Creamy Zucchini Soup

Change is in the air. While I was walking through the farmer’s market in Capitol Hill last weekend I was admiring the abundance and variety that all the vendors have. We have hit that point where you are still seeing summer’s harvests while autumn’s harvest is starting to sneak in. This is one of the best times to visit a farmer’s market here because there are so many options. While we were at the market Brian and I picked up a treat from one of the bakery stands and sat in the park to take it all in. The sun was shinning, the air is cool, and we are starting to see the leave's colors slowly change. 

It is easy to see all the new produce at the stands and start craving things like pumpkin, kale, apples, and pears. But looking at the last of the zucchini and corn I am hoping to hold on to summer just a bit longer if I can. The air might not be as warm as I would hope for, but it will be summer in my kitchen, at least for this one meal.

Zucchini is the ultimate summer vegetable. You can prepare it in a multitude of ways, but the most perfect way to prepare zucchini when the air is cool like this is make a soup with it. I really love making a Creamy Zucchini Soup. I have been been making this soup almost as long as I have been cooking. The ingredients are simple and the epitome of its taste is sunshine and summer. I love throwing this dish together and it is comforting and homey in the way that most simple meals are. After the farmer’s market and seeing all those signs that summer is about gone I needed this; one last hurrah to savor the bits of goodness that summer was here. Thank you summer in my bowl of creamy zucchini soup, after this I can move onto autumn.

Creamy Zucchini Soup (Feeds 4 - 6)

6 cups sliced zucchini

1 onion, chopped into medium sized pieces

3 cloves of garlic, trimmed and sliced in half

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 - 1 1/2 quarts veggie or chicken stock

1/4 cup sour cream

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First, place a 6 quart pot over medium to hight heat. once heated through add your olive oil and heat until warm. Add the onion and zucchini and stir together. Let it all simmer and sizzle with the occasional stir about five minutes; the onions and zucchini will start to brown around the edges a bit. Add in your garlic and chili flakes and stir it all together again and simmer it all together about five more minutes. You are looking for the contents of the pot to soften a bit. Season the mixture with sea salt ad fresh black pepper to your liking and let it simmer.

Next, add your stock to the pot and let it all simmer together. Giving the pot a stir every so often, let the pot simmer and reduce by a 1/4.

Then,  once your pot is reduced you can remove it from the heat and let it cool about 10 minutes. Once it has cooled a bit you can add your sour cream. Using an immersion blender or food processor, carefully puree the whole pot together. 

Finally, place the pot back on your burner on medium heat and heat through. Stirring it frequently. Once warmed through, season again with sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Serve while warm and enjoy.

Corn Lime Soup with Cumin Scented Tortilla Strips

There is something about soup that I cannot resist. Even in the summer, I wait for days that are a bit on the cooler side for a warm soup. Or, I make a chilled one! Either way, I hugely enjoy them no matter the temperature. Corn Lime Soup

On a cooler summer evenings in Seattle a soup that is on the lighter side while being packed with flavor; that is what you want. Corn soup with cumin, lime, roasted bell peppers, and tortillas? Something like that is perfection. I first tried this recipe because it was one of Chef Sarah Moulton’s. Over time I have made it my own with little tweaks here and there. One thing I did learn from her though was that you can extract huge flavor if you place the corn cobs right into the soup as it simmers. Yes, very true and like a revolution to me in soup making way back when.

Carefully cutting the kernels from the cobs.

So the other day I saw fresh corn at the market, and the temperature only in the 70’s I knew I had to make this soup. I trimmed all the kernels from the ears, chopped veggies, roasted peppers, and made a salt / lime / cumin mix for the tortillas. While the soup simmered with the cobs in it, I fried up the tortillas. As I pureed and strained a bit of the soup, I also peeled the roasted bell peppers. As the soup was finishing, I stirred in the remainder of the corn kernels I reserved along with some fresh lime juice, roasted bell peppers, and minced jalapeno. It was all coming together, all the flavors were layered and waiting to be tasted. I ladled the soup into the bowls, we topped them with the seasoned tortillas and more fresh lime. It was light, warm, rich with corn, and an underlining spiciness. Perfection! Soup in the summer is fitting, especially if it is a corn one like this.

The Corn Lime Soup topped with the Cumin Lime Tortilla Strips.

