Friday, October 16, 2015

Foodie Friday~ Tom Kha Gets Dressed Up

Last week, I found myself standing at my butcher block  island with a handful of leeks and a bunch of swiss chard. These are not normally things I buy from the grocery store, and in fact I did not buy these from any store. A very good friend of mine, B, who is an empty nester asked if I could use some veggies from the farm. Could I? Is that a real question? I hear you assuming it's her farm. No, she does not have a farm, but she gets more veggies each week than she and her hubby can eat- and they're raw vegans! Well, they're not raw vegans, their diet is, as in they eat about 85% raw food that does not come from animals.

Have you ever heard of a CSA farm? A community supported agricultural farm allows people to work on the farm (in this case about 5 hours per week) in trade for an equal share of the harvest. Here, in Star Valley, we have the EverGreen Farm which grows organic food both in and out of greenhouses. Even with a greenhouse, it is challenging to grow food here! If you are interested in eating locally grown, and possibly organic, food you should find out if your area has a CSA farm. You don't have to trade time, you can also be a paying share.

So, I stand there at my butcher block, staring at these vegetables. I remember the 50 pounds of potatoes in my pantry ready to provide energy, nutrition, and comfort through the long winter. I think, leek and potato soup. Yeah, that's almost a cliche'. What if I throw in some sliced swiss chard? Most of my family will think it's an herb. The seasoned ones will think it's just spinach. Okay, I have a direction now~soup.

Then, my mind goes back to the quick trip I made to Chicago this summer. It had been a physically demanding, muggy-hot day. When Shanelle and I got back to the car, we just wanted a good meal and then to go back to her new place to put up our feet and rest. Right there by the car was a Thai restaurant and the vote was unanimous. Chicken tom kha is what I ordered.

I had never had it before.

Upon my first taste, I closed my eyes as the many flavors rolled across my tongue. I did this again and again; analyzing, pinpointing, guessing, allowing the flavors to make their way up through the olfactories.

The warmth of the broth created such a relief from my physical distress that I said to Shanelle, "I just want to dive into this bowl." She rolled her eyes at me.

The chicken was tender. The veggies cooked just right, not too soft, but not hard either.

This type of food creates feelings.

So, standing at my butcher block I decide to try to instill some of the flavors from tom kha into my potato leek soup. I know, there are Irish people turning in their graves.

Problem, I am missing some essential ingredients. So, here's what I do:

}Instead of lemon grass, I squeeze fresh lemon into the broth.
}Instead of coconut cream, I added coconut oil and some heavy cream I had left over in the fridge.

So, my soup turned out to be a blend of potato chowder and tom kha. It was actually rather plain, but it was my first attempt!

Hubby spotted the pot of left-overs and decided to eat some. He tasted it "as is" to decide how he would "dress" it. He added grated cheddar and fresh bacon bits. The next day, I copied his dressing method, and OH. Ohhhhh. Okay, that is much better.

In each bite, the dressed up tom kha started off tasting like a yummy, creamy chowder. Then, the Asian flavors skipped around for a while before the end flavors of loaded baked potato made itself known.

It was sooo good that the next day, I finished up the pot with the same dressings.

Now, I am about to tell you how food can connect people.  I have a friend who enjoys food and the art of cooking even more than I do. It is one of the attributes which bonds us together. The very same day I made this mock tom kha, my foodie friend, KDB, was rocking in her kitchen and created something. Her something was so spectacular that she brought some over to my house in the night time hour of eight o'clock. Have you guessed what it is?

Chicken tom kha.

She and I had cooked the same dish on the same day. It was the first time either of us had tried it. I had improvised. She had improvised. Hers was a lot more authentic than mine. I asked if she'd had lemon grass. She said, "No, I used lemon grass oil!"

If you're curious here's how I made the soup.

Tom Kha (potato)

Boil in a pot:
 4 large potatoes, diced
2 med. or 1 large carrots, quartered and sliced thinly
1/2 an onion, chopped

When the veggies are tender add:
2 minced garlic cloves
fresh chopped parsley, or dried
6 small or 4 large swiss chard leaves, deveined, halved and cut into strips

Allow the pot to simmer for 15 minutes, then add:
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, this will really depend based on the size and starchiness of your potatoes, and of course your taste-buds!
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream (or if you have full fat coconut milk, which means it still contains the cream, use that and omit the coconut oil)
1 heaping tsp coconut oil
1/2 a fresh lemon, juice only

This soup should thicken on its own because of the potato starch. If it doesn't seem to be thickening, smash some of the potatoes and let it simmer some more.  If you use my recipe, I'd love to hear your results and opinions. And did you dress it up?

If you have a quick mind, you may have noticed that my soup did not contain chicken. You can, of course, add cooked chicken to your pot of tom kha. If you are into languages, here is further interesting info. Tom means boiled. Yep, my soup was boiled. Kha is a root also called galangal which probably does not exist within a 300 mile radius of where I live, so nope, my soup is not kha. Also, as my foodie friend happily discovered, our grocery store sells fish sauce. If ours does, I would bet yours does. This is a flavor you might not like, so be cautious in using it. Click HERE to see a more authentic recipe for actual tom kha.

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