Category Archives: Winter

Creamy tomato garlic bisque

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the recent weather reports, a cold snap has hit the Northwest, complete with snow, ice, and the usual crazy Seattlites who can’t drive in snow (or a light rain, for that matter.) We have a blanket of fluffy, crystalline snow all over, and it’s making the trees look like Christmas decorations, two weeks too late.

On the plus side, winter snow brings winter hungers, and I love nothing more than warm, hearty soups. And, since I’ve been dying to try this tomato bisque recipe for a while, I figured this would be a perfect time to try it. And to make things even better, this version of the soup serves two hungry people (or four appetizers) for less than 150 calories per (or 75, if you use it as an appetizer.) It’s light, airy, and full of flavor.

Now, I know you’ll have a few questions about the ingredients, and believe me, they’re all necessary, but, in explanation:

  • The soy and anchovies are for depth of flavor. They’re odd ingredients, I know, but they do worlds of good for the deep, rich flavor of this soup.
  • You can add more cream, or sour cream (M suggested neufchâtel , which I’m quite excited to try) to ramp up the creamy flavor, but this soup does well enough as is.
  • The roasted garlic definitely a win. I felt that it added a very subtle undertone to the soup that worked well.

Pheasant’s tomato bisque

4 beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes

3 roma tomatoes

3 cloves raw garlic

1/2 c finely chopped onion

2 tbsp roasted garlic mash (optional but recommended)

1 anchovy filet

1 tbsp soy sauce (Aloha brand highly suggested)

1 tsp vegetable oil (I used some of the roasted garlic oil)

1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth (optional)

1-3 basil leaves, to preference

1 tbsp ground dried rosemary (measure after grinding)

1 bay leaf

1/8 tsp cayenne

1 tbsp fat free sour cream (for garnish)

Using a paring knife, cut a small X into the bottom of each tomato, and cut the core out of the top. Fill a small (3-5 qt) sauce pot with water and bring it to a boil. While it’s heating, set up an empty bowl on the stove, as well as a bowl filled with cold water and ice cubes. Once the water is boiling, drop the tomatoes in one at a time. Count to fifteen slowly, then take them out with a slotted spoon and place them in the ice bath. You should see the skin beginning to peel off and split from the tomato at this point. After a moment, transfer the tomatoes into the empty bowl.

After each tomato has been boiled and bathed, rub the skin splits and peel the tomatoes. Set them aside. 

Empty the sauce pot of water and place it back on the burner, at medium heat. Add the oil and onion, as well as the rosemary and cayenne. Allow them to sweat and begin to brown. While they cook, mince the raw garlic very finely. Add it, stir, and add in the anchovy filet. Mash the filet to break it up a bit. Turn the burner down to low.

Slice and seed the peeled tomatoes. Seeding is critical here…if you don’t, you’ll have way too much liquid, and those seeds don’t taste very good. Dice them, and add about two tomatoes’ worth to the pot. Turn it up to medium and let that cook down while you dice the remaining tomatoes.

Allow the two diced tomatoes in the pan cook down until a medium fond develops. Deglaze with half the chicken broth and the soy sauce. Then, add the remaining tomatoes, the roasted garlic, basil leaves and the bay leaf. Allow it to simmer for about twenty minutes.

Using a hand blender, blend the soup to a smooth, silken consistency. If you don’t own a hand blender (like we don’t) allow it to cool, then blend in the blender or Magic Bullet.

After you’ve blended it, taste and correct for spices depending on your preferences, then dish it up, top it with sour cream (or cream, or softened cream cheese) and watch it disappear! 

Because of the soft, creamy and sweet tastes that go along with this soup, M and I served it up alongside some best-ever roasted potatoes (recipe to follow) and happily sat down to eat. I must warn you, this soup is soup-er filling (how could I write this entire post without using that pun?!) and one bowl was too much for either of us to handle in one sitting. Considering how I can pack away food…that’s really saying something. Enjoy!

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Filed under Seasonal, Soup, Winter

French onion soup

Today, pheasants, was approximately as cold as Washington gets when there’s no snow involved. It was absolutely freezing and I was walking around in a skirt and heels down in the U district, looking for a job.

