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How to Get Pot Luck-y: Hosting a Soup Swap

How to Get Pot Luck-y: Hosting a Soup Swap

I have been hankerin’ for a soup swap for years now. But only since I started this blog did it actually happen. Consider this my second post – after the sausage-making party – in my series on How to Get Pot Luck-y. Like the sausage event, as the kids are calling it, the soup swap is a party that sort of plans itself. Sure, there is a bit of organization involved, but in the end, set up and prep (and even investment, for that matter) is minimal, and every one leaves fat and happy. It’s a great way to entertain without having to do all the heavy lifting tout seul, solo, by your lonesome.

Three for my freezer

DC’s Chicken Corn Chowda; Elle Capitan’s Hearty Organic Veggie & Chicken; Em’s Creamy Lemon Chicken.

I used to hear “pot luck” and think it was a bad thing. Cringe a little. I certainly wasn’t going to host one. Maybe too much ego. Surely too much ego – “I can do it all!!!” I just didn’t get it. A random mishmash of food that doesn’t go together and is of questionable food safety. I was in Michigan for years before I understood the concept of “a dish to pass” – I still can’t quite explain it. There IS no passing. But Pot Lucky – that’s quite different. Host a party with a theme and offer suggestions for contributions and watch the magic happen.  And the bonus of a soup swap is you get all of the above, PLUS a freezer full of soups …….THAT YOU DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO MAKE!

Disclaimer (lest you think I am a food snob): I am fully aware that there is often anxiety with inviting me to dinner – for no damn good reason, I’d like to say. Despite the fact that my friend Cindy runs ahead swearing that burgers are my favorite food group, I rarely get invited out. Big mistake, people. I am a grateful guest – perhaps more so because I know what entertaining entails. I’m not judgmental; I’m uber thankful. I save all the judgement for restaurants lacking (or completely missing) hospitality. We all have PhDs in whether or not we are being treated well and bad service is inexcusable, especially when  you are paying for it. Even if the food is off – it happens – well-trained staff will have you feeling like a million bucks by the time you leave. But complain about a home-cooked meal??? Not on your life.

So how to Soup Swap?

There are many ways it can happen – like a cookie swap – everyone brings two quarts, leaves with two quarts; brings 4….leaves with 4. Or bring X leave with X and no minimum required. I, probably because I am a bit co-dependent, chose to have everyone bring one quart for every soup swapper – N minus one to dole out; the last one to share. (I hope Mrs. Holler is happy I am using my algebra). This way nobody is staring at their creation being the last one picked.  No 5th grade volleyball anxiety! Probably the hardest part of this method is to get an advance commitment so everyone knows what N is. For my Pot Lucky, N equaled 6. Some of the swappers were teams – so they had to thumb-war over how to divide 5 quarts! One couple each brought a soup so they took home two quarts of every flavor. Toward the end, I included a few people that didn’t want to cook and were happy to just come and have a taste.

Where's the Shrimp?

Justin’s Fabulous Shrimp-Free Cannellini Bisque

For this, my maiden voyage, I called in a ringer – a fellow foodie who was as excited as I about the party theme and, on top of it, a recent graduate of a Culinary School. He was there to add some cred to the gathering. He was also there to NOT FORGET the shrimp that was his killer soup garnish. Sigh. His soup was phenomenal regardless – if it weren’t for my labels, nobody would have known. In fact all the soups were phenomenal.  The Chicken Corn Chowder incorporated bacon, chicken and corn raised and grown by the soup-maker.  That IS Pot Lucky!! My only instructions were “no can + can + can” soups and “NO VELVEETA.”  It definitely helps to invite friends who like to cook.

Getting Ready

There was minimal planning – I coordinated soup choices to eliminate dupes and make labels (which included “made-on” dates) – and minimal set up: everyone got one mug, one spoon and one napkin. Y’all are on your own from here. And everyone took charge of heating and serving their own soups. I made a big salad and had some crusty breads and cheeses on hand. Oh, and plenty of wine. And in the spirit of Pot Lucky, there were a couple guests that stayed a bit later and loaded the dishwasher. Bless you.

