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!

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Acorn Squash and Chestnut Soup

Autumn is here and we received our first squash in our weekly share from the farm. This time of year reminds me of when we used to harvest chestnuts in Ardeche, known in France as “chestnut country”.  They were so common to us that we would use them in every dish, from soup, to main course accompaniment to desserts. So I decided to pair the acorn squash with chestnut into a soup today.

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Typically, when using for soup, we would boil the chestnuts as opposed to roasting them so they would be more tender, moist and reveal a more subtle flavor.

20131012-131617.jpgIngredients for about 6-8 servings:

About 30 chestnuts
1 acorn squash
1/2 onion
2 garlic cloves
A few springs of thyme and/or marjoram
2 to 3 cups water
Olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

20131012-133150.jpgFirst, wash and cut the acorn squash in half.

20131012-133231.jpgWith a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and slightly scrape the hollowed space to remove the fibrous pieces.

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Brush the cut sides with olive oil and place them down into a baking dish. Bake for about 50-60 minutes, until the outer shell of the squash is tender to the touch.20131012-133510.jpgPelling the chestnuts is time consuming.  This is not a task that one would typically do by themselves.  Enrolling the help of others is more fun and efficient.  Peel the outer skin of the chestnut with a strong serrated paring knife, starting at the tip on the flat side.

20131012-133554.jpgContinue peeling off the outer skin this way, leaving the inner skin attached to the chestnut, all the way around to the wider end.

20131012-133652.jpgFinally, remove the cap at the wider end.

20131012-133811.jpgWhen all the chestnuts are peeled, set aside.

20131012-133914.jpgWhen the acorn squash is cooked, remove from the oven, turn the halves over and set aside until cool enough to handle.

20131012-134029.jpgChop half an onion and two cloves of garlic.

20131012-134152.jpgPlace about a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a medium size pot and heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and reduce the heat to soften and slightly brown.

20131012-134249.jpgMeanwhile, scoop out the flesh of the acorn squash with a large spoon.

20131012-134356.jpgGrossly chop the cooked squash country style.

20131012-134510.jpgAdd the squash, garlic, and either 2 or 3 cups of water depending on whether you want more of a stewed/pureed texture or more liquid consistency.  Add salt and pepper at this time.

20131012-134620.jpgRemove the leaves of thyme and marjoram from the stems.

20131012-134803.jpgAdd to the soup and simmer about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.

20131012-135305.jpgBring a large pot of salted water to a boil and plunge the chestnuts.  Return to a boil and cook at a medium roll for about 30 minutes.  The chestnuts should become very tender and the inner skin should detach easily.

20131012-135401.jpgOnce the chestnuts are cooked, drain them (the water will have turned reddish brown) and peel the second skin immediately while they are hot.  If the chestnuts cool, they’ll become hard to peel as the inner skin will adhere back to the chestnut.  If this happens, plunge them back into boiling water for a few minutes.

20131012-135642.jpgChop the chestnuts into large pieces, reserving the nicer looking ones for decoration.

20131012-135734.jpgAdd the chopped chestnuts to the soup.

20131012-135842.jpgHeat again for about 5 minutes.

20131012-135929.jpgServe in bowls along with a spring of thyme and a whole chestnut for decoration. Enjoy a hearty dish!

One last Chef of Provence

Wrapping up our visit, in the Papal city of Avignon, adjacent to the Palace, the restaurant of Master Chef Christian Etienne is a must if you are in the area. Please enjoy below a tomato menu…

20131005-121131.jpg Tomato juice as a palate opener.

20131005-121321.jpgTomato on a bed of tomato goat cheese.

20131005-125055.jpgGaspacho of green and yellow tomatoes.

20131005-121418.jpgTomato mousse in a rail of tomato cracker with tempura snail on tomato coulis.

20131005-125406.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato confit and eggplant caviar.

20131005-125528.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato risotto.

20131005-125630.jpgConversations with wine pairing from the sommelier.

20131005-125749.jpgChocolate cake, mousse, fondant.
20131005-132413.jpgRaspberry cake with fig.

20131005-130139.jpgTomato sherbet.

20131005-130240.jpg After dessert “Mignardises”: Macaroons, Caneles, Pates de Fruits.

