RERUN Episode 26: Chicken Noodle Soup with Chipotle Pesto, plus Baked Sweet Potatoes
This week, it’s a menu for winter doldrums. I’m nursing a light cold with some chicken soup–and adding chipotle chiles and garlic for extra health-giving kick. On the side: a baked sweet potato, packed with vitamin C. Shopping list 2 chicken thighs, bone-in 2 cups chicken stock Pasta (or pearl couscous or rice) Flour or corn tortillas Cashews Sweet potatoes 2 carrots Celery (optional) Grape tomatoes Small bunch cilantro 1 lime 1 onion 5 cloves garlic Butter Olive oil Chicken Noodle Soup with Chipotle Pesto This is basically a very generic chicken noodle soup, but with a handful of details that make it super-flavorful: with the fresh chicken and the toasted pasta (you could also use pearl couscous, orzo or even rice), it’s a lot richer than a soup made from just canned broth. All the trimmings (cilantro, the chipotle pesto on top, a squeeze of lime) make it semi-Mexican, but you can adapt the basic soup any way you like–take out the tomatoes, add different herbs and spices, mix up a different sort of pesto to dab on top… serves 22 chicken thighs, bone-inDrizzle olive oil1 onionSalt5 cloves garlic2 cups chicken stock2 carrots2 ribs celery (optional)Large handful grape tomatoes1/2 avocadoLarge handful noodles of your choice (elbows, etc.)2 chipotle chiles in adoboSmall handful cashews1 limeSmall bunch cilantroFlour or corn tortillas Chop one chicken thigh up roughly into 4 or 5 pieces, cutting through the bone if possible. Set a heavy soup pot on medium heat; add a small drizzle of oil, just to coat the bottom. Add both chicken thighs (the cut-up one and the whole one, skin-side down) and let brown. Chop the onion into rough slices and add to pot with chicken, alongside. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the onions and the chicken. Peel and chop the garlic coarsely. When the chicken is somewhat browned and no longer shows any pink, remove the whole chicken thigh and set it aside; leave the remaining pieces of chicken in the pot. Add the garlic to the onions and stir and fry briefly. Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to low and let the chicken, onions and garlic steam for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Peel your carrots and slice them into half-inch chunks. (If using celery, cut into quarter-inch rings.) Slice the grape tomatoes in half (using this genius method). Cut the avocado into cubes (as at left) and set in your serving bowls. Check on your chicken in the pot–when the onions are soft, and the chicken has given off a little liquid, add the chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir the mixture together. Turn the heat up to medium-low and toss in the carrots. Also remove the skin from the whole chicken thigh and return the meat to the pot. Set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tiny drizzle of oil. Add the dry pasta, stirring well to coat each piece with oil. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is toasted and brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Immediately remove the pasta to a small bowl, to keep it from browning further in the pan. Make the chipotle pesto: Chop the chiles fine (scrape seeds out if you want less heat), along with the garlic and cashews. Add a generous squeeze of lime and extra adobo from the chipotle can to make a loose paste. Also rinse the cilantro and pick the leaves off the stems. After the carrots have been in the soup for about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and the pasta. Let simmer until the pasta is al dente and the carrots are soft. Remove the thigh bone and the whole chicken thigh from the soup and let cool briefly; remove the meat and return it to the soup. Just before serving, heat up your tortillas: fry them briefly in a dry skillet (or the one you did the pasta in, with the extra oil wiped out), until they have a few brown spots and puff up (flour ones do this more). To serve the soup, ladle it over the avocado pieces. Top with a small dollop of the chipotle pesto, and a small handful of cilantro. Add another spritz of lime and enjoy with hot tortillas on the side. (They’re also good with honey for dessert…) Whole Baked Sweet Potatoes This is a cinch. The only trick is remembering to put the sweet potatoes in the oven very first thing when you start cooking, so they have time to finish while you do the rest of the meal. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse your sweet potato(es), scraping off any obvious chunks of dirt, but don’t sweat it too much. Poke each sweet potato 5 or 6 times with a fork. Stick ’em in the oven (optionally on foil or a tray, so the sweet drippings don’t drop and burn). Let bake for 35-40 minutes, until they’re nice and soft. Slice open and eat like a regular baked potato, with a dab of butter, and maybe some salt and pepper. Reminder: a lot of my cooking advice is also available in How to Throw a Dinner Party Without Having a Nervous Breakdown, my cookbook with Tamara Reynolds. Available where all fine ebooks are sold.
