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Planning for Inspiration

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I believe that I have mentioned this before, but for all of you who are new to reading our blog, it is worth noting that my husband and I typically squeeze and entire week’s worth of home cooking into two far-too-short weekend days. Perhaps because of this, I approach a weekend full of cooking through the lens of a notorious and slightly obsessive planner.

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Yes, it is quite likely that I spend far too much time during my evenings paging through recipes, perusing blogs and forums, reading online reviews or comments, checking for not-to-be-missed sales, and browsing through pinterest images for new ideas. Often times these searches are shaped by the ingredients included in that week’s CSA haul – search pinterest for “kale” or “garlic scape” and you are quite likely to be entirely overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of recipes and photos that turn up in the query. Occasionally a dish will be planned out to make use of a pantry ingredient that has spent a bit too much time on the cupboard shelf – and I spend my time scanning the glossaries of old cookbooks for “mung bean” or “sticky rice” in hopes of striking upon an inspiring image or intriguing combination of ingredients.

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By the end of the week, my cooking plan for the weekend has taken shape. I have a peg board where I pin up the weekend’s top candidates, including recipes, photos of plating ideas, designs for canning labels, themes for a new blog post etc. I scan our pantry and cupboard for required ingredients, making sure to note what additions are needed. Come Friday morning, my grocery list is well sketched out, organized by section, and I know well which items will require a trip to a specialty store. But unlike my loving husband, who has laser-like focus when it comes to executing on a well-documented shopping plan, I have a tendency to get a bit distracted at the market.

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I have a very difficult time not being swayed by a beautiful pile of peak season produce. I guess this should not be surprising to you given that this is, after all, a blog about cooking with in-season fruits and vegetables. Above all, I have a huge soft spot for heirlooms – if it looks a bit different than the average head of cauliflower, or bunch of beets, I cannot resist the urge to take it home and put it to use, looking for any discernible difference between the standard produce variety and whatever local breed I have happened upon.

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Often times I find that the nuances of a certain type of fruit or even of a variety of veggie at a certain time of year, make the produce better suited to a certain application. Petite early season beets are amazingly tender and their subtle sweetness shines through when simply roasted and served on a salad. Late season beets have a more pronounced earthiness and stand up well to slow roasting on the grill where they pick up a smokey flavor and can then be puréed into a rosy pink beet dip with a bit of dill, yogurt and tahini.

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The point of all of this is that, cooking from the farmers market requires a bit of flexibility. Even my best laid plans for, say, ratatouille can be foiled by a sudden dearth of eggplant. Or I may find that the peaches I purchased were too tart to be simply sliced and served atop pound cake. But all is not lost, the too tart peaches may be better suited to another application, for example – they might be delicious if marinated and grilled as an accompaniment to pork chops.

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I recently made it home from Whole Foods with a curiously tall bunch of celery. As it turned out this celery was far more bitter than the typical variety and, as such, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of munching on it raw, and even a thick glob of peanut butter couldn’t cut the bitter undercurrent. I sat for a while and flipped through cook books looking for a recipe that would make use of the bitter celery. When I happened upon a recipe for a celery and mushroom risotto I was inspired. I suspected that the celery, when sautéed in butter, would take on a softer, nuttier flavor and hoped that the herbaceousness would bring a lightness to the often times heavy dish. Though we did not have mushrooms on hand, they were not missed, but if you are inspired by the idea, feel free to toss some in with the celery as it sautées.

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Celery Risotto – Inspired by The Meat Free Monday Cookbook (Serves 5)

6 C Water or Stock
1 TBSP Butter
1 TBSP Olive Oil
2 Leeks, Halved and Sliced Thinly
2 Sprigs of Thyme, Minced
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
6 Stalks of Celery, Cut into Small Dice
1/4 Cup White Wine
460g (2.5 Cups) Arborio Rice
28g (1/4 Cup) Grated Parmesan Cheese
56g (1/4 Cup) Fromage Blanc (or Ricotta)
Chopped Parsley to Serve

Place the water or stock in a saucepan (pick a saucepan with a well-filling lid.) Put the pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, once boiling, put the lid on the pan and lower the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer.

In a wide sautee pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and thyme and sautee until soft. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the celery to the pan along with a small pinch of salt and sautee until the celery softens, stirring occasionally.

