Monday, December 30, 2013

Get Well Chicken Soup

You're under the weather...
Make chicken soup!

Jewish law mandates that chicken soup is the cure-all for cold and flu season afflictions.  My mother always passionately advises, "It's a natural antibiotic!"  Whether its medicinal effects are psychosomatic or scientifically proven, this soup has healing properties. If you're feeling perfectly fine, it's also just a great dish on a cold winter day.

When I was growing up,  every Friday night my mom made her hearty chicken noodle soup.  On every Jewish holiday, my grandmother made her elegant and crystal clear chicken broth with large floating matzoh balls, garnished with fresh dill. My soup is influenced by both of their recipes, but just as they deviated from each other, I too have come up with my own methodology. You can make chicken soup a thousand different ways, and this is my simple, hard-to-mess-up recipe.

Get Well Chicken Soup
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, medium dice
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, medium dice
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 large organic chicken, cut up into parts (I actually used one large breast (BONE-IN), a leg, and two thighs... you could even use a whole chicken, just add more of the other stuff)
2 quarts water
1 bouillon cube (optional)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped (imperative)
Juice of one lemon (crucial)
1 box quinoa shells (or use regular pasta shells, or any shape you fancy)

Prepare all of your ingredients for the soup.  Dice the vegetables, and season the raw chicken with 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 teaspoons of pepper.

On medium heat, add the olive oil to a large pot or Dutch oven.  Add the diced carrot, onion and celery to the pot, and allow the vegetables to sweat and soften, about 10 minutes.  Add the minced garlic to the vegetables and cook the mixture for 2 more minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground black pepper, bay leaf, and fresh thyme to the softened vegetables.

Add the seasoned chicken parts to the pot.  Add 2 quarts of water, or add enough water to cover the chicken and vegetables by 2 inches.

Bring the soup to a low boil, turn down the heat and simmer the soup for 1 hour or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through and the flavors have melded together. While the soup is simmering, check on it every so often and skim the top of extra fat with a spoon.  You can add a bouillon cube while the soup simmers if you want more chicken and spice flavor, but this is very optional.  If you do add a bouillon cube, just make sure not to add too much salt.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the pasta in a separate pot according to the instructions on the box.  I like to keep my shells separate from the soup so that they don't get mushy.

Taste the soup, and add salt and pepper as needed.  Once the soup is cooked and seasoned to your liking, turn off the heat.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the cooked chicken from the pot and transfer to a cutting board.  Remove the meat from the bone, and cut the meat into bite-sized cubes. Add the cubed chicken, the freshly chopped dill and parsley, and the juice of one lemon to the pot. The fresh herbs and lemon add brightness and flavor to the dish. If the soup has cooled too much, bring it back to a low simmer.

To serve, add  the cooked shells to a large soup bowl.  Ladle the piping hot soup onto the shells, sprinkle with any extra dill or parsley, and serve!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Leek Galette

A few months ago, my sister in law challenged me to make a dish with squash and leeks. The second part of the challenge: it needed to be dairy free.  Immediately, making a galette came to mind.

Galette's are incredibly versatile. They can be sweet, savory, and topped with just about anything.  They are like the pizza of the pastry world.  Once you get crust-making down (and I know that can be justifiably intimidating for some), you can improvise like crazy with different fillings. If really hate making crust just buy a pre-made one.

This dish is a perfect side dish for a dinner party:
1) It can be served at room temperature, and thusly made in advance
2) It looks fancy and appetizing
3) It is a great complement to meat, poultry or tofu
4) All of the ingredients can be prepped the day/night before
5) It could be the main course, especially if you are having people over for brunch or lunch. Just serve it with a nice salad.

This recipe was adapted from Gourmet Magazine .  If you don't care whether it has dairy, I would replace the Earth Balance and Shortening with 100% butter as indicated in the original recipe, and I'd also add some kind of delicious cheese to the filling before it bakes.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter (cold), cut into small cubes
4 tablespoons organic vegetable shortening (cold), cut into small cubes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium (2 lb.) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary
2 medium sized leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
freshly ground pepper
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from the stem

In a food processor, pulse the flour, Earth Balance, shortening, and salt until the mixture becomes a coarse meal.  Drizzle ice water over the mixture and pulse until it just forms a ball.  Be careful not to over mix your dough.  If the dough is too crumbly, add slightly more ice water.  Remove the dough from the processor and press the ball into a round disc. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.   The dough can be made up to a day ahead.

While the dough is chilling, you can prepare your filling. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the cubed butternut squash on a lined sheet pan (you can use parchment paper or foil).  Sprinkle the squash with freshly chopped rosemary, 1/2 a teaspoon kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Generously drizzle the squash with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), and toss the squash  with your hands so that each piece gets evenly coated with the oil, herbs and seasonings.  Put the squash in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the squash becomes tender and starts to become golden brown.  Stir halfway through to ensure that the squash browns evenly.  Once the squash is cooked, remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 375°F.

While the squash is roasting, prepare your leeks.  Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and run them under cold water.  Make sure you remove any grit that may be caught in the leaves.  Thinly slice the leeks once they are washed and cleaned.  Thinly slice a small sweet onion.  Place a large saucepan or cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  Once the pan and the oil are hot, add the onions and leeks.  Sprinkle 1/2 a teaspoon of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, maple syrup and fresh thyme to the leeks and onion.  Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until the leeks and onions become soft and golden brown.

Assemble the Galette
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a 13-inch round.  Carefully transfer the round onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Arrange the caramelized leeks and onions into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch boarder.  Top the leeks with an even layer of squash.  Fold the dough in on itself, covering the rim of the filling.  You can make this as decorative or as rustic as you would like. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg.  Bake the galette for 35-45 at 375°F, or until the pastry is golden brown.  Remove and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving, or serve it at room temperature.