Thursday, March 11, 2010

Carrot Soup - Good and Good For You!

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was "The Magic School Bus". I remembe one episode where one character ate nothing but carrots for a week and so, his skin turned orange (a condition officially called "carotenemia"). In truth, this can actually happen (mostly in your palms), and it can take up to 30 days for your skin to return to a non-carrot color. (Fellow fans -- did anyone else feel bad that ALL of the bad stuff always happened to Arnold? Seriously. The kid was just the show's whipping boy.) But don't let this possibility deter you, folks. Carrots are so nutritious and naturally packed with so much flavor that cooking with them hardly requires anything fancy to make something delicious.

I've made a variation of this soup before, with potatoes and ground ginger. Personally, I'm not a big fan of potatoes, so I like this version best-- the carrot flavor is perfectly balanced with the creaminess of the soup, and it's only made better with crispy ginger on top. C.Ly, DT, and I feasted last night on this soup and it was supposed to just be the appetizer!

Thanks to my good friend Bill for the photo-- I didn't have my camera with me when I made the soup, but luckily he decided to try it and took a picture of this half-eaten bowl. Yoink! :]

Carrot Soup (serves 6)
2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion
4 c vegetable stock
1 c half and half
1/4 c butter
1 t ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (optional, but so worth having!)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the vegetable stock in a large pot and bring to a low boil. Drop in your carrot pieces and let that simmer for a while. The softer the better, so there's no such thing as "too much" for this recIpe.

2. Chop your onions and sauté in a bit of oil until they become slightly translucent. Add the cumin powder and some salt an pepper slightly before you take the onions off the heat.

3. Add the onions to the simmering carrots and broth. Simmer some more.

4. Heat up oil in your skillet again and drop in julienned ginger. Fry until golden brown and let that drain on a pape towel. Sprinkle a little salt on top for extra flavor.

5. Once your carrots are nice and soft, pour the broth and vegetables into a blender. Add in the half and half and purée the mixture until it's a smooth, gorgeous orange color.

6. Put the purée back into your pot and add the butter. Stir until melted and well-integrated into the soup. Heat to desirable temperature again (if necessary).

7. Serve with the fried ginger sprinkled on top.

Be careful-- this soup is so good, you just might turn orange from eating too much!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bacon is nature's perfect food.

Last week was DT's birthday, so as a present, I made dinner for him! Bacon wrapped asparagus and crispy garlic-ginger fried rice. The rice didn't turn out as well as I had hoped it would, but the asparagus was absolutely divine! But whatever does one do with all of that bacon grease after cooking? The plumbing at my place is shoddy as it is, so there was no way I was dumping any of that down the sink. I poured the fat into a jar and saved it until I could think of something appropriate to use it in.

A couple of days later, I remembered a fairly recent trip to the La Jolla Farmer's Market with CB and NV. A local bakery was handing out samples of gourmet cookies and I was pleasantly introduced to the "Morning Pancakes" cookie-- an innocent looking cookie that tasted just like a fresh stack of pancakes with bacon on the side. I was enthralled! And so, with the reemergence of this food memory, I decided to make cookies with my leftover bacon fat. Definitely crack the windows open for this recipe!

I apologize to my friends who have given up both meats and sweets for the Lenten period-- I promise to make another batch after Easter. :-)

Morning Pancakes Cookie
6 strips of cooked bacon -- crispy, but not cardboard-like in texture.
1/4 c BACON GREASE (oh Lord help us.)
1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c maple syrup -- do yourself a favor and get yourself a bottle of the REAL stuff.
2 eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 c chocolate chips (optional-- but why wouldn't you??)

1. Fry up the bacon. Honestly, every stove is different. Bacon is just one of those things that can go very wrong very quickly, so keep a good eye on it and don't try to multi-task while it's cooking (ie, talk on the phone, feed the cat, do the dishes... like me). When it's a nice, light crispiness, remove the bacon and let it drain on paper towels. Save the grease in a separate container and let it cool in the refrigerator. Chop your bacon into small bits and set aside to continue draining.

2. After the grease has cooled, add it to the butter and cream until they are nicely integrated together. Once that's done, beat in the eggs, sugars, maple syrup, and vanilla.

3. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Slowly mix in the not-quite-liquid mixture and work it until well-combined. Fold in the bacon bits and chocolate chips and distribute evenly. Let the dough cool in the refrigerator for a while. These cookies bake best if the dough has been thoroughly chilled, otherwise you'll end up with a very flat cookie. 

4. Once the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 350°. The nice thing about this dough is that there is no need to grease your cookie sheet beforehand (myself, I like to use tin foil just to reduce cleanup). Yay for self-greasing cookies! 

5. Drop the dough onto the sheet with a tablespoon and space them approximately an inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. After baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

Close your eyes. It's breakfast time!