Snowy Day

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Today demanded soup, but I’m in the mood for spring now that it’s March.  I would not say spring is around the corner here in Minnesota as you can see by this predawn photo, but enough winter already!  So here’s a soup that’s, well . . .a soup, but with many ingredients that taste of spring.  Perfect for a day like today!  Both Randy and I thought we almost couldn’t get enough.  He wanted me to make sure to say that, in his opinion, this must be made with homemade stock, feeling that boxed or canned would diminish the light spring-like quality we loved so much.  He also had an initial bad reaction to the idea of lettuce in a soup, saying that it’s like putting walnuts on a salad.  After a few spoonfuls of the soup, he said that he must like walnuts on salad – hehe.  So don’t be put off by the cooked romaine lettuce – it adds a light crunch and lovely vegetal flavor.  Enjoy with a lemony Pinot Grigio and a baguette!

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This recipe was inspired by one that I saw in a Food 52 email yesterday, but is highly adapted in both method and ingredients.  Serves 8 (or 6 hearty eaters)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 scallions, white and green separated and sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small zucchini, small dice

1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and ground black pepper

9 cups chicken stock

1 small can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

zest of 1 lemon, Meyer if available

1 1/2-2 cups cooked green beans, cut in 2-inch pieces

2 cups cooked shredded chicken

1/4 cup each fresh mint and fresh parsley, chopped (or more to taste)

2 cups dried pasta, small shapes (I used gemelli)

2 cups shredded romaine lettuce

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.  When shimmering, add the white part of the scallions and the celery.  Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic  zucchini, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring.  Add the chicken stock and chickpeas and simmer for about 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Add the chicken, green beans, herbs and lemon zest to the soup pot and simmer till heated through, about 5 minutes.  Be careful not to over-stir.

Right before serving, stir in the lettuce and lemon juice.  Cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.

To serve, place a handful of cooked pasta into the bottom of a soup bowl.  Ladle the soup into the bowl over the pasta.  Garnish with a few slices of the green part of the scallions (and a few red pepper flakes if desired).

Meyer Lemon Bars

February 27, 2013

Sweet and Savory Kitchens Meyer Lemon Bars

Margaux says…

I am always looking for recipes using egg yolks or egg whites, to use up whichever I have sitting in my fridge, begging to be made into something. Like I need another sweet sitting on my counter…this time of year it’s birthday after birthday in my family, so I’m on a cake baking spree from the beginning of January until late February. But, no matter, these lemon bars were a nice break for us in our parade of cakes. I love Meyer lemon season, and try to make things with them as often as possible, including savory things with preserved lemons in them like this and this. Oh, and this.  I also usually make a batch of the preserved lemons to have on hand for the year.

Sweet and Savory Kitchens Meyer Lemon Bars

Meyer Lemon Bars

Make sure you keep a close eye on the crust while it’s baking…I would recommend starting to check it at about 22 minutes.  The first time I made these, I just set the timer at 25 minutes and didn’t pay attention and they got rather brown.  Still yummy…but much better when they’re golden!  These can easily be made with regular lemons, and would probably be very good with limes as well.

Shortbread Crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more to sprinkle on the finished bars
pinch of salt
8 Tbls unsalted butter, still cool and cut into 8 pieces
Cover a 9-inch square cake pan with two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil or parchment paper, perpendicular to each other. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Put the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and process briefly, about 2 seconds. Add the butter pieces and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then process until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared cake pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire pan bottom. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Set aside.
Meyer Lemon Filling
7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 cup + 2 Tbls sugar
2/3 cup meyer lemon juice (from about 4-5 medium lemons)
finely grated zest from the lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tbls unsalted butter, cut in to 4 pieces
3 Tbls heavy cream
In a medium saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs until combined. Add the sugar, meyer lemon juice, zest and salt until well combined, about 30 seconds.
Add the butter pieces and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the curd thickens to a thin sauce-like consistency (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), about 6 minutes.
Immediately pour the curd through a fine-mesh steel strainer set over a medium bowl. Stir in the heavy cream and then pour the curd into the warm crust.
Bake until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center 3 inches jiggle slightly when shaken, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Remove the bars from the pan and transfer to a cutting board to cut into squares.  Use a sifter to sift powdered sugar onto the top.  I’d recommend doing a couple of layers of the powdered sugar, because the bottom layers will just melt into the lemon curd (as you see mine has done in the photo).  I actually prefer them without the powdered sugar at all, but put a small amount of it on there for Jason’s sake.  🙂

