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Posts Tagged ‘lemon’

Avgolemono Soup

This classic Greek soup reminds me of both my Mom and my late Yia Yia (Grandma), this is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. The perfect dinner on a cool night or when you have the sniffles. My husband, Mark, swears this is an acquired taste, I have been trying for 7 years to get him to like it, but he just isn’t a fan of the lemon. I personally think the lemon is what makes this soup and the more the better. Growing up in a Greek family, this soup was a winter staple and definitely something I would beg my Mom for when I was feeling under the weather.

I find some soups taste good enough made with store-bought stock, if you don’t have time to make your own, this soup isn’t one of those. It needs homemade stock, made from scratch, cooked for a few hours. It’s the only way. Whenever we make a whole roast chicken, I freeze the bones for stock, I love being able to make my own stock. I usually go very simple with the spices on my roast chicken so whatever is leftover is perfect for making stock with. I personally prefer to make each stock specific for each soup I make, since most times the ingredients that I add to the stock varies to each recipe. 

This soup is a very simple to make, only a few ingredients. I like mine with a lot of fresh ground pepper and the perfect amount of rice. Too much rice and it isn’t brothy enough, too little rice and it’s just not quite right. Some people prefer orzo to rice, but I like the classic white rice much better. If it were possible, I would always have a fresh pot of this soup in the fridge, ready to be warmed up whenever I wanted it. Thickened with eggs and brightened with the lemon, there is really nothing like this. This is my family’s recipe and honestly, have tried other people’s Avgolemeno before and it just isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion.

Chicken Stock

2-3 quarts of water
Bones from a whole roast chicken 3-4 lbs (I prefer organic, free range and without hormones or antibiotics)
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface. I added a bit more water as it was cooking to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve, any meat on the bones can be separated and added back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup. You will probably end up with about 48 ounces of stock when making it homemade (give or take). Use all of it.

Avgolemono Soup
serves 4-6

6 cups homemade chicken stock*
1/2 cup rice
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs
juice from 2 lemons

Bring the stock to a boil, stir in rice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until peaks form. Add in the egg yolks, stir until well blended. Add lemon juice, barely mix, just enough to combine (you don’t want to break the whites).

Slowly ladle the hot soup into your egg mixture until the mixture is warm, stir constantly. You want to do this slowly so as not to cook the eggs to fast. Pour the mixture back into the pot of soup very gently. Taste the soup, salt and pepper to your liking. Ladle into large soup bowls with a lemon wedge on the side, top with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you absolutely must use store-bought chicken stock, you most definitely can. The soup is still very good.

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Thai Basil Mojito

I wish I could take credit for the idea of this drink, but I can’t. My dad dreamt it up after tasting the thai basil I had growing in my garden. The thai basil has a subtle anise flavor and is very different from Italian basil. This was a refreshing summer drink, that was perfect for a hot day and grilling out.

Thai Basil Mojito
serves 1

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
a small handful of fresh thai basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon organic pure cane sugar (or 2 oz of simple syrup)
2 oz white rum
ice cubes
club soda

Place the lemon wedges at the bottom of a tall glass along with the basil leaves. Add sugar or simple syrup and muddle the mixture. Stir in the rum and top with ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge and couple thai basil leaves.

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This was a recipe I came up with this morning while I drank my tea, after doing a quick inventory on the refrigerator and pantry and thumbing through my Flavor Bible. I wanted to use some of the goodies we got at the Farmer’s Market this weekend and make something Springy and tasty. The wild rice had a beautiful earthy and nutty flavor. The spinach and fennel had a lemony tang and the perfect amount of that fresh crisp that I crave. The little bit of fresh country bacon brought a salty and smokey flavor and the toasted almonds brought a robust, toasty sweetness that really enhanced the flavor of the dish as a whole and finished it off nicely.

If you wanted to make this a vegetarian dish, you could easily leave off the country bacon and the dish would be equally delicious. I rarely cook with bacon, but when we saw this beautiful fresh bacon at the Farmer’s Market, that we bought directly from the farmer, I knew I would find the perfect dish for it to compliment. The country bacon was a cross somewhere between traditional bacon and ham, not too salty and not too greasy. This is the first time I have ever cooked with it and I most definitely will again.

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Wild Rice with Spinach, Fennel & Toasted Almonds
serves 2

4 cups of fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
2 cups fennel, chopped
3 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup whole raw almonds, unsalted
2 slices of local farm fresh country-style bacon, diced
1/2 lemon
2 cups wild rice, cooked
salt
freshly ground pepper

Prepare 2 servings of wild rice, according to the directions on the package. While it is cooking, over a medium-high heat, toast the whole almonds in a large dry non-stick saucepan. Remove the almonds from the pan once they begin to brown up and make slight popping sounds. Set aside. Once cooled, crush the whole almonds to your desired size.

Add the diced country bacon to the pan and brown it up over a medium-high heat (if the pan is too dry, add a drizzle of olive oil). After the bacon is browned up and heated through, remove it from the pan, cover and set aside.

Using the little bit of grease in the hot pan from the bacon, add the garlic and fennel, sauté over medium-high heat, stirring often, being careful not to burn them. Once the fennel is beginning to soften and brown up a little, about 6 minutes, add the spinach. Stir to combine the ingredients. Add a dash of salt, freshly ground pepper and the juice of half of lemon. Once the spinach has cooked down but still has a slight crisp, about 5 minutes, place 1 cup of wild rice on each plate, top it with the spinach and fennel mixture, then the bacon, crushed toasted almonds and freshly ground pepper. Serve.

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