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warming winter soup

December 1st, 2010 | 30 Comments »

It’s time, everyone. Time to roll back my sleeves, part the curtain and say ‘Ta-Da!!’ to the recipe created for the Marx Foods and Foodie Blogroll Iron Foodie Competition.

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

It’s something wholly appropriate for winter, for soothing the soul and senses and for nourishing the body and boosting one’s resolve to face the chill of the day, the brisk wind at your back and whipping through your hair.

Within the bowl of steaming soup, of soothing soft noodles to slurp and crunchy sprouts, there’s a sense of calm that begins to spread over you with the very first mouthful. Outside lays the endless expanse of snow, as far as you can see and the memory of dragging a cartful of groceries through the parking lot, turning your back to the wind that cut through you with the precision of a laser…. it sticks in you like a bad dream almost. My coat gets stiff in the cold, and even though I may be warm inside, the crackle I hear when I move my arm sounds like the material could shatter at the slightest touch.

Winter just means soup, and this soup was a perfect tonic for that trip to the grocers, and really, for any nagging sense of imbalance that might cross your day.

The Iron Foodie Challenge was to utilize at least three ingredients from the Mystery Box sent to the contestants from Marx Foods. Everyone’s box contained Fennel Pollen, Smoked Sea Salt, Tellicherry Black Peppercorns, Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Maple Sugar, Dried Aji Panca Peppers, Dulse Seaweed, and Dried Wild Porcini Mushrooms. Our products were sample sizes only, so basically we had a pretty small window to work with. I knew I had to really think over my recipe before taking it to the kitchen because I couldn’t screw up. I had no back-ups.

Right away, I knew it would be a noodle soup. With the seaweed and porcini mushrooms, a big steaming bowl of noodle soup was a given. I love having one set down in front of me in a restaurant, the scent of rich broth reaching my nose, golden noodles, green herbs and lots of wonderful vegetables. I contemplated adding chicken to mine, but settled on tofu to use up a container in my refrigerator. The result was wonderful, and Mike and I sat down next to each other, forks in hand and happily slurped from the bowl, exclaiming over the subtle bursts of flavor.

Warming Winter Soup

From my kitchen:
One block extra firm tofu
4-oz soba noodles
1/2 c. fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

From Marx Foods:
Fennel Pollen
Dried Porcini Mushrooms
Dried Aji Panca Chilies
Dulse Seaweed
Smoked Sea Salt

Take the block of extra-firm tofu and slice through it the wide way into three equal portions. Place on several layers of paper towel and cover with several more paper towels. Place something heavy over the three portions and weigh it down to press the liquid out.

In a small bowl, measure 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of fennel pollen and 1/2 teaspoon of smoked sea salt. Whisk to incorporate and set aside to blend the flavors. Whisk occasionally to combine.

Bring a kettle of water to a rolling boil. Place dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Place dried peppers in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set both aside to soften.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1-1/2 quarts of good chicken stock to a boil. Add in 4 oz. of soba noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving the broth, and rinse noodles to stop cooking. Set aside. Place broth back in pan over a low flame. Place a length of paper towel or cheesecloth in a wire strainer and place over a measuring cup. Drain the porcini mushrooms through the paper lined strainer to remove and dirt or grit, reserving the mushroom broth in the cup. Add the mushrooms to the simmering broth. Check the mushroom stock for clarity, and add to pan with mushrooms.

When the chilies are soft and pliable, snip them with a scissors into the bowl of a food processor, and add several tablespoons of their soaking liquid. Process the peppers until they are well chopped, adding more soaking liquid if necessary. Strain the pepper mixture through a wire strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much chili puree as you can. Whisk 1-2 tablespoons of olive or sesame oil into the pepper puree.

Remove the tofu from the paper towels and brush with the fennel pollen/oil mixture, then heat a saute pan to nearly smoking. Carefully place tofu steaks in pan and sear for about 5-7 minutes or until nicely browned, then carefully turn over steaks and sear the other side for about 5 minutes. Place on fresh paper towel to drain and cool enough to cut into bite size pieces.

Place dulse seaweed in bottom of a deep soup bowl. Ladle the hot broth with mushrooms over the seaweed. Add the cooked soba noodles, cubed tofu, bean sprouts, cilantro and basil. Drizzle the soup with the chili puree and serve immediately. Season with more smoked sea salt, and pepper if desired.

fun! excitement! challenge!

November 10th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

I was selected as one of the 25 Iron Foodie challengers!!!! I will get a box of 8 gourmet food items from Marx Foods and must prepare a dish using three of them, then post to my blog by December 3rd.

The winner receives $200 in credit for using at Marx Foods. There’s other prizes too, unspecified.

Ok contestants!! Start your ovens! Light your burners and pull on your thinking caps!! This gal is ready to ROCK!!

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:

MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

Iron Foodie Challenge

November 2nd, 2010 | 2 Comments »
The Foodie Blogroll is pairing up with Marx Foods and sponsoring an Iron Foodie Challenge, where 25 chosen contestants will receive a ‘Mystery Box’ with 8 ingredients from Marx Foods in it to prepare a signature dish. You must use only three of the ingredients only.
Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll
This challenge has my name all over it. Read on for my answers to their initial questions. I have until November 5th to submit this first step.
  1. Why do you want to compete in this challenge?
    I can’t imagine being better suited to a cooking challenge like this. My husband regularly calls me ‘Iron Chef’ at home due to my ability to magically create meals from what’s stashed in our pantry, or hanging around left over in our fridge. In fact, there are times when faced with no dinner plan and the contents of my cupboard that my heart starts racing in anticipation and excitement as I attempt to pull a meal together. I love the ‘challenge’ part of it, the mystery of the unknown, the potential awaiting from some simple ingredients and having the skills to make something out of what’s on hand.
  2. Limitations of time/space notwithstanding, whose kitchen would you like to spend the day in & why? Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, James Beard, Marie-Antoine Careme, or The Swedish Chef?
    It would be Julia Child. She had such a winsome appeal, and such a devil-may-care attitude about cooking. She took the good with the bad, she made it all work and gave so many people the confidence to step up their cooking in their own kitchens. I love the ‘Go with the flow’ style she had, and her love and desire to just enjoy cooking for what it was.
  3. What morsel are you most likely to swipe from family & friends’ plates when they aren’t looking?
    I’m always snitching meat bones to nibble on, to get those last perfect morsels of meat off. The meat tastes best when it’s right on the bone.
  4. Sum your childhood up in one meal.
    Meat loaf, baked potatoes and green beans.
  5. The one mainstream food you can’t stand?
    Polenta. The creamy kind. I can’t explain it because I love cornbread and muffins, and I don’t mind polenta when it’s firm and baked. But mushy? Ew. No thanks.

I’m hoping to make it into the Challenge round! Wish me luck!!