Summer Corn Chowder

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Summer is not my favorite season. But without a second house somewhere in the northern climes, I must endure heat and humidity from May through September.

There are a few good things that I do appreciate – tomatoes, basil, and zinnias. Lots of zinnias to add color to my house. They make me happy.
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Although I don’t grow it myself, corn is readily available from local farms, and I’ve really come to appreciate the humble corn on the cob since living in the Midwest.

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Which brings me to this simple corn chowder that I made with extra corn I had on hand.

Corn and Chicken Chowder

1 small chicken
4 cobs of corn
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups, approximately, chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Poach the chicken using basic ingredients, like onion, celery, carrots, and bay leaves. After 1 1/2 hours, remove the chicken from the broth and let cool. If you need a tutorial on poaching chicken, check out chicken poach.
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Strain the broth and cook the corn in it. Remove the corn and let cool.


If you have lots of broth leftover, let it reduce gently on the stove.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion, red bell pepper and celery, and saute for about 5 minutes.
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Stir in the garlic, and after about 30 seconds, add 2 cups of broth, and then the cream. Let the mixture cook over low heat for about 15 minutes.


At that time, remove the meat from the chicken bones, then add it to the soup.
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To add the corn, simply hold the corn cobs on the edge of the pot, and using a small knife, cut parallel to the cobs, cutting the kernels loose.
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Stir the soup well, and add the seasoning. Taste for salt and pepper.
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If you wanted to make a Southwestern soup, you could add cumin, coriander, a little ancho chile paste or green chiles, maybe chorizo, and lots of fresh cilantro. Normally this is what I would have done, since my tastes tend toward a spicier direction.
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I use thyme a lot in fall and winter cooking, and I probably decided to use it in this soup because I’m subconsciously wishing it was cooler outside!
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Oh well, only one more hot month to go. And I still have my zinnias.

note: You could also add cooked potatoes to this soup, or include white beans, even with the chicken. Heartier and healthier!

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Sriracha Gazpacho

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During the years my younger daughter lived in London, I “smuggled” Sriracha sauce in my suitcase for her at every visit. It just wasn’t a product she could find in London. I always double-bagged the 28-ounce plastic bottle with sealable bags. Can you imagine if 28 ounces of hot sauce exploded in your suitcase?!!


On Amazon.com, the 28-ounce bottle of Sriracha can be purchased for $3.74. And imagine how long that bottle will last? Well, everyone except for my daughter who puts it on everything, any time of day. It’s an inexpensive addiction, at least.

My mother recently sent me The Sriracha Cookbook just for fun! The author is Chef Randy Clemens, and his book was published in 2011.

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In the introduction, Chef Clemens tells the lengthy story of the over 30-year history of this now ubiquitous “rooster” sauce. It was originally a Thai product. David Tran, born in Vietnam of Chinese decent, brought it to American after being forcibly moved for political reasons. Once settled in Chinatown in Los Angeles, he started Huy Fong Foods, and in 1983 created Tu’o’ng Ó’t Sriracha. The familiar rooster on the squeeze bottle represents the year of Tran’s birth on the Chinese zodiac.

Being that Sriracha is more of a seasoning than an ingredient, I was a little skeptical about the originality of the cookbook’s recipes. I mean, I think we’ve all squirted some Sriracha into mayo or pho for some zing. But the recipes are overall unique, and definitely embrace spicy foods, which my whole family enjoys – especially my Sriracha addict!

I chose to make a spicy Sriracha Gazpacho from the cookbook.

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Sriracha Gazpacho
from The Sriracha Cookbook

6 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1/2 red onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
3 Persian cucumbers, diced
2 small jalapeños, seeded and minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Sriracha, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, thinly sliced, for garnish
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced diagonally, for garnish.

Puree the tomatoes in a food mill, blender, or food processor. (I used a food mill and didn’t peel and seed the tomatoes first.)

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In a large nonreactive mixing bowl, combine the puree with the onion, yellow and green bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, jalapeños, garlic, parsley, cilantro, Sriracha, lemon juice, and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use, to allow the flavors to marry.

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Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the avocado slices and a squiggle of Sriracha.

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Top with the green onions, and finish it off with a friendly drizzle of olive oil.

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note 1: I made a smaller batch, but I respected the ratio of ingredients.

note 2: I used a regular cucumber, de-seeded.
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note 3: I used lime juice instead of lemon juice.

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note 4: I didn’t use a green bell pepper because I am not fond of them.

verdict: I absolutely loved this gazpacho! Even the next day it was delicious. The whole soup could easily be made in a food processor, but I decided I liked the texture of the bits of vegetables. Next time I wouldn’t change a thing!

Red Pepper Confit

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Confit is a French term for something cooked in fat – the most well known being duck confit, which is duck legs cooked in duck fat. But I’m thinking that the term is used a little more loosely these days, because I’m starting to see more vegetable confits.

One vegetable confit I’ve made is with piquillo peppers, based on a Spanish recipe, so I’m using that as inspiration today to make a red pepper confit with over-the-counter roasted red bell peppers. Piquillo peppers are fabulous, but honestly, I’m not sure I could tell the difference between roasted piquillos and roasted red bell peppers in a blind taste test.

For this confit, I’m not using duck fat, but olive oil. It’s a good way a have a vegetarian option for anyone stopping by around New Year’s.

This confit is an easy recipe, and it stores for quite a while in the refrigerator, assuming there’s any left over. So here’s my recipe, and I must say, it’s pretty darn good and addicting!

Confit of Red Bell Peppers

2 – 16 ounce jars roasted red bell peppers, whole or in pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Few grindings black pepper
Olive oil
Crostini

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees farenheit. Drain the roasted red bell peppers well in a colander, then lay them on paper towels and blot them dry.

Place the peppers in a jar of a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the salt, and blend, but not until it’s smooth – we’re not making baby food. It shouldn’t be chunky, but there should be some texture to the mixture.

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This recipe makes about 6 cups of confit, so choose what size baking dishes to use. I used two smaller heat-proof dishes so I could freeze one while serving the confit in the other. (But I’d personally use only one dish fairly shallow dish if I was expecting extra folks over.)

Place the baking dishes on a jelly-roll baking pan. Pour the red bell pepper mixture into your baking dishes. Divide the sliced garlic between the dishes, and top with a few grindings of black pepper. Then carefully pour olive oil onto the red bell pepper mixture until it covers it by at least 1/4 inch.

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Cover the dishes tightly with foil. Place in the oven and cook for exactly one hour. Turn off the oven and remove the foil, but leave the baking dishes in the oven to cool slightly, for about 30 minutes. Then remove them from the oven to continue cooling.

If you’re having the confit right away, serve warm, with a little serving spoon. If not, let it completely cool, cover again with foil, and refrigerate.

Serve the confit with hearty seedy crackers, pita breads, or crostini, as part of an hors d’oeuvres platter. I served mine as is, but it’s also fabulous paired with cheese – especially a creamy goat cheese.

The confit would also be fabulous in a panini, or processed with white beans for a roasted red bell pepper-flavored white bean dip. So many options!

note: I sprinkled the crostini in the photos with chopped fresh rosemary and it was really good. Next time I might stick a fresh rosemary sprig in with the baking confit…

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