Monday, January 5, 2015

Cream of Sunchoke Soup

We recently got a pound of sunchokes in our CSA box. They used to be called Jerusalem artichokes but they are not from Jerusalem nor are they related to artichokes. From what I read, Jerusalem artichoke is the outgoing name and sunchoke is becoming the preferred name.

It looks like ginger root but it is a tuber. I went with Mark Bittman's advice to not peel them but I just scrubbed them well.

I had received some advice and tips from friends. One said they make great chips. One was about try this recipe. Another warned me of their nickname: fartichokes. I was paging through a recent Bon Appetit and found another option. But after the sunchokes arrived, we had a getaway to Healdsburg and had a great dinner at Chalkboard. They served an excellent Cream of Sunchoke Soup with Dungeness Crab with apple and celery. I adapted it and went with this recipe when I got home. The recipe below can also be adapted for a number of other ingredients. Instead of sunchokes, you can use broccoli, potato, cauliflower, etc.

Cream of Sunchoke Soup (with caramelized shallot and mushroom)

Garnish: Caramelized shallots and mushroom
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 -3 mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (including stalk)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Salt, to taste 
  • White pepper, to taste
  • balsamic vinegar (optional), a dash
Prior to getting started on the soup, prep all of the garnish ingredients. Heat a small skillet and melt the butter. Add the shallots. After about 5 minutes, as shallots begin to soften, add the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, stirring on occasion, for 20-25 minutes until the mixture is browned with crispy edges. Transfer to a small bowl. 

Cream of Sunchoke Soup
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. sunchokes, scrubbed well, skin on, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. brandy
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until foamy. Add the onions and sunchokes and stir to mix. Saute covered for 10 minutes, stirring one or two times. Uncover and cook for an additional 8 minutes, until vegetables are soft, stirring often so they don't stick. Add in 1 tbsp. flour and 1 tbsp. of brandy. Stir and cook for 1 minute. 

Gradually add 2 cups of broth and stir to mix. Simmer for 5 minutes or longer until vegetables soften. 

Transfer to a food processor (or use an immersion blender) adding up to a cup of stock to desired consistency. 

Return soup to skillet, add half and half and season generously with salt and pepper. Add last tablespoon of brandy and white wine.

Cook until mixed. Serve in bowls and mound the shallot garnish in the center. 

Serve with some toasted, buttered slices of ciabatta or other good quality bread.

Inspiration:



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gingered Carrot Soup

A good friend made this recipe for a recent dinner. It was tasty, complex, and interesting. Normally, you might think of carrot soup as somewhat sweet but the ginger and mint add a whole new layer. A good recipe as we move into the cooler, winter months.

Gingered Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1 1/2 lb. carrots 
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • sugar to taste
  • salt to taste
  • ground black or white pepper to taste
Preparation:

Slice leek, grate ginger, finely chop mint leaves, peel carrots and cut into 3/4 inch lengths (if using large carrot you can also cut them in half lengthwise).

Cooking:

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leek and gingers and saute until the leeks are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and saute until coated with butter. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 30-35 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth (The soup can be made up to this point the day before and refrigerated. Add the orange juice and prep the mint the next day).

Juice the oranges and add juice to pot. Heat the soup gently and adjust seasonings, adding sugar, salt and pepper as needed. White pepper does well with this dish.

Serving:

Soup can be served cold or reheated. If reheating, do not boil.  
Garnish with mint leaves, citrus slices, or orange zest.


Recommended wine:

Riesling

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Waldorf Salad - Revisited

"I'll have the Waldorf Salad."

I think the last time I uttered those words, I was 8 years old in a restaurant in late 1960's somewhere in the Los Angeles area. The Waldorf Salad is, indeed, a classic and an icon. Created around 1896 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, it became a hit for many years. As salads go in the 1960's and 1970, a Waldorf salad was as good a selection as the wedge of iceberg lettuce coated with blue cheese dressing and croutons. Those were your some of your main exotic salad choices back then.

If you have no background on the Waldorf salad, know that the "original version of this salad contained only apples, celery and mayonnaise. Chopped walnuts later became an integral part of the dish. Waldorf salad is usually served on top of a bed of lettuce." Follow the link to read more.

So how did the words "Waldorf Salad" get uttered in recent history with me? We were watching the growing pile of apples from our CSA box. Week after week brought even more apples.

Apple pie? We are not sweets people. We'd consume a slice or two and then it would sit and go bad.

Applesauce? I have jars of it from last year and the year before still sitting in the pantry.

Then I heard the magic words: "Can't you--I don't know--make a Waldorf salad or something?"

I hadn't thought about Waldorf salad for the last number of decades. So I got online and found plenty of variations on the original recipe.

But I had a couple of problems. My allergy to brown skinned nuts means no walnuts. Also, we are not big raisins fans. But Waldorf salad IS a good way to make a dent in the apple supply. So I needed to be creative. For the nuts, I found a bag of "not-so-salty" chopped cashews at Trader Joe's. Instead of raisins, I substituted dried currants from the bulk food section of Whole Foods. Everything else is true to the original recipe. But the substitutions were perfect!

Waldorf Salad Revisited

  • 4 apples, cored and chopped
  • juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2-3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup nuts of choice
  • 1/2 cup raisins or currants
  • 2-3 cups mayonnaise (can use sour cream or yogurt)
Directions
  • Juice the lemon into a large bowl
  • Core and cut the apples and add them to the bowl as you go. Stir to mix periodically so that lemon juice covers the apples (you can also use ascorbic acid powder in addition to the lemon juice)
  • Zest lemon peel into bowl
  • Slice and add celery
  • Add all other ingredients to bowl
  • Stir to mix and then add mayo and nuts
Put in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors marry. Stir to mix prior to serving. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pan-Roasted Shishito Peppers

We've been getting a steady supply of shishito peppers in our CSA box for the past few weeks. I had not heard of these peppers before we started getting them. After first getting them, I began to slice them and add them to stir fries and scrambled eggs all with excellent results. These Japanese peppers are very mild--milder than the Padron pepper--but evidently you may find a hot one.

