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Ramps & Asparagus Soup

Ramps & Asparagus Soup

 Ramps — “allium tricoccum” – a member of the onion family (sometimes called wild leeks)

 — are available for only a few weeks in Spring. If you live anywhere near woods in the Northeast U.S.,  Canada or as far down as North Carolina — you might try foraging for them, or if not, hopefully you have a farmer’s market near you that carries them. – typically at obscenely high prices.
I was lucky enough to get some for the second year in a row from my neighbor Insung, who has a friend who forages for them in New York’s Catskills Mountains.
Both the broad leaves and the bulbs can be eaten and they’ve got a distinctly pungent taste – somewhere between an onion and garlic. In the photo below, you see the leafy ramps on the left, but they’re missing the bulbous part. That’s because my friend’s friend picked them, leaving the bulbs in the ground in order to allow for more growth for next year. In many areas, ramp mania has gotten so out of control, that local woods have been decimated of the ramps there. So be thoughtful and judicious if you decide to hunt and bring some home.
For this soup, I used a few scallions and asparagus too, adding one potato to help thicken it.
Chop everything into smallish pieces, including the potato.
After I cut off the fibrous ends of the asparagus, I boiled them in some water, to enrich the soup with the vegetable stock. You can make this completely vegetarian, but I added some chicken broth.
There are plenty of other ways to enjoy ramps too, including this ramps pesto I posted a couple of years ago.
They also pair beautifully with eggs, as I found out when making a frittata with mushrooms, ricotta cheese and ramps.

And I loved them on a flatbread too, with mozzarella, ricotta cheese and baby portabello mushrooms. Have you tried ramps yet? What are some of the ways you’ve enjoyed them?

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Ramps and Asparagus Soup
2 T. olive oil
a few scallions, sliced
1 bunch of ramps, sliced
a bunch of asparagus, roughly sliced
one medium potato, cut into small chunks
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
a large handful of fresh Italian parsley
salt, pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
chives or croutons to sprinkle on top
Saute the scallions, asparagus, and ramps in the olive oil until softened. Add the potato chunks and the rest of the ingredients except the parsley and the cream. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook for 15 –20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Put everything in the blender and puree. (Be careful to cover the lid with a dishtowel or it may splatter.) Add the parsley and whir for a few more seconds. Add heavy cream if desired. Garnish with drops of cream and a sprinkle of chives on top .
Garden’s Last Hurrah Soup

Garden’s Last Hurrah Soup

 By this time of year, if your garden is like mine, you’ve already ripped out the last vestiges of any edible plants. Before putting the garden to rest for the winter however, I harvested the remaining kale and put it to good use in this soup, especially welcome now that cold weather is upon us. It’s got everything you need for supper in one bowl – protein (sausage and white beans); vegetables (kale and tomatoes) and carbohydrates (potatoes). I cooked it all in this brand new Le Creuset pot (more about that at the end.)

 The kale I grow is lacinato kale, sometimes called dinosaur kale or cavolo nero in Italian, where it’s commonly used in ribollita. But you can use any kind of kale you’ve got, or use Swiss chard or spinach, for that matter. It all depends on your taste and what’s available to you.
It’s ready to eat after about 45 minutes of cooking on the stove. Add a couple of slices of bread and sit down to a satisfying, filling and nutritious meal.
Now about that Le Creuset pot. Mine was discolored and more than 40 years old. After reading on Adri Barr Crocetti’s blog about how the company replaced her old, stained pot with a new one, I thought I’d contact them too. I did, and they replaced mine with the beauty you see above. (Merry Christmas!) They aren’t kidding when they say their product has a “lifetime limited warranty.” If you’ve got a discolored, but otherwise non-chipped or damaged Le Creuset pot and want to contact them, call the company’s toll-free number at 1-877-418-5547 or email them at Consumer-Services@LeCreuset.com.

 

Sausage, Bean, Kale and Potato Soup
2 Italian sausage links (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup red onion, minced
2 T. olive oil
3 stalks celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 parmesan cheese rind
1 cup sliced small potatoes (like fingerling potatoes)
1 15 oz. can small white beans, rinsed (about 2 cups)
1 bunch of lacinato kale (about four cups chopped)
1 cup diced tomatoes
red pepper flakes, to taste
3 or 4 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1 t. dried oregano)
salt, pepper
optional – another cup of water
Sauté the sausage links in a pan smeared with a small bit of olive oil and cook through. Remove the sausage from the pot, add the 2 T. olive oil, the onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened. Slice the sausage and put it back in the pot, adding the wine. Bring to a boil and add the chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients. Let everything come to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes. Add another cup of water if the soup is too dense for you, or if you want to stretch it a bit. Remove the parmesan rind before serving.
Butternut Squash And Greens

