Russian Mushroom Soup

There is a surprisingly tasty and enchanting restaurant downtown. It feels like your European grandma’s house–full of lace, fancy cabinets and glassware (though mismatched), and creepy/homey/charming trinkets. Although my grandmother isn’t Russian, I could see elements of her European roots here.

I realized the first time I ate there that I didn’t know what to expect of Russian food. I patted myself on the back for recognizing some of the names, but by no means could I expect what flavors would work together, which pictures matched up with the food, or most important of all–which infused vodka to accompany everything.

To introduce myself, I got a few smaller dishes, and the crowd I was with was down with sharing, so we all got to taste some of each others’. What left the strongest impression on me was the mushroom soup. It felt like hunter-gatherer food. Light and refreshing, but also somehow sustaining and filling. The broth wasn’t thick and the ingredients hadn’t been stewed down, but the flavors somehow worked together marvelously.

Now that I’m on this mushroom kick and the cold weather swooped in for a visit, we tried to make some at home.

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Russian Mushroom Soup

  • 2 morells (feel free to skip this expensive ingredient that we bought on a whim)
  • handful of woodear mushrooms
  • handful of oyster mushrooms
  • 1 cup or so of porcini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 med onion
  • 2 med potatoes
  • 1/2 of a celery root
  • 1/2 of a fennel root
  • 1 parsnip
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tbs peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbs whole allspice

 

  1. In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onions. If you’re using fresh everything, great, if not, rehydrate the dried ones first.
  2. In a separate pan, cook barley as per package instructions.
  3. As the mushrooms approach done-ness, bring to a simmer 4 – 6 cups of water with the roughly chopped celery root, fennel, carrots, parsnips and bay leaves in a separate soup pot. After about 10 minutes, add the potatoes as well.
  4. Once the mushrooms have lost all their moisture and have gotten somewhat mushy, add them to the soup pot. Let simmer for about 10 minutes
  5. Add nearly the rest of the ingredients : barley, peas, garlic, peppercorns, and allspice. Let simmer for 10 minutes
  6. Add the parsley and dill.
  7. Let stew until the flavors have melded beautifully, about 10 more minutes.

I found the whole peppercorns and allspice lent a good flavor to the soup, but I got tired of crunching down on them. Now, I wish I had used a cheesecloth or something to keep them in the soup. I’ll experiment with that and let you know, but if you have any suggestions for me I’d be very appreciative! For added flavor, you could use broth instead of water.

Aigo Bouido

Oh man, this soup.

I couldn’t stop myself from eating a pound of bread and two bowls of this soup. After that, I couldn’t do a lot of things. But after after that, I felt amazing.

I’d been feeling a little under the weather when this soup came on my radar. The fact that it would help with my sickness was an bonus, an accessory. It is no secret that I love garlic, so when this recipe made it into my brain, of course I jumped for it. I’ve always believed fervently and zealously in the power of garlic. It’s to the point that I even “convert” people and do things like make them read the Wikipedia page. It stops me from getting eaten by mosquitoes when I go to Louisiana, it keeps my heart healthy despite eating like someone from Louisiana, and it comes to the rescue when I’m coming down with something. Generally, I have a little soup I throw together on mornings when I need to eat but am feeling too bad. Aigo bouido reminded me of that soup on overdrive.

I’ve been on a Julia Child kick ever since reading her memoir, which is where I found this recipe. Although I was able to find her version online, I decided to make a Frankenstein’s monster, pulling my favorite parts out of all the recipes I found. Broth seemed more flavorful than water, a bread bowl seemed tastier and easier than toastlets with fresh mayonnaise, and despite her saying that it would be easier to peel the garlic after boiling it, I peeled it like normal.

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Falling in line with what I vaguely think I know about garlic, I smashed it instead of slicing, and I didn’t strain it out. It was delightful biting into a chunk of aromatic garlic.

*On that note, when you eat this, make sure that whomever you make out with is also eating this soup.

