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Entries in Soups (8)

Monday
Oct152012

Pea & Fennel Soup + a Trip to Bridgehampton

In mid-September, we snuck in a five-day visit to Bridgehampton, New York.  This was a trip we made at least once each year from Boston, but it is quite a hike from Denver... and have you ever rented a car at LaGuardia before?  Total chaos.
But once you arrive in the Hamptons, it is always worth the trip.  Generations of Rob's family have lived in Bridgehampton.  I love that we drive on "Halsey Lane" and that he points out places owned by relatives I have yet to meet.  We missed the annual family reunion weekend this year, but we still managed to see a bunch of family.... and we avoided the craziness that comes with the peak of summer.
We tried to sneak in all of our favorite activities in one trip, in addition to a lot of sleeping and relaxing.  Rob and his Uncle P fished for (and caught) striped bass at Mecox Beach, we went clamming in Noyack, strolled around Sag Harbor and Southhampton, ate ice cream at Candy Kitchen, drank wine and listened to music at Wölffer Estate, enjoyed local seafood to our heart's content with my in-laws in Montauk, and enjoyed leisurely family cocktail hours that blend into dinner where we catch up on each other's lives and marvel at how relaxing and beautiful a place can exist so close to Manhattan.
This year, Aunt A treated me to a special afternoon of farmer's market perusing while our husbands played golf.  We started at a staple that we visit each year - Fair View Farm.  I'd been harassing Rob to do the corn maze (maize?) with me all week, but I settled for local peaches and tomatoes, a raspberry-peach pie, and homemade buratta (SO delicious).  We made a few stops at roadside stands on our way to Loaves & Fishes, a Hamptons establishment where you may just find Anna Pump, the famous owner and cookbook author, behind the counter (she got me a chocolate croissant and autographed my cookbook).  You can also buy the most expensive prepared food on earth (I'm not exaggerating) and take a cooking class (next visit!).  Instead, I bought one of her cookbooks so I could bring a little bit of Long Island to Colorado.
Returning home from Bridgehampton marked the end of our summer travel and a return to normal life, including cooking.  I couldn't wait to get back in the kitchen to try some of Anna Pump's recipes and just to feel at home again.  I love traveling, but I am relishing the fact that we are home every weekend in October.
I was intrigued by this soup because of its simplicity and my love of peas.  This was my first time cooking with fennel.  I knew Rob would be turned off by its inclusion, so I didn't tell him -- and I knew it was safe to reveal my secret after I received an e-mail at work stating, "The soup is good" (high praise from Rob, my toughest critic).  The fennel doesn't add an anise flavor as you might expect, but instead just gives the soup a little kick - a bite, without being spicy.  The end result is flavorful and delicious.  I considerably reduced the cream in this soup and think you could get away without including it at all.  Also, this is easily turned into a vegetarian soup by using vegetable stock.
Pea and Fennel Soup
Yield = 8 servings
Ingredients
2 tablespoons safflower oil (I actually had safflower oil, so I used it - I am sure olive oil will work just fine)
2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped white or yellow onion
1 large fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 10-ounce packages of frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
Fennel springs (for garnish)
Preparation
1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and fennel and sauté over a low heat for 5 minutes.
2.  Add the chicken stock, wine, pepper, and salt.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Add the peas, cover, and allow the soup to cool for 30 minutes.
3.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender (you can also use a food processor or blender and puree the soup in batches).  Return the soup to the saucepan.  While reheating soup over a low flame, add the cream (if using) and stir.  Serve garnished with fennel sprigs and salt and pepper to taste.
Monday
Apr232012

Asparagus Soup

I've said on a number of occasions that Rob and I are afraid of commitment.  We were not afraid of committing to one another, but in other areas of our lives we are "behind" our friends and peers in terms of committing to a geographic location and buying a house, committing to another being (e.g., a dog or cat), committing to having children, etc.  I put "behind" in quotation marks because I firmly believe that everyone should live their own life and do as they please and that comparing oneself to others leads nowhere good.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't occasionally wonder "Why don't I want the things my friends seem to want?"

Interestingly, about a month ago Rob came home and mentioned that we might consider buying a house.  I agreed immediately.  I'd been thinking the same thing for a week or so but hadn't mentioned it to Rob yet.  The conversation was reminiscent of when we decided to move from Boston to Denver.  At that time, we both finished a long week of work, came home on a Friday night and said "We need to make a change."  A mere hour later we were having a celebratory dinner at B&G Oysters after determining that we would move to Denver, the next day we were looking for new jobs, and six weeks later we moved.  It may take us a while to come around to an idea, but once we get there, we don't look back.

