Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yin and Yang of Southwest Soups

It can be subtle, those dualities between light and dark, hot and cold, sweet and savory. In our food, the yin yang of flavors compliment and enhance as our spoon reaches in, breathing in the wafting aromas.  Then, the bite passes over our tongues, lingering.   Does it rest on the back part, warm and savory, or dance on the front sweetly enticing more?

They say we cannot appreciate the light without the dark, yet our lives are filled with shades of grey. Do we take the time to recognize the ebb and flow of the energies, the intentions and the whole? Or does the richness possible just pass us by.  In a blink, a gulp or fast paced daze does recognizing the balance and the possibilities become lost on us? Or, we do we focus on the one side, narrowly without appreciation of the other.

Sometimes I just need to take a minute.
Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime.
Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. - Wikipedia
This pairing of soups is distinguished by the peppers that form the basis of the heat. New Mexico Chiles -- fresh, green and cool mingle with the sweet creamy corn. Hot, red firey cayennes and manly bacon flavor the black, savory beans. My watchword was viscocity. How to balance the yin yang in texture and thickness so one does not bleed into the other but bring the experience together as a whole.

If we can taste the nuances of just soup, can we begin to appreciate more of our lives? Hmmm.

Yin and Yang of Southwest Soups
Black Bean and Bacon Soup paired with Creamy Mexicorn Chowder

Yin and Yang of Southwest Soups
Black Bean and Bacon Soup paired with Creamy Mexicorn Chowder

Serves 4 for a meal, serves 8 for appetizer
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes

Black Bean and Bacon Soup
½ pound low salt bacon cut into ½” x 1” pieces
½ large yellow onion diced (about 1 ½ cups)
2 red chile peppers, chopped (cayenne, ripe Serrano or inferno, pick your favorite warm, hot pepper to taste )
1 15 oz can Black Beans, rinsed
1 14.5 oz can Mexican Style Stewed Tomatoes
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon roasted cumin
½ teaspoon liquid smoke

Over medium high heat, fry up bacon until crispy in bottom of heavy bottomed 4 qt pot. Remove and drain on paper towel. Drain bacon fat from pot, reserving about 1 tablespoon. Lower heat to medium and saute onion and red chiles for about 5 minutes. Add stewed tomatoes with juices, chili powders and bring to a low bubble. Simmer 10 minutes, take off heat. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor with ½ of the rinsed black beans. Return mixture to pot adding in rest of beans, roasted ground cumin and liquid smoke. Simmer for another 15 minutes over low heat or until you are ready to serve, soup should be fairly thick.  Add in crispy bacon just before serving.

Creamy Mexicorn Chowder
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ large yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
1 green New Mexico Chili Pepper, chopped
2 ears Sweet Corn, kernels removed
1 11 oz can Mexicorn Niblets, drained
1 14.5 oz Creamed Corn
1 teaspoons Chicken Stock Base
2 cups Water
2 tablespoons Flour
½ cup Milk
1 tablespoon Honey

Over medium heat, saute onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft, add green chili pepper and fresh corn kernels. Lower heat and continue to cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally so vegetables don’t burn. Combine 2 cups hot water and chicken stock base in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve thoroughly. Add this broth, canned mexicorn, and creamed corn, continue cooking for 10 minutes. Puree half the soup mixture in blender or food processor and return to pot. Make a slurry of flour and milk, whisking to remove all lumps. Add to soup, stir to blend and bring up heat to medium and a low boil, then lower heat. This will thicken the soup. Add honey 5 minutes before serving.

Cook’s Tips
I did the vegetable prep for both soups at the same time as well as the sauteing in separate pots. This allowed me to shorten the cooking time and serve together. This combination of soups is all about matching the viscosity and ability to serve both in one bowl.

Yin Yang Symbol  by Klern

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Walnut Oil Giveaway has a winner!

Popcorn drizzled with Walnut Oil

Delicious light snack with incredible flavor (plus all the healthy benefits of antioxidents and other good stuff!) Popcorn drizzled with organic, lovely Californian Walnut Oil.

No fancy random number generator needed. Congratulations to Bentobird! How wonderful to reward my blogging friend from Northern Virginia for stopping by.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October Giveaway -- Limerock Orchards Walnut Oil

Do you love finding interesting ingredients or new to you produce? Me too!  Like a brain teaser, I pick up something new and find out what I can cook with it. Is it a one trick pony or versatile, does it spark some creativity? I also like to support these special, small producers whether at farmer's markets or online.

You might have seen this walnut oil as an ingredient in past posts.  Small orchard, family dry farmed and soon to be certified organic. I discovered this richly roasted walnut oil last year and after using it in various recipes I am pretty sure you will love it too.  We caught up with Olivia from Limerock Orchards at Savor the Central Coast last weekend. There, we chatted about the differences between their California dry farmed walnuts and the imports from France. Yes, like other fine foods, methods and terrior create the conditions of flavor. Walnut oil also has numerous health benefits, rich in antioxidents, copper, magesium and omega 3, 6 and 9 oils. Olivia said that they are also involved in a huge effort to certify their orchard as organic. This is one dedicated family!  I couldn't leave their booth without a couple of packages of their pocket-sized bottles paired with gourmet popping corn.  One is just for you!

