Roasted Fennel Soup

January 18, 2016 § 2 Comments

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Hello everyone, sorry for the absence! Here it is the middle of January already. The days are flying by no matter how hard I try to live in the moment and all that.

I had a lot of recipes I was planning on writing about today but these days it’s all about soup. I find soup making so easy that I’ve always got a big pot of something going. Even a cup of steaming chicken broth helps take the chill off. Sometimes I’ll toss in some fresh parsley or add some of last nights veggies but usually it’s just plain broth.

Always on the lookout for soup ingredients I came home with 2 nice large fennel bulbs. I love fennel when it’s cooked. Raw not so much. A bit overpowering for me. Sambuca, no thank you.

When you cook fennel aka anise, it’s strong flavor mellows and becomes almost sweet. I like roasting it, cut into chunks, alongside root vegetables in a hot oven, tossed with just olive oil and salt and pepper. Or cut in half and tucked under a whole chicken or pork roast. This gratin, made with cream and garlic is my absolute favorite way to eat it.

So back to soup. Simple being my motto, how to make a simple fennel soup? Cut it up, toss with some onions and olive oil and roast. When done, add some stock then puree. Add some cream if you wish. And that is it. Almost doesn’t need a recipe it’s so easy.

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Ingredients:

1 large fennel bulb, fronds cut off and hard core removed

1 large onion

2 to 3 TBL olive oil

1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper

about 3 1/2 cups vegetable, beef or chicken stock

orange zest, fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan. I like to use one with sides, keeps the vegetables a bit moister I find.

Coarsely chop the fennel and onion. Toss with the  olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast between 30 and 45 minutes until very tender, tossing occasionally.

When the vegetables are done put them into a good size pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil, the simmer 10 to 15 minutes to meld the flavors.

Pour about 1/4 of this into a blender or food processor. Be very careful when pureeing hot liquids, only do small amounts at a time and cover the top with a kitchen towel. Puree for 10 seconds each time to really break up the vegetables and give it a creamy consistency.

Pour it all back into the soup pot. If you’re a cream lover like me you can now add some fresh heavy cream or half and half. Doesn’t need much, maybe a few tablespoons. Taste for seasoning.

To finish, grate a little orange zest on top and sprinkle with some fresh thyme leaves. Toast a good hearty piece of bread, topped with a slice of gruyere or cheddar and once it’s in your bowl (ovenproof) place under the broiler for a few seconds. Keep your eyes on it, it can burn quickly. Or just grate some cheese on top if you don’t want the bread.

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Happy Winter!

My Garden and German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalad)

September 4, 2015 § 3 Comments

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Anyone who gardens knows what I mean when I say it’s my sanctuary. It’s the first place I go to when I get home from a trip and the last place I visit before I go in for the night. I go through the gate and everything else that’s been on my mind is left behind. Before I know it three hours have flown by.

It’s a special place, alive with birds, toads, bees, and I’m sure plant spirits and faeries turning sunlight, rain and dirt into flowers and vegetables magically overnight.

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I’ll be in the middle of weeding when I feel the sunflowers beckoning. I’ll stop to have a look at them and see that the finches and chickadees have been busy working on the huge heads. I love watching them flit around, going from one to another, like their own buffet table. I’ll leave about half for them and the rest I’ll dry and feed to the chickens.

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I’m not a very neat gardener I think you’d say. I know I should have pulled out that tomato seedling that sprouted up from last year, right in the path. But I didn’t and so now I have to step over it and soon won’t even be able to do that. There are poppies everywhere, and again, right in the path. I even saved an elderberry sprout that flew into the garden somehow (faerie probably) and it’s now a small tree near the back. Oh well!

And my garden this year is the best one ever. Each day I bring up a basket of tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce and cucumbers. So many cucumbers! I juice them, make pickles and salads and add them to water. I slice them in half and give the chickens a treat too.

One of my favorite salads is one my mother always made, Gurkensalad. She didn’t really have a recipe, but this is how I make it now.

