Fight-Frost-with-Fire Zen Soup or Ginger Wild Rice Chicken Soup

Fight-Frost-with-Fire Zen Soup or Ginger Wild Rice Chicken Soup

Winter has certainly dragged her huge feet on our Georgia front porch this year… For better or worse, this has inspired me to become a huge fan of soups. So I am experimenting and adding and subtracting and have basically been able to create about 20 different soups just by adding something or taking something out.
They have all turned delicious so far, so I am trying to keep a record of all of them so I can duplicate them, and of course, share them with friends.
So here is my Ginger Wild Rice Chicken soup in honor of the crazy catastrophic ice-storm that has paralyzed the South.

Ingredients for a large Dutch Oven pot
1 large onion
2 Organic free range chicken breasts
½ head of celery root
2 large parsnips
4 medium or 2 large Idaho potatoes (the ones you would use for mashed)
4-6 medium carrots
3-4 inch ginger root (depends on how much you like ginger)
1 stalk leek
2 small jalapeno peppers
4 boxes chicken broth (or 2 boxes chicken and 1 box veggie broth)
Spices:
Pink Himalayan salt to taste
Black Pepper
Turmeric
Curry
Cayenne (for later or while cooking IF everyone enjoys a little zing)
Coconut oil
Cook Separately:
½ cup of black wild rice in 3 – 4 cups of water
Optional:
1 cup mushrooms
¼ cup heavy cream
1-3 garlic cloves
Curry, salt and pepper to taste
Garnishes to serve:
1 bunch Parsley
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Or Lemon juice

How I do it:
I’m all about the Martha Stewart cut-up-your-ingredients-and-place-in-separate-bowls before I start. I just like the neatness of it, and the peace of mind, that I am not forgetting anything
So I start with the onions – chop the whole head finely (do not use a food processor! That thing mushes the onion into a paste… Put in a bowl and cover with a plate or clear wrap. Its vapors will flavor your kitchen, as opposed to your soup. Cover it to preserve taste, and aroma.
Chop in rugged tiny chunks the carrots and put in another big bowl. I like to take the carrot from its wider side, and cut a small diagonal piece off the end, then turn the carrot and cut again, and turn and cut… until it’s all done. That way they are not the boring perfect round circles and just give more chunkiness to the soup
If you haven’t used celery root before, you should. It’s much more flavorful than the stalks and doesn’t have the stringy texture. Peel and chop it like the carrots. Chop the potatoes and the parsnips. Peel and slice your ginger as well
Add all the ingredients from the carrots to the parsnips in the same bowl. You will dump them in the soup together, so no need to use more little bowls.
Put the ginger separately. You want to keep its flavor strong until you use it.
Use a paper towel to dry your chicken breasts and chop them into small bitesized chunks.

This is a good time to put your rice to cook. Just don’t forget to stir it every once in a while. Burned to the bottom of the pan rice tastes yuk! You don’t want to have this happen to you.

IF you have opted to add the mushrooms, clean and chop them in quarters and throw them in a pan with some melted coconut oil. Let them wilt, add the cream, spices. Keep a couple more minutes while stirring to let everything incorporate. Turn off heat and set aside.

The Main Event:
In your Dutch Oven, melt the coconut oil (or butter if you must) and drop the chicken chunks to brown on all sides. This is not to cook them thoroughly, but to give them a bit of a sautee before you cook them with the rest of the ingredients. After you have flipped them around a few times, take them out of the Dutch oven, one by one, and place into a bowl for later.
In the same oil that is now already hot, drop the chopped onions. Let them become translucent. Stir to incorporate the chicken fat into this.
As soon as they are soft and translucent, drop the bowl with all the root veggies (my experience shows, this is where you may find yourself needing a little more butter (try saying it with a English accent and it will make you feel less guilty – A li-uhle moh bu-her!)
After a few stirs, add your spices (good time for the salt as it will release the water in the veggies and the sautéing will be easier)
Now comes the time of the chicken stock and/or the veggie stock or broth. I like Pacific brand, but there are others that are equally organic and delicious. I don’t fill the Dutch oven all the way yet. I just pour enough stock to cover the veggies.
Cover the pan, and let it reach boiling. Once it does, reduce temp to say half or even less.
Take your handheld mixer and mash up some of the veggies at the bottom (this can be done as much or as little as you like – the point is to create a little thickness to the soup so you don’t have to use thickener, i.e. glutenous substances)
After you’ve reached the desired consistency, add the chicken, the rice (which by now should’ve cooked) and optionally – the mushrooms.
Stir well and cover. Leave everything to incorporate for at least another 10 minutes on low.
Prepare your plates (bowls) and garnishes (parsley and lemon juice)
SERVE HOT! Bon Appetit!

