Winter

Potato and leek soup is a classic French recipe that couldn’t be more comforting on a cold winter day. It’s an easy recipe that requires only a few ingredients. The addition of a bread slice is typical in gazpacho recipes and adds to the “creamy” texture of the soup without using cream. In addition to garnishing the soup with traditional croutons, Jacques Pepin - in his book Chez Jacques - recommends using chopped chervil as a garnish which adds a nice anise taste.

leeksoup 4 medium leeks, white and light-green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced thin (about 4 cups), dark green parts halved, washed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped medium (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Table salt
1 small russet potato (about 6 ounces), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 large slice high-quality sandwich bread, lightly toasted and torn into 1/2-inch pieces
Ground black pepper

Bring dark-green leek pieces, broth, and water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; set aside. Discard solids in strainer and rinse out saucepan.

Melt butter in now-empty saucepan over medium-low heat. When butter foams, stir in sliced leeks, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Increase heat to high, stir in reserved broth, potato, bay leaf, and herb sprig and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add toasted bread and simmer until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and herb sprig. Transfer half of soup to a blender and process until smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup directly in the pot (which is probably the best method if you have one).Return soup to saucepan and bring to simmer; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garnish.

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James

rutabaga.jpgMe and my big ideas. Take rutabagas. I thought it would be just nifty to plant a row of these, late in the season, to use in our winter kitchen. (You can keep them right in the soil—how handy!) They’d be exclusively for us, not for the farm stand. Like the onions. Yes, but onions are a tad more versatile than rutabagas, you might point out. Duh.

There are only so many rutabagas one can eat. It’s not even November and Roy is already looking a little rutabaga-weary. And this despite the fact that miraculously, Roy, who is not a huge veggie lover, is not turnip-averse. (Rutabagas are basically big, purple-skinned, yellow-fleshed turnips.)

I guess I got all rutabaga-smug because I figured I knew a bunch of tasty ways to cook them. This week, in fact, I slipped some into a potato gratin, and that was a definite hit. (Couldn’t have had anything to do with the cream and cheese.) And one of my favorite techniques—slowly caramelizing root vegetables in a crowded pan—works wonders on rutabagas, so I’ve been using this trick frequently. And Fall Veggie Minestrone is another great destination for rutabagas. 

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Smokey-Turnip-and-Parsnip-Gratin-a-perfect-holiday-sideTurnips and parsnips are not a taste I grew up with. It kind of surprises me as I was exposed to all kinds of different foods, heavy with Eastern European influence (not that the turnip or parsnip originated from that part of the world). However, root vegetables were a staple in my childhood household, but I don’t remember turnips and parsnips being part of the repertoire. 

Fast forward into adult life, my husband introduced me to what is now one of my favorite tastes, parsnips. Have you ever had parsnips mashed up like potatoes with butter and garlic? Or added them to soup? They are mild and sweet, and were used as a sweetener before the arrival in Europe of cane sugar. They mimic the taste of a roasted carrot, but with more complexity. I also add them to stews for a layer of unsuspected flavor.

For me, eating turnips was just a natural progression from parsnips. They are however very different in flavor from other root vegetables, more like a peppery radish with a bitter edge. Very distinct in taste but amazing when roasted, which brings on a milder flavor.

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From the Huffington Post

cordials.jpgNow that fall is in full swing and you're trying to figure out how to bring back the flavors of the bountiful herbs and produce from the warm summer months, consider using them to infuse alcohols by making your own homemade cordials.  

Infusing your favorite alcohols and liquors with herbs and seasonal fruits lends an incredibly aromatic and flavorful combination that really enlivens the palate. To dig a little bit deeper into the world of culinary herbs outside of the conventional ways of using them for savory dishes in the kitchen, you can go out in your own garden, farmer's market, or even the herb section of the market, and "harvest" your own herbs to mix up unique blends and herbal infusions, creating your own personal herbal-infused liqueurs and cordials, using everyday herbs and berries that are readily available in a new and unique way.

When you get the hang of it, try hosting an "herb-harvesting and cordial-making session" with your friends, family, and/or neighbors, and make an entire fun-filled afternoon out of it! Set out pretty colored glass bottles with labels that everyone can infuse, create, and fill to their liking with their own cordial combinations.

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lextropfruit.jpgFirst you pick a Jaboticaba... Bill and I had mango and papaya trees once – fine adult specimens – all lost in a hurricane (along with five Royal Palms). Now that we live on the ocean, those days are past, but the joys of going into one’s backyard and picking something exotic is a most pleasing experience.

Here in South Florida unbelievable exotic fruit trees flourish. Besides the aforementioned Jaboticaba – and Florida’s famed citrus trees – there are, to name a few: Jackfruit, Tamarind, Loquat, Lychee (Oh do I love fresh Lychees) Mango, Muscadine Grapes, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Calamondin, and the mighty Avocado.

Local avocados are quite large, creamy in texture and I have been told of fewer calories than the California Hass. Since little grows in our salt-sprayed gardens, meeting inland friends with fruit bearing trees was a stroke of luck, and with just a bit of old fashioned obsequious sucking-up, we got on Ray Wakefield and David Millers home made exotic jams and chutney Christmas gift list. What, I asked; does Ray do with his big beautiful creamy low-in-calories Avocados besides Guacamole lite?

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