I like a soup that’s substantial enough to be served as an entrée. Black beans, corn and shredded chicken transform pumpkin soup into a nourishing meal – almost a pumpkin chili.
½ onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon coriander
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups chicken broth
1 can pumpkin puree
1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies (such as Rotel)
1 ½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken
15 oz. can black beans, drained
½ cup frozen corn kernels
½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Sauté onion, celery and red bell pepper in a large saucepan until softened. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, coriander and nutmeg until fragrant. Add chicken stock, pumpkin puree, and diced tomatoes and green chilies. Simmer for 45 minutes until vegetables are soft.
Add chicken, black beans and corn. Heat through for 10 minutes. Stir in half the cilantro and season with salt. Garnish with remaining cilantro.
My friend, Chris, accuses me of going into hibernation every year from the Autumn equinox until Spring. I’d protest these accusations, if they weren’t spot on. I’m a Nester by nature and, when the weather chills and the days shorten, my inclination is early evening PJ’s, a fire in the fireplace, sleeping kitties on my lap, a blanket and a tummy-warming bowl of satisfying soup for dinner. This chowder, my first soup of the season, is the precise tool for the job. See you again in March!
You can replace the canned salmon with fresh cooked salmon if you prefer.
3 strips bacon, chopped
½ onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 potato, peeled and diced
¾ teaspoon dried dill weed
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups whole milk (or cream)
1 can (14-3/4 ounces) salmon, drained, flaked, bones and skin removed
1 teaspoon (or to taste) hot sauce, such as Tapatio
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Cook bacon in large saucepan until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper to bacon fat in pan and sauté until softened. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, potato and dill weed, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes until vegetables are tender.
Stir in corn, milk, and salmon. Simmer for 10 minutes until heated through. Season with hot sauce, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with reserved bacon.
I’m heading to the Southwest next week to look at a potential Inn to purchase. A small adventure contained within a frighteningly large adventure. I haven’t shared much about possibly becoming an Innkeeper, partially because musing on it for hours gives me heartburn and insomnia but also because others’ unhelpful comments and opinions usually make me want to strangle them.
My sister offered to accompany me, but I declined. This is a trip I need to take on my own; a humongous life-changing decision I need to make on my own. To get me in the Southwest spirit for next week’s trip, I baked these vegetarian enchiladas in a creamy pasilla chili sauce.
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano or oregano, crushed
5 pasilla chilies, roasted, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
1 ½ heavy cream
12 corn tortillas
1 – 2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese (or mozzarella)
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ½ chopped onion and sauté until the onion softens and is translucent. Add ½ minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and sauté until all liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add corn and sauté until corn and mushrooms are beginning to brown and no liquid remains. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
Stir ricotta and oregano into mushroom mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add remaining ½ chopped onion and sauté until the onion softens and is translucent. Add remaining ½ minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the pasilla chilies and heavy cream, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and cool.
Purée chile sauce mixture in a blender until smooth. If sauce is too thick, thin with a bit of water. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spread a thin layer of sauce over bottom of a 9×12” baking dish. In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, heat a tortilla until it’s pliable about 20-30 seconds. Fill with about 3 Tablespoons of the filling and roll up. Place in baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Frozen pie crust is cheating. In my book, taking a crust out of the package and filling it with a can of Comstock apple pie filling is not baking an apple pie. Call it ‘assembling’, but don’t call it ‘baking.’ Frozen phyllo (Filo) dough, conversely, is better from the box. I’d never be able to get handmade phyllo as uniformly thin as the prepackaged stuff. But, even prepackaged phyllo doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing.
The first time I tried cooking with prepackaged phyllo dough, I was in my 20’s and I was making a version of Beef Wellington. From 40 sheets of the tissue-thin dough, I managed to rescue eight sheets that made it into the oven. The rest of the phyllo fell apart, tore, or turned gummy and stuck together. I tossed away a crumpled ball of phyllo the size of a small cabbage.
