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Hearty Chicken Tortilla Soup

This makes a huge pot of soup.  Enough for several meals.

Hearty chicken tortilla soup

 

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 10 ounce can Ro*Tel diced tomatoes & green chiles
1-2 5.5 ounce can tomato juice 
Several cups chicken broth or stock
3 carrots, sliced rather thick
3 celery ribs, sliced rather thick
2 yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced rather thick
2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced rather thick
1 pound cooked chicken

 

You will also need:

Stock pot

 

Method:

Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat.  Cook onion in oil until translucent and beginning to brown just a little.  Add garlic, paprika, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and Mexican oregano.  Cook briefly until fragrant.  Add diced tomatoes, Ro*Tel, tomato juice and 2 cups of chicken broth.  Add carrots and celery and stir everything to combine well.  Add more chicken broth if needed.  Cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook (simmer) on low for about 1 hour until carrots and celery are tender.

Add squash, zucchini and chicken.  Add more broth and/or tomato juice if needed and to suit your own taste as to the ratio of liquid to vegetables.  (Some like lots of liquid.  My man likes the vegetables and meat to be more prominent.)  Cover again and continue to simmer until the squash and zucchini are very tender (at least 30-45 minutes). 

If you need to leave at any point during the cooking like I did, you may cover the pot and place into a 325°-350° oven.

Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place some broken tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl and top with grated cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese.  Ladle hot soup over the cheese and chips.  Top it off with a little more grated cheese and some slices of avocado.

chicken tortilla soup

Veal Osso Buco

I was first introduced to this traditionally northern Italian dish in a cooking class that I took at the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World back in the fall of 1999.  Since that time, I have tasted examples that range from mediocre to “change your life good” (Hello, little restaurant in San Francisco of which I can’t remember the name).  I have made several different recipes and have even had to wing it when I didn’t have one of the recipes handy (this is one of those dishes that once you get the basics of it, you don’t need that recipe to follow).

It’s no quick weeknight dinner and more suited to when you have several hours to prepare a meal.  But the end result is like velvet in your mouth and it has become one of my very favorite dishes in the world to both make and eat. 

Serves 2–4

 Veal Osso Buco

Ingredients:

2-4 veal shanks cut approximately 1 1 /2” thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced 
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1 tablespoon dry parsley
3 bay leaves  
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 (14 .5 ounce) can diced tomatoes  (drained)
1 1/2 to 2 cups low sodium canned chicken broth (possibly more if needed)

Gremolata
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons minced zest from 1 lemon
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

 

You will also need:

Olive oil
Heavy shallow casserole with a lid (like a dutch or french oven)
Cooking twine
Spare bowl
 

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 325°. 

Tie each of the veal shanks snugly to keep them from falling apart in the cooking process.  Pat dry with paper towels and salt and pepper all sides.  Place French oven over high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Brown shanks for about 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Deglaze pan with about 1/2 cup of the white wine, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Pour into the bowl with the shanks and return pot to medium-high heat.  (Repeat this process until all shanks are browned.)

Add a couple of more tablespoons of olive oil to the pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until soft and lightly browned (may take 5-10 minutes).  Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).   Turn heat to high and add remaining wine, 1 1/2 cups of broth, juices from veal shanks, bay leaves, parsley & thyme and tomatoes.  Return the veal shanks to the pot.  Make sure that the liquid just almost covers the shanks; add broth as needed to adjust the level of the liquid.  Cover pot and bring to a simmer. 

Once simmering, cock the lid of the pot so that it is slightly ajar and place in the preheated oven (325°).  Cook until meat is easily pierced with a fork but not necessarily falling off the bone (about 2 hours). 

Prepare the gremolata by thoroughly combining all three ingredients (garlic, zest & parsley). 

When the osso buco has finished cooking in the oven, stir half of the gremolata into the pot with the osso buco and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the osso buco to stand, uncovered, for about five minutes.

Be prepared.  The smell is intoxicating.

