Marching Toward Spring

It seems like yesterday we were shopping for holiday seasons, preparing for a new president and changes in the way we handle our economic conditions. We are all faced with how we can economize in today’s challenges. One of the ways in which we feel it most is in our ability to feed our family, especially with the increase in food prices. Here are a few ideas to keep warmth in the tummy, smiles on faces, and stretch that food budget.

Simple recipes include: Sweet Corn Soup; Goulash Stew/soup; Warm Green Bean Pancetta & Tomato Salad with Parmesan; Simple Cheesecake with Orange Marmalade w/mint. These recipes are easy and offer unique flavors for your family to enjoy, especially if you spruce them up by using your creativity and adding different ingredients.

Sweet Corn Soup

12 fresh ears of corn, or package of frozen white corn (about 6 cups)

1-Tbs. olive oil

1 small apple, peeled and chopped (about 2/3 cup)

1 small carrot, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1 clove garlic, minced

Two 14-oz. cans reduce-sodium chicken broth

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 limes

2 to 3 Tbs. snipped fresh thyme or parsley (or 1 to 2 Tbs. dried)

2 Tbs. butter, cut into 6 to 8 pieces

Bottle hot pepper sauce (optional)

  1. Remove husks from corn, scrub corn with a stiff brush to remove silk and rinse (if using fresh corn). Cut the kernels from the cobs; this should yield about 6 cups. In a 4-quart Dutch oven bring 2 quarts lightly salted water to boiling. Add the corn and cook uncovered for about 1-1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well; set aside. If you select to use frozen corn, defrost the corn, rinse and set aside.
  1. In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add apples, carrot, onion, garlic; cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, but not brown. Add chicken broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and cook 2 minutes more.
  1. Cool vegetable mixture slightly, about 10 minutes. Add half the cooked corn (about 2-1/2 cups). Place vegetable mixture, one-third at a time, in blender or food processor and process until nearly smooth; return mixture to large saucepan; add remaining corn; heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  1. Peel and section limes, finely chop sections. Combine lime sections and thyme. To serve, ladle heated soup into warm bowls. Top with a pat of butter. Sprinkle with the lime/herb mixture. Pass the hot pepper sauce bottle and let people add that bit of spice they like.

Note: You may add chopped green and red peppers, scallops, shrimp or crap meat at the end of the cooking cycle for an added twist to this simple soup. This recipe serves 6 or 8 depending upon size of your soup serving bowls.

Hot garlic bread and a chilled glass of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc compliment this soup/chowder.

Goulash or Goulash Soup

This hearty winter dish can be made as a stew and served with noodles or spaetzele (German dumplings), or it can be turned into a soup by the mere addition of extra beef broth, cooking some noodles in the soup before it is served. There are as many recipes as there are cooks; some use pork or veal instead of (or in addition to) beef; bacon or smoked ham is sometimes added for extra flavor. The Germans often add sauerkraut.

2 lbs. stewing beef, cubed

2 onions chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red (sweet) pepper, chopped

2 carrots, diced

3 Tbs. Hungarian paprika (or smoked paprika)

2 Tsp. caraway seeds

1 Bay leaf

Salt and pepper—to taste

1 cup red wine

1 to 4 cups beef broth

1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes

1/2-cups sour cream

Dredge the meat in flour and then brown in oil or butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, garlic and cook until softened. Sprinkle in the paprika, add the chopped peppers and diced carrots. Pour in the red wine and bring to a simmer. Add the caraway seeds, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and tomatoes. Pour in a cup of beef broth, bouillon or stock, (or at this point, if your intention is to make soup add the four cups of liquid). Let the goulash simmer for at least an hour or more, adding additional broth as needed. Just before you serving, stir in the sour cream; keep warm do not allow the goulash to boil after adding the sour cream. The recipe serves 6–8 people. Adding cooked noodles, rice, or dumplings adds a bit of flair. Selecting a nice Merlot, Barbara or Cabernet Sauvignon will work well with either the soup or stew. Warm bread, rolls, or croissants are great for lapping up the gravy and soup.

Warm Green Beans,

Pancetta & Tomato Salad w/Parmesan

4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes

5 Tbs. Sherry vinegar

1 Tbs. honey

1/2 lb. thinly sliced pancetta

5 to 7 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, ends trimmed (halved if very long)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4-cup thinly sliced fresh chives

1 cup Parmesan shavings (4-oz. chunk)

  1. Core the tomatoes, slice them in half horizontally, and flick out most of the seeds and juice with a fingertip. Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch chunks and put them in a large serving bowl.
  1. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and honey.
  1. In a 10- or 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta in two or three batches until crisp and golden, approximately 3 to 5 minutes per bath. Remove the pancetta from the pan, drain on paper towel, chop roughly, and keep warm.
  1. Pour the fat into a dish, measure out 2 Tbs., and return to the pan (discard the rest). Add enough olive oil to give you about 7 Tbs. total fats in the pan. Set aside.
  1. When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the beans in the boiling water and cut just until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and spread them out onto a paper towel to dry briefly. Put the warm beans in a large bowl with the tomatoes and set it at the back of the stovetop to keep warm.
  1. Return the pan with the reserved pancetta fat and olive oil to medium heat. When this mixture is warm, whisk in the vinegar-honey mixture, turn the heat to high, and whisk until the mixture boils and emulsifies. Immediately pour the hot dressing over the vegetables in the bowl. Toss, season with salt and pepper, and add the chives. Sprinkle the chopped pancetta over the salad and scatter the cheese over the top; toss gently. Serve immediately.

This salad recipe serves 6 – 8 and compliments well with either stews, soups or as a main side dish with fish, chicken or pork. Pinot Noir and Rose work with the salad and meat choices. Great with garlic bread as another side.

Easy Cheesecake Topped with Marmalade and Mint

1 package graham crackers (1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, 18 square or 9 rectangles)

6 Tbs. butter, melted

3 cups plain yogurt or sour cream

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

6 large egg whites at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 Tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbs. orange zest

2 Tbs. Orange Marmalade

Sprigs of fresh mint

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs in a bowl. Press into the sides of a greased 10-inched springform pan.
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the yogurt or sour cream, cream cheese, egg whites, sugar and cinnamon on medium speed until smooth. Add the orange zest and sugar to mixture, and mix just until blended. Pour filling into springform pan and bake for about 45 minutes in the center of the oven, until set. The center will still be a little soft.

3.Let the cheesecake cool for about 2 hours, at room temperature; refrigerate to chill. Add dollops of marmalade to the top of the cheese cake and sprinkle with mint leaves. Chill completely before serving.

This dessert is awesome with a sweet dessert wine like Orange Muscat or Tawny Port. A little goes a long way to delight the palate. Salute!

   
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