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Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

 

Okra is delicious and doesn’t have to be slimy! We had a whole summer of okra abundance, cooking it up at least twice a week in different guises. Harris always plants okra, but until we got married, I never cooked or ate much of this vegetable. Like most okra-shy people, even the idea of slime was off-putting, but the challenge didn’t deter me. With so many pods flourishing in the garden, we didn’t want waste any. And who doesn’t think the flower is gorgeous? Related to hibiscus, most of this year’s okra is red that turns green when it’s cooked.

Pretty flower for a lovely vegetable.

Pretty flower for a lovely vegetable.

The flavor of okra is mild with a taste that reminds me of asparagus. If you object to the gooey texture like I do, it is easily eliminated by cooking the sliced pods in ghee, lard or coconut oil without any liquid. Then it can be added to whatever recipe you like: goo-be-gone! You can pull off this trick with frozen okra, too. The okra will become very soft, and it sort of melts into the other ingredients. If you’re an okra devotee, this probably won’t bother you.

When I decided that I’d like to come up with my version of the South Louisiana staple, Shrimp and Okra Gumbo, I consulted my darling husband first. He likes the viscous texture of boiled okra. And he rejected the inclusion of tomatoes and sausage— it’s not the way his mama made it. So I thought I’d experiment and make the gumbo his way and mine. I love tomatoes with okra; they’re kissing cousins, and something porky in the mix can’t be beat. I wasn’t going to eliminate either. And I thought that dashi would make an excellent broth instead of the water that most recipes use.

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

Dashi is the easiest of all the stocks to make. It’s rich with minerals from kombu (a type of seaweed) and has a lovely smoky edge from the bonito (smoked, fermented, dried and flaked tuna). One of the original Iron Chefs, Michiba, started nearly every battle making a fresh batch of this “broth of vigor.” And unlike bone broths, dashi take less than 20 minutes to make, so Michiba could wallop the competition in record time. Dashi is packed with nutrients that most Americans miss out on since we’re not inclined to eat many sea vegetables. I love the flavor and use it as my go-to seafood stock. It’s gently reminiscent of the ocean and can be used in non-seafood dishes without seeming out of place. Make extra and freeze it in ice cubes trays so you’ll have some when you want to boost the umami of a dish.

Dashi in Progress

Dashi in Progress

By now my gumbo was all kinds of wrong in Harris’s estimation. But I asked him to keep an open mind. When he got home from “school,” (he’s a technical instructor), he was super hungry as he doesn’t eat breakfast during the week and had to skip lunch for a meeting. He looked at the pots of gumbo on the stove and opted right away for my version. He didn’t even try the gloopy one sans tomatoes and sausage. We serve gumbo over rice, but you can keep it paleo by eliminating it or using cauliflower “rice.” Harris has decided he loves my recipe and gives it his ultimate compliment: “You can make this anytime. I could eat it every day.”

Paleo Banana Pudding

Paleo Banana Pudding

On to dessert. I’ve wanted to tackle a paleo banana pudding for a while and come up with a recipe that used no added sugars. After checking in at Cook’s Illustrated, I decided to follow their technique of roasting some of the bananas which concentrates the flavor and then double the impact with fresh bananas. I also wanted to add pineapple since it would play well with the coconut milk base. To ramp up the pineapple’s flavor and bring out more of the sweetness, I sautéed it in butter. For a final tropical twist, there are toasted macadamia nuts. Whipped cream is optional, but it’s also delicious. Or you could whip up the coconut cream that rises to the top of a chilled can of coconut milk (use regular coconut milk, not lite).

Since this is a quintessential Southern meal, I thought some Southern rock would be in order. I found a list of “best unknown Southern rock tunes” compiled by Brion McClanahan. He did an awesome job, so I’ll share his treasure trove. Bon appétit!

