Tag: Soup recipe

Yam and Carrot Soup with Ginger

Well, we have made it into the second week of 2012. It’s funny to me how every few years, there is extra momentum around the new year. As January approaches we always say “This is the year!” “It’s going to be great!” “I’ll really, finally do that thing I always say I will do! Really!” But some years, and I am finding this to be one of them, everyone is filled with extra zeal and is extra energized with the promise of a whole new, bright, shiny year to accomplish things. Why is that? Is it the doomsday message of the Mayan calendar? I doubt it. Is it because 2011 was flop? Likely not. Is it that sometimes, in order to get the momentum going, we need to lean on the crutch of good intentions? Possibly.

Sometimes even good intentions can be hard to rally. The days have only started to get longer, and only in micro amounts. Here at the 49th parallel we are going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark with midday hardly what you could call bright.  Still, if you get some light, however thin and grey it is, and some fresh air, however rainy it is, those good intentions slip into better focus again. I always find January to be a reflective month with some time spent looking back, some time spent looking forward, but almost all that looking is inward. What do I want from this year? From my life? How do I get there? What and who matters most? What do I believe I can do and how far am I willing to stretch to get there? Will there ever be enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do? Not likely, so how do I prioritize? How do I choose?

I have always wanted to write beyond the private and recreational writing I do.

Always.

Some of you may know that I am working on a project. I have begun to write a book, an expansion on this blog. Currently I have only self imposed timelines as I do not have a publisher. I wasn’t offered a book deal, but I plan to find my own and many hours of research have led me to two publishers that seem promising. My goal is to have submissions completed and sent in by my 30th birthday, March 2nd. Even typing that goal here is unnerving. Now I’ve said it out loud. Now it’s real. Why would I write a book when I have a blog? Why would I believe that someone will pay to make the book and someone else will pay to purchase it and have it in their hands? I can’t really answer that. All I know is that the cookbooks that I love most, that I treasure and turn to time and time again, are heartfelt with beautiful and inspiring images. As an artist, as a writer, all I have ever wanted is to share my ideas, to create beautiful images and to collaborate with others through inspiration.

This blog’s 2nd birthday is approaching later this month and that is a big milestone for me. When I first began Feasts for All Seasons, it was only a test, a trial run to see if I had the passion, the creativity and the patience to regularly create, test and develop recipes. In short this blog was meant as a dress rehearsal. Could I really find a way to talk about all those dishes? I quickly learned that the content that readers seemed to care about was not just the post with the slickest pictures or the easiest recipes but the posts with a back story, an opinion, or a story to tell. In these two years I have learned that I love this blog. I love the cooking, the photography, the storytelling, the recipes, all of it. It takes many hours out of my week, hours that could be spent doing any number of other things, but the ever increasing commitment feels right. Sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating — things don’t work out, I can’t seem to find just the right shot, or I have a crisis of meaning and wonder why do it at all.

So how did I get to today, to my 130th post?  I’d like to say it was all grit and determination, sheer will and dogged dedication. I wish I could tell you it was as simple as the goal of one day holding a book in my hands that has my name on it, but many days, especially dreary dark days when my mind and heart are full of questions, it boils down to little more than, you guessed it: good intentions.

Yam and Carrot Soup with Ginger

 This soup is like “good intentions” in a bowl. It is light and bright, flavourful and bracing — perfect for kicking you into gear during these long, dim winter months. Like most soups, the flavours are better developed with long, slow cooking, however, this nutritious soup can come together within about 40 minutes if you are using a food processor. 

8 large carrots, unpeeled, roughly chopped

1 medium (about 1 lb) yam (or sweet potato), peeled and roughly chopped

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

4 ribs of celery, roughly chopped

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

water, as needed

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Greek yogurt or sour cream to serve

pinch of dried dill

Chop and prepare all vegetables. In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the vegetables, including the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, allowing the vegetables to get slightly browned and caramelized. Add the stock to cover the vegetables — you may need to add some water. Allow the liquid to come to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and let the soup cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft. Once the vegetables are very soft and can be easily pierced with a fork, transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Be careful blending hot liquids. Return the blended soup to the pot and adjust the thickness to your liking with water or more stock. Season with the vinegar and salt and pepper as needed. To serve, reheat to nearly boiling, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of thick Greek yogurt or sour cream and sprinkle with a pinch of dried dill.

Sorrel Soup

Just like that, summer is ending. It feels as if it barely got started. It’s back to school time and soon the leaves will be turning colour and the air will have that distinct chill to it that whispers fall. Until then the afternoons are bright and hot and the evenings are balmy until the sun dips, then they are refreshingly cool, wooing you to stay outside after dinner and have just one more glass of wine.

Despite its late start, it was a nice summer. The sun seemed so precious that we crammed a lot into the bright, hot days, knowing that any one of them could be the last. It was busy, fun and productive. One of the most exciting elements of this summer was the successful maturation of (most of) the garden. We have eaten more beans in the last 6 weeks than in our whole lives! Radishes and fresh greens were growing so fast we couldn’t keep up and the tomatoes are just now gracing us with their red, yellow, orange and deep purple bounty. Even our poor carrots, which over all did poorly, did something: enough for a few salads and few jars of pickles for mid winter hors d’ouevres. Sure, the zucchini and pumpkins have struggled, but all in all, for our first year, it was a success and we have already planted autumn/winter crops to take us through the colder months.

We planted so many things, and so much of it grew beautifully, but nothing was quite so voracious as the sorrel. Tucked between purple kale and a rainbow of Swiss chards, one small sorrel plant became a behemoth bush, pushing up countless deep green spade shaped leaves. If you have never had sorrel and have the opportunity, try it. It’s a somewhat old fashioned green that for one reason or another has fallen out of favour. Stronger and more astringent than spinach, it is an assertive and nutritious green. Raw it has a tart, green apple crossed with spinach kind of flavour. Cooked it has a milder, more earthy taste.

When I was very small and we still lived on the farm, I recall eating shallow, cold bowls of sorrel soup. It was emerald green, creamy, and always had slices of hard boiled egg floating in it and cold, boiled potato. You’d spoon a slice or two of the potato into your bowl, scoop up some egg and the bright, deep green soup. The flavour was intense, fresh and rich all at once and it dazzled against its benign garnishes. Because I have never found sorrel in any market, I have never recreated this soup until this summer. The sorrel grew so immense that it threatened to take over the world so there was no guilt in cutting it back and making up a big, cold jug of sorrel soup. We’ll be having it tonight with grilled fish and some very cold sauvignon blanc to punctuate the end of the summer season and celebrate the gifts of the garden and the summer sun. Cheers!

Sorrel Soup

serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

4 C sorrel leaves (packed)

6 C spinach leaves (packed), divided

1/2 C leek, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 C chicken or vegetable stock

1 C cream

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Wash and dry the spinach and sorrel thoroughly. In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter into the olive oil. Add the chopped leek and garlic, stirring frequently to soften. Do not allow to brown. Add 4 C spinach and sorrel, stirring to wilt them. When they are fully wilted, spoon the greens, with the leek and garlic into a food processor (or blender – just be careful if using a blender that the steam doesn’t blow the lid off). Puree completely, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 2 C spinach and continue to puree. With the processor running, add the stock. Once fully incorporated, add the cream. Taste and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Chill the soup thoroughly.

Serve chilled garnished with:

Cold hard boiled egg (chopped or sliced) and cold sliced boiled potato

Seafood Chowder

I don’t really want to admit my inspiration for this chowder. The thing is, I’m all for celebrity chefs, televised cooking programs and the like. I also understand that it’s a hot business that requires a well defined image and personality and a willingness to often appear arrogant and ridiculous. But there’s a certain ginger-haired celebrity chef who just irks me. I’m sure he’s a model human being in real life, but I find his casual arrogance less than appetizing.

It’s for that reason that I find it so vexing that this morning, while perusing the idiot-box, the first espresso of the morning in hand, I was somehow inclined to watch an episode of Throwdown with the Chef Who Shall Not Be Named. He and his opponents engaged in a battle for a winning Westcoast Chowder. My delight was obvious when he lost the cook-off, but I was definitely sold on making some chowder of my own.

Despite the star’s generally irritating persona, I did agree with a principle of chowder that he and his opponents shared: not using a roux to thicken it. So often chowders are thickened almost beyond reason and good judgement, but my personal preference is for a thinner, lighter, though still creamy broth. Not only do you end up with a less gluey bowl of chowder, the large-ish pieces of seafood stand out more distinctly in a thinner, more elegant broth.

A brief shopping trip, a few pantry staples and an hour or so of cooking later and this seafood stew was ready to go. We’ll be dunking in whole wheat baguette but the classic soda crackers wouldn’t be half bad either.

Seafood Chowder

Feeds 6 hungry people, possibly with leftovers.

1 large shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large carrot, diced small

2 ribs of celery, diced small (include some of the leaves if you have them)

4 strips of bacon, chopped small

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried tarragon

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup clam juice/nectar

4 cups of water

2 medium red skinned potatoes, chopped into bite-sized cubes

1 cup of frozen corn (fresh would be great if you had it)

1 lb red snapper fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cans of baby clams (and the liquid they are packed in)

1 lb of prawns (I used the size that comes 31-40/lb)

1 C. half-and-half cream

salt and pepper to taste

chopped parsley to garnish

Prep the vegetables and aromatics by getting all the chopping out of the way and mixing up the seasonings.

