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March. Comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb. Or is it vice versa?? Can't remember anymore. But then, as my thirteen year old would say, "You're old mom. Your memory is worn out." Dunno if that's true or not, but I sure am leaning more and more towards believing him these days.
Anyway . . .
The good news first. I found the lost recipe request, thank you very much!! Seems I hadn't lost it exactly. More like I had filed it away so carefully, I'd forgotten where. I cleaned out my mail program folders and "presto, changeo!" there it was!!! For some unknown reason I'd filed it under "business docs". Couldn't tell you why, but at least I found it!! There's a couple of other requests that have joined its ranks this month too, so please make a point of reading the exchange section and if you can help out, fill out the submission form at the end of the column.
And now the bad news. Well actually, there is no bad news. 'Cept maybe that winter has finally reared its ugly head. The last day of January dawned with a vengeance in these parts and from what I hear in most parts of our northern clime. Almost as if it wanted to let us know that though it had been nice and easy so far, January is still a winter month. Got me thinking of cold weather foods like soups and stews and such. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!
Driving home from the office the other night I was thinking about my son's topic for his speech, Famous Sidekicks. That, of course, sent me off on a tangent about famous couples. Romeo and Juliet, Anna and the King, Smith and Wesson, Rogers and Hammerstein, Soup and Sandwiches. Hmmmmmmm. See, there's hardly any train of thought that, for me at least, doesn't eventually pull into the Food and Cooking station. Soups have got to be my all time favourite one dish meal. Has anyone noticed a trend so far?? Hehehe!!!
I think, if I have a "claim to fame" other than that I use many and varied herbs and spices, it's that I can make a soup from just about anything. I always tell those who ask that it's not really hard at all, just takes a little planning.
Start with a diced onion (everything starts with a diced, sautéed onion), sauté it (I usually just do all the sautéing in the same pot that I'm planning to use for the soup, leaving all the flavours where you want them the most) with some leek and some celery. Remove the vegetables from the pot and brown some ground beef (or pork or veal or chicken or any combination thereof). When the meat is browned, pour into the pot -- over the meat -- two twenty-eight ounce cans of diced tomatoes, one can of water, the onion mixture and two bouillon cubes. Allow it to simmer for about twenty minutes, add some steamed rice and a nineteen ounce can of your favourite beans. Season the soup with a teaspoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of oregano, half a teaspoon of cumin and then simmer for ten minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings and serve it with grated Monterey Jack cheese and corn chips. I sometimes vary this by frying up some diced bacon and instead of using ground meat, adding diced leftover cooked chicken or turkey to the soup about five minutes before adding the rice. Or I'll use different herbs and spices. Or I'll use noodles instead of rice. Or I'll dice potatoes, browning them slightly in butter, just cover with water and simmer ten minutes before adding the tomato and seasonings. Or, instead of tomato and seasonings, I'll add stock that I've made from my roast chicken or turkey carcass. Then, after letting that simmer 20 minutes or so, I'll add frozen mini ravioli or any other pasta shape and cook till tender. You get the idea. Your only limitations are your imagination and the leftovers (or "planned-overs") in your fridge.
I have a favourite sandwich that's kind of a strange combination but is awesomely yummy. It comes from a cooking show I used to watch as a young bride, so you know I've been making it for YEARS!!! Ruth Fremes, at the time a real Canadian cooking "guru", used to host a morning cooking half-hour on the CTV network here in Canada, called What's Cooking. I loved that woman and her show. I think I learned more from her than any other teacher in my career. Unfortunately, I don't know where she might be now, but if you're out there, Ruth, kudos to you and many, many thanks. I don't recall the name of this particular sandwich (just for the heck of it, we'll call it Caesar's Egg Sandwich), if it ever had one and it's likely a combination you've never thought of, I know I hadn't. But do try it, you'll be glad that you did. It is the kind of thing that requires a bit of preplanning though, but can be put together in a flash if all the ingredients are at hand.
Begin with one cup of good mayo -- I use Hellman's. Add the juice of half a lemon, two cloves of crushed garlic, about a quarter of an inch of anchovy paste (or a couple of anchovy filets that you chop finely) and freshly ground black pepper. Mix it all together to amalgamate it well, then stir in about half a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and some black pepper. Then set it aside to allow the flavours to marry.
To build the sandwich, start with two thick slices of crusty bread and coat them generously with the dressing. Top one of the slices with some sliced hard cooked egg and season with freshly ground pepper. Toss the romaine lettuce in enough of the dressing to coat well and layer generously over the egg slices. At this point, you can add another layer of sliced egg or not, depending on how packed you like your sandwiches. My personal habit is to have only one layer of egg slices though I tend to slice the egg a bit on the thick side. Top with the second slice of bread, dressing side down and indulge!! Yummmmmm!!!