Coming home, M and I were nothing short of tired and cold, and very hungry. We’d picked up a loaf of my favorite French bread (crusty on the outside, light and fluffy as a dream on the inside) with which to dip, nosh and generally make merriment. This soup is brothy, light and satisfying. The recipe feeds two hungry people, three less hungry people, or four to six as an appetizer. In an effort to make the easiest soup known to man, I present now to you:

Pheasant’s easy onion soup

2 medium yellow onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 tsp garlic mash

1 tsp ground, dried rosemary (measure after grinding)

2 tsp soy sauce (Aloha brand highly recommended)

2 c beef broth

2 c water

bay leaf

1/4 c red wine (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot, heat the oil on medium. As it’s heating, slice the onions very finely. Add them to the pan, stirring. Mince the garlic and add it, as well as the garlic mash, rosemary and some pepper. Stir this all together and allow it to sauté for a few minutes until everything starts to wilt and become translucent. 

Turn the heat up to medium-high and allow the onions to brown for a while. Once it’s beginning to brown and crisp, turn it back down to medium-low and let it go for 20-30 minutes, checking occasionally to adjust the heat, until the onions have become caramel-colored, soft, and reduced to 1/3 their original size.

Once reduced...voila!

The pan should have a nice, deeply-browned (but not burnt!) fond across the bottom (fond is the fancy French term for that brown crusty stuff on the bottom. And it’s better than gold!)

This is fond. You may now fall to your knees in worship.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the soy sauce and wine to the pan to deglaze, making sure to scrape every last bit of that fond off the bottom. If you aren’t using wine, just use a little water. Once everything is all mixed together nicely, add the bay leaf, beef broth and water, then turn it up to a boil. When it boils, turn it down to a simmer and let it go for about ten minutes, or reduced to 2/3 its original volume.

A little taste-test during the process...

If you like, melt Gruyere cheese over crostini and float in the soup. M and I, however, prefer our French bread dipped into the broth. Enjoy!

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Filed under Autumn, Seasonal, Soup, Winter

Traditional lamb stew

This is what dreams are made of.

I love lamb. Period. A lot of people don’t like the gamey flavor or the fatty nature of lamb, but I think it’s an absolutely beautiful meat. It’s tender, rich, and oh, so filling. There’s really nothing you can’t do with a few chunks of lamb shoulder and some low, slow cooking.

With that in mind, M gleefully threw a package of mysterious lamb meat into the basket while we were at Ranch 99 the other day. After stashing it in the freezer and mulling the options over for a bit, I looked outside, and we decided that lamb stew would be the best thing for our approaching winter season.

Seriously, pheasants, it’s been hailing like Mother Nature is trying her best to unload all her hail supply before the snow comes in for the season. It’s madness. Pouring rain, driving winds, and snow is predicted for tomorrow…snow. In November. We never get snow in November!

So, tonight, we’re hunkering down with a crackling fire and some piping hot apple cider to enjoy our evening, while this delicious, beautiful stew bubbles away. The best part? This is a crock pot recipe. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Rainy Day Lamb Stew

1 to 1 1/2 lbs lamb (bone-in, trimmed of fat {which you reserved, yes?})

2 russet potatoes, cut into chunks

1 red onion, sliced thin

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

4 Crimini mushrooms, quartered

2 carrots, cut into chunks

1 tbsp pepper, divided

1/2 tbsp salt

1 tsp dried thyme

3 sprigs rosemary, minced

1/4 c flour

3/4 c water

1/3 c port wine

In a medium frying pan, place two to three larger chunks of lamb fat on medium.

Place the flour in a small bowl, then mix it with salt and 1/3 tablespoon of pepper. Dredge the lamb in the flour, and, when the fat has adequately melted, crank up the heat to medium-high and sear the chunks, turning them periodically to sear all sides. Transfer the seared pieces directly into your crock pot. While the lamb pieces are searing, add the potatoes, carrots, garlic and mushrooms to the crock pot, using a ladle to mix everything up fairly well.

Once all the lamb is seared and transferred, turn down the heat to medium and place the onions in the pan. Brown them, making sure to get all the pieces well. Once they’re done, pour in the port and deglaze the pan. Add the rosemary and remaining pepper, then cook the wine down until it’s about reduced to half, then add the water, bring to a boil, and pour the onion-wine-water mix into the crock pot. Set it to low and let it go for 8 to 10 hours.