Once the celery is soft add the wine and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Add the rice along with a ladle of the simmering liquid and stir until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Continue adding stock, one ladle-full at a time, until the rice is cooked to your liking (I like mine to still have a firm, but definitely not a crunchy, texture.) Once you have reached a nice texture remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses. Taste the risotto for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Serve hot topped with parsley and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

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Bolognese and Homemade Pasta

Since receiving a pasta extruder from his parents for Christmas, Dustin has slyly been asking me if we could make pasta. Now, normally, I would jump at an opportunity to make something Dustin was asking for, but, you see, some part of me was dreading what an undertaking this might become. I had these visions of what might go wrong. I feared some huge time investment that would yield little return, and a big mess. I worried that my pasta might turn out like the chocolate cake I tried to bake 2 weeks ago, which, when inverted onto a cake rack crumbled into roughly 200 mite size bits and resembled nothing even close to the cake I had dreamed of producing.  If a mere cake could reduce me to a puddle of tears on the floor, I could only imagine the damage noodles might incur.

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And so, I did what any good home cook does when confronted by a daunting request, I stalled. As I stalled, I commenced my research. I watched several videos on You Tube on making home made dough, I browsed through 2 different book stores searching for an authoritative source on pasta making, I visited several different forums which detailed tips on using pasta extruders, and some which debated the finer points of OO vs All Purpose Flour, and read several discussions on the incorporation of semolina flour into dough recipes. Finally, after purchasing not one but  two (I tried but couldn’t help myself) books on Italian cooking, I felt I was ready to try my hand.

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I am so glad I took the leap and gave making home made noodles a try. After much research, I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to make a dough with a high ratio of egg to flour, and shape it in the form of a chunky noodle that would be able to stand up to the chunky, unctuous sauce, without being completely overpowered. The pasta extruder made the work of turning out the noodles as easy as can be. If you do not have an extruder you can use a pasta roller and cut the rolled sheets into thick noodles, I imagine a papardelle would stand up well in this dish. I employed my food processor to mix the dough, it seemed a bit dry to me at first and I worried that I had not added enough water, but as I began to knead the dough it became considerably more elastic and flexible and turned out beautiful noodles. The noodles keep well stored in a flat layer on a baking sheet in the freezer for several weeks, but something tells me they won’t last that long.

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One of the things Dustin loves most, and that he requests we make more often than any other dish is chili. Bolognese was an easy pick for a sauce, it is essentially an italian form of chili. It is a dish that requires building layers of flavor. First with a medley of herbs and vegetables, then with a mixture of meats, and finally with a sauce formed from tomatoes, alcohol, and dairy. Because the dish cooks for so long, and the vegetables practically melt into the sauce, this could be a great way of getting picky eaters to eat their veggies. While carrots and celery are the traditional veggies for the dish, I imagine that fresh fennel, parsnips, zucchini, and even winter squash, could be worked into the sauce adding valuable nutrients and subtle hints of flavor.

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This recipe makes a great deal of sauce. It can be frozen for a month or so and defrosts with great success. It is fantastic on pasta, but very versatile, it makes a fantastic topping for rice, could definately play well as a pizza topping, and would likely make a nice filling for a frittata. It is also great served on its own, with a great hunk of crusty bread. The sauce does take a good deal of time to prepare properly, there are a lot of flavor elements that need to properly blend to form the final sauce. I reduced the amount of cream in the original recipe. If you are a big fan of creamy sauces, feel free to add additional cream to taste. The mortadella makes a great finishing touch but is by no means a necessary component. Feel free to omit it if you cannot find a high quality specimen. Alternatively you could substitute prosciutto, a mild salami, or gently spiced capicola. However you serve it, the Bolognese really benefits from a finishing touch of freshly snipped herbs. Basil or parsley pair extraordinarily well, but I Imagine other herbs such as tarragon or chervil would map a nice twist on tradition. However you choose to enjoy it, this is definitely a dish for friends and family. So gather some loved ones, and enjoy!

