…..Where 'La Gourmandise' is not a sin!

First Course

First course recipes

Normita makes large pots of vegetable soup regularly and then brings some to work with her lunches. It is a nice complement to whatever we are eating and gives us a healthy dose of vegetables and fiber. Recently, when I was chatting with my dad on the phone from Canada, he asked me to post a good soup recipe for fall that is easy to make. This recipe from Normita is both easy to make and great tasting. It makes a large portion of soup that will last the week. We normally make it on Sunday and when cooled put it in smaller plastic containers and we have soup for 4-5 days.

Ingredients

2 16 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
4 quarts of chicken stock (can be home made, canned, or made with powder or cubes)
1 entire bunch of celery, chopped
1 pound of fresh string beans cut into 1" pieces
1 pound carrots, chopped
2 sweet green peppers, chopped  
1 1/2 cup of small soup pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
(optionally 1 jalapeño pepper cooked with the vegetable to enhance the flavor)

Preparation

1. Place the vegetables with the chicken stock in a large stock pot and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy. About 30 minutes.
2. Add the pasta and simmer a few minutes, then cut the heat to let them absorb the stock.
3. Serve immediately or separate in plastic containers to have soup for the week.

Lucito

Last weekend, when we received Normita’s young friends for lunch, I prepared a foolproof meal that I can assemble quickly as work has been so busy in the last few months that I did not have time to prepare anything to involved. All of the recipes can easily be done with a an hour or two of prep time total depending on how quick you are with a knife. We started with a very easy first course, a seafood salad that I put together for the first time more than 25 years ago. I used to do it regularly as a last minute first course when I did not have time to prepare anything else. It can be done with a variety of seafood, but my old standby is to make it with small cooked shrimps and with nice chunks of cooked crab meat. Luckily when we went to the Jamaica market early Saturday morning our fish merchant was unpacking some nice fresh shrimps and some nice crab meat that he had just picked up. The quality was stunning and it made a great first course.

For the main course I had some frozen turkey breast and I prepared it as Sweet and Sour Turkey Cheng Tu style, as recipe I already posted some time ago for chicken http://www.igourmand.com/index.php/archives/recipes/40 . The dessert, at Normita’s request, was the bread pudding which I posted the recipe recently http://www.igourmand.com/index.php/archives/recipes/102 .

The seafood salad is best prepared just prior to serving, but it can be done a few hours ahead and refrigerated until time to serve. I have always like it and I plan to do it more often as seafood is great and cheap around here, and I had not done it in ages and I really do not know why as I like it a lot. To see some pictures of the celebrations from last Saturday, have a look at our new blog.

Ingredients

1 pound small cooked shrimps
1/2 pound cooked crab meat
1/2 cup golden raisins soaked at least an hour in 4 tbs brandy
2 medium stalks celery chopped in fine cubes
1 apple cored and cut into small cubes
3-4 tbs mayonnaise
Juice of 2 small limes
6 large leaves of Boston lettuce
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Place the seafood, apple cubes, raisins with brandy, and celery cubes in a large bowl and toss together
2. Season with salt and pepper and the lime juice
3. Add the mayonnaise and mix with a large spoon until the ingredients are well blended
4. Serve portions on the lettuce leaves

Lucito

I have not been able to really cook over the last few weeks as we had company and also work has been crazier than usual. Normita has been making nice large pots of vegetable soup for daily lunches and I have taken into eating a bowl of it, cold and in front of the computer, as part of my daily lunch. Normita is not a fan of cold soups and she cannot understand my love of them.

Most of this love it comes from my experiments with Vichyssoise when I started cooking. During the summer school holidays, I had gone to a nice French restaurant with my Grandmother in Ste-Agathe, a neighboring village to where I was born, and I experienced Vichyssoise for the first time. My Grandmother loved going to good restaurants and of course this place was top notch. I really enjoyed the soup’s creamy texture and its cold élégance.

When I started to be interested in cooking I experimented with various recipes of Vichyssoise, and I was never satisfied as on the first day I had tasted it in that restaurant with my Grandmother. One day at our cottage in the woods, when I was in a rush to prepare a meal as some friends were supposed to drop by for an unexpected visit at the end of the day, I looked at the ingredients I had in the refrigerator and found that I had some fresh leeks and parsley and some nice yellow potatoes. Since we would be out most of the day I wanted to prepare something hearty for a starter, and then grill something for the main course. I do not remember what I cooked for the main course on that faithful day, but I remember the hurriedly put together Vichyssoise I made as it was both easy to prepare and it reminded me of my first love of that soup.

