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.
20140725-151726-55046798.jpg
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!

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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!

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!

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!

Acorn Squash and Kale Salad with Lavender, Walnut Caramelized Onions

Enjoyed cold or warm, this salad combines autumn colors and fragrant flavors. It is easy to prepare the ingredients individually ahead of time and assemble them at the last minute for a Thanksgiving dinner or other get together. You can also add a few dried cranberries if you wish to make it a bit more festive.

20131122-053413.jpgIf you do not have lavender leaves, you can substitute for sage. A different flavor but one that also harmonizes well with the acorn squash.

20131122-053548.jpgIngredients:
1 1/2-1 3/4 lbs acorn squash
1/2 lb kale
1.5 lbs white onions
2 oz walnuts
6 Tbsp olive oil for vinaigrette + 2 Tbsp for caramelized onions and acorn squash
3 tsps balsamic vinegar for vinaigrette
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar for caramelized onions
1/8 oz lavender
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven 400F.

20131122-053804.jpgWash and cut the acorn squash in half. Remove the seeds with a large spoon.

20131122-053950.jpgBrush a little olive oil on the cut sides.

20131122-054133.jpgPlace the acorn squash cut side down in a baking pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes. The squash is cooked when it is slightly soft to the touch, but still somewhat firm.  You do not want to fully cook the squash as if you were making soup as the flesh will not hold well for the purpose of the salad and rather it would become pureed.

20131122-054323.jpgPeel the onions, cut in half and slice thinly.

20131122-054424.jpgHeat olive oil on medium high heat in a heavy cast iron pan and pour in the onions.  Reduce the heat to low. Mix well to coat them with the olive oil thoroughly. Simmer for about an hour, tossing periodically.

20131122-054531.jpgSeparate the stems from the lavender leaves.

20131122-070232.jpgChop the lavender leaves finely. Set aside.

20131122-131132.jpgChop the walnuts medium-coarse. Set aside.

20131122-131802.jpgRinse the kale carefully.  Gather the leaves together, with the stems on one end.  Cut off and discard the hard part of the stems and chop the leaves very finely.  Set aside.

20131122-132537.jpgMake a balsamic vinaigrette in a bowl large enough to contain the chopped kale. Whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper.

20131122-150822.jpgAdd the olive oil in a stream slowly and continue whisking vigorously to transform the mixture into a well homogenized sauce. Set aside.

20131122-203927.jpgWhen the acorn squash is cooked, turn each half upside down to release the steam and let cool for handling.

20131122-204023.jpgPlacing each half of the acorn squash cut side down onto a cutting board, cut through the skin using a serrated knife into thick slices.

20131122-204158.jpgPeel each slice carefully.  Set aside.

20131122-204314.jpgBy now, the onions should have mostly caramelized. Add the walnuts to the pan and keep on low heat for a few minutes longer.

20131122-204413.jpgAdd the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and turn off the heat.

20131122-204512.jpgPlace a few slices of acorn squash on each plate and brush a little bit of the vinaigrette on the top of each slice.

20131122-204601.jpgToss the sliced kale in the large bowl with the vinaigrette and display the kale around each acorn squash slice for presentation.

20131122-204943.jpgSprinkle with the caramelized onions and walnut mixture. Add the fresh lavender.  Enjoy!

Roasted Root Vegetables with Caramelized Onions

The fall season brings so many root vegetables from the farm to our table, that I relish in selecting which ones to combine and simply roasting them.  Their flesh becomes tender and they exude a very sweet, subtle, roasted scent.  Oh! The house smells so good while they cook!  A delicious welcome when guests arrive. Here, I prepared them with caramelized onions and my inherited Provençal tradition of enhancing dishes with garlic and oil cured black olives.

20131108-214726.jpgVery simple to prepare and easy to present with a bit of chopped fresh parsley.  In this preparation, the most essential ingredient is: TIME! You just can’t skip a step or hasten the process. You need time to slowly let the onions cook down and caramelize, and time to soften the root vegetables without burning them.

20131108-214824.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
For the root vegetables
3 large carrots (or 6-8 smaller ones)
2-3 large parsnips
1 large rutabaga
1 large yam
4 dozens oil cured black olives
6 garlic cloves
2-3 Tbsps. olive oil
A few springs of parsley, chopped
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

For the caramelized onions
2-3 red onions
2 Tbps. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground salt

Preheat oven to 375F.