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For the Home Made Rigatoni – From “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti

2 – 2 1/4 C OO Flour or All Purpose (I Used All Purpose But Have Read Much About The Wonders of OO Flour)
1 TBSP Semolina Flour – Plus Additional Flour For Dusting The Work Surface
1/2 TSP Sea Salt
Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
3 XL Eggs
1-2 TBSP Good Olive Oil

Place 2 C of flour in the bowl of a food processor along with the semolina flour, salt, and nutmeg. Pulse to mix. Break the eggs into the bowl along with 1 TBSP olive oil. Pulse the mixture until it forms small curd like crumbs. Pinch some of the “dough” between your fingers. It should not be crumbly or sticky. Try rolling the pinch in  small ball, it should form a smooth ball. If it seems too day add an additional TBSP oil, a bit at a time, until it reaches the right consistency. If it seems too wet, add more flour, a TBSP at a time, until firm but not crumbly.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with semolina flour. Turn the mixture out onto the surface. Remove the blade. Gently gather the dough into a ball. Using the palm of your hand, press the dough away and down in a firm, smooth motion to knead. Do this several times until the dough is smooth and slightly elastic. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 mins before placing it in the extruder to form the noodles. Alternatively, you can stretch the dough using a traditional pasta roller, either hand cranked, or electric. The sheets can be cut by hand into noodles, if you are planning to use the noodles with the Bolognese sauce, I recommend a thicker cut noodle, which can stand up to the hefty sauce.

The pasta will freeze well in a flat layer on a baking sheet that has been slightly dusted with semolina flour. Once frozen, you can transfer the noodles to a tupperware container and leave in the freezer for up to a month.

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For the Bolognese Sauce – Adapted from “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti

3 TBSP Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 TBSP Unsalted Butter
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 Large Carrots, Peeled and Finely Chopped
3 Stalks Celery, Finely Chopped
1 Large Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
1 TBSP Parsley, Chopped
1 LB Ground Beef
1 LB Ground Veal
1 LB Ground Pork
1 C. Dry Vermouth or White Wine
Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
3/4 C. Whole Milk
16 oZ Can Tomato Puree
3 C. Meat Broth, Homemade if Possible
1/2 C. Heavy Cream
4 Oz Thinly Sliced Mortadella, Minced

Warm the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Stir in the garlic, carrots, celery, onion and parsley and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Sauté for 10 to 15 minutes until softened and golden.  Add the ground meat to the pot and stir into the sautéed vegetables to distribute well.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned but still tender, about an hour.

Raise the temperature to medium, stir in the vermouth and cook until the liquid evaporates.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add the nutmeg and milk and stir to distribute evenly.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until most of the milk is absorbed.

For the Love of Chowder – Smoked Salmon Chowder with Potatoes and Fennel

October 25, 2011 3 comments

Its funny the way that life sometimes starts to drop hints at a specific person, place, or thing. Frequently, for me, these hints point me towards a specific recipe, restaurant, or market. Lately, all signs have been pointing towards fish chowder. Let me explain, I’m currently fully engrossed in a new book I picked up at the library this past week. So much so in fact, that I completely neglected to post several recipes I whipped up in the last seven days, but fear not, we will get all those good dishes in due time. Back to the book, the novel, by E. Annie Proulx, is called “The Shipping News.” Her writing, the pace of the plot, diction, syncopation of words, all build to create an amazing, enrapturing story. The story follows the journey of a young single father, Quoyle, as he travels with his long lost Aunt back to her homeland in Newfoundland.

The images of the desolate fishing towns that run up and down the coast of Newfoundland are described in such vivid detail you can really picture the protagonist and his children as they go about their daily lives and travel across the icy and rocky terrain. While the terrain is bleak, the characters featured are rich and warm. Quoyle’s aunt is a bright and modern woman with traditional roots, who makes a deep impact on the novels plot and assists in bringing up Quoyle’s two small girls. Quoyle, a big man with an insatiable appetite, is frequently found in one of the local eateries tucking into some northern, fist studded dish. From lobster pie, to squid burgers, to fish and chips, seafood makes its way into every menu in every restaurant along the coast, and you can sure bet that fish chowder is a frequently featured entree.

As it so happens, I already have my own memories of the Eastern Canadian Coastline, and, consequently of chowder as well. When I was 12 I had the luxury of being able to attend an amazing summer camp in Nova Scotia. The camp was based on an island situated in the bay of Fundy that runs between the mainland shores to the west and Canadian peninsula to the east.  Our daily activities revolved around whale watching. We departed shore each morning on a gleaming 40 foot schooner to assist marine biologists in tracking pods of whales as they moved through the bay’s chilly summer waters.

