Larrupin

Uncommonly Good

Mushroom Potato Soup

It’s another snowy day in Oklahoma.  And yes, it’s the first day of spring. So it’s a good day for soup.

I bought leeks last week for potato soup and I also had almost eight ounces of mushrooms in the fridge that I needed to use. But instead of making two soups, I put them together and came up with this one.

First, I took the outer leaves off the leeks and after removing the root end I cut them into super thin slices. I put the slices in a colander ran water over them while separating the rings to be sure and get all the dirt from between the layers. Leeks are part of the family of onions and, while similar to onions, they have a milder flavor. I like the flavor they give my soups and stews, and I was also happy to see them on this website as one of the World’s Healthiest Foods.

When I was satisfied the leeks were clean, I put them in a three quart sauce pan over low heat. I added a splash of olive oil and stirred it into the leeks.  While the leeks started to saute, I washed and sliced the mushrooms, saved a few of the best for garnish and added the rest of the mushrooms to the pan.

When the leeks were soft and the mushrooms had given up their liquid I added some white wine, just to cover the veggies, and let it continue to cook while I peeled the potatoes. I cut the potatoes into medium chunks and put them in the pan with the leeks and mushrooms. I added water* to just barely cover the potatoes and turned up the heat.

*NOTE:  I usually use chicken broth instead of water, or at least water with chicken bullion, but my son is dating a vegetarian, and has agreed to try it for a month. He was coming over later in the day, so I made this vegetarian for him. I didn’t mention the mushrooms though. He insists he doesn’t like them. Shhhh…

It wasn’t long before the potatoes were fork tender. I turned the heat down and used a potato masher to break it all into smaller pieces. Next I got out my immersion blender and used it to turn the potatoes and mushrooms into a thick puree. I seasoned the soup with salt and pepper and my own garlic rich Janz herb blend. It very thick so now I added milk. I poured in a little at a time and stirred it in until it was the soupy consistency I was looking for.

When I was ready to eat, I filled a bowl and garnished it with a small dollop of sour cream, several super thin slices of carrots (I used a potato peeler to get them paper thin), fresh mushroom slices and a sprinkle of green onions. I am a pepper fiend so I had to add fresh cracked pepper to the top.

When my son arrived, I garnished his soup with carrot slices and grated Jarlsberg cheese. Other possible garnishes include avocado slices, grated Parmesan, seasoned croutons, and crumbled bacon.

Here’s the ingredient list with estimated quantities.

The Soup:

  • 4 leeks, sliced very thin, separated, washed well
  • 6–8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • Olive oil, a tablespoon or so
  • About 1/2 C white wine
  • 5–6 medium potatoes, peeled, large dice
  • Water (or chicken broth) to cover potatoes
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, Janz Seasoning Blend
  • Milk

Garnishes:

  • Sour Cream
  • Carrot slices, paper thin
  • Mushroom slices, very fresh mushrooms
  • Chives
  • Grated cheese, whatever sounds good to you
  • Avocado slices
  • Seasoned croutons
  • Crumbled bacon

Mmmmm…. Larrupin!

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March 21, 2010 Posted by | Soup | , , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Croutons and More

Croutons add a nice crunch to many salads, but I just can’t bring myself to buy a box of croutons at the store. I mean, it’s just toasted bread!
When I first investigated making my own, the recipes told me to cut my bread into cubes and fry it in a skillet of oil. Too much trouble, and too much oil! Over the past few years I’ve come up with my own technique that works for me—and for anyone else who’s enjoyed one of my salads.

I start with French bread, the soft American kind from a grocery store works. Cut what you need into slices about 3/4 inch thick.
Arrange on a foil lined baking sheet. I use my toaster oven.
Coat with extra virgin olive oil—I use a spritzer bottle—and sprinkle with your favorite herbs. The seasoning could be as simple as plain garlic powder. I use my own mix of Janz Seasoning Blend.
Oil and season both sides of the bread before putting them in the oven.

Cooking temperatures vary for toaster ovens because the food is so close to the heat source, but for my current toaster oven, I usually turn the heat to just above 300° for croutons. A lower heat will yield dryer toast, but it takes longer.

When I can smell the croutons I’ll check on them. When the top is hard to touch and starting to turn gold I’ll turn them over so both sides will toast evenly. Leave them as long as it takes for the bread to dry all the way through. Break a piece to determine dryness. If it snaps apart, it’s dry, but if it’s still soft and tears instead of breaks, then it’s not a crouton yet.

If the bread browns faster than it dries through, turn the heat down and leave it in a very low oven, as low as 200° if you have time. Eventually turn the oven off and leave the toast there to cool off slowly.

When the toast is totally cool—probably the next day—store it in a plastic bag. If you bag it before it’s cooled to room temperature, the heat will continue to dissipate and the inside of the bag will sweat which softens up the toast you just spent all that time drying out. So don’t be impatient to bag this up.

When I’m making a salad I’ll take a couple of pieces of this seasoned, dried French toast and break it into bite-size pieces over the top of my salad. If I break it into crouton-sized pieces when I bag it, I found the pieces get smaller and smaller and there are lots of crumbs. Which leads to another use for this seasoned bread. Bread crumbs.

This technique creates some very tasty bread crumbs when you need them. Depending on what you’re using them for, you can break them into small chunky pieces, pound them into crumbs, or put them in a food processor to make some really fine bread crumbs. Store any leftovers in the freezer for future use. I used these bread crumbs, along with my traditional cornbread in my turkey dressing last year, and it was a big hit! My mom even wanted the recipe—and she’s the one who taught me how to make dressing!

Once you turn the toast over, you can top it with a variety of ingredients for a snack or appetizer. It makes a really tasty cheese bread, just top with your favorite cheese and turn the oven to broil until the cheese melts.
This is also how I made the bruschetta I mentioned a few days ago. It’s also tasty to break it into somewhat larger chunks and dip into a marinara sauce for a different kind of snack.

