Sunday, January 27, 2008

Golden Winter Soup

Now that I'm trying to get back in the swing of blogging again, I'm encouraging myself to try recipes that catch my eye. It's easy to get caught up in the week, and rely on thrown together meals just to get by. And that does still happen far too often. But this recipe grabbed me, and I made it two days after receiving the magazine. It was quick to put together, and made a great weeknight meal. I did sub Yukon Gold potatoes for the russets, and I used vegetable broth, not chicken. M. and I both enjoyed the rich yet sweet flavor of the soup, and I would definitely make it again.

Golden Winter Soup
January 2008
Cooking Light's Notes - Leeks and potatoes provide the base for this hearty vegetable soup, and butternut squash adds a hint of sweetness. Gruyere toasts add a salty note.

My notes- I used Yukon Gold potatoes, and vegetable broth.


2 tablespoons butter
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
12 ounces baguette, cut into 16 slices
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Place half of potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture. Stir in half-and-half. Cover and keep warm.

Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil bread slices 2 minutes or until golden. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives. Serve 2 bread slices with each serving. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

Yield - 8 servings

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moosewood Restaurant's Tuscan Bean Soup

Sometimes recipes surprise you. Sometimes you scan a list of ingredients, and mentally check off in your head that you do have everything required. The recipe doesn't thrill you, but you need something to make for dinner. You start the dried beans cooking in the slow cooker, and later you chop the other ingredients. The soup smells good while cooking, but your expectations remain low. You are happy to skip the whole soup in a blender step by using your stick blender, but otherwise you follow the recipe to the letter.

And you sit down to eat. The first bite is filled with sagey goodness, and the luscious thickness of the beans is comforting on a cold January night. The carrots add a touch of sweetness, and the soup as a whole has a complex flavor that belies the simple ingredients. Both you and your husband enjoy the warmth of the easy yet filling Tuscan Bean Soup.

As the leftovers sit in the fridge, they do absorb a fair amount of liquid. I found that if I wanted to enjoy them as soup, then I had to add water or broth. But, I also found the drier leftover soup made an excellent quesadilla filling. Just throwing that out there, if you're feeling adventurous.

Tuscan Bean Soup
Moosewood Daily Special

2 c. diced onions (about 1 large)
1 c. peeled and diced carrots (2-3 medium)
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 T. olive oil
15 large fresh sage leaves (or other herbs)
6 c. cooked pinto, Roman, or small red or white beans*
3-4 c. vegetable stock, bean-cooking liquid, or water
salt and pepper to taste

*Beans: 3 15 or 16 oz. cans, undrained. Or, 2 c. dried beans yields about 6 c. cooked.

In a soup pot, saute the onions, carrots, and garlic in the olive oil on medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Stack the sage leaves and cut them crosswise into thin strips. Stir the sage into the vegetables. Add the cooked beans and 3 c. of the stock or other liquid. Continue to cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup is hot and simmering, 5 to 10 minutes.

Carefully ladle about 3 c. of the soup into a blender and puree into smooth. Stir the puree back into the soup. (Using an immersion blender sparingly also works.) If you wish, add more liquid for a less thick consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, gently reheat the soup. Serve hot.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Feeling Crafty

I'm finally breaking out the knitting needles on a more regular basis. Okay, the scarf to the left took me almost a year to complete. But that's what happens when you knit for a few days, and then take a month off! :)

Still, Wavy kept me busy and was a great project for me, a new knitter. The hardest part was getting going, and then once I did that the hardest part was keeping going. The pattern is quite repetitive, and so I found I got bored easily. Hence the frequent breaks. If you are a new knitter and plan on trying Wavy, I do recommend that you write out all of the repetitions. The actual written pattern is short, and full of "as row 5" lines which are hard to keep track of. I wrote out each of the 42 lines of the pattern, and then drew ten little empty boxes next to each one. As I finished a line, I checked off a box. Otherwise I would have been hopelessly confused.

And, on to the next challenge. I do have a couple knitting projects waiting to be started in the wings, but first I'm venturing into the world of crocheting. I signed up for a three week beginning crochet class, and the first class was last night. It was great! Obviously challenging, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. On the right you can see my first crochet swatch (the square on the right) and my "homework" on the crochet hook. I'm using the coolest yarn - it's multi-colored purple with strips of blue and pink. Very fun!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It is a New Year.