Butternut squash and greens

If you haven’t already noticed from all the butternut squash recipes I’ve posted lately, it’s one of my favorite vegetables – winter or summer. It makes a great soup, filling for lasagna, or even a delicious base for ice cream. It’s also wonderful just as a vegetable side dish, as pictured here. My friend Dede made this dish a while ago for a luncheon of our Italian chit-chat group, and I wanted to eat the whole plateful. But I played nice and left some for others. Then  I went home and made more just for me. I used kale in my version, since that’s what I had at home, but I much prefer it with swiss chard or spinach, as Dede made it.

You could even add some chick peas or cannellini beans to make this a vegetarian dish with complete proteins, or serve it as a side dish with a piece of grilled meat, as I did.

 

Butternut Squash and Greens
Note: Dede cooked her squash in a skillet, but I tossed the pieces with olive oil and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
2 T. olive oil
1 3/4 lb. peeled and diced butternut squash, sprinkled with salt and pepper
a couple of large handfuls of greens, chopped – spinach, swiss chard or kale
1/4 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
grated parmigiano reggiano sprinkled on top (I omitted it)
pine nuts
Heat 2 T oil in skillet and cook 1 ¾ lb peeled and ¾’ diced squash sprinkled with S & P
Partially cover with lid…heat on med to low and cook until squash begins  to brown…
Add onions and raisins (I used cranberries and raisins)…cook until tender and browned
Add spinach or other greens until wilted.
Remove and add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or pine nuts to taste

 

Lentil Sausage Soup

Lentil sausage soup

Buon Anno!

Want to get your new year off to a good start? No, I’m not talking about the umpteenth resolution to lose weight. I’m talking about lentils. They are traditionally eaten by many Italians on January 1 to augur a year of prosperity and good luck.

I would have gotten this to you earlier so you’d have more time to cook this today, but my computer was non compos mentis until a half hour ago, when it finally came to its senses and started working again. (Personally, I think it just wanted to watch the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade in its entirety just once.)

You can enjoy this soup any time of the year, although it’s particularly welcome on a cold winter day, joined by a hunk of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. You did read yesterday’s post and run right out to get some yeast, right? Right.

I use Italian sausage in this recipe – the kind you get when you order a sausage and pepper sandwich at any Italian street festival. In Italy, lentils are served on New Year’s Day with a type of sausage called cotechino, or with zampone, a stuffed pig’s trotter. Neither is easy to find where I live, but truth be told, I don’t like either of them.

If you prefer, leave the sausage out entirely and make it a vegetarian soup. It will still be good, but not as rich in flavor. This makes a LOT of soup. It would be perfect to invite a gang of friends for an informal meal and serve this with a salad and some cheese and crackers. Otherwise, it stores well in the freezer.

Lentil Sausage Soup

3 links, or about 10 ounces Italian sausage
1 lb. dry lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, or 2 small carrots, sliced
4 cups Tuscan, or lacinato kale, chopped (or regular kale if you can’t find the other kind)
12 cups water
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsps. dried basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Take the casing off the sausages and fry in a skillet, breaking up the links into bite-size pieces. Drain.
Rinse the lentils in a colander. In a separate large pot, saute the onion, celery and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the lentils and the rest of the ingredients, including the drained sausage. Cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. You may need to add more water if the soup gets too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Cream Of Porcini Mushroom Soup

Cream of Porcini Mushroom Soup

Don’t make this if you’re worried about cholesterol. I use a half stick of butter and a half-pint of cream for this recipe. But it’s not the kind of soup you’ll make everyday. It’s a special occasion soup. I ate it at a very special occasion — the wedding of my nephew Greg and his bride Shea — in a lovely setting in Montreal, Canada. The ceremony took place at Chateau Ramezay, a structure built in 1705 that served as the residence of Montreal’s governor at that time but is now a museum. The reception was held at Duel, a Montreal restaurant whose two chefs maintain a friendly rivalry between Asian and modern French cuisine. I tried to duplicate one of the courses we ate (since the chefs never responded to my request for their recipe) and if my attempt is not exactly the same as theirs, it’s pretty darn close — and pretty darn good. I really wouldn’t be too concerned about the calories and cholesterol either. The recipe makes enough to feed eight people. So if I calculate the damage spread throughout that many servings, I think I feel better already.

