One Last Wintry Soup

21 03 2013

Lately, I’ve been working on clearing out the stockpile of root vegetables from the CSA in my refrigerator.  I turned a backlog of potatoes, turnips, black radishes, parsnips, and leeks into a lovely vegetarian tartiflette (or veggiflette, as it was dubbed around here).  I’ve got plans for the approximately five kilos of carrots – I’m going to make this lentil hummus and serve it with a mountain of carrot sticks for a party this weekend.  I’d been meaning to make this Jerusalem artichoke soup for a while – I remembered that I had once made one with a little miso and that it was delightful – and then I got a box of shiitake mushrooms and their fate was sealed with the topinambours.

I glanced at Robuchon’s recipe for topinambour soup, and he suggested caramelizing a bit of honey with them before adding the liquid.  I thought a touch of sweetness sounded right, but I only have really strong, unique-flavored honeys at the moment, and I didn’t want to muddle the flavor too much.  A flash of inspiration hit me, surely by way of my dear friend Hannah: maple syrup!  I think it hit just the right note.

topinambour-shiitakesoup

It is probably one of the healthiest things I’ve made all winter – with so much flavor from the topinambours and the shiitakes, and a velvety texture from the potatoes (yeah, I snuck some potatoes in there, too… and some leeks) it didn’t even need a drop of cream to finish it off, just a sprinkling of wonderful meaty mushrooms.

In slightly related news, I am pleased as punch to announce my participation in Ann Mah’s fun and helpful Tuesday Dinner series on her blog.  I shared one of my favorite clean-out-the-vegetable-drawer recipes, a mouthwatering spicy Indian dal.

Now here’s to warmer days and spring vegetables!

Sunchoke Soup with Miso and Shiitake

Earthy, hearty, and oh-so-healthy, this soup warms chilly nights. If you wanted to serve it with poached eggs or grilled tofu to up the protein content, well, I think that would be a lovely idea. Jerusalem artichokes are also known as sunchokes or, in France, topinambours.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
1½ lbs. / 700 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean and cut into chunks
3 small potatoes, scrubbed and roughly diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. miso
2 tsp. maple syrup
1½ quarts / 1½ liters water

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
9 oz. / 250 g shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
splash of sherry
splash of soy sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until softened. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes, season again, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to brown. Add the miso and maple syrup and stir to coat the vegetables evenly. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms release their water, the water evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown. Deglaze the pan with a splash each of sherry and soy sauce, and continue cooking until the liquid has once more evaporated. Scrape half the mushrooms into the soup pot and save the rest for garnish. For the most mushroom flavor, pour about ½ cup / 120 ml water into the skillet and scrape up all the brown fond from the bottom of the pan. Tip this into the soup pot as well.
  3. When the vegetables are soft, purée the soup, either in batches in a traditional blender or directly in the pot with an immersion blender. (You know which way I go.) If it’s thicker than you want, thin it out with a little water. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve piping hot with a few of the reserved mushrooms spooned on top.

Serves 4-6.

On this day in 2008: Baking Extravaganza, Act III (in which I make molten chocolate cakes in a toaster oven)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Super Natural Every Day

15 11 2011

…Or most of them, anyway.

I was delighted to receive the news, several weeks ago, that I had won a copy of Super Natural Every Day from The Kitchen Illiterate.  Since receiving the book, I’ve been cooking from it quite a bit, as well as finding myself inspired by it while doing my food shopping.  (“Yellow split peas?  I think there are a couple of recipes for those in that new book!” “I should probably be keeping quinoa and bulghur on hand…” “How could we possibly be out of miso?  To the Japanese store, posthaste!” Sometimes I talk to myself in an old-timey fashion.)

I’ve made mention of the book a few times on Seasonal Market Menus, my other blog devoted to CSA eating and menu planning, because the recipes are great for using whatever vegetables you happen to have around, given a few pantry staples.  I certainly haven’t followed any of the recipes to the letter, but that doesn’t stop them from being a fantastic source of inspiration.  Like this soda bread:

soda bread from Super Natural Every Day

I’d never really considered soda bread as a legitimate thing before, but Heidi’s photos convinced me to give it a try.  I substituted leftover pickle brine for half of the buttermilk in the recipe, to no ill effect.  The dough was delightfully springy, and any rye bread that doesn’t insist on caraway is a good thing in my book.  It baked up nice and crusty, with a slightly biscuity or scone-like texture in the crumb.  The bread resisted staling longer than a yeast bread would, which is good because the loaf was huge.  We ate it for almost a week, and then I took the remaining half and turned it into some of the crunchiest croutons I’ve ever made.

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Vegetable and Grain Salad

14 07 2011

You can try to plan it out.  You can try to make sure you have holiday-appropriate recipes all ready in advance.  You can spend hours taking that perfect photo.  You can read, and re-read, and edit.  You can post regularly, multiple times per week, or day.  There are lots of you who do, and that’s why your blogs are better than mine.  Me, I’m in a phase with my blog right now where I am just letting it come to me.  If I don’t have inspiration to write about something, I’m not going to force you to read my pained output.  I’ve got a couple of books I’ve been trying to write about for weeks now.  But I’m afraid the truth is I don’t have much to say about them.  What I am excited about right now, and what I want to share with you, is this:

Don't judge a book by its cover.

