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Posts Tagged ‘Leeks’

Today’s recipe is another healthy, vegetable-laden dish– a fresh, simple soup that is brilliant served hot or cold.  See, I told you I was going to eat my weight in veggies.  This week the seasonal produce in my refrigerator– asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks– was just begging to be made into something wonderful.  This soup is the result.  It’s simple, though with seriously impressive flavors.  What I mean is, even though it comes together in about 30 minutes from start to finish (if you’re skilled with a chef’s knife), it tastes surprisingly complex.

From the first spoonful, you can distinctly taste each of the main vegetables.  Clean and crisp.  And the lemon adds that nice acidity that frames the flavors of the asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks.  As you stroll through the recipe, you’ll notice there are no herbs or spices (aside from salt and pepper).  For this soup, I wanted the pure flavor of the vegetables to stand out.  I also knew I didn’t want it packed with cream (though I love, love creamy soups).  Instead, I added a Yukon Gold potato to provide that smooth texture.

This soup is very good by itself– especially as a chilled Summer dish.  I also love it warm with a piece of toasted french bread and poached egg gently laid on top.  Magic happens where egg yolk meets soup.  Give it a try, you’ll see.  One last thing to keep in mind is that the balance of flavors in this soup stands or falls on how much lemon and salt you add.  As always, taste, taste, taste!

The Recipe: Spring Vegetable Soup

(Serves 4 — enjoy hot or cold)

1 quart chicken stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle

1 pound asparagus

1 large white onion, chopped

1 medium leek, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped

1 packed cup of pea shoots

squeeze of lemon

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

crusty french bread and poached eggs, optional

Prepare the asparagus by trimming the very ends.  If you have some thick ones, peel the last 1 1/2-inch of the stock with a vegetable peeler.  Cut off the tips of the asparagus and set aside.  Cut up the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup kettle, add the olive oil.  Over medium heat, sauté the onion, leek, celery and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, potato, and asparagus.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes and asparagus are tender.  Then, put the pea shoots into the soup and cook for about 1 minute, or until the pea shoots have wilted a bit.

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove from water and place into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.

Remove soup from heat.  Use an immersion blender or carefully pour the soup into a stand blender (in batches), blend the soup until creamy.  Season with a squeeze of lemon, to taste, as well as salt and pepper.  Seasoning this soup properly is key.  A bit more lemon or salt can make all the difference.   Add the asparagus tips to the soup or serve as a garnish on top.  This soup is wonderful served hot or cold.   It is outstanding served with toasted french bread and a poached egg on top.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!  Have a fantastic weekend!

Laurie

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Let’s add one more tasty, healthy, soup to the repetoir.  This one is interesting because the main ingredient is cauliflower.  That’s right, cauliflower.  Sure, it probably hasn’t crossed your mind to make cauliflower soup before, but let me try to convince you that you should.  I love cauliflower (thankfully my kids are HUGE fans, too), so it’s no surprise that I really like this soup.  But aside from the great flavor, cruciferous vegetables are wonderful for your health.  Don’t believe me?  Read here.  Aside from snacking on fresh cauliflower, I love it pureéd.  Mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes?  Divine.  The flavor mellows a bit and the texture is soft and creamy.  Those same characteristics are what make this dish so good.  Here, you get the illusion of eating a thick, cream-laden soup, when in truth it’s almost entirely healthy vegetables that your body needs.

If you’ve never heard of sunchokes, they are also called Jerusalem artichokes.  They’re kind of a funny-looking tuber with a distinct, subtle, earthy flavor.  I guess the best comparison I can come up with is that they taste like a cross between a water chestnut and a potato.  Here, they’re marvelous.  The leeks and rosemary are nice additions, too.  Use fresh rosemary if you have it (even a bit more than the dried amount listed).  I often turn to my dried herbs in the winter time, as fresh can sometimes be a bit pricey.

While dried rosemary is fine here, you’ll definitely want to use fresh parsley for the garnish.  It’s not expensive, and it’ll really brighten the soup.  Finally, there’s the bacon.  I’ve been told that bacon makes everything better, and for the most part, I think that’s about right.  Just a few crumbles on top, and you have the perfect complement to the subtlety of the puréed cauliflower.  If you want to go vegetarian, skip the bacon and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken and enjoy the pure earthiness of the herbs and vegetables.

The Recipe:  Cauliflower and Sunchoke Soup with Bacon Crumbles

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 1/2 pounds sunchokes, peeled and chopped

2 pounds cauliflower florets (from about a 3 pound head), chopped

2 large leeks, white and green parts only, chopped

1 quart plus 3 cups (7 cups total) organic chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 dried bay leaf

kosher salt

5-6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled, for garnish

chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil.  When hot, add the leeks and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add the chicken broth, cauliflower, sunchokes, rosemary, allspice, bay leaf, and a sprinkle of salt.  While covered, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a medium simmer.    The pot will look a bit crowded, but the vegetables will soften and reduce as it cooks.  After about 25-30 minutes or whenever the vegetables are soft, remove the bay leaf from the soup.  Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until it is uniform in texture and without lumps.  Alternately, a stand blender can be used to purée the soup, just make sure to do it in batches, as it all won’t fit at one time.  When the soup is puréed, taste it.  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Serve sprinkled with bacon and fresh parsley.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!  Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dishsponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset

Laurie

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Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m all about soups.  Just take a look at the soup section here for proof.  It’s not just that they’re generally hard to mess up, and that they come together quickly, but there’s just something so satisfying about a good soup.   To be honest, soup is one of my favorite things about living so far north.  It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time saying goodbye to Winter.  I love sitting down with my family to a big kettle of hot soup loaded with vegetables, grains, or legumes.  And I love to try different spices– to see how they meld together in the broth.   

Since we eat soup so often during Winter (several times per week), I try to keep it healthy.  These are our everyday meals, after all.  You likely know that I splurge on occasion and make a meal that isn’t exactly low in the calorie count.  But for the food that nourishes us every day, I try to be a bit more moderate.  My version of wild rice and mushroom soup is light, yet still packed with flavor and nutrients.  It’s far removed from those thick, goopy versions– laden with flour– that you often find in restaurants.  As an aside, it took me years to convince my husband that the stick-to-your-spoon soups are overrated.  He’s finally come around.

To keep the soup lighter, I like to use evaporated milk.  It makes it creamy, without the heaviness of actual cream.  And ‘yes’, you can always use real cream instead.  If you do so, just make sure to add it at the end so it doesn’t curdle.  And if you really prefer a little more thickness, I recommend making a roux from cornstarch and water.  Again, add it near the end of your cooking time.  This is the perfect soup for making a few things ahead of time.  Both the chicken and the wild rice can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.  If you do it this way, the soup really comes together in a cinch.

One last thing to keep in mind here– and I guess I mean to generalize this to all of my recipes– but pay attention to the salt.  If you look back through my other recipes, you’ll see I usually don’t give precise measurements for how much salt to add.  Salt can make or break a dish.  A quote by chef Thomas Keller has stuck with me– and I’ll paraphrase– if you can taste the salt, you’ve added to much.  Salt should enhance the other flavors, but you shouldn’t taste the salt.  My point is, since every broth and roasted chicken contains different levels of salt, you’ll have to decide how much you want to add.  Taste, taste, taste!

The Recipe: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup 

(Serves 4 comfortably)

3/4 cup dry wild rice, cooked

7-8 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 1/4 cup)

1/2 medium white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced thick (between 2 – 2 1/4 cups)

1 large leek, white and green parts only, chopped

3 tablespoons dry sherry

2 quarts organic chicken broth

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

2 cups roasted chicken, thickly shredded or cubed

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

Cook the wild rice according to directions on package.  Make sure not to overcook it; it will cook a bit longer in the soup.  Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, leeks, celery,  and a pinch of salt and pepper.   Sauté for a few minutes until vegetables start to soften, making sure to stir a few times.  When the vegetables are somewhat soft, add the chicken broth, mushrooms, and rice.  Raise the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender.  Add the evaporated milk, chicken, and sherry.  Let simmer until the chicken has warmed through and the flavors have melded.  Season with salt, pepper, and stir in the chopped parsley.  Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Laurie

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You would think I made this meal for a special occassion, wouldn’t you?  Actually, it was a Wednesday.  And ‘no’ I most certainly do not spend hours preparing weeknight meals.  Believe it or not, this halibut and clam dish is just about as easy as it gets.  We love seafood, but live in land-locked Minnesota.  We’re about as far from the ocean as one can get in this country.  Fortunately, we have a good seafood import market near our house.  I picked up the halibut and clams, and spent a total time in the kitchen of about 30 minutes.  We lit a candle in the center of our table– our ritual that makes the meal feel special– and sat down to this beautiful weeknight dinner.

Halibut is one of my favorite fish.  It’s so silky, and works wonderfully in this flavorful dish.  The clams (which Aanen loved!) add a nice briny flavor, while the mushrooms and leeks lend a deep earthiness.  And don’t forget the butter.  It flavors the broth and gives a creamy texture to the whole meal.  I actually cut back on the butter a bit when I made this dish, but feel free to add a few more tablespoons if you like.  This is a great meal to pair with a white wine for a romantic weekend dinner, but it’s also so easy to prepare that you can make it anytime– even a Wednesday night.

The Recipe: Braised Halibut with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Clams

(serves 3-4)

3 tablespoons butter

1 large leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1 pound fresh Halibut, skin removed  (preferably wild)

1 pound Littleneck or Manila clams, scrubbed

about 2 cups crimini mushrooms, quartered  (oyster or hen-of-the- woods are good substitutes)

lemon zest

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large 12-inch straight-sided sauté skillet with a lid.  Add the mushrooms, garlic clove, and leeks; season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook until softened, but not browned, 6-8 minutes.  Add the broth, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

Season the halibut with salt and pepper.  Nestle the fish and the clams in the skillet.  Bring the broth back to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce heat to low.  Cook gently until the fish is just cooked through and the clams have opened, about 7 minutes.  If all of the clams are not open, remove the fish and the opened clams and continue cooking until the remaining clams open, another 2-3 minutes.  Discard any clams that have not opened by this time.  Stir in the lemon zest and sprinkle with the parsley.

Serve the fish and clams in a shallow bowl topped with the delicious broth and vegetables.  Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread and glass of a nice  white wine.

Adapted from Fine Cooking Soups & Stews Magazine, 2010

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It today!

Laurie

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