Add the chopped bacon and bay leaf to a pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently. Allow the fat to fully render and the bacon pieces to get deeply browned. Don’t be alarmed by how dark the bottom of the pot will be, all that will lift up later when the liquids come in.

There’s something odd and funny about chopping bacon on a chicken shaped cutting board. I’m sure there’s a “That’s what she said!” joke in there somewhere …

This is nothing but a gratuitous bacon shot.

Back to business…

Once the bacon is cooked, discard the bay leaf and add in the celery, carrot, shallot and garlic. Stir well and allow the vegetables to soften. Add the spices and cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine, clam nectar and water. Add the chopped potato and corn;  allow to simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.

Prep the fish by chopping it into bite-sized chunks. Keep it somewhat rustic, you want to be able to see the pieces in the finished chowder. Likewise, get your shrimp ready (de-vein or shell them if necessary – I left the tails on because they are pretty).

When the potatoes are cooked through add the clams and the juices they were packed in, the fish and the prawns. Add the cream. Bring the whole pot to a boil and immediately turn down to a low, slow simmer. Let it cook gently so the flavours can develop, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve piping hot with plenty of chopped fresh parsley and crusty bread for dunking. Enjoy!

French Onion Soup

I have read and heard French onion soup referred to recently as a “French bistro classic”, which I presume it is. Having never been to France, I will have to take that description at face value, however, I can easily imagine tucking into a bowl of this steaming hot soup at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant with crisp white linen napkins somewhere in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. But, I’m a romantic, so such imaginings are easy for me. If you are less of a dreamer, or possibly adverse to onions or the texture of soggy bread, you may not think this soup is for you, but I would urge you to try it. Not only is it a classic, it is so much more complex and interesting than you would expect. By the time the cheese has melted and the bread has absorbed some of the broth and it is placed in front of you, the onions will have sweetened and softened into the butter, the thyme and sherry will have co-mingled and contributed a gentle citrus flavour as well as a sweet low note that strikes a deep chord that hums “savoury”, “special” and “home”.

French Onion Soup

Loosely adapted from Paris in a Basket by Nicolle Aimee Meyer and Amanda Pilar Smith

This recipe, as I have made it here,  feeds 8 hungry people as “dinner” and could easily be enough for 12 as a starter.

8 large onions, peeled and sliced thinly (about 12 cups)

8 tablespoons of salted butter

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 shots (ounces) sherry (I used Harvey’s Bristol Cream because it’s the only sherry I had on hand and frankly the only one I’m very familiar with. It worked out deliciously.)

12 cups beef stock

1 lb Gruyere cheese, grated

1 baguette, cut into 16 -1 inch slices

Fresh ground pepper to taste

This recipe calls for individual French Onion Soup tureens so that the traditional bread and cheese can be broiled atop the soup. If you don’t have the specific tureens, use oven proof bowls, or simply serve it from the pot with the cheese sprinkled in and the bread on the side for dipping.

Begin by peeling the onions. Slice them very thinly. Set aside. Dry your eyes.

In a large heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat, melt the 8 tablespoons of butter.

Once it is melted, add a full sprig of fresh thyme.

Add in the onion. It will seem like an impossibly huge amount of onion, but will cook down beautifully.

Cook the onions in the butter with the thyme, stirring frequently for about 35-40 minutes, until they have reduced to about 25% their original volume and have lightly caramelized. If you find that the onions are browning, reduce the heat and stir more often. The onions should not become dark or dry. Aim for an all over golden colour and soft, sweet onion strings. Fish out the thyme stem, it will have lost all its leaves.

Once you have achieved the pale caramel colour and the onions are softened, add 2 shots of sherry and stir well to combine.

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Add in the beef stock and increase the heat to medium high until the soup boils, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 30 minutes, allowing the soup to reduce and concentrate slightly.

While the soup finishes, grate the Gruyere and slice the baguette; set aside. Preheat your soup tureens (if using) in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes. When you take them out  to fill them, switch the oven to broil mode.

Sprinkle the bottom of each bowl with a pinch of the grated Gruyere cheese before you add the soup. Fill each preheated tureen with 1-1/2 cups of soup, ensuring that all 8 get equal onion and broth.

Set the baguette slices on the surface of the soup, cut side up. Depending on the size of your bowls and the circumference of your baguette you may need 1 or 2 slices. Whatever you don’t need in the bowl, you can dunk in the soup later.

Top the bread with cheese, ensuring that each bowl has a generous portion. Place on a baking sheet or in a shallow, wide casserole to transport the bowls to the oven.

Leave the soups under the broiler, watching them carefully, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. To serve, sprinkle with thyme leaves from the remaining sprig of time and garnish with fresh ground pepper.