My friend Andrée used to call me "the Soup Master" back when we were cooking together at Parigi in Dallas ( I made most of the soups there ). So when it starts to get cold and rainy I naturally think of making soup, but which soup? You can literally make soup from just about anything! I happened to abscond with a ham bone with quite a bit of meat on it, the other night after bookclub (sorry Susie, thanks Cynthia), and this became my inspiration. This chowder has been a crowd favorite at both Alchemy and Wren Café over the years, it's super easy to make and the flavors are perfect together. Hmmmm, I still have the bone...split pea soup? Lentil? White bean? I love Winter. : )
Yukon Gold Potato, Corn and Ham Chowder
4 T butter
1 yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 dice
1 lb package of frozen corn (fresh if it's in season)
2 cups of ham cut from the bone or a chunk of ham
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream, more to taste
salt and pepper
green onions for garnish (optional)
1 T curry powder ( see note )
Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter with a generous pinch of salt and pepper, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, corn and ham. Cook for a few minutes, stirring every so often. Add the stock and bring to a boil (skim if necessary). Let cook until the potatoes are soft and the flavors have a chance to blend, about 30 minutes (you want the potatoes to break down a bit to thicken the soup. Add the cream or half and half, stir. Simmer until ready to serve. Top with chopped green onion if desired.
NOTE: Add a tablespoon of curry powder while sautéing the onion for a different flavor direction.
An English-language proverb claims, "Necessity is the mother of invention." In life, and especially in cooking, I find this to be true. Case in point, I am in Puerto Vallarta visiting friends and I wanted to make poached pears with a créme anglaise for dessert. But when I went to the pantry, I discovered that my friends did not have any white sugar—Tari doesn't like it, she prefers the robust flavor of the molasses in dark brown sugar—so I found myself in a situation. What WOULD it taste like to use dark brown, Muscavado sugar in place of white sugar in the recipe? I proceeded to find out, and the results were delicious!
*Ginger Poached Pears
3 c water
1 c dry white wine
2 c dark brown sugar (you can use Muscavado or Turbinado but dark brown is just fine)
1 cinnamon stick
1 T peeled, sliced, fresh ginger
4 pears such as Bosc or D'Anjou, peeled (cut a thin slice off of the bottom so that they stand up easily, if necessary)
Place the water, wine, sugar, cinnamon stick and ginger in a pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the pears, turn the heat down to medium and cook, partially covered, turning frequently for about 45 minutes until you can pierce them easily with a knife. Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the liquid. Remove the pears and set aside. Turn on the heat to high and reduce the liquid by a third, until it is a bit thicker and syrupy. Serve the pears on a pool of the créme anglaise, drizzled with the syrup. Add a crumbled ginger cookie or crystallized ginger if you like. The ginger that is in the syrup is also wonderful to chop and sprinkle over or just eat, mmmm spicy!
Dark Brown Sugar Créme Anglaise
2 c milk
6 egg yolks (save the whites for meringue cookies or an egg white omelet, they freeze!)
1/4 c brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
Microwave milk in 4-cup glass measure, uncovered for 3 minutes. In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Gradually add the hot milk into the mixture, beating vigorously, then return all to the glass measure. Microwave uncovered for 2 minutes.
Whisk vigorously for 30 seconds, then microwave 1 minute. Whisk in vanilla. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Chill, tightly covered, until ready to use.
*The thing that I noticed the most about using dark brown sugar instead of white sugar is richness and intensity. The color of the pears and the créme anglaise was a bit darker, more flavorful and intriguing. I will definitely be thinking about dark brown sugar in place of white sugar in more recipes in the future!
Last week I picked up a selection of beautiful Fall veggies from my local farmer's market. At the time, I didn't know exactly what I was going to do with them, I was just purchasing by color. Rust colored sweet potatoes, purple eggplant, white and purple turnips, orange carrots, red onion and red and yellow bell peppers, they looked like a late summer sunset. I wanted to use them all together, the colors were so gorgeous, so I decided to roast them. Simply tossed with good olive oil, salt and pepper and some fresh sage leaves, they got caramelized, chewy and sweet. I served them to my book club group and then had enough leftover to do a salad for lunch (popular when I had Wren Café). A bit of mild goat cheese on the top and arugula underneath with a drizzle of apple cider balsamic vinaigrette and you're good to go. So delicious!
Roasted Veggies (leftovers make a terrific salad)
Any Fall veggies that you like such as:
a few sweet potatoes, sliced thinly
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
1 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced thinly into rounds
1 turnip, sliced thinly
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 eggplant, quartered and sliced a bit chunky
add cauliflower and broccoli if you like!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss all with a good amount of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, place on a sheet pan (or two) and roast, stirring every 15 minutes or so until soft and caramelized, about 30-45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For a wonderful Fall salad:
Chill leftovers and place atop arugula that has been tossed with some apple balsamic vinaigrette. Sprinkle with a bit more vinaigrette and some mild goat cheese.
Apple Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 T apple balsamic vinegar (available at Marisolio in Murphys)
6 T good olive oil
salt and pepper
1 t Dijon mustard
2-3 fresh sage leaves (optional)
Whisk Dijon with the apple balsamic, slowly add olive oil, whisking to emulsify. Salt and pepper to taste. Add in some chopped fresh sage if you like, or sprinkle on top.
My friends Eric and Christine Taylor have been tending their garden and business,
Outer Aisle, in Murphys for over 25 years. They specialize in both rare and heirloom varieties of vegetables. Every other week, they send out a box of amazing, seasonal veggies to their CSA participants for them to get creative and eat healthy. They have a passion for their plants that is infectious. I visited their garden yesterday to pick up some dried corn stalks for my Fall decorations and I was fascinated by the seemingly endless rows of hearty, leafy greens. There were several varieties of kale, collard greens, chard and radicchio, all a rich green color, tinged with purple, red and yellow. Especially intrigued by the wide, flat collard green leaf, I imagined a hearty filling wrapped up inside, topped with a fresh tomato sauce, baked to bubbly perfection. The perfect warm and comforting dish for our entry into Fall. Oh, and if you'd like to join the CSA program with Outer Aisle, here's the link! https://outeraislefoods.com/foodhub/
Stuffed Collard Greens with Spicy Tomato Sauce
*3 large, fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped OR 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes with their juices, chopped roughly in a food processor
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a bit more to drizzle over the rolls
1 small clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of sugar, optional
splash of white wine
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups cooked spelt
12 collard green leaves, plus a few more to chop and add to the filling
1 can (15 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed
4 T finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for the top
2 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
Stir spelt into pot of salted, boiling water. Reduce to a steady simmer; cook, uncovered, until tender, about 50 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add wine and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, add collard greens in batches to a pot of salted boiling water and cook until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs and let cool. Trim off stems and thick ribs. Reserve 12 large leaves, chop any remaining leaves. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coarsely mash beans in a bowl. Add cooked spelt, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, cheese, sage, and any chopped collards. Stir to combine. Season with 1/2 tsp of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Working with one collard leaf at a time, arrange 1/4 cup filling in center. Fold stem end over filling. Fold in sides. Roll collard over to form a bundle, overlapping ends to seal. Transfer, seam-side down, to an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread sauce evenly over stuffed collards. Cover with foil and bake until sauce is bubbling and collards are tender, about 30 minutes. Grate a bit more Parmesan over the top and serve immediately.
* How to peel and seed a tomato
Make a cross hatch at the base of each tomato with a sharp knife. Remove the core at the stem end. Drop into a pot of boiling water for one minute. Drain. The peel will slip off easily. Cut in half at the 'equator' and gently squeeze out the seeds. Chop as needed.
I'm always amazed by the bounty of late summer. The heat of the day is tinged with a promising crispness, and fruits and vegetables in every luxurious color just won't stop coming. The star of the season, to me, is the fig. Buxom, sweet and floral, and here for just a short while, I eat as many as I can—as many ways as I can. Fall has definitely arrived this past week and while the temperatures are thankfully cooler that doesn't mean we won't be eating salads anymore. With the Mission figs ripe and hanging on the tree in the yard, and a gift of Gala apples from a friend's orchard, I decided to use these seasonal flavors together. This combination of sweet, juicy figs with their gorgeous color, and crisp, crunchy apples is amazing paired with the creamy, tart-sweet, goat cheese dressing. The toasted walnuts add just the right nutty bite. Add some poached chicken if you like for more of a main dish salad. Welcome Fall!
Fig & Apple Salad + Creamy Goat Cheese Dressing
4 oz goat cheese
¼ cup créme fraiche
2 T lemon juice
3 T water
1 T local honey
pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper
2 small apples, Gala, Fuji or Pink Lady
6 fresh figs, halved
½ cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
6 handfuls of baby mixed greens
Place the goat cheese, crème fraîche, lemon juice, honey, water, salt and pepper in bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside. Arrange the baby greens, apples and figs on a salad plate or serving platter. Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and serve with the goat cheese dressing. Serves 4–6.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"