almost spring soup

spring vegetable soupAs spring nears, for me it feels like time to have some lighter fare.  This recipe ~ and all others on this blog ~ was given to me by my close friend and mentor.  And, like all others on this blog, it made for both a delicious meal and a valuable learning experience.

A broth-based soup, it is easy and versatile and can be whipped up weekly with no two batches the same.  While creamy-cheesy soups appeal in the winter months, this could provide a nice transition when temperatures begin to warm slightly.

  • Dice up two or three sweet onions, mince a head of garlic cloves and slice five or six carrots
  • In a medium stockpot heat some olive oil and saute these veggies until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes
carrot and onion saute

an easy base for spring veggie soup

  • Stir in a couple of pinches of each:  garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder {or your preferred seasoning} and s&p
  • Add 3 quarts of vegetable broth and a hunk of parmesan cheese to the pot; bring to a boil then simmer until carrots are tender
  • Add 1-1/2 cups small pasta such as ditalini or elbows; turn off heat
  • Serve when the pasta is cooked, about 8-10 minutes
tubettini pasta

tubettini pasta is perfect for soups

I like to break up the parmesan hunk and have mini-bits swimming in the soup, but you can always remove it or omit it altogether and maybe sprinkle some ground parm on each bowlful.

This simple recipe can be changed up in so many ways ~ canned tomatoes, potatoes instead of pasta, shrimp with a splash of soy sauce ~ and it all sounds good to me!

spring soup

salmon with asian-style glaze

glazed salmonI really love Asian flavors ~ the combination of sweet and savory is wonderful and can be interpreted in so many ways.

When it comes to baked salmon, although I’ve always liked the classic creamy-dill type sauce, after I tried it with an Asian flair I knew that was a perfect match for me!

This recipe is quick to put together and simple to bake off ~ you’ll have enough glaze for 3 pounds of fish.

ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or microplaned
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup apricot and/or peach preserves
  • 1/4 cup fig and/or date preserves
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • about 1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • pinch or so of pepper
Asian glaze

key flavors for a sweet & salty Asian sauce

directions:

  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter; add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few minutes
  • Transfer the garlic-ginger mixture to a ramekin; set aside
  • Combine the remaining ingredients in saucepan, stirring until blended and heated through; add the garlic-ginger mixture and stir until incorporated
  • Take off heat, cover pan and set aside; leave the glaze to sit, preferably for a few hours

If you don’t have {or don’t care for} peach, fig or the other preserves mentioned, I’m sure many other fruit or berry jams would work just fine.

salmon fillet

atlantic salmon is delicious & nutritious

When you’re ready to bake the salmon, preheat oven to 400F.  Place fillets on a baking sheet that’s been covered with a long piece of aluminum foil.  Brush or spoon the glaze over the salmon, then pull up all sides of the foil;  take a second sheet of foil as a “lid” and, crimping it securely to the edges of the base foil, create a well-sealed packet so the fish steams while it’s in the oven.

Place on center rack and immediately turn the oven down to 350F.  Bake for 20 minutes, then turn off the oven and allow the radiant heat to continue baking the salmon for another 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.

The salmon will be tender and juicy ~ an option after this is to spoon a bit of the glaze back over the fillets and place them under the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize.

Enjoy!

veggie ‘meatballs’

veggie meatballsThe other day I watched a great episode of Chuck Eats the Street on the Cooking Channel where he visited Marabella Meatball Company in Philadelphia and sampled their famous vegetarian “meatballs”.  Using primarily cauliflower and broccoli as a replacement for beef and/or pork, most of the other ingredients are what you’d expect for achieving a moist and tender meatball.  The results looked ~ and apparently tasted ~ really good.

The following recipe is inspired by theirs ~ with the addition of various spices, cheeses and roasting the vegetables to bring that smokey, caramelized flavor I remember from traditional meatballs.  There are a few steps involved so I will break it down for as much clarity as I can.