Making Soup to Swap

All I really had to do in advance was make my own six quarts to share and swap. Being a bit of stickler for that food safety thing, I chilled my two pots of soup in large bowls with ice water, changing the water and adding ice til the pots were down to 45 degrees. Even when cooking single batches, I will fill the sink with ice water and make sure to drop the temp so that the soup/sauce/etc. is cold before transferring to freezer containers. Muy importante! Most guests froze their 5 give-away quarts and brought them in coolers that we left outside til the end when the swapping happened. Remember that above all this is a party (one that fills your freezer, thank you very much!), not a military drill, so be flexible. Have fun!  Let your guests get involved! Relax and let the night roll out as it will.  For a first attempt, I will deem this a success.  “Green mints were served and a good time was had by all.”*

Vichyssoise & My Soup Swap Contender

Brett & Christy’s Vichyssoise; My CaribBean One Pot Wonder with pineapple salsa

Here’s my recipe for the CaribBEAN (bah dum bum – I’ll be here all week) One Pot Wonder. Everyone loves this soup – it’s so hearty and satisfying, but doesn’t leave you overstuffed like chili tends to. It’s also got a great dose of flavor, chocked full of ginger and jalapeno. And it could not be easier or faster. Really.

Like all quick cook techniques, it’s key to use quality ingredients: pork loin or tenderloin and quality beans. I’ve been using Bush’s Best for more than a decade and it’s a bean that holds its shape and comes out of the can intact, not mushed at the bottom, without absorbing the brine it’s canned in and without the overly salty, muddy taste of a lesser bean. It is all I ever use. I wish you could see my pantry – it looks like Super Target.

I love the texture contrast of the pork with the sweet potatoes but this dish could stand alone if you are pork-adverse, or it would also work well with chicken or a sturdy fish. Adjust cooking times accordingly. The garnish is totally optional, but the fruity topper is a great balance to the gingery heat of the soup.

Katy’s Soup to Swap: CaribBean One Pot Wonder

  • 1 pound sweet potato, about 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons minced ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 pound pork loin, trimmed and cut in 1/2” pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 16-ounce cans Bush’s Best Dark Red Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 ½-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14 ½-ounce can chicken broth

Serving Suggestion: Garnish with a spoonful of salsa made from 1 cup chopped pineapple, 2 sliced scallions, and 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro. Serve with hot sauce.

Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave on high for 6 – 8 minutes until tender, but not fully cooked. Set aside. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into ½-inch dice.

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot. Add the ginger, garlic and jalapeno and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.

Add the celery, green pepper, and onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Season the pork with the cumin, salt, and black pepper. Push the vegetables to one side of the stockpot and add the pork, browning on all sides.

Add Bush’s Best Dark Red Kidney Beans, tomatoes, broth, and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the pork is tender. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

Serve with pineapple cilantro salsa and hot sauce, if desired.

Makes 3 quarts and serves 8

Next Pot Lucky: BYOPT – bring your own pizza toppings. Stay tuned.

*Show of hands (read: click on the link below and comment): Back in the day, did your hometown paper  finish every wedding story with “green mints were served and a good time was had by all?”

CaribBean One Pot Wonder

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Turmeric: It Cures What Ails You and Makes a Mean Curry

Turmeric: It Cures What Ails You and Makes a Mean Curry

You know a movement has had its awareness sufficiently raised when a blithe reference slips into a throw-away line on a sitcom. After two posts on food waste last week, imagine my squeals when I heard this from a waiter at a hip millennial launch party on a newish sitcom: “The bruschetta has been made with rescued tomatoes and date of expiration burrata”. I’m squealing. Really. Yipeeeeeeee!

