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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vegetable Beef Soup

Adapted from my grandmother's vegetable soup recipe, this is one of my favorite cold day meals and is also a great pick-me-up when you may be a little under the weather.

Vegetable Beef Soup




Research:

I have spent more time refining this recipe than I did studying all three semesters of calculus in college. It has been tested and tweaked and tested again as I inched ever closer to what I remember my grandmother's soup tasting like. Of course when she made it, she used leftovers, so it was different every time, but it had a distinctive flavor and a little heat to warm the soul. In my grandmother's day soup was simply a commonsense method to repurpose leftovers. Mine, however, is more like Coca-Cola's secret formula -- its precision would make a Swiss watchmaker blush and my grandmother shake her head.

Plan:

Gather the following ingredients:

2 pounds of ground beef
1 whole celery stalk
3 medium red onions
1 green bell pepper
1 small red cabbage Update to Kale rather than cabbage. Hardy and stands up to slow cooking.
3 cans kidney beans
46 oz Clamato vegetable juice cocktail
46 oz tomato juice
4 cans diced tomatoes w/oregano and garlic
2 cans whole corn
2 cans of lima beans
1 can of early peas
a little less than 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper

Optional:  Replace some of the corn with sweet peas and/or baby lima beans.

We are going to brown the meat in a little oil and then add the chopped ingredients. Very simple.

Cook until the peppers are tender, but it is really best the next day.

Execution:



Brown the ground ground beef in a big soup pot. No need to pour off 
the fat unless you want to be extra healthy.




Chop up the cabbage, onions, celery and bell pepper into similar-sized pieces.



Add the remaining ingredients, including the spices.



Cook on a medium heat until boiling and then reduce to simmer for about an hour.




This makes about 20 servings, and we usually freeze much of it into 
single and double serving size containers.


Verdict:

This is delicious. I make this several times a year, so I will supplement this post with additional photos and tips as I make more.

a recent update included using red cabbage and changing from 4 cans of corn to 2 corn and 2 lima beans. It was an improvement.




Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:


Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Football Weekend Chili

Every man should have a chili recipe that can be pulled out for those cold rainy weekends, especially during football season. Nothing warms the soul like a warm bowl of delicious chili.

Weekend Chili - A few updated photos




Research:

This recipe has evolved over the years for me. It started as a much spicier version, but as the years have rolled along, both me and my recipe have mellowed a bit. While still a little spicy, I have come to appreciate a milder variety.

Much of the migration in my recipe can be attributed to none other than Souper Jenny, a local soup and sandwich shop located in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, GA. I really like the flavor that the brown sugar adds, and the use of multicolored beans makes it more interesting.

Plan:

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups red onion
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium yellow bell pepper
1 medium green bell pepper
2 lbs of ground beef (whatever is on sale is fine)
1 can black beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can chili beans
1 can northern beans
6 cans of diced tomatoes (usually use a chili-seasoned version)
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup light brown sugar Updated from 1/2 cup because it seemed too sweet
1 tablespoon salt Updated from 2 tablespoons because it seemed too salty
1 tbsp pepper Updated from 2 tbsp
0.5 tsp red pepper (a little less for medium and a little more for hot) - Julie likes a little less...

We are going to brown the onion and beef and then simply add the other ingredients and let it cook for about an hour to give everything time to soften. Plan on a bread to go with it, it could be chips, toast, saltines or my favorite - homemade corn bread.

This makes about 10 servings, so freeze a few servings for warming up later.

Execution:





Dice and brown the red onion in the olive oil.



Add in the ground beef and brown it as well.  After the beef has browned,
you could drain the oil off for a slightly lighter version if you wish.  
But, hey, this is chili.



Gather the remaining ingredients and add them in no particular order.

Note that I left the bell peppers out of this preparation because Julie doesn't care for them. It doesn't seem to make a huge difference to me, but if you add them, you would chop them up 
and add them with the other stuff here.



Add the tomatoes...




...and the beans.

We do drain and rinse the beans before add them to the pot.




Stir the pot and get everything mixed up after you add the remaining ingredients.



After about hour, you have a wonderfully hearty and tasty pot of chili.




Just in time for kickoff!


Verdict:

A great recipe for game day. The red pepper controls the heat, and as I mentioned earlier, we are using a little less than 1/2 tsp these days, and it delivers the perfect amount of heat for us.

Probably would have been better to dice the meat up more. Also, for a premium version, swap out the ground beef for a chopped steak, or for a lighter version, you could use ground turkey breast.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pasta Bolognese with Insalata Caprese Salad

Pasta Bolognese is a meat sauce originating from Bologna, Italy, and more importantly, it is a hearty Italian dish that we love to have every now and again. So behold, Pasta Bolognese.

