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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

French Onion Soup (revamped repost)



Back when I was on a member of an online dating website (yes that happened and seriously I suggest it to anyone single who wants to meet new people they wouldn't otherwise) I wrote in my profile to answer the prompt "I am good at  ______" that I was good at making french onion soup.  I subsequently got multiple messages from nearby single men asking details about how to make french onion soup. Now I am sure these were just conversation starters,  but it really must show that people out there are interested in this right? And since it is in fact so, so easy to make a decent french onion soup, it seems like this knowledge needs to be shared.

In case you were wondering how to make a basic french onion soup, and perhaps haven't found any girls on dating websites to address the question to, here is a bit of instruction on how I make it.

I actually posted a french onion soup recipe  on this site in October of 2010. I decided it was time to revamp and update that post with new pictures and some slight revisions, as well as to bring it out from the depths of this site's archives.

I made this french onion soup recently, using a similar method to my original with only a few small changes. The ingredients are simple and inexpensive,  and the outcome is pretty good if I do say so myself.

If you are wondering what changes I made since last posting this recipe, they were mostly based on simplifiying and making the original even easier to make, with fewer ingredients to go out and buy. Things like using dried thyme instead of fresh, cutting out the rosemary, and using only red wine instead of both red and white, in place of the traditional sherry. I also increased the amount of garlic, and reduced the amount of bread, which I chose this time to serve on the side.

Next I photographed it in the natural light from a sunny window, and not on an ugly orange placemat. Big changes, guys. But really, this post needed some attention. The single men of Boston want to know how to make french onion soup, and they don't want to see photographs that look like this:





And here's what you need to know to make the recipe:


Simple French Onion Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 large onions, sliced
1 TBS olive oil
2 tsp dried thyme
3-4 cloves of garlic- minced
3 cups beef or chicken broth
3/4 to 1 cup dry red wine
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp worcester sauce

Plus:
4 slices of bread- I used challa, but french bread is classic
1 cup of shredded cheese- Greyere and Parmesean, Swiss, or even Cheddar- whichever is your favorite. I found a Cheddar-Greyere blend at Trader Joes that worked well and was inexpensive


Process:
1.Halve and slice each of your onions. Try not to cry too much. Chew on some bread, it will help.
2. Heat your oil in a large pan. Once hot, add the onions.
3. Heat the onions in a covered pot until they begin to caramelize, stirring occasionally. About 20 minutes.
4. Add garlic and thyme. Cook 5 more minutes.
5. Add wine to deglaze pan, then stock (and water if you need more liquid)
6. Add worcester sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.
7. Simmer and allow the liquid to reduce a bit and get delicious. 
8. The End.

except for this part:

MEANWHILE: 

1.Heat the oven to 400. 
2. On a baking sheet lay out your slices of bread, topped liberally with cheese. 
3.Bake until the cheese is bubbly. 
4.Serve alongside the soup. 



PS- I hereby promise to try really hard to make my next cooking post not be soup related. Sorry.

The First "Before"

While going through some old emails, I stumbled upon the photos I took when first viewing my current apartment. When my roommates and I saw this apartment we knew it was the one for us, but clearly we had an imagination. We saw how great this apartment could be, even if it looked pretty bad at that time.

How bad was it? Well each wall was painted a different pastel color, the floors in the kitchen were ancient peeling linoleum, and every surface was just about as dirty as imaginable. The landlord agreed to put in a new floor in the kitchen before we moved in,  and paint everything back to white. Things did look a lot better when we moved in, but it was still pretty dirty, and needed some cheerful updates.

I thought you guys might want to see a couple of these before shots next to how the rooms look now...
Lots of pictures, so come check them out behind the cut:

livingroom

Friday, February 10, 2012

Put an octopus on it.

I have had an ikea Leksvik dresser (no longer available as far as I can tell) for 6 or 7 years now. It has served me well, and survived multiple moves, having yet to fall apart. The only major scratch on it came from when my boyfriend (at the time) helped me initially assemble it (which was disastrous.) It has nice deep drawers (actually even big enough to store my sewing machine in one), and is actually sort of nice looking. There is really nothing wrong with it.