I haven’t priced store-bought croutons recently, but I get a lot more bang for my buck buying a loaf of French bread and making my own crouton toast than I would ever get out of a box.

May 28, 2008 Posted by | Salad, Soup | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lucky 13 Lunch Salad

I came home for lunch yesterday and put together healthy green salad. I counted 13 ingredients, not counting the dressing, thus the name.

  • Lettuces and Spinach
  • Romaine & some stuff I don’t know the name of from the “salad bowl” I bought at the Farmer’s Market Saturday. (See below)
  • Red Cabbage
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Red Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Grated Hard Cheeses
  • Feta Cheese
  • Croutons
  • Cucumber
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Janz Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • You can see I tore up the green stuff, sliced the zucchini and yellow squash really thin. I didn’t peel the squash, (I scrubbed them thoroughly since I wasn’t going to peel them)but I did peel the cucumber. I sliced very thin layers from my red cabbage, and thin slivers from a red pepper.
    The strawberries were HUGE, so they were quartered and then sliced.
    The nuts are in a plastic bag in the freezer, so I just grabbed a handful for the top. The croutons were fresh, in my toaster over, so those topped everything off.

    The strawberry is a very surprising addition to a green salads. I saw it somewhere about a year ago and really like the pop of tartness you get in the midst of the other ingredients. Of course the strawberries have to be fresh—frozen would be mushy—so I do this when they’re in season. I’ve also used blackberries and blueberries. As I ate it I wondered about adding banana slices. It would have to be a firm banana, but I’ll try that while I can still get fresh strawberries and see how it goes.


    About the “Salad Bowl”

    A vendor at the Cleveland County Farmer’s Market sells pots full of mixed lettuces. This one was $2.50 I think. I put it on my porch on Saturday and let it get too dry and Sunday it was droopy and completely limp. Thank goodness a good soaking brought it back to life. We had a thunderstorm on Sunday night and on Monday it was back to full crispness.

    May 27, 2008 Posted by | Salad | , , | Leave a comment

    Bruschetta

    Bruschetta – or Fresh Tomatoes on Toast
    I went to the farmer’s market yesterday morning and found some really nice tomatoes. They were from Texas, but that was as close as I could get to “home grown” this early in the season. I was in the mood for a late night snack last night and the tomatoes sounded good so I decided to make bruschetta to take advantage of the fresh flavor.
    Generically speaking, bruschetta is simply toasted bread, seasoned with olive oil and herbs, topped with tomato and cheese. It can be prepared on the grill or in the oven. Here’s how I made this batch in a toaster oven.

    Ingredients:

    • French Bread
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
    • Herb Seasoning Blend*
    • Fresh Tomato*
    • Hard Cheese*
    • Avocado (optional, but yummy!)
    • Balsamic Vinegar*

    Directions:

    1. Slice French bread about 3/4 inch thick, and place on foil-lined toaster oven baking sheet. Coat both sides with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with herb seasoning.
    2. Toast at about 300°-325° just until tops start to turn golden brown then turn & toast the other side. (In a toaster oven close to the heat source this will just take 5 minutes or so.)
    3. When both sides are golden place slices of tomato on top of each slice of toast and sprinkle with more herbs. Top with grated hard cheese and return to the oven until cheese is melted.
    4. Remove from toaster oven and top with slices of avocado.
    5. Pour a thin layer of balsamic vinegar on serving plate and place bruschetta on the plate in the vinegar.
    6. Dig in.

    *How tos:

    • To coat with extra virgin olive oil* pour the oil in a small condiment bowl and use a pastry brush to paint with oil. An easier way is to keep oil in a spritzer bottle and spray it on the bread slices. The spritz method also lets you use less oil if you’re concerned about counting fat grams.
    • Basil is the herb* most frequently found in bruschetta recipes. Top tomato slices with fresh basil leaves or sprinkle with dried basil if you don’t have a favorite herb blend you want to use. I’ve created my own herb mix, Janz Seasoning Blend, that I use on practically everything. Basil is one of the prominent flavors in this blend.
    • Some bruschetta recipes call for chopped tomatoes*. However I prefer slices so I don’t lose any when I eat it. It much neater to eat if you don’t have to worry about the tomatoes falling off when you take a bite.
    • I have a cheese grater that I fill with chunks of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano* cheeses. When I fill the grater with different cheeses I automatically get a cheese blend when I use it. Another cheese option is to slice thin slivers of Feta on top of tomatoes.
      By the way, cheese is the reason I line the baking sheet with foil. Small bits of baked cheese can be hard to clean. A foil liner can be tossed. Rinse the baking sheet and you’re done.
    • In the past, I have “drizzled” balsamic vinegar* on the top of each piece prior to serving, but found it hard to “drizzle” and frequently ended up pouring vinegar over each piece. This obviously makes the toast soggy and the flavor can be overwhelming. Plan B has been to pour a bit of balsamic vinegar in a condiment bowl and serve it on the side for dipping. Last night it occurred to me to pour the vinegar on the serving plate before I pulled the toast from the oven. I placed the toast on the thin puddle on the plate and the bottom 1/8th inch of the toast soaked up the vinegar, just enough to provide flavor in every bite without making the toast soggy.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures before I ate this tasty snack. However, I still have a couple of fresh tomatoes and as soon as an avocado is ready, maybe tomorrow, I’ll make it again and I’ll add some pictures.

    As I wrote this I looked up recipes for bruschetta and found some alternatives with white beans or prosciutto. I’ll give those variations a try and share the results sometime soon.

    May 24, 2008 Posted by | Appetizer | , , , , | Leave a comment

       

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