Tuscan Bean Stew - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Aunt Suzy says . . .

We are having a real Minnesota winter this year! A recent Sunday plunged to minus 14 degrees F, necessitating a hearty and warming stew. I spied this recipe on The Bitten Word blog, saw that it was their take on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and was sold! It’s one of those recipes from Cook’s where they have experimented with many different methods to come up with the perfect approach. For this one, the recommendation was to brine the beans overnight and to cook slowly in the oven to achieve a creamy stew in which the beans remain mostly whole. We love Cook’s scientific approach to things here at S&SK and so jumped on this recipe. It turned out as promised! Margaux and I both cooked this, as well as my brother John, so we have lots of experience and opinions to share on this stew. We may have diverged a little on ingredients or methods, but one thing we all three have in common is that we thought this was delicious!

Margaux says . . .

The whole family loved this stew…even my 4-year-old, who has recently decided he is a picky eater. But picky in a way most kids are not…he’ll refuse to eat his mac & cheese, and instead gobble down a salad. And lately, anything I make that has everything “mixed together,” ie., stews, soups, casseroles, etc…basically everything I make in the winter…is deemed inedible. Or as he says, “gross.” But I thought I might have a “win” on my hands here, with beans, sausage and carrots included in the ingredients (some things on the “ok” list), and I was right.

Something I will say about this stew, is that if you have a big client meeting the next morning, or are going on a date the next night, I would definitely cut back on the garlic. We love garlic in our house, but even for us, 8 cloves was a lot. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious! And I’ll make it the same way again next time. But just a warning…your date may wonder if you’re trying to fend off vampires if you eat this the night before. 🙂

Brining the Beans

2 cups dried cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed

3 tablespoons salt (sea salt or table salt, not kosher)

4 quarts cold water

Dissolve the salt in the water in a large bowl or pot. Add the beans and soak overnight or up to 24 hours. Drain the beans and rinse thoroughly. Set aside for use in the stew.

Making the Stew

3/4-1 pound of sweet Italian sausage (casings removed or bulk if available)

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 large onion, medium dice (1 1/2-2 cups)

2 celery ribs, medium dice (about 3/4 cup)

2 carrots, peeled and diced medium (about 1 cup)

8 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or crushed with a knife blade

4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

3-4 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 small can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed

1/2 medium head of Savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups)

One sprig of fresh oregano

Salt and black pepper to taste (taste before adding salt)

Pre-heat the oven to 250°F. In a large Dutch oven, preferably cast iron, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, breaking up into small pieces with a spatula or wooden spoon. When browned, remove from the pot and place on paper towel. Set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and turn heat down to medium. Add the onions, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the stock, water, bay leaves and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to a bubble. Cover the pot and place on a rack in the lower middle of the pre-heated oven. Cook for about 45 minutes or so, until beans are just softened but slightly firm in the center.  Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the reserved sausage, cabbage and tomatoes. Place back in the oven and cook for another 30-45 minutes or so, until the cabbage is tender.

Tuscan Bean Stew

Remove pot from the oven and submerge the oregano sprig in the stew. Cover and let stand 20-30 minutes. Remove the oregano and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a little drizzle of olive oil if desired and a nice crusty bread.

