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/

 

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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/

 

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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/

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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/

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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.

 

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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?
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Amber Anne

My dear, now pregnant, Amber is one of the most beautiful people I know. Within minutes of making her acquaintance you realize that her outward beauty pales to what’s inside her heart. She has a kindness that radiates, bathing those around her like sunrays warming the earth. It’s just so cuddly you never want her to leave! Aside from her warmth, Amber Anne is in intoxicated with life. Eager to exhaust every waking moment engrossed in living, learning and bettering her person. She so desperately wants to do it all that I’ve never known her to be well-rested- although you would never know it. What’s unique about this drive is her motivation.  Unlike many, it’s not a bucket list, rather a billowing excitement that can only be contained for so long. She’s curious. And has the audacity to ignore the notion that you can’t do it all. This palpable, inspiring energy will soon be directed into uncharted territory….motherhood.

I can’t really relate (although I imagine a lot!), but I do want to share and celebrate what will undoubtedly be Amber’s biggest life altering experience. Her favorite soup is butternut squash, specifically from a bastion of Raleigh’s culinary greats, the Angus Barn. Which reminds me……every holiday season they offer Opus One BY THE GLASS!!!! Time to put on my dancing shoes!

Trying to mimic this soup would ridiculous, besides I wanted to create something special for the new mom-to-be. Initially I researched all the things a pregnant woman should eat, which nutrients were most important and of course what to stay clear of. After pages and pages of Google returns I’m convinced being pregnant should be a full-time job. Growing a human being is complicated! I switched gears, rather ingredients, and combined another of her favorites, shrimp, into a luscious, Babymoon qualifying kind of decadent, Roasted Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque. I expect Angus Barn to calling any day.

By the way, her name is actually not Amber Anne, its Amber Dawn. Years ago we renamed each other (I went from Ericka Marie to Ericka Anne) as a way to forever link our kindred bond. I have a feeling this soup will do the same.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque

Inspired by Ina Garten's Shrimp Bisque.....and a pregnat woman.

This is one of those unusual combinations that just works. The squash and the shrimp are equally represented and the addition of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg bridge the two offering a familiar, comforting surprise.

Ingredients

  • 1 2lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 4 TBSP olive oil, divided
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 cups chopped leeks
  • 2 TBSP fresh chopped sage
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • A few dashes of cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Rub the cut side of the squash with 1 TBSP olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the squash, cut side down (to keep it moist), until tender (45 minutes to an hour).
  4. When cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl.
  5. While the squash is roasting, trim the leeks so that you have only the white and light green parts, and then thinly slice. Rinse like crazy in a colander using your fingers to move them around and around to ensure all the dirt is removed.
  6. Heat 3 TBSP of olive oil and 1 TBSP butter over medium heat (I use a 6.75 quart Dutch oven). Add the leeks and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes until the leeks are wilted and tender. Stir occasionally. Be sure not to brown them or this will change the flavor of your bisque.
  7. Add the shrimp and cayenne pepper and cook for 3 minutes stirring and turning the shrimp a few times. The shrimp will not be completely cooked.
  8. Add chopped sage and freshly squeezed orange juice and stir for 1 minute.
  9. Add the sherry and cook for 4 minutes; stir frequently. Try to stay focused…the amazing aroma in your kitchen will be distracting! The liquid should not have all evaporated and the shrimp will be brilliantly pink (cooked).
  10. Put the shrimp mixture in the food processor, and coarsely puree, scraping down the sides as needed. Wipe out the Dutch oven with a paper towel and return the shrimp to the pot.
  11. Puree the roasted squash in the processor and add to the shrimp mixture.
  12. Return to medium heat and stir in 2 cups of chicken stock along with the nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer.
  13. Reduce heat to low and add the cream and salt. Slowly reheat. DO NOT BOIL.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/12/19/amber-anne/

Notes:

How to buy shrimp:

Consider “count” and always buy frozen. For obvious reasons, shrimp is generally frozen at sea, which means what you are purchasing from the counter has most likely been previously frozen and is now thawing in the case (getting chewy), therefore making the frozen shrimp a fresher option. “Count” refers to the number of shrimp it takes to achieve a pound. So, the lower the count, the larger the shrimp and the fewer you need to make a pound. Generally, larger shrimp are tastier. “21-25 count” is a good choice for this bisque and is pretty standard.

