Stupid Easy Borscht

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Sun, Jan 8, 2017 at 6:01 PM

Hey Dude,

So I was sick on Christmas Day, home alone and sick. It sucked. So I decided to postpone Christmas until the Julian calendar Christmas observed by Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs and so forth, and celebrate with my niece and brother in New Orleans.

So to mark the occasion, I also offered to prepare some Russian food for them. I made pierogi, sauerkraut, borscht, and blini. It was great.

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Today, I want to focus on the borscht, a traditional beet-based soup. Basically, my understanding is borscht can be prepared many ways, with the non-negotiable ingredient being beets (and arguably dill). As far as I know, just about anything else is up for grabs.

This recipe is essentially paleo, though some dogmatists would gripe about the dairy and legumes. But those people are turds. To make this vegetarian just omit the chicken stock and do more veggie stock.

Oh, and because I didn’t want to spend five hours in the kitchen, I rely heavily on frozen and canned foods. It’s so easy and really damn good.

Here goes:

Open a beer. Start drinking it.

4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chicken broth

Bring to a boil, then simmer.

Olive oil
1 package frozen potatoes, carrots, onion (“for stew”) in the frozen section (16 oz? 32 oz?)

Sautée for a while, then add to the broth.

2 cups frozen green peas
2 cups frozen cut green beans

Throw these in the broth. Drink more beer. Take a shot of vodka.

4 cans sliced beets (15oz.)

Drain, but save the purple beet water. Chop up the beets and throw them in. Add the beet water to the pot. You might want to bring up the heat a bit for a few minutes or whatever. I don’t know. I think I did.

Add 4 tsp. vinegar or so, you could also use lemon juice or something like that, I used apple cider vinegar
Maybe throw in some butter, I did, a few tablespoons or so, sounded like a good idea
2 handfuls of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook a little longer. Or whatever.

Sour cream to serve. Add more dill if you want. Take another shot of vodka. Serve. Stir in the sour cream. Sour cream is awesome.

This was killer. It makes a lot, so go halvesies if you want. But I think it’s fun to have soup to eat all week.

Merry Second Christmas,
Jamey

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Stupid Easy Greek Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Sat, Sep 19, 2015 at 4:08 PM

DOOOOD,
Last week I was at a nice Greek restaurant for a buddy’s birthday, and my friend Stephanie introduced me to the most delicious, lemony chicken soup, avgolemono. Avgolemono refers to the sauce that can be used as a part of any number of dishes.

Anyway, I’ve been dying to have this soup again that I had at the restaurant, so I googled “avgolemono chicken egg soup” and found some common ingredients and some variations. So I wrote my own recipe, and tried to make it stupid easy. I got sick this week and saw the perfect opportunity to make it. Way better than chicken noodle soup. So here goes.

Stupid Easy Greek Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups free range organic chicken broth (or homemade broth)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup diced onions, sautéed in olive oil
  • 4 cups cooked white rice
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • ½ to 1 cup of lemon juice
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly chopped dill

Cook the rice. Run to the store for a rotisserie chicken and fresh dill and chicken broth. Don’t take too long, because the rice, idiot.

Simmer most of the stock and season with pepper to taste (and salt if necessary). Hold back a cup or two (see below).

Sautee the diced onions. I like to get the frozen and already diced onions from the grocery store. Saves time and a mess.

Combine the remaining room temp or cool broth in a blender with the eggs, lemon juice, onions and 2 cups of the rice and blend until smooth. Why not hot broth? We don’t want to curdle the eggs. It’s not egg-drop soup or scrambled egg soup either.

Slowly stir the contents of the blender into the broth still simmering on the stove. Add the rest of the rice.

Fork the chicken bare, down to the bone. Add that to the simmering stock. Maybe bring up the heat a little. I don’t know. I did.

Add more lemon juice if you need to. I thought a cup was perfect for the whole pot, but I like it pretty lemony. Finish off with salt and pepper to taste.

After awhile, you’re basically done. It’s instinct.

Chop up the dill, stir it in. Serve that delicious dish.

Jamey

P.S. This is a lot of soup. So cut it in half, or freeze some, or have a lot of people over who eat chicken. 🙂

Jamey’s Food Philosophy Commitments in Order of Importance

1. Don’t be a dingus.

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2. Whole, unprocessed foods, preferably organic and ethical produce and meats.

3. High plant intake, especially non-starchy vegetables. Eat plenty of raw or fermented veggies, and cook other veggies gently. Moderate fruit. Eat some nuts.

