Monday, November 16, 2009

Cupboard Soup: Chicken, Green Chile, Tortilla Soup

A Cupboard Soup comes together on one of those days when I ask myself, "what do I have in the cupboard that could make a meal because I've already been to the grocery store 4 times this week?" This is one of my best successes so I thought it would be a good example of how to throw something together. I always keep onions, garlic, and my good old concentrated stock stock around. You also need something for flavor (herbs, tomatoes, salsa, chilies, sausage, leftover side dishes that won't turn into mush) and something for bulk (beans, lentils, split peas, potatoes, canned or fresh veggies). I also like a protein (if that isn't where my main flavor is coming in) and I usually have that in my freezer from some budget-breaking trip to Costco. Follow the method below and you can change the ingredients around a million ways. I didn't have anything for bulk except tortillas so this turned out a little thin (I'm really more of a stew person than a soup person), but so good. It could have used maybe corn or potatoes or black beans.

Chicken, Green Chili, Tortilla Soup
serves 6
printable version
instructables version

2 chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8 c stock
1 7oz. can of green salsa
2 4oz. cans diced green chiles
8 corn tortillas, cut into strips
1/2 bunch cilantro (more if you want garnish)
juice of 2 limes
1.5 T cumin
1 T oregano
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cayenne
sour cream for garnish

  • Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts, then sprinkle one side with salt & pepper. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a  soup pot (or saute pan if you're going to use a slow cooker) on medium-high heat. Place the salted side of the chicken down in the pan. Now sprinkle the other side with S&P. Brown both sides well, but don't worry about cooking them through. This searing step is optional, but it adds flavor.
  • Remove the chicken (either set it aside or put it in the slow cooker). In the same pan, saute the onions until the edges are starting to brown , then throw in the garlic and saute until it starts to brown also. You  might have to add a little more oil.
  • Toast the cumin by sprinkling it over the onions and garlic and stirring it for a few minutes.
  • Pour a few cups of stock into the pan and scrape all the good browned bits off the bottom.
  • Add everything except the sour cream and half of the tortillas to the soup pot or slow cooker. This soup is best if you put it on early and let it simmer for a couple of hours (I put it on high in the slow cooker while I'm at work all day).
  • When you're almost ready to eat, take the chicken out of the pot and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I like to give it a quick blend with my hand-blender before adding the chicken back in, but that's optional.
  • For a great garnish, spread the remaining 4 tortillas (cut into strips) on a cookie sheet. Drizzle the strips with oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Give them a quick toss to coat everything and pop these in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350, or until they're brown.
  • Serve with the toasted tortilla strips and a generous dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lemon Lentils

Over ten years ago my mom and I watched Ishmail Merchant make this on the old (better) Martha Stewart TV show. His recipe is a little complicated for lentils, so I simplified it. This is the BEST lentil soup or side dish I know how to make. I freeze this for lunches later, but it's very important to remove the lemon halves (and the cinnamon sticks, while you're at it) after it has cooked or else they can make all the leftovers bitter. We learned that the hard way.

Lemon Lentils
serves 4 to 6
printable version
instructables version

4 cups red lentils (Masoor Dal) picked over for stones
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 onion sliced and 1/2 an onion diced
4 bay leaves
4 3inch cinnamon sticks
1 diced garlic clove
1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger
1 tps. cayenne pepper
1 lemon - squeeze out the juice, but save the halves
8 to 10 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock
maybe salt depending on your stock (don't add it until the end because most stock is really salty)

  • Saute the onions in the oil until the edges brown. Add the garlic and saute until it just starts to brown. 
  • Add the ginger, bay, cinnamon, and cayenne and saute for a minute or two to toast the cayenne and get everything hot. 
  • Add the lentils, stock, lemon juice, and squeezed lemon halves. Simmer this for about 45 minutes. You have to stir it sort of frequently so that the lentils don't stick to the pot.  
  • I often have to add 2 more cups of stock because I like it like a soup. If you want it to be a side dish you just have to stir it more frequently at the end to avoid adding the extra water.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chai (not for dinner)

I can't quite decide how to tag things that aren't for dinner. Lately, as I've been a little bored with our meals and frustrated with the cookbook, I haven't been as inspired to post dinners, but we're still having fun in the kitchen. Like this Chai that I make for us on the weekends - it's so simple, but so wonderfully warming on these dreary days. I keep the extra in the fridge and microwave it for my morning tea the next day. Buying the spices in bulk, and using tea that's not as nice as what I drink just plain, keeps this really inexpensive. Thanks to Elise for introducing me to the recipe (which is adapted from this Gourmet, I think).

Homemade Chai
fills two16oz mugs
Instructable version

3 scoops/teabags black tea (Darjeeling, English Breakfast, etc...)
1 inch fresh ginger, cut into rounds
1 cinnamon stick
2 t black pepper corns
10 or so whole cloves
5 cardamon pods
3 cups water
1 cup milk/soy (I use whole milk)
1/4 c brown sugar

  • Put all of the spices in a sealable plastic bag and bruise them well by pounding with a rolling pin or hammer. Don't go crazy, though, you're bruising not destroying.
  • Add the spices to the water in a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. It helps to partially cover so you lose less liquid, but that's optional.
  • Add the tea and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the tea and how strong you like it.
  • Strain the Chai into a bowl and then add the liquid back to the pot (I usually have to give it a rinse to get out all the bits).
  • Add the milk and sugar and bring back up to hot.
  • Serve with cookies on a rainy day.
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