Friday, June 30, 2006

Tomatillo Soup: Tangy and Fresh

A seed catalogue first introduced us to tomatillos. We planted some in the back yard garden and ended up with an amazing crop of green and purple varieties. Beautiful to look at, wonderful to eat. The tomatillo is sometimes referred to as a husk tomato, once the husk is removed it looks like a small green tomato but has its own lemony–herbal flavour, The soup that we present here gives the tomatillo center stage. We make this soup whenever we find fresh looking tomatillos in the market. When buying make sure the husks are dry and the tomatillo firm. Tomatillos keep well and can be stored for close to a month in the refrigerator. Husk and wash the tomatillos then cook in a small amount of water over low heat in a covered sauce pan. Its flavour is revealed through cooking. You may have tasted tomatillos already in some green salsas, often called “Salsa Verde”.
Cooks note; If you are short on time left over rotisserie chicken and canned chicken stock will still make a flavourful soup. For an unusual twist, smoke a chicken on the grill and you’ll have a soup that will make you famous!

Chicken and Tomatillo Soup
  • 1- 3 pound chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, paper husk removed and washed
  • 2 ears of fresh corn
  • 1/2 roasted poblano pepper coarsely chopped *
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves

    optional garnishes
  • sour cream
  • grated Monterey Jack or Queso Fresco cheese
  • yogurt.

    Put the chicken in a pot and add enough water to cover, at least 8 cups. You want to end up with a minimum of six cups of stock (I like to have extra to use for other recipes or to add to thin the soup). Sometimes I poach the chicken in chicken stock or part chicken stock part water for a richer broth. For the bouquet garni tie a couple springs of thyme, and a small bunch of parsley together. Add 1 quartered onion, 1 carrot chopped, 1 bay leaf, 5-6 black pepper corns and 1 celery rib chopped. Place the tied herbs of the bouquet garni under the chicken to make skimming the oil from the top easier. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is cooked through and loose. You will be using the meat for the soup so don’t poach it too long or it will loose its flavour. When the oil comes to the top skim it off. When the chicken is done, strain the broth through a cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the broth. Cool the chicken and shred it into bite size chunks for the soup.

    Place the cleaned tomatillos in a saucepan in an inch or so of water and gently cook them until they are tender. Drain and run them through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Reserve the pulp.

    Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a stock pot large enough to hold the soup and sauté the onions until tender. Add to the onions the pureed tomatillos, chopped poblano peppers, corn kernels and chicken stock and simmer till heated through, add the shredded chicken. When the chicken is heated, season with salt and pepper, add more stock to thin soup according to your preference. Serve the soup and garnish with the cilantro and-or cheese, yogurt or sour cream.

    *Cooks note; I was fortunate to find roasted poblanos on a recent trip to Arizona. If they are not available you can roast your own. To roast the poblano peppers, Cut the pepper in half, seed and core then lay them flat on a baking sheet Place them under a broiler until they blister and turn black. When they are black put them in a covered bowl, they will continue to cook and soften. You may then remove the skins with no problem. They should not be mushy. If you have a gas stove, hold the peppers directly over the flame, rotate and roast until blistered. If poblanos are not an option use 1 or 2 raw jalapeño chiles chopped fine.

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  • Thursday, June 29, 2006

    Sin is “Bacon Fried Chicken”

    Actually the name of this recipe is “Cap'n Charlie's Bits-of-Bacon Fried Chicken”, the sin is I can only make it when my wife leaves town. Personally I think she should be happy that this is as far as I plan to stray. My food sins include eating chicken skin, real mayo, truffled olive oil, crunchy bacon, hell yes to sausage and pork especially bar-b-q pork, why I can even include hot dogs. This not to say I don't try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fish, fruit and greens and oh yes pie. Now about this “bits-o-bacon chicken”, this a double threat to most but for me it was such a treat I locked the door, cause I didn't want to share with the devil. You will see by the picture I didn't monkey around with a fancy side, just some crisp lettuce with “you guessed it” some bacony thousand island dressing (and a beer). The cap'n knows that some days the fish just won't bite!

    adapted from
    Cap'n Charlie's Bits-of-Bacon Fried Chicken
  • 2 chickens (2 1/2–3 pounds each), cut in small serving pieces with skin intact
  • 1 cup milk ( an overnight soak in buttermilk will give your chicken some tang and tenderize it too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of Cayenne
  • 1/2 pound slab lean bacon, minced.

