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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Ninja Turtle Soup and Roasted Garlic

Looking at all the snow outside and hearing the forecast for New Year's Eve (Brrr!), I think soup is in order. This one is easy, fast, and you can either simmer it on the stove or toss it into the crockpot. And it's healthy, too. Oh, did I forget to mention it's delicious? This is one my kids, even the little ones, request. Except for one daughter, but she hates split peas.

The name came about years ago. Split pea soup is very economical. With less than $5 of ingredients, you can make a giant pot that will feed a large family. We're talking ten people at my house. It's also great for using up those bits that aren't quite enough for other recipes. Or for that ham bone from the Christmas ham. You saved it, didn't you? This recipe is almost worth buying another ham, cooking it, and saving the bone so you can make this soup. Ham is on sale this time of year. Stores are clearing out all that Christmas fluffery, including the hams. So go buy a bone-in ham roast. This soup is that good.

Oh, wait, I was talking about the name. My oldest was about four. I served the soup and she wouldn't eat it because it was green. So I told her it was made from ninja turtles. That did the trick. She and her siblings requested ninja turtle soup. It gives you super powers. Really.

Ninja Turtle Soup

1 12 oz bag dried green split peas
1 small onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 ham bone, plus any ham that is still on the bone
1 t. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. ground black pepper

Put everything in a large pot. Add about 8 c. water, just enough to cover vegetables and most of the bone. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Add more water if it gets too thick. Stir occasionally so it doesn't burn on the bottom. After 1 hour, remove ham bone. Let cool for a few minutes. Remove meat and discard bone. Shred meat and add back into the soup. Cook for another 10 - 20 minutes, until vegetables are very soft and peas turn to mush. Stir, add salt if needed, and serve with croutons, crackers, toast, corn chips, or whatever you like.

Crock Pot version: Put everything in a large (4-5 quart) crockpot. Cook on high about 4 hours, low about 8 hours. Then remove the ham bone. After you add the meat back in, cover and cook at least 1 hour.

Variations:

Substitute 1 lb bulk sausage for the ham. Brown, drain off grease, and add to soup.
Substitute 1 lb ground turkey for the ham. Add several strips of bacon, cooked and diced, for flavor if desired

Add whatever vegetables you have that need used:
That single raw potato - chop small and add
Old celery - slice thin and add
Green onions - substitute for the other onion, or use as a garnish
Cabbage - shred 1-2 c. cabbage. Stir in the last 15 minutes of cooking time
Bell peppers - chop and add the last 15 minutes of cooking time
Canned vegetables - stir in the last 15 minutes of cooking time - corn, green beans, etc.
Parsnips or jicama or other starchy vegetables - peel if needed, chop and add
Mushrooms - wash and slice 8 oz mushrooms, any variety
Garlic - smash a couple cloves and add with the onions, or add some roasted garlic

Feeling exotic? Try some other spices in the soup:
Mediterranean - add 1/2 t. each thyme, basil, rosemary
Indian - add 2 t. curry powder
Hot and spicy - add 1/2 t. cumin, 1/2 t. chili powder, and cayenne pepper to taste

And for a bonus recipe -

Roasted Garlic

Several heads of fresh garlic
Vegetable Oil

Slice tops from garlic heads, just until bulbs show. Remove excess paper from heads if desired. Place garlic heads, cut side up, in foil lined baking dish. Crimp foil to keep heads upright if needed. Drizzle oil over heads, about 1/2 t. per head. Bake at 350° F for 1 - 2 hours until heads are browned and bulbs are soft. Let cool for at least one hour. Remove bulbs from heads, squeezing usually works but it's messy. Use disposable gloves if you don't want your hands to smell like garlic for a week. Pack bulbs into clean glass jar. Add enough oil to cover. Screw lid on tightly and refrigerate for up to six months.

Use roasted garlic for making garlic bread, adding to soups or casseroles, mashing into potatoes, or anywhere else you like garlic. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of garlic and cuts the bitterness.

To make garlic butter - soften 1/2 c. real butter. Add 1/4 c. roasted garlic cloves (don't worry about adding the oil from the jar, it tastes good, too) and 1 t. salt. Mash with a fork until it is all squished together into a smooth paste. You can add 1 t. dried parsley for color if you want. Spread on French bread, toast under a broiler (watch it carefully, it burns very fast), and enjoy.

How about having garlic toast with Ninja Turtle Soup? Mmmm, now I'm hungry.