Roast the following on a baking sheet at 375F in a sealed foil packet for 40 minutes, then open packet and continue roasting for another 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft {can be easily cut with a spoon}

  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • Toss with 1/3 cup olive oil that’s been mixed with a pinch of s&p and a tablespoon of your favorite Italian Seasoning blend

When done roasting, use a slotted spoon to transfer vegetables from packet to a bowl, then take a couple of tablespoons of marsala wine or very dry sherry and splash it onto the bottom of foil packet.  Deglaze packet with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, scraping any and all brown bits and olive oil left on the foil; add to the bowl of vegetables and set aside to cool.

deglaze

don’t forget those yummy brown bits

While vegetables are cooling, in a large glass or ceramic bowl whisk together the following dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup grated provolone
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts {optional}
veggie meatballs

cheesy breadcrumb mixture awaits its fate

Set dry ingredients aside; place the following into a food processor:

  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons date or fig preserves
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Pulse quickly once or twice, then add the bowl of roasted vegetables and pulse until combined but retaining some texture ~ not pureed.

vegetarian meatballs

cheesy veggie goodness ready to go

Using a rubber spatula, turn wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold until blended and formed into a large ball ~ don’t overmix.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then take out and preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with foil and grease with olive oil; also have a small bowl/ramekin of olive oil beside you.  Using a small ice cream scoop or a soup spoon/tablespoon, place a scoop of mixture into your hands and roll between palms to form a pingpong-sized ball.  Gently dip ball into the ramekin of olive oil and roll again between your palms to coat the ball with the oil.  Set each ball onto the oiled baking sheet; bake at 400F for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

The top photo is how they looked when they just came out of the oven; at this point they tasted like a combination of a meatball, a falafel and a dumpling.  How they’ll taste from here will be based on which type of sauce you serve them with.  To me they’d be great in an Indian-style cream sauce or even a brothy Asian mix.

I decided to heat up some marinara sauce and place the “meatballs” into the sauce pot so they could soak up and plump up.  Then I transferred that mixture into a lasagne pan, topped it with mozzarella and baked it off for about 35-40 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

A hunk of bread for making a sub sandwich, along with some red wine, made this a tasty veggie version of a traditional Italian meal.

vegetarian meatball sub

abondanza!

pickled beets

beet

It’s the time of year for canning one of my favorite pickled foods ~ beets!  Last year was my first attempt and, although the recipe and instructions at pickyourown.org are fantastic, this year I roasted the beets rather than boil them.

I just tossed the unpeeled, halved or quartered beets in olive oil/balsamic vinegar {2-to-1 ratio} with a pinch of brown sugar and s&p, placed them in aluminum foil packets and let them steam in the sealed packs for 45 minutes at 400F.  Then I gave them a stir and left the packets partially open so they’d caramelize ~ another hour was needed but your time may vary.  They’re done when a fork easily goes all the way through, like butter.

After peeling, and fixing up the pickling solution, it was canning time.  Into quart jars this year rather than pints ~ I find that once a jar is opened it rarely lasts long anyway.

canned pickled beets

thankful on thanksgiving

lobster tail

Thanksgiving Day for me is the perfect transition to the holiday season ~ being thankful today builds a foundation for the coming days and weeks.  Trimming the tree, lighting the lights, I guess it all starts today.

I’m so grateful for abundance when it does arrive.  I’ve had not-so-abundant times in the past and know what it’s like to go without.  This year we have been fortunate and decided that lobster tails were going to be a special purchase.  After recently becoming non-turkey-eaters, this seemed like a holiday entree extraordinaire.

Talk about festive ~ broiled lobster tails!  I made a cornbread topping ~ you could use homemade that’s been dried or go with good old Pepperidge Farm Cornbread stuffing mix, which is what I did today.

It made a perfect topping for the lobster ~ with a crimini mushroom gravy and some mashed yukon golds, it was a truly great meal and a great day with loved ones.

autumnal apple crisp

apple crisp

Nothing says autumn like apples, preferably baked with some warming spices and a bit of booze.  Here is a simple apple crisp recipe.