Corn Lime Soup with Cumin Scented Tortilla Strips (Serves 6)

*Note: I like this soup as is; but there are times I have garnished it with fresh cilantro and diced avocado as well.

10 ears of corn

3 cups chicken or veggie stock

2 tsp ground cumin, divided

2 onions (medium in size), chopped small

4 celery stalks, chopped small

1 tbsp butter

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1 red or orange bell pepper

2 limes - 1 juiced and zested, the other sliced

Chive, chopped for garnish

6-8 corn tortilla cut into strips

vegetable oil for frying

First, take all the corn cobs and carefully cut the corn kernels from the cob. Reserve the cobs and about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of corn kernels. Place a large soup pot over medium heat. Melt your butter in the pot and add your onion, celery, and 1 tsp of the cumin. Stir it all together and let it simmer and sizzle until the onion becomes translucent. About 5 minutes.

Next, add all but the reserved corn and the broth. Along with this add as many of the cobs that will fit into the pot with out ti over flowing. Let it all come to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, roast your bell pepper in the boiler or on your burner (whatever you are comfortable with). Roast it until the skin is all blistery and charred and set aside to cool. Also, in a bowl stir together about 1 tsp of salt along with your lime zest and the other 1 tsp of ground cumin; and set it aside.By now, your soup should have simmered for the 15 minutes. Remove the corn cobs and discard them. With an immersion blender puree the soup. Strain about a 1/3 of it. Pressing on the solids to release all the liquid. Place the liquid back into the pot and discard the solids. Add your reserved corn to the soup, along with the jalapeño; and keep the soup over a very low flame to be sure it stays warm. Peel your bell pepper and roughly chop it into small pieces. State your soup and season as needed with you salt and pepper too at this point.

Then, in a pot pour in your vegetable oil. Heat it over medium heat and slowly add your tortilla strips. Fry them until golden and drain them on a paper towel lined plate. While still hot sprinkle with your salt / cumin / lime mixture and set aside.

Finally, stir in the chopped roasted bell pepper to the soup along with the lime juice you have reserved. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top it with the tortilla strips, chopped chives, and a lime slice along the side. Enjoy while warm.

Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo

Being that a huge majority of our family is back east, it is hard not to see the weather they are experiencing and wonder: How did we get so lucky? My Aunt and Uncle are in Massachusetts and when I spoke with them this week they said they have four foot snow drifts. (You read that right, four feet!) I could not help but chuckle as my aunt said to me, “I never remember paying someone so much in one month to help us remove all this snow!” As always I said to them you can always visit Seattle, it has been partially sunny and in the 50’s all week. When I spoke with my parents and in-laws (both in N.J.) they explained how bitter cold it is, but they have hoped it will warm up a bit. By warm up I know they mean anything other than the 5 degrees it was will be better. This all got me to thinking, when Brian and I were looking to relocate and start over again 5 five years ago we canvased the entire country. We played out all our options. We compared job opportunities - city life - culture - price of rent, and last but most importantly - weather! After discussing options in Chicago, Boston, New York, or Philadelphia; we both came to the assumption that we did not have any aspirations to deal with another east coast winter. That is how we got lucky.

Leeks simmering away.

We somehow knew that anywhere from San Francisco and north of there would be good for us. I know as crazy as it may sound, when we weighted out the sides it basically came down to either the harsh east coast winter verse the seldom chance of an earth quake. Yes, you guessed it. Slight chance of earth quake won…Did I mention that we like to live on the edge just a bit?

As I was thinking of all of our family and how chilly they might be, I made a soup that I wish I could share with all of them. It was a hearty bean, potato, and kale soup that you stir browned chorizo into when you plate it. I knew that if anything could warm any of them up this soup would be it! As we ate it we felt all warm and cozy, like we were wrapped up in a cozy knit blanket. I served it with some crusty bread and manchego cheese that paired perfectly. In my opinion this soup was so good it could make anything more tolerable, be it four foot snow drifts or single digit temperatures. This soup was so good I might just go back to the market to get more kale so I can make it again this week. To all my family and friend on the east coast: bundle up, stay warm, and eat soup.

Warm and cozy Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo.

Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo (serves 6)

**Note: Spanish Chorizo is a bit more mild in spice than that of Mexican Chorizo. If you like a bolder, more spiced flavor feel free to substitute one for the other. Or you can serve the soup with your favorite hot sauce, and you can add the amount of spice that you like.

