Post #622 Tiny Little Tidbits

January 15, 2019 at 6:27 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #622 Tiny Little Tidbits

I’ve had a few things to share, but singly, they never added up to a whole post.  So, I’m combining them into one post of several tidbits about food.

First up, in the last post I mentioned I was trying a soup we saw on Lidia Bastianich’s show.  It’s a white bean and escarole soup and can be made in under an hour.  It can also be made in over an hour, depending on how you go about it.  I’m going to explain both ways.  They’re not that far apart, really.

  • 1 cup dried white beans (Navy beans or Great Northern White beans) soaked overnight
  • 5 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
  • 1 head of escarole
  • 2-3 bay whole bay leaves
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste

Soak the beans overnight after sorting through them to remove bad beans and stones.  Drain and rinse the beans and in a large pot cook in six cups of fresh water, two tablespoons of olive oil, and the bay leaves.  Do not add salt at this stage.  Cook until the beans start to soften, about an hour.  Chop the escarole roughly.  In a large skillet over medium low heat, heat the remaining olive oil and add the sliced garlic.  Cook until they start to release their aroma.  Add the red pepper flakes, but be careful because they add a LOT of heat.  Add the escarole and press down.  Cover the skillet and steam for a few minutes, then remove the lid and stir.  Cook until the garlic slices have turned golden brown.  Add two large ladles of the soup to the skillet and stir around to release any brown bits and combine flavors.  Add back to the soup pot and stir to combine.  Add about a half tablespoon of salt at this point, and cook for about a half hour to forty-five minutes until the beans have created a creamy broth and the escarole is wilted and fully cooked.  Adjust the salt and add a dash or two of black pepper.  Serve hot.  I made a garnish of bacon bits and sprinkled it with grated cheese.  I served it with toasted crusty bread.

I like the soup overall, but was disappointed that the flavor of the beans was not more prominent.  The bitterness of the escarole actually was quite good in the soup, but it was a little like eating a lettuce soup.  I’ll probably adjust the salt and the bean cooking step next time.  But I do recommend this soup for a good vegetarian alternative.

Second tidbit is making a “cream soup” without the cream.  We’re lactose intolerant in our house to varying degrees.  For Partner/Spouse, it’s a real thing and he can’t eat the stuff at all.  For me, it’s mostly a philosophical stance but there are times when I suffer the bad side effects.  Usually with ice cream.  But since I don’t like the flavor of milk or cream, not eating dairy is not a terrible tragedy.  I do eat cheese, a ton of cheese, and we keep butter in the house for baking and cooking.  So I get the right amount of vitamins and minerals from those.  So whenever I see a recipe where cream is added, I immediately start wondering what else can be used.

The obvious choices are plain yogurt and sour cream.  I know what you’re thinking, those are dairy products.  They just don’t seem to have the same impact on our digestive systems as the other things do.  It’s odd, but there it is.  Although, sometimes, you gotta watch out.

However, there’s another way to make a cream-style soup without any cream whatever.  And that’s called making a roux.  That’s pronounced “roooo” drawn out as long as you want to.  It’s a simple process.  Melt two tablespoons of butter over low heat in a skillet, then add the same amount of plain flour.  Stir together and cook for about two minutes or so.  At this point, many chefs will add cream to the roux to make a creamy sauce.  But you don’t have to.  You can add chicken stock and make a thick creamy sauce with a ton of flavor.  But if you’ve got a good soup base going and want to thicken it and make it creamy, make up a roux and add to the hot soup a tiny bit at a time to avoid lumps.  Keep stirring and there won’t be any lumps.  You’ll end up with a tasty creamy soup that will taste every bit as good as if you’d used cream.  One tip for this, if you want to add extra flavor to your soup or stew or sauce, add dried herbs to the flour and cook it into the roux.

Third tidbit, in the last post about The List, I mentioned chicken and rice soup that was like a gumbo.  A couple of people asked me for the recipe.  It’s simple and the post contained all the salient points for success.  Chop chicken breasts and thighs into bite sized pieces.  Put them raw into the crock pot and add 3-4 cloves of roughly chopped garlic and one medium onion sliced thin.  If you want to add any other veggies, feel free to.  Just make sure they’re cut to bite sized chunks.  I’ve had carrots, celery, mushrooms, etc.  Then put about four cups of chicken broth into it so it’s covered and sprinkle a cup of rice over the top.  Put it on high for about three hours, then put it on low for about four hours.  This seems like overkill in the cooking department, but what happens is the chicken and the veggies release their flavors over time, along with the seasonings.  The rice will explode into the broth which will get a little gummy.  The rice will absorb all those flavors.  The result will be thick and full of rice which will hide the bits of veggies and chicken until you stir it and start eating it.  It’s so good.  Like a chicken porridge.

The last tidbit is a fun thing.  Partner/Spouse read about a candle type of thing and decided to try  it out.  Here’s what you do.  When you have an orange that’s been around too long and started to thicken up and get tough, don’t throw it away.  Slice a very small piece from the bottom so it sits level.  Then slice a larger piece from the top down about a quarter to a third of the way down.  Very carefully remove the pulp but leave the center piece that all the sections attach to.  Leave it upside down on a paper towel for a few hours to make sure all the juice is gone.  Set it upright so the hole is on top and place it in a bowl.  Fill the cavity with olive oil and let it sit for a few days.  The orange will absorb the oil so keep replenishing it until it stays at the same level for at least a full day.  When it’s ready, you’ll have an orange full of olive oil with the center pith to use as a wick.  Does it work?

You tell me.  It sends out a very light aroma of oranges and provides a nice little ambience of light.  I don’t suppose it’s something you’d rely on in an emergency, but it’s cute and fun to watch.

So, I’m thinking of turning this kind of post into a regular thing and calling Tidbits.  Let me know what you think!

As always,

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