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Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I learned how to make this Creole okra stew from friend Cliff Domio many years ago . . . let’s just say decades! But I haven’t made it in several years, and I’m not sure why it fell off my rotation. Maybe the difficulty finding okra here in the upper Midwest of the U.S. When I first moved here in the 90’s I almost never saw it at the farmer’s markets or grocery stores.  Or maybe it was because not many people here were familiar with okra or avoided it because of its slimy reputation. So I had sort of forgotten about this dish.

All of a sudden this year it seems that many of the farmers at the market have oodles of okra, especially the Hmong. (They are a great study in adapting to market demands and I wonder if the recent immigration from countries where okra is a staple has prompted them to grow it.) On a recent trip to the big farmers’ market downtown, I thought the okra looked really good so I decided to revisit a favorite. Serve this over rice for a satisfying meal. You might also consider a side of cornbread or a baguette to round things out.

Ingredients

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 medium green pepper small dice
3-5 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
1-2 links smoked sausage, sliced 1/4-inch rounds (I like andouille)
3-4 cups okra, cut in 3/4-inch pieces
4-5 cups diced fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small can tomato sauce, optional (I rarely use)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
10-12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup dry rice, cooked according to directions (we used brown)

Directions

Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil on medium high heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and the smoked sausage and saute for another minute or two. Add the okra and saute, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Note that if the heat is maintained, it won’t get slimy. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, if using, and crushed red pepper and stir to combine.

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Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 min or so till okra is done but not massacred.

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Add the shrimp and simmer for another 5-8 minutes till shrimp is just cooked through. Serve over rice – we used brown rice. Enjoy!

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Caldo Verde - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

A soup similar to this was posted by a bunch of people on Pinterest recently, which I made and liked a lot. Then Aunt Suzy emailed me this recipe, which was very similar but looked better. Instead of using cream to make it a creamy soup, you puree some of the potatoes, which I like better. I waited a few weeks to try this one out so that we didn’t over do the potato-greens-sausage soup around here, and I’m so glad I got around to making this! It is fantastic…blows the other soup out of the soup pot. Ha! And my husband, Jason, raved about it as well, claiming it to have the “best broth ever.” He’s really good about complimenting my cooking, but this was more emotion than he usually shows about food. So I put this one in the “win” column and will be definitely making it again!

I think that you can switch out different kinds of greens/sausage/potatoes to suit your likes. I made it with spicy Italian sausage because that’s what I had on hand, instead of the chorizo. Next time I’ll make it with the chorizo probably, but the spicy Italian was still good. I prefer Yukon gold potatoes, but russet would be fine, too. And as for the greens, I would stick with tougher, bitter greens like collard, or any type of kale. I don’t think spinach or chard would hold up as well. The main thing that made this soup stand out to me was the process of taking out part of the potatoes and pureeing them to make the broth thick and creamy.

Aunt Suzy says..

As Margaux mentioned, our initial foray into the greens/potato/sausage soup arena was a recipe we saw on Pinterest that we both made exactly according to the recipe, me with chicken and Margaux with pork sausage.  Then my guy Randy shared this recipe with us from Cook’s Illustrated, which we tried shortly thereafter. I’ve made the Pinterest one with regular kale and unpeeled russets and another time with Lacinato kale, unpeeled Yukon Golds and fully cooked Italian sausage from Trader Joe’s. And then I’ve made this recipe exactly as specified.  All are really good, but I think this one is the winner.  Pureeing some of the potatoes with olive oil creates an emulsion that makes for a very silky texture without dairy. Today, I’ve made one of our favorite stewsand Randy asked me if it included sausage – hehe, guess we’ve had enough sausage around here for a while.

Caldo Verde
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients

¼ cup EV olive oil

12 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (fully cooked, not fresh Mexican)

1 medium onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

4 cups chicken stock or broth

4 cups water

1 pound collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, optional

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chorizo to bowl and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add onion. Cook for a few minutes till translucent. Add the garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, another 3 minutes. Add potatoes, broth, and water; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove 3/4 cup solids and 3/4 cup broth to a bowl or measuring cup.  Set aside. Add collard greens to pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in chorizo and continue to simmer until greens are tender, 8 to 10 minutes longer.

Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil to solids/broth mixture that was set aside. Place in blender jar (or use immersion blender) and process until very smooth and emulsified, about 1 minute. Remove pot from heat and stir pureed soup mixture and vinegar, if using, into soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Cook’s Notes: If you live near a Whole Foods, Amylu Chicken Chorizo in a 9-ounce package works really well with this and the 9-ounces seemed like enough.  You can try with or without the vinegar. AS didn’t use it and Margaux did.

