Wonderful Vegetarian Corn Soup with Avocado and Lime

corn-avocado-soup

Why are there so many competitive cooking shows on TV?

There is Master Chef, Recipes to Riches, Cutthroat Kitchen, My Kitchen Rules, just to name a few. What happened to educational programs like Cooking with Julia or Jacques Pepin where the chef prepared dishes and explained classic techniques as they went along.

What are we learning from watching people compete against one another to win cash or titles? Are the people who are disqualified lesser chefs, or did they just not do well under pressure? Are we learning how to cook or how to compete?

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a program filled with fresh ideas, demonstrations and tips on how to make the dish work. Show me a chef with a passion for food and some amazing ingredients. Then show me how they can turn those ingredients into mouth-watering dishes and I will give you my attention and I will come back for more.

I find my cooking inspiration from great chefs, home cooks and wonderful cookbooks. I am often found sitting curled up in an arm-chair, sipping a cup of tea, and pouring over a good cookbook or a beautiful magazine. I imagine the taste of each recipe and how I might tweak it to make it my own. I look for ones that include seasonal ingredients so the flavours will be fresh and delightful. I mark my favourite pages with sticky notes so when it is time to go shopping I can refer back to those recipes, easily, to make my list.

When I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller I was immediately inspired. I have changed the ingredients to suit my taste and to make it work as an easy vegetarian soup that is perfect for this time of year. I love the combination of the tomato and corn based soup with the freshness of the lime and avocado.

Corn Soup With Avocado and Lime

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

6 vine-ripened tomatoes, halved
14 oz. can Plum tomatoes, drained
1 Spanish onion, cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
3 cups frozen corn
2 avocados, coarsely chopped
1 fresh lime, juiced
1 fresh lime, cut in wedges for serving
1/2 cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
Hot sauce, optional-add to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place tomato halves, skin side up on a cookie sheet, add onion and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Place tray in the oven and cook 5 minutes or until the skin starts to blister. Remove the pan from the oven and remove skin from tomatoes.

Heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until tender. Add stock, roasted vegetables, canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Season and simmer 10 minutes.

Pulse in the blender in batches until it is a coarse puree and return it to the pot. Add corn and bring back to a simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat, until the corn is tender.

Coarsely crush the peeled avocado in a bowl, add lime juice and coriander.

Serve soup in individual bowls topping each with the avocado mixture and serving with extra lime on the side.

Hot sauce can be added to taste. I left it out since I prefer a milder soup.

Recipe inspired by Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook-2013 Collectors Edition

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Slow Cooker Chili – a Pefect Winter Warm up

Slow-cooker-Chili

I started my cooking class this week. All of the other courses that I have taken over the years have been in a relaxed environment where you either watched demonstrations by chefs and tasted the food afterward or you cooked in groups. This class is in a professional culinary institute where we have work stations and are expected to dress, learn and behave as serious culinary students.

My first class was a demo of 3 types of stock, fish, chicken and beef. We also had an orientation to the program where we covered some knife skills and how to choose a good chef’s knife and sharpening steel. Most of the students have cooked for many years but are there to get a foundation for a higher level culinary program and perhaps to learn a few things that they did not already know.

Did you know that when making stock you are supposed to bring it to a boil and skim the impurities that float to the top as it boils? Then you should reduce the heat and simmer it without stirring it. Apparently stirring the stock as it simmers makes it cloudy and stock should be clear. I plan to share these little notes of wisdom like this as I go through the program.

When I am not in school I am finding the winter days are long. We spend evenings watching sports or skating or cooking and life just seems to roll along. The NFL football season will end soon and the NHL hockey season is just starting. If you are planning a Super Bowl Party you are probably thinking about what you can serve easily. I made this slow cooker chili for the 100th CFL Grey Cup this year and set the slow cooker on the buffet table to keep it warm. It was a hit with everyone because I kept the hot sauce out of the cooking process and let my guests add what they wanted to their own bowls.

Slow Cooker Chili

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

2 lbs. ground beef
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 can mixed beans (16 oz.), rinsed and drained (you can use kidney beans instead)
1 can black beans (8 oz.), rinsed and drained
¾ cup corn canned or frozen
1 jar ( 14 oz.) tomato sauce
2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil, onions and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add ground beef. Cook and stir until beef is browned, about 7-10 minutes. Drain and discard any excess fat.

Combine ground beef mixture, mixed beans, corn, black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, hot sauce, salt, and black pepper in a slow cooker.

Cover and cook on Low for 10 hours, or High for 5 hours.

Add about 1 tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese to each serving.

Farmer’s Market Pappardelle

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be”-Douglas Adams

It is amazing how we can go through life trying to find the path that we are supposed to take. We try heading down one road and then decide to turn down another to see where it leads. For some of us it leads to a place where we feel at home. For others it leads to a place where we feel uncomfortable and then we know we need to take a different path at the next fork in the road.

I have had my share of discomfort in my life, but the path that I am on now is leading me to a place of growth. Each day I am challenging myself a little more with my fitness routine and in my personal life. I have always been a lifelong learner and have loved to explore the world. Recently I have added physical training to my education. Each day I feel healthier, stronger and more in control of my life than I have in years. I also find that my mind is clear and my creative juices are overflowing.

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination that you will ever need.”-Jerry Gilles

I know that I have so much yet to learn and so many challenges yet to face. Instead of being intimidated by this I am finding myself looking forward to each day and each new experience. A friend of mine once told me that I was carrying a bag of rocks on my back that each represented a hurt from that past that I carried with me. The bag was really heavy. He said that I brought my past into my present and let the rocks cloud my judgement. One by one, I am tossing the rocks as I travel down the road.

I can almost relate this journey to the one that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in Eat, Pray, Love. Well almost………. I always wondered why she left Italy and stopped eating. I would have stayed in Italy forever sipping espresso in the morning and red wine in the evening and feasting on plates of homemade pasta. I guess I never understood that she needed to experience the rest of the journey in order to find out who she was.

“When your heart speaks, take good notes”-Judith Campbell

There is a lot that I don’t know about life, but I do know that I love to eat. Food is the essence of our lives, it is the centre of our family gatherings and the tradition that we pass on to our children. This Farmer’s Market Pappardelle provides a nice seasonal take on the traditional pasta. The fresh from the market vegetables make this a light, healthy vegetarian meal fit for any dinner party.

Farmers’ Market Pappardelle

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 ½ lb. multi-coloured, multi-sized cherry tomatoes, halved
3 ears corn on the cob shucked
1 ½ lb. medium zucchini
½ cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)
9 oz. dried egg pappardelle
¼ lb. sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
½ cup mint leaves
1/3 cup snipped chives
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for shavings

Directions 

Bring 6-8  quarts of salted water to a boil.

While water is boiling mince and mash garlic to a paste with a ½ teaspoon of salt, then stir together with the vinegar, oil and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl, Add tomatoes and stir gently. Set aside.

Cook corn in boiling water for 4- 6 minutes, remove with tongs and set aside.

Into a medium bowl, peel lengthwise ribbons from the zucchini with a vegetable peeler, stopping when you come to the seedy core. Turn zucchini a quarter turn and repeat. Repeat until all four sides have been ribboned.

Slice corn off of the cob and add to the tomatoes.

Cook pappardelle until al dente. Just before pasta is done add zucchini and snow peas to the pot and boil for 30 seconds. Drain pasta and vegetable together in a large colander. Add the tomato mixture and onions and toss gently.

Add herbs, toss gently and serve.

Recipe from Gourmet Easy Dinners Magazine