Thursday, 12 June 2014

Creamy Three Sisters Soup with Spiced Whipped Cream

Summer is here! Thank goodness. I was beginning to think the Apocalypse was happening (and, in fact, an ice age) and we were about to try to survive it. I was imagining myself like that father from The Road, and I was thinking it would be so annoying to have to wrap rags around my feet and try to find a meaning in a soon-to-end meaningless life. (In all honesty, I know I saw The Road but I can’t tell you anything about it. I was more focused on my popcorn to butter ratio for the entire 5 hours of that movie.)

Soup isn’t necessarily a go-to for a summer meal, but I’m going to share with you a beautiful and hearty soup that celebrates some great harvest vegetables. I’ve been inspired by a new book, “The Third Plate,” by Dan Barber, and I’ve really started thinking about how we tend to focus on a large protein portion as our traditional meal. So in the spirit of Meatless Monday, let’s make a Meatless Friday too. Enjoy some vegetables, help save the planet, and learn some Indigenous history- today will be a good day!

Okay. We’re doing a fusion version of Three Sisters Soup. It’s a traditional Indigenous recipe across North America- you can find the various stories here. The traditional soup is a broth-based soup, with corn, beans, and squash- or the Three Sisters. It’s quite lovely, and lately, there’s been a movement in restaurant culture to include Aboriginal cuisine. It’s an interesting trend; using centuries-old recipes in “new” cuisine. If you are interested in delving into the honouring-vs.-appropriating debate, I encourage you to read another LadyGirl publication over in Racialicious. Kelly explores it with great depth.

In the meantime, we’ll make a creamy Three Sisters Soup. We’re going to fuse French cuisine with this soup- so instead of stirring cream into this soup (which is completely non-traditional) we are going to add a dollop (or quenelle) of spiced whipped cream on top.

The base of the soup is corn, beans and squash. I used white beans, because I think the orange colour you get from the squash and corn is really pretty. Obviously black beans would make for a strangely purple soup, but other than that, you decide. I used butternut squash as well, plus nice corn nibs. Full disclosure: I used canned beans and corn. Dried beans are possibly the least efficient use of time ever. People who buy dried beans are either cheapskates or people who read books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, except they practice Zen and the Art of Bean Soaking. As for the corn, if you can find hominy, I recommend using that. If not, then you choose the corn you feel like using.

Start by sautéing an onion with cumin and coriander. I also used some mesquite powder, which I purchased at a very exciting new spice store in Ottawa, Cardamom and Cloves. I also have a smoked sea salt, don’t be you can use regular salt and pepper.

Add your veg, plus chicken stock. You can also use vegetable stock if you prefer to keep it vegetarian. This is also gluten free, and without the cream, can be vegan. It’s a great option for your hipster friends. And you know how hipsters love Aboriginal culture too.  (More reading on cultural appropriation.)

Simmer this for about half an hour (assuming all you vegetables are soft and not going in the pot dried. Don’t put anything in the pot dried- you’ll simmer this until the cows come home, otherwise.)

While this simmers, make your spiced whip. Wait until close to the end, so it doesn’t have a chance to “melt”. Since we’re only making a little whipped cream, you can do this in a large cup with an immersion blender. To your whipping cream, add a dash of chilli powder, cumin, coriander, and mesquite, or whatever southwest jazz spices you want to throw in. Whip until stiff peaks appear.

Once the soup has simmered and everything is soft, blend that. This soup is not going to be perfectly smooth, it will be a bit grainy. That’s fine. It’s going to taste delicious.

Pour into a bowl, top with a dollop of spiced whip cream. Serve immediately! And enjoy! Summer soups deserve love too.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Cashew Chicken

Hahaha I am one of these people that shoots themselves in the foot every time. Last week I put up a facebook status that said I just skip over "Easy" recipes because cooking involves time and commitment. How silly and smug of me because mostly everything I cook is easy and fun and delicious. Here is an example. And I am not a food photographer, so the photo looks like I'm serving some kind of black slime fit for crypt dwellers. But it's a soy sauce based recipe, so you're going to have to deal with that. Sometimes food tastes better than it looks! This is not pretty in photos, but oh so yummy on the fork.

You'll need:
For the marinade-
1 cup of low sodium soy sauce. Really do use the low sodium unless you're a deer in the woods and you enjoy a salt lick.
8 or 9 cloves of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of minced ginger
2 or 3 tablespoons of your favourite hot sauce
2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts cut into bite sized cubes
Mix everything together and let it marinade for a couple of hours covered in the fridge.

Your favourite white rice. 1 cup of rice before cooking will feed 2 to 4 people. Cook it up while the chicken is simmering.

For the sauce:
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 sliced onion
1/2 cup peanut butter - smooth or crunchy
1/2 cup water
1 carrot cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 cup roughly chopped cashews
3 sliced green onions

After the chicken has been in the marinade for a few hours, heat up the sesame oil on Med High heat in a heavy pot and add the brown sugar. Stir that in for a few minutes and add the sliced onions. If you get scared and it seems too scorchy, for God Sakes, don't be tempted to add more Sesame Oil. That shit is too strong. So add a little bit of water. Soften the onions for a few minutes and add the chicken and let it brown for about 5 minutes per side. Then add the marinade and the water. Cover it and let it simmer on Med Low heat for 25-30 minutes. Add the peanut butter and the carrots. Stir it in and let it simmer for about 10 more minutes. Roughly chop your cashews and slice your green onions and add as a garnish. You can mix your rice into the pot or keep it separate. Don't be frightened by the photo courtesy of the Crypt Kickers 5! And of course I didn't have any green onions today and I wasn't about to go to the store just to buy one thing. That's how I roll. But you should be organized and have those green onions! Enjoy my friends!