Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mushroom Barley Soup

My Grandparents came for a visit and to attend the Bat Mitzvah of a close family friend. They arrived a full day early and I wanted to offer them lunch. I knew they'd enjoy my mixed field greens salad with smoked trout and a mustard/lemon/thyme vinaigrette, but what to serve with it? My mother mentioned soup and that's how I hit upon the idea of making my grandfather's favorite, mushroom barley soup and this recipe was born. Cooking the barley in beef stock and fresh thyme really adds an extra dimension of flavor.

Mushroom Barley Soup

7 cups organic beef stock
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
14 oz. mirepoix*
3 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 to 6 black peppercorns
1 large and 3 medium sprigs of thyme
12 oz. sliced crimini or button mushroom caps
1 cup pearl barley
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Mix barley, 1 cup of water, 3 cups beef stock, whole peppercorns and large sprig of thyme to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, on medium low heat for 30 to 40 minutes.
2. As the barley is cooking, put your soup pot on the burner and turn the heat to medium. When your pot bottom is nice and hot add olive oil, then butter. Pull the thyme leaves off of the medium sprigs and toss in thyme, mirepoix, bay leaf, salt and ground pepper. Saute for 5 minutes, or until onions begin to soften, then add garlic and mushrooms and saute for another 5 to 10 minutes. Cover and allow the mushrooms to sweat, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes.
3. When the barley is cooked through, add the remaining 5 cups of beef stock to the mushrooms and veggies in the soup pot, as well as 2 cups of water and the barley, sans the whole peppercorns and large thyme sprig.
4. Fish out the bay leaf, then serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

*I get this from Trader Joe's already chopped and measured, but if you like to do it yourself just make 1 3/4 cups total.

I hope you like this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mexican Shredded Chicken and Refried Bean Dip

This post is all about entertaining. I had a few friends over for the super bowl (sadly, our team lost! Boo!), but I did make some enjoyable food and our fridge is still full of all sorts of awesome beer! In honor of the 49ers and the amazing Mexican food in their home city, SF, I decided to make Mexican food to serve to our guests. Even though the super bowl has long passed these two recipes are great for entertaining. The great thing about these two recipes is that they can be made together, compliment each other, can both be eaten with corn chips and/or corn tortillas (I recommend both) and you can serve your guests hot food with a minimal amount of effort! If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, or can find a similar product, I recommend using one can of fire roasted tomatoes with diced chilies (one can split between both recipes), as it really ratchets the flavor up a notch. In addition to the shredded chicken and bean dip I also served guacamole. Sadly, the food got eaten too fast for any decent photos. Ah, well. At least we can be sure our friends enjoyed it! ^_^

Pictured below is both recipes the second time I made them, for the purpose of picturing taking (and also to enjoy a fairly easy, filling late winter meal); to make it more of a meal I served it over brown rice.

Mexican Shredded Chicken

1 whole organic chicken, quartered, or a family pack of 2 bone-in breasts and 4 drumsticks (like I found at my local T.J.s) - leave the skin on and bones in
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped in half or thirds
4 whole peppercorns
1 medium vine ripe tomato
1/2 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cumin + a little more to taste
salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 bayleaf
1 Tablespoon minced cilantro leaves (for garnish)

1. Combine all ingredients (except ground pepper) in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a gentle boil (medium-low heat).
2. Cook for about 15 minutes, but check on the chicken after 10 minutes. When it is fully cooked (starting to fall off the bone), scoop chicken out of the pot.
3. Take the meat off of the bone and discard skin and bones. Shred the meat. While you're doing this, turn the heat under the pot up to high to reduce liquid in broth.
4. When the liquid has reduced to 3/4 cup, scoop out all debris (bayleaf, tomato, onions, garlic). Reserve 3 tablespoons of broth to add to the refried bean dip.
5. Add 3/4 can of fire roasted tomatoes and 1 whole can diced tomatoes to broth in pan. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes to marry flavors.
6. Reintroduce chicken to the pan and add ground black pepper and a little more salt and stir to combine. Cook for another 5 minutes, then serve garnished with a generous sprinkling of minced cilantro, alongside tortilla chips and/or fresh corn tortillas.

Refried Bean Dip

2 cans of organic pinto beans (15 oz.s each)
3 Tablespoons homemade chicken broth (see above recipe)
1/4 can fire roasted tomatoes w/ diced chilies
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese or cheddar blend
2 Tablespoons diced fresh jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
2 Teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 Teaspoon ground cayenne
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bayleaf
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
>1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro (for garnish)

1. Add olive oil to a hot pan. Add onion, jalapeno, bayleaf and spices. Cook for 5 or so minutes on medium heat, until the onion begins to turn translucent.
2. Reduce heat to medium low and add chicken stock and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes.
3. Remove bayleaf and add tomatoes, beans and salt and pepper. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes on medium low heat, until the beans are softened enough to mash.
4. Mash beans. When beans resemble a medium thick paste (you may have to add water during this process to loosen the thickened ingredients, especially if the beans aren't quite cooked through), add cheese and turn off the heat. Serve garnished with minced fresh cilantro, alongside tortilla chips and/or fresh corn tortillas.

I hope you enjoyed these recipes and I welcome your feedback!

Pics to follow!