Winter Vegetable Minestrone

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

The Wall Street Journal ran this article a few weeks ago on Minestrone, including 3 delicious-looking recipes.  I love making Minestrone and the message and recipes here expanded my thinking as to what this soup is all about.  I love the quote “But minestrone is, ultimately, a hyper-personal and hyper-seasonal chameleon of a dish, tailored to the current harvest and the cravings of the maker. This soup embodies better than any other the enviable Italian virtue known as sprezzatura: an artful effortlessness.”  When Randy and I were talking Sunday morning about what we’d like for dinner, he said he had bought the ingredients for this soup. I had planned to make roasted salmon, potatoes and broccoli, but given I had a cold, the Minestrone sounded way more appealing.  Plus I didn’t have to cook – what’s not to like?! We both had seconds of this! Like many “ugly duckling” soups and stews that we’ve posted before (like this, this this and this), don’t let the bland look turn you away – this is one delicious soup, made even better by the unusual pesto.

Guest chef Randy Tatum says . . . 

This recipe looked like an interesting use of seasonal ingredients, including celery root which I don’t cook with enough. I thought the soup could use even more winter vegetables, so I added rutabaga. I found this easy to make, even if it takes a little chopping. It’s one of those dishes that can really be flexible in terms of ingredients and quantities. Unlike Suzy, who always has flavorful homemade chicken stock in the freezer, I take a rather relaxed approach to creating a stock for my soups. It’s called Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base and is a more than acceptable substitute. I often use their “No-Chicken Base”, which tastes just as good but is vegetarian.  The pesto is indeed unusual and I agree that it really adds to the finished product. 

The Winter Vegetable Minestrone

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium celery root, peeled and cubed

1 large parsnip, peeled and cubed

1 large rutabaga, peeled and cubed

4-5 (or more) cups chicken stock (or Better Than Bouillon per their instructions to equal 4-5 cups)

2 bay leaves

1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained

1½ cups yellow split peas

4 (or more) cups shredded cabbage

1 small apple, peeled and cubed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the yellow split peas in a small saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once oil is warm, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook till fragrant.  Stir in celery root, parsnip and rutabaga, cooking until fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaves, beans, split peas, cabbage and apple. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer gently until celery root, parsnips and rutabaga soften, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The Pesto, Pasta and Final Assembly

8 ounces whole wheat pasta, small shapes (we used fusilli/spirals)

1 cup leafy greens – spinach, kale or chard (we used spinach), coarsely chopped

½ cup toasted pecans, chopped (we used roasted/salted)

¼ cup fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup olive oil

Cook the pasta to al dente according to instructions.  Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, make the pesto. In a food processor, purée the greens, pecans, rosemary, whole garlic cloves, oil and a pinch of salt until mixture is reduced almost to a paste. Turn into a serving dish.

To serve, place desired amount of pasta into a soup bowl. Ladle as much soup as you want onto the pasta. Place a dollop of the pesto onto the soup and stir to blend. Enjoy!

Chicken Chili

October 13, 2013

Chicken Chili - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We have been BUSY around here.  With Desi starting school and Stella being at that age where she doesn’t sleep all the time anymore and is into EVERYTHING, I haven’t had time to do much of anything other than cook dinner and do dishes.  The rest of the (extremely dirty) house and my side projects have definitely suffered.  But fall is here, and I’m cooking new and fun things again, so I’m doing my best to make time to post about them.
Charred Veggies - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

My husband raved about this chili, and actually got really protective over the leftovers. I knew this meant that he really REALLY liked it, because usually I’m the only one in this house that eats any leftovers.  The charred veggies gives the chili a little bit of a smoky flavor…it’s very different than any chili I’ve ever made.  So I’m definitely making it again, even though that means I’ll have to make Desi his own little pot of chili because this one has meat in it AND is pretty spicy. But that’s ok…more leftovers for us.

Chicken Chili

adapted from Martha Stewart Living

10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 jalapeno (or I used a Fresno because the jalapenos didn’t look that good)

1 yellow onion, peeled and halved

4 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 3/4-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/4 cup chili powder

salt

2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2-14 oz. cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat broiler, with rack 3 inches from heat source.  Arrange tomatoes, jalapeno and onion, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Broil until starting to char, about 5 minutes.  Pulse tomatoes and jalapeno in food processor until chunky.  Chop onion and mince garlic.

Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add oil.  Working in batches, brown chicken in a single layer, allowing to sear before stirring, 5-6 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium.  Add onion to skillet.  Cook until soft and golden, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili powder and 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Cook, stirring for one minute.  Stir in chipotles, and drain fat off chicken and add chicken to the pot.  Raise heat to high.  Add tomato-jalapeno mixture.  Cook, scraping up browned bits, until fully incorporated, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in stock; simmer for 20 minutes.  Add beans, simmer for 10 minutes.  We served topped with sour cream and tortilla chips on the side…it would also be great with shredded cheese and chopped avocados, and with corn bread on the side.

Chickpea Stew with Chicken: Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Margaux and I are on the lookout for good recipes using shredded chicken.  I was looking for something new to make but that would be fast and easy on a busy Sunday. I love all the flavors in this stew, so thought I’d give it a whirl.  It was a hit!  Randy and I both agreed that I should double the recipe next time – we barely had a small lunch portion left after eating.  We served it with a salad, baguette and some a Pinot Gris wine.  Since spring is seeming like it is not going to show up this year, this warming dish was especially welcome on a cold and snowy day.

Margaux says . . .

This dish was a hit in our house, too!  We always love bean stews, so I knew it would probably get gobbled up.  At Aunt Suzy’s suggestion, I made a double recipe, and I’m glad I did.  It was the perfect amount for dinner and then lunch for Desi and me the next day.

When I made this, I misread the recipe and used bone-in chicken, and it was really good, if  a little greasy.  I just skimmed as much of the extra fat off the top as I could.  This would be a great recipe to use for leftover shredded chicken, I would just use chicken broth instead of water, and add the chicken at the end with the red peppers, etc.  It would also be good vegetarian, eliminating the chicken altogether.  In that case, I would maybe use more red pepper.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

4 cups water or chicken stock or a combination

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup roasted red peppers from a jar, drained and sliced into 1-inch pieces

Juice of ½ lemon, or more

1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to the pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to low and let oil cool slightly; add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add cumin, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.  Add the liquid, the reserved chicken with any accumulated juices and the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat  and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chicken is tender, about 20 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool slightly. Add chickpeas to pot; bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Shred the chicken.  Add the chicken, red peppers, half the herbs and lemon juice; simmer for a couple of minutes until heated through. Season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with more of the herbs.

Snowy Day

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Today demanded soup, but I’m in the mood for spring now that it’s March.  I would not say spring is around the corner here in Minnesota as you can see by this predawn photo, but enough winter already!  So here’s a soup that’s, well . . .a soup, but with many ingredients that taste of spring.  Perfect for a day like today!  Both Randy and I thought we almost couldn’t get enough.  He wanted me to make sure to say that, in his opinion, this must be made with homemade stock, feeling that boxed or canned would diminish the light spring-like quality we loved so much.  He also had an initial bad reaction to the idea of lettuce in a soup, saying that it’s like putting walnuts on a salad.  After a few spoonfuls of the soup, he said that he must like walnuts on salad – hehe.  So don’t be put off by the cooked romaine lettuce – it adds a light crunch and lovely vegetal flavor.  Enjoy with a lemony Pinot Grigio and a baguette!

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This recipe was inspired by one that I saw in a Food 52 email yesterday, but is highly adapted in both method and ingredients.  Serves 8 (or 6 hearty eaters)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 scallions, white and green separated and sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small zucchini, small dice

1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and ground black pepper

9 cups chicken stock

1 small can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

zest of 1 lemon, Meyer if available

1 1/2-2 cups cooked green beans, cut in 2-inch pieces

2 cups cooked shredded chicken

1/4 cup each fresh mint and fresh parsley, chopped (or more to taste)

2 cups dried pasta, small shapes (I used gemelli)

2 cups shredded romaine lettuce

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.  When shimmering, add the white part of the scallions and the celery.  Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic  zucchini, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring.  Add the chicken stock and chickpeas and simmer for about 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Add the chicken, green beans, herbs and lemon zest to the soup pot and simmer till heated through, about 5 minutes.  Be careful not to over-stir.

Right before serving, stir in the lettuce and lemon juice.  Cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.

To serve, place a handful of cooked pasta into the bottom of a soup bowl.  Ladle the soup into the bowl over the pasta.  Garnish with a few slices of the green part of the scallions (and a few red pepper flakes if desired).

Tuscan Bean Stew - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Aunt Suzy says . . .