Since then, I’ve learned a few tricks when working with phyllo. It just needs a little nurturing and patience and you’ll be rewarded with impressive results. Follow the thawing instructions exactly. Don’t rush the thaw or the dough may crack. Give yourself enough time for a complete thaw. Once it’s thawed, unroll it gently and completely and lay it flat (it’s usually rolled and folded), cover it with plastic wrap or waxed paper (I prefer waxed paper) and a damp towel (about as wet as a post-shower towel). This step keeps the dough from drying out. Don’t put the damp towel directly on the dough or it will turn into a gummy mess. Use dry hands, work with one sheet at a time and keep the rest covered. You may think it’s a hassle to keep uncovering the phyllo each time you want a new sheet, especially once you get in a rhythm, but this extra step keeps the phyllo in the perfect condition for culinary baking success.
Treat your phyllo right and you’ll be rewarded with a golden brown, shatteringly crisp, show-stopper of a pastry like this lamb pie.
Olive oil (I used a Meyer Lemon olive oil to brush the phyllo, but plain will work if you don’t have flavored oil)
To make the filling: Heat a bit of plain olive oil in a large sauté pan. Sauté onion until beginning to soften, 1-2 minutes. Add lamb, and sauté until beginning to brown, 3-5 minutes. Add eggplant and continue to sauté until mixture is browned and there are browned bits of meat and veggies on the bottom of the pan. Add spinach (un-drained), zest, smoked paprika and oregano. The water from the spinach will allow you to deglaze the pan and scrape up all those tasty browned bits on the bottom. Continue cooking until all the water has evaporated and the mixture looks dry and browned. Remove from the heat. Add cilantro, frozen peas, and black olives. Set aside to cool.
Once the meat mixture has cooled, season well with salt and pepper and add the beaten eggs. The eggs will help the meat mixture to hold together when the final pie is sliced. Adding the eggs once the mixture has cooled ensures they don’t scramble.
To assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Unwrap phyllo and cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper and a damp towel so the phyllo doesn’t dry out. Once phyllo dries out or gets wet, it’s a bitch to work with. Brush the first sheet of phyllo with olive oil (this is where I used the flavored oil). Place the phyllo sheet, oil side up, in a 9” pie dish so that one half is covering the entire bottom of the dish and the rest of the phyllo sheet is hanging over the rim of the pan. Repeat this step 7 more times, rotating around the dish so that you end up with 8 layers of phyllo lining the bottom of the dish and the entire circumference of the dish has phyllo hanging over the rim. Fill the pie dish with the meat mixture, pressing down firmly and mounding it slightly in the center. Fold the overhanging phyllo around the meat, crumpling the phyllo and leaving the center open. Brush the crumpled phyllo top with oil. Baked for about 50 minutes or until the phyllo is very golden brown and crisp.
Let pie cool for 30-45 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm. The pie can be made ahead through step 3. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, uncovered, in a 300⁰ F. oven for about 30 minutes.
Lentils, with a shape somewhat resembling coins, are symbols of riches and prosperity in Italy. After eight long years, we have finally sold my childhood home this week. What better way to celebrate this little boon than with these symbols of financial good fortune?
Rather than the golden-egg-laying goose the house was expected to be, it morphed into an albatross that created unanticipated familial stress over the last eight years. My oldest sibling wanted to sell immediately, during the real estate collapse, while another mentioned keeping it for 45 years. I managed, surprisingly, to remain neutral over most of the years (caught up in my own personal turmoil, I suppose) until last year – then my exasperation bubbled up, boiled over. Get me out of here – I want to take my share and run! Trouble with the tenants, damage to the property, lawsuits and disagreements between us brought me to the verge of walking away. This house and all its complications was my last fetter to my siblings. Now, no longer financially shackled, I can, should I chose to, slip away never to be found again. Not that I want to, but there’s something liberating in realizing that I could.
Tonight, before I celebrate with my lentil salad, I say thank you to my mom and dad for making this financial provision. I am grateful for this good fortune and I hope to use my portion in a manner that will make them proud.
1 large or two small carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
⅓ cup onion, chopped
¼ head cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
½ cup Feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, thyme, garlic, sugar and Dijon. Add olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Set dressing aside.
Cook lentils according to package directions.
While lentils are cooking, in a medium size skillet over high heat, sauté corn, red pepper, carrot and onion until softened and onions are translucent. Do not brown.
Place cabbage in a large bowl. Drain lentils. Cover cabbage with warm lentils and sautéed vegetables to help soften cabbage. While salad is still warm, fold in dressing and feta cheese. Cover salad and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to meld. Before serving, season with salt and pepper.