October 21, 2009

Too much cheese. Yes, it can happen.

Now that it is officially fall, I decided to venture back into my good friend, "The Big Book of Soups & Stews."

I asked my boyfriend for a particular ingredient that I should feature in this soup, and he said cheese. I looked in the index of the Big Book and decided on Potato Soup With Bacon and Gorgonzola Cheese. I thought about this soup all day at work and knew it was going to be amazing. I went a little overboard though. Let me elaborate after I tell you the recipe.

4 slices bacon, diced.
1 cup chopped yellow onion. (I used a whole onion, I dont bother measuring veggies.)
2 stalks celery, sliced.
2 large russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cubed.
1 cup chicken or veggie broth or stock.
2 cups milk.
1/4 cup chopped parsley.
3/4 teaspoon salt.
freshly ground pepper to taste.
4 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese or blue cheese for topping (optional).

In a large soup pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate, leaving 2 tablespoons bacon drippings in pan. Add onion and celery to pan and saute until vegetables are slightly tender, about 6 minutes. Add potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to medium-low and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer 1 cup of the vegetables to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. (Note: My bf does not have these items so i just scooped some out and mashed them up with a potatoo masher, and it worked fine. Not quite as creamy but enough for me.) Return to pan and add milk and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and rehehat over medium hehat for about 5 minutes. Ladel into bowls and sprinkle with bacon and chese, if desired.

My changes/additions/mistakes:
-I added about 8 mushroms, quartered. (good decision)
-I added a little more broth than it called for as it didn't seem like enough liquid to me at first. After adding the milk, it turned out I hadn't needed that extra broth. (bad decision)
-I added the bacon back into the soup rather than just using it as a garnish. In fact I got so carried away and excited that I forgot to save a little to garnish for the picture! (good decision)
-I added the full 4 ounces, maybe even 5 ounces, of gorgonzola cheese into the soup and let it melt a bit, rather than using it as a topping. (bad decision)

I thought, "I love gorgonzola! This is going to be amazing! Why would you just put a few crumbles on top of this normal old potato soup when you can mix in a ton of yummy cheese!?" Well, dear readers, because there is such a thing as too much blue cheese. The deliciousness I had envisioned quickly turned into I can't eat any more of this, what a disappointment.

I would still recommend making this soup, but be sparing with the cheese. As with salt you can add, but you cannot subtract once you add it in, and too much is just too much. Also this soup is pretty rich, I would recommend making it as an appetizer rather than a full meal, which is typically how I prefer my soup. I am just not patient enough to make soup for a first course and then follow it with a full meal. But if you are into that sort of thing, or want to make a hearty soup to bring to a potluck this holiday season, this is a great option. But seriously, even if you love blue cheese, don't mix it all in. You will regret it, I promise.


October 3, 2009

A Book Review-Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You've Got

I've been absent from this whole blogging shindig for a bit and I'm sure all three of you followers noticed, yuk yuk. In my absence I've been moving, working hard, and without a home computer to create any blogging masterpieces (another requisite yuk yuk).

In the meantime Michelle and I managed to attend our very first book reading! The book is Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You've Got by Tod Davies. This came recommended to me by a dear friend, and freelance publishing company advocate, Jenn Abel. Not only did she recommend the book but managed to have a copy sent to me with a note from the author. I've never felt so special in my life!

The book reads much like a blog does; short entries about what the author cooked, ate, felt, and experienced in her day. There's an underlying theme throughout the book and that is simplicity. As the title implies, the book exudes a sense of gearing down and viewing cooking not as a chore or a nuisance but as a call to listening to your body and the ingredients you have on hand. Two points I absolutely loved about the book, and identify strongly with, are the fact that she hates to waste things and that she gets a thrill out of thinking up quick dinners that require a short stop at the market, if any at all. Easily two of my favorite pastimes.

Michelle and I got to experience her skill for turning other people's pantry items into quick dinners firsthand at the reading. Attendees were instructed to list and circle the items they currently had stocked at home and Davies turned these into quick and delicious sounding meals off the top of her head. All the while the audience munched away on homemade eggplant caviar (recipe listed in the book, page 154). Pair this with Davies' quick wit and instant charm and I'd say it was a successful first book reading for us indeed.

Inspired by this, Michelle and I went back to my place and decided to cook with what I had on hand. It was not exactly from scratch or extravagant (that's the point right?) but it was delicious. We pan fried pot stickers from TJ's, steamed some broccoli, and made a small salad with cucumbers and asian ginger dressing. I whipped up a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, fish sauce, honey, chopped garlic, and ginger powder. Accompanied by a glass of wine, which Davies seems to add to her meals more often than not, and I'd say we paid proper homage to a great book.

steaming away

et voila!