Creamy Nettle Soup

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Soups are a great meal since they don’t generally require a ton of ingredients, are easy to make in a large quantity, are easy to make from a technical standpoint and don’t require a ton of attention. One of the simplest and most delicious soups I have ever come across is the creamy nettle soup at the old Le Gourmand space in Ballard. This soup was so good that I think it might actually be the best thing that I ever had there. Unfortunately the restaurant is long gone, but the chef, the great Bruce Naftaly, still runs cooking classes and shows you dishes that he served in the restaurant. Since we are approaching the tail end of nettle season, I figured that this would be a good one to put out there, especially considering the somewhat unpredictable Northwest spring weather. Not sure where to get nettles? Try Foraged and Found – they are at the U-District Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and Ballard on Sundays. You probably only have 1 or 2 weeks left in nettle season though, so you many want to hurry.

 

The Software

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

1 medium leek, dark green part removed, quartered and rinsed and cut into ½ inch pieces, about 8 oz.

½ yellow onion cut into 6 parts, about 8 oz.

2 shallots peeled and quartered, about 4 oz.

1 Yukon gold potato, quartered, about 6 oz.

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped

6 oz. nettles, washed

Salt and pepper

Nutmeg

 

The Recipe

In a heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the butter until it stops foaming over medium heat. Add the shallots, leek and onions and stir. Cook for about 15 minutes or until they soften, stirring occasionally. If the veggies begin to brown, lower the heat slightly, you are looking to sweat them, not brown them. When the veggies are soft, add the potato and stock. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked (you can pierce them with the tip of a knife with no resistance).  Add nettles and cover, cooking for 6-7 minutes until the nettles are wilted (this will also take out the stinging quality of the nettles). Remove from heat and puree in 2 batches, adding ½ of the cilantro to each batch. When done pureeing the soup, if the soup is too thick, stir in water or stock in small quantities until the desired thickness is achieved. If it is too thin, add some additional cooked potato puree to thicken it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or warm with a few grinds of fresh nutmeg and some nice bread.

 

Notes

If you can’t find nettles, use spinach instead. It won’t be as good but you will be able to make the soup all year round. The recipe will feed 4-6 people and scales really easily and can be served as either a main course or an appetizer. It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days but freezes well and reheats easily, so it makes for a nice meal in a hurry. This soup is ultra creamy and luxurious, and, best of all, involves no actual dairy and can be made completely vegan by using veggie stock and olive oil instead of chicken stock and butter.

 

Enchilada Sauce – Another Use for Green Tomatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If you have green tomatoes, one of the best things to use them for is enchiladas. You can easily use the tomatoes to replace tomatillos in the sauce and get something that tastes about 100 times better than anything that will come out of a can.

The Software
3 lbs. green tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces, woody parts removed
¼ cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, seeds removed
2 cups stock or water
Salt

The Recipe
In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until they begin to become translucent. Add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the tomatoes, pepper and liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are tender. In several batches, take the contents of the pot and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once the sauce begins to boil, continue to cook until it thickens (5-10 minutes), stirring about every minute. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency, add salt to taste and it is ready to use.

Notes
You can pretty much put this over anything – pasta, chicken, pork, veggies or enchiladas. If you like it hotter, add more peppers, or better yet, add some serrano peppers. If you like it less spicy, remove the pepper or reduce the amount. If you want a super kicked up version of this sauce, when you add the garlic, add 1 ½ teaspoons of the following: cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, adobo, garlic powder and black pepper. Follow the recipe as is otherwise.

Mexican Chicken Cacciatore

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Ok, I promise this is the last of the tomato recipes I will post for a while. I just have about 25 lbs. or so of tomatoes that I have been trying to make my way through, so I have been coming up with new and creative ways to use them. The other night, I thought chicken cacciatore, but I had a bunch of other ingredients I wanted to use and I had a hankering for some black beans, so I decided to do a Mexican version of the classic Italian dish.

The Software
8 oz. chicken breast, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground adobe or paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup onions, sliced thin
1 large bell pepper, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon chile pepper
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced cilantro

 

Mecican Chicken Caccitore – All part of a well balanced meal

The Recipe
Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil when hot. Pat dry the chicken and combine in a bowl with the cumin, garlic, salt and paprika. Toss to coat. When the oil is just beginning to smoke, add the chicken to the pan. Sear for 2 minutes until just beginning to brown (you are not trying to cook it, just brown it). Transfer to a bowl. Add one table spoon of oil. Reduce heat to medium and heat the oil for one minute. Add the onions and sauté until they become translucent – about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook until the tomatoes have just begun to fall apart. Add the peppers and cook for about 8-10 minutes until the tomatoes have completed broken down into a smooth sauce. Add the chicken and cilantro and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until the chicken is cooked but still tender – 5-7 minutes. Check seasonings, adjust as necessary and serve.

Notes
I served this over yellow rice and black beans, but you could serve this over whatever you would like. I used a pablano pepper, but if you like hotter, use any you would like. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water, white wine or stock. You want it to be moderately thick before you add the chicken. If it is too thin, keep cooking it before you add the chicken until it reaches the thickness you want. I didn’t bother seeding or peeling the tomatoes, but you could do that if you desire. The recipe serves 2 easily – we actually had leftovers.

Quick Tomato Salad

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Since I now need to harvest all of my tomatoes before the cool nights cause them to split (not to mention the basil, tarragon and Vietnamese coriander), dinner pretty much every night in the Iron Chef household is going to consist of something tomatoish. A nice, quick and easy recipe is a tomato salad. It is cool and refreshing for those remaining few warm evenings and it is quick and simple if you don’t want to think about putting together something elaborate.

The Software
½ cucumber, seeds removed, cut into ¼ inch pieces
¼ cup onion, sliced thin or cut into ¼ inch pieces
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tbsp. basil, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt
Pepper

 

The finished product in all its tomato happiness.

The Salad
Combine cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar into a bowl. Toss to combine and let stand for 7 minutes on the counter. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a crusty piece of bread to soak up the juices.

Notes
That is it, quick and easy. You can skip the sitting for 7 minutes piece and serve right away, but that will mean your onions will be stronger in flavor and you won’t get the really tasty juice to soak up. You can really add anything you want to this, but in season tomatoes bring much more flavor to the party. If you are using out of season tomatoes, use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine to account for the lack of sweetness in the tomatoes. If you tomatoes are like mine, super sweet, don’t use balsamic – it will be too sweet. The recipe feeds two easily and can be scaled as much as you want.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Scramble

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Happy little eggs just waiting to be eaten

If you are like me and decided to grow tomatoes in the Seattle area, you are just beginning to enjoy the fruits of your labor, although you are probably hoping that the 80% of the tomatoes on your plant that are still green will ever ripen. (Quick hint – cut back on watering them, it will cause them to stop producing fruit and try to ripen what is there). That being said, I tend to get more tomatoes than I know what to do with in one sitting, so I get creative with them. Since the ones that I grow at home taste about 100 times better than anything you can get in the store, I use them in just about everything. One of my favorite applications is with eggs. You don’t need to cook them and they add a ton of flavor and brightness to any egg dish. Below is a recent breakfast I made for Mrs. Iron Chef Leftovers with some of the tomatoes and basil from the garden. The recipe feeds one but can be easily scaled.

 

The lovely raw ingredients. It is making me hungry just looking at them

 

 

The Software
2 Large eggs
1 tablespoon diced or minced onion
¼ cup tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon basil, chiffanade (probably about 1 large leaf)
1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt
Pepper

The Scramble
In a medium, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until it starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. While the oil is heating, combine eggs and milk and beat with a fork until combined, let sit. Add the eggs to the pan when the onions are cooked and turn heat to medium low. When the eggs begin to start to form a curd (i.e. begin to become solid) gently break apart with a silicone spatula into smaller pieces; this will happen quickly, so keep an eye on it. Add the goat cheese and stir until incorporated; maybe 1-2 minutes. Once everything is incorporated, remove from heat and add the tomatoes and basil. Toss to combine and let sit for one minute. Add salt and pepper to taste, plate and serve to a happy wife.

The finished product. You may commence your drooling now.

Notes
You can leave out the cheese or substitute it with just about any kind you want. I happen to love the combination of goat cheese, tomato and basil, but cheddar works well also. The key to this dish is the low heat – it will allow the curds to be fluffy and light. Also, the more liquid you add to the eggs before cooking them, the fluffier they become. If you have particularly juicy tomatoes, remove some of the liquid before adding to the pan, otherwise you will have watery scrambled eggs. I tend to not cook the tomatoes because I like their raw flavor better. If you want to cook them, add them to the onions after they have been cooking for about 3 minutes. This recipe also works as an omelet too, but that is for another show.