The trip was amazing, a truly once in a life time opportunity, and I enjoyed every minute I had to sit along the railings that circled the boat from bow to stern and watch the waves and the whales as they rolled by. Our vessel’s captain reminded me of Santa Clause, old and jovial, a slightly rounded belly and a sense for goodness. But instead of present’s the old captain promised a steaming bowl of the best ever summer corn chowder I have ever tasted. And to this day I have fond memories of that soup, the creamy flavors and textures of homey and hearty cool weather chowders always seems to calm my nerves and warm me up from the inside out.

This last weekend, overwhelmed by a sudden urge to cook up a crock of my own chowder I searched the pages of my (too many) cookbooks for the perfect recipe. And low and behold I found just the one. This smokey, light, and potato studded soup is just what the doctor ordered, and perfect for the early fall. The recipe comes from a cookbook (a side note to all of you cookbook junkies out there – this book is a real snag it provides great advice on cooking seafood in a way which is simultaneously delicious and eco friendly) by Barton Seaver titled “For Cod and Country.”

The original recipe called for smoked mussels, but I adapted it to use some of the smoked salmon I get from Costco that is super spectacular. The fish is a world apart from the typical thinly sliced and slightly oily smoked salmon found at most grocery stores, it comes in fillet style slabs, skin still on, and is light and flaky – it just falls apart in a fantastic way in this chowder (kind of reminds me of the texture of crab in a crab bisque.) The broth itself provides is a lighter, gentler base to this soup and really lets the flavors of the fennel and celery shine through. But perhaps the best part of the entire dish is the way the potatoes, softened and slightly crushed, thicken the otherwise light and brothy chowder. Ad the end result is oh so good, I highly recommend giving it a go! And if you do, give me a holler, and share you thoughts. Bon Appetit.

Smoked Salmon Chowder with Potatoes and Fennel

2 TBSP Butter
4 Large Russet Potatoes, Skin On, Cut into 1 Inch Cubes
1 Large Onion Diced
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
3 Sprigs Thyme, Picked and Minced
1 Head of Fennel Cut into Small Dice (Roughly the Size of Your Chopped Onion, Perhaps a Hair Larger)
4 Stalks Celery Cut into Small Dice, Same Size as Fennel
1 TSP Fennel Seed, Ground
4 Cups Water
4 Ounces Smoked Salmon, Flaked into Bite Sized Pieces (Use Fillet Style Smoked Salmon if Available)
2 Cups Half and Half

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, drain and set aside until needed.

While the potatoes cook, heat a large soup pot over medium high heat, add butter and allow to melt. Add onions, garlic and thyme and sautee for about 5 minutes, or until onions begin to soften, add fennel, celery, ground fennel, and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper and allow to sweat, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.

Add water, potatoes, and smoked salmon and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Using a potato masher, gently mash some of the potatoes against the bottom and sides of the pot, this will help thicken the soup. Remove the pan from the heat and add half and half. Allow to sit for 20 minutes for the flavors to meld. Serve warm with slices of buttered crusty bread and enjoy the memories.

Categories: Celery, Dairy, Fennel, Herbs, Potatoes

The Sad Salad vs The Happy Salad

September 2, 2011 1 comment

Perhaps its just a habit but I make a salad or slaw to accompany every sit down dinner we have at home. They don’t need to be complex, in fact lately most of my salads consist of only 3 Ingredients and a dressing, but they need to be fresh, crisp, and refreshing. Generally I try to concoct a salad that will complement the flavors of the other dishes I am making that evening. If we make grilled steak tacos, I might reach for avocados, roasted poblanos, pepitas, and a lime cilantro vinaigrette, for roasted chicken I might whip up a  home made ranch and serve it atop a fresh bed of butter lettuce, studded with tiny nuggets of celery and home made croutons.

The other night, when making a spicy chicken curry, I somewhat instinctively started to chop some cucumber and celery and a big head of lettuce and – blue cheese. Why blue cheese, I have really no idea, but the little nugget of leftover creamy blue was calling to me from its roost in my cheese drawer and I decided to go for it. I am glad I did because the salad that I ended up with was simply sublime and brought an additional herbaceous punch and pungent cheesy element to the spicy and garlicky curry on the plate.

