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

Peach Pie

Peach PieI have absolutely no idea how it got to be Thursday already – this week is just going by in one big blur.

The cool weather is coming; it’s been in the mid-to-upper 80s for better than a month now – it’s been a truly lovely summer – but the temperature is starting to drop in our neck of the woods.  It is only getting up to 68 tomorrow, and the forecast sets our high temps in the low to mid-70s for the next week or so.  I’m beginning to think about dishes like chili and chicken noodle casserole, and plan on making Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, from her wonderful Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this weekend.

However, the last days of summer are showering us with the last of the summer peaches at a reasonable price, and I was able to get my hands on several ripe, fragrant freestone peaches last weekend, so pie it was.

Because I love me some pie.

Granted, this is a little more involved than most fruit pie recipes, but it is the most delicious peach pie you’ll ever eat.  At least I think so – to me, it tastes like a huge, juicy peach.

If you’ve never peeled a peach, merely blanch them in almost boiling water for 30 – 45 seconds, drop them in an ice water bath for a minute or so, cut a slit through the skin and it will just pull right off.

Peach Pie

serves 8

Pie crust for a 2-crust, 9″ pie (double the recipe given if you follow the link)

8 medium ripe peaches, about 2 3/4 pounds, peeled, pitted and sliced

2/3 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 tablespoon of butter

1 heaping tablespoon tapioca

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Roll the bottom pie crust 1/8 inch thick (or less) and 12 inches in diamter.  Transfer to the pie plate; trim the edge almost even with the plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 3 hours.

Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl; add the sugar and salt and toss them gently to mix evenly.  Allow the peaches to macerate for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than an hour.

Pour the peaches into a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the juices – you should have around a cup of peach juice when they’ve drained.

In a small saucepan, boil the peach juice over medium heat, until it’s reduced by a little more than half and syrupy.  Swirl the juice in the pan, but don’t stir it. Remove from heat and swirl in the butter until melted.  While the peach juice is boiling, transfer the peaches back to the original bowl and toss them with the tapioca and almond extract until the tapioca is well distributed throughout the mixture.

Pour the syrup over the peaches, tossing gently.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

Roll the top crust into a circle about 12″ in diameter.  Moisten the edges of the bottom crust with a little water and place the top crust over the peaches.  Tuck the overhang under the bottom crust and press down all around the top to seal it.  Crimp the border using either a fork or your fingers, then slash the crust.  Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerate for an hour to chill  (this will “relax” the pie crust and help prevent it from shrinking during baking).

While the pie is in the fridge, preheat oven to 425 ° F.  Set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and set a baking stone or baking sheet, covered in foil, on the rack before preheating.  Set the pie directly on the baking stone or baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes; reduce the heat to 375 ° F and continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until the crust is a nice, golden brown.

Cool the pie on a rack before serving.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Asian Lettuce WrapsOh, lookie here – a recipe.  I haven’t posted a recipe all week.

Have I ever mentioned that I love the lettuce wraps at P. F. Chang’s?

I love the lettuce wraps at P. F. Chang’s.

This recipe is my attempt to make them at home.  It’s based on a recipe in a cookbook I have for 15 minute meals, so it’s quick and easy to make, and if you use extra-lean ground turkey – the kind that’s 99% fat free – it’s a lot healthier than the restaurant dish in terms of calories and grams of fat.  Also, if you’re worried about the sugar, you can substitute Splenda® with marvelous results.  Don’t use Equal® or aspartame – it simply doesn’t hold up well to heat.

I’ve also substituted the ground chicken with cooked, leftover chicken and only stir-fry it enough to heat it through before adding the vegetables and sauce – it’s an even quicker dish this way.

This is a really good summer-time recipe, and is one of Miss Jacki’s favorites.  And it more than makes up for the fact that there is no P. F. Chang’s in Podunk.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

serves 2 to 3 as a main course or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained

1 cup sliced mushrooms

5 green onions, white and pale green parts, cut into 2 or 3 pieces each

6 peeled baby carrots

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 ½ teaspoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound ground chicken

Iceburg lettuce, leaves separated into “cup” sized pieces

Place the water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions and carrots into food processor with the S-blade in place.  Pulse just enough to chop everything to a medium consistency.

