Pete’s Recipes: Pete’s Kitchen Sink Soups

On Sunday I made one of my favorite repurposed meals: mac & cheese using the rinds from a cheese plate earlier in the day.  It was supposed to be my post for this week, since the prosciutto & pea mac and the mushroom mac both came out awesome.  But, cooking while the Pats – Ravens game came down to the wire had me distracted and I forgot to take pictures after the initial shots of the roux.  Oops.  Who wants to learn about Pete’s Soups?!?!?!

I have three go-to soups; Mushroom Barley (sometimes with chicken), Hambone Soup, and Roast Vegetable.  The mushroom barley one is almost always the exact same set of ingredients, and that’s a little boring, so lets save that one for another time if need be.  Instead, let’s focus on the other two “clear all the sh*t out of your fridge in one pot” soups: hambone and roast vegetable.  Let’s start with the…

Hambone Soup

Here’s what you’ll need:

Generally a group of ingredients that are leftover from a family gathering. Plus, that extra mini ham at the bottom left was heavily discounted post holidays. "ADB" may have to be phased out in favor of "Pete's Heavily Discounted Meat Blog"

In words:
1 hambone (+additional cubed ham depending on amount left on hambone)
1lb package of dried beans (chef’s choice, I like the mixed bean bag)
3 ribs celery chopped
4-5 peeled carrots chopped
1 medium onion chopped
4-5 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 4oz can tomato paste
Bay leaf
Olive oil, salt & pepper

Soak the beans overnight the night before you plan to cook the soup.  Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly, removing any stones or loose bean skins shortly before cooking.

Preheat oven to 300F.  In a large dutch oven (or similar heavy pot), heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion, carrot, garlic, and celery seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cook until onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes, before stirring in tomato paste.

This is the start of just about every soup I make and pretty much anything braised. Tomato paste is underrated

After cooking together for a few minutes, add in the hambone (+additional ham if necessary), the drained and rinsed beans, and a bay leaf.

That hambone was plenty meaty but I like this soup extra meaty. Plus, you expected me to pass on a discounted product that is prominently linked to obesity?!?!

Add in 8-10 cups of water, or enough to amply cover all ingredients and bring up to a simmer on the stove top.

I usually throw a bouillon cube or two in here, just because it seems like a lot of water to add. Use of bouillon cubes seems like the type of thing that would get me ripped on if I ever tried to hang out with foodies

Put cover on the dutch oven and place in the 300F preheated oven to cook for 4 hours.  After which, you should have something that looks like this.

A little thin looking, but we're not done yet

Fish the hambone out of the pot with a pair of tongs and place any meat remaining on the bone back in the pot.  Pour in 2-4 ounces of dry sherry (to taste) and simmer, uncovered, for another 30-45 minutes stirring regularly until the liquid has reduced by 1/4 to 1/3.

That's more like it, rich and creamy looking. I know that doesn't sound appealing with a ham-based soup but the starch from the beans is what provides both qualities

Ladle into bowls, and you have a hearty, filling stew that easily stands up as a full meal.

So filling and delicious. I am unapologetically greedy when the Perines offer their hambones to everyone after large family meals

Up next,

Roast Vegetable Soup

This one is truly a kitchen sink soup.  Think of it as a way to utilize all the vegetables in your fridge that you never got around to cooking during the week.  If anyone else has that problem.

The requirements are that you need some combination of celery, onion, carrot, and garlic as a base, a starchy vegetable, and a carton or two of chicken broth.  I usually make it with butternut squash as the starch, but I’ve also used potato, and recently included apples and ginger.  In those cases you mix all vegetables, season, roast, then dump into a pot with the broth to simmer, then blend.  That simple.  Here’s what you’ll need for an alternate version with black beans (plus a little more detail on each of those steps):

3 cans black beans
1 large onion quartered
5 ribs celery cut in large pieces
6 peeled carrots cut in large pieces
4-5 peeled garlic cloves
32-48 ounces of chicken broth
1/2 4oz can of tomato paste
1 lime
1 bunch cilantro
Cayenne pepper
Olive oil, salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450F.  Place all vegetables, except the beans, in a large bowl and stir in tomato paste, cayenne and cumin powder to taste, salt & pepper, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix until all vegetables are well coated with seasonings.

If you don't have tomato paste, ketchup can work in a pinch. Just don't tell anyone, no one wants to know ketchup is prominently involved in their soup

Pour contents onto a nonstick baking sheet and place on top rack of a preheated 450F oven.

Yes, I forgot to take my pizza stone out of the oven. If Kristi asks, tell her it helps regulate the temperature in the oven, since that's the BS I spew when she asks

After 10-12 minutes, switch to a low broil for an additional 3-5 minutes (with the oven door slightly ajar) to add a little char to some of the veggies.

