Okay. That's a long title, I admit. But I wanted to catch your attention because this soup is everything you could possibly want and need in the depths of winter. It is made completely with ingredients from the top 100 of the World's Healthiest Foods list. It's packed with anti-oxidents, vitamins A and C, Omega 3s and B vitamins. Anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties abound. It's low in fat and sodium. In short, it's a heart warming, good for what ails you bowl of goodness.
I put this together, from the two whole squashes sitting on my counter waiting to be peeled and cut to this hot steamy bowl, in just under two hours. Quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal.
Healthy ingredient number one: Meyerlemons. Use all the juice, it brightens the soup and adds a healthy dose of vitamin C. And remember to save the zest to sprinkle over hot steamed green beans or to add to your lemon cake. You will be making lemon cake, won't you?
Healthy ingredients numbers two and three: Fresh ginger and fresh turmeric (forgive the photo). They warm you up on a cold day empowering you with their healthy goodness.
Garnish with sautéed crimini mushrooms. Generously. Don't forget the onions and garlic. A winter soup just wouldn't be without them.
And, of course, the star of the evening, winter squash. You can use Red Kuri, Red Kabocha, Cinderella or other bright orange winter squash. They have dense, dry meat and purée to a velvety smoothness. Plus the good-for-you stuff in these babies will boost your immune system and get you through the winter.
There's one more healthy ingredient in this soup that deserves a sentence all its own: sage. An anti-oxident, anti-inflammatory brain booster, there's a reason that sage is most often used in cold weather recipes. After you've visited all the links and read about the health properties of these ingredients, do come back and make some for yourself, and your loved ones.
Winter Squash Soup with Ginger, Turmeric, Meyer Lemon, Sage and Crimini Mushrooms Christine's original recipe Print recipe Ingredients: 2 medium red Kuri squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 7 cups water, or just enough to barely cover the squash 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, peeled and diced 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and diced 1 tablespoon dried sage, crushed juice of 1 Meyer lemon (1/4 to 1/3 cup if they're as big as mine) 8-10 crimini or shiitake mushrooms, thickly sliced, sauteed in olive oil Preparation:
Peel, seed and cut the squash. See this link for instructions. Set aside. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat then add the chopped onions and garlic. Saute until softened and slightly golden. Don't allow the garlic to burn. Add the squash, turmeric, ginger, sage and water, and simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes. Off heat, using your immersion blender (What? You still don't have one? Well then use a food processor), purée the soup until it's all velvety smooth and no pieces are left. The soup will thicken as you do this. Still off heat, add the Meyer lemon juice until it all tastes just right. Ladle into bowls and garnish with slices of sauteed mushrooms. Listen to those YUMS!
I opted to season this soup with the lemon juice, letting the heat of the ginger and turmeric shine and avoiding the addition of salt entirely. If you are going to salt the soup, I suggest passing a good sea salt such as Sel de Guérande or Maldon around the table so folks can add their own if they wish.
A box of Meyer lemons arrived a few days ago. I never expect them so it's such a joy that they arrive each year. A lemon meringue pie is in the making. I'm thinking preserved lemons this year for those deep winter braised dishes. I cannot thank you enough, dear friend.
Did your mom make you tapioca pudding as a child? Expecially when you were not feeling well? Mine did. The "quick" tapioca from the red and white box. I would watch her work her alchemic magic at the stove, stirring and stirring those small white granules into sweet warm comforting goodness. And when I grew up and had children of my own, I carried on the tradition (nod your heads here, boys) never giving a thought as to what those little white granules were. Not that they were bad, but...
Enter Let's Do... Organic small pearls tapioca. Lovely round white pearls that cook up in minutes and make a pudding that can be as fat, dairy and sugar-free as you desire. Compared with the recipe on that venerable red and white box, no eggs, no butter, no cornstarch, minimal sugar. Make this just once and I can almost guarantee that it will inspire you to experiment further, it's that simple and inspirational.
Small pearls tapioca are available at most well-stocked grocery and health food stores. I recommend that you find an organic, preferrably non-GMO product.
Combined with anti-oxident rich blueberries and shavings of dark chocolate, this pudding will warm your soul on a cold winter's night.
