Coconut Curry Soup with Roasted Salmon

Oh the weather outside is frightful (OK, not so much in California), and the chill in the air (mainly because we don’t have the best insulation in California houses) means it’s time to cook warm soups to help warm the body.  When cooking for two, soup is an effective way to make lunches for the week.  A pot of soup equals 6-7 meals, all that’s needed is really good Tupperware to make sure it doesn’t spill while commuting.

Another reason to love soup is it’s incredible capacity to use up leftover or past their prime vegetables.  Soups are endlessly adaptable given what’s in the fridge or taste preferences.  The soups I make are quick, between 20 and 40 minutes to prepare.  This soup is Thai inspired.  It looks like a sunset with its  pinkish-orange color from the mix of coconut milk and chicken broth.  Instead of adding in the salmon to cook in the soup (a possible variation), I roasted the salmon separate in order for the soup base to maintain its unique Thai curry-coconut flavor.  This method allows the soup and the salmon to remain two distinct but complementing flavors.

Here are the ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, such as Thai Kitchen
1 14-ounce box low-sodium chicken broth
1 13 or 14-ounce can low-fat coconut milk
3 small potatoes, peeled, and diced
1 pound fresh salmon sprinkled with salt pepper, and 1 teaspoon olive oil
fresh lime wedges and chopped fresh parsley (not pictured)
In addition to the parsley I forgot to photograph 3 small peeled and diced potatoes.
First saute the aromatics (onions, poblano pepper, celery, and garlic) in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Instead of a classic Latin sofrito where I’d usually add tomato paste or sauce, I used Thai Red Chili Paste, a fun ingredient to have on hand for easy Thai flavor without the fuss of finding and figuring out ways to use items I’m not familiar with.
Then add the liquids, chicken broth and coconut milk.  The color of the soup will look like a sunset, pinkish-orange.
Also add the diced potatoes.  Bring the soup up to a boil, then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer for 20 minutes or so, enough time to roast up some fresh salmon.
Whenever I’m cooking for two, I prefer to use the toaster oven for small baking needs since it’s a manageable size and doesn’t need more than a minute or two to preheat.  I lined a mini baking sheet with tin foil for very easy clean up, and sprinkled salt, pepper, and a little olive oil on top of the fish.  Salmon’s a fish with more oil than others, so it doesn’t need a lot.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are crisp and the fish is flaky and pink.  Don’t you love those close up sizzling bubbles?
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with chunks of roasted salmon and chopped fresh parsley.  Squeeze half of a lime on top of each bowl for added flavor.  Add a bowl of fresh salad and you’ve got yourself one tasty soup and salad combo.
Buen Provecho!

Chicken Soup for the Soul- Yucatan-style


“Have you been taking your vitamin C?  Flu season is coming.”

Get ready to keep telling your mom (or anyone else who cares about you) that you are taking care of your health and getting plenty of Vitamin C.  I don’t know how Vitamin C became the panacea for all health-related maladies, but it is the most prescribed “medicine” from my mom.  Got a cold?  Take Vitamin C.  Feeling low energy?  It’s because you haven’t been taking enough Vitamin C.  Runny Nose?  Vitamin C, to prevent it from getting worse.

Of course, there’s also making sure that you are eating well and adding vegetables whenever the opportunity arises, like in this recipe, a chicken soup for the soul, Yucatán-style.  In Spanish it is called sopa de limón or sopa de limo.

The Yucatán Peninsula geographically looks like a foot kicking a soccer ball off the Southeastern shore of Mexico.  Though most of the Yucatán Peninsula are 3 Mexican states (Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo), it also contains northern parts of Belize and Guatemala.  It is considered the eastern heartland of the ancient Mayas.  Many American tourists know it for the resort town, Cancún and the Mayan Riviera.  More cultural and historical tourist destinations include the beautiful colonial city Mérida and the famous Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza and Tulum.  Yucatán food is full of flavor and Mayan influence.

