Hey, folks!  It’s been a while, I know, but I haven’t really been cooking that much in the last month or so, and when I have been, it’s been repeats of things I’ve made on here in the past. But, if there would be any interest in a weekly post with recipes of Stuff I’ve Made this Week, I’d be happy to do a weekly roundup. I’ll put a question mark at the end so that folks can chime in.

I actually got to make this twice in the past week, and with slight variations each time.  This is a great summer recipe, especially with minimum and low temperature oven usage.

Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
Makes enough to feed several people multiple days, or one person at minimum a week

Ingredients

  • 1 qt (1.5 lbs) cherry or grape tomatoes (if you have the ability, go for various hues, mine were from a combination of the farmer’s market and my own garden)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, unpeeled (can be increased if smaller, of if you like garlic)
  • .25 c olive oil
  • .25 c warm water
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t salt
  • .5 t pepper
  • 2.75 c chicken stock (substitute Parmesan broth if you’re vegetarian)
  • 2.25 c Israeli/pearl couscous (you can also use Lebanese, which is bigger, but then add at least .5 c more of stock/broth to compensate)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • .5 c pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • .33 c fresh parsley, chopped (this can be left out)
  • .25 c fresh mint, torn
  • 1 t fresh thyme, chopped
  • (I also added a few chopped sprigs of oregano in one version)

Preheat your oven to 250, and while it does so, slice your cherry tomatoes in half, laying them out cut sides up on a baking sheet.  Add the unpeeled garlic, and roast in the oven for an hour, until they start to wrinkle at the edges.  Remove from the oven, and set to cool.

Peel the roasted garlic, and puree with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and .5 c of roasted tomatoes until smooth.

Bring your stock to a boil in a large pot, stir in the couscous, and reduce to a simmer, cooking uncovered for the length of time specified in the couscous’ instructions (usually 6 minutes, go a bit longer if you do the larger Lebanese couscous).  Remove from heat, cover the pot, and let sit ten minutes. Then, take the baking sheet you used before and spread the couscous out in a single layer, and let it cool. 

(Both the dressing, tomatoes, and couscous can be made ahead of times.)

Take your remaining tomatoes, and your chopped olives, parsley, mint, and thyme, and add to the bowl, stirring in the couscous so that everything mixes together.  Then, add the dressing and give it a few more stirs, until you have something similar to the final picture. 

All of these amounts can be increased or decreased based on personal tastes/diet preferences. I prefer this either chilled, or just at room temperature.

It’s been raining outside for most of the day, with a gentle breeze wafting in from the windows, so this seemed like a perfect rainy day soup to make. This sort of cool, rainy weather is honestly one of my favorite types of spring days, so here’s hoping we get more of those.

The original instructions on this are kind of vague, so I will be adding more detail.  Be sure to find a nice porter for this (I used a local brewery’s), along with a good cheese for the baguettes.  This will take a while, but the results are absolutely worth it.

Portered French Onion Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • five large onions, sliced in half long ways, and then sliced thin into half-moons (see pic 1 for what I’m talking about)
  • 1 12 oz bottle of porter (I used Ale Asylum’s Contorter Porter)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or if you’re still not in the growing season where you are, 1 t ground)
  • 6 c beef stock
  • 2 demi-baguettes, sliced
  • cheddar (I used part of a leftover block of the Fawn)

Melt your butter while heating your olive oil over medium heat, and start slicing your onions.  When the butter/olive oil mixture starts to sizzle, add your onions as you finish slicing them, and cook them for a half hour, stirring every five minutes so that they don’t burn.  By the end of the half hour, they should be a rich brown, and very very soft (see pic 3).  Once they’re that nice brown, turn the heat to medium high and add your bottle of porter, stirring to get whatever bits of onion may have stuck to the pot.  Cook for five minutes, until it’s simmered and reduced a little bit.  

Add the salt, pepper and thyme, along with the beef stock, bring up to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, simmering for about 40 minutes, until it’s been reduced by 20% (see the dif between pic 6 and 9). 

While your soup simmers, slice up your demi baguettes and cheese, topping generously.  Set your oven to broil, and then put the baguettes and cheese under it for five minutes, until the slices start to brown at the edges and the cheese gets bubbly and melty.

Once the soup has been reduced, add your baguettes to it (or if you’re me, save them for lunch later this week), and enjoy the amazing richness of it.

Made this on a whim as I’ve been craving olives lately, and honestly, this recipe sounded pretty amazing to start with.  I added a few more spices, and upped both the Spanish and kalamata olive content as I wasn’t including black olives for this, and the way it turned out is utterly fantastic.