Pasta Bolognese with Insalata Caprese Salad



Research:

Inspired by the pasta experts at Storico Fresco and delicious bacon from Pine Street Market, we returned from our local farmers' market with some fresh pasta and pork and a challenge to make something great. We Googled around and found a great recipe here.

Plan:

Based on the recipe, we gathered our remaining ingredients.

Ingredients for Bolognese sauce:

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tsbp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
2 medium carrots
2 ribs of celery
3 gloves of garlic
3 slices thick cut bacon or pancetta
1 pound ground pork
2 cups San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine

Ingredients for Peach & Tomato salad:

1-2 ripe tomatoes, any color
Fresh mozzarella or buffala (mozzarella made from buffalo milk, very scumptious)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Pretty simple plan. Make the sauce first as it takes the longest.  While the sauce is cooking, you can prep your salads and put in fridge until you are ready to eat.  They are better really cold anyway.  You'll make your pasta to coincide with the finishing of your sauce, which will depend on whether you are using fresh or dried pasta.


Execution:


Rehydrate about 1/2 cup of dried porcini mushrooms by pouring about 1.5 cup warm water
over the mushrooms and letting them steep for about 20-30 minutes.



Dice up a classic mirepoix (onions, celery and carrots).   Typically you use a ratio of 2:1:1 of onions:carrots:celery.  We used 1/2 cup diced yellow onion, 1/4 cup diced carrot, 1/4 diced celery.  
Also, mince 3 garlic cloves.  (Once you add the garlic, you've turned your mirepoix into a soffritto.)



Saute about 3 slices of bacon or pancetta in 2 Tbsp of olive oil until the bacon 
renders its fat and begins to brown.



Then add your mirepoix, minced garlic and hydrated mushrooms to the sauteed bacon.  
Reserve your mushroom liquid for later.  
Sweat your vegetables for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables become soft.



In the meanwhile, you should always have good wine and cheese to provide you stamina during the cooking process.  And the idea is to make something great AND have fun along the way.  
So use these 10 minutes while your vegetables are sweating out to enjoy an appetizer 
and your partner's company.




After about 10 minutes, add in the 1 pound of ground pork.  You can really use any combination of pork, veal and/or beef here.  It is up to your taste buds and sense of adventure.  
We personally love the pork undertones of this bolognese 
(we call it pork-on-pork crime = bacon AND ground pork).



Your kitchen should now smell so fragrant from the sauteed aromatic vegetables, garlic and pork.  
Now add in 2 cups of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (if you can get them, they really are superb), or any crushed tomatoes will do fine.  




Also add in 1 cup of dry red wine.  The red wine doesn't have to be expensive or even 
what you would prefer to drink.  Any dry, full bodied red will do great.  
At this time also add in 1/2 of your mushroom liquid.

Now comes the tough part - waiting.  The nature of a good bolognese or ragu is that it is typically cooked for a while over a lower heat.  This really allows the sauce to meld together and all of the flavors to develop. Simmer your sauce over low to medium-low heat for about 45-60 minutes.  

During this this time if your sauce becomes a little too thick. add in some of the reserved mushroom liquid to thin it out a little and allow you more time to simmer it.  
If you run out of mushroom liquid before it's done, you can add warm water.




While your sauce is simmering, prep your salads.   This is a classic Insalata Caprese, minus the basil.
Cut thick slices of a fresh tomato.  We used red and yellow for the aesthetic value.  
Do the same with some fresh mozzarella cheese or bufala.  
Alternate on the plate as shown. Drizzle with some balsamic vinegar,
olive oil and sea salt.  Voila - beautiful and simple salads.




Meanwhile, back at the sauce pot, you'll know the sauce is ready when it's simmered for at least 45 minutes, the colors deepen and it becomes more thick.   Of course, the sauce will be even better the next day, but if you're eating it the day you make it, at least 45 minutes of simmering should be sufficient time to develop the flavors.



Once your sauce is within 10 minutes of being done, begin to cook your pasta.   You can use most any shape pasta, but the best to use with this sauce are broad flat pastas (pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettucine) or short tubes (rigatoni or penne).  Cook according to package directions if using a dried pasta.



 We had the good fortune of picking up fresh pasta from the farmers market, which takes only 3-4 minutes to cook.  We used here a spinach fettucine.



At last, it is time to eat.  Pour yourself a nice red wine and enjoy the fruits of your labor!



Verdict:

We loved this. It is hearty and has a great pork flavor, and when coupled with the coolness and acidity of the salad, it is hard to beat.

There isn't anything we would have done differently on this one and look forward to making it again. Also, you can freeze the bolognese sauce and use it again when you have more fresh pasta if you have access.  In fact, the sauce is much better the next time around.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer