Sorrel Soup

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A girlfriend and I share a love of gardening, although her thumb is a deeper shade of green than mine. Plus she’s way more experimental and scientific.

Every spring, I grab from what is offered locally by nurseries. I get excited just to see a variegated sage, probably because there were years that I couldn’t even find basil plants. Those were some tough years.

Just the other day this girlfriend asked me what to do with sorrel. I had no answer because I’d never grown it. My mother has mentioned sorrel over the years, so I emailed her and she remembers a soup with a roux base, that contained sorrel.

So I had to google sorrel. The description of the taste of sorrel was interesting – it’s not just a spinach or arugula kind of leaf. In fact sorrel and rhubarb are in the same botanical family! It’s got a lemony thing going on; the lemon flavor bursts out of the leaf when you chew it, almost like a squirt of lemon juice.

Some of the leaves had grown quite tall already, and with most leafy plants like lettuces, the baby leaves are good raw, but the older ones should be cooked because they can become bitter. This is especially the case when the weather gets warmer. So I decided to make a soup.

So we harvested it, I gently rinsed the leaves in water, and placed them on a towel to dry.

Before using them in the soup I cut off some of the thicker stems.

Here’s the soup I made, which is a mixture of all the sorrel soups I found online, many of which were called French sorrel soup.

Sorrel Soup

2 ounces unsalted butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, sliced, white and pale green parts
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 white potatoes, chopped
Sorrel leaves, about 8 ounces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 – 1/2 cups good chicken broth
Heavy cream, about 4-6 ounces

Heat the butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Have all of the ingredients prepped.

Add the onion, leeks, and garlic to the butter and saute´for about five minutes.

Stir in the potatoes.

Then add the sorrel leaves and a little salt.

Add enough broth just to cover the potatoes. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, then cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fully cooked.

Remove the lid and, if necessary, keep the soup at a gentle simmer to evaporate excess liquid.

When somewhat cooled off, pour the soup into a large blender jar and blend until smooth. Add cream to the mixture and blend until incorporated. Stop at the desired consistency.

Serve hot or warm.
I added a little dollop of sour cream and a few chopped chives.

I didn’t add any other seasoning other than salt because I wanted the sorrel flavor to really shine. But a little white pepper would be good.

Cooking the sorrel subdues the lemony flavor, but the soup is still really tasty.

If you can find sorrel and haven’t had it before, I’d first try it in a salad mixed with other greens. That way you can really taste the unique lemon flavor of it.

note: If you don’t want to use white potatoes to thicken the soup, you can use some silken tofu, or drained, canned beans.

Scallops and Veggies

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This dish is easy and healthy, and a nice change from all of the heavy meals typically served during the holidays. It’s simply seared sea scallops on top of layers of vegetables. What could be better!! So, here’s the recipe.

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Scallops and Veggies
serves 2 hearty eaters, or 4

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash, baked
1 pound sea scallops, of uniform size
2 leeks, white part only
Olive oil
1 large purple onion, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
Butter, for the scallops
Cayenne pepper flakes

Bake the squash using this recent recipe here. Then, after it’s cooled down, use a fork and scrape out all of the strands of spaghetti squash onto a serving platter; keep it warm.
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Rinse the scallops, and place them on paper towels to dry off; set aside.
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The next step is to clean the leeks. Leeks grow in soil, so they always contain dirt and silt that you need to avoid.
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Slice the white ends cross-wise. Place them in a medium bowl and fill the bowl with water. Separate the rings of leeks so that any silt sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Then remove the leeks from the water and place them on paper towels to dry.


Using a large skillet or work, heat the oil over high heat, and add the red peppers and onion when it’s hot. Allow some caramelization, then reduce the heat slightly to cook the vegetables through. Add a little salt and pepper, then place them over the cooked spaghetti squash. Keep warm.

Add a couple more tablespoons of oil and using the same technique, caramelize and then cook the leeks. Add a little salt and pepper, then place the leeks over the red bell pepper and onions.

Switch to a clean, flat skillet to cook the scallops, which should be completely dry. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1 tablespoon of butter and heat over high heat. The butter will brown, which only adds flavor.

Sear half of the scallops in the oil and butter mixture, for at least one minute. Then turn them over using tongs and sear the other side. Make sure to also season them with salt and pepper, and even garlic pepper if you so desire.


Turn down the heat a little if you feel they’re not completely cook through. Place them on a plate, and continue with the remaining scallops.

When you’re ready to serve, make sure your vegetables are still warm, then top them with the scallops.
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Serve from the platter, making sure every serving includes squash, peppers, onions, leeks, and scallops.

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I love cayenne pepper flakes on this dish, and you can also offer Sriracha for extra spiciness!
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I have also smothered the cooked scallops in chile paste before, and you could always create a sauce with a Thai curry paste for an alternative flavor profile.

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But even straight forward, with salt and pepper, the scallop on the vegetables, all cooked to perfection, creates a fabulous dish!


I served this dish with an Albariño, and it was a lovely combination.

note: I could imagine this dish with also lovely sausages or grilled shrimp!

Cabbage Bundles

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This recipe for a lovely and tasty side dish is less about the cabbage, and way more about the filling. Over the years, I’ve made the bundles so many different ways, but today I’m using a creamy mixture of bacon, onions and mushrooms. I’ve also included leeks and peas before.

So try this out as an easy and pretty side dish, varying the filling ingredients to your liking. You can even make these a day ahead and reheat. That’s a handy thing to do when it’s holiday season.

Cabbage Bundles
inspired by this recipe on Epicurious here

1 large green cabbage
6 thick slices of bacon, diced
2 onions, thinly sliced
12 ounces sliced mushrooms
Garlic pepper
Dried thyme
Salt
White sauce, approximately 1 1/2 cups

Core the cabbage, then place the whole cabbage in a large pot.


Add enough water to cover. Add a little salt, then bring the water to a boil. Cook the cabbage in the water for at least 7 minutes. Remove the cabbage to a colander and let it drain upside down.
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If you feel you’ve overcooked the cabbage, place it in ice water immediately for a minute, then let it drain.

When the cabbage has cooled off, peel off the outer leaves and let them dry; set aside.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until fully cooked, but not crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.


Pour off some of the bacon grease if there’s too much in the skillet. But save it, of course.

Reduce the heat slightly, then add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. You want them soft and only slightly caramelized.

Remove the onions to a bowl, then add a little more bacon grease or olive oil as needed, and sauté the mushrooms. Towards the end when they’re almost fully sautéed, add salt and seasoning like garlic pepper.

Just for fun, I added a little cognac to the mushrooms and flamed them for a minute. This step adds a little flavor, but it not necessary.
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Drain the mushrooms to get that wonderful mushroom jus, then combine the mushrooms and onions in a large bowl. Add the thyme. Save the jus for when you make the white sauce, if you like.

Add the white sauce and bacon to the cooled-off onions and mushrooms, then stir to combine gently. There’s your filling. It can be refrigerated overnight, if necessary.

To make the bundles, begin by lightly greasing a baking dish. Lay one cabbage leaf flat on your work surface, and top with filling. Don’t go overboard with the filling, or else it will all ooze out. Just a nice amount, that still allows you to comfortably roll and tuck the cabbage leaf around the filling. Also first trim off any really tough leaf ends before rolling.


Place the bundles smooth side up in the baking dish. Repeat.

Just before you want to serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a little olive oil over the top of the bundles, and bake just until there’s a little color on the cabbage, or about 20 minutes. If you want more color, you can always slide the baking dish under the broiler for a minute.


Serve immediately.
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Alternatively, these can be baked one day, refrigerated, and then reheated on another day. They stay intact pretty well if you haven’t overfilled them!
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If you want a pretty decadent side dish, toss a little grated Parmesan on the bundles before the browning and heating step.
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These were delicious with pork loin, but would be equally wonderful with grilled white fish or roasted chicken.

