a new Hungarian soup

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This was definitely one of those Must Make Again recipes. I’ve been making Hungarian Mushroom Soup (from the Moosewood cookbook) for years, but for some reason this week I decided to try a recipe for “goulash soup” from Barbara Kafka’s soup cookbook, which turned out to be vaguely similar – it has paprika and onions as the flavor base – but is very much its own thing.  I didn’t follow the recipe slavishly, but I more or less kept to the ingredient list, and it was incredible. It didn’t hurt that the stew beef I used was from our latest quarter-cow from Skagit Angus, tender and really beefy-flavored.

The original recipe called for coating the beef in flour before frying it, which I didn’t feel like doing. I thought about making a roux separately to thicken the soup, but it turned out not to be necessary  – the texture of the broth was thick and silky.

Hungarian Goulash Soup

adapted from Soup: A Way of Life by Barbara Kafka

  • 1 pound stew beef
  • kosher salt, maybe a tsp?
  • a couple spoonfuls of canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika and 2 tsp regular paprika
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
  • about 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seed
  • around a cup of dried egg noodles
  • sour cream

I salted the beef, then seared it in a soup pot in two batches with canola oil at high heat, then set it aside.

In the same pan, I added the butter, turned the heat to medium and sauteed the onion. Once it softened I added the paprika, then put the meat back in, mixed it all up, and added the stock. I brought it to a simmer, covered the pot, turned the heat to low and let it cook for an hour.

At this point I added the potato, garlic and bell pepper, recovered the pan and cooked for another fifteen minutes or so. Then I uncovered, added the caraway seeds and tomato plus some water to rinse out the can, brought the soup back to a simmer, and added the pasta. Once the noodles were done, I checked for seasoning, added a little salt, and served with sour cream.

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Coupeville

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The day after Thanksgiving we went with friends on a field trip. The idea was to take the ferry to Port Townsend, eat fabulous clam chowder at Fins on the water, then come home, but things didn’t go quite as planned. First, the weather was disgusting and there were rumours at the ferry dock that the power was out in PT, and second, we discovered that Fins was closed for remodeling (which was not mentioned on the restaurant’s website or FB page. WTF, Fins?)

Stymied, we gave our ferry tickets away and headed back up the island to Coupeville, where we found a very satisfactory lunch at Christopher’s, a rather nice place I’d heard about but never actually been to before. Their clam chowder was declared acceptable, Jon had some really good fish and chips, and I had a bowl of linguine with perfectly fresh Penn Cove mussels (not entirely debearded, unfortunately, but still excellent). We watched people putting up holiday lights in the rain, checked out a local arts and crafts fair, then walked around the downtown and waterfront before heading home.

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Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving this year had almost all the usual suspects: perfectly brined turkey and very excellent stuffing by my parents, plus mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, smoked salmon and cream cheese with rye crackers, pumpkin pie and pecan pie, and spiced Old Fashioned cocktails. The only thing missing was the creamed spinach, but we’ll make that for ourselves very soon.

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Leftovers

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Leftover braised lamb with shell beans from Nell Thorn, warmed up with leftover roasted beets and sweet potatoes from our dinner on Thursday, with quick couscous and a glass of Spanish garnatxa. A great lunch after a morning working in the garden.

more blue cheese dressing

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We have gone sort of gaga for blue cheese dressing ever since I learned how simple it was to make (I blame Hopworks in Portland for first really converting me to the idea, with their big delicious chunks of Rogue Blue). Last night’s dinner was our third meal using the steak from our anniversary (the second and fourth were sandwiches) – we just sliced the steak super thin and piled it on top of butter lettuce tossed with a buttermilk-white wine vinegar-stinky gorgonzola dressing. This time I got the quantity exactly right, and we heaped the salad into really big bowls and ate in front of the television. Perfect.

Anniversary

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Yesterday was our 20th anniversary. Jon has class in the mornings during the week, so we didn’t go anywhere for the official day, but we had a good time. First we got some lunch at Slough Food, sitting out in the garden with our dog and a glass of wine.

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After that we stopped by the Taylor Shellfish farmstand for some oysters, then came home and sat on our own patio with potato chips and cocktails before starting to shuck. The weather’s been weirdly hot and dry, but it was perfect in the shade under the deck.

