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When the weather turns blissfully chilly I think of comfort foods, nothing to fancy, just bowls of soup and bits of bread.

 

I have been in a soup making frenzy lately. It’s the season of course. I switch gears in the kitchen to winter squash, root vegetables, figs, apples, and braised meats. I notice I reference braises a lot, even in warmer months of the year. I like braises, I like the rich homey aroma they give. Like soup how could one not feel at home?

To celebrate the arrival of mellower days, I keep to the kitchen making soup and lots of it seems. It’s that time of year when you don’t have the urgency of the plants and the garden. The start of each season is a flush of new flavors reviving the tired day to day meal.

 

Apple & Fig Salad w/ hazelnuts

Fig & Goat Cheese Tartines

I think I had soup every day this week and hearty meals to keep that inner fire going. I experiment, play around with ideas, but I always fall back on simple easy soups, no fuss. A butternut, root vegetable soup like this one is just right. Perfect comfort food.

Besides soup and braises, I made recently a chicken sausage & shrimp “dirty” rice. A not so typical rendition, something I just put together. It was delicious!

 

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash, Celeriac, Parsnip & Apple Soup [serves 4-6]

1 ½ cups leeks, halved & thinly sliced

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ½ cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped

1 cup celeriac, peeled & chopped

½-1 cup parsnips, peeled & chopped

4 cups homemade chicken stock

2 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 medium apples, peeled, seeded & chopped [I used a red & green variety]

1. Saute leeks in butter on medium-low heat until tender and translucent.

2. Add squash, celeriac, parsnip, stock, thyme and salt.

3. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until nearly tender.

4. Add apple and continue to cook until everything is tender enough to puree.

5. Puree soup in a blender and season with additional salt to taste.

Chicken Sausage & ShrimpDirty Rice” [serves 4]

½ cup basmati rice [3/4 cup chicken stock -or- water]

¼ cup wild rice [1 cup water or more]

¾ pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

½ pound cauliflower, cut into florets

1 Tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

½ medium yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

½ large green bell pepper

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

1-2 large garlic cloves, minced

1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

½ cup homemade chicken stock

½-1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

¾ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed chilies

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Andouille chicken sausages [bake in oven until cooked, cool & sliced]

8 jumbo shrimp [such as Tiger shrimp]

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.

1. On separate baking trays toss butternut squash with oil and seasoning; cauliflower with oil and seasoning. Roast in oven until tender.

2. Meanwhile cook the rice in the amount of water specified. Drain wild rice if needed after it is cooked.

3. In a roomy pan sauté sausage in olive oil until browned. Remove from pan.

4. In the same pan, sauté onions, celery and bell peppers until tender, adding more olive oil if necessary.

5. Add garlic, cook for a minute then add remaining spices and cook for another minute.

6. Add tomatoes, stock and thyme. Simmer on low until mixture has thickened, approximately 15 minutes.

7. Add shrimp, cover and cook through.

8. Fold in cooked rice, sausage, squash and cauliflower adjusting seasoning to taste. Sprinkle with parsley.

 

January is coming to a close, which means another month closer to spring. The anticipation for spring’s arrival gets me a little excited, ok… really excited about playing in the garden and ready to fill the growing spaces with new life. This year I plan on finally setting aside some space for a good size herb garden, filling it with all of those wonderful fresh flavors, and giving these darlings some good open ground, where the roots can grow deep and sprawl to their delight.

 

Living in a bigger city, it can be hard to find adequate space to have such a restful place to be, but surely enough room to have herbs. While living in a more rural community years ago, there was plenty of room to have a garden which back then I did not think to enjoy gardening as much. It wasn’t until I had a place of my own that the interest took me by surprise. Even then, I have always loved to get into the dirt and seeing what becomes of it. 

For now, I will just need to be patient, very patient indeed [it's only January] until spring finally arrives and be ready to savor the first fresh farmer’s market produce. In the meantime, thinking how to best enjoy what we still have at the market which lead me to today’s recipes.

 

A game hen, which is perfect for two, glazed up to a mahogany finish with a mélange of vegetables.

 

I love so much working with vegetables and this recipe mixes them up, quickly blanches them and finishes them in a garlicky sauté perfectly. Besides it helps us get more of those healthful foods into our tummies.

 

Mahogany Glazed Game Hen Recipe [Serves 2]

 

4 Tablespoons butter, unsalted

4 Tablespoons tamari, low sodium

2 Tablespoons French brandy [optional]

½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 large garlic clove, peeled & sliced

¼ teaspoon crushed red chilies

 

1 game hen, brought to room temp. [Approximately 1 hour]

[Some twine to truss the bird.]

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. Truss your bird and set aside in an oven-able pan.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, cook for five minutes.

3. Strain glaze into a bowl and brush the bird.

4. Bake for 20 minutes and repeat with more glaze  every 15-20 minutes.

5. Once the bird gets its last glaze, finish cooking in the oven one last time. Discard glaze.

 

Different sizes of birds cook differently so here this game hen took approximately 50 minutes to bake. The juice should run clear when poked with a knife into the thickest part of the bird. No more glaze should be put on the bird as this has raw chicken stuff in it so discard.

 

Vegetables Mélange Recipe [Serves 4]

 

5 cups mix of vegetables

[Such as: carrots, green beans, broccoli raab, Brussels’s sprouts]

3 Tablspoons olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, peeled & thinly sliced

Sea Salt & fresh black pepper to taste

 

blanching the vegetables:

 

1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch one kind of vegetable at a time until just tender.

2. Place immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

3. Drain and dry vegetables on paper towels.

 

finishing the vegetables:

 

1. Heat oil in a sauté pan and add garlic.

2. Once garlic turns lightly golden add the vegetables.

3. Cook for a few minutes to reheat and season with salt and pepper.

 

This is a basic recipe that you can adjust and add a few things to suit your taste. It is particularly delicious with prosciutto and toasted pine nuts. Add a few chilies and there you have a beautiful mélange of vegetables.

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