To serve: remove the shanks from the pot, cut off the twine and place on the serving dish.  Ladle on some of the braising liquid with the vegetables & tomatoes (but discarding bay leaves).  Top with just a sprinkle of the remaining gremolata and serve immediately. 

Osso buco is traditionally served with Risotto alla Milanese which is a saffron infused risotto

It is easy to bump up the ingredients for more shanks to feed a large crowd.  You can easily do 8-10 shanks in a decent sized roasting pan.

 

Now in pictures….

 

Tie the veal shank around the middle.

Tie the veal shank around the middle 

Brown the shanks in oil on high heat and deglaze the pan with white wine.

Brown the veal shank

 

Cook onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat until soft.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add white wine, chicken broth and canned diced tomatoes.  Return shanks to the pot, bring to a simmer then place in 325° oven for 2 hours.IMG_1533

 

While it’s in the oven, make the gremolata.

Gremolata

When it’s done, the meat should pretty much fall off the bone.  Stir in half of the gremolata and let stand uncovered for 5-10 minutes.

Osso Buco in braising liquid

Serve alongside some risotto alla milanese (saffron risotto).

Osso Buco and risotto

Risotto alla Milanese

This saffron risotto is the traditional pairing with veal Osso Buco. You can prepare this during the last 15-20 minutes of the Osso Buco’s cooking time

 Risotto alla Milanese

Ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided into 2 tablespoon pieces)
1/4 cup Parmigiana-Reggiano

 

You will also need:

Medium sauce pan

 

Method:

Crumble saffron threads into white wine until ready to use.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in a medium sauce pan.  Add onion and just a pinch of salt and pepper.  Sautee onion in the butter on low heat until very soft and translucent (up to 10 minutes). 

Add dry Arborio rice and cook until edges are transparent, but center is visible (around 3-4 minutes).  Add wine/saffron mixture and cook until most of the wine is absorbed into the rice.  Add chicken stock 1 cup at a time (or enough to barely cover rice) and cook slowly, and stirring frequently, until it is mostly absorbed.  Repeat several times until the rice is cooked through, but still firm in the middle.  When almost done, add heavy cream and allow to absorb. 

Remove from heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

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Peppered Balsamic Strawberries and Zabaglione

From 1999 Disney Institute “Taste of the World: Italia Cucina” Class

Serves about 6

 (I had intended to make this so that there would be some pictures, but I just didn’t get around to it. I will update with pictures in the future.)

Ingredients:

3 pints strawberries (good and ripe)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (really good quality)
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Zabaglione:
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Marsala wine (sweet)*
Salt

*Other options: sherry, Madeira, sparking or dessert wines, bourbon, rum, Calvados or Frangelico.  Citrus juice and zest or spices may also be added along with the wine.

 

You will also need:

Heat proof mixing bowl and pan of simmering water (double boiler type set-up)

 

Method:

Strawberries:  Trim the tops from the strawberries.  Cut the berries into quarters and place in a mixing bowl.  Add the balsamic vinegar, water and sugar.  Stir gently to evenly coat the berries with the vinegar mixture.  Add freshly ground pepper (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon to taste).  Allow to stand at room temperature for one hour for sugar to fully dissolve and flavors to blend.

Zabaglione:  In a heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and salt.  Whip with a wire whisk until the eggs are pale and creamy, about 3 minutes.  Slowly add in the marsala wine. 

Place the bowl over gently simmering water (water should not touch the bowl). Continue whisking until the custard is thick and doubled in volume, 5-8 minutes, or just until it holds its shape.

To serve: Be creative with presentation.  Possibly layer strawberries and Zabaglione in a wine glass or spoon some of the strawberries into an ice cream dish and top with Zabaglione. 

The Zabaglione pairs well with any fresh fruit (berries and stone fruit especially) or even poached pears.  You may also serve with biscotti or other cookies for dipping.

