Nice People Get Clam Chowder

bay leaves for No Fuss Clam Chowder

Who might you ask is nice? Just about everyone in Texas.  It sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you it’s true.  Our relocation here has been met by a welcoming committee that extends far beyond our tiny (but valuable) collection of new acquaintances. Perfect strangers offer such a heartfelt welcome that they barely stop short of a big bear hug. They’re inclusive, helpful, excited and genuinely hopeful that you will be happy in their beloved state. I’m starting to wonder why everyone doesn’t move to Texas…..maybe it’s the heat.

butter and cream for no-fuss clam chowder

My husband’s team at work is simply one more example of this hospitality. For the months and months…and months that he traveled between states, they never waivered in their concern for his grueling schedule or the separation from his family. They routinely inquired after me and eagerly looked forward to when we would all be settled in TX together. Shortly after I got here (and thanks to my husband’s fervent PR campaign) requests from his office came pouring in for Cheeseburger Soup. I was happy to oblige, but knowing my aversion to Velveeta you might have guessed I wanted to prepare something a bit more….well….sophisticated.  Didn’t happen. I’m a pleaser.  Cheeseburger Soup made its TX debut and did not disappoint. I really don’t’ think this soup can. It’s a dirty little secret that I will forever deny should I come face-to-face with Ina.

baby clams for No Fuss Clam Chowder

While serving lunch that day I managed to field requests for lobster bisque, a confusingly described jalapeño something that is served somewhere in Grapevine and clam chowder.  A while ago I made a classic clam chowder for my father-in-law, only to be poked and prodded for the last year by my husband urging me (obviously not subtly) for his clam chowder to make it on the menu. It’s loaded with sweet canned baby clams AND it’s studded with more than its fair share of applewood smoked bacon. I think the recipe originally came from Williams-Sonoma and with a few minor tweaks it’s a household favorite. However, this time around, it’s not only for our dinner table, but a large jar traveled to work with my husband for a very special someone who just happens to fall into the “Nice People” category.

No-Fuss Clam Chowder

No-Fuss Clam Chowder

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma “Soup” Cookbook.

Try to make this a day in advance as the flavors will continue to develop as it sits overnight. Feel free to add more clam juice if you want a bolder clam flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 3 oz pancetta, small dice
  • 1 cup chopped celery, small chop (about 3 stalks)
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP extra-dry vermouth
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 14 oz red potatoes, small chop (about 3 medium)
  • 2 10oz cans baby clams, drained
  • 12 oz frozen sweet corn, thawed
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan (I used a 4 qt saute/simmer) over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes so it just begins to soften.
  2. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the celery and cook for another 1 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the vermouth and scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  6. Deglaze the pan a second time by pouring in the clam juice and scraping up the brown bits.
  7. Pour in the dairy along with the potatoes, corn, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
  8. Raise the heat enough to bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the parsley and clams and simmer for an additional 5 minutes until the clams are warmed through.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/04/16/nice-people-get-clam-chowder/

 

signature

Change of Plans

beans for Creamy White Bean and Chorizo SoupDoes the simple mention of this spontaneous course of events send you reeling with excitement into the adventure ahead or does it fill you with dread or maybe irritation that your well laid plans have been disrupted? Perhaps you are cool as a cucumber and so laid back that you simply go with the flow. I’m definitely not in the third camp….no sir! Unless that is I’m feeling inspired and striving to be a better person by working on my “issues” and attempting to be pleasing to those I’m with….rather than being a whiny stick-in-the-mud. I’m more of an obsessive planner. In fact, I’m that annoying person on vacation that has every second of the day accounted for and precisely outlined in a neatly composed, distributed-in-advance itinerary. It’s not complicated to understand, for better or worse I always want to be in control. For me, planning provides a sense of power….like I’m in command of my universe. Yeah, right.

carrot celery onion for creamy white bean and chorizo soupOne of my new gal pals just broke her leg on a skiing trip….talk about change of plans. Learning the news I immediately began playing out how utterly inconvenient this was about to become for her. Everything in her world and her family’s world would have to be altered, modified, shifted, you name it. Routines would become a mere ghost of their former selves. Uh! My stomach is turning right now just thinking about it.  Worse yet….I was selfishly relieved that it wasn’t my plight. I know this is horrible and is one of those “issues” I must work if I am to become that better person. Seeing her for lunch I was amazed at her resilience and downright cheerful stance on the matter. My big spontaneous accomplishment that week had been deciding to switch out the Bacon Date Scones I was planning on bringing her with a Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto version. Whoa…hold me back…I’m on fire!

rosemary for creamy white bean and chorizo soupI’m guessing that my well-organized self is probably the reason I love recipes. They are carefully curated plans that culminate into something beautiful that you set out to do. Of course it doesn’t always go as planned and cooking has gone a long way to teach me flexibility and patience. I’ve also learned that a change in plan can often result in something even better than originally expected.

