Pear and Celery Soup with Roquefort, walnuts and pomegranate

A light, colorful and delicately fragrant winter holiday soup with a well balanced combination of tart, sweet and savory flavors.

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The immersion blender makes this soup very smooth. By contrast, the walnuts and pomegranate seeds give it texture.

IMG_2561.JPGIngredients for the soup:
6 pears d’Anjou, ripe
1 celery bunch
1/2 sweet yellow onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 cups water

Garnish: pomegranate, Roquefort, walnuts
Serves 4

IMG_2562.JPGPeel and chop the onion finely.

IMG_2563.JPGHeat the oil on medium high heat in a large pot. Add the chopped onion and reduce to low. Cover and simmer about 8 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

IMG_2565.JPG Wash each branch of the celery carefully and absorb excess water with a kitchen towel.

IMG_2566.JPGCut the branches of the celery lengthwise, then chop them into small pieces. Reserve the leaves for garnish.

IMG_2569.JPGAdd the celery to the pot with the onions. Raise the heat to medium low and cover, cooking another 12-15 minutes.

IMG_2572.JPGCut the pears in half, then quarters. Reserve two quarters for garnish. Peel the other quarters (5 1/2 pears total) and cut them into large slices.

IMG_2574.JPGAdd the pears to the pot with the celery and onion.

IMG_2576.JPGAdd two cups of water, season with a pinch of salt, bring to a simmer and lower the heat. Keep cooking covered about 8 minutes.

IMG_2578.JPGTurn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup.

IMG_2582.JPGThe soup should be completely smooth.

IMG_2587.JPGThinly slice the reserved pears.

IMG_2584.JPGRemove seeds from the pomegranate. Crumble some of the Roquefort.

IMG_2585.JPGServe the soup in bowls. Arrange some celery leaves, walnuts….

IMG_2588.JPG…Roquefort, pear slices and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
Serve at once and enjoy!

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English Pea Soup

Quick. Simple. Fresh.
One of my favorite soups to make in no time and enjoy healthy nourishment.
The compliment of herbs, parsley and mint, brings fresh flavors, which can also be achieved with basil, chives, or dill depending on your preference and what grows in your garden.
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Here presented with a lemon rind and some peas sprouts for an elegant serving.
20140725-151840-55120962.jpgIngredients:
2 lbs fresh English peas
1/2 lb white onion
1 oz mint leaves
1 oz parsley leaves
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
5 cups water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
20140725-151841-55121292.jpgFirst peel and cut the onion in half, leaving the roots at the end. Finely chop the onion by slicing it horizontally and vertically almost to the roots. This technique allows the onion to still hold together.  Then slice from the tip to the root to have a perfectly sized chopped onion.
20140725-151841-55121637.jpgHeat a little grape seed oil in the bottom of a large pot. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion at once and reduce the heat to low. Cook for a few minutes until the onion becomes translucent and softens.
20140725-151841-55121986.jpgAdd the water, season with salt and bring to a simmer.  Cook a few minutes (5 to 8) until the peas are tender.
20140725-151842-55122354.jpgUsing an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth.
20140725-151843-55123223.jpgWash and remove the stems from the herbs.
20140725-151843-55123659.jpgAdd the herbs to the soup. Continue processing with the immersion blender until you obtain a velvety texture.
20140725-151842-55122770.jpgAdjust seasoning with freshly ground pepper and a little salt if needed. Refrigerate to cool.

Serve and enjoy!

Parsley Root and Sweet Potato Chips

When I found parsley root at the Chicago Green City market I was very excited. It is rather uncommon and yet so simple to prepare and very delicious.

20140511-183236.jpgOne easy way to prepare and enjoy them is making root vegetable chips. Here, mixed with sweet potatoes. Each crispy, light, and tasty.

20140511-183632.jpgIngredients:
2 medium parsley roots
1 large sweet potato
Fresh dill (or other fresh herb such as parsley, chives…)
Olive oil to drizzle
Freshly ground sea salt
Preheat oven to 400F.

20140518-160335.jpg Peel each vegetable and clean thoroughly.

20140518-160420.jpgUsing a mandolin, a vegetable slicer, or a sharp chef knife, slice the parsley root evenly and paper thin.

20140518-160914.jpgIn the same way, slice the sweet potato.

20140518-160949.jpgPlace the parsley root slices in a bowl and drizzle a little olive oil. Toss thoroughly.

20140518-161023.jpgArrange on a cookie sheet in a single layer.