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Chilean Sea Bass on my mind

Chilean Sea Bass on my mind

I said I’d order the Chilean Sea Bass. He said it’s so good, I’ll think about it the next day… That sort of creeped me out, but I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve been to STEEL many times. Never tried the Chilean Sea Bass. Well, let me tell you, it is not like any other Sea Bass I’ve had before. It starts off as a feast for the eyes, as it comes with this glorious sizzling caramelized marinade on top, lying peacefully on a bed of steamed asparagus and brown rice (you can also have it on white or fried rice if you prefer). Then, with just one tip of my chopsticks, I took in one flake of the fish, and indulged in its melty airy sweet-tanginess. I am not sure if the miso-sake marinade that holds this piece of heavenly taste for 12 to 24 hours, does the trick, or the way the chef reportedly pan-sears, then oven-roasts it to lock in the flavor, but it’s definitely an experience you don’t want to leave out of your bucket list.. if you are a foodie that is.
Goes great with a cup of their fabulous flowering white tea in a glass pot.
Miles is a wonderful host, and never forgets a face. Ever since the first time I went for my lunch there, he’s been attentive, friendly and absolutely delightful!

If you are in the Atlanta area, you should definitely look STEEL up and visit. They also have great sushi and are a perfect location for happy hour drinks, or other evening gatherings. Lovely lovely place.

Cabo San Lucas and the Fruit-Man Inspired Tropical Ceviche

View of Land's End arch on the southern tip of...

So my love for ceviche is apparent in any restaurant I go and see it on the menu. I literally stop reading the rest of the menu and order my ceviche. If further hunger pangs insist on tormenting my brain, then I look at the menu again.

Lately though, I’ve been disappointed by the ceviche I was served in two prominent Atlanta fish restaurants. So I ventured out to make my own, determined to get all flavors gelled before serving it, and also was looking to give it a twist. (not particularly fond of cilantro… love all herbs, cilantro…hmmm not on that list.)

We are lucky to have Buford International Farmers Market right here in Atlanta, where I can be lost for hours and hours, studying the mystery fruits, veggies, roots, fish, frogs, and all sorts of creatures… I love observing the people who come from every corner of the planet. Most of them in some traditional dress, or at least an accessory; speaking so many different languages, you’d think you are in the UN cafeteria. I’m also guilty of staring at their shopping carts to see what they bought, and if it’s something completely unknown to me, (and if they speak any of the languages I speak) I ask them what it is, and how they plan on eating it..

Photo by Zenocracy© 2012

Photo by Zenocracy© 2012

Long story short, I jumped in the car, and took the 30 minute drive to the market to find products for my inspiration: it came from the beaches of Cabo San Lucas.

View into Cabo Harbor

View into Cabo Harbor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

San Lucas Marina

San Lucas Marina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the hot lazy summer days, while lying on the beach, the foreign tourists are being spoiled rotten! Besides having your extended bar with service all the way out on the beach, you also get constant visits from traveling salesmen and women – pottery, scarfs, dresses, jewelry, sunglasses, traditional dancers who perform on the beach, and last but not least – the fruit man!

Photo by Zenocracy© 2011

Oh I loved the fruit man! He would come, dressed in his white clothes, carrying his table on his shoulder. And the table would be the display case for dozens of fruit which found their stabbing death on spear-looking devices along the table. There were ripe mangoes, bright orange papaya, red juicy watermelon, fragrant cantaloupe and of course limes. He cuts them up in front of you, places them in a bowl, squeezes an entire lime all over the bowl, and then (if you are brave) he sprinkles the whole thing with lots and lots of chilli powder! OMG! What freshness! And the chilli zing is just enough to make you feel the spice, but surprisingly, make you feel cooler. Just what you need in the tropical heat of Cabo!

Dreaming of my Cabo bowl, I headed for the Buford Market, to get inspired for my ceviche.

So I bought:

1 Guava fruit

1 Papaya

2-5 Mexican organic mangoes (depending on the size you buy more or less of these)

1 pink grapefruit

1 pineapple

2-3 blood oranges

2-5 avocados (preferably softer as you will need to use them right away)

1/2 lb large organic lemons

1/2lb large organic limes

1 – 2 large red onions

1-2 red and yellow peppers

3-5 jalapeno peppers

1lb large wild caught shrimp (fresh never frozen)

1/2 lb tuna fresh (if possible)

at home i had

Curry powder

Chilli Powder

Sea Salt

I honestly didn’t use any measurements besides kind of assessing the space i have in the bowl that I will be using the ceviche.