Leeks Creole

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I have never thought of leeks as an accessory ingredient because of this recipe. These leeks, topped with a warm spicy vinaigrette, could be a first course, a side dish, or a salad. But however you eat these leeks, you will always have respect for this fabulous Allium, if you didn’t already. They’re not just meant to be a filler for potato soup.

This recipe is in the Creole and Acadian recipe booklet from the Foods of the World series of Time Life. I actually remember the first time I made these leeks, as part of a full Creole meal.

Creole/Cajun/Acadian is an American regional favorite of mine, because of the spiciness, mostly.

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The recipe is quite simple. It’s just a matter of first cleaning the leeks. Trim them and slice in half lengthwise. Then let running water rinse them off. If you need help with the cleaning technique, click here.

Place the cleaned leeks in a shallow pan, and cover with water. Bring to a soft boil, put a lid on the pan, and let the leeks cook for not more than 10 minutes. Using two spoons, carefully place the cooked leeks onto paper towels and let drain and cool off slightly. Alternatively, they could be steamed if you have a large enough steamer basket.

Meanwhile, prepare the spicy vinaigrette, recipe follows:

Creole Vinaigrette Sauce
To make about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Creole mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-8 tablespoons olive oil

The way the recipe has you make it is like making a fairly thin aioli. I opted to just place all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together.


And by the way, I didn’t have tarragon vinegar, so I used a combination of apple cider vinegar and fresh tarragon.

The recipe suggests that you serve the leeks cold. I notated on the recipe page that they’re good cold or hot, but I think the flavors really pop when at least the vinaigrette is warm. Alternatively, if your leeks are still warm, the room temperature vinaigrette will warm up on the leeks. The heat really enhances the spiciness.

Place the drained leeks on a serving plate. Then gently pour on the vinaigrette.

As you can tell, I also sprinkled the leeks with tarragon leaves.

The sweetness of the leeks really pairs beautifully with the spicy, warm vinaigrette.

You just have to try them!

Spring Pilaf

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A long time ago, when I catered for an American Heart Association charity dinner, I made this pilaf. I don’t really remember what inspired me to make it, except that I know it was part of a spring menu featuring beef as the protein. Fortunately it went over very well.

As some of you might know, when you cook for the public, you have to be careful. You really can’t make anything too “crazy” or it will turn people off, no matter how gourmet or trendy the ingredients might be. But make everything too bland and blah, and no one will ever hire you for your catering services. So there exists a fine line.

Honestly, I discovered long ago when I cooked for various charities, that the less people knew, the better off they were. If I put out tent cards with a descriptive menu, I would hear lots of “EEEWWWWWWSSS,” or “I’m not eating thats” before anyone even saw their meal! So I learned to keep things to myself, and tentative diners ended up enjoying their food much more!

I’ve been wanting to repeat this pilaf for a long time now, because it was really good and unique as well. There are two main flavors in the pilaf – orange and leeks. For the orange, I used orange oil – that is, orange-infused oil.
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For the rice, I used long-grained brown in this recipe, which I don’t love, but I needed to use it up. Short-grained rice, which I prefer, hulled barley, or even kamut could be substituted, with some extra cooking time.

So here’s my recipe for my spring-inspired rice pilaf. It is good with just about any protein, from beef to scallops.

Spring Pilaf

1/4 cup orange-infused olive oil*
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 small leeks, cleaned, sliced crosswise
1 cup long-grained brown rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup frozen petite peas, slightly thawed

Place the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and leeks.
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Sauté for a few minutes; a little caramelization is okay.

Pour in the rice and stir it into the onion-leek mixture until all the grains are coated with oil.
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Add the chicken broth, the salt, and the pepper.
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Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and turn the burner down to the lowest setting. Let the rice cook for 35 minutes. Then turn off the stove, but leave the lid on for about 15 minutes more.

Remove the lid, then stir in the peas. Gently mix everything together.
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Serve hot with your desired protein. I served this pilaf with an Asian-marinated venison short loin. Asian flavors and orange really compliment each other.
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If you love parsley, add some chopped parsley over the pilaf, or a few finely chopped chives.

