Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soupe de concombre: Cucumber soup

This to me is the essence of August in Iowa. Well, that and the State Fair.

1 tablespoon mint leaves packed
1 medium cucumber
1 cup yogurt
1 cup milk
salt and pepper

  1. Process the mint leaves 10 seconds in a food processor or blender.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the cucumber and process 30 seconds
  3. Add the yogurt and skim milk, a pinch of salt and a pinch of white pepper, and process one second.
  4. Correct seasoning and serve, garnished with mint leaves.

Mushrooms à la Grecque

Mushrooms à la Grecque is for Julia (MAFC I 537) a long process of making a court bouillon, slowly simmering the mushrooms or other vegetables in it, and finally reducing the bouillon. I speed up the process by using a good vegetable stock, which has already got the great vegetable flavors and been reduced. I then add the Greek flavors as the mushrooms are cooking. Fortunately, Wheatsfield coop has some really really good quality vegetable stock.

I like this best with mushrooms, but it works very well with all kinds of vegetables. My favorite thing is to take this on a picnic.

1 cup vegetable stock, best quality, low salt
8 ounces small mushrooms or larger ones cut in half
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 peppercorns
6 coriander seeds
pinch of fennel seeds (1/8 teaspoon)
two branches of celery leaves, chopped roughly
pinch of thyme (1/8 teaspoon)
salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a covered saucepan over high heat, bring the stock to a boil.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cover.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, recovering the pan and shaking it occasionally.
  4. After eight minutes, remove the mushrooms, using a slotted spoon or skimmer.
  5. Allow the stock to continue boiling for a minute. Then pour it over the mushrooms and refrigerate for six hours or overnight, covered.

Fish stew Burgundy--Matelote de poisson

The best is Lotte, the lobster of fish, and the ugliest of fish too. But catfish will do nicely, as it is firm and holds up in the stewing (simmer only, please). You can use the catfish 'nuggets'--the meat from behind the gills. It comes with some skin. OK. My wife thinks this tastes 'rangey'--and she is a rancher's daughter. But I like it. It's a workman's (specifically fisherman's) dish after all. And it is priced like that--half of what the catfish fillets cost. But you can buy the catfish fillets and cut them in pieces. Fine. Or you can take out a second mortgage, travel to New York, and buy Lotte, which is called Monkfish or Angler Fish. God they are ugly.

This is really a stew, so it's good to serve it in a big shallow bowl or deep plate. Have a soup spoon there, and good bread to soak up the soup. Toasted is nice. This you can have simmering away in 10 minutes.

Serves 3-4

2 ounces lardons OR salt pork in 1/2 inch cubes, OR pancetta OR bacon in 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced onions (or 1/4 cup sliced onions and 12 small boiling onions, peeled and added later)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup red wine, preferably Burgundy or Pinot Noir
1 cup clam juice (or fish stock)
bay leaf
1 allspice berry (or one clove)
1 clove garlic, mashed
salt (none if you use fish stock)
8 ounces mushrooms, cut in half or quartered
[optional: 2/3 cup frozen boiling onions]
1 and 1/4 pounds catfish OR scallops, or other fish such as walleye, halibut, haddock, etc.
  1. In a fait-tout over high heat, cook the pork (no need to wait for the pan to heat).
  2. Slice thinly and add the onions. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Add the flour and stir until it is browned, about 2 minutes
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients except the fish and bring to a boil, stirring the bottom to incorporate the browned flour.
  5. Add the fish pieces, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the fish is done, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Serve in bowls, garnished with chopped parsley, along with bread or potatoes or pasta