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In her book, she said that she made it after a rough and stormy Mediterranean day, full of wind, salt, and poor spirits. But this soup livened everybody up again. It is surprisingly light and refreshing, which is part of why I wanted bread with it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be very substantial which might lead to accidentally eating the whole pot. IMG_5160

 

Aigo Bouido

  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic
  • 6 – 8 cups veggie broth
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tbs olive oil (or butter, or both)
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 2 cloves (don’t skip!)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sage
  • salt
  • pepper
  1.  Crush garlic. Heat oil in med/low pot. Add garlic and cook until they begin to golden.
  2. Add herbs and stir. Cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and cheese together.
  5. After the 30 minutes, temper the egg/cheese by very slowly adding a cup of broth. Once tempered, return mixture to pot.

Inspired by Saag

I’ve been so in love with exotic spices recently so I’ve been trying my hand at food that’s not traditionally in my family and I’ve got a couple of restaurants that will soon be burning holes in my pockets. Since these aren’t flavors and smells I’ve worked with for years and years, I still need to work on calibrating my nose a little and so I follow recipes and recommendations a little more closely. For this post, I used two articles for guidance: AllRecipes Indian Saag and Whats4Eats Saag.

The focus is on greens. One of my oversights was how few I had on hand. When those recipes call for two pounds, they really mean it. As they cook, they really loose volume and when there are more, it helps promote more of a saucy texture. I had one of those tubs of mixed greens, and I should have gotten 2 or 3, but it was still tasty. Many versions of this recipe also call for a blender, but since I don’t have one, I stuck with chopping.

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I’ve been told that I made a Saag Aloo, because of the potato, but I believe in the spinachy spirit of this dish and will leave it up to y’all to customize it and name it what you wish. This was an experiment of mine and I hope you find inspiration from it like I did those other articles.

 

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No two articles I found had the same spices, or even the same proportions, so I played around based on my tastes and what I had available. Slowly I’ve been splurging on spices, and it’s been nice having a variety on hand.

 

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Saag

 

  • Spinach
  • onion
  • garlic
  • potatoes
  • cream
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs niter kibbeh (or butter, or oil)
  • 1tbs coriander
  • 2 tbs turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

 

  1. Par boil the potatoes in a separate pan.
  2. Cook onion in the niter kibbeh, on medium, until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and spices, then saute for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and water. Simmer for about 15-25 minutes. (4 1/2 would be blend it if you got it)
  5. Add chickpeas, potatoes, and cream.
  6. Return to a brief simmer. Finish cooking the potatoes.

Lemon Couscous

A few years ago I found out that my grandpa’s grandpa was Moroccan. I had already been into Middle Eastern food for a while, but that got me pretty revved up about it. I learned a few things, my favorite of which were preserved lemons and tagines.

 

These days, many of my coworkers come from Africa, so I get to eat all sorts of tasty food. We love potlucks and I feel very blessed. When one talented lady brought in her couscous, that sparked in me the desire to try it out. I had some lemon-marinated chicken in the fridge and ran with that. I searched the internet for couscous recipes that used the ingredients I felt like using, then came up with this mash-up of my favorites.

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Lemon Couscous

  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 -2 boxes of couscous (2 makes a surprising amount. it’s what I made, but you can probably get away with 1)
  • 3-5 carrots
  • 1 medium – big onion
  • 1/4 – 1/3 head cauliflower
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • tomatoes
  • about 4 cups veggie broth
  • cumin
  • pepper
  • allspice
  • lemon zest
  • tomato paste
  • turmeric
  • celery salt
  • bragg’s liquid aminos
  • celery salt

 

 

  1. Chop up all the veggies into stew-sized chunks, except for the tomatoes
  2. Slice chicken into bite sized pieces
  3. Cook chicken and onions for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the carrots and a 1/4 cup broth, if it’s not juicy enough. You basically want something to help stew, but not quite simmer, the carrots in.
  5. Add spices, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes. The carrots should soften slightly.
  6. While this is going, cook the couscous. It happens pretty fast, so it’s easy to do while waiting between steps.
  7. Add cauliflower, cover and let cook for 10 minutes more.
  8. I let mine stew for about 30 minutes, but if you’re hungry you could eat it sooner.
  9. Slice fresh tomatoes and serve on top.

