Quick Creamed Spinach Soup For a Last Minute Dinner

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Does this ever happen to you? You’ve planned a gourmet dinner for the evening (ok, semi-gourmet) and, just when you think you’ve got enough time and everything is under control, something seriously breaks your pace- a stove that needs to be calibrated, a husband coming home earlier than anticipated, meat that isn’t completely defrosted, or a recipe you’ve just read to the end and realized you need two hours to cook instead of one?

Well, most people would only be afflicted with one of these problems per dinner drama, but last night, I had all of them to deal with. My Navarin Pantier (Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables) was my recipe project of the day, another of Julia Child’s delights I was trying to master. (No wonder the cookbook it comes from is called Mastering the Art of French Cooking).

I made the fatal flaw Julia always warned about in her TV episodes of The French Chef: “Read the recipe before you begin to cook”. Well, I thought I did, but in reality I’d only read half– the part where she tells you to cook the lamb for an hour. The next page is where she tells you, “Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly and steadily for about an hour longer….”

I had no ‘Plan B’, knew my husband was famished, and I had very few exciting ingredients in the house to play with.

Taking one look around my fridge and counter, I had to think quick about what I could do with apples, cheese, spinach, onions, tomato paste, odd pieces of cheese, and various experimental jars of homemade creme fraiche. It was like playing ‘Iron Chef’ against myself.

Ok, it has to be soup and salad tonight. Soups without pasta, rice, potatoes or meat are usually not hearty enough to fill a hungry stomach, but I knew if I made a simple soup with creme fraiche added, we could eat it with hearty bread and a salad, which would be perfect for the late dinner we would have.

I decided on a Creamed Spinach Soup made by sauteeing onions in butter and olive oil and adding tomato paste and water to fill half the pan. I let it cook till it came to a boil. I then added spinach and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, just enough time for me to cut the cheese and peel and slice the green apple for my salad. I left the slices to soak in cold water until I was done so they wouldn’t brown.

I returned to my soup and tickled it with my handy immersion blender- a tool every soup maker should have, in my opinion. I blended a little at at a time, until the entire pan was a creamier version of the original. I let it simmer for a minute or two, then added 2 heaping tablespoons of my homemade creme fraiche, stirring it in until all of the whiteness of the creme disappeared. Two minutes later, I was satisfied that it was finally a creamed spinach soup.

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Returning to my salad, I rinsed and drained the baby greens then gave them a whirl in my other kitchen favorite- my salad spinner. I dried the greens with a paper towel and laid them gently in a bowl, added rough cubes of white cheddar and slices of the green apples I’d cut earlier. Later they were dressed in a simple mix of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and apple cider vinegar.

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Sitting down to a simple, quick dinner of Creamed Spinach Soup, Greens Salad with Apples and White Cheddar and a hearty slice of flame-warmed pita bread was a great end to the drama that plagued my kitchen only about a half an hour earlier.

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Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 9:19 am  Comments (12)  
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Keeping Warm, French Style

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This winter, I’ve snuggled up to more than my fair share of Julia Child cookbooks and DVDs of her cooking shows, “The French Chef”. So far I’ve seen countless hours of her slapping dough around to make croissants and French bread, demonstrating brutally tedious sauce-making techniques and offering 1960’s style video of her own shopping tours around Paris and the south of France. Nevertheless, I’m addicted to learning from this woman.

As a result, for the first time I’ve made homemade French Onion Soup, following Julia’s recipe verbatim. It turned out perfectly. Even my husband was “warmed” up to the idea of eating enormous amounts of onions and butter and cheese in this hearty dish. He even warmed up to the idea of learning a little something from Julia. I think he’s enjoying himself, ever so slightly, because Julia was a practical woman and a wildly demonstrative teacher who made it easy for us to understand and learn from- something all teachers should be, in my opinion.

One thing I’ve learned from reading other books and blogs about French culture, cooking techniques, style and form is that the French, particularly Parisians, really love to warm themselves up with a hot bowl of soup during the chilly winter months. Check out David Lebovitz’s blog about living in Paris and his article about celery root soup at: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/12/celery_root_soup.html

Here’s a quicker version of French Onion Soup than in Julia Child’s book I used (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Fortieth Edition, Vol. 1 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, p. 43-45). It’s Emerille Lagasse’s recipe found on the Food Network website:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/french-onion-soup-recipe/index.html

Substitute ½ cup red grape juice for the sherry and remember to use only your own homemade chicken and veal stock, made from dhabiha halal animals. If you don’t have that, use a halal canned or carton broth (let me know if you see that in any stores), or a can or carton of kosher stock or broth.

You can also use beef stock instead of chicken or veal stock but the taste will be a bit more “meaty”. And you can also just use one type of stock (i.e. only chicken as opposed to the combination), just make sure the stock is dark. Don’t make this dish if you will only be able to use water- it just isn’t worth sacrifice in taste.

Bon Appetit! Let me know how your soup turns out…

Yvonne

Iftaar Menu Ideas

As a Muslim I really look forward to the Holy Month of Ramadan where we fast the whole month from just before sunrise until the sun sets. No food or water is ingested throughout the whole day, so we must have a healthy suhoor (pre-fasting meal) and our iftaar (meal at the time of breaking the fast) must be light enough so that we can continue our prayers and worship through the night.

Here is one menu idea for an iftaar that I would like to share with you:

At the time of breaking the fast:

  • Water
  • Saudi dates
  • peach smoothie

After the maghrib salah (sunset prayer):

  • Yellow lentil soup  (I always serve soups since they warm and ease the stomach out of the fast and into eating again)
  • Super-moist turkey meatloaf
  • Creamed mashed potatoes
  • Green salad with red onions, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and salt

Dessert:

  • Assorted fruit
  • light yogurt cake

This is simply one menu idea you can use to expound on, Insh’allah more to come. Remember, in Ramadan the point is not to eat to your fill but to eat to have enough energy to perform the daily salah, the extra ibadat and to simply give you the energy for all the other things you have to do in your day and evening.

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 6:44 pm  Comments (10)  
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