was not at all overwhelming.  An impressive and easy dish – and it makes a ton.  Those six servings are quite generous.

Note: The rice preparation is my go-to for rice, and you can make it with just about any amount of rice and with whatever liquid you prefer.  Just keep the proportions to 1 part rice to 2 parts water – follow the directions closely and it will never fail.  Who needs a rice cooker?

Lamb Dirty Rice. The classic and delicious Cajun rice dish with a twist!

Click the image to enlarge

Lamb Dirty Rice
Serves: 6
[i]Adapted from[url href=”http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/dirty_rice/” target=”_blank”] Simply Recipes[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup finely diced lamb liver
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the rice and 3 cups of the chicken broth in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir the rice; cover with a clean dish towel and the lid and let it site for 10 minutes.
  2. Spread the rice out on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over it. Mix to combine and set aside.
  3. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients, including the rice, over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the ground pork, breaking it up as it begins to brown. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper, and continue cooking, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the lamb is cooked through and the vegetables are soft and beginning to turn golden.
  5. Stir in the remaining cup of chicken stock and the diced lamb liver, stirring up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the Cajun seasoning and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until most of the chicken stock has boiled away.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the cooked rice. Toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in the green onions and serve immediately.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 570 calories, 32g total fat, 125.4mg cholesterol, 671mg sodium, 524.2mg potassium, 46.6g carbohydrates, 1.6g fiber, 3.7g sugar, 22g protein

Fried Okra, Revisited

The Young One is officially a college student and we are officially empty nesters.  And Beloved is officially going crazy attempting to track down odd noises in the house, which I also hear. (For what it’s worth, I think we’re so accustomed to noises from the second floor of the house that we’re hearing things that aren’t there.)  Things are still crazy busy in Sushi Land, but hopefully it will all start to wind down soon, and I can actually cook something again that is worth posting.

Now, on that note, we’ve begun harvesting the late summer crops from our garden; mostly tomatoes, but we’ve got some kale and chard ready to go – we’ve even harvested a huge spaghetti squash.  But among our favorite late summer foods is – yes, we’re southern – the humble okra.

Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia , and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as early as 1200 B.C.  It came to Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s, probably brought by slaves from West Africa, and was introduced to Western Europe soon after.  Despite the fact we treat it like a vegetable, like tomatoes, okra is really a fruit.

And a tasty, tasty fruit it is!  Many people don’t like okra because of its mucilaginous quality, which is a polite way of saying that it can get “slimy” when cooked.  Leaving the pods intact, such as Roasted Okra, combining it with acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes (Tomato Okra Soup) or vinegar, or long, slow cooking, such as gumbo, will often help mitigate the sliminess.

Slicing, “breading” and frying it will also keep the “slime factor” to a minimum.  It will, in fact, turn the okra into a crunchy, delicious bit of heaven.  When I first posted this recipe two years ago, I just used almond flour as a substitute for the traditional white flour and cornmeal; delicious, but a little on the heavy side.  In this version, I replace half the almond flour with tapioca flour – it lightens up the coating, and helps keep it crisp.  A little more carby, perhaps, but still considerably better than the traditional version, and every bit as tasty.

Fried Okra is well loved in the south – and for a good reason!  This one is gluten- and corn-free.Click the image to enlarge

Fried Okra, Revisited
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup tallow or other fat suitable for frying
Instructions
  1. Mix the almond and tapioca flours with the salt, pepper and cayenne in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. In a small bowl, whisk the egg together with the water. Set aside.
  2. Melt the tallow or cooking fat in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat to a temperature of 350 F. Toss half the sliced okra in the egg wash and remove using a slotted spoon, allowing the excess to run off. Add the okra to the seasoned flour mixture and lightly toss until well coated.
  3. Fry the coated okra until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Remove the okra from the fat with a spatula or slotted spoon, transferring to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  4. Repeat with the remaining okra. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 395 calories, 32.9g total fat, 74.4mg cholesterol, 492.4mg sodium, 263.8mg potassium, 19.9g carbohydrates, 3.7g fiber, 1.2g sugar, 2.7g protein

Bacon Deviled Egg Salad

This is another of my “no leftovers for lunch” recipes.

I had a dozen eggs I’d been saving for a couple of weeks, wanting to make deviled eggs (since farm-fresh hard-boiled eggs are almost impossible to peel).  We had no leftovers for lunch the other day, so I decided to make the deviled eggs and eat them with a fresh salad using greens from our garden.  I also had some bacon in the fridge that needed to be cooked, and decided it would go well on the salad, too.

Unfortunately, the eggs were still too fresh to peel after cooking; in the end, I only had four eggs that weren’t a ragged mess.  I really had my heart set on deviled eggs, though, so I decided to just make it all into an egg salad.

And threw the bacon in for good measure.

It turned out great, and was much easier than slicing all of the eggs in half, scooping out the yolks, making the filling, and putting it all back into the eggs.  Best of all, it tasted just like deviled eggs.

With bacon.

And all was right with the world…at least during lunch.

Make the mayo yourself and take care your bacon and pickles have no undesirable ingredients like sugar or FD&C Yellow #5 (I used home-canned garlic dills), and this is Whole30 compliant.  Leave out the bacon and it’s vegetarian.

Bacon Deviled Egg Salad. All of the flavor of deviled eggs in an easy-to-prepare salad.  With bacon.

Click on the image to enlarge

Bacon Deviled Egg Salad
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 dozen hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 8 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a large glass bowl except the salt, pepper and paprika; stir gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Divide among 8 chilled plates with salad greens, if desired. Sprinkle lightly with paprika and serve.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 443 calories, 40g total fat, 369.9mg cholesterol, 643.1mg sodium, 221.3mg potassium, 3.2g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 2.4g sugar, 17.5g protein