Pecan Mexican Inspired Soup With Corn As A Party Crasher!

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I am always on a hunt for unique soup recipes and this is one. While I was housesitting in San Jose looking after a loving adorable cat named Sylve back in March, I had the opportunity to peruse a wonderful Mexican Cookbook with her snuggled up to me.

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Above: Awe, Sylvie is so cute!

Pecans, leeks and tomatos…sounded very interesting especially so with a smokey chile.

The Verdict:

This soup seemed creamy to me even before I added the cashew cream! Must have been the cashews meets leaks pureed. I used two chipotle chiles that were in adobe sauce and it had a nice spicey bite. The soup is very earthy and warm to my tummy.  It would be a perfect starter to a Mexican Fiesta dinner. The original recipe did not call for corn, but I added it at the very last minute (after the puree part) because both myself and my husband thought the end product needed some nice morsels after our first spoonfuls. We are not both fans of a soup that is 100% pureed. I was making vegetarian tacos with corn and zuchinni so at the very last minute I threw in corn into our bowls and voila – it finished the soup off perfectly! What an inpromtu adjustment can do to a dish! Love this soup now and would not make it without the corn.

Also, for the next time I make this soup, I am going to modify it 100% to Vegan, since I substituted cream for cashew cream – I was already half way there. So the next time, I am going to use olive oil instead of butter.

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Note: Picture above is missing a cup of corn, which I added in at the end.

Ingredients (serves six) :

  • 2 tbsp butter (sub with olive oil if you want a vegan version)
  • 1 leek, white part only , sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 dried chipotle or other smoked chilies ( I used two chipotles that were in Adobo Sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 clove (I used 3 cloves, just because I love cloves)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled , seeded and finely chopped
  • 8 3/4 veggie stock ( I used only 7 cups of stock, it seemed like if I was to use 8.75, it would have been too watery for myself)
  • 1 cup cashew cream (This is made with blending cashews, lemon, water, olive oil and garlic in a vitamix blender)
  • pinch grated nutmeg
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of corn (This was added in at the last minute and not n the picture above)

To Garnish:

  • 18 pecans , roasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 sprigs parsley, finely chopped

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Who would guess that these ingredients above would be the base of a soup? :)

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Add the leek and celery and cook, stirring gently, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the pecans, chiles, sugar, clove, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and tomatoes and continue stirring gently until fragrant.
  3. Add the stock and continue to stir gently until the mixture comes to a boil. SImmer for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool.
  4. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Pour the mixture into a food processor until smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture into a clean pan and set over low heat, stirring gently until warmed through.
  6. Add the cream and corn  and simmer, stirring constantly for another 5 minutes, then stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediatly with toasted pecans and sprinkled with parsely

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Above: Simmer for 20 minutes.

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Above: This is what the soup looks like after pureed and before adding in the cashew cream – looks creamy without the cream at that point!

The original recipe is from: Mexico The Cookbook, by Margarita Carrillo Arronte

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What I Changed From Original Recipe:

  • Substituted cream with cashew cream
  • Added corn
  • Used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Also only used 7 cups
  • Will use olive oil in future instead of butter.
Soup Mistress Rating For Pecan Corn Soup:
Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4/5) fourheart
Presentation: (4.25/5 )
Taste: (4.25/5) 

Clint Would Bring Out A Smoking Gun Out For This Vegan Chipotle Corn Chowder

Ohhh Vegan Corn Chowder I love you so. You are a beautiful filling and thick vegan cream-based soup, a great vegetarian alternative to clam chowder.

I’ve been meaning to make a soup with these beautiful yellow niblets for sometime as we had a bag of frozen ones in our freezer. I was skeptic that frozen corn wouldn’t be as tasty as fresh organic corn, but I was so VERY wrong to do so!

The Verdict of Vegan Chipotle Corn Chowder

Well, lets just say that this soup is a match made in heaven when treated with a smoking gun. It’s begging for some smoke and mimicking Clint Eastwood saying “Go ahead make my day”.  Don’t get me wrong, this soup is a superstar without the smoking process, but the it adds a manly smokiness leaving you begging for seconds. If you don’t have a smoking gun, your second best tactic is to use a few drops of liquid smoke, usually packaged in a little glass bottle found in most grocery or gourmet food stores.

 

What I love about this soup is that it is nice and creamy. Using cashews with the almond milk is a perfect touch and one may guess that there is a bit of cream in this soup and not a vegan soup. Oh ya, make sure you keep a reserve of corn and bright red pepper morsels on the side to add as a garnish in the end!!