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
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Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
This Shrimp and Okra Gumbo recipe is South Louisiana Wedding Soup—wedding referring to the marriage of flavors. Shrimp, okra, sausage, tomatoes marry the best ingredients into a late summer-early fall treasure. Gluten free and down home delicious! Omit the rice flour roux and substitute cauliflower "rice" for a paleo version.
Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
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This Shrimp and Okra Gumbo recipe is South Louisiana Wedding Soup—wedding referring to the marriage of flavors. Shrimp, okra, sausage, tomatoes marry the best ingredients into a late summer-early fall treasure. Gluten free and down home delicious! Omit the rice flour roux and substitute cauliflower "rice" for a paleo version.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
4servings 20minutes 45minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 20minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
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Instructions
For the dashi:
  1. Make the dashi and set aside.
For the gumbo:
  1. In a skillet large enough to hold the okra in a single layer, melt lard or ghee over medium heat. Add okra and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes, until fully cooked and vegetable shows no sign of stickiness. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a Dutch oven or other large pot, sauté bacon over medium heat until partially rendered, about 2 minutes. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add celery, green pepper, garlic and seasoning. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove vegetables to a bowl and heat lard or ghee over medium to medium-high heat. Add rice flour and stir constantly with wooden spoon, being very careful not to splash yourself with mixture (it gets extremely hot) until roux is the color of peanut butter about 7-8 minutes. Lower heat if necessary, and do not walk away from pan as roux will burn. It will continue to cook and darken. (Omit this step for paleo version.)
  4. Lower heat to medium, add vegetables and quickly mix together to stop the roux from over cooking.
  5. Add tomatoes, 3 cups of dashi, okra and sausage. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add shrimp and cook just until shrimp turns pink, about 3-4 minutes. Add additional dashi to thin if necessary. Taste and correct for seasoning.Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
  7. Place 1/2 cup of rice in gumbo or other bowl. Ladle gumbo over rice, garnish with parsley and green onions.
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Smoky seafood stock, packed with umami and a cinch to make.
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Dashi
Quick and easy to make, savory, and nutritious, dashi belongs in the pantheon of foundation stocks. Make a double batch and freeze in an ice cube tray to have on hand whenever you want to boost the flavor of a seafood soup or sauce.
Dashi
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Quick and easy to make, savory, and nutritious, dashi belongs in the pantheon of foundation stocks. Make a double batch and freeze in an ice cube tray to have on hand whenever you want to boost the flavor of a seafood soup or sauce.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time Passive Time
4servings 5minutes 10 minutes 10minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 5minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 10minutes
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Instructions
  1. Place water in saucepan. Add kombu. Set over medium heat and allow to come to a slow simmer, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, remove and discard kombu. Add bonito flakes to pan. Allow to settle and steep, 10 minutes.
  3. Strain through fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or coffee filter. Discard bonito flakes.
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Paleo Banana Pudding
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Tropical Paleo Banana Pudding
Using only the sweetness of bananas and pineapples, this paleo pudding puts the boxed stuff to shame.
Tropical Paleo Banana Pudding
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Using only the sweetness of bananas and pineapples, this paleo pudding puts the boxed stuff to shame.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
6servings 10minutes 20minutes
Servings Prep Time
6servings 10minutes
Cook Time
20minutes
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Place 3 bananas on cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Skins will be black. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile add butter to large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add pineapple and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat if pineapple begins to get too brown.
  3. While fruits are cooking, add 1/4 cup or so of coconut milk to large bowl. Add gelatin, vanilla and salt. Allow gelatin to soften.
  4. In a separate bowl, add remaining 3 bananas, sliced. Sprinkle with lemon juice and mix gently. The lemon juice will help keep the bananas from browning.
  5. Remove roasted bananas from skins and add to gelatin mixture. Mash and mix well. Add remaining coconut milk and stir. Fold in uncooked bananas and pineapple. Mix thoroughly, but gently.
  6. Spoon into individual serving bowls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Top with toasted macadamias and whipped cream, if desired.Paleo Banana Pudding
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Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup

Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup

Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup

Ingredients in the fridge are like a cook’s paint box. There are so many ways to use them, they can be as delicious as starting with a purchased array. That’s how this recipe came about. I always have homemade broth in the freezer now. In the past, I would make a huge batch of soup, and we’d eat it every day until we got tired of it. Maybe I’d freeze the remainder or maybe it would get sour, and I’d have to toss it. It wasn’t working very well, and soup for supper (or lunch) was an only-once-in-a-while thing. We were getting huge amounts good nourishing bone broth occasionally, but I really wanted it to be a part of my cooking all the time.

