Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just the Norm

A few weeks ago I took a Knife Skills Class. It was so much fun and I truly learned a lot of cool techniques. The menu consisted of Minestrone Soup to give us lots of practice cutting up different veggies and a chicken dish, which gave us the opportunity to bone a chicken.

With the dust settling and my life finally returning to what normalcy is..for my life..I indulged in having a long evening in the kitchen listening to my fav mix on pandora and making this super yummy minestrone soup. I was careful to use all the knife techniques I learned the weeks before as a refresher and good practice.

Now, this soup starts of the best way any soup could...render the fat off a half pound of bacon. Oh Yeah, come to mama!

While the fat was rendering a way, I was totally in my own little world becoming one with my knife. Chopping my onion, dicing my carrots, celery and zucchini...

...and look here, something I did want to show you. Something I never thought to do that makes an amazing difference. See that bubbly membrane stuff on the bell pepper?

When you carefully slice this off, you end up with only the goodness of the bell pepper. The sweet and juicy, wake your taste buds goodness. This was something I had never seen on the food shows I obsessively watch, or heard of from any other teachings, yet it makes a huge difference. I’m here to spread the word!

I added my veggies starting with onion and sauteed until soft, then the carrots and celery, lastly the zucchini, pepper and garlic. Oh, see the garlic? That’s another nifty trick I learned. Using kosher salt, you finely mince the garlic into a paste. I had tried this method before, but I truly just tried to squish the garlic. In class they showed a more graceful way to take little bits of garlic at a time and do this kind of sweeping motion with your knife to make it into the paste. This technique does test my patience, it’s kind of awkward and I end up getting a lot of garlic on the floor, but I keep telling myself “patience grasshopper, it will come”. So, we’ll see how long I continue to mince garlic this way.

While the veggies simmer into a sweet little pieces of heaven, I blanched the tomatoes to loosen the skins and got to work on those. Something else I really never did, skin tomatoes. Does it make a world of difference in flavor or texture? Not to me. Does it make me feel like an Iron Chef? Ok, maybe a little...

Ok, we are at the mid-point here and this middle has the best middle any soup could have. Wine!! 1 cup for the soup, the rest for me. In goes the wine and tomatoes

I reduced the wine to about half, then add in the beef stock and cup of water. I really wanted to go all out and make my own beef stock. I wanted to experience that rich and meaty flavor I only experienced in a real beef stock but store bought was quicker.

This simmers for about an hour and a half, then you add the orzo and Cannilli Beans and simmer for 30 minutes more. Meanwhile I prepared my pesto..errr...my Basil Infused Olive Oil (I forgot pine nuts) to drizzle on top of the soup when I was ready to serve.

And the finished product. A little basil oil, some salty Parmesan cheese and a slice of freshly baked (at the store) wheat french bread. What a perfect meal to start my what’s normal for me week!