3 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts (washed well)

3 cups diced russet potato (peeled)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cups small chopped kale, stems and ribs removed

1 can butter beans (15 oz), rinsed and drained

1/2 tsp dried thyme

4-6 links of Spanish chorizo, casing removed and chopped

6 cups chicken or veggie stock

sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, place a large pot over medium heat and warm through. Add two tbsp of olive oil to the pot and warm up. Add your leeks and let them simmer until softened, stirring them often.

Next, once your leeks are wilted add the potato and stir to mix it all together. Add the thyme and cover with the stock and bring it all to a simmer. Let it simmer until your potatoes are tender and about to fall apart when pressed against the side of the pot.

Then, add in the beans and kale to the pot and bring a simmer again. Do not let it boil and reduce it’s liquid too much, if so you can add a bit of water to the pot to keep it soupy and not too thick.

Meanwhile, place a large nonstick pan over high heat. Add your remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is heated through add your chorizo (a bit at a time) and let it sizzle and stir often. Once the chorizo is browned, remove from the pan and let drain on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all the chorizo is cooked.

Finally, when the potatoes have broken down a bit and the kale is soft your soup is ready. Season it with sea salt and black pepper to taste and serve. Ladle the soup into your bowls and spoon in the chorizo and enjoy.

Indian Dal (Lentil Soup)

Over a week ago a friend of mine posted a picture on Instagram. It was of a beautiful bowl of Dal. Just looking at her bowl of lentils was enticing; I knew what I was making that weekend. So on Sunday afternoon I gathered my lentils, ginger, garlic, chili, onion, and spices. I simmered it all together on the stove until the lentils were tender, and our home smelt exotic. It was quite breezy out and this warm bowl of Dal with a refreshing Raita to accompany it was perfect. Not to mention its deep orange huge is extremely pretty to look at as it sits waiting for you to dig into it. Dal with Raita, Rice, and Lime on the side.

I really love a good lentil dish; I find it really hard to pass up. Same goes for Indian food- I adore it. This dish takes these two things plus a depth of flavor and spice that I crave after. It is also what makes me go after Indian food time and time again; I just feel I can never get enough of it! I have tried many variations of Dal over the years, but I always go back to the first recipe I tried on my own. It is from The Joy of Cooking that I have adapted a bit over time to get this recipe to where there is heat from the chili, depth to the spices, richness in its texture, and a freshness of herbs in its finished taste combined into a pure pleasurable occurrence. I promise you once you taste it for yourself you will keep helping yourself to more…as I did with the leftovers all this week.

I do understand that a spicy dish, for example one with chili and ginger may intimidate some into trying this recipe. But be assured that you can adapt it to your own liking. Don’t skimp out on the ingredients but make it your own. For example, use less ginger and only add chili to sprinkle in at the end to your own liking. In experience; you can always add spices and herbs to build up to a flavor profile that pleases you. It is hard to remove it as heat and the intensity of flavor that does build as it simmered together over time. Do not let the ingredients intimidate you, but bring it to where you will enjoy it. I have thanked my friend for her picture and inspiration for our dinner. I just hope that I can do the same here as you look at this beautiful Dal. Trust me on this one, smelling the aroma and enjoying this dish will make you feel like you are someplace extraordinary.

Indian Dal with Rice and Raita

Indian Dal (serves 6)

1 cup of red lentils

3 cups of water (plus more if needed)

1 cup of onion, chopped small

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 ½ tbsp of fresh ginger, minced

½ tsp of turmeric (adds a bit more color and flavor to this dish)

1 tsp of curry powder mix (South Indian Curry if you have available)

1 tsp of sea salt

1 large serrano or jalapeno, chopped small

2 tomatoes, chopped small (canned is fine)

Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

Cooked long grain rice, to serve with (**I usually use basmati rice for this, but I was out when I made this, so I subbed jasmine rice instead.)

First; in a 4 quart pot place your lentils, onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric, curry, and sea salt. Place the pot over medium heat, partially covered with a lid, and bring it to a simmer until the lentils have doubled in size and it appears to have thickened a bit – about 40 minutes.

Next; to the pot add your tomato, and chili. Let it simmer together about 10 – 15 more minutes. Your tomato will begin to break down and the contents of the pot will thicken up a bit more. At this time you will want to taste it and adjust your seasoning a bit. Also, it is at this point that you can add a bit more water to it all if you feel it is too thick.

