Carrot Cider Soup

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My husband and I were lucky enough to go to the restaurant Square One in San Francisco many years ago. And we were on expense account. There’s just something about that benefit that makes the dining experience even more wonderful!

The restaurant, owned by chef Joyce Goldstein, opened in 1984. According to an article I found online, Joyce Goldstein was “one of, if not the first, to explore Mediterranean food with her interpretations of specialties from Turkey, Italy, Greece, Morocco and other sun-washed countries.”

All I remember was that the menu was impressive and the food delicious. I unfortunately don’t remember any specifics of that night. I’m guessing our wine was plentiful, however, this dining experience was 30 years ago!

In 1992 Joyce Goldstein published the cookbook Back to Square One – Old-World Food in a New-World Kitchen.
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Recently I decided to peruse some older cookbooks of mine, and I immediately fell in love with Back to Square One again. There are so many recipes I want to try, like Balkan crab salad with walnuts and lemon mayonnaise. As well as recipes I want to make again, like Catalan-style quail stuffed in roasted peppers with olives.

This weekend we’re having our favorite people over to raclette` and I found a soup in the cookbook that will be perfect to begin our feast.

The actual name of Joyce Goldstein’s soup is French Apple Cider and Carrot Soup. It’s a carrot soup with the addition of hard cider. To make it a little more festive, I decided to top off the soup with a little creme fraiche and some julliened apples.

Unfortunately I’m not so good at presentation, but here is the recipe:
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French Apple Cider and Carrot Soup
Back to Square One

Serves 6
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/4 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup hard apple cider
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent and sweet, 10 to 15 minutes.
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Add the carrot chunks and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are very tender.

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Purée the soup in the blender or food processor, using only as much of the stock as necessary to purée the carrots.

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Transfer the purée to a clean saucepan and then add the apple cider, the cream, and as much of the remaining stock as necessary to think the soup to the desired consistency.

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I actually added the cider and cream while the soup was still in the blender jar.
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Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of sugar or nutmeg if the soup needs sweetening.
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I added a small dollop of creme fraiche, and a few jullienned apples, plus freshly ground nutmeg, and also pink peppercorns.

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note: After making this soup with the uncooked hard cider, I have a few thoughts.
1. In spite of the low alcohol content, the flavor is too sharp and raw for the soup.
2. Perhaps the hard cider would work better after first a reduction of 50%.
3. Regular apple cider would work, but it should be added along with the chicken broth.
4. A splash of Calvados could add a little flavor, but I recommend adding it along with the chicken broth.
5. Including a cored apple or pear to the carrots would add a natural sweetness to the soup.

Beet Vinaigrette

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You all know by now that I love vinaigrettes, and I always make them with different ingredients. To me, it’s really fun to mix and match seasonal ingredients and flavors in pairing a salad with a vinaigrette.

Whenever I purchase canned beets, which happens when I run out of my own pickled beets, I always save the beet juice. That’s just a rule. I typically pour it, strained if necessary, into a little pot and reduce it to a syrup-like consistency. Then, it can be added to any basic vinaigrette for that beautiful beet color and earthy flavor.

But today I simply added an equal amount of white wine (red or champagne would have worked as well) to the beet juice and reduced the liquid to a syrup.

Then I poured it into a jar.

I added about 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/3 cup vinegar, in this case red wine vinegar, plus a little salt, and shook the jar. I prefer a more emulsified look of the vinaigrette because of the resulting red color.

Of course, you can get more involved with the vinaigrette and add garlic, cloves, mustard, and so forth, but I like the simplicity of the reduced beet juice in a simple vinaigrette such as this.

My salad was one of those use-what-you have salads which, besides lettuce, included sliced beets, mushrooms, carrots, sprouts, and toasted pumpkin seeds. I used a little bacon and some soft-boiled eggs for protein, as my avocados weren’t behaving properly. And I’d recently picked up a pomegranate, so I decided that the pomegranate seeds would be wonderful with the beet-based vinaigrette.


