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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.

Spring… Days are filled with sunny walks, whispering breezes and playing around in the crumbly earth.

 

A few weeks ago I had mentioned this beet root soup to you and here it is. Soups and other cool weather foods are slowly being replaced with lighter recipes.

 

Here at home the garden slowly emerges and by some sudden magic is filled with abundance. Alliums are pushing their way towards the sky and blankets of ground covers stretch far and wide.  I love spring; everything takes on a new attitude. New vegetables break out into the market stands and appetites are excited to be tantalized by fresh experiences.

 

Earthy beets, sweet seductive carrots and creamy Japanese sweet potatoes all made it into this wonderful light soup.

And the color, so vibrant!

 

Continue below for the recipe and have a great weekend.

Beet Root Soup Recipe [Serves 4]

2 Tablespoons coconut oil

1 ½ cup leeks, halved & finely julienne

1 large garlic clove

3 beets, peeled & chopped [approx. 2 cups]

1 Japanese sweet potato, peeled & chopped [approx. 1 cup]

2 medium carrots, peeled & chopped [approx. ½ cup]

1 herb bouquet [2 parsley springs, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf wrapped in a leek leaf & tied with twine]

5-6 cups chicken stock -or- vegetable stock

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste.

1. Sauté leeks in coconut oil on medium to low heat until tender.

2. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes, just to cook out the raw garlic flavor.

3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer.

4. Cover and continue to cook until everything in tender.

5. Remove herb bouquet and puree soup.

6. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a little touch of cream or crème fraîche.

A simple soup brewing away over a gentle flame is a comforting thought. What better to have while nestled quietly next to the window while the winter turns steadily to spring. Still the air is a bit chilly and the brisk wind swept outdoors makes one even hungrier for soup.

Thoughts of early spring have me anticipating new life. I believe the garden landscape is intact from little to no blankets of snow. But, whatever becomes of spring, I know the plants will be happy to awaken and ready to delight our presence.

 

I do enjoy the garden most at this time; it’s the time when the alliums bloom. The plantings will first break ground, sleepy eyed and ready for new life; soon grow quickly as if by magic to fill the space into a lush oasis eager to be admired. And there I will be, watching at every moment.

 

For now, there are many decisions to make, what will be added, and what will be transplanted. It’s the constant state of movement a garden goes through, from humblest of beginnings to what it is to become. I have relaxed over the years to allow the garden to let me know what it wants to be. And in doing so, the garden has evolved into a place I cherish.

 

There is still time to enjoy comforting bowls or cups of soup as the weather takes us on a roller coaster ride. This soup is great with this out of the oven quick bread infused with fresh thyme leaves. What can be more perfect than bread and soup?

 

Sweetly fragrant thyme and nutty Gruyere. mmm…

 

Spring time can wait just a bit longer, I am still enjoying soup!

 

Have a great sunny weekend everyone!

 

Roasted Carrot Red Lentil Soup Recipe [Serves 4]

 

1 pound carrots, peeled & cut into 1” pieces

2 Tablespoons olive oil

 

1 medium onion, diced

1 small fresh bay leaf

1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

1-2 Tablespoons sherry [optional]

 

2/3 cup red lentils, picked over

5 cups chicken stock -or- vegetable stock

1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds

½ teaspoon regular -or- smoked paprika

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon turmeric

 

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Sea salt to taste

 

Preheat oven to 375°F.

 

1. Coat carrots in olive oil and place in a baking dish. Roast covered for 30 minutes.

2. Uncover carrots and continue to roast until they start to brown.

3. Meanwhile, sauté onions with bay leaf in remaining olive oil over medium heat until they are tender and starting to color.

4. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Deglaze with sherry if using.

5. Stir in spices, excluding whole cumin seeds, roasted carrots and lentils.

6. Give them a quick stir and add stock.

7. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until carrots are tender and lentil have fallen apart.

8. Puree soup until smooth and season with sea salt, adding more stock if necessary.

9. Pan roast cumin seeds until they start popping and are fragrant. Stir into soup.

Serve with or without cream.

 

 

Zucchini Gruyere Quick Bread Recipe [Makes 3 mini loaves]

 

1 ½ cups g/f baking mix*

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ – 1 teaspoon sea salt [depending on the saltiness of the cheese]

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

3 large eggs

½ cup buttermilk

¼ cup sunflower oil

 

1 cup grated zucchini, squeezed of moisture

½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated

 

Preheat oven to 350°F

Spray three mini loaf pans with oil [I used a coconut pan spray.]

 

1. Combine the dry ingredients with the fresh thyme in a bowl and set aside.

2. Whisk together eggs, buttermilk and oil until smooth.

3. Stir in cheese and zucchini.

4. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until combined and there are no dry pockets.

5. Promptly divide the mixture amongst the loaf pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

6. Allow loaves to cool in their pans or enjoy right out of the oven.

Today I have a few recipes to post. I could not decide on which one so I thought I would share what has been made in the past week. The weather is finally feeling like January. Blustery cold winds and sunny skies. It is a shock to think just a few days ago it felt like early March, watching as the little snow we have had melt away. I don’t think much of us mind this mild winter weather from last years’ experience.

 

These recipes are the kind of foods that I make on an everyday basis. No need to get fancy here, no special imported food stuff to acquire, just a few quality ingredients and a good turn of the pepper mill can make all the difference. If you experiment with gluten-free recipes you should try this honey hazelnut cornbread. No one would ever guess it was gluten-free! Too bad I did not make any slow roasted ribs to go along with it, but I can guess as summer approaches, an outdoor rib roast will be in order.

Have a great rest of the week!