Tapioca Pudding with Blueberries and Shaved Chocolate Inspired by the recipe on the box Ingredients: 2 cups water 3 tablespoons (heaping) small tapioca pearls 2 tablespoons Splenda-Sugar blend (or 2 tablespoons sugar) pinch salt 3/4 cup low-fat milk (you can use half n half or canned milk, or coconut milk for a vegan dish) Preparation:
Bring water to a boil over high heat. Slowly whisk in the tapioca pearls, stirring so they don't stick together.
Reduce the heat to medium high and continue to cook for about 15 minutes until the pearls begin to lose their opacity and the water gets cloudy.
Meanwhile, combine the milk, sugar and salt in a measuring cup and stir well.
Whisk the milk mixture into the tapioca pearls and cook over medium low heat for an additional 5 minutes or until the pearls are soft and translucent.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Pour the pudding into a glass bowl, stir well, cover with plastic wrap if desired, and refrigerate until it has come to room temperature. The pudding will thicken as it cools, becoming thicker still if allowed to get refrigerator cold.
Give the pudding a quick stir to fully incorporate the liquid with the pearls. Spoon some blueberries (I used our frozen stash from this post) into a dish then spoon a layer of tapioca pudding over them. Repeat layering one more time, topping the whole thing with a few more blueberries and a generous shaving of dark, organic chocolate. Prepare to be comforted.
Ever heard of Yacón? Neither had I until a few weeks ago. Farmers market supplier, Jacques Neukom had a display of what looked like potatoes, or maybe a new strain of Jerusalem artichoke, it was hard to tell. As it turns out, they were tubers that grow high in the Andes Mountains of Peru and are distantly related to sunflowers.
Botanically named Smallanthus sonchifolius, Yacón has a taste that's a bit like a crunchy sunchoke or a water chestnut, with a wonderfully juicy sweetness. It can be eaten raw, sautéed in stir fries, or roasted with other root vegetables. Because this Yacón is grown organically and locally, we're going to use it as a substitute for water chestnuts in this year's Thanksgiving stuffing. A colorful dish like the one offered here wouldn't be a bad idea either.
The sugars in Yacón seem to have a low impact on diabetics and studies are currently underway to determine just what the long term health benefits may be and how the food industry might capitalize on these low glycemic sugars.
For now, I'm happy to put them into stir fries, such as this offering of rainbow chard stalks, a mix of homegrown peppers, farmers market onion and garlic. A little kosher salt, a small amount of freshly ground black pepper, and a sprinkle or two of golden balsamic vinegar finishes this dish. No further embellishments needed.
Remember when I admonished you to not toss out your chard stalks? With good reason. First, what a great waste! Second, chard is listed as one of the world's healthiest foods and its stalks are very, very good for you as well, and they are in season right now. So, c'mon, put a little green, yellow, pink, red and orange in your life and on your plate.
Christine's Stir Fried Chard Stalks with Peppers and Yacón Christine's original recipe Ingredients: 22 rainbow chard stalks, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces 4-5 garden peppers of any sweet kind, chopped (You can throw in a jalapeno if that suits you) 2 medium Yacón tubers, peeled and diced 1 medium onion, medium dice 2-3 garlic cloves, minced Olive oil for the pan Preparation: Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high. Add the minced garlic and onions and saute until softened.
Add the peppers and chard stalks and saute for about 3 minutes more.
Add the Yacón, stirring it into the rest of the vegetables, reduce the heat to medium low and allow to cook until everything is nicely tender, about 10 minutes more.
Don't overcook or you will loose the beautiful colors.
Season to taste with kosher salt and a few grindings of black pepper and serve.
Fast, simple, local, organic, healthy. What more could you ask for?
And oh yeah, a chicken breast. But as my friend Susan says, The chicken is just the vehicle. Actually, she says that about the slice of salami that brings the spicy mustard to the lips, but it all means the same thing. The reason for the chicken breast at all is to bring this simple, delicious, oh-so-good-for-you herby purple sauce to your tongue.
These deep blue beauties were organically grown within a figurative stone's throw of my kitchen. Simona called me up the other day and asked if I wanted to buy a share in 30-pounds of blueberries. Well, that was a no-brainer and now 10-pounds of antioxident-rich blueberries are living in my freezer.
We have five blueberry bushes on our property. The berries ripen toward mid-July and finish at about mid-October. There are never enough to freeze for the winter because we go out to the bushes and graze until they're all gone. So having this surplus of blueberries on hand is like winning the lottery. (Hmmm. That may be an overstatement.)