4 cucumbers, peeled

1/2 small red onion, sliced thin

1 TBL red wine vinegar

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper

1 to 2 tsp caraway seeds (optional but really good)

paprika for garnish

After you peel the cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. I use a melon baller for this.

Using a mandolin, slice them. A food processor works or if you don’t have one, just slice as thinly as possible. Even if they break apart, it’s ok, you don’t want big chunks for this salad.

Put slices into a colander, salt them well. About 1 TBL salt will do it. Let sit about a half hour.

While they’re draining, in a separate bowl, mix the dressing by combing sour cream, vinegar, red onion, sugar, a dash of pepper. Set aside.

After at least a half hour, grab a large bowl, then take a handful of cucumbers at a time and squeeze as much water as you can out of them, then put them into the bowl. (Don’t rinse the cucumbers by the way)

Add the dressing and mix well. Taste for seasoning. You’ll need a little more salt. Add the caraway seeds, mix then dust with sweet paprika.

Chill for at least an hour before serving. This is a very refreshing salad that gets better the longer it sits. I’ll make a ton of it and grab a bowl as a snack. Enjoy!

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Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

June 1, 2015 § 3 Comments

 

 

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Rhubarb time again and what haven’t I tried to make with it?

Rhubarb is one of the first things to pop out of the ground in the spring and then I’m on to making scones, muffins and all kinds of desserts and baked things. This year I wanted to do something savory with it again. I’ve made Rhubarb Chutney before, the recipe is here on my blog, and I’ve added it to a pan sauce to spoon over chicken. I’ve got so much rhubarb that it’s time to try something new again.

My rhubarb patch is turning into a monster. I might have to divide and move it this fall as it’s right in the middle of my garden. When I planted it originally the garden was very small and it sat at the edge, but now it’s really in the way. It stares at me every time I visit the garden and calls out “please use me!”

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So I being one who likes homemade as much as possible decided to give Rhubarb BBQ sauce a try. The combination of the tart fruit (although it is technically a vegetable) mixed into the dark and smoky flavors of the sauce just might be delicious enough to eat with a spoon.

Besides eating it out of the jar, slather it on grilled chicken, ribs and vegetables too. Try grilling eggplant and basting with sauce.  Use as a replacement for ketchup on a burger. Try it on sandwiches too, or mixed into baked beans.

So if you’ve got your own patch or even if you don’t, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

6 stalks rhubarb, cleaned and trimmed and chopped

3/4 cup water

2 large shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups ketchup ( organic and without HFCS* if possible)

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 TBL molasses

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 TBLS  mustard

1 TBL Tabasco

1 tsp Liquid Smoke (this is good stuff)

 

First, simmer the chopped rhubarb in the water until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat a small amount of olive oil, add the shallots and garlic and sauté a few minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil slowly. Reduce heat and continue simmering until sauce is thick and dark, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Let cool, then add the cooked rhubarb to it.

This sauce will be a little chunky, so if you like your BBQ sauce smooth just puree in food processor a few seconds.

Makes about 4 cups and will keep for months in the fridge.

 

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* High Fructose Corn Syrup

 

Carrot Parsnip Fritters and Outsmarting the Chipmunks

May 25, 2015 § 3 Comments

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So sorry that I’ve been absent for awhile. The weather has been absolutely beautiful these past weeks and I’ve spent every waking moment outside….getting the veggie garden prepped, pulling up a weed here and there, edging and mulching, and just walking around, breathing in Lily of the Valley, Lilac and Viburnum.

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I’ve done some major garden renovations this spring. I finally have some raised beds, and one of them has become my strawberry bed. The chipmunk population around here will be in for a surprise. I’m sure they’ve had their beady little eyes on the flowering strawberry plants, just waiting for the first red, ripe and juicy organic strawberry…. sorry critters.