Then, remove from heat and puree in batches. You can puree the whole pot if you would like a smooth soup, but if your can also only puree half of it if you would like a bit more texture to the overall dish. When finished pureeing return to the pot until ready to serve.

Finally, when ready to serve you can rewarm the Dal over low heat until warm and heated through. Serve with the rice, lime wedges, cilantro leaves, and the Raita (recipe to follow).

Raita (makes about 1 ½ cups)

¾ cup of cucumber, chopped small (English or Persian cucumbers work fine)

2 green onions, finely chopped (light green and white parts)

2 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro

2 tsp of chopped fresh mint

½ - ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt

Sea Salt to taste

First, in a small bowl combine all of the above and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Finally, when ready to serve give the mixture another stirring and taste to adjust the seasoning. Feel free to add more sea salt or a pinch of sugar if you feel it is needed and serve.

Holidays and Chickpea Minestrone

So as time should have it we are well into December. 2013 is almost gone; the winter and holiday season is upon us at a full, steady fast pace. I love Seattle during the holidays. There is something about living in a city during a time like this that is hard to explain. You begin to see the transformation and anticipation for the holidays. The added bonus is you feel the energy of all the people coming, going, and just enjoying life. Seattle, getting ready for the holiday season.

In the midst of all of this holiday anticipation I was searching for a meal to make. I was craving something…what I wasn’t sure. I was thinking of what to eat, and I started to think of my family and what they are doing with the holiday preparation starting. (To be honest the hardest thing about living in Seattle is the fact that a majority of my family and friends are 3,000 miles away in New Jersey.) For some reason I started to think of what my mom might make, and what my sister would like to eat. There was a simple solution: Pasta Fagioli. It is an all-time favorite dish of my sisters. She loves the rich bean broth and the bits of veggies and pasta that accompany it. My mom often made a version of this, although my mom would make it with garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chick peas) and refer to it as a Chick Pea Minestrone.

I have a personal infatuation with garbanzo beans. I love the taste and texture of them and will indulge in them in any way, shape, or form. I knew it was time to make a pot of Pasta Fagioli, but just like my mom would; a minestrone. I had a bag of dried garbanzo beans in the cabinet so I took a cup of the garbanzos and soaked them in four cups of water before I left for work in the morning. (I know most people would soak them overnight. But with the baker’s hours I keep - I am awaketo get ready for work at 3A.M.) When I came home in the afternoon the beans had absorbed a majority of the water. I placed a large pot of water on the stove, rinsed off the beans and placed them in the pot over medium heat. I let them simmer away for about an hour and a half before adding veggies to the pot. About another hour later the minestrone was ready. Ahhh! It tasted like my mom made it. I only wish she and my sister were there to enjoy it and the holiday season here as well…maybe they can next year. I will have the soup ready for them.

Chickpea Minestrone

Chickpea Minestrone (serves 6)

1 cup of dried garbanzo beans / chickpeas *

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped

1 onion, trimmed and chopped small

3 cloves of garlic, chopped small

3 canned tomatoes, pureed

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp of dried oregano

1 cup of dried pasta, small in shape

Sea salt and black pepper

First, place your dried beans in at least 4 cups of water and let soak for at least eight hours. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans. Place in a large pot with six quarts of water and place over medium heat and let it all simmer for about an hour and a half.

Next; once the water is reduced by half, you should carefully add your veggies along with the spices. Let it all simmer until your veggies are tender. Once the veggies are tender you can add your pureed tomatoes. When doing so keep an eye on the liquid level in the pot. If you feel it has reduced too far you can add a cup or two of water to the pot.

Then, at this time place another pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling place the dried pasta in it, stirring frequently; and cooking it until the pasta is al dente.

Finally, taste you minestrone and season it with your sea salt and pepper as needed. When your pasta is cooked through, strain it from the water and place it into the soup. Stir it all together well and let it sit together at least a minute or two before serving. Serve while warm.

When a lazy dinner is in order.

Sometimes a busy day, heck; a busy couple of weeks deserve a lazy meal. When I say that I am not talking about picking up something pre-made from the freezer section of the grocery store, nor am I talking about popping something in the microwave. What am I talking about? I do not even own a microwave! What I am talking about is something easy, without a lot of primping, and has a gratifying effect when you are done making it. Gratifying in the way that you actually took the time to make something good for yourself. Yes, a lazy meal was really in order for the way things have been going lately. Veggies ready to chop and roast.