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4. Eat nose-to-tail. Try to eat organ meats and/or shellfish, along with fatty fish (and/or supplement fish oil) a couple times a week.

5. Paleo no-nos: Avoid grains, legumes, added sugar, shitty oils, and dairy. Very modest intake of prepared legumes and full fat dairy may be an okay indulgence on occasion.

6. Watch the carbohydrate intake whenever possible. Fiber is your friend, eat safe starches, and minimize even natural sugars.

Super Easy Creamy Vegan Tomato Soup

(From Jamey Bennett to Daniel Larkin, via iMessage)

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So easy I’m going to text it to you.

    • One 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil,
    • one 14 oz. can of coconut cream (coconut milk would work too, but I like Trader Joe’s coconut cream, it’s thicker)
    • Oops
    • 14 oz. water (use the empty cream can),
    • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar,
    • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning,
    • 1 tsp red pepper flakes,
    • about 3 or 4 cloves minced garlic.
    • And black pepper to taste.

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Combine all in a pot stirring at high heat until nearly boiling, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes. I served it with potato pancakes. Fantastic.

Should serve about 4 bowls.

Paleo Phở with Bonus Slow Cooker Bone Broth

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from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,
I had a great idea tonight to try out a low carb and paleo pho. Last week I made some pastured organic chicken bone broth, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it, then it popped into my head to make some pho! I will definitely make this again. Also, while it kinda sounds like a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, it’s quite simple.

Let me start with the broth. Of course, one could always buy a store-broth, but I like to have more control over that, and the health benefits are so much higher from a fresh homemade broth than the high sodium stuff you get in a can. I generally seek out grass-fed beef bones for broth, the omega-3:6 profile is so much better than with chicken, but this was a healthy chicken, so I feel good about it. Essentially, I just put a chicken in the slow cooker all day with a little bit of salt, strained out the meat at the end of the day and had that with dinner. I left the bones in, put in a few cups of water, and added the neck, carrots, celery, parsley, a bay leaf, and a handful of other brothy things, and let it go all night. Strained out the solid matter, and I had a delicious broth.

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I’ve never done pho at home before, so I did a lot of googling of what other people do for their pho and I devised my own from common themes. In no particular order, the ingredients I put together are:

  • 3 cups homemade bone broth
  • Shiritaki noodles (Miracle Noodle fettucini style, or if carbs are your thing, white rice noodles)
  • About 12 ounces thinly sliced sirloin or skirt steak
  • 1 portabella mushroom
  • Five Spice Seasoning Powder (several varieties should be available in the International Asian-ish section of most conventional grocers, just make sure it has at least anise and cinnamon)
  • 4 tablespoons Fish sauce (watch out for added sugars and either find one with little or no sugar, or just limit yourself to 2 tablespoons…four tastes so great, it’s a small sacrifice 😛 )
  • Two small to medium white or yellow onions
  • A heaping cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 radish
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • Two jalapenos (I got green and red for color)
  • Salt and pepper (I used regular sea salt and charcoalized black sea salt from Hawaii, but use whatever)
  • 4 Scallions
  • Minced garlic to taste
  • Cilantro (basil works, too, for cilantro haters)
  • 1/2 lime, cut into four pieces
  • Optional: Sriracha

Prep the meat by poking with a fork or pounding it with a meat mallet to tenderize it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of each piece, and set aside.

Slice the mushroom, onions, radish, jalapenos, scallions, and cilantro and set aside. Also mince the ginger and cut the lime.

Heat up a skillet, super hot, use whatever fat you want, lard, coconut oil, whatever…we’re going for smoke point here. Breaking some rules. It’s okay though. Just this once. Sear the thin beef, 10-15 seconds on each side, 30 seconds if you aren’t blazing hot. Take the pieces aside, and slice thin-ish strips against the grain.

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Oil that skillet back up with some lard or whatever, reduce the temperature to low to medium. Throw in the onions. Give them a minute or two head start. Add the sliced radish and mushroom. Eventually After 4 or 5 minutes, whatever, just make sure you like how the onions are looking, slowly add the garlic and ginger. This is one of those low heat is best treatments. When everything is looking good, slowly stir in the bone broth. Up the heat, bring to a boil, and then scale back to simmer.

Now it’s time to work on the noodles. If you go rice noodle, just follow directions on the package. But I prefer my shirataki noodles, and here’s a brief primer on preparing them. The ones I buy come in a bag, wet, with a solution that smells fishy at first. So what I like to do is rinse them in a collander for about fifteen seconds, and I like to take kitchen scissors and put a few cuts in the middle to make the noodles a bit shorter. Boil them for one minute in water, strain them again in a collander, then throw them back in an empty pan for about thirty seconds to sort of dry them. Set aside.