I’ve barely modified this soup from the original recipe, but the enhancements are what make it so satisfying to me. More herbs, extra garlic, special beans.  Its puréed, but you hold back some of the soup to add in later for texture, along with some crumbled spicy chorizo sausage (which I’m sure I don’t eat enough of!). I’ve enjoyed this soup many times over and yet it never tasted as good as it did with the addition of my new favorite savory scones. They go together like tomato soup and grilled cheese…it’s that perfect.

Parmesan Prosciutto Rosemary Scones for creamy white bean and chorizo soup

 

Creamy White Bean and Chorizo Soup

Creamy White Bean and Chorizo Soup

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

This is truly one of the most flavorful soups I've ever tasted...you'll find yourself making it over and over until you've shared it with just about everyone you know.

Ingredients

    Beans
  • 1 lb dried cannellini beans (I used white emergo beans from Zursun Idaho Heirloom Beans)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
  • Soup
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots, peeled (about 3-5)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 quart homemade chicken broth
  • 1 lb fresh chorizo sausage (links, casings removed)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  1. Pick through the dried beans and remove any little rocks or debris that may have gotten mixed in, then give them a vigorous rinse in a colander to remove dust and dirt. Place beans in a small stock pot and cover with water by 3 inches. Soak overnight (minimum 12 hours).
  2. Drain and rinse the beans then return them the stockpot with 8 cups of water, 1 TBSP olive oil, smashed garlic, rosemary and bay leaves.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Add 1 TBSP salt and continue to simmer for another 45 minutes until the beans are just tender. At this point they will be so flavorful that you will want to gobble them with some olive oil and freshly grated parmesan…but, please, try to resist for the sake of your soup.
  5. Drain the beans, but be sure to reserve the cooking liquid. You are going to add it to the soup later. It’s the secret ingredient!
  6. Heat the olive oil in a large pot (I used a 9 quart Dutch oven) over medium heat. Then add the onion, carrots and celery and sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.
  8. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute. The garlic and thyme will bloom and scent your kitchen.
  9. Pour in 2 cups of the reserved bean cooking liquid, as well as the chicken stock and cooked beans.
  10. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer for 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  11. Meanwhile, sauté the sausage in large skillet (I used a 12” Le Creuset) over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until no pink remains. Be sure to break the sausage up so you end up with crumbles. Transfer it to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  12. Transfer the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly (5-10 minutes).
  13. Remove 1 ½ cups of the soup from the pot and set aside. Then use an immersion blender to purée the soup until it is creamy and no chunks remain. Return the reserved soup to the pot, along with the chorizo sausage and cream.
  14. Gently reheat and serve with Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto Scones.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/03/23/change-of-plans/

Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto Scones

Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto Scones

Adapted from Bon Appétit and Coastal Living. When these come out of the oven, the smell alone is almost as good as eating one. Almost…..

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 6 oz prosciutto di parma, thinly sliced and pulsed into a crumble in the food processor
  • 1 generous TBSP of freshly chopped rosemary
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, diced and chilled
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • Egg wash (1 TBSP milk lightly beaten with 1 egg)
  • Fleur de Sel

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in the chopped rosemary, grated cheese and crumbled prosciutto. Mix with your hands to break up any clumps.
  5. Using a pastry cutter, quickly incorporate the chilled butter into the flour mixture. Blend until the butter is the size of peas and the dough resembles a coarse meal.
  6. Pour in the buttermilk and stir until large clumps develop; then use your hands to knead a few times and shape into a ball.
  7. On a floured surface, pat the dough into an 8” round and cut into 8 wedges. Sometimes I make smaller scones; just divide the dough in half and make 16 smaller wedges instead of 8 large ones.
  8. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and chill for 2 hours. This ensures light, flaky scones.
  9. Before placing in the oven, brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the scones comes out clean. Visually the scones should be golden brown.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/03/23/change-of-plans/

 

signature

Friendship.

squash for Mexican Squash Soup

I’m always amazed how people come in and out of your life. Sometimes they are there for the long haul, other times they just seem to pop in and out and then there are those in the middle that you expect will endure, but surprisingly fade away. I used to mourn the idea of losing touch with a friend, but I’ve come to realize there is a better way by enjoying the time you have, finding personal growth in the relationship and learning about yourself and the type of friend you are and strive to be. Hopefully, both your life and theirs will be enhanced having spent time together….no matter the duration.  Moving half-way across our country has made me appreciate this sentiment, but I don’t do it with a heavy heart, rather with the awareness of how fortunate I’ve been to have cared for so many who reciprocated with matched affection.