I know.  It kind of looks like barf.  But this is just one in a parade of such grain-and-vegetable salads I’ve made over the last few weeks.  I wouldn’t keep making if they weren’t tasty.  It started with a box of blé, which translates literally to “wheat” but often refers in French to a particular product that resembles wheat berries in the way that Uncle Ben’s resembles rice.  I acquired this box of blé when a friend was moving away, and Nick and I both actually like the stuff – it’s a nice change from rice or pasta – so using hasn’t really been a problem.  But one day it occurred to me, perhaps following a party at a friend’s where she served a couple of delicious grain-based salads, that I could use the blé as more than just a side dish.  Combine that epiphany with a weekly delivery of fresh vegetables and an uncommonly delicious salad dressing, and you’ve got what’s been a very popular dinner in my house of late.

So far I’ve done it with asparagus, broccoli, and zucchini, but I suspect it’s also good with green beans, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, winter squash… you get the idea.  When I finally ran out of blé, I bought and used petit épeautre* which was equally successful.  I originally wanted to type this up as a nice recipe (see above re: planning), but the more I think about it, the more I think this is something you should be able to play around with.

Here’s how it goes.  Cook your grains in a pot of boiling water.  (If they require it, as my spelt did, soak them ahead of time.)  While the grains are cooking, make the dressing** and prepare and cook your vegetables.  Roasting and sautéeing are my preferred methods, for the flavorful browned bits they produce, but if you’d rather just steam yours over the already boiling pot of water, that’s fine, too, and saves energy to boot.  When the grains are tender, drain them and gently stir in the vegetables and dressing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  A little crisped bacon, chunks of ham, or shredded cooked chicken would be good additions, too, but I assure you it’s just fine without the meat.  Some toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds add a nice crunch.  Fresh herbs like parsley or basil could add a fresh note.  See what I mean?  This “recipe” is so infinitely adaptable I see no reason to commit to just one version.

Have fun with it, and happy Bastille Day!

*Anyone who knows the difference between spelt and farro, and their respective names in French, is implored to comment here and enlighten me and my readers.

** I linked to the dressing recipe above, but here’s my paraphrased version: take a small pot of plain yogurt (about 125 grams or 4 ounces), add 4 big spoonfuls of tahini, a big pinch of salt, the juice of half a lemon, and a couple of smashed garlic cloves.  Blend them together.  The flavor of this dressing can vary according to the juiciness of the lemon and the pungency of the garlic, but it is always delicious.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Happiness is a Stuffed Squash

28 11 2010

I think it’s contagious.  Pumpkin mania, that is.  To be more specific, stuffed pumpkin mania.  Doubtless fueled by a recent spot on NPR’s All Things Considered, Dorie Greenspan’s stuffed pumpkin recipe has been making the blog rounds, and everyone’s raving about it.  Now I know why.

stuffed squashes and salad

I got a few cute little winter squashes called courge pomme d’or, or golden apple squash, in my CSA share a couple of weeks ago, and I decided it was finally time to see what all the fuss was about.  These particular squashes being pretty much impossible to cut or peel when they’re raw, I baked them in a covered dish with a little water for about 45 minutes before I even tried to cut off their hats.

mise-en-place for stuffed squashes

When that succeeded, I scooped out the rather stringy flesh, separated it from the seeds, which I should have saved for roasting but didn’t, and mixed it with all manner of good things.  Cubes of day-old baguette, a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche, some chopped garlic, diced Beaufort cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg combined to create a smell so good I wanted to just eat it by the spoonful.  I had thought about putting some sausage in there, but I forgot, and as it turns out, I think it may have tasted better without the meat getting in the way of the flavor of the squash and cheese.

before the second bake

I piled the filling into the hollowed-out squashes, and put them back in the oven to warm through and hopefully get a little toasty on top.  Almost like a twice-baked potato, only with squash, so there’s less guilt (somehow healthy, colorful vegetables make me forget how much cream and cheese I’ve put in something).  Just looking at them now makes me want to eat them again, right this minute.

after the bake

Really, what’s not to love about this technique?  (I say technique because it’s less of a recipe than an idea, which is just fine with me.)  Take a squash, hollow it out, fill it with things you like, bake, and eat.  Nothing could be simpler, and there are few things more fun to eat than something stuffed inside something else.  I hope to get many, many more winter squashes in my CSA in the coming months, because I would be happy to eat this once a week, all winter long.

On this day in 2009: Talking (Leftover) Turkey

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Just Call Me Little Miss Masala

25 06 2010

Much like the bread-baking question, one might wonder why, living within walking distance of Paris’ most Indian-centric neighborhood, I would feel compelled to cook up an Indian feast of my own.  Well, one reason is that the more esoteric ingredients are much easier to come by.  Another is that you can’t go out every night, and besides, isn’t it nice to have a fridge full of amazing, somehow still-improving leftovers?

