Sopa De Pollo (soap-ah day poyo)


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That's a phonetic spelling after the title for you non Spanish speakers.  Sopa de pollo is found on a couple of the restaurant menus around here, and it has me hooked!  A nice, south of the border twist on chicken and rice soup, sopa de pollo is full of good for you stuff, and it comes together quickly! 

I have come to love making soups because you are truly only limited by your on hand supplies and creativity.  Unless you just throw something bad in there or forget to season it, you won't have a flop.  That's what led me to creating this restaurant soup in my own home.  I felt like I could maybe even make it better than the restaurants around here, due to the fact that all my ingredients will be freshly prepared and will be prepared with the intent of going into the soup.  For example, the restaurant version's rice is always really mushy from being in liquid too long.  In my version the rice is cooked just right, so it doesn't feel like I'm biting into grainy foam. 

So, on to the recipe- I've made this up to suit Drew's and my tastes, so feel free to adjust seasonings and ingredients to your own liking.  Post those changes in the comments (click on the speech bubble at the top) to let me know how that goes!

Sopa de Pollo
feeds 2-4 (depending on hunger, portion size, etc)

1 quart chicken stock or broth (homemade preferable)
1 cup shredded or diced cooked chicken
1 fresh jalapeño, minced (or 2 tsp. pickled)
1/2 cup onion, diced
1-2 avocados, diced
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup diced bell pepper, any color
1-2 limes, juiced and zested
1/3 cup canned petite diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a skillet or in the bottom of your (medium) soup pot, heat a bit of butter or vegetable oil over medium heat and sauté the onion and pepper until soft and onion is somewhat translucent, about 5-10 minutes, depending on your stovetop.  Add the onions and pepper to a medium pot (or, if they're already in the pot, keep them there) and add all ingredients except the avocado and lime.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and then turn down the heat to a simmer.  After about 10 minutes, add the avocado and lime juice and zest to your taste.  Serve with tortilla chips or eat by itself.  It's so good!

Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower Gratin



Do you eat Brussels sprouts?  I tried them once and swore them off when I was about 9 or 10.  Now that I'm more into food and cooking, lots of people whose opinion I value have highlighted recipes with them in it and have sung the praises of Brussels sprouts.  I then found in my March 2011 issue of Cooking Light a recipe for a gratin that contains not just Brussels sprouts, but cauliflower.  I have never been a huge fan of it either.  I suppose you might think me a bit crazy for putting two vegetables I don't really like into a dish that I expect to be dynamite, but sometimes you have to take a chance. 

The sauce (maybe classified as a bechamel) was absolutely dynamite.  It was flavorful and creamy.  The vegetables were only a little improved by the sauce.  So, we have something I'd eat again but probably not something I'd make again.  The leftovers don't improve with age, so it's best to make this when you have a lot of people who can eat off this.  Both Drew and I recommend cutting the vegetables into smaller pieces than they recommend. 

Cripsy Topped Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower Gratin
from Cooking Light

4 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 pound)

4 cups trimmed quartered Brussels sprouts (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
2/3 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
4 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cook cauliflower and Brussels sprouts in boiling water 2 minutes; drain.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, milk, and next 4 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a bowl; stir well with a whisk.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 3 minutes or until bacon begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk mixture; bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Spoon vegetable mixture into an 11 x 7-inch broiler-safe ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover dish with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler to high.

Remove foil from dish. Combine cheese and panko; sprinkle evenly over vegetables. Broil 5 inches from heat for 4 minutes or until browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

  • I used turkey bacon.  That means more oil needs to be added at the beginning since there will be no bacon grease, but the turkey bacon pieces add a nice flavor contrast to the vegetables in the gratin.
  • I used a yellow "hot" onion.  It still contributed fabulously.
  • I burned the top of my gratin.  Watch your broiling time!

Creme Fraiche Roasted Salmon



Salmon is so great, and this is a pretty good way to prepare it.  Few ingredients, straightforward method.  It's nice to return to simplicity sometimes.  I first saw this recipe in the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit and I think it was my first experience with Molly Wizenberg.  You can see the recipe in its original form and the accompanying article here.  I made this recipe last week and really enjoyed the way the salmon's flavor is showcased here.  The creme fraiche adds a slight tang and decadence.  Mine did not brown on top the way that the salmon on Bon Appetit's did, but I still enjoyed it and would likely make it again.  I also sprinkled dried dill on top because I love the pairing of dill and salmon. 

Creme Fraiche Roasted Salmon
from Molly Wizenberg, via Bon Appetit

1- 2 lb fillet of salmon (I used about 1/3 that amount for the two of us)
1/4 cup creme fraiche (see notes)
Salt and Pepper
Herbs, optional

Preheat your oven to 425.  Line an aluminum baking sheet with foil.  Place the salmon, skin side down, on the foil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and herbs if you choose) and top with creme fraiche.  If you love herbs, add more now.  Bake the salmon in the oven for 12-14 minutes or until almost done (it will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven).  Using a spatula, remove salmon and transfer to platter or plates. 

  • Creme Fraiche is sort of a French version of sour cream, but it's able to be whipped.  It can be found in some grocery stores, but you can make your own by following this recipe.  It's delicious, and the longer you let it sit in the fridge, the tangier it becomes. 