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As you can see this is chipmunk proof!  I’m very excited, I think I have them beat!  There is nothing like growing your own strawberries, picking and popping them straight into your mouth….just like the chipmunks!

Now if I could do the same for my blueberry bushes.

On to the recipe….

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Fritters. Yes, so simple and easy, I wonder why I don’t make them more often. They can be a side dish, a part of a salad, breakfast or even dinner.

Fritters:

6 medium carrots 

3 medium size parsnips

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

3 eggs, beaten

3 TBL flour

1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper

olive oli for sautéing

Peel and grate the carrots and parsnips. You could do this in a food processor, but it’s so easy to do by hand. You won’t have to clean all that equipment. And it’s good for the biceps.

Add the shallot, garlic, flour, eggs, salt and pepper.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add a scoop of the carrot parsnip mixture and flatten.

Cook a few minutes over medium heat, turn and continue to cook until golden brown. Remove to a warm place, like your oven.

Serve with applesauce, or mix plain yogurt or sour cream with a little cumin, paprika or za’atar. Try adding some chopped parsley or cilantro, sprinkle with sesame seeds….

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One More Winter Meal

March 23, 2015 § 2 Comments

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 As much as I love cold weather comfort foods, the season for hearty stews and soups is coming to an end. Rhubarb appearing in my dreams, cravings for all things green, edible or not, have started.

We had a few of what I consider warm days….40 degrees and no wind chill and those were enough for me to want to pack up my casseroles, open all the windows and start digging for dirt. 

Then today, a reminder that spring is still not as close as I thought. More comfort food for a little while longer I guess.

Here then is one more hearty meal to make it through until spring really does arrive.

Pot roast is one of my staples in the arctic months, and so easy to make. Just spend a little time browning the meat and cutting onions and the oven does the rest. If you make enough you can have leftovers and hot pot roast and gravy sandwiches for a few days as well. I suggest making this a day ahead, it’s so much more flavorful after a day or two.

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Braised Pot Roast with Carrots and Parsnips

Beef chuck roast, about 3 to 4 lbs

fat for browning, 2 or 3 TBL

good salt and pepper

1 bay leaf

thyme or oregano (a few sprigs) or dried (1 TBL)

1 large onion, chopped

2 carrots, cut into large chunks

2 parsnips, cut into large chunks

1 clove garlic, smashed

2 cups red wine

2 to 3 cups beef or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Season the roast well with salt and pepper. In a large casserole or Dutch oven, heat fat (bacon fat, lard, olive oil) until very hot and brown the roast well on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Add the chopped onion, garlic, carrots, parsnips and bay leaf to the fat remaining (add more if you need to) and sauté about 5 minutes until vegetables are well coated and softened.

Add wine and bring everything to a boil, stirring up all the bits on the bottom. 

Return the roast to the pot, add the broth and herbs. Make sure the liquid comes halfway up the roast, add water or more stock if needed. When simmering again, cover and bake about 2 hours, until meat is very tender.

To make gravy, remove the meat, all but 1 of the carrots, parsnips and bay leaf. Keep warm.

Carefully puree the liquid in a blender, a few cups at a time. Please be careful, hot liquids in blenders can become dangerous if filled too high. Blending the liquid with some vegetables will thicken the sauce without having to add any of the usual thickeners like flour or arrowroot. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Return the meat, vegetables and sauce to the pot and keep warm until it’s time to eat.

You can cut the roast into large chunks or shred with 2 forks. Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes and pour sauce over all. 

 I like to serve this with applesauce, which if you don’t have can be made while the roast is cooking.

Happy Spring!

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illustration by me

Guylas Suppe

November 9, 2014 § 2 Comments

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I remember eating Guylas quite often growing up. There are some things I remember not liking too much, like lentils and liver (who did?) but most of my mother’s cooking I loved. And Guylas and Guylas Suppe, aka goulash soup was probably my favorite. Having a Hungarian father paprika was put on almost every dish. Eggs, chicken, fish, even toast with cream cheese had some paprika sprinkled on it. But Guylas has more than a sprinkling, 2 heaping tablespoons go into this, and that’s what gives it it’s unique flavor.