Now you’ve had five or ten minutes go by with the simmering vegetables and broth. Throw in the jalapenos (deseed them if you want a milder pho), stir in a teaspoon of the seasoning powder, a little bit of salt, and four tablespoons of fish sauce. Taste the broth. Tweak as necessary, but it should be tasting pretty darn good now. Give it a few or five minutes. Add the beef. Give that a couple minutes. Add the bean sprouts.

After about a total of twenty minutes (from the time you added the broth), you should be good. Separate the noodles between bowls (this amount is about four bowls of pho), and spoon out the goods. Garnish generously with scallions and cilantro (or basil), squeeze a lime on top, and if you need an extra kick, add some sriracha.

If you’re willing to accept the challenge, this could be our first paleo-vegetarian challenge. You could easily up the mushrooms and axe the meat, but finding a fish sauce and vegetable broth sub might be more difficult.

Let me know! And enjoy.

PS. If I had it to do over, I’d do more broth, and would have to adjust the seasoning and fish sauce.

Sent from my iPad

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett

When the hell did Sriracha become optional?

I did a little research, and it looks like veggie fish sauce does exist, so I’m going to try this. If I can’t find any packaged vegan fish sauce, I’ll try to make it. (That may be a blog post in it’s own right.) I’ve been wanting to figure out a way to crust up tofu like a good seared steak. This may be the time to do it, although I may have to use the tofu as a topping rather than cooking it in the sauce for the last few minutes.

Who knows? I can plan all I want, but I know it’ll all be made up as I go along on the day of.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin 

Yeah, I think a couple of the recipes I read said to just mix the beef in at the end, and I think I even saw one that said to serve the beef raw. I just wanted to make sure the beef was served warm!

Choose Your Own Adventure Pickles

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From: Daniel Larkin
To: Jamey Bennett

Are you doing a garden in Florida? I hope so, because you’ve got the weather for it. Fall is right around the corner in Tennessee, and this is the first year I’ve actively tried to harvest as much as I could from my garden before the cold sets in and it all just withers and rots on the vine. (Pesto email coming soon)

The biggest producer we had this year was our lone banana pepper plant, which I’m sure is trying its hardest to keep growing in the chill night air as I type this. Yesterday I collected everything could from the plant, and added it to a bag of peppers I had collected about two weeks ago. The bounty was too much to waste, so I decided to pickle them with the last of my cucumbers and all the dill that hadn’t gone to flower. I also ran to the store and bought some jalapeños and garlic for good measure.

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If you haven’t made pickles before, shame on you. Pickles are one of those wonderful items that are not only cheaper to make on your own, but are way better tasting than store-bought. And the effort is nearly nil. I don’t own a canner, a pressure cooker, or any other fancy equipment. In fact, the only “canning equipment” I use are Ball jars and a jar grabber.

The caveat here, though, is that I make small batches that I know won’t last longer than a month or two. Canning can get sketchy as a long-term investment, so what I’m suggesting here is a small batch arrangement for short term use.

With any canning, cleanliness is key, so sterilize your jars and lids by boiling them in a large stock pot filled with enough water to cover the jars halfway. Fill the jars, cover with a lid, and boil for 10 minutes. Then set the aside on a towel to cool.

(Good practice here dictates that I say that most people recommend putting your filled jars back pot of into the pot and boiling the contents for another 10 minutes. I don’t do that, but again, I eat my pickles pretty fresh, I’m not squirreling them away for Armageddon. Plus, not boiling the filled jars also keeps the pickles crisp!)

So that’s the cleanliness aspect, but what about the ingredients?  The first question people ask when talking about pickles isn’t, “What vegetables do you pickle?”  It’s, “What do you soak them in?” Now what I’m about to unload on you isn’t a recipe, but an easy to remember formula. Making pickles is like making beer, just learn the formula, and then go balls deep into the great unknown. The only ingredients you need to know are these:

  • 1-cup water to 1-cup white vinegar, add one tablespoon of pickling salt. (Just remember one-to-one-to-one) Mix as much of this solution as you need, and bring it to a boil.

That’s it. The veggies and spices are all yours to mix. Take your cooled, sanitized jars, stuff them to the gills with whatever veggies (or fruits) and herbs you want, and top it off with the boiling water/vinegar mix. Seal the jars, set them in the fridge for two weeks, and you’re done. It takes me less than an hour, start to finish, to make a half dozen jars, but I sometimes like to make them one or two jars at a time, just to have around.  It’s that easy.