The internet seems to be full of little synchronicities.  In this case, my friend Ann also got the craving for home-cooked Indian food, and wrote up her adventures in spice hunting.  Fueling the fire, she also happened to have a giveaway for a new book called Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living by Mallika Basu. 

Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living

Basu also writes a blog, called Quick Indian Cooking, which I am looking forward to exploring in depth.  The book is thoroughly enjoyable, and after I won Ann’s giveaway, I felt even more inspired to go on my own spice-shopping spree and get cooking.

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Now We’re Cooking With Mustard!

9 11 2009

October, aka Burgundy Month, may be over, but it has left a lasting impression on my kitchen in the form of Large Quantities of Mustard.  Mustard, believe it or not, does expire, so now I’m faced with the enviable task of figuring out what to do with all of it.  Vinaigrette is easy – the more mustard you add to it, the easier it is to emulsify! – but no one wants to eat salad every night, no matter how beautiful and flavorful the dressing.

Shortly after our return from Dijon, I had a cauliflower from the CSA panier idling in the fridge.  Cauliflower in cheese sauce is a classic, but it occurred to me to swap out the cheese for a healthy dose of fresh mustard.  I whipped up a quick béchamel sauce (remember last week’s velouté?  Same thing, only with milk instead of stock), using an 8:1 ratio of milk to roux – going for saucy, not soupy.  Meanwhile, I was roasting bite-size chunks of cauliflower in the oven.  When the sauce was ready, I whisked in a few big spoonfuls of mustard, then tossed the sauce with the cauliflower and popped it back in the oven for a few minutes to get a delicious tan.

Like a cheese-less cauliflower gratin

And it was fantastic.  We ate it as a main course, but it would make a great side dish, too.

Still looking for ways to incorporate mustard into my menus, I thought I’d check the selection of exotic (well, to the people who stock the vegetables at Monoprix, anyway) greens at my local Asian market (ok, one of the many).  Mustard greens sounded like they might end up a little one-dimensional, but broccoli greens seemed right on.  (Not entirely sure what these are called in English.  In French, they’re labeled “feuilles de brocoli,” and they look a bit like broccoli rabe or rapini, but don’t taste bitter the way those do.)  Using this recipe sketch as a jumping off point  – which I have done many times, all recipes should be written this way – I softened some shallots in a pan before adding sliced broccoli greens until they wilted.  A splash of white wine vinegar and a couple of large dollops of mustard went in next, and when the greens were coated to my liking, I served them up next to loaded cheeseburgers – dark leafy greens make any meal healthy, right?

Mustardy broccoli greens

I never did much actual cooking with mustard before, but you can believe I’m going to keep at it!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Manger Comme Un(e) Français(e)

10 07 2009

After all that vacation-time excess, I returned home to Paris only to discover that most of my jeans had mysteriously shrunk.  It was time to start eating vegetables again.  (Not that I didn’t have any in the States, but the portions were always small in comparison to the hunks of juicy meat they were served with.)  So Nick and I headed down to the market to find fodder for some vegetable-laden meals.  Among other things, we came back with some gorgeous spinach and some bright red “Corne” peppers.  (Not sure if they’re the same as “Corne de Boeuf.”  Anyone?)  We decided to combine them in a quiche, which may not sound like the Lightest of All Possible Dinners, but hey, you have to ease into these things.

Ah, fire-roasted peppers.
1. Corne Peppers, Post-Char, 2. Pepper Braid

Plus, I used a new favorite whole wheat crust recipe.  Clotilde posted it on Chocolate & Zucchini several weeks ago, and I am as enthusiastic about it as she is.  Who ever thought a healthy tart crust could taste so good?  I love that it is full of whole grain goodness (while she suggests using light whole wheat flour or half white, half whole wheat, I have made it twice with all whole wheat flour, and have no complaints) and the olive oil is not only a healthier fat than butter, it’s also easier to work with, especially on warm summer afternoons.  Plus, the amount fits perfectly into my big ceramic tart dish.

Spinach, roasted peppers, and whole wheat crust

But back to the quiche.  After studding the spinach and pepper-filled crust with little cubes of feta, I filled in the gaps with a lighter version of my usual quiche custard (replacing one of the yolks with a whole egg and using more milk, less cream).  We played a round of cribbage while it baked, and when it was done we were treated to a tasty vegetarian supper.

This is as health food as I get.

As expected, the lighter custard, once baked, was firmer and less luxurious than the standard, but in this case, given that we’d kind of had our fill of rich, fatty food for the time being, that was just fine.  What we didn’t expect was the pepper to be as spicy as it was.  We were expecting piquillo-like smokiness, which was there, but the first bite with some real heat was a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. 

Later in the week we got a double panier from the CSA, the first of four additional paniers we will be getting to make up for the ones we missed while on vacation.  They were full of zucchini, garlic, and tomatoes, which fortunately are great together and serve as a basis for all kinds of light meals.  My jeans should fit again in no time.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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