This salad is so simple, and yet so amazingly delicious. Use the crispest, freshest, heads of lettuce you can find. Make sure these are unbruised and have crisp tightly packed leaves. Apart from being a great low calorie vegetable, lettuces contain a good wealth of vitamins and minerals. Some lettuces (especially iceberg) have been specifically bred to remove the bitterness from their leaves. I highly recommend choosing romaine, frisee, or butter lettuces for your salads at home. Not only do I feel that these are superior from a flavor standpoint but these are more nutritionally balanced their their iceberg relative. Romaine and looseleaf lettuce contain five to six times the Vitamin C and five to ten times the vitamin A of iceberg. Romaine and butterhead lettuce are good sources of folate.

I recommend a pungent and creamy blue for this recipe. I like to slice it into bite sized chunks and place it on a plate to come up to room temperature while I prep the other ingredients. As the cucumbers I bought at the farmers market had a distinctly bitter peel, I removed the rind before slicing them into the salad. Feel free to include some celery leaves in this salad as they will give a nice light herbaceous bite to the salad. Feel free to make adjustments to the herbs in the dressing. Those included are a guideline but use your instinct to guide you in creating a balance you like best. As always taste as you go, adding salt and freshly cracked pepper to balance the other ingredients.

Simple Blue Cheese and Lettuce Salad with Herb Vinaigrette

For the Salad:
1 Large Head of Lettuce, Variety of Your Choice, Washed and Torn into Bite Sized Pieces
2 Medium Cucumbers Sliced Into Rounds
2-3 Stalks Celery Cut into 1/2 Inch Pieces
About 2 oz Really Good Slightly Soft Blue Cheese Cut into Bite Sizes Chunks

For the Dressing:
1 Clove Garlic, Smashed
1 Shallot, Peeled
1/4 Cup Water
1/3 Cup Sherry Vinegar
2/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TSP Honey
1/4 Cup Loosely Packed Tarragon
1 Cup Loosely Packed Cilantro
1 TBSP Thyme Leaves
1/3 Cup Loosely Packed Basil

Layer the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss gently with your hands to mix.

Combine the Garlic, Shallot, Water, and Vinegar in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add Honey and Olive Oil and mix until well combined. Add Herbs, a pinch of salt, and several grinds of pepper, mix until herbs are incorporated and appear in the dressing in small bits. Taste for balance and add salt and pepper as needed.

Drizzle dressing on the salad a little at a time and mix with your hands until leaves are just coated. Serve lightly dressed with additional dressing on the side.

The Festival – Bloody Mary Tomato Salad

I cannot believe how quickly our first five weeks in Nashville have flown by, It feels like we only just arrived, and yet, despite the newness of life here in Nashville,  our old place and usual haunts in Delaware seem ages away in the distant past. I guess thats the way time goes. This weekend marks an event that I have been excited about and looking forward to since our arrival. The annual “Tomato Fest” in East Nashville takes place a mere two blocks from our house and is one of the largest block party style galas of the summer. Referred to locally as just “The Tomato” this extravaganza boasts numerous activities including a 5K and Art Contest devoted entirely to summer’s blushing beauty – the tomato.

As a tribute to the event I wanted to put forth a tomato themed post this week. I saw this recipe featured in the July edition of Bon Appetit and knew, right away, that I needed to make it. The recipe was originally written as a steak salad, but the flavors of the tomato mixture really stand out on their own. The salad makes a great play on a classic bloody mary by incorporating the drink’s usual ingredients into an entirely different sort of dish. This recipe also offers a great opportunity to make use of the pale leaves and slightly sweet inner ribs that typically get discarded from a large bunch of celery.

The combination of tomato and celery is a real winner and serves as a light and cooling summer side which reminds me very much of a classic summer-style tomato and cucumber salad. The presence of horseradish and celery seeds, two of my all time favorite ingredients, are really what makes this dish special to me. While the dish was intended to be served alongside a juicy grilled steak, I imagine it would also make a great side dish for burgers, fried oysters, or roast beef. Be careful that you use celery seed and not celery salt, if you only have celery salt on hand make sure you add only a bit a a tine and taste, taste, taste to ensure that it is not too salty before adding and final seasoning. For olives I like to use nice zesty picholine olives but you can really use any good, firm green olives you have available.

