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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tuna Throwdown: Fire-Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup with Jalapeño Tuna and Cilantro Cream

I was recently contacted by a fabulous local company, Island Trollers, and asked if I would like to come up with a recipe and feature their product on my blog. And my brain was like, "Holy crap! Someone wants me to use MY blog to feature their amazing product!" And my mouth (okay, my fingers, because it was on facebook) was like, "Yes, YES! That would be awesome!"

And I felt like I was really getting SOMEWHERE with this whole blogging thing. I was a rock star!

There may have been wine involved.

And then my brain started to nudge me with something. A niggling piece of information I had overlooked in my euphoria. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: I can't believe it! This is going to be so awesome!
Brain: Island Trollers.
Me: I KNOW, right???
Brain: What do they troll for?
Me: Albacore!!!
Brain: So... tuna.
Me: Yes, of course!!!
Brain: Tuna. Soup.
Me:  ........

I LOVE tuna.... but if I'm being honest, I'm strictly a tuna sandwich kind of gal. I like my tuna salad made a very specific way and the most adventurous I get about it is maybe, maybe, mixing up the bread I eat it on. On top of that, I have never, not once in my whole life, eaten nor made tuna casserole. (And have no plans to do so - so please don't send me your grandma's recipe.) So the idea of tuna - in a soup - threw me for a loop.

BUT. If you dare to title your blog Soup-a-Woman, you can't let tuna be your kryptonite. What with leaping over tall soup pots in a single bound and that sort of thing...

So I set out to create something delicious.The first and most obvious choice was a chowder. Seafood and chowder love each other. But when I did a little research I found that not only was there already a tuna chowder in the blogging world, it actually featured Island Trollers! The blog Life Currents actually features several recipes highlighting Island Trollers products, including a chowder.

Once the tuna arrived, however, I realized I didn't have much to worry about. Island Trollers has the most amazing troll-caught albacore, and even better, it's fresh canned in several flavors: Alder Smoked, Garlic, Habañero, Capers, Jalapeño. I decided to use those flavors to my advantage and elevate this soup to a whole new level.

Eventually I settled on a fire-roasted bell pepper soup that would feature their Jalapeño Albacore and started building a recipe from there. The end result is fresh, healthy, and lovely. It turned out not only to be delicious, but a beautiful and surprisingly elegant soup that is company-worthy. Throwdown win.

Kryptonite? As if.

But I'm still not going to eat tuna casserole.

Fire-Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup with Jalepeño Tuna and Cilantro Cream
Serves 4

4 yellow bell peppers, seeded, roasted, peeled and roughly chopped  (directions below)
2 T. butter
1 1/2 c. diced red onion (1 medium onion)
1/2 t. salt
1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. paprika
1 14-oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
4 c. chicken broth (this makes a thin soup, if you want it thicker, reduce broth to 3 or 3 1/2 cups)
1-2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 can Island Trollers Jalapeño Tuna, drained (or Habañero if you want even a little more kick)
Cilantro Cream (recipe follows)

Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced red onion and the salt and sautee, stirring occassionally until onions are tender, around 8-10 minutes.

Stir in garlic, pepper, cumin, and paprika and stir to coat all the onions. Add the tomatoes and the roasted peppers and the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, and let simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender) puree until the soup is very smooth. Stir in lime juice and taste for seasoning.

Cilantro Cream:
1/2 c. packed cilantro leaves
1/2 medium jalepeño, seeded and roughly chopped
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c. sour cream

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside until ready for garnish. (Tip: Putting the cilantro cream in an empty squeeze bottle makes it easier to make the swirls.)

To assemble soup: Using a shallow bowl, mound a portion of flaked tuna in the center of the bowl. Carefully ladle some of the soup around the tuna, and garnish with cilantro cream.

Roasted Peppers:

I find it much easier to clean and roast the peppers if you prepare them this way: Cut each pepper in half, remove the seeds and the white pithy membranes inside each half and carefully cut out the stems. Place the halves, skin side up on a broiler pan or cookie sheet and broil on high about 3" away from the heating element. Rotate the pan around as necessary to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven when skins are charred and puffed up in sections, but the flesh is still firm... around 10 minutes or so. Transfer peppers immediately to a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and seal it shut. Let pepper sit 10-15 minutes in the bag. This will steam them and allow the skins to come off more easily. Remove skins from peppers - do NOT rinse them... you'll just wash all the flavor away.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Season of Change: Creamy Brie, Bacon, and Kale Soup

Ah, September. My nemesis.

August, now, August is amazeballs. It's the one month in Washington State where you are pretty much guaranteed gorgeous weather. It's the one month that I get to participate in the Washington Trails Association's Hike-a-Thon - which is like a license to hike! Whenever. I. Want. This August I hiked 100 miles and raised $1275.00! It's the one month where after an entire summer of automatically waking up at 6:00 am, I start to be able to sleep in just a little bit... luxuriously stretching out until 7:30 some mornings. Awesome.

And then September comes and ruins ALL of that!

No more hiking. September is for running around like crazy people trying to get everything done before school starts. September sucks money from our bank account like a leech: back-to-school supplies, clothes, yearbooks, ASB cards, pictures, sporting equipment, clothes, parking passes, clothes. Clothes. Clothes. Clothes. (We do have two teenage girls, after all.) And most rudely, the alarm starts going off at 5:30 five mornings a week. September is stupid.

Except for one small redemption. The leaves start to turn, the nights are a little chillier, we actually close the windows for the first time in a month, and my soup cookbooks drift off the bookshelf like falling leaves and start to scatter themselves around the house. One by my laptop, three by the bathtub, one in the kitchen windowsill, four by my bed. Soup season has arrived. Ah, September. Maybe it's a love-hate relationship after all.

Creamy Brie, Bacon, and Kale Soup is pure comfort in a bowl. Some of my friends expressed reservations about the calorie count, but as I told them, it's soup. That makes it automatically good for you. And it has KALE in it. Besides, I've had to put aside my August nirvana for another 11 months, so dammit, I deserve a little decadence in my life.

Creamy Brie, Bacon, and Kale Soup
serves 6-8

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into thin strips
1/4 c. butter
1 large leek, washed well, white and light green parts sliced thinly (about 2 c.)
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced (about 1/2 c.)
1 clove of garlic, pressed through a press
1/2 t. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. chicken broth
3/4 lb. Brie cheese, cut into cubes, rind left on
1/2 c. heavy cream
1-2 large leaves of curly kale, stemps removed, washed, and minced very finely. (about 2 c.)
Salt and Pepper to taste 

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and sprinkle them with a little kosher salt. Let the leeks sweat, stirring occasionally, until they're quite soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the celery and cook until it softens, 2-4 minutes longer. Stir in the garlic and the thyme and combine well.

Add the flour, and stir continually until the flour loses its raw taste, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, and whisk it all together. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then let it simmer for 10 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the brie. Keep the rind on... it will add that distinct brie taste. The rind won't melt at this stage, but don't worry, once you use the immersion blender it will all smooth out. Stir until the cheese has melted. Add the cream. Then, using an immersion blender (or a regular blender in batches) blend the soup until it is perfectly smooth. Stir in the bacon, the kale and salt and pepper to taste. The kale should cook in the residual heat of the soup since you've minced it so finely. Serve hot.

This soup chills well, and I thought it was even better the next day. Do reheat gently, though. Don't boil as the cheese may separate.