We are having a real Minnesota winter this year! A recent Sunday plunged to minus 14 degrees F, necessitating a hearty and warming stew. I spied this recipe on The Bitten Word blog, saw that it was their take on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and was sold! It’s one of those recipes from Cook’s where they have experimented with many different methods to come up with the perfect approach. For this one, the recommendation was to brine the beans overnight and to cook slowly in the oven to achieve a creamy stew in which the beans remain mostly whole. We love Cook’s scientific approach to things here at S&SK and so jumped on this recipe. It turned out as promised! Margaux and I both cooked this, as well as my brother John, so we have lots of experience and opinions to share on this stew. We may have diverged a little on ingredients or methods, but one thing we all three have in common is that we thought this was delicious!

Margaux says . . .

The whole family loved this stew…even my 4-year-old, who has recently decided he is a picky eater. But picky in a way most kids are not…he’ll refuse to eat his mac & cheese, and instead gobble down a salad. And lately, anything I make that has everything “mixed together,” ie., stews, soups, casseroles, etc…basically everything I make in the winter…is deemed inedible. Or as he says, “gross.” But I thought I might have a “win” on my hands here, with beans, sausage and carrots included in the ingredients (some things on the “ok” list), and I was right.

Something I will say about this stew, is that if you have a big client meeting the next morning, or are going on a date the next night, I would definitely cut back on the garlic. We love garlic in our house, but even for us, 8 cloves was a lot. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious! And I’ll make it the same way again next time. But just a warning…your date may wonder if you’re trying to fend off vampires if you eat this the night before. 🙂

Brining the Beans

2 cups dried cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed

3 tablespoons salt (sea salt or table salt, not kosher)

4 quarts cold water

Dissolve the salt in the water in a large bowl or pot. Add the beans and soak overnight or up to 24 hours. Drain the beans and rinse thoroughly. Set aside for use in the stew.

Making the Stew

3/4-1 pound of sweet Italian sausage (casings removed or bulk if available)

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 large onion, medium dice (1 1/2-2 cups)

2 celery ribs, medium dice (about 3/4 cup)

2 carrots, peeled and diced medium (about 1 cup)

8 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or crushed with a knife blade

4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

3-4 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 small can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed

1/2 medium head of Savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups)

One sprig of fresh oregano

Salt and black pepper to taste (taste before adding salt)

Pre-heat the oven to 250°F. In a large Dutch oven, preferably cast iron, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, breaking up into small pieces with a spatula or wooden spoon. When browned, remove from the pot and place on paper towel. Set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and turn heat down to medium. Add the onions, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the stock, water, bay leaves and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to a bubble. Cover the pot and place on a rack in the lower middle of the pre-heated oven. Cook for about 45 minutes or so, until beans are just softened but slightly firm in the center.  Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the reserved sausage, cabbage and tomatoes. Place back in the oven and cook for another 30-45 minutes or so, until the cabbage is tender.

Tuscan Bean Stew

Remove pot from the oven and submerge the oregano sprig in the stew. Cover and let stand 20-30 minutes. Remove the oregano and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a little drizzle of olive oil if desired and a nice crusty bread.

COOK’S NOTES – Aunt Suzy:Ingredients The original recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of sausage. I used 1 pound (of turkey sausage) and thought it was still too much, although I prefer meat in recipes like this for flavoring vs. a main ingredient. I used 3 cups of water, but my stew came out very thick so I think I’ll try 4 cups next time I make it.  Adjust meat amount and liquid to your preferences. I used a garlic press for my garlic, which I think resulted in a less garlicky result than Margaux described; she crushed the garlic with a knife blade (although I love garlic, so I might try that one day!). Regular green cabbage can be substituted if you can’t find Savoy. The original CI recipe called for pancetta and kale – I think we need to try that one also!  Methods I learned 3 things from this recipe: 1) The brining made for ultra-creamy beans as promised, 2) Cooking in the oven at a low temp made for beans that did not break apart, and 3) Adding tomatoes later in the cooking process insured that the skins of the beans were not tough.

COOK’S NOTES – Margaux: I made this on a weeknight, but I prepped everything ahead of time on Sunday, so it made it very quick and easy. Otherwise, this is one that I would probably make on a weekend, because it does take awhile, and you have to remember to do the beans the night before, etc. So I soaked the beans, chopped the cabbage, carrots, onion and celery, and had them all stored in the fridge and ready for Tuesday night. Also, I only used 3 cups of water instead of 4, as we like our stews less brothy around here.