 

Carrot & Parsnip Soup Recipe

 

2 Tablespoons sunflower oil

2 whole cloves

1 small bay leaf

1/3 cup shallots, thinly sliced

1 large garlic clove

 

1 ½ cups carrots, peeled & chopped

1 cup parsnips, peeled & chopped

3 ½ cups chicken stock -or- vegetable stock

 

2 Tablespoons honey -or- to taste

1 teaspoon sea salt

 

Chopped pistachios [for garnishing]

Cream

 

1. Heat oil over medium heat and add whole cloves and bay leaf. Cook for a few minutes.

2. Add shallots and cook until translucent and starting to brown. Add garlic and cook for a minute.

3. Add carrots, parsnips and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook covered until vegetables are tender.

4. Puree soup in a blender and return to the pot.

5. Add honey and sea salt to taste and serve with pistachios and a bit of cream.

Serves 4.

 

Honey Hazelnut Cornbread Recipe

 

½ cup gluten-free baking mix

5 Tablespoons cornmeal [gluten-free source]

3 Tablespoons hazelnut meal

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

 

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup milled honey

1 large egg

½ cup buttermilk

 

1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped [for topping]*

2 Tablespoons hazelnut meal [optional topping]

 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

 

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.

2. Beat together butter and honey.

3. Incorporate egg and buttermilk. [Mixture will be lumpy.]

4. Add dry ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

5. Fill muffin cups two-thirds full or a buttered dish.

6. Sprinkle tops with hazelnuts and hazelnut meal if using.

7. Bake for 15-18 minutes for muffins and 25-30 minutes for a pan.

 

Makes 8-10 muffins -or- an 8 inch skillet.

 

*note: toast hazelnuts for 10 minutes and cool before chopping.

 

Braised White Bean Recipe

 

1 cup white navy beans

 

1 ham shank

½ small yellow onion, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 sprigs winter savory

1 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon crushed red chilies

3 cups chicken stock, unsalted

 

soaking & precooking the beans:

1. Soak beans in cold water to cover generously overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place drained beans in a pot and cover with water.

3. Bring to a simmer and cook for one hour. Drain and set aside.

 

cooking the beans:

1. In a medium pot sear the ham hock until browned and there is a little fat coating the pot, remove.

2. Sauté onions and garlic on medium heat until translucent and starting to brown.

3. Add drained beans, ham hock, savory, crushed chilies and stock to cover.

4. Bring to a gently simmer and cook until beans are tender.

Serves 4-6.

If anyone asks me if I like cold winter weather, I would have to say I fall somewhere in the middle. It is nice to put the garden to rest for several months and hide out in the warm comforts of home planning for next year. Shoveling and frost removal are the least favorite activities during the winter.

Fall and winter on the other end is my favorite time to cook. Stews, soups and dishes that braise away for hours are one of the many welcome aromas that fill the house this time of year. Its nicer when larger gathering of family and friends are there to help you eat the food that was cooked with care.

 

I have a tendency to always be cold; luckily the home stays quite warm, usually all year round. I guess fate would not have had a better place for me here. As long as I am tucked away in a warm place with a bowl of soup, I am happy.

I hope you will enjoy this satisfying stew as much as I have. It is rather quick to prepare and nice way to retreat from the brisk weather. If you hesitate when you get to the part in the recipe that requires shrimp stock, just read my little note at the bottom.

 

Langoustine Stew Recipe

 

1 Tablespoon safflower oil

1/3 cup shallots, minced

1 Tablespoon ginger, minced

1 Tablespoon garlic, minced

 

1 cup shrimp stock -or- water*

1 ½ cups pumpkin, peeled, seeded & shopped

¾ pound langoustine tails

 

1 can coconut milk [14 ounces]

½ teaspoon sea salt

Cilantro for garnish

 

1. Sauté shallots in oil on low until translucent and tender, approximately 3-5 minutes.

2. Add ginger and garlic and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes longer.

3. Add in chopped pumpkin and shrimp stock. Simmer gently until almost tender.

4. Add coconut milk and langoustine tails and finish cooking the pumpkin.

5. Season with sea salt and serve with fresh cilantro leaves.

 

*note: if you cannot find langoustine tails you can substitute shrimp. Peel the shrimp and place the shells in a cheesecloth bundle and simmer with the pumpkin. This is a quick way to make shrimp stock and you get to have the shrimp with the stew!

Comforting, warming, simply perfect… Away from the chilly brisk outdoors, a warm bowl of soup sounds so right. Whether complex or simple, such an inviting meal helps take the chilly edge off what fall has to offer.

 

Soup is like a good friend giving you a big hug.

For the soup recipe, I infused the soup with thyme and clove. Much like adding a bay leaf or two, these two seasoning impart a delicate whisper of flavor that works so well with the more complex flavor of curry powder. I also did not add any sweetener a lot of butternut soups have. I feel adding onions and sweet potato adds an earthy sweetness on their own. So pull up a chair, we’ll have soup!

 

 

Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

 

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 Tablespoons safflower oil -or- olive oil

½ teaspoon curry powder

3 whole cloves [optional]

 

2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed

1 medium sweet potato, peeled & chopped [approximately 1 ½ cups]

5 cups chicken stock -or- vegetable stock

1 thyme spring

½ teaspoon seal salt.

 

Crème frâiche [for dolloping]

 

preparing the soup:

  1. Sauté onions with the oil, curry powder and cloves on low until translucent.
  2. Add squash, sweet potato, stock, thyme sprig and sea salt. Simmer covered until everything is tender.
  3. Remove thyme spring and whole cloves.
  4. Puree soup and adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Serve with a dollop of crème frâiche.

Serves 6-8.

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