This soup is both healthy and fast.  It’s even faster if you use part of a store-bought rotisserie chicken.  It has vegetables like carrots and celery.  But don’t stop there.  Add zucchini if you have it or pre-cooked butternut squash.  Corn kernels would be a tasty addition as well.  It also has plenty of Vitamin C in the form of fresh lime juice.

Some people believe in substituting lemon juice for the lime juice.  For me, these two citrus are not interchangeable, close, but not equal.  Lime juice gives the soup a sharper sweetness and tanginess.  Lime juice is also more authentic.  If you can, please for me, use lime juice, but I’ll still love you if you use lemon juice.

Get the recipe: Yucatan style chicken soup

This recipe is part of a 3-2-1 series.  3 meals, 2 people, 1 chicken.  Stay tuned for 2 more recipes for 1 store-bought rotisserie chicken. Buen Provecho!

Gazpacho- the Perfect Antidote to August Spanish Heat

Wanna skip the story and get to cooking?  Printable Chilled Gazpacho with Garlic Croutons

If you’re getting ready to travel to Spain, everything you read will say, don’t go in August when the heat is near unbearable.  So, of course, that’s exactly when Kris and I go for our honeymoon in 2009.  Yes, I read all those warnings, but for for some reason the dozens of times I saw that warning in print didn’t register.

Spain in August is hot.  An understatement.

Spain in August is a constant wrestling match with the sun who always wins.  Even if you are going half of a block, the sun is fixated on you like a child cooking a bug under a microscope.  It shows no mercy, just like that masochistic little child.

Here’s another thing.  In Spain, as in most of the world, they use Celsius for temperatures.  Like most Americans, I’m not familiar with the conversion factor and so walked around much of Andalusia in a state of heat that I couldn’t give a number to or rather that was numbered in what seemed like a foreign language.

My husband, on the other hand, is  a scientist and familiar with both Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature equivalents.  He knew what the temperatures were in Fahrenheit but for his own safety didn’t release the information until the end of the day in our air-conditioned hotel room.

As you go inland in Spain, the temperatures increase.  Logical.  The further you get from the ocean, the more intense the heat.  Sevilla is an inland Southern city in Spain, truly one of the most beautiful.  I loved Sevilla for its Alcazaba (pronounced, Al-ca-tha-ba, the Spanish way) castle and gardens especially.  When we made our tourist stop there, on the hottest day, of course the day we do the most walking, the temperature was 42 degrees Celsius.

“Forty-two degrees,” I mention, sweat accumulating on every known and unknown surface of skin.  “That’s definitely the highest we’ve seen here, huh?”

“Uh-huh,” says my husband cautiously, and then he steers the conversation to the points of interest we’re checking out for the day.

I maintain my cheerfulness (I am on my honeymoon, right?) until about 1 or 2 pm, just after lunch, what should aptly be siesta (nap) time.  Something in me snaps and a monster rises from the dead.  I truly cannot go on walking another step in this heat.  I drag us back to the hotel and, like the locals who obviously know how to live in this heat, take a siesta.  Once the hottest part of the day has passed, we continue our tour of Sevilla.

For Americans (like me) 42 degrees Celsius is 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  We were walking around for miles in 42/107 degree heat, checking some of the most fascinating historical and artistic remnants of Moorish Spain.  It was one of the most insane things I’ve ever done.

Lucky for us, the Spanish, who’ve had to survive this heat for sometime now, have created the perfect antidote for it: Chilled Gazpacho Soup.  It is also one of the best ways to use up summer produce including tomatoes, cucumber, and sweet peppers.  Chilled gazpacho is the only way to combat heat waves that make psychedelic pictures around your face.

Don’t close your eyes, you might miss the making of this ingenious respite from the heat.

We’ll start with the ingredients: 4-5 tomatoes, 1/2 large English cucumber (or use a regular one, just peel off the waxy skin), 1 bell pepper, a little less than half an onion.

And of course, the secret ingredients: a couple of tablespoons of roasted garlic olive oil and 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar which will give a sweet acidic taste to the Chilled Gazpacho.  If you don’t have sherry vinegar you could substitute apple cider.