squash and serrano for Mexican Squash Soup

Funny how life works out, but just before I arrived in Texas a special friend also relocated here from NC. I crossed paths with Sarah through the club industry and was quickly impressed by her professionalism and desire to excel and master her field.  It’s almost second nature to her to consider the impact of decisions and policies far beyond the immediate result but rather for the vision of the organization. Impressively her ambitions don’t preclude her from a willingness to seek alternate perspectives nor does she shirk any chore or request as something “outside of her area”. The flip side (there’s always a yang) is that her dedication at work often conflicts with a commitment to self….which leaves going to the market, let alone cooking, a dismal priority. Needless to say, I worry…her poor taste buds need a little week day ooolala!

red pepper for Mexican Squash Soup

I’ve not been to Rancho La Puerta (sniff sniff), but this creamy, spicy and yes, healthy squash soup hails from the famed spa. On a good day, if I squeeze my eyes shut and imagine so hard that billows of steam practically puff from my ears, I’m transported there in one delicious spoonful….albeit only for a few brief whiffs of wellness heaven. Obviously I didn’t come by the recipe firsthand (ahem), I came across it 5 years ago in Bon Appétit and have been making it ever since- for me, as well as my close friends  Eileen and Catherine who evidently endorse it because I’ve never seen one remaining speck  in either of their bowls. Sorry ladies! I figure if I make Sarah a pot of this soup she’ll have a dinner waiting for her each night that is tasty, nourishing and perhaps a bit inspiring. It’s the least I can do to express how having her in Texas makes my husband and I less disconnected from our previous life and more like being home…..a sense of family in this vast state.

Mexican Squash Soup

Mexican Squash Soup

Adapted from Rancho La Puerta's Azteca Squash Soup.

I go crazy for homemade chicken broth and you can make this soup with it, but you really don't need to as there are so many bold flavors going on already.

Ingredients

  • 3 lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for squash
  • 2 cups yellow onion, medium chop (about 1 large)
  • 4 celery stalks, medium chop
  • 2 TBSP chopped garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 5 cups homemade vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can black beans (low or no sodium)
  • 10 oz bag frozen sweet corn, thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and medium chop
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 serrano chile, minced (cored and seeded if you want to reduce heat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.
  2. Rub the cut side of the squash with some olive oil, generously sprinkle with salt and pepper and place cut side down on prepared baking sheet. Roast for 45-50 minutes until fork tender. Let cool until comfortable to handle and scoop the flesh out and reserve for later.
  3. While the squash is roasting, heat the 3 TBSP of olive oil over medium-high heat (I used a 9 quart Dutch oven, but a 6 quart pot will do the trick). Add the onions, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and slightly browned.
  4. Add the garlic and celery and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in 1 cup of broth, bring to a simmer and cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir once.
  6. Add the squash, cumin, remaining 4 cups of broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
  8. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup.
  9. Add the beans, corn, both peppers, cilantro, thyme and salt. Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  10. Enjoy as is or with some sinfully delicious toppings! Like cool sour cream and crushed tortilla chips. Fresh chopped cilantro is also a nice contrast.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/03/03/friendship/

 

signature

Say Cheese

peppers for chicken chili

I’d forgotten how unbelievably challenging it is to get back on track once you’ve fallen off the proverbial horse. Exercise, smoking, going to bed at a regular time…..or in this case blogging. Obviously I’ve been silent since October so not only did I come crashing down, I stayed firmly glued to the ground.  I’ve missed the writing tremendously. It’s strange, but it’s like having a conversation with myself where I actually connect with “me”. I find it so curious what pours (or sometimes trickles) out of my fingers.  The cooking I’ve continued to do without a break in the action….it’s the photography that keeps me from getting back in the saddle.  In November we moved into a new house, and although there was and continues to be a plethora of “new construction” issues to deal with I could have found time to post had I possessed the required motivation.  I simply found myself leaping at any excuse NOT to pick up the camera.

basil for Chicken ChiliTaking the pictures has got to be THE MOST ANNOYING part of the blogging process for me. Uh. Just the thought of it puts me in a sour mood and fills me with dread. Yes, I’m out of practice, but even when I’m fighting with the camera and chasing down natural light on a more routine basis, I still find this to be an exasperating exercise. I’m pretty good at rationalizing my perspective, but even I cannot devise an argument that supports a picture-free zone on a blog. Relaying my plight to P she offered that I was being too hard on myself and too basically stop stressing, snap a few pictures and be done with it. So, here goes…. Certainly my images were not perfect before, but I’m going to try a new relaxed approach that lets me get back to why I’m doing this in the first place. To enjoy myself. So I give you Chicken Chili with some supporting less-than-perfect photos that will hopefully entice you to make this lovely bean-less chili to ride out the winter chill.

roast chicken for chicken chili

It’s similar to traditional chili in that its flavor is grounded in chili powder and cumin, yet the roast chicken is an enticing alternative to beef and the exchange of basil for cilantro lends a bit of sophistication that is totally not expected when one considers chili. Make it a day ahead if you can so that the flavors have time to get to know each other. Top with lots of cheddar cheese!

Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili

Adapted from Ina Garten's Chicken Chili.

I think this would be divine with the addition of black beans....but due to my husband's lackluster impression of them AND the fact that this was his dinner for 3 evenings in a row....we left them out.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing on the chicken
  • 4 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 3 1/2-4 lbs)
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (about 2 large)
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 TBSP tomato powder (or paste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 red peppers; cored, seeded and medium chopped
  • 2 yellow peppers; cored, seeded and medium chopped
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 28 oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh basil, minced
  • Toppings
  • Sour cream
  • Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Roast at 350 for approximately 50 minutes. When cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bone and skin and chop into bite-sized chunks. Reserve for later.
  2. In a large pot (I used a 6.75 Dutch oven) heat the olive oil over medium-low.
  3. Add the onions and sauté for 10-15 minutes until soft and translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  5. Sprinkle in the spices (chili powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne, oregano, allspice and tomato powder), stir and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  6. Add the peppers and cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Pour in the tomatoes and their juices. Use a wooden spoon to break them up into smaller pieces.
  8. Add the salt and basil and bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  10. Place the chicken in the pot and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  11. Serve with your favorite toppings!
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/02/06/say-cheese/

signature

Fall Vegetable Stock

parsnips for fall vegetable stockIn the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t use much vegetable stock. It’s always kind of reminded me of dirty dish water and frankly I didn’t think it tasted much better. And FORGET the boxed stuff, they might as well call it “Liquid Salt”, correction “Orange Colored Liquid Salt”. I’ve said before that I’m not big into meat, but I do love homemade chicken broth. Makes me all warm and tingly AND anything I make with it is all the tastier for it. However, I have no business writing a soup blog if I don’t put my heart into learning how to make, not just passable, but really good vegetable stock. It’s taken a while but these days you can find me swooning over vegetable stock as one might say chocolate cake, or in my case a rotisserie chicken stock.

celery root for fall vegetable stock

There are three keys to fabulous vegetable stock. First and foremost use seasonal vegetables as they will be freshest produce available and the flavors will compliment the seasonal dishes being prepared in your kitchen.  Two, sauté your vegetables in order to coax out their flavors.  Lastly, use a parchment lid to trap precious liquid and sinfully sweat your vegetables to sweet deliciousness.  Yes, your vegetarian friends will love you for it, but even chicken stock devotees like myself will surprisingly find themselves keeping a reserve in the freezer.

Fall Vegetable Stock

Fall Vegetable Stock

Consider customizing the vegetables to your preference, but beware of using produce that has a strong, overpowering presence like cabbage, tomatoes or big meaty mushrooms. You’ll find vegetable stock is a whole lot easier to make than beef or even chicken broth, but because it has a delicate flavor it will lose its flavor nuances very quickly, so you’ll want to use it within 24 hours or freeze for future use.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small celery root, peeled and medium chop
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and medium chop
  • 4 large garlic cloves, skins removed and smashed
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and medium chop
  • 20 sprigs of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • ½ ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms, crumbled
  • 3 quarts filtered water

Instructions

  1. In large stockpot (I used a 6 quart) heat oil and butter over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, parsnips, fennel, celery root, mushrooms, onion, garlic and salt. Stir to ensure everything is evenly coated with oil.
  3. Cover with a round of parchment paper that you cut to accommodate the size of your pot.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the water and herbs and bring to a gentle simmer.
  6. Barely simmer for 45 minutes.
  7. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.
  8. Use immediately, freeze or cool and refrigerate for use within 24 hours.
  9. Yields 2-3 quarts.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/10/28/fall-vegetable-stock/

signature

Apple of my eye.

apple for Apple Onion and Cheddar Soup

I LOVE THIS RECIPEEEEEEEE! Hopefully my yelling didn’t startle you. It’s just that I’ve been waiting for an eternity to share it. My version came to be as most greats do by accident. I was following instructions from The New England Soup Factory Cookbook when I brazenly plunged the immersion blender into the pot and puréed the apples and onions until they were just shy of smooth. This step was definitely not called for and I certainly hadn’t planned the indiscretion, yet it just felt right… and tasted even better. Now instead of being distinct flavors, they mingled on the spoon as one and then… just as the heavens opened…..it sang out to me…in perfect harmony… or perhaps I just imagined that part.

