The Bread

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For the past few weeks, I have been unhappy with the bread that I offer to accompany the soup.  It has been far too dense, not rising enough or doubling itself in size.  I have to admit, I have been using an inferior flour, rather than King Arthur, as I hoped to cut costs.  When I went back to the book (Jim Lahey’s “My Bread”), I learned that not only was I ruining the bread by using a lesser ingredient, but that I was not adding enough water to let the bacteria and yeast do its work.

This week, I not only added extra water (up to 1 2/3 cups) to adequately hydrate the flour and create a loose dough but I also went back to my beloved King Arthur flour.  There really is nothing like it.  In about 18 hours each bowl full of dough was bubbly with yeasty air pockets and fragrant with the sour sent of active cultures.  As I scraped the dough onto my heavily floured board ( I had to keep adding more), I remembered that the stretchy, flarpy, wet dough makes the best soft loaves with just the right amount of chew.  Yes! I thought to myself as I weighed the portions of sticky dough and added more and more flour to keep it from adhering to every surface in sight.  This is exactly what I was shooting for.

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Now that the loaves are baked with golden, crusty exteriors, I actually feel as if the customers who ordered all the preceding soups got a little ripped off especially if they aren’t getting soup this week along with these well risen lovelies.  Well, I guess all I can do is hope that they come back again and that the bread will continue to be as good.

small no knead peasant bread loaves

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Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I was completely out of control this week.  There was way to much on my calendar, all pretty much my own doing.  But even though I was an overextended lunatic, I managed ( I think, because I am going so fast, that I remember nothing) to make a pretty decent soup.

It all really began last Saturday with the Girl Scout Cookie booth in freezing cold weather outside of Walmart. Selling cookies for four hours with 10 year old girls who constantly complain and ask to use the bathroom really wears me down. Of course, that wasn’t the only item on our agenda for the day which also included Ava and Declan going to their own basketball games, a Girl Scout ice skating event and a birthday party for one of Ava’s friends to top it all off.  Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all were filled with inventory prep and scanning hundreds of pieces of merchandise at BD for me. After spending 9 hours doing that on Monday, I went directly to help Karyn with her “Cup of Life” fundraiser.  After a long day of “beep, beep, beep” then wrangling 7th and 8th graders to serve hot chocolate, behave themselves, stop using their phones, etc.  I was spent and still hadn’t made any part of the soup or mixed the bread dough until I got home at 9:00pm.  There is more for Tuesday and Wednesday, but it’s far too exhausting to relive while writing this post, so I will leave it at that and get on with the recipe.  By the way, I think it came out pretty well as I did get to enjoy it myself on Wednesday night after Ava’s Girl Scout meeting which involved 4th grade girls painting birdhouses, their clothes and getting water and paint just about everywhere except where it was intended.

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

serves 4-6

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium)

1/2 cup thinly sliced sugar snap peas

2 teaspoons chili garlic paste

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 (2 inch) piece peeled fresh ginger

3 ounces uncooked rice flour noodles (wide)

1 1/2 cups shredded chicken

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

optional: 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Bread

Ginger Citrus Butter

Bring first eight ingredients to a simmer in a large pot, keep warm. 

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, add rice noodles and cook 3 minutes.  Drain.  Place 1/4-1/2 cup noodles in each bowl.

Discard ginger from simmering broth mixture.  Add chicken, lime juice and vinegar.  Adjust seasonings adding more chili garlic paste to make hotter and/or soy sauce for salt. Fill noodle bowls with broth mixture and garnish with green onions as well as cilantro and mint, if desired.  Serve with fresh Bread and Ginger Citrus Butter (see following recipe).

Ginger Citrus Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

zest from 1/2 of one lemon, 1/2 of one lime, 1/2 of one orange

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon dried ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together.  Serve with freshly baked bread. Devour, enjoy.

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Monday, February, 3, 2014

Polar Vortex view from the deck
Polar Vortex view from the deck

Here we are in the “Polar Vortex” or as Val would say, “We used to just call it ‘Winter.'” The snow is so heavy and wet that they dismissed the kids early from school.  So much for getting a jump on things. I forgot that I was supposed to pick them up until the school secretary called.  I was already at the bus stop waiting, covered in huge, sloppy flakes and looking like a polar bear.  I had to trudge all the way home, get in my car, scoop up the kids who questioned and complained all the way home.  “Where were you? Did you forget us? Why were you late?” Mother of the year, that’s me.

Anyway, these are good soup days. The weather makes everyone want to order which is great for business but I am afraid my two stock pots won’t hold enough.  320 oz. of soup…10 orders of 32 oz. each.  Yikes!  I am going to be peeling, chopping and roasting vegetables until midnight if I don’t get started.  But first I have to mix the bread dough.  Oh yeah, and the pizza dough if my kids are going to eat tonight.  Thankfully, I already have the Parsley Lemon Butter made and portioned.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

This week’s recipe is not without a pretty steep learning curve, which I didn’t realize until I got into it.  First, I bought way too many vegetables: 2 extra butternut squash, 1 extra 5 lb bag carrots.  Actually, I thought this was my only surplus until I tried to puree two stockpots full of roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and squash.  I added about 8 cups of chicken stock to each, thinking that would do the trick to thin it out enough.  The result: 2 stockpots full of vegetable puree ready for the Thanksgiving dinner table, just add a pat of butter.  It was so thick, the spoon bent when I tried to scoop some out. I actually had enough vegetable puree for 640+ ounces of soup.  I guess I’ll freeze it as base for another upcoming soup.

