Sunday, April 2, 2017

Nettle Chickweed Soup for the Equinox and Other Stories

Every spring we kick things off with some wild food, usually nettles since they are getting a good lead on other new-growth by the time the equinox rolls around. Some chickweed made it into the pot as well, why not. As this has proved to be a challenging season health wise (we seem to have been the favorite hosts of most viruses and colds going around kindergarten this year), this particular recipe was part of a plan to kick our uninvited guests out for good. No more freeloading illnesses. Green is such a great cleanser, especially this time of year. The recipe is loose:

Creamy Nettle and Chickweed Soup:
*1 sweet onion, chopped
*3 celery stalks, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*sea salt
*black pepper
*5 medium gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
*5-6 cups bone broth 
*5 cups fresh young nettles, washed 
*3/4 cup half and half or cream
*1 cup fresh chickweed, washed 

Saute the onion and celery in butter in a large soup pot over medium heat until tender. Add garlic. Saute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes. Stir. Add the broth, lower heat and simmer gently until the potatoes are very tender. Add the fresh nettles and stir until gently wilted but still bright green. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth with the fresh chickweed. Return to the soup pot and whisk in the cream. Reheat and serve with some edible flowers and fresh chives.

Some other sweet images from life lately:

~The annual orchid show returned to the NC Arboretum with some absolute beauties.~

~I have launched my new floral website in anticipation of the upcoming season for weddings and special occasions. This was a fun, early spring arrangement from around the property.

~While we were under the weather, eating lots of comfort food (and still snapping photos).~

~A stroll to a favorite little patch of bloodroot proved to be good timing.~ 

~Yes, we too have hopped on the broccoli-sprout train.~

~Collards from the garden.~ 

~One pan supper with tons of spinach pesto.~

Welcome (belated) to Spring! Much to come. . . 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Savory Mushroom Broth

I owe this one to my friend Ben. He's a passionate vegan, and very fine host. He makes his broth from little more than an assortment of steeped mushrooms, but it's rich and punches you with umami. I've recreated it loosely many times since. The following recipe is very approximate. It's fun to play around with what goes into the broth itself, and then what accompanies it into the soup bowl. We use this for build-your-own ramen night. 

Savory Mushroom Broth:

*3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
*1 onion, chopped
*2 celery stalks, chopped
*3 garlic cloves, minced
*3-4 cups fresh mushrooms, assorted, chopped
*6 cups water
*4 whole peppercorns
*red wine
*sea salt

Heat olive oil or butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic. Saute until the onion is browned and translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender. Transfer all contents of skillet (including any liquid) to a large soup pot, add water and peppercorns. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Season with small splashes of red wine and tamari to taste (keep in mind the salt in the tamari will intensify if you plan to reduce your broth). Lower heat to medium and simmer until broth reaches desired richness, 40 minutes to 2 hours. Adjust seasonings and add sea salt if needed. Strain broth through a sieve before serving.

Load soup bowls with cooked udon, scallions, cilantro, avocado, seaweed, soft boiled egg, poached fish, chili oil, etc. Pour hot broth over soup ingredients. Top with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. Serve.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Anya Fernald's Blood Orange Salad

Straight from the pages of my favorite new cook book: Home Cooked by Anya Fernald. A winter menu winner.

Blood Orange Salad
*4 blood oranges 
*1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
*1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
*1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
*1/4 cup piquant extra virgin olive oil (I used blood orange olive oil)
*2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
*pinch red pepper flakes
*flaky sea salt for serving

With a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off each orange and stand them on a cutting board. Beginning at the top of each orange, cut down along the curve of the fruit to remove the skin and pith, then cut each orange crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Transfer to a bowl and add the sliced fennel, onion, and kosher salt and mix gently but thoroughly to combine. 

Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the olive oil, then top with the parsley and red pepper flakes. Season with flaky sea salt and serve.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Snowy Day: Homemade Marshmallows

Little else pairs better with freshly fallen snow than a cup of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. This recipe is a repost from 2014, originally sourced from The Clever Carrot. These pillowy marshmallows are full of vanilla flavor and made without corn syrup. 
Happy playing!

  • cooking spray
  • ½ c. water + ¼ c.
  • 3 tablespoons (3 packets) unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 c. sugar
  • ½ c. evaporated milk
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ c. powdered sugar
  • ½ c. cornstarch
Cooking tools:
  • clutter free workspace
  • stand mixer
  • non-stick 8x8 or 9x13 pan*
  • parchment paper
  • candy thermometer*
  • rubber spatula
  • sifter
  • sharp knife, pizza wheel or kitchen scissors
*I recommend using a non-stick pan, but glass or metal will do. For thick marshmallows, use an 8x8 pan. For thinner marshmallows, use a 9x13 pan.
    *In order for your marshmallows to set properly, the milk and sugar must be heated to approximately 250 F. Regular thermometers only go up to 220 F.
      1. Generously coat the bottom and sides of your pan with cooking spray.
      2. Cut the parchment paper to fit the inside of your pan. You should have about 2 inches of overhang on each side. These will be your 'handles' for easy removal.
      3. Pour ½ cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the gelatin and allow to soften, about 10 minutes.
      4. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk, and ¼ cup water. Whisk over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
      5. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 247- 250 F, about 10-15 minutes.
      6. Add the hot syrup to the gelatin mixture and beat on low speed until incorporated.*See important note below.
      7. If using a vanilla bean, slice it in half lengthwise with a pairing knife. Scrape out the seeds using the blade of the knife. Add the seeds (or vanilla extract) to the bowl.
      8. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, fluffy, and tripled in volume, about 10-15 minutes. Your marshmallows will be a glossy, creamy white color.
      9. Using a rubber spatula, quickly scrape out the mixture into the prepared pan. Lightly coat your spatula with cooking spray and smooth out the surface. Marshmallows set very quickly, so you will need to work fast. Do not worry about getting every last bit of marshmallow out of the bowl or making the top perfectly smooth!
      10. Allow the mixture to set, uncovered (not refrigerated) for at least 8 hours- overnight.
      11. After the marshmallows have set, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly.
      12. Spoon some of the mixture into a sifter, and sift over the top of the marshmallows and a cutting board.
      13. Using the parchment handles, remove the marshmallows from the pan and place onto your board.
      14. Dust a large chef's knife, pizza wheel, or kitchen scissors with the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture so that they do not stick to the marshmallows.
      15. Cut the marshmallows into 1-inch squares.
      16. Toss the marshmallows into the mixture to prevent sticking.
      17. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
      * Because evaporated milk is a tan color, your mixture will initially be brown. Do not fret- after 10-15 minutes of mixing on high speed, your marshmallows will become a soft, creamy white color.   

      Saturday, December 31, 2016

      A New Year: Giving Thanks For Black Eyed Peas And Fleas

      The foam is forming on my soaking black eyed peas, and I can't help but adore the southern tradition of eating this particular food for good luck. Unlike most other 'lucky' dishes intended to bring financial wealth (collard greens for plenty of folding green, corn for the color of gold), black eyed peas represent something else entirely. Yes, money, wealth, everything cash can do for us is swell. But black eyed peas remind me of bigger things.

      Black eyed peas were originally brought to the States from Africa on slave ships, sustaining this unbelievable population of survivors. This humble food fed slaves. Slaves. This is the flavor of unthinkable hardship, a food present during one of the most ghastly aspects of southern history. Eating black eyed peas places us at the same table as those who were never invited to share the same table.

      Then, after becoming integrated into southern agriculture, black eyed peas were mistaken as cattle feed by the northern troops during the Civil War. Everything else was destroyed, but black eyed peas were ignored, and became sustenance for confederate troops. This represented luck in its purest form, after all, starvation can claim even the most convicted fighter. Try eating money.