Vegan Chipotle Corn Chowder Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 parsnip, shredded
  • 1 yukon gold potato, chopped fine
  • 1 red pepper, chopped fine (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 cup veggie broth
  • 1 (16 ounce) bag frozen corn (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dired oregano
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • 2 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped fine)

 Vegan Chipotle Corn Chowder Instructions

  1. Heat oil, sauté onion and garlic until soft on medium
  2. Add parsnip and potato, sauté for about 3-55 minutes more.
  3. Add corn, salt and pepper
  4. Add in broth
  5. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer
  6. Add oregano, almond milk, and simmer 10 – 15 minutes (or until your potatoes are tender
  7. While the soup is simmering add the cashews and chipotle with 2 cups of the soup and puree in blender. If using a smoking gun, add the hose in while you are blending the soup for best smoking.
  8. Stir mixture back into the soup. Add lemon juice. Add in red pepper (remember, keep some for garnish).
  9. Heat back up
  10. Optional: give the soup another punch of the smoing gun here if you wish (with lid on of course).
  11. Serve in bowls.
  12. Garnish with reserved red pepper, corn and cilantro
  13. Bam, enjoy!

Original recipe. I combined ideas form the following two recipes:

What I changed from the original recipe(s):

  • I did not use celery nor carrot
  • I used a parsnip instead of the carrot, and I shredded it into of fine chopped.
  • I used almond milk and not coconut milk
  • I used cilantro instead of chives
  • I used oregano instead of coriander
  • I used lemon instead of red sherry vinegar, and more of it. I seem to favor lemon juice most of the time to give a punch to soups to lift the taste.
Soup Mistress Rating For Vegan Chipotle Corn Chowder Soup:
Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5) 
Presentation: (4/5 )
Taste: (4.7/5) 

Soups of San Diego – A Summery Cream Satisfaction Indeed

Last week I had the great liberty to visit beautiful San Diego. My trip was originally for business to attend a conference on tag management software for analytics, but I was able to combine it with a few days of pleasure time.

Coming from rainy Vancouver, I was very impressed with the sunshine and shorts weather for my first two days. I had a cute tour guide visiting with me and we had a wonderful time bike riding around Coronado Island and downtown San Diego. During the week, I experienced some mighty fine restaurants and pubs.

With the mild weather and great soups, it was very much a summery cream satisfaction for myself. The following are my three favorite soups that I had dining out during my week stay in San Diego.

Kelvin Restaurant at W Hotel
http://www.kelvinrestaurant.com
421 West B. Street, San Diego, CA

I had their Rustic Poblano Corn Soup with spiked popcorn:

The Verdict of Kelvin Restaurant Rustic Poblano Corn Soup:
On my last night I decided to have a quiet dinner at my hotel (W Hotel). This restaurant is petit but very modern and nice. I wanted to have a light dinner so I ordered the Rustic Poblano Corn Soup with the Duck Confit Quesidillas. Both paired well together. But I ended up with a not so light dinner – I was super stuffed after eating it all.

The soup seemed to have fresh kernels within the pureed base, which I thought was a classy touch. They were not mushy what-so-ever liked canned corn. I LOVED the use of tiny chopped chives (my favorite soup topper) as well as a tasty swirl of chile infused oil. The oil added a really fine touch of heat.

And the spiked corn as a garnish – oh my! It sure prettied up the soup! First ever experience of popcorn as a garnish for myself.

My waitress shared that the soup had cream, vegetable stock and rice flour.  I am sure that it had a lot of cream too. It had a very good tasting base but a tad heavy on the cream side. I also think it didn’t really need the rice flour because it was to thick for my liking (almost like risotto thick).

The taste of the soup rocked, but does not get high marks for a slimming soup from me.

Oh well, I enjoyed it but back on the treadmill I go!

Soup Mistress Rating For Kelvin Restaurant Rustic Corn Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2.5/5)
Presentation: (4.5/5) 
Taste: (4/5)

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine
http://www.cohnrestaurants.com/menu-restaurants/blue-point/
565 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA

I had their famous Lobster Bisque with sherry and creme fraiche (gluten-free):

The Verdict of Blue Point Coastal Cuisine Lobster Bisque:

What a special treat, I went to this restaurant twice in one week! The first time was pleasure and the second time, Tealium Software treated our team at Electronic Arts to dinner. I also had a great opportunity to sit besides Jim Sterne – one of the biggest Analytics evangelist and great eMetrics conference host and speaker. Was fun to talk analytics with him.