Unfortunately summer bruschetta is the last thing on my cooking mind today. A girl can dream. But as I moped through the grocery looking for anything to lift the gloom of winter’s darkest days, I was thrilled to see fresh turmeric. I didn’t even know you could get this in a mainstream grocery – in the Midwest. It used to be relegated to special trips to Asian markets in big cities. Or more likely it could only be sourced dried and ground. Honestly, I was never a fan of turmeric when I only knew its dried self. I thought it tasted – well, yellow. It didn’t really register much on my palate. But while doing guest chef stints on culinary cruises in the Caribbean, I would gather up ever fresh market item that was a bit unique and had a story and introduce our passengers to these new world treats. I even spent one week being followed by the Food Network, and we hit the Grenada spice market hard.

Fresh and Ground TurmericTurmeric was just one of the many spices I found bears little resemblance to its dry spice counterpart. Mace was another. It makes sense that I love turmeric because it’s related to ginger – and I’m well documented as a “fiend for ginger”. Both are rhizomes, along with galangal, lotus, bamboo, and many more. They spread laterally (called creeping rootstalk) and send shoots up. Many have culinary uses.

Like ginger, turmeric when fresh has a pungent and aromatic taste that can be quite peppery (HOT!), especially when used in excess. It is a key player in many South Asian (Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian) dishes – both for flavor and color; you’ll find it in American food as a colorant that can range from subtle to supreme. Vanilla products like yogurt and pudding turn creamy, not stark white, and mustard turns bright yellow.

But turmeric’s real claim to fame is its medicinal properties. Like ginger, turmeric has powerful anti-nausea (turmeric tea, just boil it up), anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties. If only this miracle worker could clean the bath!! (Nobody wants a yellow tub, I know, I know). It’s even being studied for treatment of IBS, Alzheimer’s, depression and cancer. Rock stah!

Infographic courtesy of  Cognitune Smarter Health.

So I grabbed a handful and headed home, determined to make a spicy vegan curry. It doesn’t have to be vegan or even vegetarian, but that is what I had on my mind. Tucking in for the night with a Buddha Bowl of Spicy Goodness.

Start by making a Yellow Curry Paste – this will make four times what you need and freezes well.  You can add a lot of different ingredients or leave out some of these, but this is what I had on hand and so what I used. Roasting the aromatics and toasting the spices, while a bit more time-consuming, will elevate the taste and develop a real depth of flavor that you simply can’t get by just pureeing all the ingredients. It’s worth the commitment.

Oven Roasting Aromatics

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Turmeric Yellow Curry

Chock-full o’ Turmeric Yellow Curry Paste


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: about 2 cups 1x

Description

Many curry recipes are simple purees, but this one roasts the aromatics and toasts the spices. While a bit more time-consuming, this extra step develops depth of flavor that you simply can’t get with dump and whirl. It’s worth the commitment. And bonus – it freezes well!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 shallots
  • 5 pieces of turmeric
  • 3 heads of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil (plus more to drizzle on aromatics)
  • Spice Blend:
    • 2 Tablespoons ground coriander
    • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
    • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
    • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 1/4 teaspoon clove
    • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 Tablespoons lemongrass paste (a tube usually found with herbs in produce section)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400oF.

Wrap the aromatics, each in their own foil pouch, and place on a sheet pan to roast. (20 minutes for the turmeric; 1 hour for the shallots and garlic)

  •  Shallots – peeled, placed in a foil pouch and drizzled with olive oil
  • Turmeric – well scrubbed, placed in a foil pouch and drizzled with olive oil
  • Garlic – loose outer “paper” removed, tops of each head trimmed, placed in a foil pouch and drizzled with olive oil

In a small sauté pan, heat one Tablespoon olive oil and add all the spices. Sauté, stirring, for about two minutes until the spices start to release their aroma. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor.

Once the aromatics are cool enough to handle, transfer the shallots and turmeric to the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the processor, picking by hand any that linger behind. Discard the garlic “paper”.

