Monday, 26 September 2011

Tomatillo Salsa

So, seasoned food bloggers tell me that busting out of the gates with a pretty consistent posting schedule and then all of a sudden barely ever posting is the easiest way to have a food blog that nobody reads. I am batting a thousand on this front, and for this, dear reader(s), I apologize.

I've been cooking a fair bit, it's not that (though that also happens sometimes)...I just can't seem to find the chunk of time in conjunction with the chunk of energy and the chunk of forethought (i.e. remembering to photograph the freakin' dish before it's eaten) that must come together to write a post. I also have always had a sneaking suspicion that I am actually a very lazy person who has spent my whole life willing myself to be un-lazy but really is the ultimate laziest, and therefore chunk of time + chunk of energy + chunk of forethought is much harder to come by for people like me. But these deep, internal insecurities have nothing to do with tomatillo salsa, do they? Let's move on to that then, shall we?

Look!  A different cutting board!
Lovely tomatillos, which it turns out, come in many colours.
This is a pretty delicious little number. Tomatillos are a fairly new thing for me, in that I didn't even really know what they were until about a year ago. But boy, am I glad that I've made their acquaintance.  They resemble small, unripened tomatoes (though again, this time they were all multi-coloured, so, not always green), but for the fact that they come ensconced in a papery husk. Once you rub off the husk, they have a sticky, kinda sappy thing going on that you have to wash off. They're hardy little guys, these tomatillos, and full of tang and pep. Perfect for salsa.  And salsa?  Salsa is perfect with so many things:  nacho chips, scrambled eggs, enchiladas, tacos, etc., etc.

Tomatillos, post-husking, post-washing weird sticky sap off.
Tomatillo Salsa

Tomatillos, 2 pounds or so, halved or quartered        (this recipe is definitely a set of loose guidelines as opposed to a firm set of directions - even more so than usual I mean - so basically just go and grab some tomatillos and proceed - I used a small brown bag that was about halfway full)
Cilantro, a big handful, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 or 3 limes
1 small onion, halved or quartered
2 jalapenos, split in half        (if you like things spicy, keep the seeds and ribs in the jalapenos - if you're a wimp, scrape out everything that's inside the jalapeno - that's where all the heat is)
Garlic, 2 cloves, peeled and smashed
1 cup of water, approximately       (start with 1 cup, then add more if you find it's not liquidy enough for you)
1-2 tsp of salt      (don't be afraid to put a lot of salt in, but taste as you go so you don't wreck everything)

My particular desired consistency.
Okay, so get ready for these very complicated instructions. Put everything in a pot, and bring it to a boil. Your water should pretty much cover the ingredients in the pot, so everything is almost entirely submerged. Leave it boiling, squishing everything down into the pot, until everything is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Get your hand blender (I think these are an amazing kitchen tool - super low maintenance and small and easy to store), and blend everything up, to your desired consistency. You could of course use a regular blender, if you like to make things difficult for yourself.

Once it cooled, I served it with nacho chips. But not before I put it into an empty salsa jar that I had hanging around in the cupboard. Made my salsa seem totally legit.

Too legit, too legit know the rest.
Wait, should that be 'Two legit'?  I just remembered the hand motions.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Onion Soup: Onion-y, Beer-y, Fall-y Goodness

Fall is the absolute best, in my opinion. Best clothes, best natural light, best attitude, and definitely the best time to cook. You're still revelling in summer's bounty, but it's cool enough that the idea of turning on the stove isn't repulsive. Fall comes and I want to roast, braise, and cook the crap out of everything.  Including onions. Is there a more delicious thing to do with an onion than to cook it forever, concentrating and caramelizing its wonderful flavour? I think not.  

Getting to this point was not pretty. I positively gush tears
while chopping onions. And not in a hot way.
This soup is all about the power of the mighty onion. However, slicing onions is, I find, quite painful. You need about five cups of thinly sliced onions for this soup, and I know there are 25 great little tricks you can do to prevent the painful tearing up that occurs when slicing an onion, but I swear to God I have tried every single one of them and nothing works. They just don't.  Lighting a candle, putting your onion in the freezer first, making sure your knife is super sharp, chewing gum, wearing a mask (which is ridiculous)...anyway, it's just the way it is. A little bit of pain for a lot of reward.

I adapted this recipe from a couple of places:  one,, and another recipe I saw on the Food Network Canada website, by that exceedingly eager and effeminate guy, Ricardo - you know him? Anyway, you can find it at, by searching for Onion Soup with Beer.

Onion Soup

5 cups of regular old white onions, sliced thinly as shown in the photos above
1 tbsp butter, for frying onions
1 tbsp oil, for frying onions
Salt and pepper, to taste
5 cups of beef stock       (Don't worry about doing something crazy like making your own beef stock. But, do worry about buying the good store-bought stuff. And read the ingredients:  a lot of powdered beef stock crystals have MSG in them - and while, frankly, I'm pretty okay with eating MSG when I decide to indulge in ma-po tofu and moo shu pork and the like, I'm not really okay with it sneaking into my stock. So, have a look, and try a few kinds to see which kind you like best.)
1 big can of dark-ish beer     (I used Boddington's, because it was in the fridge - any beer that's not like say, a Coors Light, would probably work.)
2 tbsp of dijon mustard

To top off the soup:

Baguette slices, toasted      (I used one slice of toasted bread per bowl.)
A couple of handfuls of grated cheese, to melt on top of the toasted baguette slices     (I used a combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan - gruyere is the most killer cheese to use in this situation, but I just didn't have it in me to make a trip to the store just for gruyere. I advise you to just use any strong flavoured, hard cheese that is grate-able.)

So, you need to cook the pants off these onions. You melt your butter and your oil in a nice, big, heavy Dutch oven/soup pot. In go the onions, over pretty low heat (we're talking a 3 or so). Give the onions a stir to get them coated with the butter and oil, and then plop on your pot lid and don't do a thing for 15 minutes. Once that time has elapsed, come back, uncover the onions and turn up the heat to medium. Keep them over medium heat, stirring every few minutes for about 45 minutes. Did you just gasp? I know, it seems like a long time, but this step is so so so so crucial to this soup. Remember, they're just onions. So you need to really give them some time to make them sing.

Once about an hour has elapsed since the onions met the stovetop, they should have turned a deeper brown, and there should be lots of brown bits on the bottom of your pot. Add your stock and can of beer, stirring everything up well and ensuring that you get all those lovely browned bits up off the bottom. They add lots of flavour. Then stir in the mustard. Bring to a boil, and taste for salt, adding some depending on how salty your stock was. Add pepper. Bring the soup down to a simmer and let it go for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Please sir, can I have some more?

I didn't have ovenproof bowls (I know, I just need to run to the nearest Salvation Army, Goodwill, grandmother's basement, etc., for a set of french onion soup bowls) so I toasted up some baguette slices. Once they were toasted, I put the grated cheese on top and ran the toast under the broiler again until the cheese melted. I placed a cheesy baguette toast on top of the soup in each bowl. The best is if you push that piece of cheesy bread right down into the soup, and let it get all soggy and incorporated.

I served this with more bread and a green salad with lots of fresh parsley in it (herbs are great in salads, just as their own ingredient - especially ones like flat leaf parsley, cilantro, basil). It should also be noted that this soup is sooooo dirt cheap to make. It's great to throw together when you realize you've nothing else in your fridge but onions and cheese. Also, if all you've got is stale bread, break that up and stir it in to the finished soup. They could have eaten this in Dickens' time, for God's sake! It also manages to taste hearty and light at the same time, and was perfect for a September night's dinner on the porch.

Makes about 4 or 5 servings.