Do try to go all Spanish on this recipe if you can.

We’ll also need 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.

Some people insist on a clove of garlic.  I err on the side of caution and rely instead on garlic infused olive oil.  Since everything about gazpacho is raw and raw garlic has a big ego, I feel it will generally try to predominate the taste of the soup.

Roughly chop up everything and place in in a fabulous blender, tomatoes on the bottom for their liquid.  Puree until you reach a smooth consistency.

Love that pinky-green color.

Now- you must, must, must chill gazpacho.  Every single Spanish grandmother is in agreement about this.  It’s written into the Spanish constitution.  We’re trying to fight the summer heat; the soup must be cold.  Put it in the fridge for at least an hour for desperate cases, more if you have patience and forethought (ahem).

When you’re ready to serve, make garlic flavored croutons out of bread and roasted garlic olive oil.

Pan fry 1 inch cubes of the bread in a generous amount of Roasted-Garlic olive oil.  My favorite used to be called Consorzio, a brand I found at Costco; they are now Annie’s Naturals.  Crisp the croutons up by cooking each side for 2-3 minutes until golden, brown, and delicious.

Then flip each bread piece over and golden-brown-delicious the other side.

Drain the croutons on a paper towel and sprinkle 3-4 croutons on top of each soup serving, maybe add a little Parmesan, Manchego if you are a Spanishophile (I just made that word up).

White Chicken Chili with Beer

I ask myself, it’s the middle of summer, why on earth am I making a soup?  You may doubt my thought processes (I sure do sometimes), but this White Chicken Chili with Beer recipe will make you want to forget the heat and just go and make a batch.

Printable Recipe:White Chicken Chili with Beer

It all started with an idea to use cashews in chili to try to thicken it and make it creamy delicious.  Since cashews are a light taupe color, the chili had to be a white chili, not your classic red one.  This required some chicken and white beans.  I wish I found some white navy beans, but all my store had was white kidney beans, no matter.

Like any good chili, it all starts with the pot.  Stainless steel in my case.  Warm it up over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Swish it around to coat the bottom.

Now add 1 small diced onion,and 4 minced garlic cloves.We used to have this nifty plastic device that would poke through all the holes of the mincer and get the strangled remains.  Then it got mangled in the garbage disposal, and we decided to just use our fingernails.  Make sure you get all the garlic pieces.  Don’t get grossed out that your hands will smell.  If someone doesn’t like the smell of garlic, I think you need to reevaluate your relationship.

Shake it around so the onion begins to change color, some edges will be browned and beginning to caramelize and look like this: a little bit of brown, a little bit of translucent.Now add the diced chicken breast and your spices.1 heaping (and I mean heaping, abounding, overflowing) teaspoon EACH of chili powderand 1 of ground cumin.Dice up 1 jalapeno.  Can your house handle all the heat?  One person, who shall remain nameless, in my house isn’t a fan of spicy, so I have to cut out the seeds and membranes where all the heat is stored, like so.Also dice up the canned roasted chilies.  The seeds are fine from these chilies because they’ve been roasted and canned, so their taste is much more subtle.  Check out the charred parts.  That’s where the goodness is hidden.A little extra sauce is fine to add to the chili, but not all of it.  Or heck, why not, add all the sauce in.Use your trusty spoon to coat the chicken with spices and aromatics (AKA onions ‘n garlic ‘n chilies).  Start to cook the chicken for about 4 minutes until it’s white in parts, but other parts are still pink.  Now come the liquids.

Find yourself a great beer.  If you pick Bud Lite or Coors, well,  I suppose I can still appreciate you if you like those beers.  Just get some beer.

Add half the bottle to the chicken.  It’s up to your own discretion what you do with the other half of the beer. While the chicken starts to cook, go out to the garden and clip some fresh oregano.  Dried oregano is fine too though.

This was my fist time using herbs from my garden, so I got a little giddy.  He…he.