This soup is never far from my mind but no matter how much I crave it and how hard I try to imagine things differently, its custom made for the season where leaves crunch, bold wind gusts rein and the falling dusk says light a fire, open a bottle and nestle in for the night. Is there anything better? I adore the ease and energy of summer, yet my soul thrives in the beauty of fall and the oodles of tastes associated with it….especially apples.

apple 2 Apple Onion Cheddar Soup

Worried that my beloved New York McIntosh wouldn’t weather the trip to TX, when the box arrived instead of immediately opening it, I took a moment to indulge and breath in the sweet, fresh fragrance that shrouded the carton and hung in the air as if promising of more pleasures to come.  With baited breath, I broke the calm and tore into the box…revealing (thankfully) the most pristine half-bushel I’ve ever laid eyes on.  They survived! And within an hour they were minus 2.

Apples make delicious savory soups and as you peruse the ingredient list below I’m quite certain you’ll hear “ding” “ding” “ding” and instantly jump on my bandwagon as to why this soup is a must for fall…kinda sounds like a fashion trend.  We’ve already covered the apples, but there’s also apple cider, caraway, cheddar and Calvados….an assembly of fall flavors. I’m sure by now you’re reaching for a cozy wrap (here’s the one I’m coveting, which thankfully for my bank account is sold out) and heading straight to the farmers market.  Last time I made tender whole grain sandwiches with salty ham and a smear of Dijon (perfect complement to the soup), but this time I went for a Ham Gruyere Tart to make things a little fancier, but with practically the same ease  as slapping together a sandwich. Now, the only thing left to do is light a fire (or flip the switch), open a bottle of Champagne and nestle in!

Apple Onion and Cheddar Soup

Apple Onion and Cheddar Soup

Adapted from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 5 sweet onions, sliced
  • 3 lbs McIntosh or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium high heat until fragrant (about 5 minutes)
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 TBSP Calvados
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and reduce heat to medium-low. Sauté for 25 minutes until the onions are soft and golden. Stir occasionally. Add the garlic for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  3. Add the apples and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Next add the chicken broth, cider, caraway seeds and thyme.
  5. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  6. Reduce to medium, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from the stove and puree. I used an immersion blender.
  8. Add cream and cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted.
  9. Stir in Calvados, salt and pepper.
  10. Return to the stove and gently simmer for about 3 minutes.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/10/08/apple-of-my-eye/

Notes:

  1. My go-to cheddar to eat and cook with is Black Diamond. It’s a Canadian cheese that is aged to perfection. I’m in love with the 5-year aged, but it’s difficult to find. Not many stores carry it due to the cost; however, you can usually find the 3-year aged. When you cook or bake with cheese, I think it’s important to use one that is strong and can stand up to the rest of the ingredients, otherwise, what’s the point?
  2. I mentioned champagne above and because the soup is sweeter than most, it’s important to pair it with something dry and crisp. I also like something a bit saltier to eat alongside it as well.
  3. Be sure to use a tart apple variety because sweet ones won’t provide enough contrast in the soup.
  4. If you don’t have or don’t care to use Calvados , replace it with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

 

signature

Work Perk

Ciabatta for Pappa al Pomodoro

I don’t think you ever consider the perk of friendship when contemplating a new a job, yet so many times we find those dearest to us through the endeavor of employment. The years I spent at Governors Club furnished my social life with fine acquaintances, a professional network to be proud of and most importantly a cadre of close friends. I anticipated that through substantial effort and intelligent choices the network would develop, yet the idea of a budding friendship that might become a lifelong enterprise didn’t occur to me in the slightest. I’m not saying that every workplace situation lends itself to kindred opportunities, but if you are open you might be surprised to find a new pal in the bunch.

parm for Pappa al Pomodoro

Leaving these special people behind in Carolina was truly heartbreak. Certainly, new friends (no, not replacement friends)will, and have, found their way into my life and when you love someone you stay in touch, but let’s be real….it’s not the same. Moving to North Carolina 10 years ago, there were few I left behind. I simply never let anyone in too deep as doing so would have meant trusting them not to disappoint, hurt or betray. I didn’t consider it could also mean trusting them to love, protect and support….In NC I consciously adjusted my perspective and found that the latter far outweighed the risk of disenchantment.…..

fennel for Pappa al Pomodoro

Before departing North Carolina we had hoped to have Raoul (esteemed member of the cadre) join us for one last meal and a proper “good-bye”.  I considered presenting a fancy smancy dinner that inevitably would take all day to prepare (and all night to clean up), but it just didn’t feel “right”. I wanted the food to nurture us as we laughed, caught up and made plans to reconnect in the Lone Star state. No pretense or anything showy, just simple real food to memorialize an honest, genuine friendship. My plan was to make Pappa al Pomodoro and serve it alongside a platter of Italian inspired accompaniments like pesto deviled eggs with sundried tomatoes, shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano and thinly sliced roast beef with a gorgonzola dolce spread. I even had dessert picked out……buttery crostini’s topped with rich homemade ricotta for a honey tasting (thank you David Lebovitz for the inspiration)………Raoul, we are sorry we missed you (it was the husband’s fault)….so tonight’s dinner is in your honor.

