Saturday, March 4, 2017

Broccoli Soup

The original purpose of this soup was to use up broccoli stems. MANY people don't like broccoli stems (thus you can find crowns only in the store for purchase- stems removed). And besides, if they're not prepared correctly, peeled namely, they can be tough and woody. This could potentially lead to people not liking them...

The tops of the whole broccoli stalks are cut off when people use them, and the stems sometimes just sit there, sad and neglected in the fridge. And maybe many people don't even bother with that, just throwing them away. If that happens, it's a shame.

But lots of people like broccoli soup: cream of broccoli with tons of cream and topped with cheddar. That's all fine and dandy, but not exactly what this is here.
It's pretty much all vegetables, puréed into a smooth and velvety blend.
Adding the cream and cheese would be up to you in the end, more a finishing note than the base.

It started off as a very eyeballed thing, each time it would be a bit different as measurements were never exact. I've written things down so it's more tangible and there's an actual jumping off point.  Fix it as necessary.

You may not believe there's no cream in here, and if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken,  replace the butter with extra olive oil if you so choose, the soup easily becomes vegan.

The recipe is large. I mean, 4 lb. broccoli? 12 cups broth? Yes.
It can easily be halved.

Serve as is or with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, plain yogurt, grated cheese, sliced green onion.

Broccoli Soup
Serves 8 (generously) or more

4 lb. (1.8 kg) broccoli (I like a combination of crowns and stems, but whatever you have works)
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
2 T  (30 g) butter
1 large onion, large dice
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium potato (Russet or maybe Yukon Gold), peeled, quartered and cut into pieces
12 c (2.8 L) vegetable or chicken broth, plus more as necessary
A good pinch cayenne pepper, more as you require
Freshly ground nutmeg (I like about 1/2 a whole nutmeg grated directly into the pot)
Baby spinach (optional, but it will add iron and give a boost to the shade of your soup)
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Cut the crowns from the broccoli stems. Separate the florets and place them in a large bowl. Cut the dry end from the stem and peel the outer layer from the stems using a paring knife (it comes off nicely in strips). Cut the stems into 1 inch slices and set aside.

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion and sauté until it begins to caramelize. Add the carrot and onion, and continue to sauté the vegetables several more minutes. Add the sliced broccoli stems, potato, and garlic, and stir to coat everything in the oil and begin to warm the garlic.

Pour in the broth, a dash of cayenne (I maybe use 1/8 t or so total, but you may want to start with less), several grinds of fresh black pepper, and a good pinch of salt. Bring the soup to a boil, stir, reduce to a simmer, cover with a cocked lid, and cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the broccoli stems are easily pierced with a knife, add the florets, stir them through, and continue simmering the soup 10-15 minutes longer, until the broccoli florets are easily pierced with a knife.

Carefully purée the soup in batches in a blender (only filling the blender about 2/3 full, holding the top on with a folded kitchen towel as you blend), adding a small handful of spinach to each batch before blending if you choose. Pour the soup into another pot and continue blending the rest of the soup.
If extra liquid is required for the consistency, you can use water or extra hot broth (or, of course, cream if you like).

Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary: salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg.
Serve warm with garnishes as desired. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hazelnut Babycakes

Technically, I suppose these little nibbles would be classified as a version of financiers or friands.

Hazelnut babycakes come together fairly quickly- charming little bites that are as nice to eat as they are simple to make.
They make a sweet little nibble with tea or coffee in the afternoon, crispy on the top and edges, and chewy within.

A treat to be sure, perhaps a little more rare these days if you're trying to be more careful- but they're meant to be shared.
Of course, you could use a different pan if you don't have this particular style. Just keep in mind that you'll be dealing with a different bake time and will likely have to be a bit more attentive at some point.
(Although I think these particular cakes are best in a small size because of their density.)

Hazelnut Babycakes
makes 24

1 c (100 g) hazelnut meal
1/4 c plus 1T (50 g) arrowroot powder
1/4 t (2 g) salt
1/2 t (2 g) baking powder
2 large eggs, plus one egg white- room temperature
10 T butter (about 140 g), melted and slightly cooled
1/2 c (100g) granulated sugar

raspberries or blackberries (or blackberry or raspberry jam)
chocolate (solid pieces to tuck in the center, or as a ganache to dip the tops)
a bit of espresso powder in the batter (especially if you add chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C with a rack set in the center.