I came home the other day after not having a break from work in a while. It was a Saturday afternoon and Brian was in a seminar all day for training. It was cold out, the girls still needed to be walked, I really wanted a hot shower, and there was still dinner to consider.I wanted to crawl into bed and nap, but there were priorities. Quickly I got the girls on their leashes and off we went for nice long walk. Being out on the city streets in the late afternoon felt great, the fresh air livened me up and put a spring into the step of my girls. We walked down to a café and picked up a baguette and hot chocolate and headed back home. When we walking in the door I gave the girls each a treat and started to think about dinner. I pulled together some parsnips, a butternut squash, and an onion. I quickly heated the oven to 375 degrees and peeled and chopped the veggies. I tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper and placed them on a baking sheet. Into the oven the veggies went, and into the shower did I. In less than an hour I was feeling better from a nice hot shower and my veggies were nicely roasted. My plan was to turn the veggies into soup. But I now had time to buy.

I curled up with a magazine for about an hour. Oh, time to myself is so valued when you get so little of it! When I was done reading I headed back into the kitchen. The lazy meal was in full effect. I place the roasted veggies in a six quart pot and poured enough stock in to cover. Brought it all to a simmer and then pureed it all together. I stirred in some cream and heated it through and it was done. By the time Brian came home dinner was ready. We sat down with the soup, the sliced baguette, and I topped the soup off with some spiced pecans I had. It was wonderful. The roasting of the veggies brings out a deep caramel overtone and this flavor it transferred to the soup. It was warm, delicious, and so gratifying. A lazy dinner was not only in order; it was craved and much enjoyed. Fitting for the day or week I had been having, I need to make more lazy dinners like this one.

Lazy Soup

Lazy Autumn Soup (feeds 4)

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped

3 parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 large onion, trimmed and chopped

*be sure all the above chopped into evenly sized pieces

¼ cup of olive oil

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Veggie or Chicken Stock (no more than 1 quart)

1 cup of crème

Spiced Pecans, as garnish (*recipe to follow)

First, preheat our oven to 375 degrees. Place your veggies (about 5 cups worth) in a bowl and toss with the olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle it with your sea salt and black pepper. Place the sheet pan in the oven for about 30 – 45 minutes (depending on the size they were cut), stirring them ½ way through.

Next, once your veggies are tender and caramel in color you can remove them from the oven. When ready to make the soup, place your veggies in a 6 quart pot and cover with stock until it just covers your veggies. Place it over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Finally, once the continents of your pot are simmering you can remove it from the heat. Using an emersion blender puree the soup until smooth and return to the heat. Stir in the cream and stir until well combined and heated through. Taste to adjust your seasoning and serve. Top with Spiced Pecans if your wish.

Spice Pecan (makes 2 cups)

2 cups of pecans

2 tbsp of butter

1 tbsp of sugar

1 tsp of paprika

½ tsp of kosher salt

¼ tsp of cayenne pepper

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your pecans on a baking sheet and bake about 5 – 10 minutes. You are looking for the pecans to be fragrant and slightly toasted. Remove from the oven once toasted and let cool.

Next, melt your butter over a low flame. Once butter is melted set aside and mix together your sugar, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Place the pecans in a large enough bowl to toss them in. pour the melted butter over and toss week. Sprinkle your sugar mixture over it all and toss again.

Finally, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. After your pecans are well tossed and well coated pour them onto the sheet pan to dry out a bit. Let dry about an hour before packing up. Place in an air tight container for up to a week.

Bouillabaisse and Uncle Sal

I was very fortunate when I moved to Seattle. You see, my Uncle Sal lived here. (My Uncle Sal is the youngest brother of my mother.) He moved here in the early 90’s and when I graduated high school I took my first trip out here to visit him and his partner Dave. I have had fondness for Seattle ever since. But when I was offered a job here my uncles offered for me to stay with them until I got settled. Uncle Sal and I, December 2012

My Uncle Sal travels a lot being a flight attendant, and my Uncle Dave is a sheriff’s deputy. Neither of them are home often so a lot of the time it was just me, their dog Pearl, and their cat BB hanging out. It really was a perfect scenario. I would take Pearl for long walks and admire their neighborhood and BB would follow us. We made a good team those first couple of months here…Brian was still in Phoenix packing up our home with Martini and Latte. Needless to say Pearl and BB were great companions.

