Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mexican Noodle Soup:
Just like something Baba would make

Making Sopa de Fideo marked a cooking first for me: Never before have I made a soup with such homestyle comfort food appeal.
    Sopa de Fideo translates as Mexican Noodle Soup (click for the recipe), and I made a pot of it this past Sunday.
    It was an immediate hit with both my husband and I.
    Besides the fact it was absolutely delicious, I also loved that it was so homey, so comforting, thick with noodles and happiness.
    While still having a nice flavor, even the pickiest of the picky eaters will likely give it a chance. It’s absurdly family-friendly.
    It was like a soup my Baba (Ukrainian for grandmother) would make: Warm, simple, beautiful in its simplicity, and tasty, tasty, tasty.
    Although there was a bit of chopping and wait time involved, this was quite an easy soup to make.
    The recipe says it makes six-eight servings, but I would say count on only four if you are serving the soup as the main part of a meal (and it will disappear because it’s so good).
    In the absence of fideos (Mexican noodles) I used the substitute, rice vermicelli noodles, easy to find in the Asian foods section of supermarkets. I used the very thinnest kind available, which seemed to be the right one.
    A local supermarket luckily had queso fresco cheese in stock, so I could use it as directed. There is no recommended substitute in the recipe, but I think you could probably use mozzarella cheese in a pinch, and I have also seen feta suggested as a substitute for queso fresco in other recipes.
    In a large saucepan or soup stock pot, garlic, celery, carrots and onion are cooked in oil until soft, about 10 minutes.
    Chicken stock (I used store-bought chicken broth) and a can of whole tomatoes that have been crushed by hand are added, and the mixture is brought to a boil.
    The liquid is reduced to medium-low and is cooked about one hour. It’s strained through a fine-mesh strainer into another soup pot and is returned to the heat (I did this instead of straining into a bowl, then putting the strained soup back into the original pot, as the recipe directs).
    You may be put off by the fact, as I initially was, that the garlic, celery, carrots and onion are strained out and in effect thrown away (unless you save them for another use).
    But one mouthful or the soup and it will all make sense. The vegetables give the tomatoes and broth a mild salsa-like flavor that’s essential to the success of the soup.
    Fideos and vermicelli noodles are added to the soup and cooked (I did it for about 5 ¼ minutes, as opposed to the four suggested in the recipe).
    To serve, crumbled queso fresco is divided among soup bowls. The soup is ladeled overtop and it is garnished with parsley.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Orange-Scented Carrot Soup a good first outing with Ten Dollar Dinners cookbook

I’ve only caught bits and pieces of a few episodes Melissa d’Arabian’s Food Network TV show, Ten Dollar Dinners, but I liked it enough to buy her first cookbook when it came out in August.
    Named Ten Dollar Dinners like the TV show, the cookbook is full of delicious-looking and nutritious ideas for weeknight meals.
    I tried a recipe from the book for the first time this past week and was very impressed.
    Orange-Scented Carrot Soup (click for the recipe) was quick to make and required few ingredients, but had an amazing depth of flavor.
    The secret ingredient was dried oregano, which infused the soup with an earthy feel.
    The description “Orange-Scented” is a good one – there is a very slight orange taste on the edges of the soup, but nothing at all overwhelming.
    Serve it with some crusty bread and a salad, and you’ve got a great weeknight meal.
    I made this soup by myself, and took about 45 minutes from start to finish without any rushing.
    Roughly-chopped carrots and an onion are cooked in olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot, then minced garlic, finely-grated orange zest (orange peel) and dried oregano are added and stirred for a bit.
    The recipe I linked to on the Food Network website says to “deglaze the pan with white wine.” The recipe in the cookbook is clearer on this matter, saying to increase the heat to medium-high, add the wine and stir for about a minute.
    Chicken or vegetable stock (I used store-bought vegetable stock) and water are added to the pot, brought to a boil, then reduced to a gentle simmer.
    The soup is cooked for another eight to 10 minutes until the carrots are tender.
    The recipe says to let the mixture cool for five minutes before processing it in a blender or food processor. This is good advice, but if you’re using a hand-held (immersion) blender like I did, you don’t need to wait for the soup to cool first.
    The soup is served with a swirl of sour cream in each bowl.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apples a surprising and
delicious ingredient in noodle soup

