Sunday Suppers: Winter Whites

Great soups for suppers in the winter; all my favorites so I need to share this–white can be wonderful!

Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

The kidneys make this What our garden looks like these days

We’ve been spared the snow that’s blanketed much of the country, but early this week a layer of ice made our landscape more than a little frosty. Instead of making us feel a little blue, we’re craving food that warms us up. But of course we’re all about coordinating our colors. Here are some of our favorite winter whites:

Cream of Potato Soup (above) and Potato Leek Soup (below)

That there is perdy I’m gonna need a bigger bowl

White Bean Soup with Farro

Drizzle more olive oil if you want Drizzle more olive oil if you want

Cream of Potato Soup with Roasted Garlic

Campbell's eat your heart out Campbell’s eat your heart out

If only we’d get a little snow instead of ice we could whip up some of this:

Tastes like vanilla icecreamSnow cream

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A “roast” beef sandwich

Sandwiches are not just something to be thrown together without thought–definitely NOT two thin slices of baloney and Wonder bread!  They are a special kind  of meal–sometimes comfort food (like grilled cheese sandwiches) and sometimes even need planning when cooking for one person.  I’m always on the lookout for good “recipes”–or maybe inspirations–for sandwiches–particularly roast beef.

As much as I like cooking for one, there are a few drawbacks. One is that  realistically you can’t do real roast beef.  One of the things I miss is a good roast beef sandwich–it’s just not the same when the roast beef comes from the deli–no matter how good the deli.

image from Lemony Thyme

roast beef sandwich

One of the ways to satisfy my craving for roast beef sandwiches is with the planned  “leftovers” from my  thick-cut  steak–intentional leftovers of nice rare, pink, juicy  steak to slice  thinly and make a sandwich.  Then the fun begins–it’s a happening.

  •  Start with good bread (my oat bread , if possible),
  • Add some  flavorful, spicy greens:  radish sprouts or possibly arugula, or endive.
  • Maybe tomato,  if in season.
  • Cheese:  something “bleu”– gorgonzola dolce, Cabrales,  or Danablu–is one of my favorites with beef, though nothing wrong with a good cheddar or Swiss.
  • Maybe some thinly sliced red onion (or Walla Walla, Maui, or Vidalia,   sweet onions, if those just happen to be lying around).
  • Maybe a good “smear” of horseradish or horseradish sauce, instead of onion.
  • Finally,  a thin film of butter, preferably European style cultured (salted or unsalted)!
  • The final touch would be a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Now choose a beverage–beer, cider, or even a glass of wine. Enjoy.

Grilled cheese sandwiches

A grilled cheese sandwich is often a quick meal, and perhaps the ultimate in comfort food–with or without the tomato soup.  I love grilled cheese sandwiches and want to pass on this link for any of you who also love grilled cheese sandwiches.

It’s very easy to make a “plain” grilled cheese sandwich, but you can do so much more with them.  I found some wonderful suggestions at Spoon, Fork, Bacon. If you love grilled cheese here is a great place to find some exciting ideas.

Hot & sour soup

Swanson hot and sour brothOccasionally  my curiosity gets the better of me while I’m meandering through the supermarket and I bring home something that I usually would not buy.  This time is was a box of Swanson’s Chinese Hot & Sour Flavor Infused Broth.  Usually the “flavor infused” would be a signal to walk on by. Since I do use Swanson’s chicken and beef broths and stocks, I stopped and looked at the ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t feel as if I were in the chemistry lab stockroom, so I bought it.

I do really like hot and sour soup–it’s my usual test of a Chinese restaurant–usually disappointing since my standard was set in Hong Kong!  I don’t see another trip to Hong Kong in the future, so I thought I’d try it.  My expectations were not really high as I opened the box and tasted it, but it was better than I’d thought–the hot and the sour were pretty well-balanced.  It’s main problem was that it tasted boxed–in other words, it needed some brightening up–like most boxed or canned stocks or broths.

Armed with my box of broth, I decided that although I wanted hot and sour flavor, I didn’t want to buy esoteric ingredients that I might not use again for a while just to try it out.  I thought maybe I could do something that was in the “spirit” of hot and sour soup with what I found in the fridge and pantry without a trip to the Asian market. So no tree ears or lily buds, and not even bamboo shoots.

vegetables on salad bar at Harris Teeter

prepared veggies

I found a basket of sliced mushrooms  in the fridge,  shelled edamame and collard greens in the freezer, water chestnuts in the pantry, and some rotisserie chicken and some pork in the fridge that needed given a re-do.  My only addition was a very large handful of julienned carrots (from the salad bar of my local Harris Teeter).

Since this was one of those OMG-I-don’t-have-time-to-cook occasions, I got out the rice cooker (cum slow-cooker) and added the hot and sour “flavor-infused” broth.  I sautéed  the mushrooms in just a bit of peanut oil until browned and gave the carrots a brief swish through the pan with the mushrooms, deglazed the skillet with a bit of the broth, and poured that into the slow-cooker. I added the edamame, collard greens, and the water chestnuts and set it for two hours.

When the collard greens and edamame were done (about 2 hours) I added the chicken and  pork  to heat through.  At the same time I added a piece of fresh ginger root and a small clove of garlic to “freshen” the flavors up a bit.

Obviously not a traditional hot and sour soup, but it was a good test of the “flavor infused” broth, and pretty tasty with the chicken and pork to add some richness, and the textural variety of the mushrooms, greens and water chestnuts.  A garnish  of green onions when served finished it off nicely. (I didn’t add the eggs, either.)