Pappa Al Pomodoro

Pappa Al Pomodoro

Adapted from Ina Garten.

This thick Tuscan tomato and bread stew is best made with day old bread. I’ve enjoyed it with summer tomatoes, but much prefer it on chilly nights prepared with intense canned tomatoes. Admittedly, I find most Pappa Al Pomodoro recipes a little too simple, almost boring (shhhh, don’t tell), but not Ina’s. Her recipe incorporates extra, non-traditional ingredients that make it a lot more interesting without compromising its rustic heritage.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (about 1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (about ½” thick), peeled
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and medium chopped
  • 3 TBSP minced garlic (about 9 cloves)
  • ½ loaf of ciabatta, crusts removed and cut into 1” chunks
  • 2 28 oz cans of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot (I used a 6.75 quart Dutch oven) over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, fennel, garlic and carrots and cook for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally.
  3. While the vegetables cook, place the tomatoes and their juice in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 8-10 times until the tomatoes are chopped NOT purreeed. Set aside.
  4. Mix in the ciabatta and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir a few times.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, broth, wine, basil, salt and pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
  7. Partially cover the pot with the lid and gently simmer for 45 minutes. Stir when you think of it.
  8. Using a whisk, vigorously stir the soup in order to dissolve the bread. Then stir in the cheese and taste for seasonings.
  9. Serve with oven roasted topping.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/09/20/work-perk/

Oven Roasted Basil, Bread and Pancetta Topping

Oven Roasted Basil, Bread and Pancetta Topping

Ingredients

  • ½ loaf ciabatta, cut into 1” chunks
  • 3 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 30 fresh basil leaves
  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  3. Place the bread crumbs, pancetta and basil on the pan.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Using your hands, mix it all together.
  6. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/09/20/work-perk/

Notes:

  1. Be sure to use bread that is a day old because it tends to soak up the tomato juices better when it’s a little stale. You’ll be rewarded with a more luscious texture too…and who doesn’t like luscious.
  2. This stew is extremely satisfying (read: filling). I don’t suggest much more than a small salad on the side.
  3. I implore you NOT to skip the topping.  It’s salty, crunchy goodness that takes minutes to make and completes the soup…..not making it would be like pancakes without maple syrup. What’s the point?
signature

Pozole Verde

tomatillos for Pozole Verde

I am willing to bet that even if you have remote familiarity with hominy you probably haven’t cooked it, much less tasted it.  Personal experience aside, there is simply a lack of conversation on the topic. Recently “Pozole” has been lurking around the culinary edges, but it’s always a filler recipe, never the main event. For all I knew maybe there was a good reason….like tasting like a soggy tortilla! I suspect, however, that because it is a regional dish with an uncommon ingredient, it is simply passed over for it’s American cousin Chicken Noodle Soup. Pozole is a Mexican soup (or stew) anchored by corn (that’s the hominy, how uncommon is that?) that can be prepared white, red or green (ironically the colors of the Mexican flag) depending on the sauce or lack thereof.  As a sign of solidarity with my new home- ripe with vibrant south of the border influence- I decided to whip some up sooner than later.  I quickly learned this is not something you just “whip” up……..

hominy for Pozole Verde

As with most ingredients, I figured I should skip canned hominy and go straight for the “good stuff”…meaning the dried kernels to ensure a far more interesting texture and to get an actual corn flavor.  A quick two-second taste test had proved that the waxiness of the canned hominy would probably ruin just about any dish. Rancho Gordo (I know, again with Rancho Gordo…but for good reason, their products are superior) sells prepared hominy that all you need to do is soak, simmer and add to your soup.  Being a Pozole virgin, I scoured the internet for a recipe and ended up with flashbacks to those annoying third grade comprehension tests…which of the following does not belong?……there were throngs of chicken soup recipes that appeared to use an ingredient template that simply stated “insert hominy here” and then called it Pozole. The lack of authenticity was staggering, not to mention transparent even to a Pozole novice like myself. Yet, after playing detective and eliminating the counterfeits, I embarked on my interpretation of Patti Jinich’s Verde version and ….oh my goodness!

I mean, how has this soup not been given its due credit? It’s a powerhouse of flavor and incredibly rich without any heavy, oily fats. It’s light, but unbelievably satisfying because of the chicken and hominy. Sure it does take some time to make, but the commitment is well worth it.

Pozole Verde

Pozole Verde

Adapted from Patti Jinich.

