Baking is science and I don't like formulas, but cooking is art and anything goes...and the simpler the better. It's all about less time at the stove and more time at the table. With a forty year passion for food I'm excited to share what I do in the kitchen nearly every day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Porcini Mushroom Soup

This Porcini Mushroom soup has a lot of flavor and with just a touch of cream is far from filling.  To start I’ll soak a generous handful or two of dried porcini mushrooms in a large bowl of hot water then quarter and thinly slice a half dozen medium to large onions.  If you can’t find porcinis nearly any dried mushroom will do.  While the mushrooms are soaking I’ll sauté the onions in my soup pot with half a stick of butter for about a half an hour, continually stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot until they are brown and caramelized. 

Next I’ll grind in some fresh pepper, stir, then pour my liquid from the mushrooms into the soup pot along with some additional water depending on how many you are serving.  Save the porcinis for later.  After bringing to a light boil I’ll add some beef stock, my favorite is the Better Than Bouillon paste, and continue to let simmer and reduce for upwards of an hour.  You could also use the Better Than Bouillon Mushroom stock or a combination of both which is what I like to do. 

At this point I taste to see whether it needs some more stock and if so add and turn down the heat to a simmer.  I’ll give it ten minutes then run my stick blender through the broth to get rid of whatever onion pieces are still around then add just enough heavy cream to make it silky.  Give it another ten minutes then add salt to taste along with the chopped porcinis.  It’s best to make a few days to a week ahead of time then refrigerate or freeze.  Grating a little pecorino or parmesan over the top just before serving is a nice touch for the holidays.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter Pestos

The days of fresh basil are over for a while but that doesn’t mean you have to stop making pesto, winter greens work just as well.  For this version I used Swiss chard but kale, turnip, or beet greens would have all done the job, the key is to remove the major veins of each leaf then blanch and drain them thoroughly before adding them to the pesto. 

While the greens are draining I chop a generous handful of pine nuts or almonds in my Cuisinart along with a large peeled and coarsely chopped garlic clove and a dash of Kosher Salt.  Use a spatula to scrape the mixture back into the bottom of the Cuisinart before adding the drained greens.  With the cover on I start the Cusinart and drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil through the opening in the lid until the mixture is smooth but not runny.  I recommend that you add the oil slowly and keep checking the consistency…you can always add more oil. 

Finally I add a quarter cup of grated parmesan, a squeeze of lemon juice, additional kosher salt to taste, and one more quick pulse to stir it all together. This time around I tossed the pesto with my cooked pasta, some roasted cubed butternut squash, and a dozen tiny grape potatoes I dug out of the bottom of the basket at the last farmer’s market but it would have been just as great with the pesto alone or combined with just the roast squash.  I think it’s safe to say that you can throw just about anything in the Cuisinart with garlic, olive oil, salt, and parmesan cheese and it will be really good. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hot and Spicy Squash

Whether it's Delicata, Butternut, or Acorn, one way to prepare squash that I never get tired of is to roast it with butter and maple syrup.  However, this time around I added a minced jalapeno to my Delicata and the sweet spicy thing was real nice, not too hot at all.  After cleaning the squash I halved them to remove the seeds, cut into chunks with the skin on then placed them in a roasting pan and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  They were soft and starting to brown around the edges after about fifty minutes at 375 and at this point I added a quarter stick of butter, a couple splashes of maple syrup, and a minced quarter of a jalapeno pepper.  Once the butter melted I tossed to coat the squash evenly then returned to the oven for another ten minutes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Turnips and Leeks

Anything with browned onions is good, and turnips are no exception.  I had just picked up some leeks so while boiling my peeled and cubed turnips I sliced and sautéed several in butter until they started to brown careful not to let them burn.  At this point I turned down the heat and added some more butter and kosher salt.  After draining my cooked turnip cubes I added them to the pan with the leeks and mashed slightly leaving them somewhat chunky.  The buttery, salty, sweet turnip thing was a super tasty combination…we don’t eat turnips often enough.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicken Soup with Parmesan

Sometimes you just need a bowl of chicken soup and that’s why I always have a jar of chicken stock paste in the fridge, I prefer Better Than Bouillon.  Last night after dissolving some of the stock into four cups of boiling water I added some linguini noodles that I broke up into quarter lengths, cooked for ten minutes, then threw in some chopped spinach I happened to have around.  Arugula, carrots, celery, or scallions would have worked as well, but no need for too much, best to keep it simple.  But the key to making this ordinary looking bowl of soup amazing is to stir in a quarter cup of grated parmesan before serving, half a cup is even better.