Oh yeah, and the bread this week, did not come out to my liking.  I agonized over it all night and into Wednesday morning.  My angst sent me back to the books, or THE BOOK:  Jim Lahey’s “My Bread”.  Just as I suspected, it’s the flour.  Not enough protein in the cheap stuff. I should have stuck with King Arthur.

But wait, there’s more!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

There must be someone out there who does NOT want me to deliver soups on Wednesdays.  It has snowed on Wednesday for the past 3 weeks!  We got the call at 5:00am, “This is Dr. Bonnie Gifford, Superintendent of schools, due to inclement weather, Falmouth Public Schools will not be in session today.”   AAARGH.  Not only do I have to come up with a new delivery plan, now it involves my two unruly elementary age children: “Punch and Judy”.

After getting stuck in my sister’s driveway for 40 minutes, sliding all over the road in the slush/rain/snow and wearing Ugg boot knockoffs that absorbed water like a sponge, I had about had enough.  By the time I got home and shoveled my own mess of a driveway, took my soaking wet socks off and sat down to document the drama, I had to question myself, “Do I really want to do this every week?” The answer: “Yup.”  Although this week was not without many obstacles, when I see the smiles on  my customers’ faces and I’m singing to Hall ‘n’ Oats while chopping onions in my own kitchen, working my own hours, doing my own thing, I can definitely say, in spite of what the Universe throws at me, it’s worth it.  And the soup came out pretty good, too.

The Recipe:

roasted root vegetable soup seasoned with balsamic vinegar
Roasted Vegetable Soup gets the balsamic treatment

Roasted Vegetable Soup

serves about 4

1 pound carrots, peeled

1 pound parsnips, peeled

1 large sweet potato

1 small butternut squash

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

chopped fresh parsley (1 small handful)

4 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Bread

Lemon Parsley butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wash, peel and cut all vegetables to approximately the same size.  Place in even layers on rimmed baking sheets.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in oven and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes until slightly caramelized and soft.  Remove from oven and place into stock pot with chopped parsley.  Add chicken stock to pot and puree with an immersion blender until still slightly chunky.  Add more stock for desired consistency.  Heat soup through and add balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce.  Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese, bread and fancy Lemon Parsley Butter (see following recipe).

Lemon Parsley butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

zest from 1/2 of one lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.  Serve with freshly baked bread. Eat your heart out, enjoy.

“Spicy” Tortilla Soup with Shredded Chicken

tortilla soup with tomatoes, chicken and lime
Spicy Tortilla Soup with Shredded Chicken

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This is the soup recipe that compelled me to post all of the recipes in some format that couldn’t be lost somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle that is my office.  It is a compilation of a few recipes that I found with the addition of using tortilla chips to thicken the soup.  “Spicy” is in quotes as I advertised it as such but didn’t find that the finished product was very spicy at all.  Maybe it’s the peppers that I used.  Since I don’t know the name and it is not written on the package, here are some photos:

Dried Chilies
Dried Chilies

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I used these chilies that are labeled a “3” on the heat index (1-10).  Since I was concerned about adding to much heat in the beginning of the soup recipe, I scraped out all the seeds and membranes.  (Some people, unlike myself are babies when it comes to spicy foods.  My husband is one of them.) Although the soup had the depth of flavor from the chilies, it did not have much heat.  I add some more spice at the end but I still would not describe this soup as “spicy”.  See for yourself.

The Recipe:

Spicy Tortilla Soup with Shredded Chicken

Serves 4-6

2 dried Ancho chilies, 1 chopped onion, 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves (smashed),  1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 6 cups chicken broth, 1/4 bag tortilla chips, shredded, cooked chicken, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon chili garlic paste, juice from 1/2 lime, 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Puree 2 seeded, soaked chilies, 1 chopped onion, 28 oz, can tomatoes and 2 smashed garlic cloves.  Heat oil in soup pot.  Add pureed mixture and fry until cooked through.  Add chicken broth and heat to a simmer.  Add tortilla chips, heat until softened. Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until smooth. Add shredded chicken and heat through.  Add oregano, cumin, chili garlic paste, lime juice and cider vinegar.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary.  Serve with a squeeze of lime, extra tortilla chips and cheese, if desired.

I offer fancy butter and homemade bread with each soup order.  Here is this week’s butter recipe.  If you are only making it for one family, reduce the recipe to 1/4, using only 1 stick of butter.  Each serving should only be a teaspoon or so, unless you are butter fiends like my friends Ted and Debbie.  They both request extra butter.

Tangy Lime Butter

4 sticks unsalted butter (softened), zest from 3 limes, juice from 1 lime, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add all ingredients to kitchen aid.  Mix on high until thoroughly combined. Serve with homemade bread or cornbread.