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Friday, June 22, 2018

Ini-Ini Soup

I want to start this post by apologizing to any commenters who didn't have their comments published in a timely manner (especially you, Katie and Tina).  For some reason Blogger stopped emailing me when comments were awaiting approval.  I have to remember to go to my dashboard and click on the "comments awaiting moderation" link.  I often forget.  I get so few commenters that I tend to assume no one has commented (so anyone reading this blog, please leave me a comment now and then so I know you still love me).  I will do my best to check more often and not leaving your lovely comments hanging out there.

Anyway, let's get on to the real topic of the post.

Regular readers know my favorite holiday to host is Christmas.  I love cooking a huge elaborate meal that is unconstrained by tradition.  I have loved all the Christmas dinners I have cooked, but I think if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the most recent one.

When I remember the food I think of the chocolate ricotta cake that I almost didn't make, the cookies that were a throwback to my childhood, and of course, the porchetta with it's delicious shards of crispy skin and the lemony arugula gremolata spread over its surface.

In the midst of the sweets and the meats, it's hard to remember the unsung hero of that dinner. I don't know if everyone remembers the soup course, but I remember it well.  I spent hours simmering the homemade stock. Then I found scrumptious tortellini to float in it. The soup was the simplest item on the menu, but it was perfect in its simplicity.  With the right pasta, the flavorful stock was all I needed to complement them.  It was equivalent to serving pasta in a well-made sauce.

I was in the mood for tortellini this week and I decided I wanted to serve them in a soup again.  I had simmered some stock last week and I was ready to use it.  I could make another round of tortellini in brodo, but I wanted to make a soup that would be a full meal and not just an appetizer.  Now that summer is approaching, the farmers' markets are filling up with the best fresh produce.  I wanted to experiment with a vegetable-based soup (but not tomato because I make a lot of tomato soup).

I decided to try making a zucchini soup.  I was thinking of a soup that was a little rich, but still fresh tasting, and wouldn't compete too much with the tortellini.  Zucchini-tortelini soup?  That's a lot of "inis".  It set up a cute name for it.

Okay, maybe the name is hokier than it is cute, but at least I didn't fall back on my pun habit and call it Ini Meeny Miney Moe Soup (although I kind of just did that, didn't I?).

I sauteed zucchini slices from two zucchini and cooked until they were soft.  Then I added some garlic.  I simmered this in my homemade chicken stock with mint, parsley, and lemon juice.


I made this into a blended soup.  Once it was well blended, I finished it with a touch of cream.



I cooked the tortellini separately and added them to the pot.

You can substitute veggie stock if you want to make this vegetarian.  I also think some pecorino would be good in it.

The recipe needed some improvements.  I used too much lemon, so I cut the amount of lemon in the recipe below (a half instead of a whole).  The color was a bit drab, so another zucchini (zucchino?) or two wouldn't hurt.  Some pecorino would also have been nice in here to play against the mint.  (If you haven't tried mint and pecorino together, please go find a way to do that).

Ini-Ini Soup (Cream of Zucchini Soup with Tortellini)

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 2-4 medium zucchini, sliced
  • About 2 cloves of garlic (depending on size and how much you like garlic), minced
  • 1 quart chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh mint
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 9 oz. package cheese tortellini

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan.  Add the sliced zucchini and cook until soft.  It's okay if they take on a little color.

Add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.

Add the stock, lemon juice, parsley, and mint to the pot.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile,  cook the tortellini in a separate pot in 4-6 quarts of boiling water.  Remove from heat and drain a couple of minutes short of cooking time directed on the package.

Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the cream.

Stir the drained tortellini into the soup and serve.


Monday, June 18, 2018

I Thought I Would Try Jumping on this Bandwagon

I am not a cereal fanatic.

Some people love cereal.  They want nothing else for breakfast.  They even like it as a dessert or a snack.

I'm not one of those people.