20140518-161056.jpgIn the same way, drizzle a little olive oil on the sweet potato slices.

20140518-161146.jpgArrange on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes on ‘convection bake’ setting depending on your oven.

20140518-161256.jpgRemove from the oven, sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt and freshly chopped herbs. Serve and enjoy!

Four Cheese Soufflé

Secret tips to achieve high success making your cheese soufflé.

20140413-053537.jpgSuch a classic French recipe. In my family, this is the type of dish we prepared anytime we needed a simple, quick dinner. The basic ingredients, cheese, milk, eggs were always on hand. Here I’m using four cheeses but you can you just one or two. Be sure to respect the quantities.

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Ingredients:
For the Béchamel sauce
1 cup/250 ml milk
1 1/2 Tbsp/25 g butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 Tbsp potato starch
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Soufflé
4 egg yolks
6 egg whites
20-25 g each of Conté, Emmenthaler, Parmesan and Pyrenees Sheep (or gruyère)
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400F.

20140413-055724.jpgseparate egg whites from egg yolks. Ideally, if you can separate them several days in advance and keep them in an air tight container, the egg whites will develop higher volume when whisking them.
Grate the cheeses and keep the Parmesan separate so you can use some for coating the soufflé dish and some to sprinkle on too of the soufflé before baking.

20140413-071145.jpgbutter the soufflé with a pastry brush and soft butter (not melted, just softened at air temperature) thoroughly. Add 2 Tbsp of flour and 1 Tbsp of grated Parmesan and shake them around the dish until completely coated.

20140413-071442.jpgonce all the sides are coated, shake off the excess.

20140413-071559.jpgprepare the ingredients for the Béchamel sauce.

20140413-071655.jpgMelt the butter.

20140413-071801.jpgonce the butter is completely melted, add the flour and potato starch. Using potato starch will help the soufflé stand up a little longer after taking it out of the oven.

20140413-072059.jpgCook the mixture until it bubbles look like a ‘bees nest’.

20140413-072247.jpgMeanwhile, scald the milk.

20140413-072332.jpgRemove the pot from the stove. Add the hot milk to the butter-flour mixture at once, mixing constantly. The sauce should immediately thicken. You may use a whisk instead of a wooden spoon at this point to ensure no lumps appear.

20140413-072541.jpgPlace back on the stove, medium heat, and continue cooking another few minutes to thicken the sauce further. Mix constantly either with a wooden spoon or whisk.

20140413-072843.jpgSeason with salt and pepper and grate some nutmeg.

20140413-072945.jpgAdd the egg yolks one by one, mixing vigorously after each one. This will render the sauce a bit more liquid.

20140413-073115.jpgContinue to cook a few minutes longer, whisking constantly, to thicken the sauce again and the color changes to a paler yellow.

20140413-073253.jpgtransfer to a large bowl.

20140413-073345.jpgPlace the egg white in a metal mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt, and start whiling on low speed.

20140413-073510.jpgWhisk until medium firm. The egg whites should not be too firm so they keep rising in the oven.

20140413-073642.jpgPlace about 1/3 if the egg whites into the bowl with the soufflé mixture.

20140413-073932.jpgMix thoroughly with a spatula. No need to be careful at this point as we just want to lighten the consistency of the soufflé mixture so it can easily be incorporated into the rest of the egg whites.

20140413-074056.jpgAdd the remainder of the egg whites, either at once or in two parts.

20140413-074227.jpgnow fold the egg whites delicately into the mixture. If you are adding them in two parts, repeat.

20140413-074635.jpg Add the cheeses by folding them in. Reserve a little Parmesan to top the soufflé.

20140413-074828.jpgCarefully pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish, making sure non gets on the rim/sides.

20140413-075020.jpgSprinkle with the reserved grated Parmesan and place in the preheated oven.

20140413-075128.jpgBake for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. If you are using individual soufflé fidhes, decrease baking time to 17-20 minutes.

20140413-075307.jpgEnjoy! Can be served with a green salad as an accompaniment for a meal.

Green Cabbage and White Bean Soup with Thyme Celery Pesto

A hearty winter soup to enjoy during our freezing temperatures in Chicago.  This is a satisfying dish to savor either as an appetizer or a main dish served with a salad for supper.  White beans and green cabbage are classic winter ingredients and pair deliciously.  Health-wise, white beans are high in fiber and a good source of vitamin B1 and minerals.  Green cabbage has long been established for its digestive tract support as well as an excellent source of vitamin K.