Again, this can be the base of any number of delicious grub options

Dump the contents of the pan into a large pot along with the three cans of rinsed beans, juice from the lime, chopped cilantro to taste (I happily add a whole bunch worth of leaves), and cover with chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.

That color comes from the beans and the charred vegetables. I need to make this again soon

Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, covered.  The vegetables should be easily soft to the touch of a knife or fork. Using a ladle, transfer the vegetables and liquid to a blender in waves, emptying into a large bowl once blended.

Something about the blender makes it nearly impossible to take an in-focus picture. Wish my profile had the same problem

Puree by pulsing and letting rest a few times with the vent cap open slightly to let steam escape.  The goal is a thick looking liquid, kind of like a bean and vegetable smoothie.

Spicy bean smoothie. Delicious but on an empty stomach it can be the equivalent of drinking a cup of burned gas station coffee

Despite not having any cream or milk, there is a deceptive silkiness to any roast vegetable soup made like this and blended well.  The only downside of the bean version is the occasional textural contrast of the bean skins.  Otherwise, it’s got all the right flavors with the cilantro, lime, and bean complimenting each other well and some nice spicy heat from the cayenne and black pepper.

And that’s that.  Anyone want to come over for roast goat head and homemade tortillas this Sunday???  I’m having a lot of trouble finding a taker for that offer.  Facebook me y’all!

Cleanin’ out my Cabinets: End of Summer CSA (feat. moussaka)

Kristi and I have talked about signing up for a CSA multiple times and never done it.  For those that don’t live in hipster-heavy communities, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  A membership consists of paying a flat fee for a delivery of fresh, locally grown vegetables (or meat), once a week.  The main reason we’ve never signed up is because our summers have been pretty busy the past few years and that is prime CSA season.  We thought we’d end up letting too many vegetables go bad or missing our pickup.

Last week our neighbors headed out of town and offered us their weekly CSA delivery in exchange for checking in on their cat occasionally.  Seemed like a good chance to see what CSAs are all about, so last Saturday I went to the farmers market in JP and picked up their share.  They have a half share, but it’s still a lotta stuff.

I still have no idea what that purple leafed vegetable is. I think it's purple kale, and my guess is I end up boiling it or sauteing it sometime soon

Cantaloupe, potatoes, corn, yellow onion, eggplant, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, celery root, beets, tomatillos, red bell pepper, lettuce, and purple leafy stuff.  We ate the cantaloupe with breakfast and Kristi boiled the beets for salads with the lettuce and tomatoes, but that left some things I needed to come up with a use for.

My friend Conor makes what he calls a “smoky salsa” by grilling tomatoes and hot peppers then pureeing them in a blender.  Sounded like a decent use for some of the vegetables, so I put two tomatoes, the four husked and rinsed tomatillos, a few cloves of garlic, two jalapenos, and the onion under the broiler for ten minutes.

I know it's best to keep the door open a bit to make sure the broiler stays on high, but I was losing some eyebrows in the process

After ten minutes or so, I had this:

I remember thinking, "should I take the seeds out or maybe not use both peppers?", then just saying, "nahhhh" and barreling ahead

I let that cool for a few minutes then everything went into the blender with some cilantro, lime juice, and salt.  After a good blending, I took a taste and, wowza, that was some spicy stuff.  Like, cough when you smell it spicy.  I decided to boil some of the corn and cut it off the cob to mix into the salsa and hopefully cool it off a little bit, leaving us with this:

It even looks spicy

The flavor of the salsa was great, but it had us chugging water and sniffling constantly.  I guess it was a testament to the tastiness of the salsa that we continued eating it despite being in obvious pain, especially for Kristi who doesn’t like spicy foods.  After a debilitating sneezing attack I had to give up and still have about a cup of it leftover in our fridge.

As for what to do with the other vegetables, I noticed that we had a package of ground turkey in the fridge so I decided to combine the turkey with whatever I was going to cook. Which is how I ended up settling on one of my favorite restaurant dishes that I had never cooked myself, moussaka.

I looked up a recipe online, got a sense of what I would need to do, and got started with the eggplant.

The CSA eggplants are the three front ones, the back one is the genetically modified grocery store variety

I peeled each eggplant and then sliced them lengthwise into pieces 1/4-1/2 inch thick.  After cutting each slice, they went onto paper towels with a little salt to drain for a while.  I don’t know why this is necessary, and I have definitely cooked eggplant before without doing it, but I think it helps flush out some of the moisture and bitter flavor.

I had another eggplant, but based on some unscientific eyeballing of the eggplant next to the baking dish, it looked like enough. Basically, this entire CSA experience made me realize I never use the right amount of stuff

The recipe I referenced online called for a bechamel-style cream sauce consisting of a stick of butter and a cup of whole milk to be poured over the whole dish.  I wasn’t trying to make this a healthy version of moussaka, despite the turkey for beef substitution, but it still seemed a little over the top.