There are few things to look for when selecting a butternut squash:

  1.  Organic- I just learned from Sara Britton of the food blog My New Roots that butternut squash is like a sponge. It soaks up any impurities (a.k.a. pesticides) in the soil in which it is grown. So if you don’t want to contaminate your body, opt for organic.
  2. You want your squash to be firm, feel heavy and have a matte rind and a muted tan orange skin. The more orange the rind, the sweeter the squash. Don’t take it home if it has any soft spots, signs of decay or if it is wrinkly.
  3. Look for a smooth squash that doesn’t have any marks on it. Gauges, scratches, etc. are prone to bacteria growth.
  4. Make sure the stem is still present. It helps retain moisture.

If you need to store your butternut squash do so away from heat and light in a dark, dry and cool place with plenty of ventilation. Not the refrigerator. Basements are preferable, but I don’t have one so I use a closet. I wouldn’t keep it more than a month.

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Lunch Date

Sometimes you just get lucky…you hire the ideal employee, had a good childhood, adopted the right dog, married “the one” or in this case hit the neighbor jackpot! ChaChing!

Architecture connected us to Fred and Kathy looooong before we knew what good fortune had befallen us. Initially it was the customary pleasantries you’d expect when settling somewhere new, but through the outdoor routines of our beloved canines, Oliver and Lucky, we developed a friendship. Year after year it’s grown, nurtured organically with a glass of wine, a long walk, sports banter (me excluded), shared dinners at the neighborhood restaurant and through my many kitchen exploits.

Lucky

 

Oliver

Kathy has become my unofficial taste tester (oh, yea, so if you don’t like a recipe it’s all her fault!), not just for soup, but for virtually everything I turn out. Cookies, cakes, ice cream, breads, pastries, salads with funny grains and odd fruits. The exchange, often over the fence, is probably one of the reasons I cook so much…for the opportunity to have those precious conversations that never fail to crack me up, sort through a dilemma, spawn reflection and most of all simply make me feel good. She has taken the time to learn what makes me tick and that makes a person feel special, like they matter.

For the last few months our schedules have not been cooperating, a trend I fear will continue as the holidays conspire to consume our calendars. So rather than wait for an impromptu opportunity to spend some time together, we set a lunch date, carved it in stone and catered by yours truly. I even pulled out the china and set the dining room table! Why not?!

Inspired by an absolutely divine, almost ethereal chestnut soup I had three years ago this Christmas Eve at Cinghiale in Baltimore (oh, do I think of you often…..) I made a Cream of Chestnut Soup torn from the pages of Southern Living that was stuffed in my ever growing soup folder (might be time to upgrade to a binder). It was more earthy and assertive than the one of my dreams, but no less memorable, nor will be our lunch date. Kathy has become so much more than a neighbor. She is a true friend and confidant.

Cream of Chestnut Soup

Cream of Chestnut Soup

Adapted from Southern Living magazine.

Chestnuts are inherently earthy, but are easily dressed up in this soup with the addition of the Marsala wine. It's an elegant seasonal soup and made for the perfect holiday lunch menu when served with a Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with a Warm Cider Vinaigrette, paired with a dry French rosé and spicy gingerbread for dessert.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped (about 2 stalks)
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped (2-4 carrots)
  • 2 jars (7.4 oz each) whole roasted chestnuts
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • ¼ cup, plus 1 TBSP Marsala
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Toppings
  • Dried cranberries
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Creme fraiche
  • Black truffle sea salt