COOK’S NOTES – Aunt Suzy:Ingredients The original recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of sausage. I used 1 pound (of turkey sausage) and thought it was still too much, although I prefer meat in recipes like this for flavoring vs. a main ingredient. I used 3 cups of water, but my stew came out very thick so I think I’ll try 4 cups next time I make it.  Adjust meat amount and liquid to your preferences. I used a garlic press for my garlic, which I think resulted in a less garlicky result than Margaux described; she crushed the garlic with a knife blade (although I love garlic, so I might try that one day!). Regular green cabbage can be substituted if you can’t find Savoy. The original CI recipe called for pancetta and kale – I think we need to try that one also!  Methods I learned 3 things from this recipe: 1) The brining made for ultra-creamy beans as promised, 2) Cooking in the oven at a low temp made for beans that did not break apart, and 3) Adding tomatoes later in the cooking process insured that the skins of the beans were not tough.

COOK’S NOTES – Margaux: I made this on a weeknight, but I prepped everything ahead of time on Sunday, so it made it very quick and easy. Otherwise, this is one that I would probably make on a weekend, because it does take awhile, and you have to remember to do the beans the night before, etc. So I soaked the beans, chopped the cabbage, carrots, onion and celery, and had them all stored in the fridge and ready for Tuesday night. Also, I only used 3 cups of water instead of 4, as we like our stews less brothy around here.

 

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Recently I asked my brother John to do a guest post on the stuffed pumpkins he makes, but when he sent me the recipe I changed my mind. Instead of a guest post, I decided we should do a joint post!  He’s been telling me about these pumpkins for a couple of years, but I’d never attempted them.  Since I was travelling to his house for Thanksgiving, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to learn from the master.  Since there were so many options for the stuffing, we decided to experiment with three slightly different fillings.  I thought it would be fun to report on the results of the variations.

Uncle John says . . . 

This recipe comes from an NPR story from a couple of years ago featuring Dorie Greenspan’s stuffed pumpkin recipe.  This struck me because I was looking for something to do with winter squash beyond the typical sweet recipes made with butter, brown sugar or maple syrup.  I particularly liked the flexibility of Dorie’s recipe – you can use many different approaches to the ingredients and proportions of the stuffing.  I’ve experimented over the last couple of years and landed on our favorite ingredients.  I’ve also developed a philosophy of how to make sure you have the right amounts and proportions.  I’ve never had anyone eat these pumpkins who didn’t say “wow!”.

Savory Stuffed Pumpkins

For this recipe, we will not provide exact amounts but the “philosophy”  ingredients and amounts.  Half the fun of making these pumpkins is inventing the stuffing.  Here are the guidelines, as well as the instructions for how to assemble and bake:

Start with the pumpkins:  Select pie pumpkins at about 3 pounds.  This size will serve 2 people as a main dish and 4 people as a side.  In our experiment, we tried a red kabocha squash and thought it superior to the traditional pumpkin, but either work well.  Cut a “lid” out of the top of the pumpkin/squash by running a sharp knife around the top at a 45-degree angle. Set the lid aside – do not discard. Scoop out the seeds and use a spoon to remove the strings from the flesh.  Wash out the cavity and then dry with a paper towel.

Determine the amount of stuffing: Uncle John’s trademarked technique is to fill the cavity with water and then pour into a measuring cup.  This will tell you the capacity of  the pumpkin, determining the total quantity of ingredients.

Decide on your ingredients: The stuffing is comprised of a starch base, a meat flavoring, cheese (optional), vegetables, aromatics and spices – the exact ingredients and combinations of which are variable.  Here are some guidelines.

Starch base options – cooked brown rice and stale bread cubes will form the base. We cooked both and liked the rice better, but the bread was good as well.

Meat flavoring – we used sage breakfast sausage and bacon and think ham would work as well.  Whatever your choice, it must be cooked prior to combining with the other ingredients.  I can also see a vegetarian version with a combo of chipotle peppers and chickpeas or black beans.

Cheese – we used sharp cheddar with sausage/rice stuffing and pepper Jack with bread/bacon.  Gruyere, Swiss, blue and Parmesan would all be good options.  We made the kabocha without cheese and it was delicious.