Add the lemongrass paste and sea salt. Puree until desired consistency.

Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate or freeze.

Notes

This will last longer than if it were made with raw herbs or aromatics, and it also freezes well.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blender/Processor
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: turmeric, curry

Yellow Curry Paste

Now that you have that tasty curry, how about whipping up a Coconut Curry Buddha Bowl, filled with hearty and soul-warming sweet potatoes and earthy greens and topped with pumpkin seeds. It’s vegan and you can feel great about that for so many reasons. 

Coconut Turmeric Curry with Winter Vegetable Buddha Bowl

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 inch piece of ginger, trimmed, grated
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 Tablespoons yellow chock-full o’ turmeric yellow curry paste
  • 14-ounce can coconut cream
  • 1 cup (chicken or) vegetable stock
  • 5 ounce bitter salad greens blend (kale, chard, spinach)

Garnish:

  • 2 chopped scallions
  • 2 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

Serving suggestion – rice or brown rice* (See note below)

 

Start the rice.

In a wok or deep skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the ginger for 2-3 minutes until soft.

Add the sweet potatoes, curry paste, coconut cream and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring periodically, for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and sauce is thickened.

Sweet Potatoes and Bitter Greens

Add the greens and stir until wilted.

Divide rice among bowls and top with sweet potato curry. Garnish with scallions, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Serves 4.

*Brown rice note: I really prefer brown rice but you’ve likely heard the bad news about arsenic. Because it is a whole grain, it has more potential for danger than white rice which has been stripped of its outer hull (and for that matter its nutritional value). Truth be told, I really don’t eat it very often – once a month or less – so I’m not that worried but I do take a couple precautions. Brown basmati from California, India and Pakistan are the best choices – about 1/3 less risk than other brown rices according to Consumer Reports. The other thing I do is rinse it several times, and then cook it like pasta in a 6:1 water ratio (instead of the normal 2:1) and drain the excess water. That will help wash away the evil-doers lurking in your lovely whole grain. My Grandmother always said “you’ve gotta eat a peck of dirt before you die”. I’m guessing she wasn’t talking about arsenic, but she did make it pass 90. Just sayin.

Coconut Turmeric Curry with Winter Vegetables

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Fresh Grape and Plum Stuffed Sweet Potato

Fresh Grape and Plum Stuffed Sweet Potato

Many sweet potato recipes use a lot of butter to carry the flavor, but this recipe amplifies the sweetness of the roasted fruit and their juices and a sparing dash of toasted nuts and prosciutto.  The latter two give the dish a rich and nutty /salty surprise that plays off what can sometimes be a cloyingly sweet one note samba.  Not here! Tango for two.

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (approximately 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup grapes
  • 2 plums, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 ounce of prosciutto, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat to 425°F.

Wash sweet potatoes and prick gently with fork. Place potatoes on an aluminum foil‐lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour to 1 ¼ hour or until tender, or alternatively microwave per the direction of microwave’s manufacturer. When potatoes are tender, remove and cool.

Meanwhile, place grapes on a rimmed non-stick baking sheet, lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the grapes. Add plums to baking sheet; bake 8 minutes longer or until grapes start to shrivel and are lightly browned. Remove from oven, and transfer grapes and plums to a small mixing bowl. Add brown sugar, honey and cinnamon to fruit and stir until brown sugar has dissolved.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop pulp into a large bowl, and mash by hand or with hand mixer. Fold fruit mixture into potatoes, adding the juices as needed; gently stir until blended. Transfer mixture to a one-quart soufflé dish (or four individual 8-ounce ramekins), lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray. Top with almonds and chopped prosciutto.

Return to oven and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Serves 4-6

Nutrients per serving, based on 4 portions:

144 calories, 3 gms fat, 27 calories from fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 157 mg sodium, 2 gms dietary fiber, 4 gms protein.