20140207-190459.jpgThe celery pesto is made of ingredients from the soup itself, with the addition of garlic and parmesan cheese.  If you wish to make a dairy-free/vegan version, simply omit the parmesan cheese in the pesto and season it with a bit of salt, pepper, some lemon juice and a little extra olive oil. This soup is most delicious the day after preparing it.

Be sure to soak the beans the day before.  It is simpler, requires less time and effort than having to do a ‘quick boil’ just prior to cooking them.  The best is to simply soak the beans overnight the day you come back from the market.  They can then be refrigerated a few days till you are ready to cook the soup.

20140207-190627.jpgIngredients:
1/2 green cabbage
2 cups dry white beans
3 small-medium size carrots
2 celery stalks with their leaves
1/2 medium-large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 oz Parmesan cheese
A few springs of fresh thyme
A few springs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 cloves
5-6 Tbsps Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the beans the day before.

20140207-190719.jpgUse 1/4 of the onion as the base to hold the cloves.  Make three small incisions in the onion, deep enough to hold the stem of the cloves.  Insert the cloves.  Alternatively, you can place the cloves and bay leaves in a small linen bag.  Either way, you will discard them after cooking.

20140207-190756.jpgPlace the beans in a large pot of salted water with the onion, cloves and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and lower to simmer for about 40-45 minutes until the beans are tender.

20140207-190844.jpgPeel the carrots.  Wash the celery branches and reserve the leaves.  Chop the carrots, the other 1/4 of the onion and celery finely.

20140207-190921.jpgHeat about 2 Tbsps of olive oil in a large French oven (cast iron pot).  Add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and simmer for a few minutes until they soften.

20140207-191005.jpgSlice and cut the cabbage in medium pieces.

20140207-191053.jpgAdd the cabbage to the vegetables and toss to coat evenly.  Continue cooking on low heat with the cover on for about 30-40 minutes until the cabbage is cooked, but not over-cooked.

20140207-191203.jpgMeanwhile, remove about 1/2 cup of beans from the pot and place them in a food processor fitted with a steel blade along with the celery leaves, the two garlic cloves (cut in half and center removed), a spoonful of rosemary and thyme.  Process till grossly mixed.

20140207-191356.jpgAdd the Parmesan cheese and about 1 1/2 Tbsps of olive oil and process again until you obtain a smooth paste.

20140207-191504.jpgPlace the thyme-celery pesto in a small bowl.  You may drizzle a bit of olive foil or lemon juice on top, or cover with a plastic film to preserve freshness.  Reserve.

20140207-191614.jpgDrain the beans and reserve the cooking broth.

20140207-191710.jpgHeat about 2 Tbsps of olive oil along with about half the pesto in a large pot.

20140207-191803.jpgAdd the white beans and mix thoroughly to coat them with the pesto.

20140207-191844.jpgAdd the cabbage-vegetable mixture and mix well.

20140207-191940.jpgAdd about 4-6 cups of the bean broth.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add about 2 Tbsps of thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes till serving.

This soup can be prepared a day ahead, refrigerated, and brought back to a simmer to serve.

20140207-192026.jpgServe with a bit of extra pesto on top to taste.  Enjoy!

Œufs en cocotte with white truffle

Œufs en cocotte is a very simple and quick dish, which I decided to prepare as a special holiday treat with a white truffle. The fresh truffle aromas marry themselves well with eggs or potatoes. In Provence, we are used to black truffles as our winter delicacy. The white truffles are the delicacies from Italy. Of course, there are advocates of each. Personally, I enjoy savoring either. Both are a true pleasure. Thinly sliced, ideally with a truffle shaver.

20131215-200624.jpgHere I did not have the right tool, so I used a vegetable peeler, which made the slices a bit too thick and not as delicate. Yet, we thoroughly enjoyed the treat nevertheless.

20131215-200832.jpgIngredients for two guests:
1 fresh white truffle from Alba Italy
4 eggs, preferably organic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup cream
1 tarragon spring
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F.

20131215-200933.jpgSeparate the egg yolks from the whites by placing the yolks in each individual ramequin. Here I used two eggs per person but you can use only one person. Place the egg whites in a bowl with a round base.

20131215-201115.jpgWhisk the egg whites until they become foamy. You can either use a hand whisk or an electric beater. If you use an electric beater be sure you bring the egg whites to the foamy stage only and not too firm.