Pearl and BB in my Uncles living room

With both of my uncles’ crazy schedules we have not been able to catch up for months. I missed them and really wanted to spend at least an evening with them.  So about two weeks ago I planned it out with them via texts comparing schedules, finally decided on a date and we invited them over for dinner. They had not yet seen our new place, and I knew of a dish my Uncle Sal loves so I knew just what to make.

I jotted over to the fisherman’s terminal the morning they were coming by to get the freshest fish, some fish stock, and muscles. As the evening approached I started in on making a bouillabaisse along with it's traditional side of bread with red pepper rouille. When my uncles came in and sat down I told them what we were having and they were excited…my Uncle Sal exclaiming “That is my favorite!”  “I know. Why do you think I made it???” I responded. As we sat down to eat no one was saying a word. My Uncle Sal, my Uncle Dave, Brian…they were all eating and slurping away. That is when I knew I made a good meal. I couldn’t have made a more satisfying meal for them. I will be making this more often! In the end it was a great evening, I just hope we do not take too long to get together again.

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse (feeds 6)

2 lbs of Cod filet, pin bones removed and cut into spoon sized pieces

2 filets of Sole (about 1 lb), cut into spoon sized pieces

1 lb of Muscles, well rinsed and de-bearded

3 stalks of celery, chopped small

2 leeks, light green and while part; chopped small

1 medium bulb of fennel, white part only; chopped small

The zest of one orange

2 tbsp of olive oil

5 sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

3 whole tomatoes (from a can), purred

Pinch of Saffron

1 ½ cups of dry white wine

16 oz of fish stock

Sea salt and Black pepper to taste

First, place a large soup pot (about 8 quarts) over medium heat. When heated through add in youth olive oil. When your oil becomes fragrant add in your celery, leek, fennel and orange zest. Stir it all together and let it simmer. You are looking for your veggies to soften a bit, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add in 3 sprigs of your thyme, bay leaves, your tomato puree, and some sea salt and black pepper to taste. Let it all simmer together about 3 more minutes.

Next, add in your white wine and the pinch of saffron. Let it reduce by ½ before adding in the fish stock. Watch carefully for the stock to come to a simmer.

Then, when your stock is simmering add in your chopped fish pieces. Gently stir it all (you do not want to break up youth fish too much). You are looking for your fish to turn white or opaque. That is when you know it is cooked through. Once your fish pieces are cooked though add in your muscles. Once again, gently stir and simmer until you see your muscles begin to open and remove from the heat.

Finally, give your bouillabaisse a look over. At this time you want to remove the whole thyme sprigs and bay leaves that are in it. Also check to make sure there are no unopened muscles. If so remove them and toss away. At this point I like to chop some fennel frons (if there were any), and remove the leaves on the remaining sprigs of thyme. Serve your bouillabaisse in bowls garnishing it with the fennel frons and thyme leaves.

Red Pepper Rouille

Red Pepper Rouille (makes about 1 cup)

1 clove of garlic

¼ cup of olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

¼ tsp of Dijon mustard

1 red pepper; roasted, skinned, seeded, and chopped

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Sea Salt to taste

Bread crumbs to thicken, about ¼ cup

First, in the base of a food processor place your egg yolk and your garlic. With the processor running slowly drizzle in youth olive oil and your lemon juice.

Next, add in your chopped roasted red pepper, Dijon mustard, and cayenne. Puree again until smooth. You should notice that although the consistency of your mixture is thick, it will be on the runny side.

Then, little by little add in your bread crumbs and pulse your processor to incorporate it all together. You are looking for the mixture to be thick, but spreadable. If you feel it is too thick you can always add a bit of olive oil to thin it out.

Finally, place your mixture in your refrigerator at least 30 minutes to chill and firm up before serving. Serve with freshly sliced or toasted bread along the side of your bouillabaisse.

Brian's Grilled Cheese and my Tomato Soup

While I was in Hawaii Brian had asked me; “What was the one thing I wanted to eat when I got home?” I knew the answer instantly- Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese…and a really good cup of coffee.  Brian laughed on the other end of the phone, and said that was easy.  It is the really simple things that I long for when I am away from home more than anything else. Brian's Grilled Cheese and my Tomato Soup

Now, I am not sure if I have ever expressed this before; but my husband makes the best Grilled Cheese I have ever had. I have tried many, and they do not compare to his. Brian always seems to get the right balance of cheese and bread, with a slight crunch and gooeyness of cheese that I (along with others) crave. It is perfection, and without a doubt I think it is the best thing he makes. Ask anyone who has tried them.