Before serving, skim off any excess fat from the stew.

Serving this with some hearty, crusty bread is good to soak up all the delicious, rich juices. This is definitely a hot, delightful dish for the winter season.

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Filed under Red meat, Seasonal, Winter

Baked tilapia with coconut curry

How delicious does this look? Trust me, it's ten times better than it looks!

As you can tell, I’m a really, really big fan of fish. I love it, and for good reason: it’s healthy, it’s delicious, and there are so many things you can do with it. That being said, I have another fish post for you, and I really think you’re going to adore this one: flaky, moist fish, nestled inside a rich, flavorful coconut curry sauce. I served mine up with some delightful vegetables mixed in to keep it healthy and filling.

Now, before I go any further, I’d like to address tilapia. What is it? Where does it come from? Why does my dad hate it so? Things like that. So, here we are:

Tilapia isn’t one kind of fish, like red snapper or yellowfin tuna. In fact, it’s a lot like tuna or salmon in that a lot of different species of fish fall into the category. Most of the time, though, tilapia is never labeled as anything but “tilapia.” Tilapia, fish of the cichlid family, can be found all over the world, but for all intents and purposes, unless otherwise stated, assume your tilapia comes from China.

Tilapia are notably low in mercury, and are low fat, low calorie, and extremely high in protein. Even better? They’re cheap. Cheap is good for college students!

That being said, a lot of people have a shared memory that dates back to who knows when, which alerts them that tilapia tastes…muddy. Because wild tilapia are bottom-feeding fish, they do indeed have a muddy aftertaste. Farmed tilapia, however, is totally different: it has a cleaner, more cod-like flavor to it. So, for those of you with reservations about tilapia, fear not! It is tasty!

Now, onto greater and tastier things. This recipe, for example. I’d consider it…very Thai-inspired. It’s creamy, smooth and spiced, with hints of coconut and lime. What more could you want in a supper? Serve it over rice for something beautiful, delicious and easy. M has declared that she doesn’t need the lime to make her love the curry, and so she eats hers without. I absolutely adore the very Asian-tropics coconut-lime flavor, so I go nuts with the limes.

This recipe is SO good. I hardly ever condone using caps for emphasis. That’s how good this curry is!

Tilapia with Coconut-Lime Curry 

2 tilapia fillets (approx 3-4 oz apiece), cut into 1/2×1 inch chunks

4 curry blocks (Vermont or Golden House)

1/2 crown of broccoli, cut into small florets

1-2 carrots, cut into coins

1/3 yellow onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper (optional)

1/3 can coconut milk

5 cups fish stock

curry powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and paprika to taste

cumin to taste (optional)

1/2 lime, cut into small wedges

So, for starters, you can do this recipe two ways: you can brown all the vegetables to start with, or you can just dump everything in and go. If you’re in a hurry, go with the latter. If not, I’d highly advise going with the browning method. It makes everything tastier and more beautiful in the long run. This curry will, however, be absolutely delectable with the quick method too. If you’re going the recommended route, read on. If you’re doing curry in a hurry, though, skip to the third paragraph.

Set a medium to large pot on medium-high and drizzle in a little garlic oil if you have it, butter if you don’t. Let it melt/bubble, then add in the carrots. Try to keep them all in a single layer, so they get evenly browned. When they’re all golden-brown and beautiful on one side, flip as best you can to the other (don’t sweat it if you only get half flipped.) Brown this side, then transfer the carrots out of the pan. Repeat the process with the garlic and onion, as well as bell peppers, if you’re using them. Transfer everything out of the pan and set it to medium.

Once all of this is done, add in the fish stock and broccoli bits. You can cut them small or large, per your preference, but we prefer them large enough to keep a good bite. Simmer the broccoli for about two minutes, then add the curry blocks, curry powder, cayenne, garlic powder, cumin and paprika. Place the carrots, broccoli, onion and bell pepper back in the pot, and stir. Bring it to a simmer and keep it there, stirring every so often to keep anything from sticking to the bottom.

When the curry blocks have melted and the curry begins to thicken, bring the heat slightly higher. We want thick, rich curry here. Allow it to simmer for another few minutes until it has thickened further, then add half the coconut milk and all the fish.

Taste frequently…you want to personalize the curry to your tastes. If you like it thinner, add more stock or coconut milk. If you want it more coconut-y, add more of the milk. It all depends on your tastes.