There is no limit to what awesome pickles you can make. Spicy pickles with squash and jalapeño, curry pickles with carrots, lemon and rosemary pickles (I learned the hard way to go easy on the rosemary). You can seriously get Bubba Gump Shrimp about it. I personally like the spicy pickles with a loaf of homemade sourdough baguette and a slice of Camembert cheese. Great goofily moogily.

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Chorizo, Bacon, and Eggs Rutabaga Hash

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 8:19 PM

Hey Dude,
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written an email with a legitimate winning “recipe.” So I’m going to give it a shot here. I was inspired for this recipe by this cauliflower bacon hash here, thanks to a Facebook ad today. But I deviated quite a bit, so I won’t bother explaining the differences.

I love breakfast hash, but I almost never order it, because Hash House A Go Go in San Diego has ruined all other hashes for me. Until now, because now I have a legitimate hash of my own. (BTW – they have a Hash House A Go Go in Orlando now, may be worth checking out, and they have vegetarian options.)

So this is basically a SUPER EASY Mexican-food-inspired, high-fat, low-carb (or maybe lowER-carb), Paleo feast. Mine majored on animal fat, since I used chorizo and bacon and incorporated ALL of the fat, but I wanted to make sure it was sharable and adaptable for a vegetarian. To make up for the fat, I’d say use coconut oil (it will change the character quite a bit), or olive oil. And then use meat substitutes for the chorizo (like Upton’s Natural Seitan, though a gluten product, it’s the best tasting and least processed vegetarian chorizo I’ve had) and bacon (maybe omit the bacon, because veggie bacon makes me sad).

Okay, enough of the mouth running. Let’s get down to business. I’m just going to bold the ingredients through the description.

Somewhere along the way you need to fry enough eggs for however many servings you’re going to have. I split this two ways, and did two sets of three eggs. These will go on top of the hash.

First, cook 10 oz. beef or pork chorizo in a skillet while cooking 5 or 6 pieces of bacon in a second skillet. When just about ready, remove the chorizo and bacon and set aside, and combine the fat of the two meats into one skillet.

Add a handful of diced onion bits to the fat, and cook over medium heat or so. After a couple minutes, and a teaspoon of minced garlic (a clove or two) and a 4 ounce drained can of sliced mushrooms. Cook for another couple minutes, but don’t burn anything.

Add 3/4 lb diced rutabagas from the frozen section of the grocer, and stir in until the frozen bits have all fallen off, then add 1/2 tsp. of paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until you feel like everything is coming along nicely. Sip some wine. Drink some beer. I don’t know.

What follows (and the spices), I mostly lifted from the other recipe. Well, until the end. You’ll see.

Add three or four Tbs. water and cover for a few minutes.

Return the meat to the hash, along with the juice of a whole lemon (they use half).

After a couple of minutes dish it into to four bowls (this is a hearty meal for two), cover with the fried eggs, pour a few teaspoons of El Pato Jalapeno Salsa (from the Mexican section of the grocer, sub a superior salsa if you wish) on top of the eggs, and garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro.

That’s it. Everything was pretty much packaged in some way (even the lemon in its rind) or could be (frozen diced onions). The whole thing took about twenty or twenty five minutes from start to finish.

The finished product was every bit as satisfying as white potato hash—maybe even more—and I think the starchy carbs were reduced to about 1/5 of potatoes.

Enjoy!

from: Jamey W. Bennett 
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:01 AM

Oh, I forgot a crucial ingredient that makes it a little more south of the Border and less of a rip-off! I used a 10oz can of diced tomatoes and green chilies (medium heat) when I added the lemon. They warmed up in the couple of minutes left in the cook. I can get the Ro*Tel brand for $1 at Dollar Tree or Target. They were a wonderful component, and I didn’t want to cook the life out of the tomatoes, so I thought adding them at the end would be like two minute hops in homebrew. 😉

from: Daniel Larkin
to: “Jamey W. Bennett” 
date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 9:08 AM
subject: Re: Chorizo, Bacon, and Eggs Rutabaga Hash

I saw a Cauliflower Hash recipe on Facebook, and I’ve actually been planning it in my head ever since. My plan was to go with tempeh pre-boiled in a mix of water, soy sauce, vegan Worcestershire, and liquid smoke. I’ll go with your spices and tomato/chili mix for sure. This has Brinner written all over it.

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Wow, that’s quite a different direction, and sounds delicious.

[Note: Pictures were taken of this, but seem to be lost to the author. Apologies.]