Chicken Artichoke Soup

This soup is perfect for a rainy and gloomy day. I first tried it at an unassuming French bistro/deli in downtown San Diego for lunch one day, and I shortly thereafter became TOTALLY obsessed with it.

It’s creamy yet tangy, light yet hearty, and pretty healthy, all things considered. I replaced the heavy cream (which I am sure the fancy French bistro used) with coconut milk and a little whole milk, and I also added extra lemon juice and a few more hearty vegetables.

chicken artichoke stew in the pot

The best and easiest way to make this is in your slow cooker crock pot. This recipe makes five quarts, so feel free to cook it on the stovetop or halve the recipe  – but even five quarts of this amazing soup will disappear quickly.

chicken artichoke soup

Chicken Artichoke Soup

(makes 5 quarts)

  • 2 (12-oz.) jars marinated artichoke hearts, including the liquid
  • 3-4 lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs, chopped
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, diced
  • about 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 handful chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 (13-oz.) can coconut milk
  • 15-20 oz. water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 5-6 dashes hot sauce
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients (except the salt) in a 5-quart slow cooker. Cook on the high setting for approx. 4-5 hours or until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. Taste the soup first and then add salt as needed  — you won’t need much salt, depending on the saltiness of the marinated artichokes, but you don’t want to over-salt the soup, so be careful.

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Homemade Bacon – nitrate- and hassle-free

It seems weird, but homemade bacon is one of the easiest recipes I know – and now it’s one of my favorites.

Part of it is because I have a great smoker: it’s a Masterbuilt M7P, and it grills, smokes (both with charcoal or with propane), and has a few other attachments to allow for steaming, boiling, frying, and even campfire cooking.


But I digress. Point is, you need a smoker. You can get a good one for the same price you paid for that fancy grill you have in your backyard right now, and this can grill or smoke.

Once you have the equipment, the ingredients are relatively easy. For unflavored bacon, you only need a pork belly, kosher salt and brown sugar. If you want to flavor it, it’s pretty simple to do so. I’ll explain that later.

Pork bellies may or may not be hard to find: I live in San Diego, and after messing around the first few times I made bacon with going to a commissary (you need a friend in the military to take you shopping for that to work) and going to a fancy butcher shop (waaaay to expensive), I settled on buying my pork bellies from a local Korean grocery store. They are quite cheap ($5-$7 for about a pound and a half), and the bellies are already helpfully trimmed into lovely little blocks, just waiting to be cured and smoked.

Step 1: Once you get the belly home, place it in a large (gallon size) freezer bag, and add one cup brown sugar and two cups kosher salt. [Note: if this doesn’t coat your pork belly completely, add more of both sugar and salt, just make sure there is twice the amount of salt to sugar.] Make sure the salt and sugar is both completely mixed and completely coating the meat. Refrigerate.

Depending on the size of your pork belly, this curing process will take between 2-7 days (7 is for a really huge, dense piece of meat – most pork bellies will take between 3-5 days.) You will be able to tell the belly is cured when the freezer bag has liquid in the bottom and the meat is hard to the touch.

Step 2: Remove the meat and rinse the salt and sugar off, and put it on a clean plate.

Now is where you add flavoring if you desire; I recommend either coating the belly with cracked peppercorns, (real!) maple syrup, or even sriracha for a spicy bacon.


Step 3: Place the belly, on the plate, flavored if you like, with no cover or wrap, in your refrigerator. This will cause an invisible film to develop on the meat, which will act like a magnet for the smoke when you smoke the meat. Leave it this way for at least 12 hours (preferably overnight).

Remember you will need to soak your wood chips for smoking, too, so this would be a good time to put them on to soak!

hickory chips for smoking

The next day, remove from the refrigerator and let sit for about 20 minutes (just to bring it to room temperature) before smoking.

Step 4: Smoke it! Keep your smoker’s temperature between 200-300, and depending on the size and thickness of the meat, the smoking will take between 4-7 hours. 

Make sure you use a digital meat thermometer, or otherwise keep an eye on the internal temperature of your bacon. Once it reaches an internal temperature of 160, it’s ready, but feel free to smoke it longer to increase the wood-smoke flavor.

meat thermometer

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Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

This is my second year participating in the Del Real Foods food blogger recipe contest. Last year, I was lucky enough to have been selected by the company to make a video for my Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe, even though I wasn’t a winner. It was so much fun!

(Check out my video and post about my awesome trip to Los Angeles here.)

Anyway, it didn’t take much for me to become a fan of Del Real Foods. Their products are all minimally processed – for example, chicken and pork that is marinated and fully cooked, but without all of the additives (and tons of salt) that you typically find in premade, frozen “convenience” foods.