12 Nov 2019
RERUN Episode 25: Butternut-Squash Risotto and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Anchovies and Garlic
This week, we cook a little risotto–it’s not as complicated or as fussy as you think. And it’s a very adaptable dish. On the side, we roast up some wee brussels sprouts and douse them in garlic and anchovies–what’s not to love? Shopping list 1 slice bacon2 or 3 anchovy filets1 small butternut, kabocha or acorn squash1 pint brussels sproutsSage (fresh or dried)2 or 3 cloves garlic1 small onion1/2 cup short-grain riceOlive oilParmesan cheese1/4 cup almonds1 tablespoon butter Butternut-Squash Risotto Learn to make risotto, and you’ve got an immensely versatile dish under your belt–you can throw just about anything in. This combination capitalizes on fall flavors–squash and sage, with a boost of bacon (though that’s optional). The nuts on top (almonds here, but you could use hazelnuts or even pecans) add a little extra protein, as well as essential crunch–it’s the variety of textures that take this from gooey side dish to main-meal material. Serves 2 generously1 small winter squash or pumpkin (see note below)Olive oilSalt1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth1 slice thick-cut bacon1 small onion2 large pinches dried sage (or 10-12 leaves fresh, chopped fine)1/2 cup short-grain rice (see note below)Parmesan1 tablespoon butterLarge handful (1/4 cup or so) almonds Preheat oven to 400. Slice squash into large wedges, scrape out seeds then cut off peel with a sharp knife. Cut squash into small pieces–1/2-inch square or so, though irregular sizes are fine, and even a bonus here, as the smallest ones will get quite soft and blend in with the risotto, and others will stay firmer and whole. Toss the pieces with a drizzle or two of olive oil, just to coat, and lay the pieces out on a baking sheet or (if not too crowded) a heavy skillet. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Place in oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the squash is soft all the way through. Pour broth into a small saucepan and set on a back burner on low heat to warm. Cut bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and set to fry over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan–this is the pan you’ll be making your risotto in. Cut onion into thin slices. When the bacon is half-crispy, add the onions to the pan, along with a pinch of salt, and stir and fry. Add the sage and continue to cook, until the sage is fragrant and the onions are translucent and soft–this can take 5 minutes or so. When the onions are ready, add the rice. Stir and fry until the rice is coated with oil and somewhat translucent. Add a couple of ladlesful of warm stock and stir thoroughly to combine. If you have nothing else to do in the kitchen, continue to stir. (If you do have other tasks, you can leave the risotto unattended until you hear the liquid cooking away.) Continue to stir and add stock, ladleful by ladleful, as the rice absorbs the liquid and a velvety sauce forms around the rice. Depending on your rice, you may or may not use all of the stock–I usually wind up just adding everything I’ve heated up, and it usually turns out fine. When rice is al dente–it still has a bit of firmness to it–and the mixture is fairly loose (it will thicken as it sits), turn off the heat. Grate in a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, and stir in the butter. Put the lid on the pan and let the risotto sit for about 5 minutes. During this time, roughly chop your almonds and toast them in a dry skillet over high heat, just until lightly browned. Remove them from the hot skillet as soon as they’re browned to your liking. Stir the roasted squash into the thickened risotto, squishing up some of the smaller pieces. (How much squash you add depends on your taste–you might have some squash left over.) Place in serving bowls and sprinkle over the toasted almonds, along with a bit more grated Parmesan. Notes:Squash: You can use butternut, kabocha or acorn squash–anything that’s firm, orange and a bit sweet. In the podcast, I use a wedge of calabaza–a kind of pumpkin that’s used in Latin America and the Caribbean. Butternut squash is by far the most common, but it’s hard to find small enough squash so that you won’t be overwhelmed with it when cooking for just a couple of people–but leftover roast squash is not a bad thing to have around. (And please avoid that precut squash! Who knows how many days/weeks it’s been sitting around! Really, it takes very little time to peel and prep a squash.) Rice: Classic risotto recipes call for arborio rice, an Italian grain that’s hard to find and expensive when you do. I have found that Japanese sushi rice works quite well too–it happens to be much easier for me to buy, and it’s significantly cheaper. But any short-grain rice will work reasonably well. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Anchovies and Garlic As I say in the podcast, when in doubt with vegetables, roast them. Brussels sprouts roast up particularly well, getting a nice crunchy outside and sweetening a bit in the process. Even if you think you don’t like brussels sprouts, try them once this way–I think you’ll change your mind. Dousing them in anchovies and garlic (skip the anchovies if you’re veg, obviously–it will still be tasty) makes them incredibly savory, and a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash in the risotto. Serves 21 pint brussels sproutsOlive oilSalt2 or 3 cloves garlic2 or 3 anchovy filets Preheat oven to 400. Trim bottom ends of brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet, then lay out the sprouts, cut side down, rubbing each one in oil. Drizzle a bit of oil over the tops of the sprouts as well, and sprinkle with salt. Roast until the cut sides are nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Set a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour in a glug of olive oil. While it’s warming, chop your garlic cloves fine or squeeze them through a press. When the oil is hot, add the anchovy filets, mashing them with the side of your spoon, so they melt into small pieces. Add the garlic and stir and fry until fragrant. Put the roasted sprouts in a serving bowl, then pour the hot anchovy-garlic mixture over them and toss lightly. Reminder: a lot of my cooking advice is also available in How to Throw a Dinner Party Without Having a Nervous Breakdown, my cookbook with Tamara Reynolds. Available where all fine ebooks are sold.