Baked Spanish Tortilla, an experiment

I was given a bunch of fresh squash and zucchini the other day. Living in an apartment, it’s very nice knowing people who have gardens and small appetites. Lucky me!

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For a long time, I always made basically the same thing with squash and zucchini–a delicious stewed concoction with tomatoes that could go well with pasta or in lasagna–but this time I wanted to do something different. I’d also been craving a quiche or something eggy, so one fateful night, I decided to embark on a Spanish tortilla. The first night I had a Spanish tortilla was very eventful for me. It was the first night I found out that beer could taste good and it was my first college party, so this dish has an interesting place in my brain/heart.

Before I’d only had it with onion, potato, and egg, but I thought the squash and zucchini double whammy would work out well. I recently bought pounds and pounds of potatoes and have a ridiculous amount of good olive oil (thanks mom!), so I went to town.

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Since I don’t have a very good skillet for a traditional Spanish tortilla, I decided to try baking it, which thankfully, turned out very well.

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Baked Spanish Tortilla!

Garlic, Salt, Pepper
3-4 medium golden potatoes
4-5 squash and/or zucchini
I think I used around 8 eggs?
And probably about 1/4 cup olive oil (that’s why it’s important to have one that you think tastes good)

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Slice the garlic (of course), potatoes, zucchini, and squash (and onion if you remember) into thin slices of equal thickness. Mine were about 1/4 inch.
3. Oil the bottom of a 9 x 13 and begin layering the potatoes and squash/zuchs, starting with potatoes on bottom. Add a little Salt/Pepper/Garlic/Olive oil at each layer.
4. Crack some eggs into a separate bowl and whisk, then pour over pan. You want it to fill to only about half full. I started with only a few but kept adding more until it reached the level. (My pan isn’t 9 x 13, it’s something weird like 10 3/8 x 14 1/4, so I needed about 8 eggs, but you might need a different amount)
5. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
6. Check on it–test fluffiness of eggs. It might need 15 more minutes without the foil.

Kale Pasta

On a quest to find cheap and healthy food, I ransacked the HEB and came away with a 98 cent bush of kale about 3 times the size of my head. It was a great find, but since leafy greens don’t do so well in my fridge, I knew I’d have to eat them fast. I did some experimenting, and this was one of my favorite recipes that came of it.

kale

I sorted the prep vegetables according to how cooked I wanted them to be.

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First, I sauteed the onion in olive oil, over medium heat until they started getting translucent. After that, I tossed in the rest, sauteing for a few minutes before adding the sauce. Together, I let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes (feel free to do it as long as you’re willing, just make sure it doesn’t dry out).

 

While that was going, I made bacon sprinkles. If you want to keep this recipe Vegan, skip that. It’s totally option and I did it on a whim, anyway, so not much will be lost if you skip it. Only bacon, which you don’t really care about anyway.

 

Bacon sprinkles are just tiny strips of bacon fried until they’re crispy. I’ve used them in a handful of dishes so far and I’ve found them to be a nice way to add a little bit of salty/crunchy to your food. Since they keep well, you can even cook up half a pack or so and just keep them in the fridge for whenever you need some on your pasta, fried rice, or grits.

 

As the pasta was nearing completion, I tossed the kale into the sauce. I waited till the end because I wanted it to still be crisp and fresh tasting. The diversity of texture alone is worth it, and if you’re down for an experiment, I recommend just adding some fresh. Also, if you’re a cheesy kind of person, I’d recommend a hard Spanish cheese for this. I tried it with some idiazabal and it worked really well.

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Here’s my attempt at a printer friendly recipe card:

Kale Pasta

Bacon sprinkles and cheese (optional)

1 med white onion

1 jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic (I eat it in everything, you might not want as much)

24 oz pasta sauce

whatever spices you like in pasta sauce: salt/pepper/garlic/oregano/etc

3 giant kale leaves

noodles

1. Make bacon sprinkles. Drain and set aside.

1 if you don’t want meat. Chop veggies, keep onion separate.