      My soaking black eyed peas remind me of other heavy times, times laden with injustice and oppression such as those during World War II. Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place was written to help us remember what these times looked like for the oppressed. Within the walls of Ravensbruck concentration camp, Betsie ten Boom (the author's sister) due to her unyielding faith, gave thanks for even the fleas infesting her room. It was later discovered the fleas themselves were the reason the Boom sisters and their fellow prisoners where spared from constant inspections and severity from prison guards.

      In this current climate, with a New Year and the presidential inauguration at our door, black eyed peas give me pause. They remind me to be grateful for things I've forgotten. This cheap food, mistaken for animal feed, with enough nutritional and cultural strength to sustain individuals who went through generations of treatment so painful I wish I could turn my head from it, I am reminded to grip my fork, and everything in between, fiercely.

      Looking at what is missing or what is going wrong is easy. Giving thanks in the midst of this is not. But, what makes us a united people? Perhaps eating together, from the same table? We were all born hungry. We all have to eat. There is common ground here.

      It's not the extravagant that keeps us fed.  I am grateful for this. For black eyed peas. For a hope stronger than our bill folds. And yes, even for the fleas.

      Friday, December 23, 2016

      Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

      Soups are a big cold weather favorite over here, and from what I can gather, most everywhere once the season turns brisk. A slab of buttered bread and a steaming bowl of vegetable studded broth, slow braised beef and root vegetables, or a silky puree of roasted winter squashes sees us all the way into spring. Soup also defies the grab-and-go tendency, requiring a table, chair and most often a spoon. This may by why soup is so easy to love. Preparation can be simple to involved, but eating soup always helps us take a quite moment out of our day, it taps us on the shoulder and invites us to come sit.

      Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup:
      *1 large butternut squash
      *4 apples, peeled, quartered, seeds removed
      *1 large sweet onion, peeled and quartered
      *4 celery stalks
      *2 carrots, tops removed
      *4 garlic cloves, peeled
      *4 Tablespoons olive oil
      *about 5-6 cups bone broth, organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
      *4 Tablespoons butter 
      *sea salt
      *black pepper

      Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Split butternut lengthwise and scoop out the pulp and seeds. Quarter and remove outer skin with a knife. Chop into 2 inch cubes and place on baking sheet with the apples, onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season everything with sea salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat in the oil. Bake until all items are tender and fragrant, about 30 minutes. 

      Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer items to a large soup pot and cover with broth adding enough to submerge all the vegetables. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender or (cool slightly) then working in batches, puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Return to soup pot over low heat and add the butter and additional seasonings to taste. Cream can also be added to taste. 

      Portion into bowls. Garnish with plain whole yogurt or sour cream and chives. 

      Friday, October 21, 2016

      Whole Maple Roasted Carrots with Sea Salt and Marigold Petals

      Sometimes the simplest recipes end up being keepers. This one is so basic, it can be thrown together quickly on the shirttails of a busy day, and still carry its own element of being special and thoughtful. So here is an idea to keep in your back pocket the next time a quick side dish is required. Perfect for fall, especially if you still have citrusy marigolds (and carrots) in your garden. 

      Whole Maple Roasted Carrots with Sea Salt and Marigold Petals:
      *4 lbs organic carrots (assorted colors are fun too)
      *olive oil
      *3 Tablespoons maple syrup
      *sea salt
      *Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped 
      *marigold petals from 2-3 marigold flowers 

      Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Rinse and peel carrots, leaving tops if they are in good shape. Divide carrots evenly between baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt. Toss gently to coat carrots evenly. Bake on center and upper rack of oven for 45 minutes (add more or less time depending on thickness of carrots) and roast until thickest part of carrots are tender, alternating racks halfway though. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with additional sea salt. Garnish with chopped parsley and marigold petals. Serve warm.