Roasted Red Onion and Squash Pasta



It wasn't until recent years I learned that not all pasta sauces fall into the categories of "red" and "alfredo" and that pasta water was a key ingredient in sauce formation.  Today's recipe, which is so easy it's more of an idea rather than a true recipe, is a pasta dish that is so lightly sauced that you'd wonder if it had any sauce at all.  The brilliance of this method includes a simple, short ingredient list and the vegetables play a sort of lead role.  All flavors are individually experienced, and yet everything works so well together.

I saw this recipe in the January/February issue of Everyday Food and have already made it twice.  It's simple, relatively quick, and makes me smile as I eat it.  Made as written, the recipe is under 500 calories per serving.  I did make this pretty much as written, but think that hearty eaters would benefit from the addition of some cooked cubed chicken to increase the protein and therefore the food's "staying power."  I happened to have some fontina cheese from an earlier recipe, but if you don't have fontina, use swiss or mozzarella- most any mild white cheese would do.  I also didn't have short ridged pasta, but I had some campanelle, so I subbed it and that worked great- I think most any smaller pasta would work here, but the ridges do help to grab onto sauce.   

Roasted Red Onion and Squash Pasta
from January/February 2011 Everyday Light

1 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 red onions, cut into 6-8 wedges each
1 Tb coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves (or 1.5 tsp. dried)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb short ridged pasta, such as rigatoni
1/4 cup or 2 oz. grated fontina cheese

Preheat your oven to 450.  On a baking sheet, toss together the squash,sage, and onion with the oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring or tossing halfway through. 

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water.  When it reaches a boil, salt the water well and toss in your pasta.  Cook until al dente or to your taste (somewhere around 10 mintues).  Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.  Return to the pot with the roasted vegetables and the cheese.  Stir, slowly adding in the pasta water until there is a thin sauce.  Top with grated or shaved parmesan cheese. 


Kale Salad


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I had never thought much about kale until I saw this article in Bon Appetit by Molly Wizenberg.  That was maybe the first time kale hit my radar as something I should try and not just as the little garnish on the plates at Shoneys.  It wasn't too long after that Drew and I went to 131 Main in Asheville, and kale salad was listed as a side dish.  I asked the waiter to describe it, and it seemed like it might be a good choice.  Oh how right I was!  This quickly became one of my favorite winter salads, and after asking the waiter to repeat its contents (I'm not so good at identifying every ingredient yet), I made notes and determined I had to replicate this salad at home.  I think I've hit success.  So, this recipe is sort of one of my originals, having been developed by me and inspired by the dish I had at 131 Main. 

In my opinion, this salad is best served in smaller quantities; think side salad rather than entree.  The kale needs to be very thinly sliced into 1''-2'' ribbons (think the size of shredded iceberg lettuce).  If you're not very familiar with kale, it's a strong green, slightly bitter, and usually not served raw.  If it's not thinly sliced, the leaf may be a bit much for you.  In this salad, its straightforwardness is matched with lemon juice and parmesan cheese to create a dish with slightly tangy, bright, and hearty qualities with every bite.  When purchasing kale, you want a nice, sturdy, green leaf.  Most of the ones around here have been wilty and flimsy this winter, and you need the sturdiness. 

Kale Salad
from my kitchen, inspired by 131 Main

4 cups thinly sliced kale leaves (maybe about 1/2 bunch or 1/4 lb)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4-1/2 cup parmesan (or parmigiano reggiano) cheese, grated
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced, pressed, or grated (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

In a bowl large enough to hold the kale and do some tossing, add the kale.  In a smaller bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice.  Pour about half the lemon juice/olive oil mixture over the kale and toss.  Add in the cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, and red pepper, if using, and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings/flavors to your liking.  Serve immediately or place in refrigerator until needed.  Serves 4. 

Note:  Being that I am not a careful measurer when not baking, you may want or need to adjust the quantities of certain ingredients.  I did try to estimate to the best of my abilities.  The kale salad should be well dressed but not drenched, and the parmesan noticeable but not overpowering.  As with so many dishes, this is one of balanced flavors.  If you feel the lemon flavor needs punching up, add in some zest or more juice.

Chicken with Artichokes, Feta, and Red Pepper



This is one of my favorite colder weather meals.  I haven't shared it with you yet because I actually hadn't made it all fall/winter.  I've had this recipe a couple of years now, and I have made it several times during previous years.  It's filling and yet light, and very flavorful and fresh.  The chicken, while cooked for quite some time, remains tender and juicy.  I like to serve this with some crusty bread and a salad.

This recipe came to me from the Martha Stewart website, and I'll link to its page on the title.  I will post it as I make it, which involves a slight change in the braising liquid.  This dish will take anywhere between 40 minutes and 1 hour to prepare, depending on how long you take to prep the ingredients.  I've gotten to the point where I eyeball most ingredients rather than measuring, which makes for a slightly different taste each time.  Each time I have loved it.  It's a great meal that tastes like a lot more effort was put forth than it really requires.

Chicken With Artichoke Hearts
from Marthastewart.com

1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size chunks
2 Tb. olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1-2 cups chicken broth
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 package (10 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to skillet, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium; add garlic, oregano, and crushed red pepper to skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add vinegar; cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon, until liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add 2 cups liquid (broth and water or just broth) to skillet, and simmer over medium heat 10 minutes. Add bell pepper and artichoke hearts; simmer until chicken is tender and liquid has thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in feta cheese, season with salt and pepper as desired, and serve.