Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pasta and Chili and Soup, Oh My!

One thing I can say about myself with complete confidence is that, when I am determined, I am determined - and there is no stopping me. At times in my life, I've started things and not finished them or I've had a great idea that I never had the guts to pursue, but I have never had an issue following through when I'm determined to do something. I love this about myself.

That said, I have kept very much in line with the goal I wrote about of getting back to cooking the way I used to. In the past few days, I went a little overboard with the amount of food I made but I can happily say that it's brought a huge smile to my face to do so. I first decided to make homemade chicken noodle soup for the first time. I love soup. I love the comfort and warmth it brings and I love how it makes you feel like you're 'home'. Soup is one of those things that actually evokes emotion when you eat it and I find that to be so invigorating. I equally love cold soups in the summer for the energy and refreshment they bring. Ok, back to my chicken soup before I ramble off topic. The recipe I used has been passed down to Erica from her mother's family and there are no real measurements. That, my friends, is how a true cook cooks. Erica has raved about this soup plenty of times so I called her, got the 'recipe', and put myself to work. You boil a whole chicken so it's rather time consuming but you're essentially making your own stock and that makes all the difference:
I used classic celery, carrot, onion and parsley as the veggies and also plenty of garlic and fresh cracked black pepper:
As I worked to remove all the chicken, I was excited to see how much meat I got out of it. There was so much, in fact, that I didn't even add any pasta noodles! This soup had the taste and feel like it had been simmering slowly all day and I loved every single bite:
I know, you're thinking what's so special about chicken soup?! but, if I had you over for some, you'd know. ;) I can safely say that I'll be cooking this again very soon.

My second feat was linguine with shrimp in lemon oil. This is a Giada recipe that I absolutely love but, again, I do many things different. For the oil, I measure out 3/4 cup of olive oil and I add the zest of one lemon, four or five cloves of minced garlic (you can never have too much), a pinch of salt, and dash of crushed red pepper flakes; it then sits all day to infuse. For the shrimp, I use a pound or so and I let them sit in a bowl with the zest of two lemons and lots of fresh cracked black pepper. I do not salt them as that will dry them out and make them tough. I let them sit for an hour or so until I'm ready to cook. As a side note, I have to say that lemon is one of my very favorite smells. It's crisp, clean, and fresh (I even love citrus based perfumes!) and when you use it to cook, it fills your kitchen with such a summery note. I saute shallots in a little olive oil with the juice of one lemon and, as the liquid reduces, it's just the most wonderful fragrance. When the shallots are tender and the linguine is cooking, I add the shrimp and cook through. I dump the lemon oil in with the hot linguine, goodies and all, and get the noodles nice and coated. (A good trick I use to get the oil even more infused with the lemon/garlic flavors is to warm it over super low heat while I'm cooking everything.) I toss the shrimp and shallots in, add a container of baby arugula, and the most wonderfully light and fresh dinner is made in no time. This dish makes you long to be sitting beach-side, listening to waves, and drinking ice cold pinot grigio. It's no wonder I chose to make it during this snowy and cold weather. I honestly don't ever mean to brag when I cook but some dishes I make are just freakin' good.

So, if soup and pasta weren't enough within several days of each other, I decided I needed to add chili on, too. I am an admitted glutton, people. I ain't ashamed. I scheduled running in between all this and didn't eat it all alone, don't worry. :P Anyway, I have fun making chili. My sweet mom knows this about me and surprised me by mailing a pack of chili spices to me last week that I used to only be able to get in GA. I make chili different each time but this pot was super basic with the addition of one can of drained corn. I also used a pound of super lean ground beef and a pound of ground turkey to lighten it up. Chili is one of those things you don't want to rush and you don't want to over-liquify. My chili is usually extremely thick and could probably be eaten on a bun as a 'burger', no lie. It pairs mighty well with my homemade jalapeno-cheddar cornbread too buuuut I skipped out on making that this time around. I simmered the pot on low for a couple of hours, added the cans of beans to heat through, and enjoyed the taste of "winter".

All in all, this was just the outlet I needed this weekend, paired with some good guitar playing and wine drinking. Seeing 'The Wolfman' on Valentines Day was also just the "celebration" my friend and I appreciated together on a very silly and over-saturated 'holiday'! :P


Allison said...

What you SHOULD do is serve your chicken soup as an appetizer and the lemon oil shrimp pasta as an entree... ;)

Erica said...

I find this whole entry hilarious!