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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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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Kitchen Sink Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

April 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

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We’ve had two days of sun and the temperature right now is 60 degrees. I’m thinking spring might be here?

In honor of that what else but make a big juicy salad for lunch. I wasn’t sure exactly what I felt like eating when I opened the refrigerator, so I looked in the drawers and shelves, scanning for possibilities. Here are some of the things I found and used:

Eggs (of course)

cottage cheese

lettuce and kale

red cabbage

parsley and pea shoots

1 cooked chicken thigh

2 last pieces of turkey bacon

leftover broccoli from last night

handful of cooked chickpeas

1/2 a cucumber

roasted salted pumpkin seeds

leftover cherry tomato salad with feta

 

I call this the Kitchen Sink salad. Everything in it but. Leftovers are great, meat or vegetables or both. Lettuce as the base, something crunchy, something salty, and of course eggs in some form always make it a meal. For my Kitchen Sink salad today I hard boiled the eggs, cooked the turkey bacon and chopped it up, added the cooked broccoli, chickpeas, cut up the cucumber and chicken. On went a  scoop of cottage cheese to make it nice and creamy, and a few tablespoons of the  pumpkin seeds after it was dressed.

I can’t waste food, saving even a few stalks of asparagus knowing I’ll use it somehow. So that cup of last night’s tomato salad with a few chunks of feta, perfect! All these things went into the bowl. I then made a big batch of buttermilk dressing.

Here’s the recipe, makes a lot.

2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream
1 cup buttermilk (shake well)
Salt and pepper

Put everything into a bowl and whisk well.

Pour over your kitchen sink (salad) and dig in!

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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

Sage, Bacon and Cheddar Cornbread

January 14, 2015 § 5 Comments

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Today was a stay inside kind of day for me. It started out gray (as usual) and then started snowing a little bit. I had a few things in mind for dinners throughout the week and for some reason just decided to cook them all.

I started off with a sort-of stew of braised oxtails with fennel. As that was in the oven I started a version of pot roast, with lots of onions, red wine and tomatoes. Then I put a big pot of beef stock on to simmer, using up some leftover bones from the freezer and adding some fresh ones to it. That’s been simmering all day and will be for another few days.

I still needed some cooking therapy I guess so cornbread came to mind. I wanted to jazz it up a bit, so I added bacon, cheddar cheese, sautéed onions and sage to an otherwise plain cornbread recipe.  I used a cast iron pan to cook the bacon and onions in and then kept it hot as I made the batter, then spooned it on top. Once it came out of the oven I felt the urge to add even more cheddar, (probably because I’d been nibbling on some the whole time) so I sprinkled another 1/2 cup on as it cooled, making a nice cheesy glaze.

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This is best served warm. To reheat the next day, wrap in foil and place in hot oven for about 10 minutes. Or, I like to melt a little butter in a pan and add some slices of cornbread to it. Makes a great breakfast, topped with a fried or poached egg.

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Ingredients:

3 pieces bacon, cut into pieces

1 large onion, sliced

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour, I use white spelt

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup sour cream

2 Tbl butter, melted

1/4 cup cheddar, grated, for top

dried sage for top

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a cast iron pan, about 8″, cook the bacon until almost done, remove to a plate.

Add the sliced onions to the pan, adding more fat to the pan if you need it. Cook until golden.

Put the bacon back in with the onions, and keep the pan warm while you mix up the batter. You could put in the oven but keep an eye on it.

In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the grated cheddar.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, then add the milk, butter and sour cream.

Add wet to dry, mix.

Spoon into the hot pan with the bacon and onions, sprinkle crumbled dried sage over the top.

Bake about 15 minutes, until tester comes out dry.

Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with the 1/4 cup grated cheddar.

 

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I’ll be giving you the recipes for the oxtail stew and pot roast soon…..oh one more thing…I also made the chickens a treat: melted some old peanut butter, added some seeds, oats, and grains then popped it into the freezer for tomorrow’s treat….think I’m done for this day!

Lentil Soup for Lunch

December 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

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