So instead of making a vat of soup, I decided to make broth instead and freeze it in ice cube trays. Now I have homemade bone broth for quick soups like this week’s recipe, liquid for cooking rice, a flavorful addition to pan sauces and a way to enhance greens and other vegetables. We get the benefits of the broth nearly every day. Right now I have chicken, beef, dashi, and ham broths ready at the waiting in the freezer.

Chicken broth recipe made two ways.

This golden gem should always be in your freezer and can be made in two easy ways.

When we want soup, I can make just enough and not too much, using leftover meats, poultry or seafood and the assorted vegetables that are just waiting in the fridge. It’s a great way to use up half a jalapeño, some leftover roast chicken, some salsa or whatever good stuff you happen to have.

For a time I was a personal chef to some dear friends. I made this soup for them (though not from leftovers) and when one of them brought the soup to work and heated it up for lunch one day, I suddenly had four new clients to cook for. It perfumed the office with an enticing aroma that lured her coworkers to the break room to find out what it was. Try that with Progresso sometime. There’s a funky, weird smell that lingers long after the not-so-tasty soup is gone.

This recipe is for a Mexican-inspired soup, but you can vary it up in many different ways. Cook some carrots, celery and onion in the chicken broth. Add the chicken and some leftover rice. Voilà! Almost instant chicken rice soup. And whether you want to chase away a cold or keep from getting one, you’ll have a bowl of goodness that beats Campbell’s to shame.

There’s a nice, long playlist this week. I kept adding tunes and decided to keep ’em. Fire up the Spotify, make a quick soup and enjoy!

Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup

Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup

Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup
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Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup
If you have some Mexican-inspired ingredients in the fridge, you can make this chicken soup recipe in about 20 minutes. Tummy warming, mouth watering, it's as good for you as it is delicious. Remove canned soup from your shopping list forever! Make this for one or a crowd, just set the number of servings desired and the app will do the calculations for you.
Almost Instant Chicken Salsa Soup
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If you have some Mexican-inspired ingredients in the fridge, you can make this chicken soup recipe in about 20 minutes. Tummy warming, mouth watering, it's as good for you as it is delicious. Remove canned soup from your shopping list forever! Make this for one or a crowd, just set the number of servings desired and the app will do the calculations for you.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
2servings 5minutes 15minutes
Servings Prep Time
2servings 5minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
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Instructions
  1. Heat chicken fat or olive oil over medium heat in sauce pan large enough to hold ingredients. Add the onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add jalapeño and cilantro stems, sauté 1 minute.
  2. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the salsa and cook, stirring frequently until it loses its bright red color, about 6-7 minutes. Add broth and chicken, heat until hot, about 5 minutes.
  3. Garnish with your choice of avocado, lime juice, cilantro leaves, cheese or sour cream.
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Chicken broth recipe made two ways.
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Two-way Chicken Broth
Why throw out those chicken bones when you can have deeply nourishing, delicious broth whenever you want or need it? Enriching a pan sauce, adding flavor and goodness to vegetables or making nearly instant soup is a snap when you have a bag of golden cubes in your freezer. And when you need some chicken for salad or a quick meal, start with a whole chicken and make the richest chicken stock possible. The vegetables and seasonings are kept intentionally simple and no salt is added so the broth will be useful in most any recipe or preparation. This is a great time to use a slow cooker. You can start the broth before you go to bed and strain it in the morning. I've suggested a quantity of one pound of bones, but use more or less of the vegetables depending on the amount of bones you have or if you use a whole chicken.
Two-way Chicken Broth
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Why throw out those chicken bones when you can have deeply nourishing, delicious broth whenever you want or need it? Enriching a pan sauce, adding flavor and goodness to vegetables or making nearly instant soup is a snap when you have a bag of golden cubes in your freezer. And when you need some chicken for salad or a quick meal, start with a whole chicken and make the richest chicken stock possible. The vegetables and seasonings are kept intentionally simple and no salt is added so the broth will be useful in most any recipe or preparation. This is a great time to use a slow cooker. You can start the broth before you go to bed and strain it in the morning. I've suggested a quantity of one pound of bones, but use more or less of the vegetables depending on the amount of bones you have or if you use a whole chicken.
Ingredients
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Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a pot about three times larger than the ingredients' volume. Add cold, filtered water to a height about 2 inches above the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and skim foam from the top. If you are using a whole chicken, simmer for 20 minutes only. Remove the chicken parts and allow to cool. Turn off the broth while the meat is cooling.
  2. If using just bones, reduce the heat to a very low simmer once the foam has all been removed. The surface should just barely bubble. Simmer for at least two hours, but a large volume can simmer for up to 10 hours if you like.
  3. If using a whole chicken, remove the meat and skin and set aside to cool. Refrigerate and reserve the meat for another recipe. Return the bones to the pot and continue with the second step.
  4. Strain the broth, removing the vegetables and bones to a strainer, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Use at once or freeze in ice cube trays and store in zip top bags. Label the bags with contents and date.
  5. When the broth is chilled, there is likely to be a layer of fat on top of the broth. Skim it off, reserving it in a small container. Refrigerate if using right away or freeze. The chicken fat is a super delicious way to start a sauté of vegetables for chicken soup or other recipe.
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Filet Mignon and Cherries. Summer party!