Cook, stirring infrequently, for about six minutes, or until the fish is flaky when squeezed between your fingers. Transfer it all to a bowl and serve immediately, with lime wedges.

Served with white or brown rice, this makes for a very filling, surprisingly hearty meal. It’s light and summery in flavor, though, which makes it quite pleasing.

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Filed under Ethnic, Seasonal, Winter

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…

I have a rather involved recipe for you today, pheasants. Because I’m way too excited for Christmas to begin (Thanksgiving too!)  I’m planning so much for this little apartment…M and I are planning on cranberry and popcorn streamers for the tree, with tinsel and lights to hang around the halls and on the mantle. But until M is ready to break out the Christmas spirit, I’m sitting here looking for a recipe to soothe my Christmas fever. I absolutely had to look up a recipe that would remind me of Christmas before the lights have even gone up around our apartment.

So, in doing a little research for a supper party coming up (I’m so excited for that post!) I hit on the idea of chocolate and orange…I love orange flavors, and I hoped this would go well with the dessert recipe I’ve planned out. The idea, though, was that, because of the chemical composition of its aromatic and flavor compounds, orange peel tastes better with dark chocolate than plain orange juice or extract. Hm.

“What are we to do, Pheasant?” I asked. “Orange zest in a smooth chocolate dessert would be gross.”

“Candy the orange peels,” Pheasant replied simply. I gazed in amazement at the sheer, beautiful simplicity of the idea.

I excitedly babbled this to M, who looked up from her book, nodded, and went back to it. Oh well. Some of us just don’t understand. But, once she tastes these, I know she’ll be happy as a puppy in a new park.

Now, the peels themselves will be slightly bitter…I only rinsed mine three times, and they were a little strong for me. You might want to go with four or five times for the cold rinse, unless  you like a bite to the peels. I also only sugared half the batch, to see if we liked the taste of them plain…well, the verdict is in, and the verdict respectfully requests you roll them all in sugar. There’s a funny, almost green-potato-like aftertaste when  you don’t.

The "boiling stage"

These are actually really good steeped with tea. Just put one in the bottom of a cup before you pour in the boiling water, and the sweet, orange flavor will perfume the tea like something out of an Arabian dream.

Half-tempted, I entertained the idea of dipping the finished peels in dark chocolate…but I’ll saved candied citrus and chocolate for another post. Until then, here’s a most beautiful, delicious and easy rendition of candied orange peels. When you’re done, if you have leftover syrup, save it to flavor teas, both hot and cold!

Pheasant’s Candied Orange Peels

1 large, thick-skinned orange

2 1/4 c white sugar

3/4 c water

Cut the top off the orange and then score the skin four times, so that it’s separated into four segments. Peel these segments off and slice them thinly (I did about 1/8 inch thick, but I will go thinner next time.) Set them in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil; when it does, pour it off, and refill it with water. Repeat as many times as you like. The fewer times you do, the sharper and more bitter the peels will be.

Once you’ve boiled them as much as you like, set them aside in a bowl. Add the water and sugar to the pot, stirring them with a whisk to combine. Bring it to a simmer and continue until you reach the thread stage (about ten minutes, for me.) For those of you who aren’t candy-savvy (like I wasn’t, until about two hours ago,)the thread stage is when you dip a spoon into the sugar, hold it over a bowl of cold water, and it runs off in a thread-like stream (thin, very thin.) It should still be soft once it cools in the water, like really thick glue.

Once it reaches this stage, keep it at a simmer and dump the orange peels into the sugar. Now, set your timer for 45 minutes and walk away.

Really. Go read a book, or play with your dog, or take a timed nap. Just don’t touch those peels.

When your timer goes off, check to make sure the peels look rather translucent and a bit like orange jelly. Are they? Good. Take them off, set them next to a small Tupperware of sugar and roll, one by one, before setting on a piece of Pam’d tin foil. Let them sit there for 4 hours or so, then put them back into the sugar, cover and store somewhere dark.

My beauties, resting on tin foil 🙂

Done! How easy was that? Seriously, you can buy boxes of these in the store for five bucks, or make them yourself for the cost of the orange, sugar and an hour’s time. Enjoy!

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Filed under Seasonal, Winter