Lentil Soup with Yams

January 13, 2011

Good food is very important to me.  It’s not that I’m a picky eater, it is more that there are just soooo many foods I love to eat!  I have to admit though, sometimes I find it a challenge to fit in creative, inspired dishes especially during the busy week.  Did I mention I have two young kids?  That I work full-time?  So, I depend on a weekly meal plan.

At the end of each week, I dedicate a bit of time to write out dinner ideas for the following week.  There is a general formula I follow: 1 soup meal, 1 stir-fry meal, 1 salad meal, and pizza on Fridays.  The other meals are up to my whim.  Once I have the meals planned out, it is easy to construct my shopping list and take care of all the food shopping for the week in one trip out.  It is a relief to return home after a long day at work and know that I have a plan for dinner and all the ingredients required.

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Mexican Pozole Rojo

December 30, 2010

Pozole Rojo from My Pantry ShelfFollowing the excesses of the holidays, my family and I generally run for the hills.  Nestled in the rain drenched Santa Cruz Mountains, we seek the calm and quiet that comes with solitude.  We explore, rest, and reconnect as a family.  We also nourish ourselves with simple foods.

The last few years, we have spent the first day of our vacation brewing up a rich pot of pozole.  This traditional Mexican soup has largely been overlooked by the American mainstream.  While burritos, tacos, and enchiladas enjoy widespread name recognition, pozole continues to be a bit of a mystery to many people outside the folds of a Mexican family.  It deserves to be discovered!  Like most great soups, it is composed of the simplest of ingredients that transform into a richly flavored, satisfying supper.

This is an all day soup, but do not let that discourage you!  Just because this soup cooks all day does not mean that you are cooking all day.  Plus, a pot simmering on the stove gives us a fabulous excuse to stay in on these cold winter days and spend the day in our slippers.  The soup begins with a pork shoulder rubbed in Chile powder, salt, and pepper, then slowly braised until the meat is falling from the bone.  The chunks of pork are added to a base of sauteed onion and garlic, dried chiles, and chicken broth.  These ingredients are simmered together with tomatoes and hominy for as long as you can spare.  Upon serving, the soup is topped with shredded cabbage, cilantro, serrano peppers, and minced onion.  The combination of hot soup studded with chunks of pork and hominy,  cold raw crunchy veggies, and tangy fresh lime juice squeezed over the top has won over my family.  My little man gave it “100 thumbs up!”

Mexican Pozole Rojo

adapted from Michele Anna Jordan

makes 10 servings

the Rub

3-4 pounds pork shoulder or butt

2 tablespoons salt, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons Chile powder

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels.  Mix together the salt, pepper, and Chile powder.  Rub all over the meat.  Place roast in a covered oven-safe dish, add 1 1/2 cups of water and bake for 4-5 hours until meat is very tender.  Remove from oven, set meat aside.  Allow liquid in pot to cool, then skim fat from the top.  Reserve remaining liquid for the soup.

the Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Black pepper, freshly ground

2-3 dried chiles, preferably ancho/ pasilla, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.

6 cups chicken stock or broth

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 28-ounce cans hominy, drained

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Saute onions, stirring frequently, until translucent and fragrant, but not brown.  Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes.  Add oregano, broth, tomatoes, and hominy.  Once the chiles have been soaked and are pliable, tear them open and discard the stem and seeds.  Using the back of a knife, scrape the inner flesh of the chile and add to the soup.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer partially covered for 45 minutes or so.

When pork is tender, chop into chunks of desired size.  Add meat and reserved braising liquid to the soup.  Simmer another 30 minutes or more if you have the time.  Season again with salt and pepper.

the garnish

2 limes cut in wedges

2 cups green cabbage, thinly shredded

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup minced white onion

2 serrano peppers, thinly sliced

Corn tortillas- hot

Serve hot soup in individual bowls.  Create a garnish platter for each individual to top their soup to their liking.  Hot tortillas can be dipped in the soup or used to roll up the pork and hominy into mini tacos.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Mexican Pozole Rojo

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Vietnamese Hue Noodle Soup

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There comes a point at the end of every summer, when I yearn for the days to shorten and the nights to cool.  Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, but there is something so comforting about layering on sweaters,  hats, and eating SOUP!  Now that we are a few months into frigid and rainy weather (ignore the minor fact that it is clear and 60 degrees here today), we must break out the big guns: a rich bowl of Split Pea Soup!

