Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Spin On Persian Noodle Soup

A while back, my friend Tracey posted a picture on FB of a soup that her mother-in-law made. Ever the curious one, I asked what it was. Ash Reshteh. Off to the interwebs I went, looking for recipes for this intriguing soup. Based on what I found, every Persian family must have its own version of the soup, because there were as many differences as there were similarities. I will admit, up front, that this recipe is a very loose adaptation of the classic Persian soup, Ash Reshteh. I don't have kashk, I don't have Persian noodles, and I don't like chickpeas. There. I admitted it. I don't like chickpeas. I like hummus, but not big, chunky, grainy peas. The first time I made this, I used chickpeas and red kidney beans. This time I used red kidney beans and lentils. Yup, I left out the chickpeas. This can be made on the stove top, just increase your cooking time so that the beans are tender. My experiment this time was to see if it could be made in the pressure cooker, which it could. I am sure that the noodles don't get as soft when you cook on the stove top, but they get softer when you store the leftovers in the fridge anyway.  So, here goes!

Persian Noodle Soup

2 T vegetable oil
2 onions, thinly sliced vertically (retain a few for garnish, or cook up more separately)
2 t turmeric
1 small pinch of saffron
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water (can  use a combination of water and stock)
1/4 to 1/2 lb red kidney beans (I soaked overnight, and used 1/2 and it was really, really thick)
1 cup lentils
1 small bag of Fideo noodles (Totally non-traditional, I know. A common substitution for authentic Persian noodles I found was linguine, broken in three. Feel free to use this instead.)
1 bag or clam shell box of baby spinach
chopped leaves from 1 bunch of cilantro
chopped leaves from 1 large or 2 small bunches of flat parsley
1 bunch of scallions, green part only, cut in to 2 inch pieces
1 cup of sour cream (a substitute for kashk, a fermented yogurt ingredient)
salt/pepper to taste

Set your pressure cooker on brown. Add the oil and let it heat up for a minute. Add the thinly sliced onions and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn golden brown. Next, add the garlic, and cook for another minute or two. Add the turmeric and the pinch of saffron. Add the kidney beans, the water/stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, lock lid in place, and set for 15 minutes, high pressure. (This step would take about 30-45 minutes on the stove, until beans were tender).  When timer goes off, quick release the pressure. Add in the lentils and noodles. Re-cover and set for 7 minutes high pressure. (This step would take about 15 minutes on the stove) When done, quick release pressure. Before adding the vegetables, give it a good stir to make sure nothing is sticking. Now is a good time to check your seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the baby spinach and the herbs. Close the lid, set for low pressure for 5 minutes.

To serve, I spooned in to bowls and added dollops of sour cream on top, and garnished with crispy onion.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pressure Cooker Beef with Red Wine

I love finding a bargain when I go grocery shopping. Usually, it means I will have to either use something right away or freeze it. The other day I found a reduced for quick sale package of cubed grass fed beef at Kroger. Hmm. Sell by date of this week means it's time to get cooking! The Aussie is not a "stew" type of person, so I had free reign as to what to make for my lunch. This really isn't a daube of beef because I didn't include the usual vegetables, so I will call this beef with red wine. (I completely forgot about the carrots and onion...) It's loosely based on the recipe by Lorna Sass from her book Cooking Under Pressure.

Beef with Red Wine

2 lbs beef chuck, cut in to bite sized pieces
1 cup red wine
2 cloves of garlic, minced, or a good tablespoon sized squeeze of garlic paste
2 T tomato paste
2 anchovy filets, mashed (optional)
1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves


1/4 cup pitted black olives, sliced. (I found kalamata olives in little single serving cups. Pricier than jarred, but no waste, no taking up fridge space.)
Cornstarch for thickening the sauce
Noodles to serve (I cooked these in the cooker, too!)

Marinate these ingredients for at least a couple of hours. Mine sat in the fridge for a day, so leaving it for longer won't hurt it. When you're ready to cook, add the marinated beef to the cooker. Add the olives. Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes.  When done, do natural release for 5 minutes, then quick release.  Transfer meat to a dish and cover to keep warm. Put sauce in a cup and keep aside. You'll thicken it separately.

Next, take your dried noodles and put them in to the pressure cooker. Add enough water to just cover the noodles. Put the lid back on and lock in place. Set the cooker to low pressure for 7 minutes. When cooker beeps that it's done, do a quick release. Drain your noodles.

Lastly, add the sauce back to the pot and set on brown. While the sauce is heating, mix the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of water to make a slurry. When the sauce is bubbling, stir in the slurry. Cook for a couple of minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add the meat back in and stir to coat with the sauce.

Serve the beef with red wine over your noodles and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Pot Peanut Butter Noodles

I am fascinated by the concept of one pot cooking, whether it's stove top, slow cooker, pressure cooker. Doesn't matter. Being able to throw a bunch of ingredients together and have it come out tasting great is a magical thing. A friend posted a link on FB the other evening for Thai style one-pot noodles. One pot = win, Thai style noodles = huge win. As it turns out, there are a lot of variations out there, so what I'm posting is nothing new and earth shaking. It is, however, very tasty. Because I wanted to experiment, I did use the pressure cooker. If I'd made this on the stove, I would have added the vegetables later so they still had crunch to them.