I'm beginning with a simple savory sauce enhanced with balsamic vinegar and thyme which is a delightful embellishment for a sautéed chicken breast but would not be shabby at all atop a perfectly grilled salmon. You should know that already there's a fast-disappearing quart of blueberry ice cream in the freezer, subject for another post. Christine's Blueberry Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar and Thyme
Christine's original recipe Makes about 1 cup Ingredients: 1/2 cup chicken stock
Locally grown barley and chard from the farmers market (only 2 weekends left!) and a vision of stuffed manicotti were the inspiration for this dish. Really. I had all the ingredients with which to stuff manicotti shells, but I didn't have the shells and was not going to drive to the market for just one item. So, take a breath, step back 10 yards, and punt . . . Put barley on the inside and leave the pasta off of the outside. Goal!
This is organically grown rainbow chard; isn't it beautiful? And big!
The most time consuming task in making this healthy and delicious dish is cutting the chard stems away from the leaves. (And please!, don't toss those stems away. Wrap them in plastic and put them in the fridge - I've got another recipe up my sleeve.)
Christine's Barley, Chard And Ricotta Cheese Casserole
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cut the leaves from the chard stems by chosing a point up in the leaf where the stem is thin then cutting the stem away from both sides of the leaf. You will be left with a chard leaf that has a deep V at the bottom.
Set the leaves one on top of the other as you finish stemming them.
Roll the leaves up lengthwise like a fat cigar then slice crosswise into 1-inch wide strips.
When that's done, with your knife at a right angle to the first cut, cut into 1-inch wide pieces. This doesn't have to be perfect, just make them a rather uniform size that will be easy to cut with a fork and eat.
Put a teaspoon olive oil into a warm, large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and allow it to soften, about 1 minute.
Add the chard and stir to incorporate the garlic pieces into the leaves. Saute until tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, thyme and salt and mix well. Stir in the barley and some freshly ground black pepper.
When the chard is cooked, stir it in to the ricotta mixture until it is fully incorporated.
Stir in the grated parmesan, season with salt and pepper if desired.
Spoon the mixture into a rectangular glass baking dish that has been lightly coated with olive oil or cooking spray. Smooth the top and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 25 minutes. A knife inserted into the middle of the casserole will come out clean when done.
Allow the casserole to cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
The farmers market is packed with late fall produce right now: Chard, cipollini onions, the sweetest carrots on earth, celeriac, a surprise showing of a delicious little-known Peruvian tuber called Yacón (which will be featured in another post), winter squash, exotic mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, leeks, Brussels sprouts, and the end of the late summer peppers, to name but a few. Speaking of mushrooms, just across the street from the market, two young men were selling huge chanterelle mushrooms that they'd hand gathered further north, for $8.00 per pound - 1/3 to 1/2 the price in local markets.
Needless to say, we came home with lots of vegetables and with 5 glorious days off from work, I am looking forward to cooking them all. First up, this easy and delicious soup that is packed with so many healthful foods you could drink it all winter and quite possibly avoid another cold or flu bug*.
Christine's Celeriac Soup with Fresh Green Peas, Shiitake and Chanterelle Mushrooms Christine's original recipe Ingredients: 1 heaping cup peeled and cubed celeriac, cut 1-inch dice 1 large cipollini onion, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme 5 cups good chicken stock 10-12 medium to large shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced 4 large chanterelles, cleaned, stems chopped, caps gently torn lengthwise 1 cup shelled fresh green peas 1/3 cup tawny port 1 tablespoon each olive oil and unsalted butter kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Preparation:
Warm the chicken stock in a large stock pot on the back of the stove.
In a large, heavy skillet, sauté the cipollini and celeriac in the butter and olive oil until both are tender and golden brown.
Crush the thyme and add it to the sauté, stirring to blend.
Scrape the vegetables from the skillet into the stock pot and heat to a simmer.
Remove the pot from the heat and puree the vegetables and stock with an immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, let the stock cool for a few minutes then puree in batches in a food processor.
Return the pureed soup to the stock pot and bring to a simmer.
Taste and adjust for seasonings.
Add the mushrooms, peas and port to the soup and cook until they are tender but the peas are still bright green.
Remove the soup from the heat and season to taste with the kosher salt and black pepper.