Verdict on the broth–not bad–actually much better than I expected– but if I’m going to make traditional real Chinese hot and sour soup (with tree ears and lily buds) I will start with my own stock–besides, I really like my hot and sour soup with pork. But if it’s just hot and sour I want, I might use another box of “flavor infused” broth!

A son goût!

Potato and cabbage soup

I like soup for a meal–if it’s a good hearty soup with lots of veggies and maybe some meat in it. All it takes is cold weather and I’m especially interested in soup. Well, we’ve got the cold weather right now and it’s apparently going to last a while, too. I’ve a small “dinner” ham–I’ve sliced part of it to use for sandwiches, and cubed part–some will go in mac ‘n’ cheese (in the rice cooker), and it seemed that part of it would be good for soup–some to eat now and some to freeze for later meals.

Looking in the fridge, I discovered a head of cabbage and some red potatoes, and, of course, ham.

  • a medium yellow onion, chopped and lightly browned in a scant tablespoon of bacon fat (or oil).
  • Two good serving of ham, in 1/2-inch cubes, browned.
  • Garlic, about 6 good-size cloves, coarsely chopped, and cooked with the ham and onion until it starts to smell fragrant.
  • several healthy shakes of hot red pepper flakes added and “toasted” with the ham an onions.
  • about 1/2 teaspoon of kala jeera (black cumin) added to toast just a bit with the contents of the pan.
  • Two bay leaves added to the pan.
  • Three cups water to degaze the good brown fond from the bottom of the pan (add more later if needed when all the ingredients are in the pot). Bring to a simmer.
  • Three medium red potatoes cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and added to the pot.
  • Cabbage, 1/2 small head cut into 3/4-inch pieces, or shredded if you prefer, added to the simmering pot. Add more water if needed to just barely cover.
  • Put the pot into a 250°F oven, and ignore for about 2 hours (I was working on an index and didn’t want to have to mind the pot on the stovetop).
cabbage, potato, and ham soup

meal in a bowl

Since cabbage keeps so well, I almost always have it in the crisper, and potatoes, too. I’ve done similar soups  (starting with the onions, potatoes, and cabbage–varying the seasoning, of course) with various sausages–kielbasa being a particular favorite. I’ve used leftover roast, steak, chicken, or chops in similar soups as well. If the meat is already cooked, I’ll use broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef) instead of water.

The kala jeera has a rather flowery flavor (and you want to use it in small amounts as it could be a bit overwhelming, but the hint of the floweriness was a nice contrast to the smokiness of the ham and the earthiness of the cabbage.

Serious, easy comfort food….

Surely one of the easiest comfort foods must be a baked potato. I don’t mean just any old baked potato. It has to be one that has never had aluminum foil mentioned in the same room with it, rubbed with oil, popped into the oven at about 325°F until the well-scrubbed skin is almost crisp.

Pulled from the oven, x-ed on top and smushed open, given a minute or two for steam to escape, just a tad of butter added–it’s so good!  Probably, in my estimation, the ultimate comfort food–even more than mac ‘n’ cheese.

Want to make it some seriously “gourmet” comfort food?  Add some fleur de sel, or another fine specialty finishing salt. For a great account of salts of the world, you should check out Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral by Mark Bitterman. Just a pinch of a finishing salt adds a very special touch.

Some truffle oil and/or butter, or shaved truffle over the lovely baked potato is awesome.  If you go so far as the truffle butter (or not) a glass of champagne goes well with it and helps induce an aura of comfort in a serious way.

If it’s a meal you want, rather than just comfort food, add some steamed broccoli, and maybe even some cheese–some pepper jack or Havarti will melt easily over the top–just lay thin slices over the hot potato–never mind making cheese sauce here.

Sumptuous but simple.

A son goût!

A pork and kale braise

It’s been chilly, cloudy, and grey–just the kind of weather for soups, stews, and braises. It’s also time to get the freezer stocked with some quick, easy food as I’ve got indexing projects coming in–some while I’m still teaching this Fall term.  With lots of grading to do as well, I wanted something that would take care of itself while I worked–so out comes the all-purpose “rice” cooker for some slow-cooked food.

I’m a great fan of pork almost any way you fix it so when I found a package of boneless pork ribs–just the ticket for the slow-cooker–while I was doing my grocery shopping on Thursday it obviously went into the cart. Big package, but on special, so it came home with me to make a lazy meal, and some to go into the freezer for quick meals when I’m really busy, or when I need comforting, peasant-style food. Can’t pass up inexpensive on something I really like.

Braised pork and kale from the slow-cooker

Ingredients

  • boneless pork spare ribs, about 2 pounds
  • 1 packaged of frozen, chopped onions
  • chopped kale, one frozen “family” pack
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of Hatch chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, adjust to taste as needed when cooking is finished

Preparation and cooking

  • cut pork into about 2-inch pieces
  • add half package of kale and onions, mixing
  • layer in pork, sprinkle with salt, chili powder
  • add remaining kale and onions
  • add fire-roasted tomatoes with juice
  • close the lid and set for 8 hours
  • shred pork using two forks (if desired)
  • check seasoning and adjust as necessary.

No, no pictures as  this is NOT a photogenic dish, but it sure is tasty! And there’s certainly nothing like complicated technique involved here.

Great served with a side of spicy black beans, or garbanzo beans, or just a big bowl on its own. This particular time I had a roasted winter squash as a side with it. (Now, to turn the rest of the winter squash into another meal–maybe stuffed with some Sicilian sausage that also went into the grocery cart.)

There was more liquid than I had anticipated when this was finished cooking, so after packing some in zipper-lock bags to go into the freezer (with SOME juice), the extra juice with some kale and some shredded pork is going to turn into soup–details will evolve when it’s used–but that’s an additional meal out of that pack of spare ribs!