Chop the oregano and add it to the cooking chicken.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth. Drain the 2 cans of beans in a colander.  While you’re there, make sure to rinse them well with water; you’ll remove a lot of the excess salt. Place about 1 cup of beans in a blender, but dump the rest of the beans into the pot.

To the blender add ½ cup of cashews (about one left handful)and ½ cup of low-fat milk.  Liquefy until you get a creamy paste.  Then add to your chili.  It will change everything, color-wise.  It’ll also change the thickness of your chili.Here’s what it’ll do…make your chili beautiful and delicious.  Heck, it’ll make you beautiful and delicious.Last thing, stir in 2 tablespoons of cornmeal to help thicken it even more.  Make sure to break up any clumps that form from the cornmeal with your spoon.  This is a good place to end, but if you can handle another level of heat, mix in some good hot sauce, like Tapatio (preferably not Tabasco which is a little too vinagary).  3 splashes per serving.  That’s 6 servings.  You can do the math.

It’s inevitable.  All chili must be served with fresh, chopped cilantro.  I wish I added cheese.  I was desperately hungry.  Make sure you add cheese.  Mmmmm…a good pepper jack or monterey jack would be divine.P.S. Don’t forget about the rest of your beer.  Enjoy!

Easy, Versatile Chicken Tortilla Soup

Soups are forgiving.  They need a minimum base, but the rest is flexible, depending on what’s in your pantry.  Soups, like casseroles, are the best way to use up leftovers.

I made this recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup for some friends who came over to help us with our No-Front-Lawn Project.  They assisted with hauling, shoveling, and more hauling, and more shoveling.  My arms and shoulders were quite sore.

This is a fast, easy, versatile recipe that’s hearty and quite fast, ideal for a long day working out in the yard.

Printable recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup-1

Ingredients: 1/2 rotisserie chicken, 1 32-ounce box chicken broth, 1 14-ounce can black beans, 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 4-ounce can green chilies, 1 large onion, 2 small zucchinis, 4 garlic cloves, 1 large red bell pepper, 3 small carrots, corn tostadas or corn tortillas.

There are lots of substitutions for this soup, all depending on your taste and cupboard.  The minimum base is onion, garlic, spices, broth, chicken, diced tomatoes, and tortillas.

-Any canned bean could switch with the black beans. I imagine pinto or kidney would be the best.

-The total for my vegetables (carrots and zucchini) was about 2 cups, which could easily be another mix of veggies like celery, corn, fresh tomatoes, other squash, etc.  Just be aware of which vegetables, like carrots, need to cook longer, and which, like zucchini, barely need any cooking

-Instead of tostadas use fresh corn tortillas cut in strips or crushed tortilla chips

-Rotisserie chicken has 2 bonuses; it’s cooked already and has great flavor, making this recipe extremely fast, but you could also cook 2-3 chicken breasts beforehand then shred it.

I’m sorry, I forgot to get step-by-step photos because my mind was thinking about the yard, not what I was cooking.  Here’s the process.  It’s easy, half the soup is fresh veggies, the other half canned staples, plus already cooked chicken.

  1. In a large soup pot, heat up about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Add diced onions and red bell pepper, and sauté 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add diced carrots, and continue sautéing another 3 minutes.
  3. Add minced garlic, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Stir so all the vegetables get coated with spice.
  4. Shake chicken broth and pour in the whole box.
  5. Add entire can of diced tomatoes, juice and all.
  6. Drain beans in sink; add them to the soup.
  7. Dice up chili peppers and add to soup.  Turn heat up to high to bring it to a boil.  Then lower to medium-high.
  8. Shred the rotisserie chicken by pulling it into strips about the size your pinky or smaller.  Add to soup.  Let everything simmer together for about 20-30 minutes.
  9. During the last ten minutes, add zucchini to cook.  If needed, add in more chicken broth to your desired consistency.
  10. To serve, fill each bowl with soup and top with crumbled tostada, grated cheese, and any other toppings you have around (avocado, green onions, red onions, cilantro, fresh tomatoes, sour cream, etc).

and here’s the delicious finished soup.