Cold Hot Cheese Dip

 IMG_1504

Ingredients:

8 ounces Mexican Mild Velveeta
2-4 ounces Cabot Hot Habanero Cheddar cheese*
4 ounces cheddar cheese
1 cup milk (Approximately)

*Amount can vary depending on how much heat you want/can handle.

 

You will also need:

Food processor with both grater and blade attachments
Heat/microwave safe bowl

 

Method:

Grate the Habanero and cheddar cheeses in a food processor. Remove from the food processor and replace the grating attachment with the blade. Return the grated cheese to the bowl now fitted with the blade. Cut the Velveeta up into small pieces and add to the bowl of the processor. Add about ½ cup of milk. Process until all cheese is smooth. Add additional milk and process until a nearly liquid state is reached.

You may notice an inconsistent color and see small pieces of the cheddar cheese. To better incorporate, remove about half of the dip to a microwave/heat safe bowl. Warm this portion of the cheese slightly in microwave for between 30 -60 seconds. Return the warmed portion to the bowl of the food processor and continue to process until a uniform color is achieved.

Remove the cheese dip from the bowl of the food processor into a bowl with a lid and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The consistency should firm up just a little after refrigeration.

Serve cold with chips, raw vegetables, or crackers.

 IMG_1506

Simple Chocolate Cake

from Cook’s Illustrated (March/April 2009, pg. 25)

Updated with pictures.

IMG_1337

This is a surprising little cake.  And the surprise is mainly because of one ingredient - mayonnaise.  NOT “salad dressing,” mind you.  No.  The real stuff.  Mayonnaise.  It was a method used in war-times when butter and eggs were scarce; the mayonnaise served as a substitute for those ingredients.  This is not a fancy dancy, decorate up with fondant and buttercream icing kind of cake. But it is definitely simple enough for a week-night dessert.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (or “Special Dark”)
2 ounces dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (chopped fine)
1 cup hot coffee (or equivalent mixture of hot water and espresso powder)
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

You will also need:

8 inch square cake pan
Non-stick cooking spray
1 large mixing bowl
1 small-medium mixing bowl
Confectioners’ (powdered) sugar for garnish

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare cake pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.

In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In smaller bowl, combine cocoa powder and chopped chocolate; pour hot coffee over cocoa/chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.  Let this mixture cool for several minutes then whisk in mayonnaise, egg and vanilla.  Pour mayonnaise/chocolate mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth it all around.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out with few crumbs attached after being inserted into the center of the cake.  Note:  the cake will have a nice rounded domed middle and cracks on the top.  This is normal.

Allow cake to cool in pan on wire rack for 1-2 hours.  Turn cake out  onto serving platter and dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

Simple chocolate cake made with mayonaise

IMG_1328

IMG_1336

Minny’s Chocolate Pie

Adapted from August issue of Food and Wine (as credited by several blogs)

Minny's Chocolate Pie

You know… from the movie “The Help.”  Yeah.  THAT chocolate pie.  But without Minny’s special ingredient. :)

This pie is so easy.  And you won’t believe how delicious it is. 

Ingredients:

Single pie crust
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whipped cream for serving

 

You will also need:

9” pie plate (I used the shallow glass kind, not a deep dish)
Parchment paper (or foil)
Pie weights or dried beans

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Place pie crust in pie plate and crimp edges decoratively as desired.  Prick bottom of crust several times with a fork, line with parchment paper (or foil) and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Par-bake the crust for 15 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and carefully lift out the parchment paper with weights and set aside.  Return to the oven and continue to bake for 5 minutes longer, just until the crust is dry but not browned.  Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on at 350°F.

While the crust is baking those last 5 minutes, in a bowl, whisk sugar and cocoa powder together.  Add the melted butter, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla and salt and whisk until smooth.

Pour the filling into the pie shell.  Bake 40-45 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but jiggles just a little in the center.  If you feel the crust is getting too brown in the process of baking, you may cover it with strips of foil or pie guards about half way through. 

Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.  Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

It can be made ahead of time, cooled completely, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated over night.