Meat Soup and The New Year

I love the new year. It’s an exciting time, a time for reflection, a time to make improvements for a better future. Many bloggers have been posting terrific compilations of their Best of 2008. I was reflecting on Taste With The Eyes, how much I have enjoyed writing, learning more about photography and cooking and blogging, making friends and enjoying blogs from around the world. How neat this is, how incredibly neat.
Thinking back over the year of my posts, I think Meat Soup is my favorite. Why? Because it arose from a conversation with my mother about old recipes. Because she shared a recipe from my Nana that I had not remembered. Because we talked about my Father, my Nana, and my Papa who all passed away years ago. Because as a result of our conversation, I was able to share a snippet of our family history on my blog. And, last but not least, because it is a darn good soup! I will definitely be making it in 2009. Beef short ribs have become one of my favorite ingredients. Farewell to 2008, and here is Meat Soup one more time:
What’s in a name?
The other day I was asking my mother, Joyce, about recipes from the past.
Ma: Your Nana (my paternal grandmother) made excellent soups.
Me: Like what? I remember her chicken soup and borscht…what else?
Ma: Oh, I liked her meat soup.
Me: Meat Soup?
Ma: It’s like chicken soup but with meat. I think I still have the recipe…
My Nana was born in Kiev, Russia 1894. The family fled to Canada to escape the pogroms when she was a young girl. Her name was Vitte but she took her sister’s name, Fanny, after Fanny was killed in a machine accident. She met my Papa (paternal grandfather) when they were teenagers and their families were living in the same apartment complex in Montreal. His name was Yitzcok when he was born in Romania 1891 but changed it to Isadore upon arrival in Canada when he was 13 years old. He celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on the boat. Fanny and Isadore married then made their way to America and settled in Chicago where Papa took on the name, Irving, and they raised their children, Edythe and Leonard (my father).
I remember one day when we were kids, my Dad asked us if we knew Papa’s real name. I thought about it and said “Is” because that’s what Nana called him. Then I fell into a fit of giggles, “What kind of name is Is, Dad? That’s a verb!”
My nephews are Stone Leonard, his middle name in memory of our father, and Jett Izzy‘s middle name is in honor of our Papa – Is, or Izzy.
Meat Soup
3 1/2 lbs. short ribs
4 carrots
2 onions
2 parsnips
3 celery stalks
1 parsley root
1 c. dried large lima beans
Egg noodles
These are the ingredients my Mother has listed on her old recipe index card from notes she took years ago while watching her mother-in-law make meat soup.
Here is how I made my Nana’s soup:
Put short ribs in a soup pot full of water, heat on high until the water boils, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Skim off the scum and fat constantly. After 1 1/2 hours add rough chopped vegetables and beans. (I couldn’t find parsley root so I used a bunch of parsley). Simmer another hour or so, until the beans are cooked and the meat is butter-tender and falling off the bone. Season with salt and pepper. (I also added some beef base). To serve, put cooked egg noodles in a bowl and ladle soup on top.

Meat soup. What’s in a name? Indeed.

Oh, and I forgot to mention back in September that I was named after Papa’s oldest brother, Louie.

Happy. New. Year.

Lori Lynn

P.S. Food bloggers and non-food bloggers alike, do you have a favorite post of yours from 2008? If so, please leave a comment, we would love to (re)visit it.

Panettone French Toast & Bacon

LET IT SNOW!

Are you one of the millions of fortunate recipients of the wonderful tall leavened fruitcakes of Milan this Christmas?

Panettone has been made for hundreds of years using live sourdough mother yeast. A combination of old baking art with butter, raisins, citrus rinds and durum wheat in a 50 hour process produces a rich, moist, fresh Italian cake.

Fr. Adam reminded me that a restaurant company we worked for in the 1980’s gave us Panettone for Christmas every year. So he brought one for us here this year. Thanks for the memory and the delicious cake, Fr. A.

I sliced a thick cross-section of the cake. Soaked it thoroughly in two eggs beaten with cream and a pinch of salt. Then cooked it over medium low heat in butter until golden brown on both sides.

Dusted with powdered sugar!

We are fans of good thick bacon from the butcher shop.

You might want to serve it with maple syrup or mascarpone cheese. It was so moist and sweet, we were satisfied with the dusting of sugar and bacon. This cross-section of the Panettone can serve three or four people. Add a cup of hot coffee and enjoy a delicious Holiday Breakfast!

And here’s a Holiday Centerpiece to go with the Holiday Breakfast. A circle of nine 15 inch tall angel vases with stargazer lilies that I am sending over to Sandi at the Whistlestop Cafe for her lovely Centerpiece of the Month event. December will be an awesome month for her centerpiece displays.


Sending Holiday Blessings Your Way…

Shrimp with Risotto and Corn – Fast!