This soup starts with a stock made from ham hocks and the old standby of onion, carrot, and celery.  Once that cooks down for a few hours, you’ll have a flavorful base for the other simple ingredients.    No time to make stock?  Your soup will turn out great with water too! Just add the ham hocks to the soup with the water and peas.  Looking for a vegetarian soup?  Leave out the ham.  You can use yellow or green split peas,  either will taste fabulous.  If you want to really make this meal memorable, be sure to bake the Beer Bread.  This recipe comes from Sunset (via my mother).  The bread is hearty, with a chewy bite and the perfect amount of tang from the beer.  Both the soup and the bread freeze well.  I find it best to freeze a family dinner portion of the soup and a loaf of bread for a busy weeknight down the road.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

serves 12

(enough for 2 dinners- one for now and one to freeze)

the Stock

2 ham hocks

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 2 inch lengths

1 stick celery, chopped into 2 inch lengths

Combine the above ingredients in a large pot.  Add enough water to cover by 2 inches.  Simmer for 3 hours partially covered.  Add one teaspoon of salt after 1 hour.  Strain out and discard the veggies.  Reserve the stock and degrease.  Reserve the ham hocks.  Pull meat from the bone and chop into bite sized pieces.

*This can be make ahead.  Just refrigerate the stock for up to one week or freeze for later use.

the Soup

2 Tablespoons of butter

1 1/2 cup diced onion

1 1/2 cup peeled and diced carrot

1 1/2 cup diced celery

Meat from two ham hocks, diced

3 cups split peas

3 quarts ham stock, water, or combination of the two

2 bay leaves

Melt butter in a large stock pot.  Saute onion, carrot, and celery until softened, but not browned.  Add reserved ham (or whole hocks if you skipped the stock step), peas, bay leaves, and stock or water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and partially cover pot.  Cook until peas are soft and meat and veggies are tender.  (Remove hocks and pull meat from the bone if not already done.  Dice meat and return ham to soup.)  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm with Beer Bread (recipe follows) and salad.  Feel free to make this soup a day ahead.  Refrigerate until cool, then cover.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Split Pea Soup with Ham

Beer Bread

Adapted from Sunset Magazine (via Mom)

makes 2 loaves

the Beer Mixture

2 cups flat beer

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 Tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup dark molasses

Pour beer into a small saucepan.  Heat to steaming and remove from heat.  Stir in next 4 ingredients.  Set aside to cool.

the Yeast Mixture

1/2 cup warm water

4 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (2 packages)

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine, stir, and let stand 10 minutes.

the Dry Ingredients

1/2 cup each wheat germ and wheat bran

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

Combine cooled beer mixture and yeast mixture in bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl.  Add wheat germ, wheat bran, and whole wheat flour.  Mix until fully incorporated.  Add unbleached flour, one cup at a time, kneading to incorporate fully before adding more.  Stop after 2 cups and test the dough.  It should be moist but not  sticky.  If it is still sticky, add flour cautiously, 1/2 cup at a time.   Avoid adding too much flour, it can become very heavy and tough.  Knead dough for 10 minutes by hand or in mixer (less time- 5 minutes or so) until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Place dough ball in an oiled bowl.  Cover and allow to rise 1 hour.

Punch down and let rise 45 minutes.  Sprinkle 2 greased cooking sheet with cornmeal.  Punch down dough, divide in half and form 2 8-inch rounds.  Place on cornmeal-topped pans.  Cover and let rise 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.    Brush top with egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water (for a nice shiny crust).  Use a sharp knife to cut a # shape on the top of the loaves.

Bake for 40 minutes until bread is browned and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.  Place on a cooling rack to cool.  Serve with butter, Split Pea Soup, and salad.  Yum!

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Beer Bread

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