Accordingly, it is time to make a new start.

I guess I needed a little bit of a hiatus from blogging. Life happened. But now I hope to get back into it. Back into the kitchen, back into trying new recipes, and back into speaking to the probably now nonexistent people who no longer read my blog since I took so much time off. Helloo!!! (echo, echo!)

Well, this post is definitely for the bakers. I was whiling away an hour at Whole Foods one day last December when I happened across a seat in the cafe with an abandoned New York Times newspaper. Now, I don't normally read the paper during the week but this seemed fortuitous because not only was it a paper which was something new to read, but it was Wednesday which is the Dining and Wine day. So, I flipped through it. There was an interesting article by Mark Bittman about 100 easy to prepare appetizers, an article about one writer's family Christmas cookie tradition.... then I turned the page. There it was in chocolate and raspberry glory - Melissa Clark's Triple Chocolate Brownie Trifle with Raspberries. Up until that point my contribution to Christmas dessert had been in the air, but was now decided. This trifle was too good to pass up.

The trifle involved several steps - making the brownies, making the pudding and making the chocolate whipped cream. Each step was in of itself not too challenging, but all were time consuming especially when considered together. This dessert is truly a labor of love. I had trouble with the pudding. It never really set despite adequate hours in the fridge. But, once mixed into the trifle it wasn't readily apparent and did not hamper anyone's enjoyment of the dessert. The brownies were fudgy, and I did choose to infuse them with rum. The taste was not overwhelming (my brother-in-law who does not drink probably had no idea until I admitted this fact in print) but I would omit were children to be present at the table.

Overall, the dessert was a success. In fact, there were calls from tasters to make this a Christmas family tradition. You never know....

Triple Chocolate Trifle with Raspberries
New York Times, December 19th, 2007

Time: 1 1/2 hours plus 3 hours’ chilling


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for greasing pan

3 ounces finely chopped unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons Cognac, rum or bourbon, optional


1/2 cup granulated sugar

8 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Pinch salt

1 3/4 cups whole milk

3 cups heavy cream

2 large egg yolks

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (2 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar for whipped cream

1 to 2 pints fresh raspberries.

1. To make brownies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Remove pan from heat and stir in chopped chocolate until fully melted. Stir in cocoa and sugar until combined. Slowly add eggs, whisking chocolate mixture constantly, then whisk in vanilla. Fold in flour and salt.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until just firm, about 25 minutes (do not overbake). Transfer pan to a rack to cool. If using spirits, prick holes in hot brownies and drizzle evenly over pan.

4. In a large bowl, mix together granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 3/4 cup milk. In a large saucepan, bring remaining 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream to a boil over medium heat. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into cocoa mixture. Return to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking gently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. (A simmering bubble or two is O.K., but do not let it boil.)

5. In a medium heat-resistant bowl, whisk yolks. Whisking them constantly, very slowly dribble about half the cocoa-milk mixture into yolks until fully combined. Pour yolk mixture into saucepan with remaining cocoa-milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking occasionally, over medium-low heat, until thickened, about 5 minutes. (Do not let mixture come to a simmer. If pan begins to steam thickly, remove from heat for a few moments and stir well before continuing.) Let cool slightly.

6. Melt 5 ounces chopped chocolate with butter. Stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Cool 5 minutes, then fold into thickened egg mixture. Place plastic wrap directly against pudding (to prevent a skin from forming), and chill until set, about 3 hours. (Pudding and brownies can be made up to 5 days ahead, and refrigerated.)

7. Just before assembling, in an electric mixer, beat remaining 2 1/2 cups cream with remaining 5 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar until it forms soft peaks. Scrape down sides and fold in any excess cocoa or sugar.

8. Cut brownies into 1-inch squares. Fit a layer of brownie squares in bottom of a 4-quart trifle, glass, or other bowl. Top with half the pudding, a third of the whipped cream, a third of the remaining chopped chocolate and a third of the raspberries. Repeat layering until all ingredients have been used. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.