But it needed something.




So I put an octopus on it.



Ah, much better. 


Octopus decal purchased from this Etsy shop.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

This Time Last Year- February



Only one month until my 2 year blogiversary! I am getting excited. I think I might buy myself some flowers for the occasion. Mmm, or chocolates. Or maybe make myself some chocolates.

Last February was a pretty productive month for me on this blog- I revealed my newly painted blue kitchen, made some brie and puff pastry hors d'oeuvres, fried up some sweet potato chips, made some decadent lemon buttermilk pudding cake, and continued redecorating my painted kitchen with a paper craft project, an etsy find, and some well placed vintage cookbooks.

Curious to read some of those older posts?

You can find them here:

Painted Kitchen Reveal
Sweet Potato Chips
Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake
DIY Paper Bunting Project

And those are just some highlights from the month. If your interested in seeing more of my past projects, you can read the archives on the bar to the right, Select February 2010 to see more of what I was up to one year ago.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tom Kha Gai


Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines. When I go out for Thai food the part of the menu I get most excited about is the soup section. This probably isn't surprising to any of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time...I seem to be a bit obsessed with soup. I once joked that I should officially change my food blog into a soup blog. In fact, a quick search shows me that the word "soup" was mentioned in 17 of my 45 cooking related posts.  17 is the same number of posts in which I mention the word "flour" in the baking section, and actually several more mentions than the word "project" in my home and DIY themed posts, which I often feel ridiculous for overusing. What can I say, I am a lover of soup.

Should I officially convert this into a soup blog, guys? Do you all love soup like I do? Think of all the possibilities...I have never even posted a chilled soup, such as cold cherry soup or gazpacho! And I have never posted a chicken matzo ball soup recipe (what kind of nice jewish girl am I?)  But anyway, back to Thai food, alright?


I can never decide if I prefer Tom Yum Goong, with its spicy-sour broth and decadent shrimp, or Tom Kha Gai with its lively coconut milk, cilantro and lime combination.   I have made Tom Kha Gai at home several times, and have yet to attempt Tom Yum...maybe soon! I think I would rather not choose a favorite. I will just settle to like them both equally. 

If you, like me, dig Tom Kha, and its aromatic coconuty broth, I think you'll be happy to know that making it at home is really quite easy. I had success finding most of the ingredients I needed by going to a big asian supermarket near my house, Super 88 (psst...click that link to read an old post I wrote about Super 88 and omelets...it also includes a funny Japanese commercial), but in my search for recipes I also discovered a lot of helpful substitutions which may come in handy if you don't live around the corner from a mammoth Asian specialty grocery store.

Here are some of the ingredients I used:

fresh cilantro, scallions, lemongrass, thai peppers, galangal, coconut milk and lime

I also used: chicken broth, chicken breast, sliced white mushrooms, fish sauce, a bit of brown sugar, and some thai curry paste. They didn't make it into the picture.

If you are worried you won't find thai specialty ingredients, I urge you to be optimistic! Check your local grocery store in the international section. My local Stop&Shop carries thai curry paste (which can be used in place of the thai peppers), coconut milk, fish sauce, and a whole slew of other basic thai ingredients. I have found lemongrass at whole foods in the past, and occasionally thai peppers, too. In the past I have had trouble finding galangal (though I got lucky this time) an aromatic root similar to ginger, but more floral. I have substituted ginger in its place on two occasions, and though it may not be the most authentic, it still came out delicious. So never fear, substitutions can be made. 

I have unfortunately never been successful in finding Kefer lime leaves, so  I end up leaving them out, and including a little bit more lime juice than the recipes I have found call for. Believe me, it still turns out delicious. 

Because when I make soup I don't usually stick to a recipe but rather a guideline, here is the basic process I followed. Taste as you go, and alter things as needed...don't be afraid to experiment a bit!