Vegetables – we used cooked spinach and cooked Lacinato kale and thought the kale more flavorful as well as substantial.  Cooked Swiss chard, peas and Brussels sprouts leaves also sound good.

Aromatics and spices – for savory fillings you will want sauteed onions and garlic at the least.  Add celery, carrots and bell pepper to your taste.  We used fresh thyme and in the bread stuffing added nutmeg.

Binder – heavy cream or half and half are recommended to bind the ingredients together. We think stock could be used for a non-dairy version.

Other options – I’d like to try this with nuts and fresh or dried fruits.  Speaking of which, you could take this in a whole different direction with a sweet rice or bread pudding approach to the filling.  But that might have to be another blog post.

Prepare the filling and stuff the pumpkins: Combine all stuffing ingredients in a bowl.  A guideline is roughly 1/3 starch base, 1/3 meat and 1/3 vegetables, which you can vary according to taste.  To this, you’ll add the aromatics, spices and other ingredients until you get slightly more filling than the capacity of the cavity of the pumpkin/squash.

Place the filling in the pumpkin and pack down.  Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream, half and half or stock. Place the “lid” back on the pumpkins.

Baking the pumpkins: Place the stuffed pumpkins on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Place in the center rack of a preheated 350 oven and bake for about 90 minutes with the lids on. Don’t be alarmed by the liquid escaping from the pumpkins – that’s natural.  After 90 minutes take the lids off and bake another 20-30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 30 minutes.

Serving:  Depending on size, cut in half or into wedges to serve.  Or if small, individual pumpkins could be served to eat right out of the shell.

Making ahead:  These reheat really well in the oven.  We made the pumpkins in the morning, then cut in half, put back on the baking sheet and baked at 350 for 30 minutes.  Delicious!!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

The calendar says soup, but the weather says salad.  Nonetheless, the kale is so fabulous at the farmer’s markets that I decided to make a kale-based soup today.  We went for a walk today in the Big Woods State Park south of Minneapolis, and I thought it would be great to come home to an already prepared meal.  If it were actually cold out, I would pair this with a hearty sour rye or multi-grain bread, but baguette seemed perfect given the warm weather.  A light red Cotes-du-Rhone is a nice match for the flavors in this soup.

Makes 8-10 servings, depending on appetites

2-3 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 carrot, small dice (about 3/4 cup)

1-2 celery ribs, small dice (about 1/2 cup)

1 onion, small dice

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, or 2 teaspoons dried

4-5 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tablespoons)

2-3 chicken chorizo sausages, like Amylu brand, optional

1 1/2 cups diced roasted tomatoes, homemade or small can fire-roasted

1 cup dry white wine

10 cups liquid, chicken stock, vegetable stock or water

5 leafy sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, 1-inch chunks (about 5 cups)

15 packed cups kale, in 2-inch pieces (roughly one bunch)

salt and pepper to taste

Heat a soup pot of at least 6 quarts capacity over medium-high heat.  Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil and heat to shimmering.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and rosemary to the pot.  Turn down the heat to medium and saute for 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and chorizo and saute for another 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown a little.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes.  Next add the wine and simmer for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol.  Add the liquid of your choice (I used chicken stock) and the thyme sprigs; stir to blend.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the thyme sprigs, taking care that the leaves remain in the soup.

Add the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.  If you like a thicker soup, you can simmer for up to an hour to break down the potatoes.  We like a brothier soup and “just done” potatoes, hence the shorter cooking time.

Add the kale and simmer for 15 minutes more, making sure not to overcook the kale.  Taste and then add salt and pepper.  I did not put in additional S&P since the oven roasted tomatoes had plenty as well as the homemade chicken stock.  We added a tiny amount of each at the table.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:   Either fully cooked Andouille or Chorizo sausages, pork or chicken, would be great in this dish.  If you do not add the sausages, I recommend 2 teaspoons smoked paprika added with the tomatoes.  I used “regular” green kale, but Lacinato would be excellent also.  I did not peel the potatoes out of personal preference.  If you want to thicken the soup a little, I recommend peeled russet potatoes over the Yukons.

