Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spicy black bean and orzo soup

Unlike last year, I will not be hosting Thanksgiving dinner. And while it was fun, I am more than happy to return the torch back to my sister this year. But as is what happens before any long weekend in which I am going to be away, I am on a mission to finish any perishables in my fridge. Which usually involves a little creativity and making use of some staples from the pantry, since I hate to buy more groceries just before a long weekend. So what does one do with a handful of baby carrots, a few stalks of limp celery and an onion? Make soup, of course!

Since I wanted to do something different than the classic chicken noodle soup (and since I hadn't had the foresight to defrost any chicken), I decided to add a can of black beans. When I tasted the soup, I felt it needed something more to jazz it up - so I added some cumin to bring out the smokiness of the beans, and a few dashes of chipotle tabasco sauce. I'm quite pleased with the end result, and even more pleased I didn't need to make a trip to the grocery store to buy any of the ingredients!

Spicy black bean and orzo soup


About 1 cup baby carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
A couple tablespoons of olive oil
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
a few dashes of chipotle tabasco sauce
2/3 cup orzo

Start boiling the pasta water with a generous pinch of salt. Add orzo when it comes to a boil. Cook for about a minute or two less than the time indicated on the instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables. Add oil to another pot and heat on medium-high heat. Add vegetables, stirring frequently for about 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add chicken broth, beans, bay leaf and spices and tabasco. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Allow it to simmer, covered, for about twenty minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

I like to keep the orzo separate from the soup, until just before serving, since I am one person, and can't eat it all right away. My concern is that if there are leftovers the pasta will absorb all the liquid and get mushy. But go ahead and toss it in if you plan on eating it all right away.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The New York Chocolate Show

While the rest of the food blogosphere is inundated with Thanksgiving recipes, I've decided to post (although a bit belated) about my trip to the New York Chocolate Show two weekends ago with three lovely friends.

Rosann and I (Yup, the same Rosann from here), have been meaning to go to the Chocolate Show since 2007, but every year it seemed the fates would have it, something would come up, and we would not go. But this year was the magical year in which the planets were aligned and we finally were both able to go along with two other friends. And magical it certainly was. The Chocolate Show was jam packed, wall-to-wall with vendors boasting their fine chocolates, and samples. lots of samples. Also on display was the "models" from the chocolate fashion show earlier in the week. Yes, a chocolate fashion show in which the clothes are made entirely from chocolate! Some were very elaborate, like the one you see in the lead picture. Some were very detailed and intricate like this one here:

All that threading is made of chocolate!

Other models were New York themed like this Broadway girl...

And some were just funny:

We also went to a cooking demonstration in which renown pastry chef Kathryn Gordon, showed us how to make these macarons.

Did you know that macarons are very sensitive to moisture that humidity in the air while the batter is made can affect its texture? That's a little tip I learned at the demonstration. So it was an educational trip as well.

I also found some fun chocolate products like these:

Doesn't it look fun to smash a slab of chocolate with a mallet? I bet it would make a great stress reliever!

With so many vendors and samples, (there were A LOT of samples), its hard for me to choose my favorites, but I've narrowed it down to a few, in no particular order

1) Most interesting product - Chocolate enrobed bacon from Co Co Sala - They are based in DC - I just wish they had a location in New York!
2) Yummiest - Salt of the Earth Bakery - Their cookies and brownies are to die for, I can't wait to find their products in the city
3) Best alcoholic beverage - Chocolate Creme de Cocoa from Chocolate Shop Wine - it's chocolate and wine, it needs no explanation

I can't wait to go again next year! What are the chocolate shows in your area?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New England Clam Chowder

Aside from gorging on lobster rolls, while we were in Maine, we also tasted different versions of New England Clam Chowder. As a kid, I never cared much for clam chowder because my only experience I had with it was from a can. Until I traveled through New England, I had no idea the pride New Englanders have for their chowder. (And their disdain for Manhattan-clam chowder that it is illegal to put tomatoes in clam chowder). Boyfriend, being from New England, is partial to thick and creamy clam chowder. The kind you can stick a spoon and it stands up like this:

This is a chowder we had in Agawam, Massachusetts.

But as we found out in our travels, not everywhere in New England makes chowder quite as thick and creamy. Some were thin and runny, some were somewhere in between. So I wanted to re-create thick and creamy chowder at home. What you see in the lead picture here was my first attempt using Dave Lieberman's recipe. As you can see, its not quite as thick (I tried the spoon trick - it fell right in). But the taste was spot on, better than the stuff in the can.

So it looks like I will have to try again to make the perfect thick and creamy chowder. But until then, I will be perfectly happy finishing off this batch.