    Prepare chicken pieces and set aside.
    Thoroughly beat milk with egg in a bowl or casserole dish large enough to hold chicken.
    Soak chicken in milk-egg mixture and refrigerate for 1 hour
    Mix flour, salt, black pepper, and Cayenne.
    Dredge chicken on all sides with flour mixture.
    Spread minced bacon pieces over the bottom of a large, heavy (cold) skillet.
    Do not cover skillet.
    Arrange chicken pieces on top of bacon in a single layer.
    Fry very slowly for 45–50 minutes,until chicken is tender.
    Turn carefully with tongs as chicken browns and bacon bits adhere to the pieces.
    Remove chicken from the skillet with tongs and dry on absorbent paper.
    Sprinkle any loose bacon pieces over chicken before serving.


    Cap'n Chicken is adapted from The Chesapeake Bay Fish and Fowl Cookbook and can be found at abebooks. The Chesapeake bay area is ripe with a culinary history and a wonderful place to vacation and sample many of the dishes found in this book.

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  • Wednesday, June 28, 2006

    Lemon Soup with Zucchini for Summer

    This is a recipe I clipped from the newspaper some years ago and it is now archived in my black binders. Unfortunately I don't know who gets credit for the recipe, but I would still like to share it with some variations. Because the soup is assembled by the bowl, I increased the amount of zucchini and orzo allowing the eater to tailor the ratio of broth versus solids. Of course this soup is better if you make your own favorite chicken stock, bear in mind that the lemon flavor should be prominant once the eggs and lemon are combined. Keep your chicken stock flavor neutral.

    Lemon Soup with Zucchini
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • Coarse salt
  • 4 eggs * (I used five large eggs)
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 small zucchini, trimmed* (I used four young zucchini grated in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup orzo (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish

    Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt to taste. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a medium bowl with a whisk or electric mixer until thick and frothy. Slowly add the lemon juice,beating constantly. Slowly add 2 cups of the hot broth, still beating constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Stir the egg-lemon mixture into the remainder of the hot chicken broth. Let cool and refrigerate. Either grate the zucchini in a food processor or cut into julienne strips (I trimmed the zucchini but didn't peel them). Blanch in boiling salted water for 45 seconds just to set the color and remove raw taste. Quickly drain zucchini and run under cold water until cool to the touch. Refrigerate the orzo, if using, in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until cool. Drain and set aside. (If making orzo more than 1/2 hour ahead of time, toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to prevent sticking and refrigerate until needed.) To serve, mix zucchini and orzo with the soup. Serve chilled. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired Makes 7 servings.
    Cooks note: The first day we ate the soup warm, it was delicious. It is much like the Greek avgolemono soup that is made with eggs, lemon, chicken stock and rice. The second day we ate the soup cold and decided it needed to be room temperature to retain its flavor better. The sliced lemons used as a garnish helped pep up the lemon flavor.
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  • Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Nineteen New Images in the Gallery!

    You will see by the additions to the gallery how the animated world of food is growing. There seems to be a trend to garner our attention by reflecting human qualities in the food we purchase. The cheese head characters on the Sorrento and Frigo packages are the worst of the genre, representing youthful sportive characters enticing us to gobble down large packages of rubbery cheese. The winning entry is the bucket and the butter; romance with the cinema. Check out captain cupcake and all his friends in our Anthropomorphic Food and Kitchen Gallery. Don't forget to click on the images to enlarge them.