20131215-201214.jpgAdd a little salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan cheese reserving a couple tablespoons for the top of the ramequins. Add the cream and mix well.

20131215-201334.jpgPour the mixture over the egg yolks to the top of the ramequins.

20131215-201455.jpgSprinkle the extra Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for about 8 minutes.

20131215-201624.jpgMeanwhile, shave the truffle in thin slices.

20131215-201848.jpgThe œufs en cocotte are ready when the top is golden brown. The inside should still be runny. Top with the truffle shavings and tarragon. Cover with an upside down plate to infuse the flavors for a minute. Remove the plate and serve immediately. Enjoy with a small spoon.

20131216-071242.jpgAfterwards, we also enjoyed grilled scallops atop mousseline potatoes with more white truffle shavings. Here served with purple crispy potatoes and a salad.
Enjoy a delicious holiday season.

Butternut Squash, Hazelnut and Sage Mousse

A savory dessert or appetizer.

After a series of acorn squashes, we started receiving butternut squashes from our CSA. Having a great deal of fresh sage on hand and some hazelnuts, I decided to make a butternut squash mousse combining these ingredients.  The result turned out to be delicious and complimentary flavors and just as perfect for a savory dessert or an appetizer.

For those of you who are not keen on sweet desserts, try making this in small molds, even muffin molds, and serve warm at the end of a meal.

20131201-093852.jpgAs a mousse, and not a soufflé, this dish does not rise much.  So it is easy to unmold and serve on a platter or individual plates for smaller versions.

20131201-093959.jpgIngredients:
1 butternut squash (about 2.2 oz)
1 large shallot (about 3 oz)
3 oz hazelnuts
1/4 oz fresh sage
3 organic brown eggs
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter to brush the baking mold(s)
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Bake butternut squash in the same way as for the acorn squash in the Acorn Squash and Kale salad recipe, for about 45 minutes. Once soft to the touch, take out the squash of the oven, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then, turn the oven temperature down to 350 F.

Set the butter out at room temperature so that it softens.

20131201-094429.jpgChop the shallot finely by slicing it horizontally, then vertically in perpendicular directions, while holding on to the roots.

20131201-094519.jpgHeat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high, add the shallots once the oil is hot and immediately turn down the heat to low. Let cook slowly till translucent.

20131201-094903.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the sage.  Remove the leafs from the stems.

20131201-095011.jpgChop the leaves finely and reserve a few whole leaves for decoration.

20131201-095217.jpgPlace the hazelnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process by pulsing.

20131201-095312.jpgKeep pulsing until roughly ground.

20131201-095621.jpgOnce the butter is softened, brush it on the bottom and sides of the baking dish.  It is important to use softened butter and not hasten the process by melting it because it will not adhere as well to the sides of the dish.

20131201-095724.jpgPlace about 2 Tbsps. of ground hazelnuts on the bottom of the dish and swirl it around so that the hazelnuts coat up to one third of the dish.

20131201-095822.jpgReserve another tablespoon of ground hazelnuts for decoration.

20131201-100045.jpgPour the remaining hazelnuts from the food processor bowl into the skillet where the shallots have become translucent. Mix well.

20131201-100136.jpgKeep cooking on low heat, turning occasionally, until the hazelnuts brown slightly to develop their nutty flavor. Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-100322.jpgMeanwhile, the butternut squash should be cool enough to handle.

20131201-100445.jpgPress it through a ricer into a bowl, or you might also purée it in a food processor if you prefer.

20131201-100555.jpgYou should obtain a smooth purée, with no lump.

20131201-100708.jpgAdd the sage and hazelnut/shallot mixture. Mix well.

20131201-101013.jpgSeparate the egg whites from the yolks.  Place the egg whites in a large bowl to whisk them.

20131201-101109.jpgIncorporate the egg yolks, one at a time, by mixing rapidly into the squash mixture (make sure it is cool so as to not cook the eggs).  Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-101331.jpgWhisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm.

20131201-101426.jpgAdd one third of the egg whites to the squash mixture and mix thoroughly.  Then add the remaining egg whites and fold them in.

20131201-101532.jpgKeep folding the egg whites until you obtain a uniform airy mixture.

20131201-101652.jpgPour into the baking dish (or separate smaller dishes) and bake in the 350 F. oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the dishes you are using.

20131201-101741.jpgWhen the sides of the mousse come away from the dish, the mousse is ready.

20131201-101845.jpgUnmold it, decorate with ground hazelnuts and sage and enjoy immediately!