I just threw it together in the morning in less than half an hour before leaving for our day’s activities, and finished it in 5 minutes before the meal. You cannot ask for an easier to prepare soup that will make you look like you slaved for hours in the kitchen, and if you are like Normita you can always heat it up before serving, but in my book this is sacrilège. I definitely will make a pot for the next week for my lunch…

Ingredients

2 medium to large leeks
4-5 medium potatoes (about the same quantity as the pared down leeks)
6 cups hearty chicken stock
1 1/2 cup of heavy cream
2 tbs butter
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Peel potatoes and cut into cubes to speed up cooking.
2. Cut the tip of the leek and remove the dark green part leaving the white and the tender green ones.
3. Make a cut from almost the tip to the other end completely through, and then turn 90 degrees and repeat.
4. Wash the leeks thoroughly to remove any trace of dirt, and then pat dry and chop in thick slices.
5. In a heavy lidded sauté pan melt the butter in the olive oil and then sauté the leeks with the lid on until they turn translucent and soft.
6. In a large soup pot put the potatoes, the broth, the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.
7. In a blender or food processor put the soup and the leeks together and blend until a creamy consistency is achieved. Do not overblend it, or the potatoes might turn rubbery.
8. You can refrigerate at this point for 3-4 hours up to a few days.
9. For serving place the cold soup in the blender and add the heavy creamy and blend. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve cold with a sprig of parsley and a splash of cream on top for decoration.

Lucito

The Padrino, when he visited us last December, had the pleasure to taste Oaxaca cheese. He told me last week that he found a similar Turkish cheese in Vienna and he was wondering what he could cook with it. Oaxaca cheese is a variety of spun cheeses that is originally from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, and that is currently made all over the country. It is available commercially from the big cheese producers, and of course a much better ‘artisanal’ version is available everywhere from road-sides to the local tianguis.

It is a cheese of ‘squeaky’ consistency, a term coined by one of our Japanese friends in Québec when she called fresh cheese curds ‘squeaky cheese’ as it squeaks on your teeth when you eat it. The Oaxaca cheese is normally pulled into long stringy ribbons during its fabrication and then spun into balls ranging from grapefruit size to huge affairs over a foot and a half across. Its primary use is normally to melt over food, a little bit like mozzarella is used on pizzas.

The simplest Oaxaca cheese recipe to make is a ‘quesadilla’ where a piece of Oaxaca is torn into strings and then placed inside a folded corn tortilla. This can then either be browned in a dry pan until the cheese melts, or pan fried with a bit of oil, or even deep fried. It is then served with your favorite salsa.

A lot of other dishes are topped with Oaxaca as a last step before serving, and pieces of it can also be put in soups to give extra flavor. Following is a simple recipe for ‘Volcanes’ meaning volcanoes, which is very simple to make and very tasty. It is better cooked on a grill, but it can also be made on the stovetop in a dry pan, or in a pan with a little bit of oil.

In the coming days I will post another tasty recipe to make with Oaxaca cheese, and also recipes for homemade salsa verde and salsa roja that are staples of every table here…

Ingredients

4 corn tortilla
8 tbs of refried beans
1/4 pound Oaxaca cheese torn into strings
Homemade salsa verde or salsa roja

Preparation

1. Take each corn tortilla and spread 2 tbs of refried beans on it.
2. Top the beans with 1/4 of the Oaxaca cheese.
3. Cook on a hot BBQ grill, tortilla down, until the tortilla is nice and crisp and the cheese is melted.
4. Top with either salsa verde or salsa roja to taste.

Lucito

You have probably noticed that posting had been somewhat light in recent weeks. This was due to many factors, both Normita and I were swamped with work, and the Padrino was away on a business trip. To make matters even more fun Normita had a very bad cold a few weeks back and then, as a gift of love, gave it to me. So, a few weekends back, I ended up making several batch of her chicken soup. I love this chicken noodle soup and it is very simple to make. It really helps you when you have a bad cold, and I find it extremely tasty for all occasions. She adapted the recipe from the way they traditionally do it here in Mexico. The standard ‘sopa de fideos’ or noodle soup is normally made with a chicken and tomato broth, but I personally prefer the plain version without the tomatoes. It can be served with or without chicken meat in it, and my preference again is with lots of noodles and no meat. The soup tastes much better if you prepare it with chicken bones. We either make it with drumsticks, or with breast meat. We normally buy our chicken at the tianguis and they prepare it to our taste. When we buy breasts to make soup we normally have them remove the skin and bones, and we keep the bones separately and freeze them to make soup. The recipe bellow calls for cooking a deboned breast with some bones for flavor, and you can dice the meat when cooked, place it in the serving bowl and ladle soup over it. You can also keep the cooked chicken to make a salad or sandwiches the next day. Either way it will make a wonderful soup that will likely cure all of your troubles…

Ingredients

1 large chicken breast half skinned and deboned
1 bones from chicken breast
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 a medium onion
1 chile jalapeño
2 1/2 tbs powdered chicken stock
5 ounces vermicelli or the type of soup pasta you prefer
2 1/2 quarts water

Preparation

1. Place the chicken and bones in a medium sauce pan.
2. Place the half onion and the clove of garlic with it.
3. Make a slit the length of the jalapeño and place in the pot with the rest of the ingredients.
4. Add chicken stock powder and water to the pot and place on stove at high setting.
5. Reduce fire to simmer and cook for around 30 minutes until reduced by 1/3.
6. Remove from fire and skim the surface of the soup and remove and discard the bones, the onion, the garlic and the jalapeño.
7. Reserve the chicken for other use, or cut in pieces and place in soup bowls.
8. Return the pot to the fire and bring to boil then add the noodles.
9. Cook until noodles tender and serve.