This year, I hope I win the contest, instead of just making a video! I am a huge fan of pupusas (I’ve made my own before), and the Del Real brand pupusas are really delicious. Since a pupusa is basically a handheld, self-contained grilled cheese sandwich, I decided to do a Mexican-style play on the typical grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo.

If you can, try to use fresh tomatoes. You can use canned tomatoes if necessary, and it will still be delicious, but the extra sweetness that comes from a fresh tomato is a perfect compliment to the spices in the soup. And don’t be afraid of that whole jalapeno pepper — this soup is a little spicy, but it compliments the pupusas perfectly!

 

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

 

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

(Serves 5)

  • 10 fresh tomatoes (or two big cans of stewed tomatoes)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 avocado
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 cube of tomato chicken bouillon (Caldo de Tomate)
  • 1 package of Del Real Foods Pupusas (5 individual pupusas)
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • Cotija cheese (for garnish)

Spicy Tomato Soup ingredients

First, begin with the fresh tomatoes and roast them whole in a broiler or over an open flame. (If at all possible, use fresh instead of canned tomatoes for the best flavor.)

Roast the tomatoes until the flesh starts to shrivel and blister, then set aside to cool.

Roasted tomatoes

While the tomatoes are cooling, sautee the jalapeno, onion, garlic and celery in a large pot, and cook for a few minutes until slightly soft. Then trim the stems off of the tomatoes and add to the pot.

 

Veggies for soup base

Next, add the spices, water and bouillon, and bring to a boil. Then cover and let boil gently for about 15 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are soft. While the soup is boiling, prepare the pupusas — it’s really easy, just cook them in a pan for a few minutes on each side.

Pupusas

When the soup is finished, use an immersion blender to blend all of the ingredients, and serve immediately with a hot pupusa, garnished with cotija cheese and avocado.

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

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Disclaimer: I was provided Del Real Foods products free of charge as part of the food blogger contest, but received no other compensation, financial or otherwise, for this post. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Heartwarming Barley Soup

This is the perfect comfort food.

As soon as this soup starts simmering, you’ll see (and smell) why this was one of my grandmother’s best recipes, and one of my favorites. The key, as always, is to use good stock and to let it simmer for a while to marry all of the flavors.

You can use any type of fresh mushroom for this recipe; I had a lot of oyster mushrooms and creminis in my CSA box, so that’s what I used. I would just stay away from any canned mushrooms because they will be extra chewy in this slow-cooked soup. Also, I use a good chicken stock, but if you want to keep this recipe vegetarian, simply use vegetable stock or mushroom stock instead. Personally, I like the additional flavor from the chicken in this soup. And don’t skimp on the garlic – it’s one head of garlic, not one clove. That’s not a typo!

Also, a quick word about the barley: use caution. I’ve heard more horror stories this week about a soup that should have been good, if only it hadn’t become a huge blob of sticky barley with a few slices of carrot in between. One cup of dried barley — pearl or regular — cooks to THREE CUPS of cooked barley. This recipe is for 6 servings of soup, and uses only one cup of dried barley. And it’s plenty.

Of course, if your leftovers happen to be too thick, simply add a bit more stock, reheat, and you’ll be fine.

barleysoup

Mushroom Barley Soup

  • 1 cup dried pearl barley
  • 2 lbs. various fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 quart, plus 2 cups, chicken stock
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 small red potatoes, chopped
  • 1 large parsnip, diced
  • one large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh dill, chopped

First, start to sautee the garlic and onion in a large pot and cook until fragrant. Add the carrots, potatoes and parsnip, add more oil if needed, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add a quart of the chicken stock and the barley. Bring to a boil, then add the mushrooms. Reduce the heat and cover, then let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the barley is cooked. Taste the soup, add more salt and pepper or more stock if needed. Sprinkle on fresh dill and serve hot.

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Thieboudienne with Winter Vegetables

I love every type of soup or stew, and I recently discovered a lovely new one. It’s the best kind: one you can adapt to whatever is in your kitchen. I had a lot of winter vegetables on hand, like parsnips, turnips, potatoes, eggplant, and squash, so that’s what I used. I also happened to have several lovely filets of salmon, but you can use any type of fish.

This is a traditional Senegalese dish, and I based my adaptation on the Thieboudienne in Saveur Magazine, but obviously I changed it a lot. This recipe calls for the fish to be stuffed separately with a mix of chiles and parsley, but I just added those to my stew and made sure the fish was spread throughout the pot, instead. I also pre-cooked my rice and chopped my vegetables for quick cooking, instead of the more traditional African method of serving the vegetables almost whole.

I’d also recommend serving with some fried plantains on the side (or in the stew), if you can find them. Just sautee each slice for 2-3 minutes in hot oil — no need to coat or dredge the plantains, the natural sugars inside them create the crispy crust — then season with salt, pepper, and lime juice.