A few of us at the table ordered the Lobster Bisque. This soup was super rich and very tasty. The soup was perfect for my appetite because I only ordered crab cakes with it.  Jim, on the other hand couldn’t finish it because he thought it was too rich and filling – he was also waiting for his main entre. Perhaps Blue Point should offer a cup of bisque for those who may be like Jim and not want a big bowl?

The pieces of lobster in my bisque was meaty and juicy at same time. Perhaps it marinated in the soup a tad -sometime I find lobster to tough. I didn’t pick up on the Sherry in the soup – perhaps it dissipated? The seasoning was just perfect but the bisque could have used triple the amount of chives.

I would order this bisque again but perhaps replace the crab cakes with some more fresh oysters, which by the way, comes from beautiful British Columbia (my home province)!

Soup Mistress Rating For Blue Point Coastal Cuisine Lobster Bisque:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2.5/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5) 
Taste: (4/5)

Mimmo’s Italian Village
http://www.mimmos.biz
1743 India St, San Diego, CA., San Diego, CA

I had the their soup of the day which was a Tomato Basil Soup:

The Verdict of Mimo’s Tomato Basil Soup:

The last day, I had fun hanging out with two other co-workers (Nataliya and Robert). We took a tour on the USS Midway ship and then we ventured to Little Italy for our last meal before heading to the airport.

Mimo’s grabbed our attention and both Robert and I ordered the Tomato Basil soup. I really enjoyed it – I have tried many tomato basil soups and this one makes one of the top 5 I had to date.. It was simple yet tasty like it should be. I lapped up the bowl of soup with some very fresh bread slices. And the freshly grated parmesan is a must at any Italian restaurant don’t you think?

Thumbs up for taste as well as a slimming soup from both Robert and myself!

Soup Mistress Rating For Mimo’s Tomato Basil Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (4/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5)

Julienning And Dicing For The Perfect Soup

Knife Skills

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The start of our knife skills class - the honing steel and how to pass the knife

Just over a week ago, I attended a knife skills class at a great cooking school in Vancouver called The Dirty Apron. Working with knives seems to be my weakness while I am attempt to learn new soup recipes – I have cut a few fingertips. So it is time for myself to get learning!

The class was taught by Takashi Mizukami (bio here). He did a splendid job of explaining the types of knives, how to preserve longevity of knives and basic techniques of chopping, cutting, and knife sharpening.

I would definitely attend another Dirty Apron class in future – I was truly impressed with their time management, service in the dining room, professionalism and the facilities (top notch). See list of classes here.

The three main things I learned from the class are:

  1. Don’t buy a set of ten knives
  2. Use your knuckles, move quietly and think of Michael Jackson when using a 8” chefs knife
  3. Perfecting your dicing and julienning will improve your soups in a few ways

#1  Don’t buy a set of ten knives

Start small. The three most important knives that Takashi finds most handy are:

  1. 8” inch Chef knife
  2. Paring knife (good for shallots)
  3. Bread knife (can use for tomatoes too)

Then if you feel like being a pro, the following are the next most popular  (ranked in order from most popular to least)

  • Chopper knife
  • Boning knife (Good for deboning. The tip of the knife is important.)
  • Slicer knife (Has a thinner blade, more flexible. Can be used for carving turkey.)
  • 4” chef knife
  • Fileting knife
  • Turning knife
  • Tomato knife
  • Meat clever

If you were to have the main three knives, then the next most important piece is a Honing Steel. Takashi says it is crucial. Use it with your knives once a week and do 10 passes per knife.

Looking for good knives? Wusthof is the line of knives The Dirty Apron recommends. Check out www.wusthof.com.

#2 Use your knuckles, move quietly and think of Michael Jackson when using a 8” chefs knife

Ah ha. So this is what I need to do to save my fingertips! Don’t ever hold any piece you are cutting with your fingertips pointing to the knife like this:

But your fingers should be behind your knuckle, like this:

Having your fingers behind the knuckles keeps them very safe. Also try to pay special attention to you thumb and pinkie – keep them behind even further.

Then with the knife against your knuckle, use a smooth exaggerated forward motion (think of Michael Jacksons moonwalk) never lifting the knife high above (unless chopping something very large) and should be quiet . If you are hearing the knife slap down on the cutting board then you are not doing the motion smoothly enough.