Cook's Notes: > For best presentation, serve immediately; the mushrooms can get a bit waterlogged and start sinking, as is evidenced in the top photo.Click here to see how to peel and chop the celeriac. > To make this vegan, one could use water or vegetable stock and substitute Earth Balance for the butter.
* This is not a medical statement. Shiitake mushrooms are said to boost the immune system and especially ward off viruses.
If you love food, family and Paris, as I do, I'm sure you will enjoy reading this delightful memoir, perfect for the approaching holiday season, by author John Baxter: Immoveable Feast, A Paris Christmas.
An Australian, now entirely at home in France, Mr. Baxter describes his first encounter with his soon-to-be wife's formidable and numerous French family at a Christmas gathering just outside Paris. Having arrived in Paris two weeks prior to the event with a limited grasp on the language, and heretofore unknown to most of the family, the evening was to be the first of many rites-of-passage over the next 18 years, during which time he falls in love with his adopted French family, French food, Paris and, ultimately, all of France.
Eventually Mr. Baxter takes on the preparation, which continues to this day, of the steeped-in-tradition French Family Christmas Dinner, and turns the family's culinary customs on their ear as he seeks to make his own artistic statement.
Sprinkled with charming and humorous anecdotal side stories, the book is mostly about the mishap laden planning and preparation leading up to that premier event, culminating in the often hilarious reactions of his wife, Marie-Dominique's, staid and sometimes zany French family.
Mr. Baxter has a delightful way with the pen and I was completely enthralled with his story from beginning to end. This book would be a perfect holiday gift for anyone who enjoys seeking out the best that they can offer for their loved ones and lovingly preparing it for a holiday table.
In mid-October, Jacques Neukom's stall at the Arcata Farmers Market was selling organic late summer peaches, appropriately named Sweet September. Not as juicy as summer peaches, but a sweet, delicious free-stone fruit nonetheless and a wonderful surprise just when you thought peach season was over. At about the same time, wonder of wonders, my fickle quince bush produced a massive amount (for it) of quinces that fairly begged to be included in this ice cream. Some of them, anyway. The rest are languishing in the fridge waiting for me to become inspired to make a tarte Tatin, or somethingstewish. . .
Christine's Peach-Quince Ice Cream Ingredients:1/2 cup (heaping) quince cubes, peeled, cored and cubed in 1/2-inch dice 2 tablespoons fine sugar 2 tablespoons water 4 large Sweet September peaches, pitted and sliced into eighths 3 medium eggs 1/3 cup sugar 1 1/2 cups 2% milk 1 cup cream or half n half Preparation: To prepare the quince, heat the diced fruit with 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until a low boil is reached. Cook over low heat until the quince becomes fall-apart soft and the liquid has reduced, about 6 minutes. Watch the pan carefully so the ingredients don't scorch or it will begin to jel right in front of your eyes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
To continue with the ice cream, buzz the sliced peaches with the quince in a food processor until smoothly puréed. Set aside.
Beat the eggs with the 1/3 cup sugar until pale yellow and thickened.
Heat the milk to a simmer, slowly pour 1/3 of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then return to the remaining milk in the pan and heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon and has thickened slightly. Watch carefully that the custard doesn't curdle.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir the fruit purée into the custard, blending completely.
Pour into a glass container and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.*
Stir the custard before freezing in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Serve soft from the ice cream maker or freeze, tightly covered, for several hours to firm.
> Whole, 2%, 1%, or skim milk may be used to make this ice cream, as can cream or half & half. Whatever you use will determine the creaminess, or not, of the finished product. The less fat you use, the more ice crystals in the ice cream.
>* Some folks might want to strain the custard before pouring it into the glass container for chilling. I don't usually do this because I like the texture of tiny peach skin and quince pieces in the ice cream. By all means, go ahead and strain if it suits you.
The first recipe Alex made for us last week was a velvety smooth Pumpkin Soup with Cilantro. Now Cilantro just happens to be my friend and fellow blogger Kalyn's all-time favorite herb. So how could I not feature cilantro as Kalyn wraps up 3 years of being at the helm of her wildly popular blogging event, Weekend Herb Blogging? No way could I not.
