Sunday, October 24, 2010

Beet, Carrot and Onion Soup with Garlic and Herbs

I have been wanting a Vitamix machine for some time. A few weeks ago, our old Hamilton Beach from the 1970s died. This is a machine that Nick brought to our marriage, 25 years ago, and he doesn't remember from where it came. It was probably one of those 'donation' items familiar to college aged-people - it goes like this --- grandma (or whoever) has two blenders, and gives you one of them. This blender was the only one we've ever had until now. I know it is an old blender, because one time, I toured Ike and Mamie Eisenhower's house (it's on National Park property) in Gettysburg, PA. They had the same blender Nick and I did, and Mamie died in 1979. (Ike died earlier).

Our Hamilton Beach died because I had some old parmesan cheese, and I was trying to use the blender to pulverize the cheese so I could sprinkle it on something I was cooking. You know the hard little bits of cheese you have left over from some long-ago culinary escapade? Not moldy, but hard. Well, that was the cheese I was trying to pulverize. The cheese, instead, knocked a hole in the plastic blender container, so that was the end. Besides, the Hamilton Beach was tired.

So, I debated for two weeks before spending a LOT of money (well, a lot by my standards) on a Vitamix.

This baby cooks. Literally! Mostly, I've been using it to make breakfast type smoothies (I experiment with flavors and textures I think will work). This morning, I tossed in 5 frozen strawberries, a half banana, about 10 dried cranberries, 2 oz each cranberry and orange juice.

So at lunch today, I made some soup. Just thought the recipe up as I went along. This machine is so powerful that ingredients COOK through pure friction. Friction is so powerful if you let the machine run long enough, that the ingredients get almost boiling hot, and steamy.

Beet, Carrot and Onion Soup with Garlic and Herbs (serves 2)

1 large beet, peeled and roughly chopped.
1 carrot, same as above.
1 small onion, same as above.
1 clove garlic, same as above.
2 sprigs parsley. 2 more, reserved for garnish.
1 large sage leaf, 2 small ones in addition, reserved for garnish
1 cup chicken broth.
2 T sour cream(for garnish).

Put all ingredients except for sage and parsley garnish, and sour cream into Vitamix. Whirl that baby. Bombs away...the cat scuttles out of the kitchen due to jet-engine noise simulation.

Let pulverize for 5 to 7 minutes, until liquid is steaming. (hot). Watch the liquid go up and down and round and round. Hypnotic red-orange color. Beta carotene and good stuff is practically transluscent in the autumn sunshine.

Pour into bowls and garnish with sour cream and herbs.

Although this was good, it wasn't fantastic. A little 'raw' tasting. Next time, I will soften the roots and garlic in a tablespoon olive oil on stovetop first. A little conventional cooking and carmelization would take this food from good to fantastic.

And if you conventional cook the ingredients before blending, you could make this soup with a regular (non Vitamix) machine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

French Onion Soup

Years ago, I bought a set of four ovenproof bowls, at a factory outlet store in Flemington, NJ, with the idea that I'd make french onion soup. Eight (or so) years later, (yay) I made it!

My first French Onion soup!

It's not hard to make, which makes me wonder (as I do from time to time) what took me so long!

There is some time involved, mainly in making the caramelized onions that serve as a base for the soup. This step turns out to be easy if you use a crockpot.

Caramelized Onions

Peel, cut in half lengthwise, and slice (getting rid of the roots) about 5 pounds onions. I used regular (huge) NY "Bold" onions (the usual kind, not the sweet ones).

Throw these onions in a large crockpot with 1 stick butter. I used salted butter, so did not add salt.

Cook on low 14 hours. Cool and store in refrigerator, where they keep for weeks. Add salt later, as you use them, if you want. These will be beautifully brown and naturally sweet. But if you think they're not sweet enough, just add some sugar. I've been making these onions for a while.

These onions are great more than making soup. Use them for topping hamburgers, serving alongside any beans or meat, baking on top of a pizza, and so on. At our house, we can go through a batch of these onions in about 2 or 3 weeks. And it's just the two of us.

French Onion Soup

Take about 1 cup of caramelized onions from the fridge. In a pan, melt 1 T. butter, and put in about 1 T flour. Make paste, and heat about 4 minutes. Don't let burn. Whisk in about 3 cups stock of your choice. I used a combination of frozen chicken stock that I had on hand supplemented by water and Penzey's "broth in a jar". This Penzey's stuff is phenomenal, in my opinion. In fact, I buy a lot of my spices and such at Penzey's. My mom turned me on to Penzey's a few years ago. What I don't buy at Penzey's, I buy in ginormous bulk quantity at Costco. Put a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and simmer a while. Put the onions in. All told, simmer about 1 hour. Put pepper and salt in if desired.

Meanwhile, slice french bread into 3/4 inch slices (I made some yesterday) and toast it in the oven at around 325 degrees, basting if desired with olive oil.

Get your oven proof receptacles (I used my little bowls). It's nice to make individual type servings, but you can do it in one huge bowl, I guess, and serve it from that. For the individual servings, pPut 1 slice of bread in bottom of bowl. Put on some cheese (I used mozzarella and parmesan because that's what I had on hand but per Julia Child, you're supposed to use gruyere and or swiss with parmesan). Ladle soup on top. Float about 2 slices of bread on top of each bowl, put on more cheese, then drizzle with olive oil (again, learned from Julia Child). Bake at 325 F. for about 25 minutes. This temp browns the cheese nicely, but is not so hot that your soup boils in the oven.

Nick said this soup was as good as any he's ever had in a restaurant. That's good enough for me!