    Threadless t-shirts has a great submission depicting a cute bread character being made into french toast. First you see the happy slice with egg friends smiling. Second the slice gets drenched, its happy face now contorted, Its egg friends cracked. Finally the sad ending, dead bread in the fry pan. It might sound tragic but the drawings are done with such a degree of cuteness you smile at the bread's pain. Click on this banner to see...
    Bon Appetit - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

    Dollar short and friends reveal interesting psychological aspects of food anthrpomorphising in the blog entry “Eat me”.
    “Ever since I was a child, I have viewed my food as little warriors and little friends. Eating cheerios was always a daunting task. There could never be a left-over "O" — not just because of my desire not to waste, but also because I didn't want it to feel left out.”

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    Destination Food: Cafe Poca Cosa

    “The fish tacos above looked delicious although I did not taste them. Two of us ordered the plato Poca Cosa and each had a slightly different variation of tamale pie, beef and chicken, yumm.”

    Destination food is an ongoing post describing outstanding locations where we have eaten in various parts of the country and the world. We have been known to plan destination points around foods we want to experience while on vacation. I found one such place while visiting Tucson, Arizona last week. The restaurant is called “Cafe Poca Cosa” which means little things in Spanish. I decided the sample platter would allow me a one visit “across the board” assessment of the restaurant. My conclusion was a complete and total revaluation of my preconceptions of Mexican food. The freshness of the ingredients and the creative blending of flavours elevated the meal beyond my exceptions. Dieter and I have realised the best restaurants have a creative chef, (usually an owner) that understands how to create a menu that show cases their love and skill in the kitchen. I cannot fully express our disgust of the formula based kitchens where kitchen help are trained in the finer points of microwave and can opener operation. Conversely a resident chef-owner cares about the quality of each plate going out of the kitchen. At Cafe Poca Cosa this passion about what gets served is obvious. I love this restaurant because the menu changes twice a day from breakfast to dinner and each day is different. According to the splendid table public radio audio review the Cafe Poca Cosa, kitchen is a constant parade of local farmers bringing in seasonal produce determining what dishes are written on the chalk board menu of the day. There is no printed menu. What could be better?

    I was told the chef/owner Suzana Dávila is of Mexican decent and returns to Mexico for inspiration. I am telling you, this was Mexican food unlike anything I have ever eaten. I was so inspired when I came home I bought two new Mexican cookbooks hoping to make Mexican food to dream about. So far I can only dream of eating great food at Cafe Poca Cosa.

    They have a new location:
    Cafe Poca Cosa
    110 E. Pennington
    Tucson, Arizona 85701

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    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Mochi: Soft and Sweet Just Like You

    My friend Alan showed me how to make this mochi while I was visiting in Arizona. This is a quick baked version he found while living in Hawaii. The original mochi is a Japanese recipe which apparently is labour intensive. I had bought mochi before from our local Asian grocery in Sarasota, it was good, but not as good as Alan’s. He told me the coconut milk must be the high fat version if you are going to bother to make this, low fat milk does not impart the rich flavour. Watch out, the subtle sweet taste and smooth sticky texture are addictive. I found myself gravitating over to the mochi bowl for mid morning and afternoon snacks. He said in Hawaii you would find a pyramid of mochi, each piece wrapped carefully in wax paper for Christmas or special occasions. We cut the mochi into rectangles, but Alan and I discussed the possibility of making shapes with cookie cutters. Whenever you eat this mochi, you are guaranteed a special occasion.

    Before cutting the mochi out of the pan trim the dry edges off. These can be put aside and eaten, but they don't look as special as the rest of the pieces.

  • 1 pound mochi flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 can coconut milk (12 oz)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 drops red food colouring
  • potato starch

    Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.
    Combine the coconut milk, water and vanilla extract in another bowl. Slowly add to dry ingredients and mix till smooth. Add food colouring and stir.

    Pour into a well greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake in a preheated oven 350 degrees exactly one hour. Remove from the oven and remove foil. Let it cool then cut into strips and peel up from the pan then cut the strips into smaller pieces. Before cutting roll the strips in the potato starch to keep the mochi from sticking together.

    This does not need refrigeration and can be stored in an airtight container. It won't last very long. Believe me.

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