Lucito

Hi, this time I am writing from Canada because we came to celebrate the Holidays with the family. I have prepared a nice "cocktail de camarones y ostiones" (Shrimps and oysters cocktail) that everyone has loved so I decided to share the recipe with you. This can be the first course for a nice meal.

Ingredients

1 pound of shrimps
1 pound of oysters
3 Italian tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 avocado, cut in small pieces
1 chile jalapeño, chopped
1 or 2 limes, juiced
3 tbs olive oil
200 ml ketchup
Cilantro (coriander), chopped
Salt to taste
Salsa Valentina (Louisiana hot sauce, Tabasco, or any hot sauce to taste)

Preparation

1. In a bowl put the chopped onion, tomatoes, chile jalapeño, cilantro and the avocado.
2. Add salt to taste.
3. Add the lime juice, the olive oil, and the ketchup.
4. At the end add the shrimps and the oysters.
5. Mix all the ingredients smoothly.
6. Serve in small bowls and decorate with a slice of avocado and a leave of coriander. Everyone adds the hot sauce to taste.

Normita

A few days ago I mentioned that one should never prepare a new recipe for a special occasion unless you have tried it before, or you have enough time to do something else or correct the recipe before the guests arrive. I had told you that I had written a new recipe for the occasion, but that I was planning to do the recipe a day ahead just in case, and also to save cooking time as tomorrow we will have company all day. Our Padrino, Kurtito, is coming to visit us from Austria and he will be arriving at the airport in some hours, so I wanted to get the bulk of the cooking out of the way today. I baked some orange bread, some Aztec chocolate puddings, made a salad dressing, and prepared the new lentil soup recipe. The soup has about 5 minutes of cooking left and it is stunning. We had a lot of fresh herbs and spices leftover from other cooking earlier in the week and I wanted to use them all, so the results are a very earthy pungent soup. The house smells wonderful and I just tasted a small bowl of it and I think that our guests will enjoy it a lot. I know I just did…

As usual I cannot leave alone a recipe as written. I wrote it 2 days ago and I have already made some changes as I was preparing it for the first time. The recipe bellow is the version that is now making me very hungry just by its smell. I hope that you will try it, and let me know if you like it. Now I have to go get ready for the trip to the airport in heavy traffic.

Ingredients

8 cups chicken stock (can be made with powder)
1 cup dried lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 medium leek finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs chopped parsley
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp chopped basil
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chopped fresh ginger
1 tbs curry powder
2 bay leaves
2 drops vanilla extract
6 ounces chorizo sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 ounces smoked bacon cut into small cubes
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
2 tbs cooking sherry
Brandy
Fresh limes
 
Preparation

1. Put olive oil and butter in a large soup pot. Heat over a high fire until butter is melted.
2. Sauté the leek, bacon, and chorizo until the leek takes on color. (~10 minutes)
3. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a few minutes more.
4. Add the carrots, spices, and herbs and mix well with the ingredients already cooking.
5. Add the chicken stock and cooking sherry.
6. Stir in the lentils.
7. Bring to boil over high heat, and then simmer on medium/low fire for 45 minutes until the lentil are cooked stirring occasionally.
8. Put a tbs of brandy in the bowls in which you will serve the soup.
9. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime on top.

Lucito

A week and a half ago we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. For the occasion I prepared a special meal and we decided to celebrate the occasion alone together and renew our vows in a nice ceremony we designed. Normita had told me that she wanted some cream soup to start the meal, so I designed a special recipe that we tried for the first time that afternoon. It was both stunning and filling. We each had a solid bowl of it and then we were so stuffed that we barely touched the main course. I would recommend that this soup be served in smaller portions than a lighter soup. It makes a great starter for a late autumn meal when you want to bundle up in front of the fireplace and relax.

Ingredients

4 tbs butter
1 tbs sunflower oil
1 1/2 cup salted cashews
1 large leek cleaned and chopped
2 cups chicken stock (can be made from powder)
1/4 cup sweet cooking sherry
1 cup milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Oz brandy
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chopped chives for garnish

Preparation

1. Put butter and oil in a pot and melt
2. Add chopped leek and cashew and cook covered until the leek in nice and golden (~10 minutes)
3. Add 1 Oz of the brandy and carefully light to flambé
4. Once the flames die down add the chicken stock, the milk, and the cooking sherry and simmer for 20 minutes
5. Once the cashews are nice and tender purée the soup in a blender until very smooth
6. Strain the soup back into your cleaned pot and add the heavy cream and the rest of the brandy
7. Fold the cream in and add salt and pepper to taste
8. Simmer for a few minutes more
9. Serve with chopped chives as garnish on top of the soup

Lucito