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Jon had picked up a couple of gorgeous ribeye steaks at Silvana Meats. He grilled them, using indirect heat and applewood smoke to give them some extra flavor. I picked our first tomatoes and zucchini and made a sort of caponata salad-y thing, mixing grilled zucchini chunks with fresh tomato, parsley, basil, capers and red wine vinegar.

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We had a little blue cheese on hand, so I sprinkled some on the steaks.

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While we were in Santa Cruz my brothers-in-law bought us a few bottles of Odonata wine as an anniversary present, so we opened the petite sirah for this. Amazing wine, and it was beautiful with the smoky steaks and vinegary salad. It was a good celebration.

Aslan

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We recently checked out the newest addition to the Bellingham brewpub scene, Aslan Brewing. I had tried a couple of their beers at the Local and was impressed – they make a very fine IPA and, as it turns out, an extremely fine OPA (Oatmeal Pale Ale). The inside of the brewpub is very open with lots of glass and other hard surfaces, and was way too loud, but the weather was mild enough for us to sit outside on the patio, which had the added benefit of lots of cute dogs.

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They had poutine on the menu, so we had to try it. Theirs is a little different than the classic: waffle fries drenched in mushroom gravy, with Beechers cheese curds. Pretty great, but not for the faint of stomach.

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Their menu is short but includes three burgers – a bison burger, a bison burger with blue cheese and bacon jam, and a “hypocrite burger” with a veggie patty and bacon jam. We tried the blue cheese bison, which was pleasant but overdone to the point of burnt, and not as saucy as I prefer.

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To offset the poutine I ordered the kale salad, which was a pleasant surprise. Raw kale with a liberal sprinkling of pecorino, sultanas and walnuts, plus a corn muffin. This was good at the time, especially to go with the burger, but it was even better as leftovers the next day with a fried egg on top.

Nice place, interesting food options, good beer. A little off our usual path in Bellingham, but I’m guessing we’ll be back.

Leftover clams

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This was one of those thrown-together-out-of-what’s-on-hand dishes that worked so well I need to write it down. We had perfect little clams from Taylor Shellfish and a very spicy Mexican chorizo from Silvana Meats, both left over from a paella I had made a couple nights before, and I wanted to use them both up. I started by sauteeing an onion until very soft and sweet, added the chorizo and browned it, then added a tub of (also leftover) tapenade from the grocery store and a bit of water from the boiling pasta I had going on the side. I added the clams and nestled them into the sauce to steam open, then added a big handful of fresh parsley from the garden. That all got mixed up with thin spaghetti noodles, drizzled with a bit of extra Sicilian olive oil and eaten with a cheap Gascon wine. Fabulous. Would make again, if at all possible.

Pok Pok at home

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I recently acquired the Pok Pok cookbook by Andy Ricker, and have been incredibly excited about cooking from it, since Pok Pok is one of my favorite places to eat anywhere. Some friends of our felt the same way, so we got together a week or two ago and made a few things. I warmed up the weekend before by cooking dinner for some other friends, making the mushroom salad, a cucumber som tam, and an incredibly rich and spicy green curry with little eggplants and shrimp. Everything turned out remarkably well, so we had high hopes for our follow-up dinner.

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There was a fair amount of prep involved, including several shopping trips to Asian markets. Linda made a bunch of sauces and condiments in advance, ready for cooking. I only made one sauce, but showed up with a big tub of fragrant duck stock I’d made that morning. We mixed up our first batch of cocktails and got to work. Continue reading

black and blue

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A simple dinner, just grilled steak and salad, but both parts were experiments. Jon tried a new method for the steaks, first cooking them with indirect heat until they reached 115°, then setting them over a very hot flame for a final sear, and I made an attempt at a blue cheese dressing that would go with both meat and greens.

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We had moderate success – the steak was a tad overdone, although far from inedible. It had a nice crust on it. The technique’s definitely worth revisiting, but with a little less actual flame during the final sear.

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My dressing came out pretty great, in spite of not having buttermilk on hand – I mashed a nice soft and stinky gorgonzola with a splash of milk, some mayonnaise, a clove of garlic and some white wine vinegar. The only problem was that I went totally overboard with the quantity, so after eating nearly a whole head’s worth of fresh green lettuce (and the steak) we were rather gorgonzola’d out. I’ll do this again, but make maybe half as much. Or save some for leftovers.