Tom Yum Soup with Bonus Tutorial

I’ve been wanting to make Tom Yum soup, a tasty and fragrant Thai soup, for a long time. Tom Yum is one of my favorite soups and an awesome comfort food. The flavor is complex, sour, and spicy, and is as good in summer as it is in winter. Last week, I got galangal through the farmer’s market (Red Hills Online is the one I use–you order and prepay, then just go pick your produce up. It’s magical). Galangal is a root that looks sort of like ginger, but has a different flavor and more of a bite rather than ginger’s warm spiciness. If you don’t have it in your area, you may be able to find it dried. To make my soup, I followed the order this site uses to add the ingredients, but measured as I went along. I also left the shells on the shrimp when I cooked them, as this adds extra flavor to the broth. I’ve met quite a few people who don’t know how to devein shrimp with the shells on, so I’ve made a photo tutorial for you at the end of the post. In my research I’ve found tons of variations, so this soup can be used for the basis of many tasty experiments!

Tom Yum Soup

4 c homemade chicken stock
2 stalks lemongrass
1 medium-sized knob of fresh galangal
5-6 kaffir lime leaves (fresh ones are best, but if you don’t have them, substitute jarred or dried)
2 small shallots
1 tsp sea salt
1-2 tbsp sweet roasted chili paste (I didn’t have chili paste, so I used fermented cayenne sauce instead)
4 tbsp Thai fish sauce (I use this one–A shout out to Two in Tally for telling me about it!)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint crimini mushrooms
1/2-1 lb shrimp, deveined (see tutorial below)
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (about 3 tbsp of chopped leaves)
lime wedges and fresh chilis for garnish

-Heat the stock over medium heat until simmering. Add 1 tsp sea salt (if desired).
-Lay the lemongrass on a cutting board and hit (not *too* hard) with the back of a knife to release the flavor. Cut into two-inch pieces, and add to stock.
-Peel the galangal with a spoon, slice into 1/4-inch pieces, and add to the broth.
-Tear the kaffir lime leaves into about 4-6 pieces each and add to the broth.
-Peel and thinly slice the shallots, and throw into the pot.
-Add your chili paste (or cayenne sauce if you’re me) and stir.
-Add fish sauce.
-Quarter the tomatoes and mushrooms, and add to the broth.
-Chop the cilantro, and add to the pot.
-After you’ve deveined your shrimp, add them to the broth and turn off the heat. Let sit for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes.
-Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish with fresh-sliced peppers (I used fresh cayenne peppers) and a squeeze of lime juice.

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Bonus Tutorial (!): Deveining shrimp in their shells
The ‘vein’ in a shrimp is actually a part of the digestive tract, and is filled with grit that is not too fun to eat. Thankfully, taking the vein out is easy, and it’s as easy to do with the shell on as it is to do with shelled shrimp. Don’t laugh too much at the photos, it’s hard to photograph one-handed while cooking!

Step One: Slice down the back with kitchen shears. Make sure to go down the middle, where you would normally take the vein out.
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Step Two: Hold the legs together and press so that the back of the shrimp spreads apart and you can see the vein.
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Step Three: Using a knife with a thin blade, slide the point under the vein and lift to remove. Pull with your fingers and discard.
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Chilled Pea Soup with Shrimp

It’s pretty common for me to dream about food, but not all that often that I have such a vivid dream about a dish that I wake up really excited to cook it. It might be the warmer weather here, but last night I had a dream that I made a chilled pea soup topped with shrimp and diced veggies. When I woke up, one of the first things I did was head to the store to get some good produce and some really fresh Gulf shrimp, and head out to my garden to grab some herbs, tomatoes, and celery. This recipe will make 2-3 bowls (I just had the one, but there is at least one more serving left over in my fridge), and because you shock the warm soup in an ice bath, it not only doesn’t require hours of chilling time but it stays bright bright green.

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium/homemade)
1 pint heavy cream
16 oz bag frozen shelled peas, thawed
1 sprig fresh mint (I used Lebanese mint because it’s a bit milder than the peppermint I have, but any mint will do)
1 sprig fresh chamomile
2 small sprigs fennel fronds
1/2 – 1 tsp salt (depending on how much salt your stock has)
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic
1 stalk celery
extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large cucumber, diced (reserve 1 tbsp for garnish)
1 avocado, cut in a small dice
1/2 bell pepper, cut in small dice
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 lemon
Sour cream

-Cook your shrimp as desired (I grilled mine with salt, pepper, and olive oil, but you can also saute yours). Set aside to cool to room temperature.
-Dice the onion, garlic, and celery, and set aside a little onion for the garnish. Saute the rest of the onion with the garlic and celery with some olive oil until golden.
-Add the stock and salt, and heat until simmering.
-Meanwhile, fill a very large bowl with ice cubes and nest a smaller bowl in it, making sure the ice is around the bottom and sides of this small bowl. You’ll pour the soup into this smaller bowl to ‘shock’ it. This cools it down (it is chilled soup, after all), and shocking it helps the peas keep their bright green color.
-Add the peas to the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes.
-Shock the soup by pouring it into the bowl nestled in ice.
-Pour the soup into a blender, along with the cream, cucumber, mint, fennel, and chamomile. Blend until it’s as smooth as you would like it to be.
-Pour the soup into bowls. Top with diced vegetables (make sure to squeeze the juice of half the lemon on the diced avocado right after you cut it so it doesn’t oxidize), sour cream, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. I also put a couple chamomile flowers on top!
-Eat!