Limerock Orchards Walnut Oil
Limerock Orchards Walnut Oil and Popping Corn

My Recipes using Limerock Walnut Oil

brussels sprouts with walnuts

Seseme Ahi Tuna with Harvest Walnut Kale

Butternut Squash and Spinach Ricotta Lasagna

I've also used it to make a great dressing or added to pound cake for a flavor boost. The Limerock Orchard website as recipes too!

Here's the scoop: Giveaway will be open until October 17, 2011 and I will pick the winner from a random drawing on October 18, 2011 and announce the winner. Up to 2 chances to win!  Open to US entries only, sorry no international entries this time.  You must provide an email address either in your Google profile or in your comments. No email, no prize.

To enter you must do the following:
1. Post a comment to this post below and say whether you've used walnut oil before. (Entry 1)
2. Follow my blog and post another comment on this post. If you're already a follower - just say so. (Entry 2)
3. Open October 10, 2011 to October 17, 2011

Good Luck!

Note: This is not a paid endorsement or review. Info about Limerock Orchards found on their website:

From Medical Daily, Seven great benefits of Walnut Oil 

Adventure Awaits -- Plate to Page Tuscany

In just days I will be winging away to Tuscany. Breathtaking, intoxicating, old world and vibrant. Not just carefree vacation, but serious work on creativity, writing and photography at the Plate to Page workshop at a villa called Il Salicone just outside of Pistoia. Open to only ten participants (I was number 52 on the waitlist...) we will be coached and mentored by four highly acclaimed writers, photographers and yes, bloggers.  Jamie Schler (Life's a Feast),  Ilva Beretta (Lucullian Delights), Jeanne Horak-Druiff (CookSister!), and Meeta Khurana-Wolff (What's for Lunch Honey?) have worked this last year to create an intensive program that takes aim at fine tuning and helping food bloggers improve their work. 

I'm all in.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The ones that got away this month

Grape Arbor
  The transition from September to October is a blur and somehow I have misplaced about ten days or so. Home-life and work-life whirling full tilt in their own universes that collide when my car pulls into the driveway. Here it is, six am and I am playing with photos and thinking how much of a slacker I've been. Then, in the quiet moments I reflect on what I've been doing and where I've been recently,  just to realize that I am living life fully.

On September 24 we got to visit Heart O' The Mountain Winery and tour the former Alfred Hitchcock estate while sipping luscious 2008 Pinot Noirs. A beautiful crisp autumn day, blue sky with massive cumulus clouds sailing across the sun and vineyard views from the mountain to the ocean below us. Soft guitar resonated through the mighty oaks and redwoods, a life is good moment. Breath in, close your eyes and picture it again.

Flickr Set for Heart 'O The Mountain click here
During the week that followed I must of had some kind of crazy seafood cravings. Pulled out a Dad memory and made Clam Fritters that captured the essence of our early morning clam digs. I will have to tell you the story of this one soon.  Have you ever been haunted by a recipe? No, well I have. This one seen in La Cucina Italiana, July/August 2011 has been visiting my brain all summer.  Finally Spiedini di seppie e finnocchi (Squid and Fennel Skewers) made its way to the dinner table. So worth the hour of squid cleaning.

Grilled Squid and Fennel Skewers  -- Clam Fritters
Before I knew it, my darling and I were off to San Luis Obisbo County for Sunset Magazines's Savor the Central Coast. This is a humdinger of an event with 140 wineries, Cat Cora, test driving Infinities on a crazy slalom race track, divine food nibbles and visiting with friends from Limerock Orchards and Jack Creek Farms. A late lunch at Artisan in Paso Robles was the perfect kick-off for this food and wine adventure. Afterwards we visited Dark Star Cellars, West Hwy 46 and grabbed a couple of bottles of 2008 Ricondati, 2007 Chain Reaction, and 2007 Soft Shoulder. We also took a scenic ride on Vineyard Drive with a late stop at Opolo Vineyards (by the way, the 2009 Viognier was delightful!) The light was so warm on the vines. On the way home we concentrated on the Hwy 46 East wineries with stops at Steinbeck Cellers and Pasoport where we picked up a lovely 2007 Violeta Ruby Port (thinking poached pears soon, real soon.) There is so much more to tell about this road trip.

Salmon Tartar @ Artisan, Paso Robles -- Grapes at Opolo Vineyard
In the meantime, I have become all clumsy and discombobulated in the photo department. I have an exciting opportunity coming up and my darling dear and I decided to upgrade our camera.  I have been using my sweet little Canon Powershot 770 and have been pretty happy with the results. Retraining my brain for a Canon 7D and assorted lenses is one more production complication in the panic to get a photo of the food before it all goes cold and inedible for dinner. My blog, my life is a real time event. Rarely is there time to prep, cook, then play with the food styling with layout and lighting for the ideal shot. It is usually a quick pic right before "Come and get it!" I am going to try and work on that aspect and time management more as I stretch my creative muscles.

May you take time pause,  to breath and revel in the memory of the many small moments 
that flash by so quickly. 

Links you might enjoy
Heart 'O The Mountain:
Artisan Restaurant:
Dark Star Cellars:
Opolo Vineyards:
PasoPort Wine:
Limerock Orchards:
Jack Creek Farms:
Savor the Central Coast: