Saturday, January 21, 2017

Spur-of-the-Moment Vegetable Soup

One of my favorite cookbook authors is Dorie Greenspan. Dorie has written mostly baking cookbooks and is quite well known for them winning many culinary awards for them as well but my favorite book of hers is "Around My French Table". This book is so well written and just a good "read" as well. If you don't have this book in your cookbook collection it is a "must" have in my opinion.

A couple of weeks ago I was thumbing through this book and came across this recipe which I had never prepared, Spur-of-the Moment Vegetable Soup. As I was reading it I loved the use of the fresh ginger and this is the ingredient that makes this recipe so different. I thought it would be great with some roasted chicken breast added in too.

Spur-of-the Moment Vegetable Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, or a combination
1 pound carrots, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 big onion(I like to use a Spanish onion), coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 to 2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed and thinly sliced (optional)
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
1 rosemary sprig (optional)
1 thyme sprig (optional)
6 cups chicken broth (plus perhaps 1 cup more, for thinning)
1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper

Put a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat and add the butter and/or oil. When the butter is melted, or the oil is hot, toss in the carrots, onion, celery, and if you're using them, the garlic, ginger, rosemary, and/or thyme. Season with salt, reduce the heat to low, and give the ingredients a couple of turns to coat them with butter or oil. Cover the pot and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are very soft but not colored.

Remove the lid, pour in the chicken broth, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Toss in the potato cubes and adjust the heat so that the soup is at a simmer. Partially cover the pot and let the soup simmer gently for another 20 minutes, or until the potato can be mashed easily with a spoon.

Now you must decide if you'd like to serve the soup just as it is or if you'd like to puree it-I usually opt for the puree. In either case, do the best you can to fish out the rosemary and thyme sprigs, if you used them. If you're serving the soup in its chunky state, taste it and season as needed with salt and pepper. Or puree the soup in a blender (which will give you the silkiest texture) or food processor, or use a food mill or an immersion blender. Taste it for salt and pepper and reheat it before serving. If you find the soup a little too thick for your taste, when you're reheating it, pour in enough additional chicken broth (or water) to get the texture you like.
I tied the herbs with twine for ease of retrieving them. In the book Dorie mentions that you could use any other herb as well that you would have growing in your potager or kitchen garden, parsley and/or dill would also be good choices. I always love using herbs from my herb garden.
The main event being the vegetables, this is a recipe that allows many changes, broccoli would also be a good choice as would leeks. I chose to use some French Green Beans since my husband won't eat broccoli and I loved all the carrots. I also used a couple more potatoes, Yukon golds but left the thin skin on the potato since I had planned to leave it chunky. And since I had some leftover Roasted Chicken Breast I chose to throw that in as well.
This was a delicious and nutritious soup. A soup that goes together quickly and a perfect dinner pared with a side salad on a chilly evening or a great soup to take to a sick friend. There is so much flu going around this is a soup that would be greatly appreciated. The key ingredient being the fresh chopped ginger, it put this soup right over the top.
I topped mine with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and pared it with a Italian red wine. Sounds like a strange wine paring but this soup stands up to a full bodied red wine. I hope you will try this recipe, it was amazingly good.

Thank you for stopping by and I love reading your comments.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Gruyere, Ham, and Spinach Strata

I hope everyone had a safe and Happy New Year's Eve. I'm busy getting decorations packed away and getting life back to normal. I prepared this strata over the holidays and thought it worthy of sharing.

This strata was my choice for a breakfast casserole Christmas morning this past Christmas. I also served with Mimosa's, of course, and fresh fruit. It was quite simply, delicious. I got it from a blogging friend many years ago. I had an excellent Ham and Cheese Strata recipe but I loved the addition of the spinach in this particular recipe.
Prepping is the key element for this egg dish or any recipe going together quickly. A really good French bread is essential as well or your favorite artisanal bread.
It smells heavenly too. Let me think what Emeril would say, "I wish we had smell-a-vision." Sooooo true.
Gruyere, Ham, and Spinach Strata
10 ounce frozen spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cups onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound thick sliced black forest ham, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups French bread, cut in 1-inch cubes
2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup Parmigiona-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Drain the thawed spinach, using your hands to squeeze as much water from it as possible. Once the spinach is drained finely chop it.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add butter and onions. Sauté' until the onions soften. Place the spinach in the pan and add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Once combined remove from the heat.
Mix the two cheeses together in a bowl.
Grease a 3 quart  gratin dish with softened butter and spread 1/3 of the bread across the bottom of the dish. Next add a layer of the spinach mixture. Layer 1/3 of the ham on top of the spinach and then sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the ham. Repeat layers two more times reserving the last third of the cheese mixture to be sprinkled over the top after adding the egg mixture.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the strata, ad the last cheese layer and then cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours, up to 1 day.
When ready to bake the strata preheat the oven to 350* F. Bake uncovered for 45 to 55 minutes or until puffed, golden brown, and cook through. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
My Notes: I used a 9X13 ceramic dish.

This is a quick, easy and delicious breakfast casserole. It would be excellent for any special occasion or brunch dish anytime of the year. I must say, my husband loved it and that says a lot since I most often refer to him as Mr. Picky Eater.
Now, if you are going to make Mimosa's anytime soon you might try my version. They are quite simply delicious. The night before I plan to serve them I rim my champagne flutes with Grand Marnier and then dip them in superfine sugar. Leave them sitting out so they harden and then when ready to serve fill the glass half full with orange juice, half full with champagne and give each glass a splash or two of Grand Marnier. You'll never drink Mimosa's any other way. It's amazing how the Grand Marnier kicks up the flavor.
 I will be sharing this recipe on Friday for "Foodie Friday" at Rattlebridge Farm. To enjoy other recipes shared just click HERE.