29 Oct 2019
Quarantine Episode 2: Midnight Meat Sauce for Spaghetti and Crunch Salad
RIP, Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine, where I found this surprisingly delicious and easy pasta sauce recipe 20-plus years ago. Alongside: a very simple carrot-celery-almond salad. And DIY vinaigrette. It all takes a lot longer than it should, but hey, there’s some proper podcast banter at the end. NOT-shopping list ground beef (or any ground meat, really)milk (must be real dairy milk, alas, but you could use a smaller amount of half-and-half, or even a little bit of yogurt or yogurt whey, or some buttermilk…)olive oilgarlicanchovies (filets in oil, salted, or anchovy paste; could also use dried mushrooms if you have that instead; maybe even…miso?!)tomato pastenutmeg (ideally whole, so you can grate fresh)parmesan or other hard grating cheese for pasta (skip it if you have to)spaghetti or any pasta shape, reallycarrotsceleryalmondsfresh herbs, if you have them (dill, parsley, even cilantro)vinegarmustard Midnight Meat Sauce for Spaghetti This is a relatively dry “sauce.” This recipe was published in the Southwest Airlines inflight magazine (which recently shuttered — RIP!) in the late 1990s or early 2000s. I clipped it out and stuck it in my recipe scrapbook, and it has been my go-to way of transforming just a smidge of ground meat into a really rich-tasting pasta topping. And it all takes only about 20 minutes to prepare (never mind the slow timing in the podcast). The recipe here is double the quantity of the published recipe. 3-4 servings1/2 pound ground beef (or other meat; suggestions in audio)2 cups milk4 cloves garlic2-4 anchovy filetsOlive oil3-4 tablespoons tomato pasteNutmeg for gratingParmesan or other hard cheese for garnish1/2 lb. spaghetti Combine the meat and milk in a bowl and use a fork to break the meat up into smaller pieces. Let this soak while you get the rest of the ingredients (and any other part of your dinner) ready. The longer it soaks, the better the texture. Half an hour will do the trick, though. Put on your pasta water, well salted, to boil. Finely chop the garlic, and if you’re using salt-packed anchovies, filet them. (If you’re using dried mushrooms as a substitute umami flavor, set some in a small bowl and pour over boiling water. Let soak about 15-20 minutes, then pick out and dice very fine. You can use some of the soaking water in the sauce too, but be careful to not pour in grit from bottom of bowl.) In a shallow nonreactive (stainless steel) saucepan, heat a generous glug of olive oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and stir and fry briefly, then add anchovies. Turn eat to low and let simmer until anchovies dissolve — you can help break them up with the back of a spoon. Add tomato paste and raise heat to medium. Stir and fry for a minute, just to cook off a little excess liquid and any raw taste — the olive oil should be bubbling through. Add the meat and milk, and turn heat up and stir well, breaking up any big lumps with a spoon. After it’s bubbling well, turn down to a simmer. Let cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. In the end, the meat should be very fine-grained, and much of the liquid cooked away. Serve over al dente pasta (for timing, most spaghetti takes ~10 minutes). Grate over fresh nutmeg, or stir in a pinch of ground nutmeg. Grate cheese. Serve immediately. Crunch Salad Chunks should be small enough to make a nice mixed bite of all ingredients. This is a satisfying salad to make with stuff that usually hangs out in your bottom fridge drawers for weeks. In the audio, I mention that cilantro is a good option, and if you take it, it’s nice to add a pinch of cumin to the dressing. It’s also totally fine without any herbs at all. For each person1 medium carrot1 rib celerySmall handful almondsFresh herbs (dill, parsley, cilantro)Vinaigrette (scroll down the page) Wash and peel carrot; rough-chop or dice in small pieces. (You want every bite to have some of everything, so chop accordingly.) Chop celery in roughly the same size. Rough chop almonds and toast in a dry pan over med-high heat until fragrant, with some brown spots. Add to celery and carrots. Rough chop herbs, if using, and add to salad, then dress with vinaigrette.