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven (6.75 quart) over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and the onions are translucent.
  3. Add Marsala to deglaze the pan and stir for 1 minute scraping up any brown bits.
  4. Stir in the stock, thyme and chestnuts and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the chestnuts are fork tender (20-25 minutes).
  6. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Using a food processer, puree the soup in batches and then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Use a spoon to stir the soup and push it against the sides of the sieve. You will be left with about 1 cup of pulp to discard.
  8. Return the strained soup to the Dutch oven and stir in the remaining TBSP of Marsala, salt, pepper and finally the half and half.
  9. Gently rewarm the soup. Do not boil.
  10. Check for seasonings.
  11. Serve with a swirl of crème fraiche, dried cranberries, crispy bacon and a sprinkling of black truffle sea salt.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/12/08/lunch-date/

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Pumpkin Turkey Chowder

I’m sucker for anything pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin latte, pumpkin scones, heck, I’ve even made a funky pumpkin macaroni and cheese, although I’ll concede that I was the only one left licking my lips. This weakness may have something to do with the fact that my Aunt Emlyn still calls me “Pumpkin” or “Punkin” for short. It’s a treasured interchange that harkens to my childhood where Auntie Em (as I called her then….dah….maybe that’s why I never miss a broadcast Wizard of Oz) played sentinel, ready to cover me with a blanket of comfort and refuge when I needed it most. Or maybe it’s that I seem to be forever enchanted with fall and there couldn’t be a more appropriate symbol than The Great Pumpkin. Blazing foliage, crisp air and crunchy leaves, root vegetables, mulled cider, visions of Halloween and anticipation of Thanksgiving….I’d like to just melt into it all!

Years ago I found a pretty terrific recipe for a Chicken Pumpkin Chowder in the strangest place- a flyer from our car insurance company. Considering the source, other skeptical souls may have disregarded it, but at the first sighting of “pumpkin” I plunged in! And we are glad I did. It’s loaded with homey ingredients and reminds you of something your grandmother would make for an after-school snack on a blustery day. Better yet I could whip it up after work without much to-do. Sometime around the beginning of October this favorite started to creep into my mind, pleading to be made and truth be told I felt a bit guilty for neglecting it…..and cheating on it with all those other soups!

My atonement? Transform Thanksgiving leftovers into Pumpkin Turkey Chowder! Yes! Perfect! Better start making turkey stock! Do we have any bacon? Sausage? What about gruyere? My mind started swirling with excitement, although it could have been that extra glass of rosé with dinner. I was bombarded with delectable trails of bread crumbs enticing me to take the chowder in this direction and that direction or maybe even around the corner…….In the end I resolved to present my family with traditional tastes of the Thanksgiving table. I just didn’t want to leave Thanksgiving behind so quickly. If we could linger in a bowl of this festive soup, perhaps we could linger in the moment as well. It’s a small way we can keep the holiday embrace with us as we enter the work week and go our separate ways…reclaimed by the responsibilities of life.  So tonight, I’ll drift off nourished, in body and soul, thankful for a beautiful life filled with love, and of course, thinking of my majestic pumpkin….I will follow you wherever you may lead…….

Pumpkin Turkey Chowder

Pumpkin Turkey Chowder

Serve with fried sage leaves. PERIOD.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, small dice (1 large)
  • 12 oz sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, medium chop
  • 3 cups shredded turkey
  • 16 oz frozen sweet corn, thawed
  • 15 oz can pumpkin
  • 2 cups homemade turkey stock
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups of half and half
  • Freshly grated gruyere for serving.
  • Fried sage leaves for serving (recipe follows).

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven (I use 6.75 quart) over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for about 5 minutes until no pink remains and it is browned. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.
  2. Deglaze the pot with a few splashes of chicken broth.
  3. Add the butter and onions and sauté until tender and translucent (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add the corn, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir a few times.
  5. Add the pumpkin puree, potatoes, stock, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Stir to loosen up the pumpkin.
  6. Bring to a simmer.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  8. Return the sausage to the pot, along with the turkey and half and half.
  9. Slowly reheat (about 5-10 minutes). Do not bring to a boil or the dairy will curdle.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/11/23/pumpkin-turkey-chowder/

Fried Sage Leaves

Great with cocktails. Unique and so easy.