(I can't wait for the food photography session at Fitbloggin)
One Pot Asian Peanut Butter Noodles 

1 package of spaghetti or linguine (break in half if needed to fit them in the pot)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic or one big squeeze of garlic paste (I love garlic in a tube)
1 large knob of ginger, peeled (don't cut up because you'll fish it out before serving)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut in to 2 inch sections and cut in to thick strips
1 large red bell pepper cut in to strips
2 scallions cut in to 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of dry roasted peanuts
2 T peanut butter (I used chunky because that's what we have on hand)
1 T brown sugar
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce (can be omitted for vegan version)
1 T tamarind paste
1 t red pepper flakes


chopped peanuts
squeeze of lime juice (I used a few dashes of my trusty TrueLime shaker)

Conventional: In a large pot over medium high heat, lay your dry noodles on the bottom, covering them with the vegetables and other ingredients. Add the vegetable broth, making sure that the noodles are covered. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 8-9 minutes, until the noodles are tender. Stir frequently to made sure the noodles are not sticking together. The sauce will thicken upon standing.  Spoon in to bowls, garnish with chopped peanuts, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Pressure cooker: Layer all of the ingredients as above, making sure the noodles are covered by the vegetable broth. Lock lid in place and set for low pressure for 7 minutes.  When timer goes off, quick release the pressure.

Note: The vegetables are not crispy when cooked in the pressure cooker. The whole dish is very soft, so that wasn't a bad thing. If you want crisp vegetables, make your strips very thin and put them in to briefly cook after the pressure is released. They will warm up while the sauce thickes.

Update: I added a splash of rice vinegar to the cold noodles this morning. Awesome! This would be a great addition for the hot noodles, too, but add before serving, not before cooking.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rich and Hearty French Onion Soup

I recently visited my "happy place" aka Costco and a HUGE bag of onions followed me home. It must have weighed as much as the bags of dog food. Not only was the bag huge, but the onions themselves were gigantic. What better thing to make with monster onions than a monster batch of French onion soup. While the pressure cooker (yeah, there I go again, going on about how wonderful my pressure cooker is) makes it quicker than cooking on the stove, it's just as flavorful as slow cooked French onion soup that you have to keep an eye on. 

French Onion Soup

1 T Butter
1 T olive Oil
2-3 large Yellow Onions, thinly sliced (4-5 cups) a mandolin makes this easier
1 big pinch sugar (helps the onions caramelize)
1/2 t salt
¼  cup of dry red wine
6 cups Stock (beef and/or chicken)
Salt/pepper to taste

2 T butter
1 T Flour

To Garnish: 
French bread slices – about 1” thick, toasted for each bowl
thinly sliced swiss, gruyere or provolone cheese for each bowl. I used Sargento thin sliced provolone.


In the pre-heated pressure cooker, on medium-low heat, add the butter and oil. Soften the onions, stirring occasionally in the pressure until the onions become translucent (about 15 minutes). Then, turn down the heat to low, without a lid, add the salt and sugar and stir frequently until the onions have turned a uniform brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).

When the onions are a deep brown and are soft, deglaze the pan with the red wine and let it cook down until the wine evaporates. This burns off the alcohol so that you taste the wine, not the alcohol. 

Next, add the stock. Isn't this a thing of beauty. If you aren't a chicken, that is. I have gotten in to the habit of making stock every week and store it in jars in my refrigerator.

Close and lock the pressure cooker, set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, in a small sauce pan, melt 2T of butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour so that there are no lumps. Stir frequently until it turns a light golden brown color. Be careful it does not burn. Take the roux off of the heat and set aside until the pressure cooker has finished.

When time is up, turn off the heat and use the quick release method to release the pressure in the cooker. When the pressure valve has dropped, open the cooker and remove the lid. To thicken the soup, take a cup of the stock from the pot and stir it into the roux until it is smooth, then pour this mixture back in to the cooker and stir. Ladle the soup in to individual serving bowls, top with your thick toasted bread slices. Cover each bowl with a slice of cheese and broil in the oven for 2 minutes or until the cheese has golden brown.

Words can't describe how delicious this was.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Eat Your Greens Hearty Winter Soup

Greens, greens, they're good for your heart... well, that's not how the rhythm goes, but greens are very good for you. In fact, 1 cup of chopped kale contains nearly 3 grams of protein, and over 100% of your vitamins A and C. Not too shabby, right?  It isn't a budget buster, either. In fact, none of the ingredients in my kale and lentil soup are budget busters, especially if you make your own chicken stock. The bay leaf might be priciest thing, and it's pretty much optional. I have a bunch because my mom has a huge bay plant. Which reminds me, I need to beg for more bay leaves...

Kale and Lentil Soup

1 T olive oil
3 leeks, well rinsed, cut lengthwise and then thinly sliced
4 ribs of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1 lb of lentils
8 ounces of chopped kale, rinsed (that's 1/2 of one of these huge bags)
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 cups water
1/4 cup red wine (I had it on hand, it's optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Before serving:

2 T red wine vinegar - add at the end, before serving - it brightens up the flavors
dash of hot sauce

Set your pressure cooker to saute. Drizzle in your olive oil and let the pot heat up for a minute or two while you are chopping the vegetables. Add in your leeks and celery first, stirring them around to coat with the olive oil. Cook for a minute or two and then add the sliced carrots and cook for a minute. Next, add your lentils. Stir to combine with the vegetables, then add in the kale and diced tomatoes. The half bag seriously filled up my cooker

Lastly, add in the liquids: chicken stock, water, red wine, Worcestershire sauce. If you're using a bay leaf, throw it in now. Set your cooker to high pressure for 20 minutes.  When it's done, do a quick release of the pressure. Before serving, I like to add a bit of red wine vinegar and hot sauce.  Black pepper and red pepper flakes rock, too. Season as you wish. By switching out the stock and seasoning, you can make this vegetarian or vegan. It is a seriously flexible and flavorful soup. 

For stovetop cooking, simply follow the directions using a dutch oven and let the soup simmer for about 35 minutes, or until the kale is tender.