Here’s the beaming couple:

Cream of Porcini Soup

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 stick butter
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (white part only)
4 shallots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms (I used cremini, but you can use button mushrooms if you like)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (you can use white potato if you prefer)
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
4 cups chicken broth
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pint heavy cream

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 cups tepid water for at least 1/2 hour. In the meantime, melt the butter and saute the leeks, onions and garlic until transparent. Drain the mushrooms, which have been soaking, and save the soaking liquid. Chop the dried mushrooms and add to the pot with the leeks, onions and garlic. Add the fresh mushrooms, except for about 1/2 cup that you reserve for the end garnish. Continue to saute everything until the mushrooms are cooked through. Strain the water where the porcini were soaking and add to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the heavy cream. Simmer for at least 1/2 hour or until the potato is cooked through. Put everything into a blender and blend until totally smooth. You’ll have to puree everything in about three separate batches. Pour the puree into a clean pan and add the cream, stirring until everything is blended and heated through. Serve with the mushroom garnish floating on top. To make the mushroom garnish: Chop up the remaining 1/2 cup of mushrooms and saute in a couple more tablespoons of butter.

Squash Soup

Squash Soup

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m sending you a photo of the jack o’lantern all lit up in front of our house. Last weekend our daughter Christina was home and helped design and cut out our annual Halloween pumpkin. There were those slippery pumpkin seeds to deal with, which we salted and roasted and ate in a flash. There were also substantial bits of flesh that were left from cutting out the design. I hated to throw them out, so I incorporated them into a squash soup I was planning for dinner. I already had some butternut squash in the fridge, so I just peeled the pumpkin remains and added them too. There are tons of recipes for squash soup, and some even spice it up with curry. My favorite way is to let the sweetness of the squash take over, with a little boost from the addition of an apple and a pear. You don’t have to add the cream if you want to keep it healthier, but a little bit goes a long way in creating a silken texture. I have even been known to add skim milk when I lacked for cream, or didn’t want to add the calories. I also cubed some bread and toasted it to make croutons. No butter needed – just toss the cubed bread in a heavy bottomed pan, such as a cast-iron skillet, and watch carefully so the croutons don’t burn. Enjoy a warm bowl as you wait for the trick or treaters to arrive. It’s really delicious — and ghoulishly easy to make.

Squash Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1 cup of this was my pumpkin leftovers)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large pear, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large potato, cut into chunks
5 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tsps. salt
1/2 cup cream

Heat the olive oil and add the onions. Cook until softened and slightly browned. Add the squash (and pumpkin leftovers if you have any) and saute for a few minutes. Toss in the apple, pear, and potato. Add the chicken broth and salt. Put a lid on the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables and fruit are soft and cooked through. Put into a blender, or use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Add cream and top with croutons.

Cauliflower Soup With Caramelized Onions

Cauliflower Soup with Caramelized Onions

I’ve stared at that head of cauliflower in the fridge too long. It’s not that I don’t like cauliflower. It’s just that when I bought the monstrous thing two weeks ago at a farmer’s market, it was enough to serve the whole neighborhood. We just can’t eat it fast enough. I’ve made side dishes with it several times, but since it was as large as a soccer ball to begin with, I still had half of it begging me to come up with some other ideas. And a few brown spots were starting to appear, so the time had come to get serious. What to do, what to do? A soup came to mind, especially since the weather had taken a turn to remind us that fall is around the corner.
This is not a pretty soup to look at. It’s a rather dull-looking monochromatic exercise in brown and beige. I could have made it a white soup, had I not browned the cauliflower in olive oil first. But that step gives the soup more taste. And the taste, especially those caramelized onions resting on top, makes up for the homely appearance of this soup. DO NOT scrimp on the time needed to cook the onions. They really need the full 20 to 30 minutes to achieve that sweet and crunchy flavor. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably be wishing you had a secret stash of those caramelized onions for an extra serving.

Cauliflower Soup With Caramelized Onions

Start by peeling one large onion, slicing it, and cooking it in 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute pan. Keep cooking and stirring for at least 20 minutes while the soup is simmering.

For the Soup:

1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
one head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups chicken stock
salt, white pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the cauliflower and continue cooking the florets for about 10 minutes, or until they are partially browned. Add the potato, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. The first time I made this, I under-salted and over-peppered. My husband loved the piquancy, but I drank an entire large bottle of San Pellegrino before the heat in my mouth was tempered. To be on the safe side, try making it with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Finish by pureeing in a blender or with an immersion stick blender.
Ladle into bowls and add the caramelized onions on top.