 

 

Bloody Mary Tomato Salad

1 Cup Onion, Finely Chopped
3 TBSP Sherry Vinegar, Divided
2 Lbs Grape Tomatoes, Cut in Half Lengthwise
1 Cup Chopped Celery Hearts, Including Inner Leaves and Inner Yellow Stalks
1/2 Cup Green Olives, Pitted and Chopped
2 TBSPs Olive Brine
2 TBSPS Prepared Horseradish
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBSP Hot Sauce
1 TSP Celery Seeds
1/3 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper

Place onions in the bottom of a large bowl and add 1 TBSP Sherry, stir to combine and let rest for 10 mins. This will take the harsh bite off of the onions.

Add tomatoes, celery, olives, brine, horse radish, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and celery seeds and stir.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Taste again and adjust seasonings. True to Bloody Mary form, I  like this firmly on the peppery side.

Slowly drizzle on oil, toss to combine, and serve.

Bon Appétit!

A Summer Picnic – Curried Lentil Salad with Currants

Dustin and I had the wonderful pleasure of joining a friend of ours on her birthday celebration at a local vineyard this past Saturday. We were fortunate to be invited to take a tour of the wine storage and bottling facilities and I was extremely impressed by the caliber of this small vineyard located in the middle of Tennessee. As part of her birthday celebration our friend, Tarjani, planned a pot luck style picnic. As soon as I heard about the picnic I immediately set about musing as to what to bring. One of my favorite all time recipes came to mind quickly.

This recipe comes from a blog I often read called “My New Roots” which focuses on healthy and nutritional recipes. This lentil salad has fantastic earthy flavors. The curry powder adds spice and intrigue to the creamy lentils while the capers and currents play off of each other to add both salty and sweet flavors to the dish. The salad is then tossed in an interesting dressing composed of mustard, cider vinegar, and maple syrup. It was a big hit at the picnic and really an easy recipe to toss together.

I use Du Puy Lentils in this recipe as they tend to hold together well after cooking and don’t get mushy like other lentil varieties. I have added celery to the initial dish as I think it adds a nice fresh crunch and some bright herbaceous flavoring to the dish – feel free to use the inner stalks and light yellow and green celery leaves for this dish as well! The celery should be diced to match the size of your onions. I have also added red bell peppers to this recipe before with great success, but they are a bit of a pain to dice so I omitted them this time.

In terms of Curry Powder, I use a basic curry powder blend that I purchased from Penzy’s spices. I highly recommend sourcing a nice fragrant curry powder like this one for the dish. Many Indian and Super Market varieties are harsh and bitter but the Penzy’s curry is amazingly mild and balanced.

The success of this dish really rests on how cooked the lentils become. If they are undercooked they will taste raw and crunchy. Overcooking the small pulse will bring down the flavors of the dish and diminish the lentils integrity. Even du puy lentils, when overcooked, turn to mush. Feel free to make your mark on this dish by adding ingredients you love. Nuts would be a great addition, as well as crumbled feta or chevre. The salad makes a great side dish for salmon or steak and is also phenomenal served over arugula.

Curried Lentil Salad with Currants

Adapted from My New Roots
2 ¼ Cups (1 lb.) Du Puy lentils
1 Medium Red Onion Diced
1/2 Cup Dried Currants
1/3 Cup Capers

1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 TBSP Maple Syrup
1 TBSP Grainy Dijon Mustard
2 TSP Kosher Salt
2 TSP Freshly Ground Pepper
1 TBSP Curry Powder

Rinse lentils and place them in a medium sauce pan. Cover with 3 inches of water and ring pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 12-17 mins or until lentils are JUST tender.When finished drain lentils and run them under cold water to cool. Drain and dry well.

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, syrup, S&P, and curry.

In a large bowl mix together lentils, onions, currants and capers. Lightly dress with vinaigrette and mix gently.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve and enjoy!