Make Ahead Steak Salad

Make Ahead Steak Salad

I’m not much of a TV watcher (except “So You Think You Can Dance”) and a while back, I was passing by the den one visit to my Mom’s when the “Gilmore Girls” was on. The scene was a woman in a dimly lit kitchen. She was standing by the sink, tore open a bag of salad mix, dumped some bottled dressing in it and forked up an unenthusiastic mouthful. Sad.

Simple, fresh ingredients for an elegant, make ahead meal: filet mignon, goat cheese, cherries, pecan and greens.

Simple, fresh ingredients for an elegant, make ahead meal: filet mignon, goat cheese, cherries, pecan and greens.

Goat cheese is easy to slice if you use dental floss.

Goat cheese is easy to slice if you use dental floss.

Nourishing yourself should include feeding your soul. This menu (thanks to the recipe plugin I use) can be an elegant meal for one or the basis for a mid-week party without any fuss. All the components can be made ahead and assembled while your guests are arriving. And as for bagged salad at the sink? No way! You need a wonderful meal to look forward to after a long, busy day.

Skip the drive through window. Set out some pretty dishes. Fire up the Spotify playlist and enjoy! I’ve chosen tunes for summer lushness – a little humid with the occasional light breeze.

The salad recipe is based on one from Cooks Illustrated. The original featured chicken breast and an orange-marmalade dressing. When I saw fresh organic cherries at the market, I remembered the recipe, but chicken didn’t seem to do the cherries justice. At the time, I was the personal chef for several clients, and I had to cook all the dishes in advance. I loved steak right off the grill and served with crisp salad vegetables, but this wouldn’t be possible with a pre-prepared dish. And rib eyes or sirloin served another day are just leftovers. I thought about filet mignon, and when I tried it out, it was perfect. Why? Because the lack of marbling means that you won’t run into streaks of cold, hard fat. The tender texture of cooked tenderloin doesn’t suffer as much from refrigeration. A little of the luxurious meat goes a long way, plus filet mignon demands bold flavors to offset its inherent blandness, which is why Béarnaise or another assertive sauce almost always accompanies this cut of beef.

Make Ahead Steak Salad with Cherries and Goat Cheese

Make Ahead Steak Salad with Cherries and Goat Cheese

Harris isn’t a main-course salad kind of guy generally. But he loves this meal. There are so many interesting textures and tastes, and the dressing is perfection. For a paleo version, you can omit the goat cheese, but do try to use Sherry vinegar and orange peel and juice in the dressing. They pull the dish together the way that the perfect shoes and jewelry make an outfit. I opted to use a fresh orange instead of commercial marmalade to keep the dressing real.

I love dishes like this for entertaining because guests can easily bypass ingredients they don’t appreciate. And dressing a salad is a matter of personal taste. Some like a little, others like a lot.

Luscious sweet potato soup is an easy starter to a festive meal.

Luscious sweet potato soup is an easy starter to a festive meal.