Ingredients

  • Large sage leaves (stems attached)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Panko
  • Olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt

Instructions

  1. In a small skillet, heat about 1/2 inch oil over medium-high heat until hot. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping a few Panko crumbs in to see if they sizzle.
  2. Dip clean, dry sage leaves in egg.
  3. Coat them in Panko.
  4. Slip a few leaves (don’t crowd them) at a time into the oil and fry for 3-5 seconds per side using tongs to flip. Watch carefully as they become golden very quickly!
  5. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and while they are still hot sprinkle “generously” with sea salt.
  6. Best served hot.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/11/23/pumpkin-turkey-chowder/

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Dinner Delivered

There are people that work and people that grind it out at a pace that leaves the rest of us exhausted spectators hanging out on the sidelines. Their endurance is a freak of nature, driven by some unnamed force that propels them to achieve more, push harder, give more. I can name on one hand an elite collection of this driven bunch that is in my life. Besides my husband, Eileen is one of them.  She is a self-made, businesswoman with a flourishing practice. An entrepreneur with a constant thirst for learning, she see’s patients, teaches, mothers three, respects her body, and under all that Teflon has a soft heart that makes her a cherished friend.

Regardless of your philosophy on what it means to “work”, at some point we are all the same in that we need to nourish our bodies. Eileen is devoted to clean, nutritious eating, but when the clock blares 8:30 pm as you walk through the door, the dog still needs to be walked and you have to be back at it by 8:00 am, your options are limited. For this very reason, a few months ago, although it wasn’t the most appropriate season for it, I made Eileen Split Pea Soup. I knew she was having a long couple of weeks and would be getting home well past 8:00 pm. I also knew she would be grateful for a meal she didn’t have to think about and would desire something wholesome.

Certainly now is the season for such a hearty soup, but at that time we were amidst a heat wave where sane, normal people were looking for ways to cool off versus raising their core body temperature with a bowl of steaming soup. Well, Eileen and I are gladly not normal so soup (hot or cold, brothy or creamy) works for us all year. That night, after the soup drop had been made, I received a text with a profound compliment. Eileen always thought her mother’s split pea was supreme, however, mine had just moved into the coveted slot.  She especially loved the chunky bits. Sorry mom!

This week I surprised Eileen at her office with another batch of Split Pea Soup. As you might have guessed, her pace has not mellowed. For me, making soup for Eileen typifies what cooking for someone should be. An unselfish, yet rewarding, act that comforts and rejuvenates through the goodness of food and love.

Chunky Split Pea Soup

Chunky Split Pea Soup

From Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of chopped yellow onions (about 1 large)
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups of carrots, peeled and medium-dice (about 8 large or 14 small)
  • 2 cups red potatoes, medium-dice (4-6 small)
  • 2 lbs. dried split green peas
  • 16 cups of homemade chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Give the dried peas a vigorous rinse in a colander to remove dust and dirt and so you can sift out any unwelcome particles that may have got mixed in.
  2. In large stockpot (I used a 6 quart) heat the oil over medium heat.
  3. Sauté the onions with the oregano, salt and pepper until they are soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic during the last minute of cooking.
  4. Add the carrots, potatoes, 1 ½ pounds of the dried peas and the chicken stock.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  6. Skim off any foam that develops. Don’t be alarmed- it’s just starch.
  7. Add the remaining peas and simmer for another 40 minutes. Stir frequently.
  8. Taste to be sure the peas are tender and the seasoning is to your liking.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/11/09/dinner-delivered/

Notes:

  1. Swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock for a vegetarian version.
  2. Should you prefer a thicker soup, simply extend the second simmering. Start with an additional 15 minutes and check for your preferred consistency.
  3. If you prepare this in advance or reheat it for leftovers you may need to add a little water or stock to thin it out (again it’s based on preference).

 

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