Running Hot and Cold – Summertime Bread Soup with Pesto

Things are really heating up around here, in more ways than one. First and foremost I want to give a big shout out to my fabulous mother who has been working hard to help P4P (penchant for produce) gain some more exposure. And she has done so with great success – the blog hits are certainly coming on more heavily and I am excited to have new readers. To all of the newcomers out there, thank you very much for taking the time to peruse my blog. I hope you come back and visit often and am looking forward to hearing your questions, comments, and suggestions! You are what makes writing this blog exciting!

But as I mentioned earlier, its been getting hot hot hot. The South has been experiencing a major heatwave and temperatures in my new home state of Tennessee have been in the high 90s and low 100s for the last few days. Unlike the Northeast summers of my childhood, where mornings would start cool and temperatures would rise gradually and peak in the afternoon cresting and then falling as the cool moved back in for the evening, the heat here in the American South is hard hitting and unrelenting. When I left the Yoga studio yesterday at 7AM it was already 87 degrees and the evening temperatures are not much better. And in times like these, when the sun will not relent, the folks down here do what they have always done to beat the heat: they wear wide brimmed hats, they eat Popsicles and drink ice cold beer, and, whenever possible, they stay indoors and crank up the AC.

Since arriving, I have felt as though I have been living in two entirely different climates. On one end of the spectrum there is the hot, humid and sunny outdoor climate, which I inhabit only briefly and in short spurts as I dash from indoor location to indoor location. On the opposite end is the cool, dry, and shaded indoor world where I spend most of my time. But the problem is that some places, (mostly restaurants, malls, and grocery stores) are downright cold! And while I am becoming more vigilant about bringing a sweater with me when we go out for dinner, when I walk into a meat locker like establishment from the outrageous heat outside I find myself searching the menu for something to warm up my once burning and now freezing arms and legs.

And this brings me to today’s post, a very comforting and surprisingly summery bread soup, inspired by yet another Ottolenghi recipe. This soup is entirely vegetarian and can even be made vegan by simply substituting olive oil for the butter I use to sautee the onions and fennel. The fennel is what makes this soup truly special, its slightly sweet and anisey flavor bring a great deal of freshness to the soup.

Be patient when sauteing the onions with the fennel, keep the heat fairly low (med or so) and don’t stir them too often. After 10 minutes the veggies should begin to caramelize. This light caramelization is possibly the most integral component in the soup as the sweet onions and fennel mellow the acidity of the otherwise dominant tomatoes. The recipe calls for a dollop of pesto which tops off the soup and gives it a great dose of fresh herby flavor. While I love Trader Joes I am not a huge fan of their pesto, I prefer the brighter flavors of a refrigerator pesto to a canned one for this dish – I have used the one from Costco with great success (it freezes well as well. Whole foods carries great pestos as well.

Summertime Bread Soup with Pesto

3 TBSP Butter
1 ½ Onions Sliced
1 Large Bulb of Fennel Sliced
4 Cloves Garlic Minced
3 Large Carrots, Peeled, Cut Lengthwise in Half and Sliced
3 Stalks of Celery Sliced
1 TBSP Tomato Paste
1 ½ Cup White Wine
1 28-Ounce Can Plum Tomatoes with Their Juice
1 TBSP Chopped Oregano
1 TBSP Chopped Fennel Fronds
1 TBSP Chopped Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
2 TSP Sugar
6 Cups Vegetable Stock Reduced
3 Large Slices Stale Italian Bread Well toasted and Cut into Small Cubes
2 Cans Chickpeas, Rinsed Well
Pesto
 
 

In a large sauce pan melt butter over medium heat. Add Onion, Fennel, and two small pinches of salt and sautee for 10 minutes or until fennel and onion turn golden and begin to caremelize. Add garlic, celery, and carrots and sautee 4 mins more.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute, stirring. Add wine and bring to a boil. After boiling for a minute or so add the tomatoes, herbs, sugar, and broth and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering place the chickpeas in a small bowl and lightly mash them with a potato masher. Some should remain whole while others will eventually melt into the soup.

When the soup has finished simmering taste and add salt and freshly cracked pepper as needed. Remember when adding salt that the dollop of pesto on top will add saltiness to the dish.

About 20 minutess before serving time add the chickpeas to the soup. Wait till about 5 minutes before to add the bread.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve topped with Pesto and a small sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Categories: Carrots, Celery, Soup, Tomato Tags: , , ,
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