Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Style

Buying Direct TV for the duration of a 6-hour plane flight is not a good idea if you are easily inspired.  It is like putting a fox in the hen house.  As a result of an extended exposure to cooking shows on my last cross-country flight, I now have a perfected Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe with a twist of fun and lime.

This will be a bonus post because I will include my method of making chicken stock, fried rice and tortilla toppers at the end of the recipe.  You don't have to use the homemade version of these items.  Just use whatever is convenient for you.

This fun version of Tortilla Soup is done by layering rice, beans and cheese in your bowl first, and then covering it with your tortilla soup.  Lastly, you will top it with your favorite toppers.

 Tortilla Soup

Chicken stock (3 quarts) recipe for homemade below
Better than boullion chicken base (1-2 Tablespoons)
Salsa verde (8 ozs)
Roasted corn (3/4 cup) regular corn is fine
Carrots (2-4 cut up in small pieces)
Green onions  (two, chopped well into the green part)
Celery (two stalks chopped)
Canned diced green chillies (1 small can or a little less)
Taco seasoning (3/4  of the package)
Roasted chicken ( a breast, three thighs; chopped in bite-sized pieces)

These are the approximate amounts I used.  You can adjust to your personal tastes and what you have on hand.  I simmer everything but the chicken for about and hour, then add the roasted chicken at the end so it doesn’t fall apart so much.  You can serve this immediately or let it cool and reheat it when you are ready.  The flavors seem to meld together more when reheated.  The salsa verde is a new thing I tried a while ago.  I think it does for the chicken stock, what canned tomatoes do for a beef broth when you are making vegetable soup.

You can use whatever kind of rice you have on hand.  But if you want to try making fried rice, here is the way I do it.  Put 3-4 tablespoons of a half butter/half oil mixture in a skillet and heat it.  Add two cups of rice and toss until rice is thoroughly coated.  Fry the rice on a low-medium heat until it is lightly browned.  Add 4 cups of chicken broth made with Better than Boullion chicken base.  Cook 20 minutes on low or until done.  Toss lightly to separate rice grains.

You can use canned black beans or cook your own.  To cook your own, simmer raw beans for 3-4 hours or until tender.  Drain.

Layer the hot rice, hot beans and cheese; then cover with tortilla soup.  Top with your favorite toppings.

Suggested Toppings
Cheddar cheese
Jack cheese
Cotilla cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla toppers (recipe below)

Top off with a twist of lime!  And pass the margarita pitcher, please.

To make Tortilla Toppers
Lightly brush flour tortillas with cooking oil.  Cut in small strips.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  This may work with corn tortillas, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Chicken Stock
Bony chicken pieces (I include necks, hearts, gizzards (but not the liver), wings backbones, ribs and other bones leftover from when I roast whole chickens.)
Carrots (3-4 cut in 1-2 inch lengths)
Onions (half an onion cut in fourths and the layers separated)
Celery (3-4 stalks plus greens)

I don't usually measure just throw it all in a pot and simmer for 3-5 hours.  I usually use a 6-quart pot.  I probably have my pot at least half full of water.  Strain all the stuff out and cool the broth, then chill for twenty-four hours.  Remove the hardened layer of fat from the top.  You should have a medium thin gelatinous mixture.  I use this chicken stock for my dressings and casseroles also.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A recipe for a perfect Friday night

Step 1: Find a park with a free concert. Like Jazz in the Garden.

Step 2: Spread a blanket on the ground and eat delicious appetizers picnic-style while listening to the concert.

Step 3: Return home and grill Marinated Vegetables and chicken for Lemon Oregano Chicken Pasta.

Step 4: Eat dinner at dusk on your back patio with plenty of candles and a bottle of wine.

Crostini with Whipped Feta, Marinated Red Peppers, and Olive Tapenade
adapted from Cooks Illustrated (Sept/Oct 2010, pg 20)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Salsa Verde

One thing I quickly learned about living in D.C. is that it impossible to grow tomatoes. Not the plants themselves, just the fruit. Our backyard is home to some of the tallest tomato plants I have ever seen, but the minute the fruit begins to turn red, it disappears. Out of our walled backyard. Apparently, we have kleptomaniac squirrels.

This year, my neighbor (who shares our backyard) found a way to outwit the squirrels: grow green tomatoes! Either our squirrels aren't familiar with Mexican food, or they just don't like the color green -- but in either case, they rarely touch the tomatillos. Which is quite a loss for them, because our backyard is FULL of tomatillos. 

So I, of course, decided to make salsa.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Grilled Pizza Margherita

September is finally here! Which means two things: It's finally not 100 degrees out every day, and the farmer's markets are full of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes.

Although we do live in a tiny apartment with a tiny kitchen, we also happen to live in the basement of a rowhouse with a beautiful back patio.  And with a little TLC and a lot of weeding, it is now the perfect place for late summer grilling parties. So last weekend we decided to christen our patio by grilling pizza.

Now for some reason, I have bad luck with pizza. I mean, my pizza always tastes good, but it usually sticks to something, or crumples when I try to get it onto the pizza stone, or loses toppings on the bottom of the oven, or sets off the fire alarm. Or all of the above.  So you can imagine my husband's skepticism when I suggest we try pizza on the grill

But it actually turned out to be so easy, and fun, that his comments turned from a begrudging "ok, I'll help you grill pizza" to "look at the pizza I grilled!" But hey, if we get to eat something this good, I'll take that any day ;). 

Our favorite pizza is the classic Pizza Margherita, so we decided to try it with the cherokee purple heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves from my garden. It was amazing:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fun things to grill this summer: Corn on the cob

If you live anywhere that is not the Pacific Northwest, chances are you have grimaced almost daily this summer at the thought of turning on your oven to make dinner. Well, unlike the rest of the country, it's been cold and rainy most of the summer here in Oregon. But we still wouldn't want to miss out the most fun part of summer cooking--firing up the grill.

As you can see from some of my previous posts, we've enjoyed preparing our entire dinner on the grill. Corn on the cob is another great option for the grill, but today we were looking for something a little less messy. I love the flavor of roast corn--sweet and slightly charred--so I decided to grill the corn on the cob, then cut the kernels off with a knife. For a little a color, I added my 'fiesta mix.'

Friday, September 3, 2010

My calm and peaceful summer

What, that isn't what your summer looked like? Yeah, mine neither. 

I spent last summer looking for an apartment, moving, looking for a job, wedding planning, looking for another apartment, moving again, and looking for a new job.

So far I've spent this looking for an apartment, moving, and looking for a new job.

I think I'll skip next summer.

But we are now finally settled in our new town:

And our new kitchen:

(Which is yes, about the size of a closet. Actually, this apartment has more closet space than it does kitchen space. I turned one of of the closets in to a pantry.

But my new kitchen also contains some new features to aid in my cooking endeavors: a gas stove and a dishwasher! Theoretically, this means you should be seeing more posts from me. I mean, less time dishwashing means more time blogging, right? I guess you'll have to wait and see.... ;))