Monday, October 01, 2012

International Smorgasbord!

Man, did we have a TERRIFIC dinner tonight! It was sort of an ethnic hodge-podge (Mexican, Italian, AND French!), but it was all so delicious, and so hearty and comforting. I threw the appetizer together before I went to work this morning, a zesty Mexican shrimp cocktail that I ran across on Pinterest. By making it early in the day, it had time for all the flavors to marry. SO GOOD, and so easy!

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
(Source: adapted from Pinterest)

2 lbs. cooked, shelled shrimp (50-60 count)
2 large tomatoes, squeezed of seeds and gel, then chopped
1/2 small white onion or 2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 jalapeno (I used two small jalapenos!), seeds removed and minced
2 avocados,diced
1 can tomato/vegetable juice (V8--I used spicy hot!)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
juice of two limes
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all in glass bowl and chill; serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

For our entree, it was Meatless Monday, so I wanted to make some sort of vegetable soup in the crock pot. When I was at our local co-op yesterday, I bought a pound of pearled farro, not knowing much about it or how to prepare it, or what I was going to use it for.  So I polled my people on Facebook, and one of my friends forwarded me a recipe for Tuscan Farro and White Bean Soup which I adapted for the crock pot, and it turned out FABULOUS! Honestly, this is one of my best soups I've ever tasted and/or made! And I love that it's so hearty and comforting, and the texture is creamy...with no added cream! All in all, this is a very healthy--and more importantly, flavorful--soup, that is perfect for crisp, fall weather.

Tuscan Farro and White Bean Soup
(Source: adapted from Vegetarian Times)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 medium leek (white and pale green part), rinsed well and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used four!)
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (I used red potatoes)
14 oz chopped tomatoes (I used Italian-style)
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped (I only used one tablespoon--rosemary is powerful juju!)
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram, chopped (I used fresh oregano)
4 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 cup farro, rinsed and drained (I used pearled)
2 cups white beans, cooked or canned (rinsed if canned)
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion and leek are softened, about 10 minutes. Add celery, potatoes, tomatoes, sage, rosemary and marjoram or oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, ten minutes. Add stock and bring soup to a boil. Add farro and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until farro is tender, 35 to 40 minutes. (If soup becomes too thick, add a little hot water.) Serve warm with crusty Tuscan bread.

*To convert this to be made in the crock pot, I heated the oil in a large skillet, and I sauteed the onion, leek, garlic, and celery for about ten minutes until tender. I dumped this mixture into the crock pot and added everything else except the cannellini beans. I cooked the soup on high for four hours, though I'm sure eight hours on low would work, too. In either case, if you're around, stir it once in awhile, as the farro can glom together and stick to the bottom of the pot. At the end of the cook time, I added the drained beans, and turned it to low until it was time to eat (just until the beans are warmed through). Oh, and four cups of vegetable stock was not NEARLY enough! I probably ended up using TEN cups altogether, and it was still somewhere between a soup and a stew!

I didn't serve this with Tuscan bread, but I decided to try an easy French bread recipe--another gem that I found on Pinterest--and make my own. The bread turned out great, and very tangy, as I used the vinegar that the recipe called for, as well as leftover whey from cheesemaking instead of plain water. Served warm from the oven with a generous shmear of Plugra, and you'll think you died and went to heaven! And it's the perfect complement to the farro soup.

French Bread
(Source: Deals to Meals blog)
Yield: 3 small loaves or 2 large

2 1/2 cups warm water (or use whey, if you have it)
2 tablespoons yeast (I used instant and did not proof it)
3 tablespoons sugar (I used closer to four)
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Add the above ingredients together and let sit until bubbly (about 3-5 minutes). Then add:
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup oil (I used vegetable)
6-7 cups flour (or a little more if it's too soft), one cup at a time--add enough until the dough is soft, but firm enough to mold into dough loaves

Knead for 2-5 minutes and then put in the oven with a small pot of boiling water. The water will keep the dough moist. Watch the dough and punch it down when it gets to the top of the mixing bowl. Do this every time it gets to the top of the bowl, as long as you have time to babysit it (2-5 times). Put the dough on a greased countertop and divide into three sections. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal on the bottom of the sheet. Roll the dough balls into rectangle/long French bread shapes. Slash tops of bread diagonally 3-5 times and cover with a beaten egg. Let rise 30 minutes (or until doubled) on the counter, or you can put them in your oven at 170 and wait until they are the size you want to cook them at. Once they are to the right size, turn up your stove to 375 (without opening the door!) and let them bake until done. Or, just raise on the counter and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serve warm out of the oven!

*Here's a tip: You can mix the dough together and then stash it in the fridge, knocking it down every eight hours or so whenever it reaches the top of the bowl. It will still rise, just verrrrrrrry slowly, and that way, you can hold it until you're ready to bake it off. And the flavor develops more, too, the longer it takes to rise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A family favorite of ours is Grandma Bea's Crab Dealies. It is much like your recipe for Crabby Snacks but with a lot more butter and doesn't have Worster, hot sauce or Old Bay. I will try those additions; but because I loved her, they will always be Grandma Bea's Crab Dealies to me.

xxo SF Bay Area