The Best Grilled Cheese made by Brian Coonce)

I love to travel, but sometimes it is really hard on me. I love road trips, foreign travel, weekend getaways, vacations, and family visiting; but being a vegetarian makes it difficult at times. Being in Hawaii and working a kosher kitchen was no different this time around.  Although we had access to the hotel staff cafeteria and it was a huge help on this trip; I grew tired of the frozen mixed veggie option and brown rice. If anything, it makes that meal when you are back to reality look so much more appealing and glad to be home. That and a good cup of coffee would do me good. Sorry but everywhere you turned in Maui was a Starbucks, and their coffee it far too weak (even with extra shots of espresso added).

When I arrived home Brian read my mind…first stop our local coffee shop to get a nice strong latte. Next up, home and a long nap followed by laundry and settling back in. Brian had to go into the office and assured me he would make his grilled cheese when he got home. So I started in on a tomato soup and tried to get back into a city state of mind.  When Brian got home he made his grilled cheese. That and the soup was a meal fit for a king!  Below is the recipe for the soup and Brian’s step by step instructions on how to make the perfect grilled cheese. I hope you all make it and enjoy it as much as we have over the years…I think you will see why I needed to have this when I got home after a two and a half week trip away.

Homemade Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup (Makes 4-6 serving)

2 tbsp of butter

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

Scant ¼ cup of tomato paste

28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes

3 cups of veggie or chicken stock

¼ tsp of dried thyme

1 tsp of sugar

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

¼ cup of heavy cream

First, place a 6 quart pot over medium heat and melt your butter. To this add your onion, celery, carrot, and tomato paste. Stir it well and let it all simmer together. You are looking for the onions to wilt and to have the tomato paste coat over all the veggies. Be sure to stir often as the tomato paste may stick to the bottom of the pan.

Next; add in the can of tomatoes (juice and all) along with the thyme, sugar, and stock. Stir it well and if the liquid of the pot does not cover the ingredients you may add a bit of water to be sure that it is all submerged. Stirring often, bring the pot to a simmer and let it all cook together about 20 minutes.

Then, remove the soup from the heat and let it cool a bit. With an immersion blender, carefully puree all the contents of the pot into a smooth consistency.  When soup of pureed and smooth place it back over a medium heat and taste. At this point you will want to season with the sea salt and black pepper to your liking.

Finally, when soup is seasoned pour in your heavy cream and stir well. Heat through and ready to serve.  Ladle into bowls and serve with the grilled cheese; recipe to follow. You can garnish soup with freshly chopped herbs, I particularly like chives. *Soup can be made a few days head and reheated when ready to serve. In this case I would omit the cream, and add it in when reheating.

Grilled Cheese Ingredient Line Up

Brian’s Grilled Cheese (written by Brian Coonce)

Regarding cheese selection: Swiss provides a well-rounded sharpness and nutty flavor while also achieving the gooey, stringy melt that is so enjoyable in a grilled cheese. While Cheddar provides good flavor especially when combined with Swiss, on its own it typically does not melt well, and is prone to being oily. Provolone, Havarti or Jack work well when combined with Swiss, even Blue or Gorgonzola. Ultimately mix to your preference and experiment!

Sliced bread (Sourdough, whole wheat, or multigrain holds up best in this type of sandwich)

Butter (room temperature)

Parmesan cheese, grated

Swiss cheese, sliced, 3 per sandwich

First, spread butter on one side of each slice of bread liberally so you have an even coating of butter across the slice. Then, sprinkle about half of a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on top of the buttered bread and if necessary, pat down with the back of a spoon or knife.

Next, preheat a non-stick frying pan to medium heat. While the pan is warming up (don’t let it get too hot!) turn over one slice of bread (Parmesan cheese side facing down) to begin assembling your cheese. Apply your cheese evenly across your bread, breaking up a slice or two if necessary; the even distribution helps melt the cheese evenly.