2. Warm a sauce pot with olive oil to medium. Saute onions for about 5 minutes.

3. Add jalapeno, bell pepper, and garlic and saute for about a minute.

4. Add sauce and stir. Lower the temperature to med-low, but keep an eye on it just in case.

5. Start boiling pasta water (waiting to do it until now is a great way to time the sauce and also gives you time to clean up some if you don’t want to save it all till you’re done) and cook the pasta as per the recommended instructions.

6. With about a minute left on the pasta, add the kale to the sauce.

7. Everything’s all a flurry now! Strain the pasta! Add a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick! Stir the sauce some more!

8. Serve. Top with bacon sprinkles and/or delicious Spanish cheese, as you desire.

Turkey and Andouille Gumbo

Every year I get a turkey for Thanksgiving. This is the first year I actually used it for Thanksgiving, but that’s for a different article. What I always use the turkey for is awesome Louisiana food–namely, gumbo and jambalaya. Right now I’ve got a batch on the stove, and I think I’ve made it enough times to write a good article about it.

Although it’s kind of intimidating, it’s not too hard. For the longest time, making the roux was the scariest part. It’s that essential first step that either makes or breaks your gumbo. I come from two different methodologies when it comes to making a roux, which didn’t help things either. Basically, there are two ways to do it: low and long or hot and fast. But whichever way you choose, the most important thing is that you don’t burn it. I used to be a fan of long and low, but as I got more used to making a roux, my impatience came to take over.

I guess gumbo is one of those foods that I love–the kind you can play with and make your own. I have a recipe that I forced out of my mom written down, but I’ve made so many adjustments and make so many non-measurements that having a recipe has become a little silly. But it is a good starting point. So for those of you who would like a starting point, here you go:

First, here’s what you need:
1/2 cup fats (I use a mix of butter and olive oil–it all depends on your own flavor preference)
1/2 cup flour
2 stalks celery
2 poblano peppers (this is my first year using these, normally I use green bell peppers)
1 yellow onion
11 cloves garlic (Cajuns love them some garlic)
8 oz okra (this is the first time I’ve used this too, I just used half a bag of frozen)
7 cups home-made turkey stock (another super-easy thing to make with leftover turkey bits, article coming soon)
~1 1/2 cup turkey
4 links andouille sausage

It’s true there’s a lot of waiting for this, but in the beginning it’s a flurry of activity, so it’s best to be well prepared before starting anything.

So, first things first, begin by chopping up the sausage and veggies. Put the veggies in a bowl and set aside. You will need them suddenly, so keep them handy.

Then–and this is important, but I always forget to do it–brown the sausage in the same pot you’re going to cook everything else in. It saves you a pan and also helps the delicious sausage flavor permeate everything.

Once they’re done, remove from pot and set aside.

Now it’s time for the roux.

That is your desired end result, but it’s going to start off more like this:

Combine the flour and oil/butter and combine. A french whisk is my favorite tool for this, but a normal whisk or a wooden spoon will get the job done too.

If you want low and long, keep it around 3 and stir forever. This method could take most of an hour but it’s safer in that you’re less likely to burn it (yet more likely to succumb to a murderous rage induced by impatience and slight arm fatigue).

The method I tried out today and which I vastly prefer is hot and fast. I started around 5 and progressively got more impatient and ended around 8 1/2. You definitely have to pay attention to your stirring and make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. But it’s worth it.

Once your roux is a delicious chocolatey brown, take it off the heat and–quick!–add the veggies. They help cool off the roux, which is very important at this stage.

Since gumbo itself takes so long to cook, I didn’t see the need to cook the veggies for too long, though you can if you want on a low heat. Now it’s time to add the stock (should be warm) and meat.

And I don’t have a finished picture yet because it’s still going! But once the rice is done I’ll enjoy a bowl and let you know how it came out.