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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rainy nights make the best soups - and my wife makes the best cornbread...ever


It all starts with a really cold and rainy evening.  Just the sound of the rain droplets blowing against the windows allows a little glimpse of how miserable you would be if you ventured out the door, but there you are, inside and warm - a little bit of delightful jazz in the background, dogs curled up in no anticipation of having to venture out in the cold either.  Mandy knows this feeling....it's soup time.  I owe a little credit where credit is due for this recipe.  I was perusing through this old plastic ring bound, vegetarian cookbook that my mom has handed down to me, and you know I love me some lentils, so I stopped on this lentil soup.  The book is The Meatless Gourmet Favorite Recipes From Around the World by Bobbie Hinman.  The recipe is Lentil Vegetable Soup and it is on page 43 if you ever find yourself holding a copy (I doubt it).  I will admit, even though I will readily go out on a limb, I wasn't so sure about this recipe - but Mandy said it would be fine and that was all I needed (basically her acknowledging that if it sucked it was OK).  I changed the recipe up a little bit for my tastes and preferences - I didn't keep this one vegetarian, yet it could easily be modified.  You have to try this one out - it is a hardy little soup that really warms you up, but leaves you feeling fabulous .  You will need the following:
Ingredients:
3 tbsp organic butter
1 large white onion chopped
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
5 cloves rough chopped garlic
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 large head of Lacinato kale - YES!! chopped
about 5-6 red skinned potatoes chopped not peeled!!
2 cups chicken broth - we made homemade broth from free range, organic chicken drumsticks
6 cups water
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2-3 tbsp tomato paste concentrate
2 cups red lentils soaked for 8 hours in water and then drained - soaking is not necessary, but there is evidence to show that all legumes and grains contain phytic acid which can bind several nutrients during digestion - soaking neutralizes this acid.
1/2 cup rough chopped cilantro - I must admit - the cilantro sets this soup off

BTW - we have been trying to use all organic veggies, and free range meat and dairy products.  There was a time when I thought this was unnecessary and very expensive - but I would encourage anyone to do some research, one, so that you can see that there is a fundamental difference in organic products vs. commercially produced that may well be a large part of the frequency of disease in our culture today, and mostly, two, to understand that much of the organic produce and free range meat and dairy products are part of a sustainable movement for this country that will - if allowed - improve this world not just health wise, but in unlimited ways.  The quality of your food depends on the quality of your ingredients, and by quality I don't mean just taste - I mean quality and type of nutrients that your little body craves, but that our current commercial food conditions exclude.  Plus, not that these items cost that much more than normal, but the more you spend, the more you will savor your food - and truly enjoy it while taking more time to eat it, and therefore possibly skipping the extra portion that you might otherwise eat!  Maybe, maybe not right?  On to the prep - sorry about that...



Preparation:
Get all of your veggies all chopped and shredded and all that mess.  Get a large stock pot (12qt is good) and saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots in the butter until soft.  The butter can be replaced with high quality olive oil.  Make sure and hit these veggies with a couple pinches of salt during sauteing.  Go ahead and add your chopped potatoes at this point and roll them around with the veggies for a couple minutes.  After the veggies get soft and the taters are in there,  add the chicken stock (which could be replaced with veggie stock) and the water.  Salting a pinch after each addition of ingredients keeps you up to speed on salt and allows the salt to really get in there and penetrate each level of the soup.  Otherwise you will be stuck adding what you think is enormous amounts of salt in the end, so just a pinch or two after each addition should suffice because you can adjust in the end.  Now add your crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.  Let this return to heat, and now add the rest of your ingredients - cabbage, kale, LENTILS, and cilantro.  Get this all stirred up well, bring to a boil and then reduce heat, put a lid on it and let it simmer for an hour or so.  After this you can do a taste test and add salt or pepper if you like - whatever you think it needs - you're done with the soup, and now we can move on to what you really care about - yeah that's right, Russell cooks his ass off and all any of you care about is the cornbread that Mandy made - most of you probably won't even read this because you already scrolled down to see the cornbread - fine - I don't blame you cause it rocks!!



While the soup is simmering - get your cornbread ingredients together - you will need:
Ingredients:
2 cups Bob's Red Mill organic med. grind cornmeal
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 cups raw buttermilk
1/4 cup melted organic butter
1 1/2 cups organic cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder (aluminum free, no GMO )
Preparation:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl
Melt about 2 tbsp butter in an iron skillet in the oven at 425 degrees
Pour mixture in the skillet and bake at 425 until toothpick comes out clean and cornbread is golden brown - Enjoy!!



Now if that's not enough reason to gladly welcome any rainy, cold night then you just must not like soup - and that is a shame - but the cornbread?  Yeah, I thought so...bring on the rain!  One more thing - check out the cilantro I was able to decorate Mandy's omelet with this morning - that's just cool!
















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