First, I start by juicing at least 3 lemons and 3 limes. Followed by cutting up one or two oranges and the grapefruit in slices w/out the fiber (you need to watch Andrew Zimmern‘s technique here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTuOjXXqQJ4)  now that you have a fragrant bowl of juices and fruit, drop your tuna pieces in there to marinate while you are cutting up the rest of the fruit.

I added a pinch of cinnamon, some curry, sea salt, honey, and chilli powder

Using your hands, incorporate all the tuna into the fruit and juices.

Take the pineapple and slice half of it in chunks (small enough to spoon or to attach to a fork together with some other tasty pieces from the ceviche)

The shrimp – I personally don’t like them raw, so i drop them for a minute in boiling veggie stock to just turn pink and then scoop them out and drop in the ceviche bowl.

Now come the rest of the fruit – the papaya, the guava and the avocado – slice, remove stones and then chunk or chop in bite sized pieces. Add as much or as little of these as you please.

Don’t forget your veggies (which I admit I initially forgot and am adding now) the peppers, the jalapenos, and the onion – they all bring that savory/sweet taste balance that makes the whole thing so delicious!

Make sure that you have filled your bowl but not all the way to the top, as it will make it difficult to mix and incorporate.

Keep washing your hands and using them to mix and coat everything in the delish tropical juice that has by now filled up your kitchen with amazing tropical fragrance.

I love parsley and mint, so instead of the ceviche staple the cilantro, which i don’t particularly care about, I take some parsley and mint and chop to add to the ceviche at the end.

photo by Zenocracy© 2012

WHAT TO DO WITH THE REST OF THE FRUIT:

ONE VERY TASTY SANGRIA!!! take all the fruit that is left over and instead of wrapping and refrigerating, (which is another name of letting it rot in cooler temperatures) just throw in a punch bowl and then pour your favorite (not super expensive) red wine.

If you refrigerate both bowls for about an hour, you’d have one fruity party!

Play some flamenco music, light up some candles, and you are in business!

Enjoy!

The Real Scarlet O’Hara

I think I met the real Scarlet O’Hara today. Gracefully aged, she was taking measured and careful steps along the endless disheveled isles of the bargain department store. Her hair was perfectly coiffed in little ringlets, which were fixed with copious amount of hairspray, followed by ever so slightly combing, for enough woomph and control. Her ashes of rose Chanel suit and the flowered button down taffeta blouse, were in perfect harmony. Just enough pink in the blouse was pulled by the suit’s solid color. Her lipstick and nailpolish matched perfectly. The jewelry was rich gold and pearls. And the buckle flats mirrored the buckle in the closure of the purse. Impeccable make up covered a pair of bright blue eyes, which scanned the people around as if to make sure they didn’t notice how frail she is.
This polished appearance was the result of preparation and thought. She walked with dignity and despite the apparent pain she was in, she walked straight and upright.
I walked a few steps behind her. Almost felt like hiding between the Ralph Lauren and INC sections and wait until she is far enough to notice me. I wanted to preserve her dignity which was her stronghold. I didn’t want to let her see my concern. I wanted to see her triumph over her age-old enemy – time! I wanted to see her in all her appropriateness and Southern finess, take a gold-ringed middle finger and show it to the Clock: “Eff you! You can’t break me down! I may fall but I will never crawl! I have seen the wrath of much worse monsters than you! I have fought and I have won! You are just a vindictive little invisible menace and because you are invisible you deserve to go unnoticed! If you had any guts and dignity yourself, you would show yourself! But your miserable existence is scared of its own image and that’s why you keep showing us ours. Therefore I am braver, stronger and more beautiful than you! Therefore I will not whittle in your presence you cowardly bitch!”
Just as I was rooting and cheering for her, seeing that she perked up and her stride became more steady and a bit faster…she slipped and leaned on the ballustrade of the bridge..  So I succumbed to the urge to help her and by doing that “random act of kindness” I destroyed her one chance to beat time for today..
She said it was “awful nice of me to help an old lady,” she called me a “sweetie” and “honey” and in the spirit of the great southern tradition of politeness, she even “blessed my heart.” Then she respectfully declined and told me doctors told her she needed hip replacement surgery but she told them they don’t know anything! 
And she kept walking. A bit slower, but head high.. She can worry about all this tomorrow…