When there are presents to wrap and cookies to bake it’s nice to have a meal that takes only a few minutes of active cooking time and the ingredients are already on hand in the pantry and the freezer.

Box. Bag. Can.
Box of Cheese Risotto – just add water, white wine, a tablespoon of butter
Bag of Frozen Shrimp – cleaned, uncooked, tail-on
Can of Corn – drained

Add water, wine, butter, and risotto mix to pot.
Bring to boil, lower heat, stir occasionally.

When the rice is almost cooked, pour in lots of frozen shrimp, right from the bag.

When the shrimp are pink and the risotto is al dente add corn and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with scallions.

“The feast of the seven fishes is a tradition that Italians follow every Christmas Eve. La Vigilia or the vigil is kept with the custom of dining on 7 fish dishes as we await the birth of the savior at midnight,” writes Maryann. She and Joe are hosting this fabulous Seven Fishes Feast event. I thought they might enjoy a quick yet very tasty dish to add to their bountiful buffet, so I am sending this shrimp over their way, along with wishes for a dazzling Christmas!

Images
A funny thing happens when one totes the camera around, ready to take a photograph of the next tasty morsel…the eye starts to notice other than food-related photo opportunities, a serendipity of a food blog indeed! I am grateful for the chance to capture some images of my surroundings and to be able to share a glimpse of the beauty of Southern California with you.

Sunset over the Port of Long Beach

at Bluff Park, Ocean Blvd. Long Beach, California

Spiced Sweet Potato Gratin

OK, so we needed a little break from Thanksgiving fare…from squash, pumpkin, turkey leftovers, and the like. So we went on to cheeseburgers and tamales. But there are still some wonderful, easy to prepare holiday dishes to be shared. Like this one…

Sweet potatoes (not yams) about 5 large, peeled and sliced thin. If you have a mandoline, that is the perfect tool. If not, you can use the slicer on your food processor. No special equipment? Slice thin with a knife, that would work just fine.

Butter a baking dish, or use non-stick spray. Form a layer of overlapping sweet potato medallions. Sprinkle the top of each layer with the following:
  • Coarse salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Brown sugar
  • Pumpkin pie spice

Repeat for a total of three layers. If it sounds odd to add salt and pepper to a sweet dish, do not let that stop you. This combination works so don’t be shy. I am a fan of fresh grated nutmeg, so I add that in addition to the pumpkin pie spice.
Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of:
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Lemon peel
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom

Pour cream over the sweet potatoes until about half way up the side of the baking dish. This 9 X 13 dish will serve over 20 people.

Baked covered with aluminum foil at 350 until the potatoes are al dente, about 1 1/2 hours. You might want to put the baking dish on an underliner, as it tends to bubble over. Remove foil and continue cooking until the potatoes are soft and the top is browned.
Holiday Tip: I make this a day ahead, cooking covered until al dente. Then I let it cool and refrigerate over night. Take out of the refrigerator about an hour before reheating. Cook uncovered until hot and bubbly. The best part: You can reheat this in the oven while your turkey is out of the oven and resting.

It is also a great dish to bring to someone else’s party. Once cooked, it transports well. Wrap it in aluminum foil and just heat it up when you get there. All the different spices make for an interesting dish, you’ll be a hero.

Speaking of being a hero, Aunt GeeGee (that would be me) is one too, with a new basketball court for my nephews! Here is Stone on the day before Thanksgiving. Nice shot! We took a break from cooking to shoot some hoops. By the way I don’t just shoot photographs, I’ve been known to shoot a three-pointer every once in a while too!

The Gift of Tamales

Handmade with love: Three generations of women with one more generation on the way (congrats to Emily, due in April) worked from 7 PM to 1 AM last week making 100 tamales in the style of their Central American roots. And I was one of the lucky recipients of that labor of love. Thank you, ladies!

A banana leaf is laid flat then topped with masa prepared with lard and seasonings. Pork ribs were sliced into bite-sized pieces by their butcher, then cooked with onions and spices. The masa is topped with the cooked pork, peas, garbanzo beans, unpitted little green olives, capers, and some had achiote paste.
Wrapped up in a neat little bundle with aluminum foil to hold it all together and steamed for an hour. (To reheat, simply remove the foil and warm up in the microwave). The filling was a surprise in that there were bones and pits to watch out for. Marlene tells me this is the way they have always made it, I suspect the bones enhanced the already delicious depth of flavor and I love the authenticity.

Served with a salad of sliced tomato, white onion, avocado, a drizzle of oil and squeeze of lime. The tamale was dressed with Crema Salvadoreña (Salvadorean style sour cream) and salsa roja. Muy sabroso. And the beauty of giving tamales as a gift, they are already wrapped! Muchas gracias a la familia del Figueroa.