Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Zucchini Garlic Soup

Soup's On 

I bought four zucchini's almost a week ago to make Zucchini Cheese Appetizer Squares.  I got behind in preparation for my cocktail party and the snack squares never got made. 

Zucchini Garlic Soup

This morning started as a rainy, gray day and soup sounded perfect. I goggled zucchini soup hoping to find a recipe to use up my produce. I came upon this one that sounded ideal.  The finished product appears and tastes like a cream based soup, but contains no milk or dairy. You simply use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to change the consistency of the vegetables into a puree once everything is cooked.  Very simple preparation especially with my new Garject garlic press!

Yum! A healthy, easy and delicious soup.  I will definitely make this recipe again.  And to entice kids: tell them it's Shrek Soup!

Zucchini Garlic Soup Recipe

makes 1 1/2 quarts

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 white onion, sliced
8 to 9 large cloves garlic, sliced thinly 
4 medium zucchini, about 1 1/2 pounds
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
Salt and pepper


Melt the butter in a heavy 4-quart pot over medium heat. When it foams, add the sliced garlic and onions and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent. Keep the heat low enough that the garlic doesn't brown; you want everything to sweat.
When the onions are soft, add the zucchini and cook until soft. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer at a low heat for about 45 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then blend with an immersion blender until creamy, or transfer to a standing blender to puree. Be very careful if you use the latter; only fill the blender half full with each batch, and hold the lid down tightly with a towel.

Taste and season with ginger, salt and pepper. Like most soups, this is significantly better after a night in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Idaho: World's Largest Producer of Fresh Water Rainbow Trout

I would never have guessed that Buhl, Idaho had the largest rainbow trout farm anywhere in the world. But, then again, I'd never heard of a place named Buhl.  The area is mostly flat farmland with immense rock walls on one side of the Snake River -- pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
Rainbow Trout

Clear Springs Foods in Buhl raises between 24-26 millions pounds of trout annually, that's 70-75 percent of all Idaho’s trout production. And, Idaho produces more trout
than any other state. At any given time about 10 million fish thrive in their fresh water facilities. Now, that's a lot of fish.  

A natural phenomenon occurs at the edge of the walls of Snake River Canyon creating an ideal situation for trout farming.  Heavy winter snows in the Tetons area melt in the spring, thus filling an immense underground lava rock aquifer – one the size of Lake Erie. The water works it’s way southwest via gravity and emerges at Buhl in a gushing roar of pure oxygenated water, always at a constant temperature of 58 degrees. Since those are the exact environmental conditions trout prefer, this location makes the most perfect spot on earth to raise Rainbow Trout.   

Trout Pond at Clear Springs Foods
No surprise then that trout operations in the area date back to 1928, however, Clear Springs was founded in 1966. The company now manages the entire production process from selective breeding to growing, harvesting, cleaning, deboning, packaging and distributing nationwide. Somehow it seemed magical, almost Godlike to me; I was totally amazed.  

I toured parts of the plant, seeing labs used for testing, the breeding area and indoor and outdoor tanks where the fish grow.  Although trout typically spawn in the fall, by careful selection and specialized lighting to adjust the length of day, Clear Springs is able to stagger the normal spawning cycle to provide a continuous supply of eggs year 'round.

The eggs are placed in incubators where they are bathed in spring water for about 10 days until they hatch. The young fish (called fry as in small fry) are then transferred to indoor ponds to continue growth. When they reach three inches in length, they're moved to outdoor ponds.  Here they are nurtured for up to an additional year, until they reach a typical market weight of 16 to 28 ounces.

All ponds are constantly inventoried and monitored for health. The fish are fed a consistent diet of high quality nutrition including vitamins, minerals and protein.

At the optimal time, live trout are trucked to the nearby processing plant and placed in holding ponds. The fish then travel through computerized weighing and sorting lines and into chill tanks for about 30 minutes.  They are then packaged as "Dressed Fish" meaning they still have their head, tail and fins or sent to other stations for further processing such as fileting and breading.  Trout burgers, anyone?
Trout Filets
Finally, the trout are shipped fresh or frozen in refrigerated trucks across the US.  Some customers receive air shipments.

The water flowing through the farms and processing plants is closely monitored under very strict codes. The plants manage their waste by manufacturing liquid fertilizer and somehow remain non-consumptive water users.

From now on when I see Rainbow Trout on a menu, I will think of Clear Springs Foods in Buhl, Idaho.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Greenwood, Mississippi and the Amazing Garject Garlic Press

Greenwood, Mississippi

If you happen to find yourself in Greenwood, a small town on the Mississippi Delta, it may because you are attending  a cooking class at the Viking Cooking School. Of course, their very posh, beautiful kitchens feature Viking ovens.

The Viking Cooking School in Greenwood

Olivia Spencer as Minny

Hollywood came in 2010, when the town became the set for the movie "The Help." The film, which earned Olivia Spencer an Academy Award as best supporting actress, was shot almost entirely in Greenwood although the story actually takes place in Jackson, MI.  If you go to Greenwood take a Help Tour showcasing sites such as Skeeter's home, the Courthouse, and Baptist Town over the railroad tracks.

Baptist Town
Greenwood is the real thing.  Main Street
currently boasts some upscale storefronts including the Alluvian Hotel (which owns and manages the Cooking School), but the Mississippi town struggles. Greenwood was once the Cotton Capital of the World and right outside town, you'll still find cotton fields. But, they don't pick the cotton by hand anymore. Actually a number of the old cotton fields now grow soybeans. 

Skeeter's House

Viking Cooking School

Returning back downtown, I attended a demonstration at the Viking Cooking School featuring Caesar Salad, Jambalaya, and Chocolate Pie- minus the secret ingredient in Minny's pie, made rather infamous in the movie

Chocolate Pie

While preparing the jambalaya, the instructor used a garlic press without peeling her garlic. It was large enough to handle multiple garlic cloves at once, another bonus. I was intrigued. So, rather unexpectedly, the most important lesson I gained from the class ended up being the new garlic press I purchased in the school's gift shop.

Garject Garlic Press

I brought it home and immediately wanted to make something garlicky. I've recently grown to like kale, so I sauteed up some onions and garlic, then added the kale and a bit of broth. 

Jambalaya & Salad

Sure enough the gadget worked like a gem. My new stainless steel "Garject" pressed unpeeled garlic, scraped itself clean and even ejected the peel. You simply push the 'peel eject' button and it shoots the peel off. While not inexpensive at $34.95,  the tool seems well worth the price. No more smelly fingers from peeling garlic or picking the skin out of the press and the Garject is also dishwasher safe on the top rack.

The Garject Garlic Press

The company manufacturer, Dreamfarm from Albion, Australia, should also be congratulated for being green-minded. The packaging box was designed for easy recycling and included a reminder to do so.

A visit to Greenwood and the Viking Cooking School are memorable, but you've got to get yourself a Garject.

Disclosure:  I purchased my own Garject and received no payment from the maker, dreamfarm.com.My visit to Greenwood was sponsored by Mississippi Tourism.