And it was delicious. I encourage you to save every little bit of everything and use it in a vinaigrette! It always works!

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I’ve posted before on a beet and cider vinaigette, based on a beet juice and apple cider mixture. And I’ve also posted on a pear vinaigrette I made with a fresh pear. Think how creative you can get with different fruits and juices!

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This beet vinaigrette would be fabulous with all types of protein, including salmon, avocados, beef, duck and chicken. It pairs beautifully with walnuts, pecans, pine nuts and sunflower seeds. And of course, ingredients like tomatoes and red bell peppers would be good additions to your salad as well, I just didn’t want them in this particular salad because I feel they would clash with the pomegranate seeds.

Pear Vinaigrette

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You may find this fact hard to believe, but I’ve never purchased a bottled salad dressing or vinaigrette! I honestly don’t understand why anyone would. Don’t take this the wrong way if you happen to like them, but to me, they’re a real waste of money. And that’s besides the fact that you are also investing in chemicals and preservatives, in most cases.

But for me, even without the financial aspect, what’s more important is making my own vinaigrettes depending on my mood, what kind of salad I want to make, and the season. I’ve actually taught vinaigrette making in classes before. They’re so easy to make, and they’re way healthier because you control the ingredients. There are an infinite number of creative ways to make vinaigrettes.

When I cooked for a family for so many years, I never made the same dressing twice. So trust me, there are potentially multitudes of vinaigrettes.

There are two basic components to a vinaigrette – the vinegar and the oil. Think about all of the vinegar choices these days! There’s apple cider, red wine, rice wine, white balsamic, and the list goes on. It’s also important to consider the color of the vinegar when you’re choosing one, as well as the flavor you want.

If you’re not too fond of vinegar, try using rice wine vinegar. It’s less strong than the others. And if you like a touch of sweetness, try white balsamic vinegar. It’s clear as well, so it mixes with anything. Balsamic vinegar is pretty powerful, so I usually don’t use it in vinaigrettes. I prefer it as is. Plus, the brown color can “ruin” a pretty salad if you’re not careful.

There are also fruit vinegars that can be purchased and used in vinaigrettes. I bought a raspberry one once and it was awful. And it even said “all natural” flavors on the label. A good reason to make your own fruit vinegars at home! (Which I never have but I know they’re very straight forward and easy!)

Then there are the oils – extra virgin olive oil, of course, but also hazelnut, avocado, walnut oil, and so forth. These don’t add huge amounts of flavors, but they’re all delicious. And it’s fun to mix and match them to the vinegars.
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Garlic is a common ingredient in my vinaigrettes that I make at home. Mostly because I love garic. But if you’re making a very subtly flavored vinaigrette you might have to back off from the garlic. It can overpower. The same goes for ginger and shallots. But they both work in a vinaigrette as well.

Now we come to the fun stuff. Think about these additions – frozen orange juice, sun dried tomatoes, beet juice, reduced leftover champagne, herbs, apple cider, mango, roasted red bell peppers, pesto, harissa, chimichuri sauce, avocado, strawberries, and on and on. All of these “accessory” ingredients can be added to a basic vinaigrette to create a really unique flavor. I’ve only listed a few.

Today, because it’s autumn and the pears are ripe and delicious, I’m making a pear vinaigrette. I wanted to make a composed salad of butter lettuce, some cabbage and carrots, a few mushrooms and hearts of palm slices, lentils, and some grilled chicken. The pairing with the pear vinaigrette sounded perfect to me.
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I chose to use apple cider vinegar and walnut oil, just for fun, along with a whole pear.

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So here’s what I did:

Pear Vinaigrette

1 whole pear, cored
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 small garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnut oil

Place the pear, vinegar, garlic and salt in a blender jar.
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Blend until smooth. You have to make sure that the garlic is blended. It will look like this:
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Keep blending on low, and gradually pour all of the walnut oil into the pear-vinegar mixture. It will be nice and smooth like this:
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Serve immediately, and store any excess in a jar in the refrigerator.
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Although it may not last long because it’s fabulous!
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