If you want the pilaf even more citrusy, add some grated orange or lemon rind.

* I highly recommend using an orange-infused oil in this recipe, but if you can’t find it, try adding some orange zest to the pilaf right before serving. Or use a few drops of sweet orange oil.
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note: Depending on the rice or other grain you use, cooking times will differ, as well as the amount of liquid necessary in which to cook it. Read the package directions so you get the grain-to-liquid ratio correct.

At Mesa’s Edge

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“At Mesa’s Edge” is the first book ever written by Eugenia Bone. It’s more of a memoir with recipes.

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I discovered it after purchasing her cookbook entitled, “Well Preserved,” which turns out is the third book she has authored.
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I’ve featured this cookbook before. It’s in this book where I discovered my most favorite guilty pleasure, Italian Foriana Sauce.

It’s a mixture of nuts, raisins and garlic, seasoned with oregano. It’s a unique and delicious compliment to just about any cheese, shown in the photo below with blue cheese. I can tell you that this stuff is to die for. In fact, it would be my last meal if I had a choice in the matter.

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It is because of Ms. Bone and her Foriana Sauce, which I’ve still never seen in any other cookbook, that I sought out other books she’d written. I wondered what other secrets she had to reveal in the way of recipes from her father’s Italian heritage.

What I discovered was a completely different kind of book. “At Mesa’s Edge” is about her journey and experience moving west, out of New York City, where she was perfectly happy living a big city lifestyle. Her husband, however, had always yearned for a life in the Rockies, which really seemed foreign to her. But out of deep love for him, she relented. My husband obviously doesn’t have this level of love for me, or we’d be living in the mountains, too. But anyway, they pretty much packed up and moved to a beautiful piece of land in western Colorado.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, because it’s a delightful read. It certainly makes me glad I wasn’t living back in the pioneer days, which is practically the lifestyle Ms. Bone endured in the beginning few years of their homesteading. Throughout her trials and tribulations, a beautiful story unfolds, as well as an appreciation for their 45-acre parcel of Colorado. There were many learning curves, from dealing with local varmints, including four-legged as well as two-legged ones, gardening off of the land, and creating a home from a dilapidated structure. Intertwined are some wonderful recipes that are meaningful and significant in some way to the author. Because of those stories, the recipes become special to the reader, as well.

I was intrigued to make her leek tart for this post for three reasons:
1. There’s no cheese in this tart,
2. There’s cilantro pesto on the tart, and
3. It’s like a quiche, but with fewer eggs.

So I bring you my only slightly altered version of this tart.

Leek and Cilantro Pesto Tart
adapted from At Mesa’s Edge

1 – 10″ by 1 1/4″ pie pan
1 chilled pie crust dough
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks, cleaned, sliced crosswise
Cilantro Pesto, see below

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the pie dough and place it in the pie pan. The dimensions of the pie pan I used worked out perfectly.

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Using a fork, pierce the dough all over the bottom of the pie pan, then chill it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake the tart.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, cream, and salt. Set aside.

Prepare the leeks by trimming the stems, removing the leathery outer leaves, then slicing them in half lengthwise. Slice the leeks crosswise, then place them in a large bowl. Fill the bowl up with cool water.
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Shake the leek slices around to dislodge any silt, and then remove them from the water, using your hands, and place them on a clean dish towel or on paper towels to drip dry.
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Add the butter to a large skillet and heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks.

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Sauté them for at least 10 minutes to soften, without any major browning. If they begin to brown, turn down the heat.
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Let the leeks cool and make the cilantro pesto, if you don’t have any already. I know that I have some in the freezer, but I’ve been so bad in the past about labeling my jars, that I have no idea which one is the cilantro version of pesto, so I used my version of Ms. Bone’s recipe, which is as follows:

My Cilantro Pesto for this recipe, which more more garlicky than hers

1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, cleaned and dried
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic

Place all of the above ingredients in a blender jar.

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Process until fairly smooth.
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Assembling the tart:

Begin by placing the cooled, sautéed leeks in the bottom of the pie pan.
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Pour in the whisked egg-cream mixture.