20131108-214906.jpgStart with the caramelized onions. Cut the onions in half. Trim the tips (not the roots) and peel them. Slice them thinly from the tip to the root. Discard the root.

20131108-214953.jpgHeat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Reduce the heat to low-simmer and cook for about one hour until the onions caramelized, checking periodically (see below check points).

20131108-215141.jpg20 minute check. The onions have softened.

20131108-215301.jpg40 minute check. The onions started to shrink and scarcely caramelize.

20131108-215356.jpg60 minute check. The onions have shrunken further and caramelized more.

20131108-215450.jpgWhen the onions are caramelized, pour the balsamic vinegar at once to deglaze the pan. Season with a bit of sea salt. Set aside.

20131108-215557.jpgMeanwhile, peel and cut the carrots and parsnips evenly.

20131108-215646.jpgToss in a bowl with1 Tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a baking dish and place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

20131108-215740.jpgPeel and cut the rutabaga and yam evenly. Place in a bowl. Peel and cut the garlic in half. Remove the center of the garlic. Add to the bowl with the yam and rutabaga.  Add the black olives and toss with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

20131108-215905.jpgAdd to the other root vegetables in the oven and continue baking for about 30-35 minutes. Check and toss the vegetables, then keep baking for another 15 minutes.

20131108-221220.jpgWhen the root vegetables are finished cooking, transfer the caramelized onions into the baking dish and toss to mix.

20131108-220120.jpgServe immediately, topped with some chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Wild Mushroom Quiche

Quiches are very versatile and once you are comfortable making one, the possibilities are limitless: you can change the filling to pretty much anything you like or have on hand. In this recipe I use a combination of Chanterelle, Shiitake and Brown Button mushrooms, but feel free to use other types of mushroom that might be available in your area.  This is a lactose-free version of the traditional recipe, using almond milk.

20131103-140018.jpgGreat as an appetizer along side a plain green salad (frisée or mâche are my favorites), or as a side dish to accompany an entrée, or even as a main dish for a luncheon. Most steps can be prepared ahead of time so you can assemble it and bake it later.

20131103-140505.jpgIngredients for about 6 servings:
For the filling:
1 1/4 lb mushrooms, mixed variety
1/2 onion
3 eggs
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic
3/4 oz chopped chives
Reserve a few springs of chives for decoration
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil for cooking

For the olive oil dough:
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup olive oil + 1 Tbsp
1/2 cup hot water +1 Tbsp
1/4 tsp salt

A rolling pin
9-inch tart dish

Preheat oven to 325F.
20131103-145747.jpgStart with the dough. Place the flour on a flat surface and create a well in the center. Add the salt, olive oil and hot water.

20131103-145838.jpgWork the ingredients together with your fingertips.

20131103-180459.jpgForm a ball, lightly flour it so it does not stick.

20131103-181333.jpgRoll it out on a lightly floured surface in the shape of the tart mold.  Pick it up by rolling it onto the pin and then lay it into the tart mold.  No need to oil/butter and flour the bottom of the mold. Adjust the edges.  Reserve.

20131104-064542.jpgFor the filling, clean, trim and cut the mushrooms in fairly even bite-sizes.

20131104-064634.jpgChop the onion. Reserve.

20131104-064741.jpgChop the garlic. Reserve.

20131104-064856.jpgChop the chives. Reserve.

20131104-064956.jpgHeat a bout 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and reduce the heat to low.  Cook the onion until soft and translucent, tossing occasionally.

20131104-065105.jpgAdd the mushrooms and garlic to the skillet and turn up the heat to medium. Toss occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.  When the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and reserve.

20131104-065201.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the custard. Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk till blended. Then, whisk in the almond milk.

20131104-065246.jpgSeason with salt and pepper.

20131104-065402.jpgAdd the chives and mix well.

20131104-065448.jpgSpread the mushrooms on the bottom of the tart crust.

20131104-065552.jpgPour the custard evenly over the mushrooms. Bake for about one hour to one hour and twenty minutes, until lightly golden.

20131104-065724.jpgServe warm and enjoy!