Hoping you enjoyed this Provence Chefs series.  Next week we start autumn vegetables back in Chicago 🙂

Chef of Provence

Our culinary visit of Provence led us to exceptional chefs. Please enjoy photos of creations from Xavier Matthieu, chef of Le Phebus.

20130921-192048.jpg Tempura snails with licorice and fennel emulsion. A perfect ‘mise en bouche’.

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Pistou soup. The flavors were out of this world. A masterpiece.

20130922-065428.jpg Crayfish Jambalaya. Spicy and yet so delicate.

20130922-153826.jpgSaint Pierre with autumn squash and mushroom. Exquisite!

20130922-153948.jpg Purée de pommes de terre with black truffles. The best and smoothest texture ever coupled with amazing truffles.

20130922-154248.jpg Vanilla and anchovy ice cream with basil and lemon sherbet. Unexpectedly perfect combination.

20130922-154647.jpg Cherry macaroon, apple mousse and pâte de fruit. Sublime!
If your eyes and tastebuds can already anticipate how extraordinarily delicious these dishes are, just imagine how much fun it would be to learn how to prepare them!

Chilled Asparagus Soup with fresh Basil

Chilled soups are always refreshing in summer. This recipe is a non-dairy creamy soup, basically puréed with almond milk. It is particularly popular with friends who have dairy restrictions in their diet, or people who simply enjoy a lighter version of creamy soups.

20130630-115840.jpg The chilled asparagus tend to have a more delicate flavor when mixed with potatoes which act as the binding agent in the soup. If you wish to enhance the asparagus taste of the soup, add a little cumin (optional).

20130630-115930.jpg Ingredients:
2 lbs asparagus
1 large shallot
2-3 small potatoes
1/2 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
1.5 oz fresh basil
1/4-1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
2 cups water
2 cups almond milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon rind for decoration

20130630-145516.jpg Remove the seeds and white/silver lining of the inside of the jalapeño pepper

20130630-145651.jpg Cut the jalapeño in strips and dice finely.

20130630-150113.jpg Peel, crush and chop the garlic finely. Peel the shallot preserving the roots to hold it while chopping. Slice it horizontally, almost reaching the roots, then vertically like an onion, and finally, chop it vertically again but in a perpendicular direction.

20130630-150230.jpg Heat about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pot and add the chopped jalapeño, garlic and shallot. Lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes. You might add the cumin at this time if using.

20130630-150343.jpgWash, peel, and slice the potatoes. Cut them in sticks and dice them in small even pieces so they cook faster and evenly.

20130630-152557.jpgAdd potatoes to the pot and continue cooking on low heat.

20130630-152644.jpgIf the ends of the asparagus are thick and woody, it is best to snap the ends off between your fingers rather than cutting them with a knife. By snapping them, they naturally break off at the point where the tender part of the asparagus meets the woody part. Discard the woody parts.

20130630-153925.jpgThen, trim the tips by slicing them individually at a diagonal to preserve a naturally elongated design.

20130630-154010.jpg Cut the asparagus stems in about 1-inch pieces, add them to the pot along with 2 cups of water and moderate salt. Bring to a oil, lower the heat and simmer about for 8-10 minutes, until the asparagus stems are cooked.

20130630-155308.jpg Separately, bring a small pot of generously salted water to a boil and plunge the asparagus tips for a few minutes until they begin to be tender yet slightly firm to the touch.

20130630-190438.jpgRemove the asparagus tips from the boiling water and place them immediately in an ice bath. This will stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color.

20130630-190515.jpgDrain them as soon as they are cool and reserve.

20130630-191527.jpgOnce the asparagus stems and potatoes are cooked, place in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20130630-191608.jpgProcess until smooth and let cool a few minutes.

20130630-191647.jpgAdd the basil leaves at this time and process further until the leaves are incorporated into small pieces into the soup.

20130630-191728.jpgAdd the almond milk one cup at a time and process to blend perfectly.

20130630-191800.jpgPour into a bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

20130630-191842.jpg Meanwhile, cut a long piece of lemon rind with a small pairing knife.

20130630-192342.jpgRemove the extra pith (white part) that might be left attached to the rind.