And it was a beautiful day for a walk!


Tagine: a special earthenware pot used in Morocco for cooking

Tagine: a stew-like Berber dish of North Africa made of vegetables and meats, slow cooked at low temperatures

Aunt Suzy says . . .

If you read our blog, you know we love Moroccan cooking!  My birthday gift from my brother and sister-in-law didn’t work out last fall, so I had a credit at an online cooking store.  I have always wanted a tagine, so I treated myself to this beauty!  It was so fun to cook in and I hope to use it often.  I think it will get more use in the winter since tagines, the dish, are typically heartier fare.  My friend Asya gave me this recipe recently, and I couldn’t wait to try it once my tagine arrived.  It was delicious, as expected with a Martha recipe.  And it was very easy, not always expected with a Martha recipe.  Delicious served with a dry French Rose wine or a Chenin Blanc.

NOTE:  You do not need a tagine to cook this; a Dutch oven will do the trick as well!

Serves 4-6

adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 tablespoons harissa (more = hotter)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 cups stock – fish or chicken

1 sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise then cut crosswise in 1/3-thick slices

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 zucchini, cut lengthwise and then sliced crosswise in 1/3-inch slices

1 summer squash, prepared ditto to zuke

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 preserved lemon, rind only, small dice (optional)

1 pound salmon filet, wild-caught preferred

1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

Roast the salmon to very rare in a 450° oven for 5-7  minutes depending on thickness.  Let cool slightly and then remove the skin from the bottom.  Cut into serving pieces and set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or bottom of a tagine over medium heat.  Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the harissa and tomato paste, stirring till combined.  Whisk in the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the sweet potato, cauliflower, zuke and squash.  Stir to combine, then add salt.  Bring this mixture to a gentle bubble, then turn down heat and simmer covered until vegetables are al dente.  This could take 15-30 minutes depending on what type of pot you are using.

Next add the chickpeas and the diced preserved lemon.  Stir to combine and cook for another 10 minutes, covered.  Place the reserved salmon pieces on top of the vegetable mixture.  Cook, covered, till just heated through in order not to dry out the salmon or the tagine.  Serve over cooked couscous or rice and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I’ve never made cassoulet before – the recipes always scared me away in the number of ingredients and complexity.  So when I saw how simple this one looked, I thought I’d try it.  It’s not your traditional cassoulet, but it’s delicious nonetheless. (I have to laugh at how different the dish looks in the magazine – ah, what food stylists can do!)

I served the cassoulet with Corfu Salad, which is always a refreshing counterpoint to something rich.  A nice light Cotes du Rhone or Beaujolais complement this rich and smokey dish beautifully.

The Cassoulet

3 cups dried gigante, corona, or large lima beans

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

4 fresh hot Italian sausage links (about a pound) – I used turkey

1 leek (white and pale-green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half rounds

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, crushed with your hands

7 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Breadcrumb Topping

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs – I used whole wheat

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Preparing the Cassoulet

Place beans in a large pot and cover with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

Drain the beans. Add fresh water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender but not mushy, 1 1/2–2 hours (time will vary depending on size and age of beans). Drain, reserving 1 cup bean broth.  This can be done up to 2 days ahead.

Preheat oven to 450°. Heat a small amount of the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until golden all over, 7–8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.  When cool, cut into 1 1/2-inch slices and set aside.

Place 2 Tbsp. oil, leek, and onion in the same pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and anchovies (if using); stir 1 minute to break down anchovies. Add tomato paste and paprika; stir constantly until paste is caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add reserved 1 cup bean broth, beans, chicken broth, and next 4 ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Cover and bake until beans are very tender, about 30 minutes. Add the sausage (and any accumulated juices) to the pot, pressing to submerge. Bake, uncovered, until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened, 45-60 minutes longer.  Keep an eye on this so it doesn’t get too dried out.