The Padron peppers also seem to be a recently new item on the market. We have attended some dinners with friends who had served roasted Padron peppers as an appetizer. With that in mind, I began to do the same with my shishito peppers.

I've done two batches of the recipe below but on the BBQ which also works...maybe better. The peppers cook more quickly and absorb the smoky flavor.

But our most recent Sunset magazine had an article on the other pepper that suddenly seems to be everywhere: the Padron pepper. I just substituted my shishito peppers instead.

I've served these Shishito peppers at three different social occasions all with great reviews. The recipe below is pretty much the same recipe that's in the latest Sunset magazine. But my first two versions were to put the peppers in a large bowl, coat them with olive oil and salt, and then grill them on the barbeque. Use tongs to turn them.

This last time, I made them on the cooktop following this recipe:

Pan-Roasted Shishito Peppers

Ingredients:
  • Olive oil - 2 Tbsp. 
  • Shishito peppers - 1 bunch
  • Salt - 1/2 tsp.
  • Red chili flakes (optional) - 1/4 tsp.
Directions:
  • Heat a large, heavy frying pan (not a non-stick pan. Use cast iron or an enameled cast iron) over medium heat until pan is very hot. Warm it up over medium heat for around 2 minutes. 
  • Add oil and allow it to heat up. Swirl and spread it around. 
  • Add peppers and chili flakes and cook stirring occasionally until peppers are blistered in places.
  • Season with salt and stir to spread salt around
Serve hot or at room temperature. As you serve, include a receptacle for people to deposit the stems.


More information on Shishito peppers:

http://www.sfgate.com/recipes/article/Shishito-a-mild-tender-pepper-5647230.php

http://www.happyboyfarms.com/our-produce-category.php?id=46&keywords=Shishito_Peppers


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Apricot Smoothie


The whole smoothie phenomenon has pretty much passed me by. I have not been making kale and chia berry smoothies for breakfast like much of the rest of the world. But a recent harvest from the backyard apricot tree had me wondering what to do with all of the fleeting fruit. I could make more preserves and can them but I still have jars from previous years in the pantry.

I sent a friend home with a batch of the recently harvested apricots. She texted later saying that she had made a yummy apricot smoothie for dinner. So the idea was planted.

I did some looking online for apricot smoothies. But I was disappointed that the smoothies only called for 2-3 apricots at a time. I needed to use them up more quickly than that.

Then my CSA provider recently shared this blog post about making and freezing smoothies in an ice cube tray so that you don't have to get out the mixer every morning.

So I gave it a try. I started with a NY Times article that appealed to me because of its simplicity. I then doubled the recipe (substituting vanilla extract for the almond extract). I drank a glass and then poured the rest into ice cube trays and stuck it in the freezer overnight. Pop the cubes out and stick them in a  freezer bag and keep it in the freezer until you're ready to use them.

The apricots kept coming so I kept making smoothies. I began to tweak the recipe, pretty much now following these guidelines:

Apricot Smoothie

  • 6 apricots (pitted and sliced into quarters)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (I actually used a plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • few drops of vanilla extract
  • 4-5 ice cubes
Put all ingredients into a mixer or food processor and blend until smooth. Drink immediately or freeze. 

Since then I've been making a variety of smoothies using other summer fruit as well. Tasty!

Monday, June 16, 2014

In the Garden: May 2014 - Introducing Tatsoi

Planting is pretty much complete for the year. In the ground there's green beans, lots of basil, tomatoes, broccoli, bell pepper, and, introducing, tatsoi. Tatsoi caught my eye at the nursery this year so I decided to bring some home and give it a try.

Tatsoi is an Asian green that is growing in popularity in North America. It seems to have been around a bit longer on the east coast and it's now showing up more on the west coast. It has dark green, round leaves that form a compact, thick rosette. Tatsoi contains an abundance of nutrients and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It's one of many alternatives to your typical greens. If you have the luxury of a nearby farmer's market then look for Tatsoi.

Tatsoi can be used the same way you might use spinach and other greens. It can be added raw with other greens to a salad or it can be cooked into stir fry. It would work well in any of these existing recipes:

Here are some external websites that provide more information on tatsoi along with some cooking ideas:
I will have to see how I use it this summer.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Raspberry Sauce

So simple.

I made a cheesecake for a recent dinner party (recipe coming soon) but I needed a little "something" to take it to the next level.

I got to thinking about how in restaurants they decorate the plate with smears and dribbles of sauces. I figured I needed some of that. For whatever reason, raspberry puree popped into my brain and I got online and did some research and I found this simple sauce.

This is it. This sauce will take your simple desserts up a notch.

Drizzle it on a plate. Squeeze some over the top of your dessert. It's super easy to make and keeps in the fridge a long time. I just bought a squeeze bottle on Amazon for $3 in order to play around with various presentation techniques.

The photo features some leftover sauce days after the dinner party drizzled over ice cream along with some wild strawberries from the back yard.

Raspberry Sauce

  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 2 tbsp. orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 cup cold water

Combine the raspberries and orange juice in a medium skillet. Add sugar and stir until the sugar is spread around and becoming transparent. Whisk together cornstarch and water in a separate bowl and add it to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Turn off heat and let cool for a bit. Pour sauce into small food processor and puree the sauce. Pour it into a sealed container and set it in the fridge. Let it cool completely before using.