Butter the holes of a 24-hole mini muffin tin.
Blend the hazelnut meal, arrowroot, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and extra white together with the sugar a few minutes so the eggs are broken down and the sugar is well incorporated. Add espresso powder here if you choose to use it.
Add the melted butter and mix well.
Pour the hazelnut mixture you've previously set aside into the eggs, sugar, and butter. Mix with a rubber spatula, until just homogeneous.
Divide the batter among the spaces in the muffin tin, they should be about 3/4 full.
Now it's time to dress them up a bit if you wish. Tuck a berry into the top of each, pressing it down slightly to sink it in (but try not to hit the bottom of the pan). Or, add some chopped chocolate, or a tiny dollop of jam to the center of each cake.

Bake the cakes 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden and puffed. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool only a couple minutes before turning the cakes out onto a cooling rack (they may need a little assistance- just don't make the mistake of waiting until completely cool because by then they've glued themselves to the pan).
Let cool completely, dust with powdered sugar (or dip the tops in ganache if you choose), and serve. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Seafood Laksa

Spicy and creamy, with tons of sweet-salty-sour flavor, and a bit funky, Southeast Asian laksa is pretty much a curry soup.
Think Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia on this one.
So nice for a warming dinner on a cold or rainy day, just get yourself a big bowl and you're on your way.
(And I think a tad addictive. Better than takeout?)

The recipe can be halved fairly easily, though I'd encourage anyone to go ahead and make the full recipe for the laksa paste. The half not immediately used can be stored in the freezer in a labeled and zippered bag, all the air removed. It makes for a quicker meal the next time you want it, and you don't have to worry about buying a little of this and a bit of that.

Curry paste, laksa paste (and we could say the same for the likes of pesto)... it's always good to have extra made and on hand. So much amazing flavor packed in there!

Leftovers of the soup are great, but remember that shrimp are much nicer texture-wise immediately after they're cooked. Those day-after, reheated shrimp can be a bit rubbery, so if that's a big problem, make what you need- not an excess.

Rice noodles would be the much more traditional addition to the finished soup, but if you've got rice to use up... plus sometimes noodles in soup can make for messy eating...

And while accompaniments would generally be added at one's discretion, to taste, I think lime and fresh cilantro are requirements. The soup isn't quite the same without the two of them sprinkled over the top just before eating. They add that last layer of fresh, crisp, and sour.

Seafood Laksa
serves 8 or more

3 large shallots, roughly chopped
3 serrano chilis, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
4 fresno chilis, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
3 inches of ginger (about 30 g) peeled and grated
6 cloves of garlic, roughly minced
3 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves and top dry part removed, tender inner white part chopped
1/4 c (about 24 g) cilantro stems
1 T (7 g) ground turmeric
1 T (15 ml) tamarind paste
1 1/2 t (5 g) ground cumin
1 t (4 g) paprika
6 T (90 ml) olive or vegetable oil

2 cans (400 ml each) coconut milk
8 oz (240 ml) clam juice
2 c (480 ml) vegetable stock
3 T (51 g) packed brown sugar
1/4 c (60 ml) fish sauce
4 fresh cod fillets, skinned
40 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 1/2 c packed (290 g) bean sprouts
To serve: softened rice noodles or jasmine or basmati rice (cooked), chopped cilantro leaves, lime wedges

To make the laksa paste, combine the shallots, chilis, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro stems, turmeric, tamarind, cumin and paprika in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, then process everything to begin breaking it down. Add the oil and continue processing, scrape down the sides as necessary, until the mixture forms a relatively homogeneous paste. 

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium and add the laksa paste. Stir the paste in the hot pot a few minutes until it begins to steam and become fragrant.  To the hot soup base,  add the coconut milk, clam juice, and vegetable stock, along with the brown sugar and fish sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and let simmer about 10 minutes.

To the simmering broth, add the whole cod fillets, and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cod is cooked through. As it cooks and while you stir, break up the cod fillets into bite-sized pieces that will fit onto a spoon.  Next, add the raw shrimp to the soup, and cook 2-3 minutes, until pink. Lastly, add the bean sprouts to the pot and cook a couple minutes.

Ladle the hot laksa into bowls along with rice noodles (or rice),  add cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


I'll start with a disclaimer: yes, the photos show the rösti to be a bit dark, but it wasn't quite as dark as it seems. Though I can cite my biggest problems as a pan that wasn't flat on the bottom (realized too late), which led to some spotty cooking, and an electric burner (of which I am not a fan).
Things are certainly not always perfect (but it still tasted good).  

But, being slightly impatient and unwilling for a do-over (since I've not posted in a while), as well as the fact that light was good and I could get some very welcome reflection off the snow in the yard at the time... I made do.

Then again, I would greatly prefer a darker and obviously crispy version to the soggy alternative.

Rösti is a Swiss fried potato dish, like hash browns or latkes, nice at any time of day and a comforting sort of thing during cold weather.
I generally serve it as a starter myself, along with crème fraîche and smoked salmon,  but one round could easily make the base of a meal for two or three people.

If you want to go all out for a special occasion, perhaps caviar?

I won't say this is a completely authentic dish as I'm certainly no authority on Swiss cooking, and, there's no cheese included in this version (though I don't know if that's a total deal breaker).

The potato mixture could be cooked in ghee, or maybe bacon fat if you have it around and prefer that additional flavor.

serves 6-8 as a starter, 2-3 as a main

1 1/2 lb. (24 oz/680 g) Yukon gold potatoes

6 green onions, sliced
1 large egg

1 large egg yolk
1 t (7 g) salt
1/2 t (less than 1 g, but add to taste) freshly ground black pepper
2 T (20 g) cornstarch
4 T (57 g) unsalted butter
1 T (15 g) olive oil

(possible accompaniments include: smoked salmon,
caviar,  bacon, cheese, crème fraîche, dill, lemon, applesauce)

Grate the potatoes and place in a bowl of cold water. Let the potato soak 5 minutes, drain and rinse in a colander. Place the shredded potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much liquid as possible (less liquid = crispy).

Transfer the potato to a large bowl and add the green onion. Beat the egg and extra yolk together in a bowl to combine and add to the bowl along with the salt, pepper, and cornstarch.
Stir everything together to combine well.

Heat a 10 inch skillet (well seasoned cast iron, preferably) over medium heat. Add half the butter and half the olive oil. When the butter has melted, swirl the pan to combine the oils and coat the pan. Place the potato mixture in the pan in an even layer and press down slightly to smooth the top. Cover the pan (with a lid or a sheet pan), and cook 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and loosen the potato from around the edge. Turn the rösti out onto the flat (underside) of a sheet pan and place the other half of the butter and olive oil into the hot skillet. When the butter has melted, again swirl the pan and slide the rösti, uncooked side down, back into the pan. Again, cover the pan and let cook 8-10 minutes, until browned and crispy.

Remove the pan from the heat and let set a few minutes. Turn the rösti out onto a cutting board, cut into wedges, and serve as desired. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Autumn Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

A meal salad, because sometimes you really need one of those.
Not necessarily flimsy, but with a bit of body to it- along with texture, tooth, variety, interest, and flavor.

Of course, depending on portion size, the salad CAN be as a meal, or more of a colorful starter.

I tend to prefer making and serving composed salads rather than the tossed variety- I think they look prettier, and you can also be sure that everyone has the same amount of everything on their dish.

Delicata squash is tender, so there's no need to peel it- one very nice benefit of this squash.
I don't see it often, so I'm pretty sure there's a "when it's gone, it's gone" aspect to this bit of produce.
So: get it while you can.
It brings a slightly earthy and sweet pumpkin flavor, boosted a bit with the maple syrup added prior to roasting.
Obviously it's very likely you'll have extra squash, unless you're making salad for a crowd. The good news is that it makes a nice leftover- in my opinion.

Crisp, sweet and tart come from sliced apple, and some tart chewiness from the dried cherries or cranberries.
Other flavors in the salad include a bit of requisite sharpess and funk from the onion and bleu cheese, while the nuts add a bit of toasty crunch.

Everything is placed on top of a portion of hearty spinach, drizzled with olive oil and aged balsamic, then finished with pinches of flaky salt and freshly ground pepper.

Autumn Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

2 Delicata squash
1 1/2-2 T (23-30 ml) pure maple syrup
3 T (45 ml) olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
a nice pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional)

To roast the squash:
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C) with a rack placed in the center of the oven.
Cut the ends off the squash, halve crosswise, then lengthwise so that you have quarters. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, then slice into pieces between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Toss the half rounds of squash on a sheet pan with sides along with the maple syrup, olive oil, a large pinch of salt, black pepper to taste, and red pepper if desired.
Roast the squash 20-30 minutes, until cooked, shaking the pan a few times and rotating the pan after about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely.

For the salad:
baby spinach (as an idea, 5 oz/140 or so grams could serve 2-5)
sliced green onion 
roasted Delicata squash (above)
dried cherries or cranberries
crisp apple, sweet and tart (Jazz, Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp)

aged balsamic, thick and syrupy
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt (Maldon or fleur de sel, for example)
freshly cracked/ground black pepper
toasted chopped nuts: hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts
bleu cheese, one you like, albeit a bit more delicate than strong so as not to overpower

Place a portion of spinach on each plate, and sprinkle with green onion. Top with several slices of roasted squash, followed by cherries or cranberries, sliced and "cubed" apple. Drizzle a spoon of olive oil (2t-1T/10-15ml) and a spoon of balsamic vinegar (1t -1 1/2t or 5-8ml) over each of the salads, then sprinkle each with a bit of salt and pepper. Add a shower of nuts, and finally crown with bleu cheese, either a small slice or crumbled, and serve. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream

The flavor of cream can be quiet and delicate, perhaps more supportive and background than others may be, but it's still there.  Crème fraîche on the other hand may not be quite so subtle as far as cream goes.  It certainly holds another place in the cream continuum, and can have it's own purposes and preferred matches with other flavors.