Combine soy sauce, sugar, garlic and rice vinegar.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the chicken and stir-fry, breaking it up as it cooks.  When about half of the pink is gone from the chicken, add the chopped vegetables and stir-fry everything together for a few more minutes.  When the chicken is cooked through, stir in the soy sauce mixture and let everything cook for a couple of more minutes, until the liquid evaporates just a little and the sauce coats the chicken and vegetables.

Wrap spoonfuls of the meat mixture in lettuce leaves and eat them by hand.

And have a lovely weekend, y’all.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Honey Rosemary Grilled Pork Loin

Honey Rosemary Grilled Pork LoinMy week has just been all out of whack!  No Random Tuesday Thoughts and this is the first chance I’ve had to post a recipe.

But oh – it’s a doozy.  Delicious and simple.

We’re enjoying the hell out of our new grill – I think Beloved misses it almost as much as he misses us when he’s gone out of town on business.  We’ve done burgers and dogs and chicken and steak to death, so when I found this recipe I was like “Oh, yes – let’s give it a whirl” even though I’m not a big fan of beer.

Marinate the pork loin 24 hours, if you can – the flavors are really wonderful.  Reserve the marinade and boil it for 3 minutes to kill any harmful bacteria, and baste the loin frequently to help keep moist.  It also forms a wonderful glaze on the pork.

If you can’t grill this for whatever reason, you can roast it in the oven, covered, at 250 for about 4 hours; again, basting frequently with the reserved marinade.

Edited 11-15-09 to add:  I made this recently and roasted it in the oven, uncovered in a small cast iron skillet, at 350° F for about an hour and a half, basting it every 15 or 20 minutes with the reserved, boiled (and strained) marinade.  It was quite good – a delicious and easy cold-weather dish.

Honey Rosemary Grilled Pork Loin

serves 6 to 8

3 to 4 pound pork loin, trimmed of fat

1/2 cup honey

1 cup beer

1/2 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients and marinate pork roast for several hours or (preferably) overnight.

Remove roast from marinade, and grill over indirect, low heat (between 225°F and 250°F) to an internal temperature of 160°F, about 4 – 4 1/2 hours.

Killa Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice CreamWell, we took the new Cuisinart ice cream maker on it’s maiden voyage this weekend, and I have to tell you – it does a marvelous job.  Even if I didn’t get to make what I had originally planned (and was really looking forward to).

You see, we’d just bought blood oranges last weekend and one of the first recipes I found was for a blood orange sorbet.  Just the thought of it made my mouth water, so I went on a quest Saturday to buy some.  Alas, there were none to be found.  Apparently, their time at market is extremely short, leaving me extremely disappointed.

So, I went to Plan B:  Vanilla ice cream and a strawberry-rhubarb crisp.  Separately, they were delicious – combined, they can make you weep.  It was that good.

The recipe I’m presenting here is adapted from dessert master David Lebovitz’s recipe.  It is rich and creamy with an intense vanilla flavor, and simply the best vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.  The Young One apparently agreed, since he literally licked his bowl clean.

The ice cream isn’t exactly inexpensive to make, to say nothing of being diet-friendly – it contains whole milk, heavy cream, several egg yolks and calls for both a costly vanilla bean as well as high-quality extract – so it’s not something I will make every week.  But it is definitely a treat worth making (to say nothing of eating) occasionally.

If you’re apprehensive about the expensive vanilla bean – two cost me $13 – Mr. Lebovitz has some recommendations about how to get the most out of one.

“Since vanilla beans are expensive, you want to get as much use out of them as possible. After use, rinse and dry your beans on a plate until they’re brittle, then burrow them in a container of sugar. Not only will they add their lovely scent to the sugar, but you can re-use the beans for anything, from adding to a pot of poaching fruit to jam-making. I also like to pulverize the dried beans with sugar in a food processor and use it in cake and cookie batters.”

Works for me – I’ve got them drying on a plate in my kitchen right now, and as soon as they’re dry they’re going in their own container of sugar.

Don’t have an ice cream maker?  Don’t sweat it – go here for instructions on how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Vanilla Ice Cream

makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk

Pinch of kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lenghtwise

2 cups heavy cream

8 large egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.  (I was in the middle of planting my vegetable garden when I started this and the milk/sugar/vanilla mixture acutally ended sitting for nearly two hours – it did not hurt the final product; if anything, it helped.)

To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour.  This will temper the eggs and help keep them from cooking into “scrambled” eggs as you make the custard.  Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.  Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly.

Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.