4 Apr 2020
Quarantine Episode 3: All About Artichokes
A special short episode on the simplest and best way to prepare artichokes, which are in season now. Accidental music credit: Peter Moskos, practicing his autoharp downstairs. NOT-shopping list Globe artichokesSaltVinegarButterMayonnaiseGarlicLemon juice Simplest and Best Boiled ArtichokesSorry, stock photo because I already ate our own artichokes!The only secret here is salt. Heavily salted water is what brings out the distinctive tongue-numbing effect of artichokes. So set a big pot of water on to boil; add even more salt than if you were boiling pasta — like several tablespoons. While the water is heating, trim the artichokes. Optionally, prepare a bowl of cold water with a couple of glugs of vinegar, or a good squeeze of lemon juice. Storing the cut artichokes in this acidulated water will help keep the cut surfaces from turning black. With a heavy knife, cut off the top inch or so of each artichoke. Then with scissors, trim the pointy thorn ends off the remaining outer leaves that are below where you made the cut. Trim any tiny leaves off the stalk, and then cut just the smallest bit off the end of the stalk, just to cut away whatever is dry or brown (the stalk is delicious; you don’t want to waste it). Optionally then slice the artichokes in half vertically — this gives you more flexibility on portions, and it’s also easier to check when the artichokes are done cooking. If you’re doing this, though, you definitely want to dunk them in acidulated water. Put them in the boiling water cut side down if sliced in half; if they’re whole, you can put a small plate in on top to keep them submerged. Boil for about 10 minutes, and then start checking for doneness. If still whole, you can try pulling off a leaf — if it comes easily, it’s done. Or you can poke a knife in to the heart, at the base of the stalk. If it slides in easily, it’s done. If you’ve cut your artichokes vertically, you can poke into the heart directly. You can also see the color of the heart change, from light to dark. If in doubt, err on the side of cooking more, as not-quite-done leaves are a chore to nibble the ends off. While the artichokes are boiling, melt some butter. About 2 tablespoons for person/artichoke is plenty. You can also make some garlic mayo. It’s nice to squeeze a clove of garlic into about a tablespoon of lemon juice and let that sit, to take the burning edge off the garlic, then mix that in with a good-size dollop of mayonnaise. This makes it a bit more of a runny sauce, rather than straight globby mayo (although some people like that just as well!). For truly pedantic instructions on how to eat the damn things, you’ll have to listen!
12 Apr 2020
Most Popular Podcasts
Quarantine Episode 1: Fennel Rice and Semi-South Indian Dal, with Cucumber Raita and Cabbage Salad
By popular demand, Cooking in Real Time is back after nearly 11 years, with a pretty long and rambling session of cooking basic rice and legumes, with plenty of shortcuts and substitutions from limited pantries. NOT-shopping list rice, ideally basmati, but whatever you haveone big onion, or one small one, or whatever you havegarlicfresh ginger (dry ground ginger is OK in a pinch)ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oilwhole spices: black pepper, fennel, cumin, black mustard seeds, or…yeah, whatever you haveground turmericground cuminhing (asafetida), of course only if you happen to have itcurry leaves (if you just happen to have them)yellow split peas, lentils, beans, etc, etcplain yogurtcucumber (or some veg you can eat raw)tomato, fresh or cannedgrated coconut (if you have it)spinach, frozen or fresh, if you likefresh cabbagelime or lemon Simple Indian-spiced buttery rice pilaf Not a model pilaf — so clumpy! But tasty. In the recording, I lament the fact that I don’t have any basmati rice, so I’m using Japanese short grain rice. That pretty much sets the tone of use whatever you have. The idea here is just to cook rice that has some nice spice and onion flavor. I use fennel and black pepper for the spices, but you could sub in a stick of cinnamon and a couple of cloves along with the pepper. If you don’t have whole spices, you can use ground, but don’t let the fry in the oil for more than a couple of seconds. 3-4 servings1 cup rice1 small onion or half a large one2-3 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil1 Tbsp each whole black peppercorn and fennel seedsSalt Rinse rice and let it soak while you slice the onion — long vertical slices is fine, but half-rings is more “Indian” looking. Rinse the rice again and let it drain. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt the ghee or add the vegetable oil. The bottom of the pot should have a decent layer. When the fat is hot (look for a little shimmer), throw in the whole spices and stir for a few seconds, just until you can smell them. Add the onion and turn the heat down a bit; add salt. Stir and cook until the onions have mostly softened (no need for color). Add the rice and stir and fry until the grains are well coated with oil/ghee. In an ideal world, with basmati, each translucent grain would start to turn a little opaque. You may want to turn the heat up a little for this, to cook away the water stuck on the rice grains. Add water in proportion to the kind of rice you’re using (1 1/4 cups is usually good for basmati; short-grain takes about 1 1/2 cups; brown rice can take up to 2 cups). Cover and turn heat to simmer and cook till tender. When the water has cooked away, turn off heat and place a clean dish towel over the top of the pot, fixing it in place with the lid. This absorbs any extra steam that would make the rice gummy. South Indian Yellow Split Peas with Tomato and Coconut Great, inspiring book! Highly recommend. This recipe is sort of from Chitra Agrawal’s Vibrant India book. I follow her basic technique and cut away some of the ingredients and sub some others. You can really use any legume (bigger beans, brown lentils, pink lentils, etc), adjusting cooking time accordingly. (Note of course that bigger beans will need to be presoaked, or pressure-cooked, which takes more time/planning.) The add-ins are up to you and whatever you have. The building blocks are simply beans+ginger+spices, with everything else according to your preferences/pantry stock. If you want to use canned beans, that’s also possible. In this case, add the ginger and turmeric (and possibly curry leaves) to the spice-onion mix, then gently stir in the beans to heat through. You will need a bit of liquid: vegetable or chicken stock, maybe, or even coconut milk, which is especially silky with the beans. Serves 3-41 cup yellow split peas (toor dal)1-inch knob fresh ginger (or 1 Tbsp dry ginger)2 sprigs fresh curry leaves (totally optional)1 tsp ground turmeric1 small onion (or half a larger one)2 cloves garlic2 Tbsp ghee (or vegetable oil)1 Tbsp each whole cumin seeds and black mustard seedsPinch of hing (asafetida)Salt1/4-1/3 cup grated coconut1 small tomato, or about 1/2 cup canned diced tomato and juices1-1 1/2 cup frozen leaf spinach (or small bunch of fresh spinach) Optional first step: toast the split peas in a dry pan, until they darken slightly and are fragrant. (Agrawal says this is to cut down on their natural stickiness.) Add enough water to the pot to cover the split peas by about an inch (between your first and second finger knuckle, is my usual test). Grate in the ginger — or if you’re nervous about your knuckles, like me, grate some and slice the rest into thin coins. Add the curry leaves and turmeric, and set the heat to medium-low, to simmer until the peas are soft. Slice the onion in half-rings and roughly chop the garlic. Assemble the other ingredients, as you’ll be adding them one after the other. Stirring the spice-onion-coconut mix. In a wide-bottomed pan or skillet, heat the ghee (or oil) and when it is shimmering, add the whole spices and the hing (if you happen to have it!). Stir just until the mustard seeds turn gray, and you can smell the cumin. (You can use ground cumin, if you have only that; it needs just a second in the oil. Be ready to add the onions quickly.) Add the onions and a couple of pinches of salt and lower the heat a little, stirring and frying until the onions start to soften. Add the coconut, if using, and stir until it gets a little toasty, or it’s starting to stick too much, whichever comes first. Then add the tomatoes. You should have a pretty thick mess of flavor! The finished dal, lightly spotted with tomato. When the peas are soft enough, you will probably have a fairly brothy, almost soupy, mix. Squash the peas a bit with the back of a spoon, up against the side of the pot. Then add the spice-onion mix and stir. Finally stir in the spinach, turn the heat to low and cover and let sit just for 3-4 minutes until spinach is defrosted/wilted. Pull out curry leaves (or at least the most obvious ones) before serving. Cucumber-Cumin Raita For 2-3 servings, combine 3 very large spoons of plain yogurt with finely chopped cucumber, a large pinch of salt and a small pinch of ground cumin. Add a generous squeeze of lemon or lime if you have it. You can sub in grated carrots, or even raw beets, or any other vegetable that’s good raw, as long as it’s chopped quite small. Simple Cabbage Salad I can’t believe I never did this in the first series of episodes! Just slice cabbage very thinly, drizzle over olive oil, and, right before serving, squeeze over fresh lemon juice (best) or red-wine vinegar (also decent). Generously salt and pepper. Optional grated carrots. It all tastes so much better than it seems like it should. Thanks and much love and health to everyone! Please send questions/suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear what’s in your pantry and any other cooking quandaries you might have.
28 Mar 2020