Using a spoon, spoon out blobs of the pesto and place on top of the tart. The pesto doesn’t have to cover the whole top. I used approximately 1/2 cup of pesto, if not more.
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Smooth the blobs out as you can, then place the pie pan on a baking sheet and place it in the oven.

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Bake for 30 minutes. It doesn’t seem like very long, but the tart is 1″ in thickness only.

Let the tart cool, then slice and serve.
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I served the warm tart for lunch, with a tomato and red onion salad.

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The tart would also be good at room temperature, or even chilled, since there’s no cheese in it.
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The sweetness of the leeks and the sharpness of the garlicky pesto were so perfect together, along the the quiche-like creaminess of the tart base.

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The tart would also be a good brunch dish, along with a mimosa. I’ll definitely make this again!

notes: Well Preserved was nominated for a James Beard award. Her second book, which I need to purchase, is called Italian Family Dining. It was written with her father, artist and cookbook author Edward Giobbi. This is her fourth book:

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A Spinach Gratin

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I happen to love spinach. I much prefer it to kale, which I know is so trendy right now. Well, no one’s ever accused this old lady of being on trend.

Spinach is fabulous raw, like in salads or even sandwiches. But when it’s simply sautéd with some oil and garlic, or creamed, or baked in a gratin with some ricotta or cheese, it becomes even more magical.

This is one of those magical gratins featuring spinach, plus leeks and red bell peppers. Yes, Christmas colors in a gratin. I can’t help myself. Green and red are two of my favorite colors. Another reason that I love Christmas so much.

This gratin is easy to make, and can be made ahead and reheated as well. It’s a fabulous side dish to protein. This evening I paired it with grilled flank steak. You don’t even need pasta or potatoes added to the meal, because there’s plenty of heft from within this gratin.

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Here’s the recipe:

Spinach Gratin with Red Bell Peppers

Olive oil or butter
20 ounces fresh spinach leaves
2 small red bell peppers*
1 large leek, cleaned, dried, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 cup full-fat ricotta
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
4 ounces finely grated white cheese like mozzarella, provolone, or Swiss

Using a large skillet or even a wok, heat a little oil, about 1 tablespoon over medium high heat.

You will need to work with the fresh spinach in batches, so it’s manageable.
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Add approximately 1/4 of the amount of spinach to the skillet. Carefully toss and turn it around so that every spinach leaf touches the hot skillet and gets coated with the oil.
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It takes a few minutes for the spinach to completely wilt.
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Place the sautéd in a colander in the sink, and return to complete the remaining spinach.
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Meanwhile, place the ricotta, cream, eggs, salt and white pepper in a medium bowl.
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Whisk the mixture until smooth. .

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Using the same skillet, heat a little oil, about 2 tablespoons, over medium-high heat. Add the red bell peppers and leeks to the skillet.
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Sauté them for a few minutes, then add the shallots and sauté for another few minutes.
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Then turn off the heat and let the vegetables cool off a bit. Then remove approximately half of the vegetables and place in a small bowl; set aside.

Using your hands, if the spinach is cool enough to handle, grab a handful of spinach and squeeze the excess water out of it. Alternatively, you can roll handfuls of spinach in paper towels or clean dish towels to remove the water. Place the dried spinach into the skillet along with the vegetables.

At this point, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Stir the spinach and vegetable together to combine.

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Then add the ricotta mixture to the skillet. And add the grated cheese.
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Stir the vegetables and the ricotta mixture well, then turn it out into an 8″ square baking dish, greased if necessary.

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Sprinkle the top with the saved red bell pepper and leeks.
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Bake for approximately 55 minutes; you can test the gratin with a cake tester, and it should come out clean just as with a quiche.

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This gratin is very spinachy, but it’s also blessed with a soft, quiche-like interior, plus a sprinkling of vegetables. It’s slightly rich, but also very hearty. I hope you enjoy it!

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* You could use jarred roasted red bell peppers if you wish, instead of raw, but I don’t think the resulting flavors will be much different.

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