Mexican oregano has a citrusy edge to it versus the peppery qualities most of us are used to in the Mediterranean oregano associated with Italian cooking. Find it at my favorite spice shop! By the way, the plethora of toppings are suggestions……don’t feel like you have to build a mountain of garnishes atop your soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried hominy
  • 3 lbs skin-on bone-in chicken breasts (about 3 large)
  • 2 quarts homemade chicken broth
  • Verde (Green) Sauce
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed
  • 1 large jalapeño, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 large poblano
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 TBSP canola oil
  • 2 TBSP dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro
  • Toppings
  • Limes for squeezing
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
  • Avocado, cut into chunks
  • Ancho Chili powder, a pinch sprinkled over each bowl
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Scallions, thinly sliced
  • Tortilla chips, crushed
  • Sour cream dollops

Instructions

  1. Place hominy in a small stock pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Soak overnight.
  2. Drain the hominy and then return it to the pot and cover with water by 5 inches. Over high heat bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 3 hours or until hominy is tender and has begun to open up or “bloom”. Season with 1 TBSP kosher salt and cool in the liquid.
  4. In the meantime, roast the chicken breasts. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up). Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45-55 minutes until the juices run clear (length of time will depend on the thickness of the breasts.) When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and set aside.
  5. Next, position the oven rack on the highest groove and turn the broiler to HI. Place the poblano on the rack and roast for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes in order to char all sides. It will become beautifully blistered with black flavor-packing blemishes. Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it cool completely, then peel off the skin and pull out the stem. Give it a rough chop and set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, make the verde sauce. Place tomatillos, garlic and jalapeño in a 4 quart saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  7. After about 10 minutes the color of the tomatillos will no longer be bright green, but dull. You want them to be soft but not falling apart. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid, drain and set aside.
  8. Place the pepitas in a small skillet (I used an 8”) over medium heat and toast for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until they have lightly browned.
  9. Place the toasted pepitas in a blender and chop until finely ground. Then add the tomatillo mixture, garlic, onion, roasted poblano, salt and reserved liquid. Puree until smooth.
  10. In a large pot (I used 6.75 qt Dutch oven) heat the oil over medium heat.
  11. Add the tomatillo sauce from the blender and simmer for 18-20 minutes, stirring the entire time. The goal is for the sauce to thicken and deepen in flavor. The color will become darker as the process occurs.
  12. Combine the cilantro, Mexican oregano and 1 cup of broth in the blender. Puree until smooth and mix into the verde sauce.
  13. To the pot, add the hominy, shredded chicken and chicken broth. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.
  14. Taste for seasonings.
  15. Serve with toppings.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/09/05/pozole-verde/

Note:

Tomatillos are tart, almost citrusy and should be firm to the touch when you buy them. The fruit is encased in a husk, which should NOT be dry and brittle when you take them home from the store. When you remove the husks you’ll find the tomatillos to be sticky- that’s normal. Just rinse under running water and dry with a paper towel.

signature

Best Enjoyed Poolside

charred poblano for Cold Mexican Avocado Soup

In case you wondered, it’s still hot in Texas.  When the thermometer in the car reads 100, 102, 107 (no joke) I get kind of mesmerized by disbelief and obsessed with revealing the big news to everyone I encounter as if 1. They don’t already know and 2. They’ve never seen it before.  I guess I’ll start being a Texan and stop being a Carolinian relocated to Texas once my fascination with the weather subsides. In the mean time I keep trying to figure out how to prevent my make-up from sliding off my face……nice visual, huh? Kind of scary movie creepy…..

You might recall my post from last year about Caribbean Gazpacho with cool cucumber and juicy pineapple chunks. It, like most chilled soups, is most flavorful when enjoyed without the blanket of a perfectly air-conditioned dining room. They are meant to refresh, cool down, perk you up and quench parched taste buds. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy them inside, but you’re really missing the point and therefore the pleasure if you aren’t “glistening” a bit when you dive in.

My husband and I have always been fans of avocados and in Texas you can find perfectly ripe ones any time of day in just about any store that carries provisions. My crystal ball (bet you didn’t know I had one) has been busy spinning images of silky avocado ice cream, chunky guac, spicy avocado for Cold Mexican Avocado Soupavocado toast and a cold Mexican avocado soup! Poblano peppers, cilantro, Mexican oregano, chili powder and lime meld together to create the perfect first course for a light summer meal. I’d personally love to pair it with sweet butter roasted shrimp, however, my other half is not a fan…ah hem….. what will we do with him? Instead we built tomato bacon sandwiches (definitely not a shabby alternative) from extra-thick peppery slices and juicy heirlooms that we showered with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – before lightly warming them under the broiler. There is something very satisfying, almost instinctually so, when you pair foods of contrasting temperatures.  After dinner my crystal ball had another vision….me in January counting the days until the mercury hits 100! I think I’m settling in just fine.