Ingredients:

2 cans of coconut milk
thinly sliced chicken breast
juice of 1 or 2 limes (at least 3 TBS)
fresh cilantro
lemon grass, (just the bottoms, bruised)
galangal, roughly chopped
thai chili peppers
chicken broth
scallions
white mushrooms, sliced
fish sauce (roughly 2 tablespoons)

Process:

  • Start with the aromatics- Chop up some galangal (I used about an inch by inch piece, chopped roughly) and put it in the bottom of your soup pot over medium heat with a bit of oil. Add a few pieces of lemongrass, bruised to bring out the flavor, and chop a couple of thai peppers, removing most of the seeds and ribs, or throwing them in whole, depending on the level of spiciness you desire. Add a little bit of chopped cilantro, too. 

  • Cook until fragrant, adding the chicken broth, one can of coconut milk and fish sauce at this time. Give the liquid some time to simmer, and then strain the broth to remove the aromatics. 

  • Next add the remaining coconut milk and mushrooms. 

  • In a saute pan, lightly cook the chicken in thin strips, then add to the soup.

  • Remove the soup from the heat, add the lime juice, taste and add brown sugar, more chili peppers or curry paste if desired. 

  • Serve hot, garnished with plenty of sliced scallions and chopped fresh cilantro, and some thai peppers for color and extra spice. 


Have you made Thai food at home before? Have you experimented with cooking a new cuisine lately, or tried to figure out what to substitute for ingredients that are hard to come by in your region? Are you obsessed with soup? What is your favorite thing to order at a Thai restaurant? Let me know in the comments, maybe I will try to make your favorite dish next!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Egyptian Lentil Soup


Lentil soup will heal you. It will make you whole. And fix all your problems. And find you lasting love. And lower your cholesterol.  Ok, only the last statement has been scientifically tested, to my knowledge. Well, and to be even more fair, I should mention that I made this soup a couple of weeks ago, and it has yet to find me lasting love. But it totally fixed all my other problems. And it was delicious.

I went to the grocery store hoping to find brown lentils to make a lentil soup recipe by Martha Stewart, to tack on to the end of "Martha Stewart week" (a theme I may have to revisit...I didn't even do any paper crafts, or creatively set a dinner table!) Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!) the grocery store was out of both brown and green lentils, and only had red. Now anyone who is worth their salt in lentil-knowledge (does this sentence make anyone else chuckle a bit...I did while writing it, but that's probably just me) knows that brown and green lentils each keep their shape much more while cooking, while red lentils tend to be...fall apart-ish or mushy. So a soup like the one I had picked, which intended the lentils to hold up, would not be a great choice for substituting red lentils. That being said, even though mushy, red lentils are particularly delicious- just think of your favorite lentil heavy Indian dish.

So I got home intending to find a recipe for a soup using red lentils, and most of the other ingredients I had brought home with me. This is best part, guys. I got home to find my most recent Food & Wine Magazine open on the kitchen table. I hadn't read it yet, so one of my roommates must have been looking at it there. The page it was open to? Egyptian Red Lentil Soup. Seriously. It was a sign from somewhere. And besides the ingredients I had already picked out, the only other things it called for were things I had on hand, like lemon and plain yogurt, and certain spices. Meant to be.

So I made this soup. And I ate it. And it healed me.


Egyptian Lentil Soup
From Food & Wine Magazine February 2012


Special Equipment: A large soup pot (I used my beloved Mario Batali dutch oven, which is currently on sale, FYI), an immersion blender (though if you only have a standing blender you could blend this in batches*)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 pound tomatoes, seeded and diced  (I used a can of diced tomatoes. It worked out great)
  •  2 cups red lentils (14 ounces)
  •  Plain yogurt, lemon wedges and warm pita, for serving 

1. Start your cooking process by preparing a mirepoix-  heat the butter in the bottom of your pan, add the chopped onions and cook for a few minutes, then add chopped carrots and celery, and lastly garlic. Cook until both onions and celery become translucent and somewhat soft. About 5 minutes.
 2. Add the spices to the pot, and heat until fragrant
 3. Add the tomatoes to the pan
 4. Add the lentils and the water
 5. Simmer for 30 minutes or more, until the lentils become very soft. 
 6. Removing from heat, use your immersion blender* to blend the soup until smooth
 7. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and a squeeze of lemon

 

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