The pumpkin soup, which I made following Alex's recipe to the letter, is surprisingly simple, using just three main ingredients - pumpkin (or squash), onions, and cilantro - enhanced by a little sherry, a little dry white wine, salt, pepper. Just before serving, the freshly chopped cilantro is added, which kicks the finished soup into the culinary stratosphere. And while I opted to make a cilantro oil to garnish my soup, I highly recommend using Alex's method of coarsely chopping the cilantro, stems and all, and stirring it into the hot soup just before plating. The pungent, fresh taste of the cilantro compliments the smooth, rich soup and is a treat that should not be missed.
I chose two smallish red kabocha squash called Sunshine at the farmers market last weekend then added one that I grew in my garden this summer, a French heirloom (in photo on the left) called Cinderella. As I learned from Chef Alex, they are easily peeled by cutting off both the stem and blossom ends, creating flat surfaces (rendering them looking much like a wheel of cheese) that can easily be grasped then peeled using a sharp vegetable peeler. Much, much easier and safer than trying to shave them with a knife.
Alex's Pumpkin Soup with Cilantro Ingredients: 12 cups peeled, seeded fresh pumpkin, cut into large pieces 3 medium onions, medium dice 1/4 cup dry sherry 1/4 cup dry white wine 3 tablespoons oil 3 tablespoons kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste Enough cold water to barely cover 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped, stems and all Preparation: Place a large soup pot over high heat and allow to get hot. Add the oil to the pot then the onions and 1/3 of the salt. Stir and allow to cook until soft and translucent. Lower the heat to prevent burning if necessary. Add the sherry and white wine and let reduce for a few minutes. Add the pumpkin, another 1/3 of the salt, some grindings of black pepper, and enough water to barely cover the pumpkin. Bring to a boil and let cook until the pumpkin is just tender but not mushy. Remove the pot from the heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add the rest of the salt if needed, a few more grindings of black pepper, and the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.
Cook's Notes: Use your immersion on #6 speed and puree until the soup is completely smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches in a food processor, again, buzzing until the soup is completely smooth.
The cilantro should not be finely chopped as if you are making a pesto. Rather, chop it until the leaves and stems are small but still recognizable.
Be sure to visit Kalyn's blog this Sunday for what I'm sure will be the biggest Weekend Herb Blogging yet. And if you want to join in and be a part of history, you've got until 3:00 PM Utah time this Sunday so click here to see how to do it. Send your entries to kalynskitchen (at) comcast (dot) net.
And last but certainly not least, a very important announcement:
It's not often that I use a recipe from a magazine. I used to, certainly, it's how I learned to cook, but that was a long time ago. I much prefer the creativity of making up my own.
Recently however, as I was waiting in line at the checkout, the photo on the cover of the October issue of Vegetarian Times caught my eye - a tempting baked pumpkin holding a medley of stewed vegetables. Leafing through the magazine, I saw a recipe for chickpea tagine with cinnamon, cumin and carrots. I simply couldn't resist so here you have it: my version, of course, in which I added eggplant, substituted cilantro for the parsley, heaped on more honey, and used a quince. Mostly because I didn't have the currents called for, but also because I knew quince would compliment the rest of the ingredients. I love it when I'm right. The quinces below are this year's harvest from my fickle quince bush. Some years I get a lot, other years I get nothing. This is a good year.
The chickpea stew comes together very quickly. You can have it on the table in less than one hour from start to plating. The combination of spices sing North Africa and you can control the heat by using more or less cayenne pepper. I highly recommend putting a dollop of yogurt on each serving and that you ferret out the last of the summer's cilantro as a finishing touch. Make the dish vegan by using a dairy-free soy yogurt.
Spicy Chickpea Stew with Eggplant, Carrots and Quince
Adapted from the October '08 issue of Vegetarian Timesmagazine Ingredients: 3 medium eggplants, cubed 3 large carrots, sliced 1 ripe quince (the size of a medium apple), peeled, cored, chopped, yielding 1/2 cup 1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped medium 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 2 cups water 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained 1 teaspoon each ground turmeric, cinnamon, cumin 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon honey, heaping kosher salt to taste 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro Non-fat Greek-style yogurt olive oil for the pan Preparation:
Drizzle large cast iron pan or large pot with about 2 teaspoons olive oil and heat over medium-high.
Saute the onions and carrots until softened, add the garlic and quince and saute until golden.
Add the eggplant, spices, honey, chickpeas and water. Stir, cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through but still hold their shape.
Season to taste with kosher salt if needed. Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt, sprinkled with the chopped cilantro.