It wasn't always that way.  As a kid I loved sugary cold cereals (Cocoa Pebbles were my favorite), but as an adult, I started to believe my mother when she said they might not be good for me.  It took a few years of eating non-sugary cereal  for breakfast every day to help me realize cereal is no treat.  Not only do the healthful cereals not taste as good, they also are monumentally unsatisfying.  If I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast, I would be starving an hour later.  That's no way to start the day.

The latest food craze now is "Cereal Milk", popularized by Christina Tosi of the Milk Bar.  The concept comes from the belief that the milk at the bottom of your bowl is the best part of the cereal.  I have now seen this idea repeated in food blogs everywhere.  Cereal milk is now a flavor for ice cream and cake frosting and pie custards.

Is the milk at the bottom of the bowl the best part?  My memories from my cereal-eating days wouldn't agree.  I suppose as a very small child eating chocolate cereal I liked the chocolate milk at the bottom of the bowl.  Otherwise, it was just the nasty puddle I had to clean up off the breakfast dishes.  In fact, I rarely ever drank the milk at the bottom of the bowl because for years I had a greedy cat who would perch on the kitchen table next to my bowl and immediately stick his head in the milk as soon as I put my spoon down (spoiled kitty).

Despite my misgivings about how gross cereal milk is, I had to admit part of me sees the appeal.  Why not have a dessert that is subtly flavored with a sweet cereal without having to put the actual cereal in the dessert (the cereal itself would only get soggy)?

With my curiosity piqued and my sense of adventure activated, I decided to try it.  I invited my family over for Father's Day.  I wanted to create a dessert that my nephew would eat.  He doesn't like cake (hates frosting) or pudding or any other soft desserts.  In truth he doesn't like too many foods in general.  Among the few desserts I see him eat are cookies and ice cream.  I decided to bake giant chocolate chip cookies and make a super-sized ice cream sandwich with cereal milk ice cream.

Tosi uses Corn Flakes for her ice cream.  I wanted something sweeter.  I used Cap'n Crunch.  While I wouldn't replace a regular dessert with Cap'n Crunch, I have enjoyed it as an adult as an indulgent breakfast.  I thought it might make a fun ice cream flavor.

I decided to use a Philadelphia style ice cream with no custard base.  Part of my rationale for doing this is that ice creams without the enrichment of the eggs have more intense flavor.  I wanted the cereal to be the primary taste.  Also, it's much easier and faster to just throw the milk, cream, and flavoring into the ice cream machine than it is to cook a custard.  Ice creams without a custard base are perfect for lazy cooks.

I soaked the cereal in two and a half cups of milk.  I used more milk than the original recipe calls for because I knew I would lose some of it in the soaking process.  I let it soak overnight and then measured out two cups.

I mixed it in the blender with cream, vanilla, and some sugar and then churned it in my ice cream maker.

I used the classic Nestle Toll House pan cookie recipe.  Then I baked it in my cookie-shaped baking pans.

I spread the soft ice cream between the giant baked cookies and froze the whole thing.

Not bad.

What else did I serve?

I made a platter of deviled eggs in three flavors.  One was avocado, cumin, chili, and lime.  One was bacon and smoked paprika.  One was classic mustard and capers.

We had a simple salad of farm market lettuce dressed with good olive oil, white wine vinegar, and a touch of honey.

Main course was lamb shanks with classic risotto.

I have no photos.  I was enjoying the dinner so much, I forgot to take any. 

How did the ice cream taste?  It was really good.  The cereal came through nicely.  I would try this again and maybe even try a different cereal.  I could try peanut butter Cap'n Crunch instead.

Cap'n Crunch Cereal Milk Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Cap'n Crunch cereal
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Place the milk and the cereal in a large bowl and soak overnight. 

The next day, strain the cereal from the  milk.  Measure out the remaining milk to make 2 cups.

Mix milk with remaining ingredients in a blender.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.