We have now looked at a number of houses in Denver and perhaps we'll call ourselves homeowners in 2012.  If you had asked me in February if a house of our own was something I wanted, I would have said "no way," but now I find myself daydreaming of a small garden, a sunlight bedroom, our own space to improve and make our own... and of course a sunny, well-equipped kitchen in which to make delicious food.  

A trip to Boston, house hunting, and a visit from dear friends have meant much less time in the kitchen for me.  I also know that the Colorado farmer's market season begins on May 5th and frankly I am finding the grocery store quite depressing these days.  I want rhubarb and asparagus and spring greens and I don't want them from Mexico.  I did find some Colorado-grown asparagus at In Season Local Market and while I typically roast asparagus with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper, I thought I'd mix it up.  

Although this recipe was written as chilled asparagus soup, I found it delicious cold or hot.  I tried it both ways and liked it equally... but today it is 80 degrees outside and I'll have it chilled at lunch.  The soup is light (no heavy cream) but has substance - I didn't strain my soup over  a sieve after blending it so each bite includes a few asparagus pieces, which I prefer.  If you want a silky soup, blend the soup and strain it through a sieve.  I also use some leftover soup as a sauce for pasta to which I added some spring vegetables.  However you choose to eat this, you'll be amazed by the vibrant shade of green!

 

Asparagus Soup
Adapted from the April 2012 Bon Appétit 

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach
  • 6 thin asparagus spears, thinly sliced lengthwise (for garnishing the soup)

Preparation

1.  Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent (approximately 8–10 minutes).  Add ½-inch asparagus pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until asparagus is bright green and tender (approximately 4–5 minutes).  Add the broth, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until asparagus is tender, 8–10 minutes.  Add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly.

2.  Working in batches, purée soup in a blender until very smooth or blend the soup in the large pot using an immersion blender.  Stir the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours or serve warm if you prefer.  DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.  Keep chilled.

3.  When you are ready to serve the soup, garnish each bowl with the sliced asparagus stalks and drizzle each bowl with a few drops of oil.

Sunday
Jan152012

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

Despite the numerous baked goods and desserts I post here, Rob and I usually eat healthy food.  Admittedly, I find pies and crumble more photogenic than most salads or main dishes, but it is a new year and I've been trying to eat (and cook) healthier.  

Nevermind that I am eating ice cream right now.

I find that eating healthier is much tougher to do in the winter.  I am bored of most squash and while I love simple roasted vegetables, I sometimes crave something different. One option is to turn veggies into healthy "fries", such as these Turnip Fries from Saveur that were awesome.  Another option is soup - an easy and tasty alternative - but many simple vegetable soups are bland.  Not this one.

I read about this on Food52 (also the source of my favorite kale salad).  Paul Bertolli was the head chef at Chez Panisse for ten years and he certainly does know what to do with a vegetable.  I was suspicious of a soup with only cauliflower, an onion and extra-virgin olive oil as "real" ingredients, but this soup is dynamite.  It tastes like it has cream in it and comes together in a snap.  Rob could only hunt down yellow/orange cauliflower when I sent him to the store, but obviously any color of cauliflower will work (I'd love to see a lavender version of this with purple cauliflower). 

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup
Yield = 8 servings
Recipe from Food52 

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion (6 ounces), sliced thin
1 head cauliflower (about 1-1/2 pounds), broken into florets
Salt, to taste
5 1/2 cups water (divided) 
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over low heat without letting it brown for 15 minutes.

Add the cauliflower, salt to taste, and 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot tightly and stew the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Then add another 4 1/2 cups hot water, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes uncovered.

Using an immersion blender or a regular blender (working in batches), purée the soup to a very smooth, creamy consistency. Let the soup stand for 20 minutes. In this time it will thicken slightly.

Thin the soup with 1/2 cup hot water. Reheat the soup. Serve hot, drizzled with a thin stream of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Monday
Oct312011

Buttercup Squash Soup & the Boulder Farmer's Market

What makes you giddy?  This question was posed after several bottles of wine and many microbrews at a recent dinner party.  And if you know me, it won't come as a surprise that my response was the farmer's market!  I am sure Rob rolled his eyes, but it is true - there is just something about the stacks of vegetables, the flowers, the Colorado-made pasta, hummus, cheese and burritos, and the joy of wandering around, watching the other market-goers.  In the case of last weekend you can also add sunshine and the rainbow of fall colors to that list.  The Saturday Boulder Farmer's Market and fall in Colorado is not to be missed.