Slice about 8-10 apples into a large bowl; mix with a tablespoon of microplaned fresh ginger, a splash of maple syrup and a scant tablespoon of tapioca flour ~ then place into a buttered 9×13 pan.

In a saucepan, melt a stick of butter with 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup brandy, a squeeze of lemon, a good tablespoonful of cinnamon and several generous grates of fresh nutmeg.  Another great warming spice to add is a pinch of garam masala.  And if I’m using unsalted butter, I will add a pinch of salt.  Pour this mixture over the apples and toss well.

There are many good recipes for crumble topping out there, such as this one from the Barefoot Contessa ~ oats, brown sugar, flour and chunks of cold butter are the key ingredients.  Top the apples with crumble and bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes, until browned and bubbly. If it gets too brown too quickly place a tent of tin foil over the top, loosely so steam freely escapes.

Let sit for about a half-hour before digging in, and don’t forget the ice cream!

tomato canning day

tomatoes

Canning day is a good day to me for many reasons.  Aside from the practical, it’s just fun and rewarding and pretty simple ~ if I follow the directions all is well.

Rather than copy and paste all the steps, I’ll say click on over to pickyourown.org where she kindly provides amazing instructions and pictures.

Basically I sanitize the jars in the dishwasher, and while that’s going I get the big water canner on the heat.

In a medium stock pot I drop the tomatoes into boiling water until their skins pop, about a minute or so.

canning tomatoes

Then it’s into an ice water bath so the skins are easily peeled off and the tomatoes are ready to be halved or quartered.

tomatoes for canning

Once they’re all in jars it’s important to add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart-jar, to ensure there is enough acid for the water bath canning method I used.  Add boiling water to jars of tomatoes, filling to 1/2 inch of top ~ then use a plastic spatula handle to release trapped air {important step, see recipe above for details}.

After lids and bands are on, it’s 45 minutes in the boiling water bath.  Then I carefully lift them out with a jar lifter and set them on a tea towel overnight.  The next day the lids should be dented down, concave, which says the jar is sealed.

canning tomatoes

All done and ready for the pantry!

a grilling lesson {and great eats} for me

grilled swordfish

Well it was quite a culinary day ~ one of collaboration as I watched a grill master at work and took notes {and photos}.  I know gas grills have their place and with little grilling experience I’m not the one to make comparisons.  But there’s something about food off a charcoal grill that tastes really good!  And a chimney is essential to get your fire burning just right.

The first step, I have just learned, is to set a ring of newspaper on the bottom of the chimney.

charcoal grilling with a chimney

Little Honey here approves of this technique.  It wasn’t long before Chester wanted to inspect and give his seal of approval, too.

grilling with a chimney

They also approve of the smells coming from real hardwood charcoal and I couldn’t agree more.

grilling with lump hardwood charcoal

Now that the chimney is set up it’s time to light it.

light charcoal with a chimney

After the newspaper is alight, the chimney does the rest ~ in about 15 minutes the coals are white and hot, ready for grilling.

grilling chimney

Maybe it’s my imagination but to me the great thing about non-gas grilling is the food seems to retain more moisture.  Certainly the swordfish steaks came out succulent and amazing ~ with a honey Asian style marinade.

grilled swordfish

After the grilling lesson the eating commenced.  Accompaniments included steamed corn on the cob {one inch of boiling water in a big pot, drop them for 2 minutes and they’re done perfectly}

steamed corn on the cob

…and a quick panzanella type salad with chunks of beefsteak tomato and mozzarella cheese, some pickled cukes & red onion, a handful of torn basil and cubes of bread leftover from the boule loaf I’d used the other day .  I supplemented the cuke’s pickle juice {made from this recipe} with additions of red wine vinegar, olive oil, a splash of lemon juice and s&p.  Yummy.

panzanella salad

On a final note, a friend of a friend passed on this tip for not-fine wine.  Decanting can only go so far if the wine isn’t great, and if oxygenation is the key then why not hyperventilate it?  Enter the hand blender.

two buck chuck

This photo was taken after we’d served ourselves ~ so just fill up a tall container and give it a buzz ~ it really works!