Easy Fig and Shitake Pizza

Normally, when I make any bread-y item, I make the dough from scratch. But sometimes, when Chris and I are buying groceries, we look at the pizza dough in the refrigerated case and decide to snag some for a meal. Today, I was at the grocery store and decided I would take shortcut for lunch and get some pre-made dough. You can use your own favorite dough recipe here, or get some from a pizza place or the store. If you go the pre-made route, this whole thing takes about 30 minutes, so is definitely something I’ll be cooking on a weeknight once the semester starts back up! You can adjust the amount of toppings depending on your tastes, or substitute other wild mushrooms in the sauce. I serve this alongside a simple green salad with a glass of wine!

Fig and Shitake Pizza
6 figs, thinly sliced
8 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
16 oz pizza dough (I used 5 grain)

For the sauce:
1/2 c whole milk
1 tbsp unsalted butter
8 0z shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
fresh cracked pepper
salt
1 1/2 tbsp AP flour

-Preheat the oven to 350. Put an upside down baking sheet in the oven to heat up (you can also use a baking stone or tile, which is ideal).
-Roll or toss the dough into a circle or rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick (you can adjust this depending on how thin you like your crust).
-Spread a thin layer of cornmeal on the warmed baking sheet.
-Coat a baking peel (or another upside down baking sheet) with a thin layer of cornmeal.
-Set the dough on the peel, open your oven, and slide it onto the warmed baking sheet.
-As the dough begins to cook, prepare your sauce. Melt the butter and oil together in a skillet.
-Add the mushrooms and rosemary and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the mushrooms just begin to soften. Add the salt and pepper.
-Cook for another minute, then sprinkle in the flour.
-Stir to coat and to ensure that all the flour has combined with the fat. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes to remove the raw flour flavor.
-Add the milk slowly, stirring vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook the sauce until it’s the thickness you want.
-Pull your crust out of the oven and top with the slices of mozzarella.
-Pour the sauce over in an even layer.
-Finally, arrange the figs on top and return to the oven.
-Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the figs are soft and slightly wrinkled.

Tea Poached Salmon

Lettuce growing in anticipation of this recipe.

I discovered tea poaching a couple years ago when searching for a foolproof way to prepare fish that would keep it moist and succulent. I made it a few times when I lived in Iowa, but had my real breakthrough the last time my partner was touring with his band. I was at home pondering what to cook that would be really special and chase away my blues, and it dawned on me: I had an intense craving for salmon. I had to have it right then.

Even though we were as landlocked as you can get, we were very lucky to live near Iowa City’s co-op, which has a surprisingly well-stocked selection of fresh seafood. They also have an incredible produce section, which on that particular day had the most succulent buttercrunch lettuce I had ever seen. Unable to resist its charms, I bought the lettuce along with the salmon and brought them both home. While I was poaching the salmon and cooking some rice, it occurred to me that I could wrap these things in the lettuce, which tastes delicious and has the added bonus of keeping me from dirtying a fork (not a fan of washing dishes).

When Chris got home, I told him about my tasty dinner and he was disappointed that he wasn’t there to partake. We both forgot about the incident until I was shopping for cold-weather seeds to plant now that the Florida summer has passed. I bought seeds for all sorts of greens, root veggies, and peas. While hunting through the offerings I landed on the page for buttercrunch lettuce and remembered this recipe. It was so delicious when I made it before that I thought it would be even better if I grew the lettuce myself and plucked it out of the ground mere moments before being eaten. And so, seeds were ordered, and a few weeks later I have some little lettuce plants that I eagerly await to wrap around some delicious fish. I made this alongside jasmine rice last time I prepared it, but you could use any rice you prefer.

Tea Poached Salmon

5 cups water
3 English Breakfast tea bags
2 pieces star anise
1 tbsp dried orange peel
1 bay leaf
2 salmon fillets

-Place all ingredients but salmon in a deep skillet and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
-Add salmon fillets, and poach for about 25 minutes or until cooked through.
-Cut or flake fillets into bite-sized pieces and roll in a lettuce leaf, with or without rice.

Sunday Shrimp n’ Grits

Daylight savings time gave us an extra hour to spend this morning, and gave me the chance to make an extra special brunch to share. I have been eating a lot of shrimp since I have moved to Florida, and I’ve been having a shrimp n’ grits craving for weeks! I wanted to make something that really brought out the flavor of the ridiculously fresh shrimp we have here, and making a quick broth from the shells does a twofold job of adding loads of shrimp flavor while helping to moisten the grits and bring the whole dish together. I couldn’t resist the crab claws at the market, so I added them as well. Using the freshest seafood I could find meant that our brunch wasn’t overpoweringly fishy and instead smelled like the ocean and tasted delicate and light. Depending on where you are and what day it is, other types of crab or other sizes of shrimp might look more fresh–always go with those! Getting the freshest ingredients possible and not overcooking them (easy to do with shrimp) are the most important things about this dish.

For the shrimp:
1/2 lb 21-25 ct shrimp
2 stone crab claws
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp unsalted butter
10 peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 slices of preserve lemon (can substitute half a fresh lemon–just make sure to include the zest!)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

-Peel the shrimp but keep the shells. Put them, along with spices, salt, and crab claws, into a large skillet with 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil.
-Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, devein the shrimp (by cutting along the middle of the back and pulling out the ‘vein’), and make the grits (see below).
-Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the shells and spices from the broth and into a bowl. Set aside.
-Return the pan to the heat, wait about a minute, and add the olive oil.
-Add the shrimp and crab claws to the pan and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
-Flip the shrimp and return the broth to the pan. Make sure to scrape the bottom with a spoon to deglaze.
-After 1 more minute, remove the shrimp and claws and distribute on two bowls of grits.
-Add the butter to the pan and melt into the broth.
-Pour the broth over the shrimp and grits and serve.

For the grits
1 c grits
2 c water
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt

-Add water to a saucepan. Add salt and bring to a boil.
-Add grits and cook, stirring frequently, until all the water is absorbed.
-Stir in butter and spoon the grits into two bowls.