The sweet potato soup is a great way to open the menu. People love soup, but we don’t often think to serve it as an appetizer. It’s fresh and light and delicious. A novel way to present the dish is in a mug with or without a spoon. I like the clear taste of the sweet potatoes with its water base, but feel free to use homemade bone broth instead if you like. The squeeze of lemon in the end adds zing and perks up a flagging mid-summer appetite.

Luscious sweet potato soup is an easy starter to a festive meal.
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Sweet Potato Soup with Lemon
This super simple sweet potato soup is a lovely appetizer or lunch choice and reheats well. The bright flavors enhanced by lemon and bold color will cheer and nourish throughout the seasons.
Sweet Potato Soup with Lemon
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This super simple sweet potato soup is a lovely appetizer or lunch choice and reheats well. The bright flavors enhanced by lemon and bold color will cheer and nourish throughout the seasons.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time Passive Time
4servings 15minutes 30minutes 20-25minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 15minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30minutes 20-25minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
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Ingredients
Servings: servings
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Instructions
  1. Melt butter in Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add onion and sauté without browning about 5 minutes. Add celery and sauté 5 minutes. Add ginger and bay leaves and sweet potatoes. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add water, stir to combine, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook 20 minutes.
  2. Check sweet potatoes for doneness. They should be tender and mash easily. Remove bay leaves and using an immersion blender, purée. You can also purée in batches in a blender or food processer. Or you can use a potato masher if you prefer a chunkier texture.
  3. Add heavy cream or coconut milk, stirring to combine and heating for a minute or two. At this point you can cool to room temperature if serving later and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat. Ladle into serving dishes, squeeze lemon juice on each serving, garnish with lemon slices and serve.
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Make Ahead Steak Salad
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Make-Ahead Steak Salad with Cherries and Orange Sherry Vinegar Dressing
Powerfully delicious flavors combine in a summertime steak salad featuring beef, cherries, goat cheese (omit if you don't eat dairy), pecans, oranges, shallots and Sherry wine vinegar. Simple to make ahead, assembling in minutes for entertaining or an elegant meal for one. The recipe plug-in does the calculating for you!
Make-Ahead Steak Salad with Cherries and Orange Sherry Vinegar Dressing
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Powerfully delicious flavors combine in a summertime steak salad featuring beef, cherries, goat cheese (omit if you don't eat dairy), pecans, oranges, shallots and Sherry wine vinegar. Simple to make ahead, assembling in minutes for entertaining or an elegant meal for one. The recipe plug-in does the calculating for you!
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
4servings 20minutes 10-15minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 20minutes
Cook Time
10-15minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Instructions
  1. Heat cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Season beef with salt (pepper will burn). Add ghee or other fat to skillet. Place filets in skillet. Sear on first side for two minutes. Turn and sear on second side for two minutes. Turn on rounded side and sear for one minute. Continue rotating filets on their rounded sides until complete seared, moving each after one minute. Return filets to flat side, flip after 30 seconds. Using an instant-read thermometer, test for doneness: 125 degrees for medium rare, 130 for medium. Continue turning and flipping every 30 seconds, test again after a minute or two for doneness until cooked to desired temperature.
  2. Set filets aside on plate to rest and cool to room temperature, place in covered container and refrigerate.
  3. Make dressing: Place orange zest and juice (from half the orange only) in very small sauce pan. Reduce over medium heat 3-4 minutes until syrupy and thick. Do not brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.
  4. In a small bowl add minced shallot, salt and pepper. Add orange mixture and Sherry vinegar, stirring to combine. Add 1/3 cup oil, whisking while combining. Taste before adding more oil. Continue to add oil until tartness is to your liking. Cover and chill.
  5. Wash and dry lettuce, placing it in a large plastic bag with a sheet of paper towel and refrigerate. Wash and dry cherries and pit if desired; place in covered container and refrigerate. Wash and dry cucumber and refrigerate (slice just before serving.) Using unflavored dental floss, slice goat cheese without separating slices until serving time, wrap gently to keep from squeezing slices back together and refrigerate.
  6. When ready to serve, line a platter with lettuce, slice filets and place on platter along with cherries, cucumbers, goat cheese and pecans. Recombine dressing and pass separately.
  7. Make Ahead Steak Salad with Cherries and Goat Cheese
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