I’ve heard that peppers are very often added, but my mother never put peppers into her Guylas, only meat, lots of onions, carrots and paprika. You could always add them if you’re a pepper fan, me not so much. If you want to make a stew instead of a soup, just cut down on the liquid somewhat. And don’t forget the sour cream, that’s another thing we put on and in everything!

Ingredients:

bacon fat, lard or olive oil for browning the meat, about 3 TBL

1 1/2 lbs beef chuck, cut into small cubes about 1/2 ”

handful of flour, for dusting the meat

2 medium onions, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 TBL tomato paste

2 heaping TBL good sweet Hungarian paprika

1/4 cup red wine

handful of parsley, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp salt and  1/4 tsp pepper

3 cups beef stock or water will do, heated

2 large potatoes. peeled and cut into small pieces, 1/2 ”

sour cream

 

Prepare the meat by salting and dusting with some flour.

In a large soup pot, heat the fat until hot. Add the meat cubes and sear on all sides. Don’t crowd the pot as you’ll end of steaming the meat.

Remove to a plate, add the onions to the remaining fat. You should have enough fat to sauté the onions, if not, add more. Don’t be afraid of fat!

Add the paprika, stir and cook slowly about 10 to 15 minutes until soft.

Add a little bit of red wine now to loosen everything up, then add the garlic, carrots, tomato paste, parsley, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme.

Put the meat back in, add the heated stock or water to cover everything, slowly bring to boil.

Turn heat to a simmer and cook about 1 1/2 hours until meat is very tender.

Add the diced potatoes and cook until soft, about another half hour.

Taste for seasoning, put into serving bowl and add a big scoop of sour cream.

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This soup is even better the next day, like so many other things!

 

Makes about 6 large servings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheesy Tomato Pie

August 12, 2014 § 1 Comment

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The time we have all been waiting for has come. Summer tomatoes are here! My favorite way to eat them is the famous tomato sandwich- sliced thickly, sprinkled with a good flaky sea salt, homemade mayo on sourdough bread.

But one can only eat so many tomato sandwiches.

So besides making quarts of sauce and salsa and watching them sit on my counter I thought I’d put them into a pie, a savory, cheesy, quiche-like pie. Now you could easily buy a ready made pie crust and just put the ingredients in, but if you know me, I can’t do that. It just doesn’t taste the same. But that’s just me. Don’t let that stop you from making this, it’s easy and delicious and even better the next day.

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You probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen: flour, butter, cheddar, eggs, mayonnaise and those tomatoes. You can stick with this simple recipe or doctor it up a bit, adding some bacon or ham, chunks of sausage, or even change the cheese. Try goat or feta as long as you keep the basic tomato thing going.

It’s great for lunch, brunch or even a light dinner with a salad and some sautéed zucchini, another one of those vegetables you can’t eat fast enough.

Ingredients for Crust:

2 cups flour, I use white spelt

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup ice water

Ingredients for filling:

4 large tomatoes

2 cups grated cheddar

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 eggs, beaten

fresh basil leaves, about 1/2 cup, julienned

a little salt and pepper to taste

 

Mix flour and salt together, then add the butter and cut in with your fingers, or put in food processor and pulse a few times until the butter is the size of peas. Add the ice water until the dough just holds together, press into a ball, flatten and refrigerate at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

When you’re ready, roll out the dough then press into a 9″ pie dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes while you mix cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

While you’re waiting for the crust in the oven, cut the tomatoes into slices, not too thin, put into a colander, then sprinkle with salt to let the water drain out. About 10 minutes or so will do.

Pat the tomato slices dry, then place on top of pre baked crust.

Top with the basil, then spread the cheese/egg mixture over all.

Bake about 25 minutes until nice and brown.

Try to wait before cutting into this, it’s best served lukewarm.

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