Thieboudienne with Winter Vegetables

Thieboudienne with Winter Vegetables

  • 1-2 large filets of flaky fish
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 of one large eggplant, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 2 turnips, diced
  • 2 small red potatoes, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 1 handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes and chiles
  • 2 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • lime wedges for serving
  • extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing
  • 1 quart vegetable stock

 

Start by sauteeing the garlic and onion in a large Dutch oven, and cook until transparent. Add the potatoes, carrots, eggplant, parsnip and turnips, as well as the fish sauce, tamarind paste, and some salt and pepper. Make sure all of the vegetables are coated. Add the can of tomatoes and chiles, then the stock, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover, and let simmer for about an hour.

Add some of the fresh parsley (save a little for serving), the fish and rice, then cover and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked thoroughly. Flake the fish and make sure it’s mixed throughout the stew. Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary* and serve with fresh parsley on top and a wedge of lime to squeeze on top.

*Use caution with salt, because the fish sauce adds a lot of sodium!

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My Best Fish Chowder

I don’t know about you, but usually when I have fish chowder, the fish is overcooked and tough. Usually this can be fixed by adding the fish at the very end of the cooking process, but then the fish doesn’t have as much time to get the flavors of the rest of the soup. I think I found the perfect way to keep the fish moist and flavorful at the same time.

This method takes a little bit longer – and an extra pan to keep cooking while the soup is simmering – but it’s worth it. The trick is the timing — get the potatoes and carrots cooked in the soup pot, and the ham and fish cooked in the skillet — at the same time, then serve the fish on top of the soup. This soup even tastes great the next day – just keep the fish separated.

 

fish chowder

I was lucky enough to have been given some amazing yellowtail fish from Catalina Offshore Products this last week, so I made this with a few boneless and skinless fillets of yellowtail. It would be perfect with any type of flaky white fish.

My Best Fish Chowder

  • 3-4 fillets of yellowtail or other flaky white fish
  • 3-4 big leaves of collard greens, scrubbed and trimmed
  • 1 lb. red or white potatoes, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 can of tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 can of sweet yellow corn
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 quart, plus one cup, of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 lb diced mushrooms
  • 1/4 lb chopped cooked ham or bacon
  • 2 tbsp. diced garlic, separated
  • 2 tbsp. chipotle powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

Sautee the shallot, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, and carrots in a large pot, and begin to cook on high heat. Then, add the potatoes, the stock, and the cans of corn and tomatoes and chiles, as well as the chipotle powder and salt and pepper, to the pot. Turn down to a simmer and cover.

Spread out one of the collard green leaves and place a piece of fish in the center. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and squeeze the fresh lemon juice over the fish. Wrap it like a burrito (fold up from the bottom, then fold each side, then roll upward) and set aside. Repeat for all of the fish pieces.

Sautee the rest of the garlic with the ham or bacon in a large, cast-iron or other heavy skillet, until the meat is browned. Keep on high heat. Gently place the pieces of collard-wrapped fish into the skillet. Let them sizzle and cook for about a minute, then gently flip each one. Slowly add the remaining cup of stock, and cover the entire skillet. Try to keep the steam inside for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid and let the remaining liquid evaporate out.

Sample the soup; make sure the potatoes are cooked and that no additional salt or pepper is needed. Add the mushrooms and the milk. Let simmer for 5 more minutes, then turn off the heat.

Ladle the soup into each bowl, then adding a piece of collard-wrapped fish and a few pieces of ham or bacon to the bowl as a garnish. Serve immediately.

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TBT: My first recipe video!

You might recall this summer, I participated in a contest for Del Real Foods. I created several recipes: Fast and Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup, Fresh and Easy Pork Pozole (which is really just a variation of my slow-cooked favorite chicken pozole), and Barbacoa Bao Bun Tacos.

Well, although I didn’t technically win the contest, I got to travel to Los Angeles to make a video for the Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup!

chipotle chicken tortilla soup

This is really very exciting. This is a great, easy recipe that anyone can make. I’m glad the Del Real Foods family enjoyed it as much as my family did when I made it. And I had never made a recipe video before!

It was a beautiful week in August, I got to take the train up from San Diego …

Hi, Mom!

Hi, Mom!

… I got to play the tourist around Little Armenia …

La LA

… and hit up Koreatown for some amazing cold noodles and bulgogi.

cold noodles

bulgogi

Once I arrived at the amazing set (a big, fancy mansion in the Hollywood Hills), I learned so much about food art and plating. Even the ingredients look pretty!

pre-video setup

I had a wonderful time getting hair and makeup done, and taking my “chef shot” photos:

chef shot

And, of course, actually working in front of the camera with Liz from Del Real Foods and the wonderful crew.

video 1

video 2

with Liz

So if you haven’t had a chance yet, check out my fabulous video!