On a slightly related note, I’ve never cooked celery root, but I’ve had celery root puree a few times in restaurants and remember it being very creamy and rich tasting.  Since a small celery root came with the CSA, I figured I’d give a shot at using it to replace the cream sauce.

Started cutting before I remembered my all important food blog. Important to me, that is

I did my best to cut away all of the brown outside and probably ended up wasting more of the white edible part than anyone who has prepared this more than once.  While a pot of half water/half skim milk heated on the stove, I peeled one of the potatoes.

I had plans for the remaining potatoes as well

After the pot of milk/water boiled over on two separate burners and required extensive scrubbing of the stovetop to avoid the smell of burning milk (which stinks), I cubed the potato and celery root and added them to the pot.

Pots of milk boiling over are a breeding ground for the creation of new curse words. I don't know what I was saying or what I thought it meant, but it was definitely said aggressively

While that simmered for thirty minutes, and the eggplant continued draining, I started sauteing the ground turkey with four cloves of garlic and a chopped large onion.  Once the turkey had browned, I added about 6 ounces of red wine (3 buck chuck Shiraz, ‘course), a can of tomato sauce, dried parsley, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a secret ingredient to the pan.

The secret ingredient is a beef bouillion cube, clearly visible in the center of the pan. I wanted some beefy flavor and figured it would replace the salt i was going to add anyway

I stirred up the turkey and turned the heat down to let all of the ingredients simmer together for awhile.  The eggplant went into a large pan with olive oil to cook in multiple waves, about 5 minutes on each side to brown it a bit (didn’t take any pictures of that).

With all of that in progress, I turned my attention to the celery root which I strained after cooking for 30 minutes, then dumped into a blender.  For flavor I added a tablespoon of butter, some skim milk, salt and pepper.

The celery root looked identical to potato, just a little darker

While blending I added a little more milk until the consistency looked right for something replacing a cream sauce.

Rich and creamy, not grainy at all. Like a celery flavored cream sauce, really amazing stuff

At this point most of the eggplant was cooked and the turkey meat had been simmering for 20 minutes so I shut the heat off and let everything cool.  Once the pan was cool enough to touch, I stirred in a beaten egg which would help add some firmness and texture to the meat layer.

Kristi and Janet were in VT for a couple nights when I made this. I missed them beforehand, but it got even worse when no one was around to congratulate me on taking such an awesome pour shot

And with that, the moussaka was ready for construction, which I will use photos to explain instead of another thousand words.

Sliced taters. They went in raw since the whole thing had to cook together for an hour

This is why I hate following recipes. I blindly followed the advice in the one I saw to cut the eggplant thicker when my natural inclination would have been to cut it thin and layer it for full coverage. Which is what I wish I had done

The meat mixture and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. I was starting to get nervous about whether there was enough room for everything in the dish

Another layer of eggplant. That's right folks, I blew it, I didn't cook enough eggplant for full coverage on the top layer despite having an extra unused eggplant. I'm an awful person

Top layer of the celery root puree and some shredded pecorino romano. Lookin' dece, moussaka

The dish went into a 350F oven for one hour.  While that cooked, I attempted to clean up the ridiculous mess this meal created, and made a salad with the lettuce, beets, and tomatoes to tide me, Con, and Trish over.

Here's how much I like Annie's Goddess dressing: upon seeing a big bottle of it for the first time (usually only in small bottles) at Stop and Shop on Saturday I couldn't control a loud, "Ohhhhh, AWESOME!!!" from escaping my mouth and drawing confused looks from everyone in the Nature's Promise aisle

After an hour, the moussaka was ready to come out of the oven and rest for a few minutes so that it could set up a bit.

Added a sprinkle of nutmeg over the top after a couple minutes in the oven, turned out to be the right call

It looked pretty liquidy at first, so I was happy that a few minutes of resting time allowed it to firm up, which meant it could be cut and served like a lasagna.

I love all-in-one dishes like this. My fav thing is when a single bite of food has a bunch of different textures and ingredients

I thought it came out pretty good.  There were a lot of rich flavors but the cinnamon and nutmeg offered a nice contrast to the richness.  Replacing the bechamel with the celery root puree didn’t take anything away from the flavor and I thought it worked pretty well with the other flavors.  It was an encouraging sign when everyone got seconds.

On the other hand, there is a lot of stuff I would do differently next time.  Most important would be cutting the eggplant thinner so that each layer of eggplant actually consisted of multiple thinner layers.  As it was, some bites had lots of eggplant, while some had very little.  I would also peel the potatoes for the base layer since the skins were tough to cut through, and use shredded mozzarella under the puree instead of romano sprinkled on top.  Maybe use 93/7 beef instead of turkey next time too.

I’d like to stop posting on Fridays, but I will need to think up something to cook this weekend to change that trend.  Too many mid-week meals documented here.