Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fresh Fennel Soup

Fresh Fennel Soup

Fresh fennel bulb (Foeniculum vulgare) is a taste treat raw or cooked; it is wonderful raw sliced along with other veggies on the crudites platter or in salads like Lemony Rice Salad and Carpaccio. It cooks to a lovely succulence and adds its delicate but definite taste to any dish you add it to; Risotto and Autumn Gratin benefit from the fabulous fresh fennel touch.

Here is a fresh and simple soup that is very quick to prepare; although very light, it is quite tasty and richly flavorful. It is an adaptation of Art Smith's recipe. I add the fennel broth for a more pronounced, sweet fennel flavor; you may substitute fresh water or vegetable broth instead.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
2 cups fresh Water
1 Leek or small onion, chopped
1 rib Celery with leaves, chopped
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch Asafetida
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 Pinch Ground Red Pepper (cayenne)
1 large bulb Fresh Fennel, chopped
3-4 Ripe Roma Tomatoes, chopped
Sea Salt and Freshly ground Black Pepper
3-4 Tbsp Fennel Fronds
3-4 Tbsp Fresh Basil
3-4 Tbsp Fresh Parsley
2 Tbsp Plain Yogurt, Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream for garnish (optional)
Feathery Fennel leaf fronds, for garnish

Method:

Combine fennel seeds, peppercorns, and a pinch of salt with the water in a pan; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. You may add clean trimmings from the celery, onion, and fennel to it while simmering to add more flavor.

Strain the fennel broth and discard the solids; reserve the broth for the soup.

Heat a soup pot with the oil and add the leek/onions and celery with the red pepper, a pinch of salt, turmeric, and asafetida. Stir and cook until veggies soften. Add a sprinkle of water as needed to keep the veggies from burning.

Add the chopped fennel bulb and stir-cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, broth, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or the veggies are tender.

Remove soup from heat and stir in the herbs and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a regular blender; I prefer to leave it a bit chunky. Add a little hot water or broth to thin the soup if you like.

Serve hot garnished with the yogurt/creme/sour cream and a fennel frond or two. Enjoy!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mess of Greens Soup

Mess of Greens Soup

"Mess of greens" conjures a large pot of luscious leafy veggies cooked to perfection Southern style - Yum :D. I had a large bag of "Southern Greens" (a mix of collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach, etc) and wanted to make soup for a chilly day. The greens cooked up luxuriously succulent and we had a hearty and delicious Mess of Greens Soup!

Oh, to add to the southern-ness, I added smoked paprika for its er, smokiness :) and a couple of sweet potatoes too; the sweetness of the potatoes perfectly complemented the strong greens without making it sweet. I also put in some freshly cooked red kidney beans. The result was really a nice balance between the greens and sweet potatoes with the beans adding to the heartiness. Mess of Greens Soup is a meal in a bowl - with all the veggies :) and protein-rich beans, you really don't need anything else.

You can use a pound of any greens in any combination you like. And a word about the "tough" stems and ribs - I don't discard them (except for the really - well tough ends) but chop them and add to the soup first so they can soften a bit before the leaves are added.

Since it was an impulse soup, I did not obviously soak the kidney beans but just cooked them in the pressure cooker for almost twice as long as the soaked and they were lovely.

6-8 Servings

Ingredients:

1 cup Red Kidney Beans
1 Dry Red Chile
1 Tbsp Oil
1 pinch Red Pepper flakes (cayenne)
1 pinch Asafetida
1 Red Onion, finely chopped
1 Carrot, finely cubed
1 small Red Bell Pepper, finely cubed
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced (optional)
1-2 pinch Sea Salt
1-2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 medium Russet Potato, diced small
1 lb Southern style greens, finely chopped
1 lb Sweet Potatoes, diced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
1 cup Parsley, minced
1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Fresh Limes, to serve (optional)

Method:

Sort the beans for debris, wash well, and soak overnight if you wish. Cook in fresh water to cover them with the dry chile until soft but not mushy; they should retain their shapes. Discard the chile.

Heat the oil in a large pot with the red pepper flakes and asafetida for a few seconds; add the onions, carrots, and bell pepper with a couple of pinches of salt. Cook stirring until onions are soft and beginning to turn golden.

Stir in the paprika (and garlic if using) and cook for about 10 seconds.

Add the turmeric, greens, and the russet potato and stir to coat well.

Pour in about 4 cups of vegetable broth or fresh water and bring to a boil.

Add the salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and simmer covered for about 20 minutes.

Tip the beans with their cooking liquid along with sweet potato and tomatoes into the soup.

Add boiling water to the soup if it is too thick.

Raise the heat so the soup comes to a boil; then reduce heat so the soup is simmering gently; cook for 25 - 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Sprinkle the parsley and mix well. Let the soup rest covered for about 15 minutes.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of the fresh cilantro and pass the lime wedges if desired. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Paruppu Pradhaman (Sweet Dal Dessert)

Paruppu Pradhaman or Dal Dessert, a delicious soupy pudding, is one of the traditional payasams made for special occasions and feasts. Skinless, split yellow Chana or Mung dal are the dals of choice to make this payasam resulting in Kadala Paruppu (chana dal) or Pasi Paruppu (mung dal) Pradhaman respectively. Coconut milk, toasted coconut and cashews contribute to the rich and fabulous flavors of this delightful treat aromatic with cardamom and saffron.

Break up the cashews into small pieces about the size of the raisins - this is quite easy as cashews are soft and are easily broken with your fingers. The coconut should be cut about the size of baby teeth :D or 1/2 as big as corn kernels. Either dark or golden raisins may be used.

6-8 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup skinless split Mung or Chana dal, sorted
1 pinch Sea Salt
2 cups Jaggery or Brown Sugar
2 cups fresh or canned coconut milk (1 can)
1 tiny pinch Saffron (optional)
5 pods Cardamoms
1 Tbsp Ghee
2 Tbsp raw Cashew Pieces
2 Tbsp fresh Coconut pieces (about half the size of cut corn kernels)
2 Tbsp Raisins (optional)

Method:

1. Toast the dal in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly golden. Alternately roast the dal in the oven; for instructions, click here. Let cool.

2. Wash the dal and cook in water to just cover until quite soft but not mushy with the salt.

3. Bring jaggery and 1/4 cup of water to a boil in a small pan; simmer gently until jaggery dissolves completely. Strain if necessary to remove any impurities and add to the cooked dal. If using brown sugar, just stir into the dal and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Add the coconut milk and heat gently until heated through. When hot, remove from heat.

5. Grind together the seeds from the cardamom pods and the saffron with a pinch or two of sugar; stir into the payasam. Allow payasam to rest covered for about 15 minutes.

6. Toast the cashew and coconut pieces in the ghee in a small pan until golden; add the raisins and cook until puffed. Pour into the payasam or reserve until ready to serve.

7. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature as you wish. If you have reserved the cashew mixture, top each serving with a little spoonful. Enjoy!!