Roasted Olives
Lasts 4 to 5 lunches as a side

Ingredients

  • 10 oz pitted kalamata olives, drained
  • 10 oz garlic stuffed Spanish olives, drained
  • 7 large garlic cloves, minced
  • dash of thyme, marjoram, and oregano
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • .25 c olive oil
  • dash salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a small baking dish, and preheat your oven to 425 (mine was at 400).  Put your dish in, and roast at 400 for twenty minutes.  Let them cool, and then enjoy a nice snack!

This is another recipe I haven’t made in a while, but honestly, with the level of improvisation that I applied this time around, it’s a whole new recipe.  This recipe features the three Wisconsin greats: beer, cheese, and bacon; put your money and quality into these three ingredients, and honestly, it doesn’t matter what else you do to it, there’s nothing you can do to the recipe to fuck it up.  The bacon is from a local vendor who sells at our farmer’s markets, the cheese is from the University dairy store that’s literally a block down from where I work (and smoked and aged on top of it), and the beer is from a local brewer.  And the result is absolutely fanfriggintastic, and one I’d make again.

Ale and Cheddar Soup
Lasts 5 lunches as a main

Ingredients

  • .5 lb bacon (thick cut, if you can get it from a farmer’s market or a local vendor definitely go for it), sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • .5 t ground thyme
  • 2 T butter
  • .25 c flour
  • 1 12 oz bottle ale (I used Ale Asylum’s Madtown Nutbrown)
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1 T Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 t dijon mustard
  • .5 c heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c cheddar cheese (I used smoked aged cheddar from the university dairy store)
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Cook your bacon over medium heat to desired doneness, and then put aside all but 2 T of the bacon grease.  Take your chopped onions and jalapenos, and cook about ten minutes, until tender.  Then add your garlic and thyme, and cook until fragrant, which is usually one minute.

Melt your butter over the garlic, thyme, onion and jalapenos, and then sprinkle the flour over the top, until it coats everything and turns golden brown (see pic 5). 

Then, add your beer and chicken stock, followed by your bacon, cooking over medium heat for ten minutes.  Then, add your heavy whipping cream, the Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, and the smoked aged cheddar.  Stir continuously, until the cheddar is melted into the soup, but don’t bring it to a boil.  

Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and enjoy your little taste of Wisconsin.

This soup is one of my fall mainstays, especially when the veggies in it come into season.  That massive eggplant only cost me a buck twenty five at the farmer’s market, and the tomatoes were two bucks, tops. Good veggies + roasting = amazing results, especially in a soup.  I did the spicier riff that Deb recommends at the end of the recipe, and substituted the feta for the goat cheese, and the results are absolutely amazing.

Roasted Eggplant Soup
Lasts 5+ lunches

Ingredients

  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large eggplant, halved
  • 10 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • enough olive oil to drizzle on all of the above
  • 4 c vegetable stock (get a 32 oz box of stock, there will be enough)
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • one large dash coriander, cumin
  • some red pepper flakes
  • accidentally a bit of spanish paprika
  • 1 onion, halved
  • .25 c heavy whipping cream
  • .75 c (3.5 oz) feta crumbles

Preheat your oven to 400 (375 if it runs hot), and place your eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic on a lined baking sheet, and drizzle olive oil over all, until they’re reasonably covered (see pic one for what I did).  Place in the oven for 20 mins, and then remove your garlic cloves (they’ll burn otherwise) and put the tomatoes and eggplant in for another 25 minutes.  Your tomatoes and eggplant should look like picture 2 by the end of the 45 minutes.  Scoop the eggplant flesh out of the skin, and put in a saucepan with your tomatoes and garlic, and add the vegetable stock, spices, and onion.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for another 45 minutes, until your onion halves are very tender.

Blend the soup in batches (because trust me, you don’t want hot stock and veggie bits all over your kitchen, that’s happened to me trying to do that) until it’s smooth, and then add it back to the pot.  Add your cream and bring it back to a low simmer before stirring in your feta.

Please note that the spices in this were pure guesswork, and feel free to use your own variations – the original recipe does not include the cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, or the paprika, and doesn’t use the cream and substitutes goat cheese crumbles for feta.  I just like the resulting soup and texture way better this way.  😛

This is one of those recipes when you’re looking for something nice and simple, but with an amazing taste.  Plus, wine + fish + herbs = you can’t go wrong, generally.  Also, quite quick to make.  Really, not too many ways you can go wrong here.

Simple White Wine Poached Salmon
Lasts 2-3 lunches as a main course

Ingredients

  • 1 lb salmon, either in filets or in one big cut
  • .5 c white wine (I used Cupcake Winery’s Angel Food)
  • .5 c water
  • 1 t butter
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (I used ground, did a few dashes)
  • .25 c fresh basil leaves

Combine your white wine, water, and herbs, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Once simmering, add your salmon skin side down (accidentally did it flesh side down for a few minutes, whoops), cover with a lid, and cook between five to ten minutes, depending on how done you want it.  I did 7 minutes, that got it the equivalent of medium rare.