#3 Perfecting your dicing and julienning will improve your soups in a few ways
During our class we also learned how to prepare an incredible Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder. Our main focus was on the dicing of the ingredients in a consistent manner using the proper techniques.

Dicing and julienning your ingredients in a consistent manner not only look very pretty, but you will also benefit from your ingredients cooking evenly throughout. It’s odd to serve a soup with different sized chunks of veggies as some may be just right and others may be undercooked.

Below is the chowder we made in class. I tried to focus hard on dicing the ingredients with more consistent sizing and the proper technique we were shown. Looks nice to me, but I know I have a lot of practising to do at home to get better at this!

The soup we made in class was very tasty indeed. I may make this recipe on a special occasion, but I would also modify the recipe a tad with a lower fat version.

Here is the soup recipe from our class:

Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 100g double smoked bacon (cut into ½ inch dice)
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • ¼ carrot (about 70g), diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 120g unpeeled red skin potatoes, diced small
  • 240ml clam nectar
  • 20 fresh clams
  • 125ml white wine
  • 250ml heavy whipping cream
  • 20ml lemon juice (approx. 1 wedge)
  • 1 corn on the cobb
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chives, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch mix with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Salt and Pepper

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepot, heat white wine over a medium-high heat and add clams, steaming with a lid on until all clams have opened up. Once clams have opened, remove them from the pot, separate the meat from each shell and reserve both the clam meat and juices in the pan for later use.
  2. In a separate saucepot sauté bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp, approximately 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towel and allow to rest. Pour off all but approximately 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan.
  3. Next, add onions, carrots and garlic to the pan and sauté for approximately 2 minutes. Add in the potatoes, clam nectar and clam juices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. While the soup is simmering, grill cobs of corn on all sides. Using a sharp knife cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.
  5. Add the cream, clam meat, lemon juice, corn, corn starch, thyme and bacon to saucepot and cook until potatoes and corn are tender.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the chowder into bowls and garnish with the sliced chives.

Soup Mistress Rating for Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder :

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2/5) 
Presentation: (4.5/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5) 

Spicy Corn and Chorizo Soup – A Recipe Makeover

Spicy Corn Chorizo Soup

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The Completed Spicy Corn Chorizo Soup


Ah, nothing beats the taste of fresh sweet corn from the local farmers market!

By mid September I am usually bored of eating fresh corn off the husk. So why not enjoy sweet fresh corn by spicing it up with other ingredients in a soup?

I have plans to redo many soups in the future and I will be:

  • cutting calories and trimming fat from some favourite recipes
  • adjusting so they are vegetarian, gluten-free as well as vegan – where I can
  • adjusting dried herbs for fresh herbs
  • adjusting processed foods for natural and/or organic – where I can
  • adjusting highly acidic forming recipes to be more alkaline forming (healthier for you)

This soup makeover is:

  • vegetarian (if you exclude the chorizo from recipe or use a soy-based alternative)
  • vegan (if you exclude the chorizo from recipe or use a soy-based alternative)
  • gluten-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
  • 1lb (4oz/550g) corn kernels (approx. 4 large husks)
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 cups soya milk (or goat yogurt, if you use instead add 1.5 cups and change vegetable stock to 3 cups)
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 2oz/55g thinly sliced chorizo sausage
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Cooking Instructions:

Heat the oil in large, heavy-bottom pan. Add onions and garlic, cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the corn, cover, and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock, half the milk, the serrano chile, cumin, oregano and season with dash salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat right away, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Stir in the remaining milk. Set aside about 1 cup of the soup solids, draining off as much liquid as possible. Transfer the remaining soup to a food processor or blender and process to a coarse puree.

Return the soup to the pan and stir in the reserved soup solids, the chorizo, lime juice, lime zest and cilantro. Reheat to the simmering point, stirring constantly. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve at once.

Enjoy!

Original Recipe that I tried and adjusted: from page 124 of the hardback book “Soup Bowl – An inspiring collection of soups, broths, and chowders”, by Parragon books, 2007

What I changed from original recipe:

  • replaced corn oil with olive oil
  • replaced frozen corn with fresh corn
  • replaced chicken stock with organic low sodium vegetable stock
  • added cumin
  • added oregano
  • added lemon zest
  • changed milk to soy milk (also tried goats yogurt on other occasions)
  • changed 2 tablespoons of cilantro to 3 – just because I so love cilantro!

Soup Mistress Rating for Spicy Corn and Chorizo Soup Recipe Makeover:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4/5)
Presentation: (5/5) 
Taste: (5/5)