Another simple summer dessert, this one almost no-cook, crème fraîche ice cream is a nice warm weather option.
(Start a day ahead and you can make your own crème fraîche.)
Great when paired with fresh strawberries or peaches since that fresh, ripe and sweet fruit can benefit from just a touch of cream and tang.

Or, might I recommend broiled or grilled peaches?
(Especially smart if the grill is already hot.)

If you want to do a little extra, splash halved peaches cut side up (and placed in a cast iron pan or heavy and slightly curved foil) with amaretto and sprinkle with a good layer of sugar. Place the pan outdoors on a hot (covered) grill or inside under a broiler until done (softer, juicier, warm with maybe a bit of char from the heat)... Brandy or bourbon and perhaps rum could be other options.
Maybe you could forego the amaretto to go the Peach Melba route and add some raspberry sauce (maybe a splash of Chambord if you've got it).

All in all, a slightly different take on peaches and cream.

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
serves 6 or so (makes less than 1 qt)

1 1/2 c (375 ml) whole milk
1 c (225 g) sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 c (180 ml) heavy cream
3/4 c (180 ml) crème fraîche

Whisk milk, sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low to almost a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and pour the sweetened milk into a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Whisk in the heavy cream and crème fraîche until fully combined. Refrigerate at least an hour until cold.

Freeze the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
Remove the soft ice cream from the ice cream maker to a lidded container, and place in the freezer to stiffen several hours before serving.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Raspberry-Rose Sorbet

As far as this recipe goes, I wanted something summer-appropriate and good to go while berries are plentiful, nice, and ripe. Thankfully, there's also no cooking involved, no heat per se whatsoever.
Fruit macerates with the sugar, everything is blended and strained, and finally frozen.

It's a deep shade of red-pink with an intense fruit flavor. To me, a bit goes further than perhaps another option, as it can be savored in small scoops.

The rose component may be a little different yes, but I have a bottle of rosewater that I don't use all too often. I wanted another function for the ingredient- no matter how small that may be.

Rosewater is certainly not one of those "more is better" things. Subtlety is better with rosewater, and that balance is not always easy. As with many things, it can completely be a personal preference, too. A bit of it may be enough for one, but not enough for another. A touch more may be much too much for the first person, and just enough for the second.
I'd rather go the conservative route.
And yes, I have accidentally gone the opposite way.

Raspberries smell very "green" to me. Not green as in unripe, but green as in grassy, fresh. Strawberries, for example, do not.
Rose can enhance that fresh raspberry flavor, which can at times be "rose-y" itself (in fact, they're botanically related- and sometimes things can go together that way). There's just a bit of that floral essence the finish of the sorbet, I don't find it to be a rose perfume flavor through and through.

Depending on your berries, you may want to add a bit more sugar, or more lemon juice (and perhaps a few more drops rosewater) The berries I started with were somewhat tart this time, and I ended up adding about two more tablespoons of sugar, whisked through to combine after being strained. And still, it is a bit tart, but I think that's how it should be. However, I still think that bit of lemon is important for brightness.

The finished sorbet is kind of nice with a tiny meringue crumbled over the top.

And so...

Raspberry-Rose Sorbet
makes about 1 quart

30 oz (850 g) raspberries

3/4 c (170 g) sugar (extra as necessary depending on your berries)
zest of 1 small lemon
1 T (15 ml) fresh lemon juice (extra as necessary, to taste)
1/2 t (about 3 ml) rosewater - plus a few drops more to taste

Combine raspberries and sugar in a large bowl and cover. Let macerate a couple hours, stirring and smashing the berries a couple times so that the sugar dissolves and the berries give up their juice.  Add the lemon zest and stir it through the mixture. Pour the bits of berries and juice into a blender and blend to break up the last bits. Strain to remove most of the seeds (some really don't bother me- at least you know it's real).

Add the lemon juice and rosewater, and whisk through to blend. Taste and add a bit more sugar or lemon juice, and/or a few drops more rosewater as you think necessary.

Refrigerate an hour or two until cold.

Chill in the bowl of an ice cream maker per manufacturers instructions.

Remove the slushy, cold sorbet to a container, cover, and place in the freezer to stiffen until it reaches the appropriate and scoopable texture.
(If the sorbet has been in the freezer a while and is very hard, obviously leave out to stiffen a bit.)