20130630-192422.jpgCut thin strips (‘julienne’) and reserve.

20130630-192459.jpgSet up the lemon rind and asparagus tips to serve.

20130630-192602.jpg When pulling the chilled asparagus soup from the refrigerator, check for seasoning, add salt and cumin if necessary, and some finely ground black pepper. Place a ladle a of chilled asparagus soup in individual bowls or cups, decorate with the asparagus tips and lemon rind strips.

20130630-192643.jpgChilled asparagus soup, here served with a grilled fig. Enjoy!

Strawberry Soup with Mint and Lemongrass

Spring is here… Or at least, the weather showed us a sneak preview for a couple days, enough to ignite some thoughts about seasonal fruits. Strawberries! Always a reminder of the sunshine bathed fields of strawberries of my childhood. One day they were still greenish white, the next day pink, then bright shiny red. A lovely sight was seeing our turtle pet returning from her morning walk with strawberry juice all over her face. Then we ran to the fields to verify which strawberries had her signature. It was a fun time. Each week a new type of strawberry Mara, Gariguette, Ciflorette, Charlotte or other, each with their distinctive shape and flavor. Be sure to sample them on your next visit to France in strawberry season. For now, as much as such varieties are not available here in Chicago, I like to exalt the fragrance of the strawberries by preparing them as a dessert soup with lemongrass, mint and vanilla.

20130502-094404.jpg A welcome sign of spring. Enjoy as a light dessert, or snack, or accompaniment for brunch.

20130502-094543.jpg Ingredients:
2 lb strawberries
1/2 oz fresh mint leaves
1 lemongrass stick
1/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 lemon
1 vanilla bean

20130502-094835.jpg Remove the mint leaves from the stems, press the lemon to extract the juice and cut the lemongrass in 2-3 inch pieces. Reserve a few mint leaves for decoration.

20130502-094954.jpg Cut the vanilla in half lengthwise and scrape the pasty seeds with a knife.

20130502-105719.jpg Prepare the syrup by placing the fresh mint leaves, cut lemongrass, honey, water, lemon, and vanilla bean and seeds into a medium saucepan.

20130503-153233.jpg Bring to a boil and simmer.

20130503-153606.jpg Meanwhile rinse the strawberries, cut the stems and leaves and place them in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. Reserve a few strawberries for decoration.

20130503-153828.jpg Process until you obtain a very smooth puree, and pour into a bowl.

20130503-153947.jpg Remove the syrup from the stove and pour it through a strainer into the pureed strawberries. Discard the cooked leaves, lemongrass and vanilla bean.

20130503-154149.jpg Mix well. At this time it can be prepared ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

20130503-165358.jpg For the presentation, cut the stem and leaves off the strawberries at an angle, forming a V cut into the heart of the strawberry. Then slice them to obtain heart-shaped pieces.

20130503-165630.jpg Display the heart-shaped slices on top of the strawberry soup, along with a few mint leaves and serve at once. Enjoy!

Lemon Basil Broccoli Soup | Vegan

A fragrant and light soup, very simple and quick to make.

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This soup is a favorite for the simplicity of its ingredients and of making it. It is best eaten immediately, to preserve the freshness of its taste.

20130427-213330.jpg Ingredients:
2 heads broccoli
1/2 yellow onion
4 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 once fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

20130428-154941.jpg Cut the broccoli in small pieces and roughly chop the half onion.

20130428-155216.jpgPlace the olive oil in the bottom of the pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and gently cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes.

20130428-155253.jpgAdd the broccoli, water, salt and cover.

20130428-155630.jpgBring to a boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, with the cover on.

20130428-155943.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the garlic. Peel the cloves, cut in half and remove the inner stems.

20130428-160101.jpgPlace the basil leaves and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Reserve a few of the smaller leaves for decoration.

20130428-161021.jpgProcess until the garlic and basil form a rough paste.

Add the cooked soup and continue to process in batches.

20130428-161405.jpgAdd the lemon juice at this time.

20130428-161514.jpgThe soup should have a slightly rough consistency. Adjust seasoning by adding salt if needed.

20130428-170602.jpgServe in bowls, decorating with lemon zests and a few basil leaves. Enjoy!