Buttered and Parmesan Bread and Cheese Distributed

Then, when ready lay your bread and cheese in the frying pan and top the second slice of bread, butter & Parmesan side up. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, gently lifting a corner of the sandwich to see if your Parmesan and bread have browned and become toasted. Flip your sandwich over to cook the second side and to make sure your cheese is melted all the way through. Adjust your temperature as necessary, lowering it if you need a bit longer time to melt the cheese without burning your bread/Parmesan crust.

Finally; once the second side is toasted, flip the sandwich over one more time for another minute to make sure it is nice and hot when hitting the plate.  Remove from pan and let rest on a cutting board for about a minute before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Chipotle Spiced Veggie Soup - Making 2013 lively.

There is nothing in the world that I despise more than shopping for a car. Unfortunately; my husband and I have found ourselves at that point where we can keep putting money into our aging vehicle, or invest in a new one.  I know that the latter is in our best interest, but how I dread the process of getting a new car. (What a way to start 2013!) I needed to mentally prepare myself and get to a Zen state of mind. 

Two car dealerships down and it wasn’t too bad. I am not sure if it was the latte and chocolate chip cookie (provisions for my Zen state) or if we were completely lucky?  By the time we were back at home I was tiered. I think I stressed myself out over the whole event and I just needed to chill out for a while. By the time evening came about needed to shake the stress of the day and arouse my liveliness.  Nothing does that better then something spicy with a bit of sweetness for dinner.

Lucky for us I made stock yesterday. With stock in the refrigerator, and an array of veggies I whipped up a soup. Adding some chipotle to it brings a nice smoky and spicy layer to it all. Placing homemade garlic croutons in the soup gave it the contrast in texture that the soup needed. By adding just a bit of sour cream to each bowl made the soup even more rich and creamy. What a way shake the anxiety of car shopping, perfect way to end a day.  I just wonder what I will mix up next in the kitchen to get me through the car shopping experience.

Chipolte Spiced Vegetable Soup

Chipotle Spiced Veggie Soup (serves 4 – 6)

3 medium sweet potatoes

3 large carrots

2 medium parsnips

1 large onion

(All the above peeled and chopped)

1 tbsp of butter

1 ½ tsp of chipotle powder

1 ½ - 2 quarts of veggie stock

Sea salt to taste

Sour Cream for finishing

Garlic Croutons - recipe to follow

First, place a six quart pot over medium heat. When your pot is warmed through place your bitter in it to melt and add in the veggies to it, stirring it well. Let the veggies gently simmer together and stir often to be sure it does not stick. (You may need to lower your heat to prevent the sticking from occurring.) Once your onion begins to become somewhat translucent you can sprinkle your chipotle powder over it all and stir well again.

Next, when your veggies are sizzling and your chipotle powder is fragrant you can poor your veggie stock over it all. Be sure there is enough stock to cover it all by at least a ½ an inch. Let it all simmer together until your liquid is reduced a bit and your vegies are tender when pierced. Remove from the heat and let cool a bit.

Then, when your soup mixture is somewhat cooled down you can puree it in batches in a food processor or using an emersion blender. Once your mixture is smooth return it all to your pot and place it again over medium heat. You can taste and season it with sea salt if necessary.  If you feel the soup is too thin you can reduce it bit more keeping a close eye on it and stirring it constantly until you reach the desired thickness you wish for.

Finally, on plating and serving ladle the soup into your bowls. Sprinkle each bowl with the garlic croutons and then top with a dollop of sour cream upon serving. Keep extra croutons out for seconds, you will have a hard time resisting them.

Garlic Croutons

About 3 cups of cubed bread (Sour dough, baguette, crusty white or wheat)

½ cup or more of olive oil

2 tsp of kosher Salt

¼ tsp of black pepper (freshly ground)

1 -2 cloves of garlic, minced

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and set side.

Next; in a bowl mix together your olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic. To the bowl add your bread cubes. Toss all together real well to coat the bread cubes.

Then, spread the tossed bread cubes on your prepped baking sheet. Be sure the garlic is not clumped up and spread throughout the mixture.  If the bread cubes seem too dry, and not moist enough from the olive oil drizzle a bit more of the olive oil over the bread cubes.

Finally, place the bread cubes in your oven and bake about 10 – 15 minutes. You want to see the bread turning golden and evenly toasted. (Timing of cooking may depend on the size of your bread cubes and about of olive oil used.) Remove from the oven when bread cubes are evenly toasted and  cool slightly before using.