The fall weather continues to inspire my cooking and since my parents left for vacation and bequeathed the remaining squash in their garden to me, I am inundated with buttercup, acorn and butternut squash.  No complaints here!  The original recipe for this soup called for a mix of butternut and acorn squash (4 cups of each).  I made it instead with 8 cups of buttercup squash and it was creamy and smooth (without any cream, I might add) and the flavor was intense.  If you can't find buttercup squash, I am sure this will be equally as good with acorn, butternut, or whatever you can find at the market.  The original recipe also called for adding 1/4 cup of whipping cream and sugar.  If you taste the soup and think it needs to be sweetened, go for it.

I garnished mine with a dollop of Homemade Ricotta.  I made a second batch of the ricotta and conducted an experiment.  Instead of using 4 cups of whole milk, I used 2 cups of skim milk and 2 cups of whole milk.  Truthfully, there was no perceptible change... and I feel a little less guilty adding it to, literally, everything that I eat.

Buttercup Squash Soup
Yield = 8 servings
Adapted from December 1996 Bon Appétit 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth (about 6 cups)
  • 8 cups 1-inch pieces peeled buttercup squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage

  • Preparation

    Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add broth, all squash and herbs; bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

    Working in batches, puree soup in blender or with an immersion blender.  Return soup to same pot and bring to a simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  The soup can be made 1 day ahead.  Chill.  Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

    Saturday
    Oct222011

    Pumpkin Soup & Challah Knots

    The mountains and hills surrounding Denver are sprinkled with autumnal colors and while the days are still warm, the nights are noticeably cooler.  I'm loving the arrival of fall... our insane summer travel schedule has slowed and it actually feels as though the pace of life generally is slowing.  To me, fall means squash and gourds, apple picking, carving pumpkins, making soup and stew, falling leaves, wearing my Patagonia Better Sweater all the time and the return of the pumpkin spice latte.  

     My absolute favorite soup is pumpkin.  I fell in love with pumpkin soup in college at Au Bon Pain.  Then the soup was served in a bread bowl (so healthy!) and probably contained a LOT of cream but it was still delicious.  Since I started cooking, I've been looking for a pumpkin soup recipe without cream but with strong flavors and the requisite silkiness. I've tried several (including this one from the current issue of Bon Appétit that was just wrong) and keep coming back to the same simple recipe from Fine Cooking.

    Soup alone is not enough for a meal, so I tried a new roll recipe from the October 2011 issue of Saveur.  The rolls require advance preparation but I've noted in the recipe below that you can make them to a certain point one day in advance to minimize the work you have to do the day you want to serve these.  I've made them twice and the end result is a buttery, soft, fluffy roll.  These are my new go-to roll!  The original recipe for the soup includes instructions for making croutons to accompany the soup.  Since I served it with a roll and I don't particularly like croutons, I omitted this step. 

    Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Gruyère
    Adapted from Fine Cooking
    Yield = 6 appetizer servings or 4 main course servings

    Ingredients
    2 Tbs. unsalted butter
    1 medium yellow onion, sliced
    6 cups 1-inch-diced peeled, seeded pumpkin
    2 medium cloves garlic, sliced
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    4 medium fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
    4 to 6 cups lower-salt chicken broth
    1/4 cup packed grated Gruyère
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

    Preparation
    Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in the pumpkin and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.  Add the wine and the sage leaves and cook, stirring, until the wine evaporates, about 5 minutes.  Stir in 4 cups of broth, cover, and simmer, adjusting the heat as needed, until the pumpkin is very tender, about 25 minutes.

    Add 1/4 cup of the Gruyère and using a hand-held or standard blender, purée the soup (in batches, if necessary).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Return to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly and adding more broth as necessary to achieve a thin soup with the consistency of heavy cream.  Ladle the soup into warm bowls and serve with the croutons.

    Challah Knots
    Saveur - October 2011
    Yield = 12 rolls

    Ingredients
    4 tsp. active dry yeast
    ¼ cup sugar
    ¼ cup canola oil
    4 egg yolks
    3¼ cups flour
    1¼ tsp. kosher salt
    1 egg, lightly beaten 

    Preparation
    In a bowl, stir together yeast and 1 cup water heated to 115°; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in sugar, oil, and egg yolks; add flour and salt.  Stir to form dough, and then knead on a work surface until smooth, about 8 minutes.  Cover, and let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Punch down dough, cover, and let sit for 45 minutes more.  You can also let the rolls sit overnight in the refrigerator at this point.  Remove them from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to forming them into knots as instructed below.

    Preheat oven to 350°. Form dough into twelve 10″-long ropes; tie each rope into a knot, tucking ends underneath. Transfer to a greased 9″ × 13″ baking pan.  Cover the rolls and let them sit for 30 minutes.  Brush with egg; bake until browned, about 20 minutes.