Cold Avocado Soup with Chili-Lime Pepitas

Cold Avocado Soup with Chili-Lime Pepitas

Adapted from Fine Cooking.

Make an outdoor event out of it and take it poolside, lakeside, to the park or zoo. Soup is so portable, but chilled soup is even easier to tote around. Just pour into a thermos and throw in the ice chest, or make it special with individual containers and sweet little spoons.

Ingredients

  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (about 1 small)
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 3 ½ cups homemade chicken broth
  • 2 ripe avocados (about 20 oz total), pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 8 oz crème fraiche

Instructions

  1. Position the oven rack on the highest groove and turn the broiler to Hi. Place the poblano on the rack and roast for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes in order to char all sides. It will become beautifully blistered with black flavor-packing blemishes. Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it cool completely then peel off the skin, pull out the stem and remove the core and seeds. Give it a rough chop reserving a few tablespoons to garnish the soup with. You might want to finely dice the pepper that you plan to use for a garnish….for pretty sake.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Cook the onion until it’s nicely browned- about 5 minutes.
  3. Place the pepper and onion in a blender, along with the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the crème fraiche. Purée until creamy smooth. Depending on the capacity of your blender you may need to do this in two batches.
  4. Once puréed, blend in the crème fraiche.
  5. Tastes for seasoning and then pour into a container or bowl and chill overnight or for at least 6 hours.
  6. Garnish with Chili-Lime Pepitas and reserved roasted poblano pepper. I also like a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/08/16/best-enjoyed-poolside/

Chili-Lime Pepitas

Chili-Lime Pepitas

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp Ancho chili powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. In a small skillet (I used an 8”) heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the pepitas and cook until they begin to pop (about 3 minutes).
  3. Pour in the lime juice and remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir continuously until all the liquid has evaporated and the pepitas are glazed.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/08/16/best-enjoyed-poolside/

signature

Home, Sweet, Texas

mint for Zucchini Mint Gazpacho

“I love the heat”, “Humidity Smumidity” “…the hotter the better”……hmm….these bold, defiant (and, yes, naïve) statements spewed from my mouth as resolute declarations that a Texas summer had nothing on me. “Bring it on!”….I said…”not a problem”…I said…..hmm….rain cloud anyone? Northern Breeze, where are you? Mother Nature can you give it a rest?! Texas is HOT! I do like it, but relief I hear is months away. When I arrived in June “they” said it’s early and to just wait for the real heat to begin. Trying to offer comfort “they” even offered  ‘you’re lucky’  it’s been mild. 92 at 11pm mild???  A bit ago, I inquired about eggplant at the farmers market and was told that the “cool weather” (huh) had delayed the crop. I really, I mean really hate being wrong, but I admit I underestimated (not really the same thing as wrong) the intensity of the sun in my new home state. Even a daily slather of SPF hasn’t stopped a golden hue from forming on my once (happily) pale skin…..

zucchini for Zucchini Mint GazpachoSo since Texas is literally melting off the map, we needed something soothing, crisp and cool to release us from the searing conditions. My husband, after umpteen (delicious) attempts by me, has yet to get into the whole cold soup thing. Personally, I think his mind is getting in the way, but that’s fine. We’ll try again. Tonight. With Zucchini Mint Gazpacho. Just the sound of mint anything is refreshing… ahh. Say it with me….ahhhhhh.  This soup is slightly sweet from the zucchini, light and creamy from a turn in the blender and ICE cold. Plus its brilliant hue couldn’t BE more appetizing (that’s me channeling Chandler Bing). Paired with a simple Tomato Tart how can he not fall in love? This is a man who’s preferred mode is A/C house to A/C car to A/C office back to A/C car… you get the routine. Chilled soup should fit the bill perfectly. And to clear up any confusion, I still say 100+ beats -0 any day.

Zucchini Mint Gazpacho with Radish Cucumber Salsa

Zucchini Mint Gazpacho with Radish Cucumber Salsa

Adapted from Aran Goyoaga's recipe as seen in Coastal Living.

Mint is certainly an assertive herb and it’s presence in the gazpacho is not subtle, but don’t worry it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors either-you’ll get a distinct layering of tastes. I’m partial to the rush of mint that comes about 3 seconds post-spoonful. And definitely make the salsa topping so that you have a little crunch to compliment the gazpacho’s silkiness.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb zucchini, cut in half length-wise and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions (about 8)
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, packed
  • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup water
  • Salsa Topping
  • ½ cup English cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • ½ cup radish, finely diced (about 2-3)
  • ¼ cup sliced green onion
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp fleur de sel

Instructions

  1. For the soup, add all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Chill for 24 hours or until ICE cold. Makes two luscious and refreshing servings.
  2. For the salsa, combine the ingredients in a small bowl and let stand for 1 hour.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/08/04/home-sweet-texas/

signature