Preparing the Breadcrumb Topping & Finishing the Cassoulet

Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over beans and drizzle with remaining 3 Tbsp. oil. Bake cassoulet until breadcrumbs are browned and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes. Sprinkle parsley and lemon zest over just before serving.

Cook’s Notes:  Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. I would not put this recipe in the “difficult” category, but it does take time.  I made the beans on a Saturday and cooked the cassoulet on Sunday.  It was a fun project with really great results!  Spanish Paprika (Pimenton) is available now at a lot of different supermarkets.  Look for the red tin for the imported stuff, or you can buy/order from Penzey’s.  It’s delicious in a lot of things, so you won’t regret buying it!  Gigantes (aka Gigandes) beans might also be hard to find.  We have a great Greek market here that has them in bulk.  I found what looks to be an interesting mail order resource for all things beans – they carry Gigantes. They are worth seeking out for their creamy texture and great mouth appeal.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We’ve got colds around here right now, which prompted me to make a huge pot of chicken stock a couple of days ago.  I remembered this really tasty soup that I made a few years ago and thought it would be a nice change of pace from the traditional chicken noodle.  I think the biggest reason it occurred to me to make it is that it’s easy and fast.  Once you have the ingredients gathered together, it takes under 30 minutes start to finish.  That’s very appealing when one has a cold!

2 cups small pasta (small shells, small elbows, ditalini, orzo, etc.)

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 pound fresh Italian chicken sausages (roughly 4),  meat removed from casings and rolled into twenty 1-inch meatballs (pork would also work if chicken aren’t available)

6-8 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper OR

*Several grinds of Italian Street Fair spice blend

One 5-ounce bag baby spinach ( or 5 cups bulk), coarsely chopped

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until it is al dente, according to package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Make sure the pot/oil have heated completely or the meatballs will stick. Add the meatballs and cook over moderately high heat until they are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. (I found that I needed to do this in 2 batches.)  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate. Add the garlic to the pot and cook over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 1 minute.

Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, bring to a simmer.  Add the meatballs to the broth and simmer until they are cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Add the remaining chicken stock – 4 cups for a less brothy end product, 6 cups for a more brothy soup – and season with salt and pepper (or Italian Street Fair blend).  Bring to a simmer or set aside for later use if you are making this ahead.  This soup base can be refrigerated for up to 3 days prior to serving.

Add the spinach and pasta to the simmering broth and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted and the soup is piping hot, about 1 minute. Ladle into shallow bowls and serve.  Alternatively, if you are not going to serve all the soup in one meal, you can place a little pasta and a little of the spinach in individual bowls and ladle the piping- hot soup over to serve.

*If you happen to be lucky enough to live near a Spice and Tea Exchange, I highly recommend this blend that’s sold in a grinder. You can also order online – the link will take you to their site.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I saw this Jacques Pepin recipe in Food & Wine recently and thought I’d try it.  It got me curious about Garbure, so I looked it up and saw that it’s basically a stew made with smoked meat and a variety of winter vegetables and served with a hearty bread – either poured over the bread or accompanied by it.  Like many peasant  dishes, there are lots of variations on how this stew is made.  My recipe builds on the versions I saw, but is not true to any one in particular.  One day I will try making this with the duck (or goose) confit I saw in many recipes, but not today! I had already done my shopping before seeing dishes with that ingredient.  In the middle of cooking this, I realized that it is a very similar in ingredients to the Old World Turkey Vegetable soup I posted in December of 2010.  The wine pairing recommendation from Jacques is a Beaujolais.  One thing that all the recipes stated was that a tradition is to pour half a glass of red wine onto the last few bites of the stew – called “a chabrot” – as a way to finish the meal.  We weren’t wowed by this :-).   (I am chuckling about my photo – one of the recipes said that this stew was definitely not photogenic!  No matter the looks – it’s a tasty bowl of comfort.)

