Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Belated strawberry rhubarb crisp

Oh dear. I'd better post about this soon before rhubarb disappears from the grocery store shelves completely.

The truth is, I made this at least two months ago but just hadn't gotten around to posting about it. And, I must apologize, because you could have been making this lovely crisp for the last few weeks. It really is one of the better crisp (crumble?) recipes I've ever made--and I've made a lot of them.

The secret is, naturally, in the topping. Ina blends in quick-cooking oats--who would have thought? It turns the mixture into a crumbly cookie-like thing--you'll have to try it for yourself.  At the moment, as I'm poised to run into the kitchen and fix a slap-dash dinner, I have neither the time nor the adjectives to do it justice. All I can say is, I was taking a spoon to the baking dish for days after I made this (in the morning or afternoon with only the dog as my witness), and the topping somehow retained crunch.

My only edit was to reduce the orange juice just a shade--I was a little short on fruit and was worried it would be soupy. It turned out to be a good call. The crisp was the perfect amount of juicy without being runny.

Make this and I promise at least one person will fall in love with you.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Creamy zucchini soup, with two sides

Part 1: Although the husband isn't always wild about it, I'm prone to making lots of pureed soups. He prefers soups with some texture, which I understand. But, pureed soups remain on the menu chez Hungry Dog. As long as I have a few key ingredients on hand--a vegetable (carrots, zucchini, broccoli, or asparagus will all do nicely), an onion, a Russet potato, and some broth--I can turn out a decent soup.

I am fairly sure I have described my method somewhere before, but in case I haven't, it's this: melt some butter and oil in a pot over medium-low. Add a chopped onion and some salt and cook until soft but without browning. Add a peeled, diced potato and cook for a couple of minutes. Add some minced garlic, if you like, and cook another minute. Then add your chopped vegetable of choice--in this case about four zucchini--add enough broth to cover without drowning, and cook until all the vegetables are tender. Blend, salt and pepper to taste, and, if you like (which I do), add a splash of cream or half and half. You don't need much and  it really brings the consistency from pureed vegetable (a la baby food) to something silky and more adult.

With green vegetables, one of the downsides of soup-making is losing the vibrant color, which is why I don't salt until the end. However, I also have another trick, which is to stir in a few handfuls of spinach (in this case fresh, but you could used frozen, defrosted spinach) right before you puree. It brightens up the whole pot.

This kind of soup is great on a weeknight, as I nearly always have all the ingredients in my pantry. However, what I often don't have is good, fresh bread. So when I made this soup a few weeks back, I was pleased to realize I had buttermilk that needed to be used up. Buttermilk cheddar biscuits to the rescue!

Really not bad for a last-minute dinner and it went over well with the husband, in particular the biscuits. He is a Kentucky boy, after all. Aside from fried chicken and jam cake, biscuits may be the quickest way to his heart.

Part 2: Sadly, biscuits go from being fluffy and light the first day to all but leaden the next. I'm not sure why scones seem to survive another day but biscuits don't--perhaps someone can enlighten me. I did choke one down the next morning for breakfast (what a trooper!) but when lunch rolled around and I pulled out my leftover soup, I was once again in need of something to go alongside.

As you know, I take deep satisfaction from being able to use up leftovers, particularly now that I eat lunch at home most days. I'll eat all kinds of curious combinations for my solo lunches, and this time my rummaging had particularly fine results.

I had an odd amount of salmon leftover from another dinner--not enough to be anything on its own, but too much to even give to the dog, who would not appreciate its $18-per-poundness. I also had half an avocado to use up (incidentally, I've been obsessed with avocados recently, eating several a week. More on this in another post.) Plus some radishes and a single slice of bread that I had rejected the night before but the next day I determined was good enough to eat if toasted and spread with olive tapenade, which I also found in the fridge.

I give you: salmon, avocado, and radish tartine with olive tapenade.

Beautiful, right? Not exactly dippable, but it still elevated the soup from leftover to lovely.

For any of you that actually come to my house for dinner, rest assured, I serve our guests brand new, never-before-seen food purchased just for the purpose of hosting you. No need to fret that the pasta I'm serving you is the reincarnation of last night's pot roast, although that really isn't a bad idea. But even I have limitations of thrift when it comes to entertaining.

For my own lunch and my own pleasure, though--this little reinvention was just the ticket.