Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Nice Noodle Broth

Now that I have a noodle recipe that's pretty fast and easy to throw together, I wanted to have a good standby vegetarian broth in the event I don't have any leftover meaty soup-ish ingredients on hand.  The key to this broth is star anise (to lend depth) and miso (for umami).  All of these ingredients I happen to have in the pantry already, but they may be acquired in any Asian supermarket.  The first time I made it I kind of threw things into the pot but the second time I tried to keep an eye to measurements for reproducibility.  Here is what I have roughly, I believe the proportions can be easily adapted to taste:

Vegetarian 'Meaty' Broth for Noodle Soup

2 tsp vegetable oil
2-3 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tbs dry fried shallots (find in Asian supermarket)
3 cups of water
1.5 tbs miso
2 star anise
1.5 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp shaoxing wine (optional)

topping ideas:
scallions, chopped
leafy greens
bean sprouts
poached egg
lime wedge
cilantro, chopped
chili garlic sauce

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and fry the ginger and shallots until fragrant.  Add water, miso, star anise, soy sauce and shaoxing wine and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly (can add a pinch of sugar or salt or more soy sauce if desired).  I like to quickly wilt the greens in the broth before combining with the noodles and scattering scallions over.  I bet a squeeze of lime would be nice too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Simple Dinner 3

I guess my simple dinners are pretty much all bread based.  I definitely had more than what I pictured above;  when I'm by myself I tend to eat various courses of things until I am no longer hungry.  I've been semi-obsessed with soup recently and this was my latest effort, a cream of tomato soup from Cook's Illustrated.  I've never been much of a fan of tomato soup until now, this was extremely good.  Especially with some toasted bread alongside, yum.

Cream of Tomato Soup (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes (not packed in puree), drained, 3 cups juice reserved, tomatoes seeded
1 1/2 tbs dark brown sugar
4 tbs butter
4 large shallots, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
pinch ground all spice
2 tbs unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs brandy or dry sherry
cayenne pepper

My substitutions:
I forgot the brown sugar until after the tomatoes were already roasted so I quickly threw 1 tbs of light brown sugar over them and stuck them back in the oven for a couple of minutes.  Next time I will follow instructions better.  Instead of shallots, I used 3/4 of a red onion.  I used 1/8 tsp of allspice and used 2 cubes of powdered chicken bouillon combined with water.  Having no brandy or sherry on hand, I used 1 tbs Chinese Shaoxing wine instead (my usual substitute when sherry is called for).  And instead of cayenne pepper, I gadded some black pepper.  Even with all my subs, the soup was delicious and pretty easy to put together on a weeknight.  

1. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a rimmed sheet with foil and spread tomatoes in single layer on foil.  Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar.  Bake ~30 min (until all liquid has evaporated and tomatoes begin to color).  Let tomatoes cool slightly, peel off foil and transfer to small bowl.

2. Heat butter in pot until foaming and add shallots, tomato paste and allspice.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until shallots are softened (7-10 min).  Add flour and cook, stirring until combined (30 sec).  Whisking constantly, slowly add chicken stock, reserved tomato juice and the roasted tomatoes.  Cover, increase heat to medium and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer about 10 min.

3. Strain mixture into bowl and transfer solids into food processor (or blender).  Add ~ 1 cup of liquid and puree.   Add everything back into pot.  Add cream and reheat soup.  Off the heat, stir in brandy or sherry, season to taste and serve.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Simple Dinner 2

I have a weakness for baguette-centered meals.  All I need is a piece of cheese or even some butter and I'm good to go.  In this case, I mixed up a no fuss spinach and cream cheese dip and I happened to have a lovely piece of venison pate from the Farmer's Market in the fridge so all the ingredients necessary for a simple dinner was present.  Again, I'd like to reiterate my pleasure in living alone...somehow I can't imagine any of my past boyfriends looking at this and thinking it a satisfactory dinner...

No Fuss Spinach and Cream Cheese Dip

Throw half a block (4oz?) of plain cream cheese into a bowl and shake out some frozen spinach (the loose kind you buy in a bag, not the frozen block that comes in a box).  How much spinach you like is up to you.  Add a pinch or two of salt and pepper.  Heat bowl in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until everything is melted and mixed.  If you have some cheddar cheese around, add a bit of that and zap with microwave to melt in.