I’ve tried several great Asian-style broth and noodle soup recipes, but never any that called for apples.
    That’s why the recipe for Pork, Apple & Miso Noodle Soup (click for the recipe) stopped me dead in my reading tracks while I was looking at a recent issue of Eating Well magazine.
    Apples? Recipes like these usually call for bok choy, Chinese cabbage, or other such greens.
    I found it intriguing, and so I tried it.
     It was very, very good.
    The apples could be tasted in the soup, but it was not an unusual sensation. Rather, they added a bit of fresh tang.
    The recipe calls for udon noodles, which sometimes cannot be found in the Asian foods section of the supermarket. In Superstore in Canada, for example, they are located in the deli section, and at other supermarkets I have seen them in the produce section with other fresh noodles.
    The recipe also calls for white miso, which is surprising because it looks pale red! Make sure to check on the label that is white miso that you are buying.
    The soup was so amazingly easy to make. I made it myself, and it took only about half an hour to prepare without rushing or feeling stressed. It’s an ideal weeknight meal.
    Ground pork and apples are cooked in a large saucepan or soup pot. Reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used store-bought) and water are added and brought to a boil. The udon noodles are added and cooked according to package directions (the ones I bought called boiling them for three minutes).
    When the noodles are almost done, ½ cup of cooking liquid is scooped out of the pot and combined with the miso (I stirred it until the lumps of miso were completely “dissolved” into the liquid). The miso mixture is stirred into the soup, which is then removed from the heat.
    Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rosemary and sage add depth
of flavor to rigatoni sauce

Rigatoni in a homemade tomato sauce – I’ve always thought it sounds so comforting and satisfying, although I’ve never had it myself until recently.
    I came across a recipe for Rigatoni in Tomato Sauce (click for the recipe) in Saveur magazine, and I immediately wanted to try it. Not only did it look easy to make, it called for fresh rosemary and sage, which I thought looked interesting and unusual, and I had plenty of both after clipping off the last from our herb plants before the first frost hit.
    It was delicious. The rosemary and sage, along with red wine, lent a lovely depth of flavor to the sauce. With a side salad, crusty bread and perhaps wine, this pasta dish makes for a very satisfying meal.
    The recipe said it makes six to eight servings, but I disagree. I think it makes three comfortable servings.
    Keep in mind that although the recipe is quite easy to make, it does take about one hour to cook the sauce down until it is reduced, requiring a bit of timing foresight. We found it took about 53 minutes at a heat level 1 for the sauce to reduce.
    The recipe called for canned whole, peeled tomatoes in juice. I was only able to find cans labeled “whole tomatoes,” and so I bought one of those. It seemed to me the tomatoes inside were peeled, so it satisfied the recipe’s requirements.
    Carrots, onion, garlic, and springs of rosemary and sage are cooked in a saucepan, and red wine is added. The mixture is cooked for five minutes, and the tomatoes are added. The sauce is brought to a boil (this takes only about a minute), then the heat is reduced to medium-low and the sauce cooked, being stirred occasionally, for about an hour until reduced.
    The herb stalks are discarded, and the sauce is puréed in a blender.
    Meanwhile, the rigatoni is cooked (the recipe said to do it until al dente, but I boiled it until the tender stage). One cup of the water the rigatoni is boiled in is reserved, and the pasta drained.
    The pasta and sauce are tossed in a bowl, with pasta water being added as needed to create a smooth sauce.
    The rigatoni is served sprinkled with fresh parsley and grated pecorino romano or mozzarella cheese (we used pecorino romano).