INGREDIENTS

1  1/2 cups dried cannellini or borlotti beans, picked over and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced smoked meat (ham hocks, ham or smoked turkey – I used smoked turkey)
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly washed and sliced in ¼-inch half rounds
1 medium onion, diced
1 large celery rib, cut in ¼-inch slices
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 quart chicken stock or low sodium broth
1 quart water
Bouquet garnis of 5 sprigs each parsley and thyme, tied with kitchen string
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
2 medium red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cut into ½ -inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into ½ -inch pieces
1/2 medium head Savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Hearty bread and gruyere cheese for serving

Place the beans in a pot and add water to cover by 3 inches. Let stand overnight or use the quick soak method (bring the beans in the water to a boil, turn off the heat and let stand for 1-2 hours).  Drain before adding to the soup.

Coat the bottom of a large stock pot or Dutch oven with the olive oil and heat to medium high. Sauté the leek, onion, celery, carrot and meat for about 10 minutes, until soft and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two.

 

 

 

Add the liquid, along with the soaked beans, bouquet garnis, bay leaves and whole cloves. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes.  Remove the bouquet garnis.

 

 

Add the potatoes, parsnip and cabbage, bring to a boil again and simmer for another 20 minutes covered until the vegetables are tender.  Remove the lid and simmer for 20-30 minutes to thicken to a stew.

Serving options:  You can serve the stew with slices of bread on the side.  Or you can toast the bread and place in the middle of the bowl and pour the stew over it.  You can toast the bread and melt the cheese on top of it.  You can place this on top of a bowl of stew or place in the bowl and pour the stew over.  It seems the most common way of serving in all the recipes I reviewed was to pour the soup over the bread (with or without the melted cheese).

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This delicious soup was one of many recipes for soup recently shared by Lynn Rossetto Kasper of The Splendid Table.  She learned this recipe from a cookbook from the 1600’s (!) given to her by her Dutch aunt.  I haven’t made split pea soup for ages and this one looked really good, so I thought I’d try it.  YUM!!  I love the exotic flavor the spices add –  allspice, ginger and cloves – and how they blend with the smokiness of the meat is a taste treat.  I made some adaptations, specifically less butter and smoked turkey instead of ham hock.  Whether you follow my recipe or Lynn’s original, you will not be disappointed.  Serve with a Dutch beer or a French Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc.

(see “Cooks Notes” for my thoughts about a vegetarian option for this recipe.)

Ingredients

1 large leek
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
2 medium onions, peeled and diced (1/4-inch)
Meat cut from 1/2 smoked turkey leg, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
Fresh-ground black pepper
3 medium red skin potatoes, unpeeled and diced (1/2-inch)
1 1/2 cups dried yellow split peas (or green if yellow are not available)
3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme or several sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
3 to 4 cups water

Instructions

1. Prepare the leek by cutting away the green top and the root. You’ll use only the white portion. Slice the white stalk down its length and rinse it under cold running water to wash away any sand. Pat the leek dry with paper towels and slice it thin.

2. In a 6-quart pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat then add the butter.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, stir in the leeks, carrots, onions, and meat. Sauté until the onions begin to brown. Then stir in the potatoes, split peas, cloves, allspice, ginger, thyme, garlic, broth and water. There should be enough liquid to cover the peas and vegetables by an inch. Add more water if necessary.

3. Simmer the soup, partially covered, 30 minutes, or until the split peas are almost dissolved and the potatoes are tender. Remove the whole cloves and the thyme stems, if using fresh thyme. Taste the soup for seasoning.

Cook’s Notes:  Lynn mentioned that the cooking time will vary depending on how old the peas are.  They can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  I experienced this first hand – the peas took almost an hour to soften.   The original recipe called for salt to taste, but I think the saltiness of  meat is just right.  I recommend tasting the finished soup before you add any salt.

I think this could easily be made vegetarian, by using the vegetable broth instead of chicken and adding 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or a little chipotle pepper to replicate the smokiness of the meat.