Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A peanut soup (made mostly of pantry items)

Andy and I were out of town for a week earlier this month. We got back, exhausted, late on a Sunday night. I started off Monday with an early meeting and was busy all day catching up. Luckily, a well stocked pantry yields soup that doesn’t require an immediate trip to the grocery store upon returning from a trip. The ingredients include pantry items, and a few veggies that keep for weeks in the fridge. Well, the tomatoes were very sad looking, but that means soup is the perfect destination for them. And while I would not have called cilantro something that keeps for a long time a few months ago, I now store it in an Herb Saver (thanks Mom!) and it keeps for at least 2 weeks!

A few notes on the ingredients
Squash - really, any winter squash would work. Since this is the end of winter squash season, stock up now! Cause they really do keep a long time in the fridge.
Better Than Boullion (BTB) – I’ve spoken highly of this product before, if you still don’t have some in your fridge go get it. It makes soup so easy and tastes really good.
Peanut butter – most recipes call for creamy PB, but I kinda like crunchy. First, cause that’s what I usually have at home and second, why not have little peanut fragments in your soup? They’re good.
Bulgar – I was going to use some wild rice but was hungry and bulgar cooks very quickly. Lots of grains would be good (rice, quinoa) as well.
Chile peppers – I used a whole jar of MMLocal’s mild high desert peppers. They were great. This is not something I usually have in my pantry, but I might start cause the soup really came together when I added them. However, I think if you had some fresh chiles or dried or canned or pretty much anything would taste good.

1 t. of peanut or veggie oil
1 acorn squash, cubed
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped or pressed
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t. cinnamon
4 pints water (preferably measured from your empty beer glass)
1/2 c. bulgar wheat
2 T. Better than bouillion
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used small plum tomatoes here)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. yogurt
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 7.5 oz. jar of mild preserved chile peppers, chopped
Sriracha (for serving)

1. Heat the oil over medium. Add in the squash, onion, and half the chopped garlic and sautee, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes while you get the other ingredients together and chopped.
2. Add in the rest of the garlic, red pepper, paprika, and the cinnamon and stir another 30 seconds.
3. Pour in the water and the bulgar.
4. When the water is getting close to boiling, add in the BTB, tomatoes, and peanut butter.. Stir for a while to get the PB dissolved and dispersed. If it’s taking a while, let it heat some more and come back to it. Then stir in the garbanzo beans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.
5. Just before serving, stir in yogurt, cilantro, and peppers.
6. Serve with Sriracha or spicy chile sauce of your choice!

And lastly, a note on a previous recipe. If you read about avocado ice cream in my last post, you saw that I lost my notes and didn't have an exact recipe. Well, I found them and updated the post. Yay :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Avocado ice cream (aka green dinner part 2) ... and discussion on avocado smoothies

This is more of a concept post than a recipe, since unfortunately, I lost my notes that had the measurements I used written out! Argh! I guess it's okay, cause the concept is great, but the recipe itself had room for improvement.

**** UPDATE - 4/20/10 - I have found my notes! Here's the actual quantities I used on this ice cream:
3 avocados
2/3 c. cream
1/3 plus 1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. milk
juice of 1/2 lime
*** end of update

The concept is based on another dessert I was recently introduced to: the avocado smoothie. Lisa and Tin made some at their Tet celebration, and reminisced about having a lot of them while they were in Vietnam, where they're quite popular. They had a recipe from the internet that was something like this:

1 ripe avocado
1 cup ice
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
directions: combine and blend. Serves 2.

At home, I've been making them and attempting to make them delicious but a bit less calorific... something more applicable to breakfast or snack time. So roughly, I've been making them like this:

1/2 an avocado
juice of 1/2 a lime
20 ozs of soy milk
2-4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
handful ice
directions: combine and blend. Serves 2.

Something about the combo of sweetened condensed milk and avocado is just amazing. So I decided to try it as an ice cream. The goal was to make it even a little richer than the original smoothie since it's for dessert. I also had some leftover sweetened condensed milk from the smoothies, so even if I had the exact portions I used, they would be not very round numbers. In the end it was something like this:

3 avocados
1 and 1/3 cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. milk
juice of 1 lime

1. Blend until completely smooth in a blender or food processor.
2. Chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours or until the mixture is near your fridge temperature (~40 degrees)
3. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions.

The analysis - the ice cream was incredibly smooth, rich, and delicious, but could be improved upon in two ways. One, it was richer than necessary, so I would probably omit the cream next time and add a little more milk (again, I'm not sure the above ingredient list is exactly what I did). Second, while it was great right out of the ice cream maker, it froze as solid as a rock overnight. Homemade ice creams tend to do this more than store bought ones because they don't contain artificial stabilizers, but you can minimize rock-hard-ness by adding hygroscopic sugars. Hygroscopic substances attract water molecules, making the whole mixture more fluid. Corn syrup is actually a very hygroscopic form of sugar, so I think I would try adding just a small amount next time... I don't think it would make it too sweet. The alternative, which is perfectly acceptable in my book, is just to take the ice cream out 20 min. before you're ready to eat it. And lastly, while it looked very pretty with the slices of pineapple, I think it's actually best just on its own!