Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The best turkey soup I've ever made.

 It started like this....

    Hmmm....saw a recipe on Mama Pea's blog for chicken and dumplings. It looked really good and I am more than in the mood for some comfort food.  I didn't have chicken (wait, maybe I do still have a jar or two of chicken breasts  that I canned a couple of years ago...) but I DO have  canned turkey and broth. Lots of it.   So, I'll make a turkey and dumplings supper.

  Or soup.  Soup sounds good.  I could make a thin soup and put dumplings in it too. That way I could add some vegetables in it and  ....wait. I could just make some good hearty soup and make some biscuits to go with it. That's always good, and the Irishman loves biscuits.  Or, I could make biscuit dough and use that for dumplings. Or not.

 You see what happens? A simple supper turns me into the rain man.

Oy vey.  The best thing to do when I get like this, is just put aside everything that's swirling around the great void that is my head and let the supper make itself.  Trust in the process.  So, I did what any and every soup maker from time immemorial has done. I got 2 big onions out of the bin and peeled and cubed them.  That is the base of every soup I make. Onions. and then crush and peel some garlic and coarsely chop it too. If you mince it too finely, it will scorch too easily. (This reminds me- the other day I was reading a recipe for something and it told you to remove the garlic from the pot after cooking. Who in their right mind would ever do that ?????)  Then I opened the vegetable bin in the fridge and found carrots and celery. Took 3 carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Washed them good and chopped them.  Put all this together into my stainless steel dutch oven with about a half stick of butter and some olive oil. And cranked up the fire. In no time at all it was smelling up my house with that rich sweet smell that is only made by the alchemy of carrots and onions cooking together. I stirred it around and put the lid on the pot.  While it cooked, I went in search of turkey broth. Found a quart jar that was about 1/3 turkey and the rest broth and looked around the pantry to see if there was anything else I needed. Brought it back into the kitchen and stirred the pot again. Lowered the flame a little and went to the fridge, because one of the things on my list for today is to clean out the fridge. There are a couple of things in there that need to find their way to the compost bin.  And probably some stuff I can incorporate into this soup. Waste not, want not. (Everything finds a place to be recycled...into us, the chickens, or the compost.  It's the LAW). Which also cleans out the fridge and makes room for new stuff.  (Rain Man).  Here's what happened next:

  I found several things that needed to go. I also found turnip greens cooked with bacon and onion. A half a baked butternut squash.  A serving and a half of vegetable soup, leftover from the last soup I made. A bowl of brown and wild rice cooked together.  Oh yeah...things are looking up.  I opened the quart of turkey and broth and put it into the carrots and stuff. I emptied the leftover soup in there too. Then I dumped the rice in and added more water. I scraped the squash out of the skin and put that in. I put the turnip greens on the cutting board and chopped those up some. In  they went. Peering into the great abyss, I decided it needed a little more water and some pepper. I got the dried basil out of the cupboard and crushed a small handfull of that in too. Just for good measure...because I always think that my organic dried basil makes everything better. lol

  Then I put the lid back on and turned the flame down as low as it goes. And let it do it's magic.

  In the meantime, I got all the other odds and ends from the fridge into my compost bucket and ran those outside. I came in and scrubbed the shelves a little and then washed all the containers that I had just emptied. 

  I stirred the soup again, admired it's beauty for a minute, and then got my book and got on the couch with my weiner dog and my fleece blanket and put my feet up to read a while.

  I am having camera problems, so I can't post a picture of the finished product. But let me tell you...it turned out thick, almost a stew.  The butternut squash disappeared into the broth, giving it a sunrise golden orange hue that was rich beyond compare.  The turnip greens and the wild rice made it hearty and healthy looking.  The orange carrots and chunks of garlic make your mouth water. It's not a lot of turkey, but it's a good amount.  The flavor is stupendous.  We had one big soup bowl with a couple of biscuits and it filled us up to the stopping point. 

  In fact, I'm going to have another bowl for lunch right now.  See ya later...

Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Good old spaghetti and home made bread

Mmmm....bread.  The staff of life.  There was a time when bread really could sustain lilfe, back before the Wonderbread folks came along and started making that foam rubber stuff.   Back when women (mostly) ground their own wheat by hand and mixed up the hearty stuff that was full of wheat germ and some husk and maybe a little honey (to feed the yeast) ...or probably sourdough, where they lassoed the little yeastie beasties that were in the air and put them to work making that heavenly chewy crusty bread that only sourdough can make. I get so much primal satisfaction from making my own bread, I can't even put it into words. The mixing, the kneading, the smells... the pure joy of pulling that finished loaf out of the oven in it's perfection. This artisan bread is easier in a lot of ways and though I miss kneading bread, my old joints don't miss it so much. I still make regular bread from time to time, but this stuff is so good...

   We're in the middle of January and the weather has finally turned winter-like.  Mostly. These cold evenings, when my husband comes home from his 10 hour shifts, I like to have a good hot meal waiting for him.  One of  his favorites is spaghetti. He's not a big pasta guy. Doesn't particularly like noodle casseroles or even fettucine Alfredo. But he LOVES spaghetti.  So I make it at least a couple of times a month or more.  During the gardening season, I always can marinara and I always can tomatoes--whole, sauced, combined with okra and onions, someimes juice. I also dry tomatoes, and love to throw a handfull of them into sauces and soups. 

  So, anyhoo...it was time to make supper and I thought, well--I'll make Puttanesca. Puttanesca translates to "sauce of the whores", so that's fun all by itself.  Puttanesca is sauce made with whatever you happen to have on hand.  The working girls, (as legend has it) were always very poor, and would make spaghetti becasue it was cheap and could be stretched to feed a lot of people, or kept to feed themselves for several days. So they would dig through the cabinets and pantries and coolers and find whatever they could to make their sauces .  They could rarely afford meat, so the sauce is usually a vegetarian marinara. But if you find some ground beef or sausages--throw them in!

  I rarely put meat in my spaghetti sauce. Once in a while, I will cook some Italain sausages for himself, because he does like them. But he also likes thick chunky marinara sauce, loaded with vegetables. 

  Here's what I made this time:

Rummaging around in the fridge, I found a few mushrooms, about half a can of black olives that I had sliced when I made burritos the other day, a good sized carrot--do you know about putting carrot into your marinara?  I usually grate it, but sometimes I just slice it.  Carrot magically neutralizes the acid  in tomato based sauces. So if marinara bothers your stomach, this might help.

 I chopped a large yellow onion, 7 cloves of garlic, red-yellow-green bell peppers from my freezer. I sauteed these along with the mushrooms and carrot in a little olive oil. Then I opened a jar of home canned whole tomatoes, a jar of sauce and opened another pint jar of [what I thought was] diced tomatoes. I just didn't look at ity closely, to tell the truth --I was in my zone....LOL  Turned out that it was a pint of tomatoes, okra and onions. Oops.  No matter--I tossed it into the pot as well.  I simmered it all together for about 35 minutes. I LOVE a good chunky spaghetti sauce, don't you? Something you can really sink your teeth into.

 While that was going on, I got the stuff out and made a delightful salad of  a red arugula looking lettuce and romaine. Cucumber, onion, carrot, celery.  A tomato vinaigrette dressing.  Then I cooked the pasta, after I put the first 2 of the 3 loaves of bread into the oven.  Can you imagine the smells?

 When the Irishman came in the door, he nearly dropped to his knees. All he said was "I'm starving"

 He went out to lock up the chickens for the night and by the tinme he finished washing up and getting out of his work clothes, I had the table set with candles, all the food and accoutrements (butter, shredded parm, etc), drinks...and we dined like royalty. I would take a guess that this supper maybe cost $5.00 to make.  And it was better than anything I have ever eaten in a fancy restaurant...

  It is more than possible to eat well on a budget.  The possibilities are endless.....

Bon Apetit !