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I don’t think there’s an appetizing way to photograph split pea soup, and if there is, I’m sure I’m not capable of it, so this entry will contain no pictures.

Split Pea Soup

Ingredients

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – enough to coat the bottom of the pan
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 – 3 nice meaty smoked ham hocks, depending on how big they are and how meaty you like your split peas (You can use ham or bacon, but neither of them really compare to smoked ham hocks. If you use bacon, brown it in a separate pan. If you use ham, leave it in big pieces because it will break down during the long cooking time, and then will fall apart into delectable chunks when the soup is done.)
  • 4 – 6 carrots, chopped
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 cups split peas
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 T fresh sage, chopped (if using dried sage, probably just a pinch will do)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Small pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Pour enough olive oil into a large, heavy pot (preferably oven proof) just to coat the bottom.
  3. Add onions and garlic, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and brown over medium or medium-low heat.
  4. When onions and garlic just begin to brown, add ham hocks to pan.
  5. As ham hocks begin to brown on the first side you’ve placed them on, turn and then add carrots.
  6. When carrots are tender, add 1 quart of water and scrape tasty crusty bits off the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the rest of the water, the split peas, thyme, sage, and black and red pepper, and then turn the stove to high and cover to bring to a boil.
  8. After the pot has come to a boil, transfer to oven and cook at 300 for about 4 hours, until the split peas have disintegrated. Stir every so often and if you need more liquid, add some.

NOTE: I believe that the difference between a super delicious soup or stew and a pretty tasty soup or stew is the browning and deglazing process. Even if I want to make something in my crock pot, I always brown my onions, etc. before placing everything in the crock pot. Then I pour some liquid in the pan and scrape up all the yummy crusty bits, and then pour that liquid into the crock pot. This works well when you can’t be home all day to make sure your stove or oven don’t start a fire. Most of the time, though, I prefer to make soups and stews in my Creuset pots so I can brown everything on the stove, add my liquids, and then transfer to the oven. This makes all meats and beans really tender and delicious and gives stews and soups a second-day taste even on the first day, since we all know soups and stews are most delicious when they’re left over.

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OK, folks, I’m back! I’m going to start out slow and post the simplest recipes I can think of that I keep making each week.

Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon

Ingredients

  • Kale (any kind will do – you can use whatever looks best or whatever comes in your veggie box)
  • Lemon (Meyer is the nicest, but any kind will work)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

As you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare your kale: I tear it off of the stalk as I rinse it, and then place it in a dish pan. Sometimes I rinse it again, depending on how dirty it is.

When the water has come to a rolling boil, add salt (about like you would for a pot of pasta) and then put the kale in. I just bring the water back to a boil and then drain the kale in a colander, so basically I guess that is blanching.

Place the hot kale into a large bowl, and then squeeze lemon and drizzle olive oil over the top. Serve warm or cold. The lemon will discolor the kale, which is unfortunate, but it still tastes good.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Until recently, I thought cauliflower was kind of a nothing vegetable that you gave squeamish kids who only eat white food and are afraid of broccoli, but then I learned that it’s actually good for you and it can even be delicious!

Ingredients

  • Cauliflower
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 and place rack on the bottom.

With stem side up, remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower – I use a paring knife and score them, then break them off. Cut about 1/4 of an inch off of the dried up end of the stem. Following the line of the stem, cut the florets off of each side, and then cut the middle part into three “steaks.”

Place cauliflower in a cast iron skillet or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. For best results, make sure your pan is large enough to spread out all of the cauliflower along the bottom so that everyone gets equally brown.

Place skillet or pan in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or so, turning steaks and rotating florets halfway through. Serve warm or eat cold for a healthy snack!

We had our first Chrismukkah meal on Sunday. It was a modified version of the “Viva Hanukkah” meal from this month’s Bon Appetit, and it was DELICIOUS!! There were 6 hearty eaters, and for the first time in my life we had the perfect amount of food (i.e. just enough leftovers to know that nobody went hungry, but not enough to feed us for the entire week). Here’s the menu:

  • Latkes with Ancho Chile Salt
  • Watercress, Cilantro, and Mango Salad with Lime-Chile Dressing
  • Grilled Antelope Steaks with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate-Chile Sauce (Bon Appetit used roast duck breast)
  • Toasted Coconut Souffles with Cranberry Sauce (this recipe was a GIANT FAIL – I followed the directions exactly and it FELL – Shame on you, Bon Appetit! You really should test your recipes before publishing them!)

I find Bon Appetit‘s recipes very difficult to follow. They combine totally separate recipe elements into the same list; they separate the instructions from the ingredient lists; they don’t always test their recipes. What really gets me is that their recipes are not consistent – sometimes they work exactly like they say, and sometimes they don’t, so you never, ever know what you’re going to get – a delicious puree or a fallen souffle. What Bon Appetit really needs to do is pay me to edit and test their recipes 🙂 But I guess I’ll just it for free so that it’s all in one place for when we make this stuff again:

Course #1: Latkes with Ancho Chile Salt and Watercress Salad

Ancho Chile Salt

2 large dried ancho chiles

1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

  • Pull stems out of chiles, and then use scissors to slice them open down length wise.
  • Seed and de-pith the chiles, and then place them in a skillet over medium heat until darker and aromatic, about 2 – 5 minutes per side.
  • Grind finely with kosher salt in a spice mill. We don’t have a spice mill, so we used our blender and it worked fine.

Latkes

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups chopped white onions, divided

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1 large egg

1 Tbsp masa harina, toasted

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

6 Tbsp (or more) vegetable oil for frying

  • Drape smooth kitchen towel over large bowl.
  • Place chopped potatoes and 1 cup onions in food processor and blend until the mixture is very finely ground, scraping sides of bowl often.
  • Scrape mixture into towel.
  • Gather towel tightly around the mixture, and then squeeze out at least one cup of liquid (but if your kitchen assistant has the strength of 20 men, tell him to tone it down a few notches so that the towel doesn’t burst – trust me).
  • Scrape dry mixture into another bowl, and then add egg, masa, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 1/4 tsp coarse salt, and 1 cup onions.
  • Stir until mixture becomes moist and sticks together (the salt will draw out additional moisture, and I am not sure how the starch thing works).
  • Heat 6 Tbsp oil in a large skillet. For each latke, drop 1 rounded tablespoon full of potato mixture into skillet; flatten to 2.5-inch diameter round, and fry until golden brown.
  • Add oil as necessary.
  • Place on drying rack so oil can drain off.

Watercress, Cilantro, Mango, and Chile-Lime Dressing

This idea evolved as we made the meal, so we threw it together at the last minute and forgot to measure, so a lot of it is “to taste.”

2 large bunches watercress

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (minus the 2 Tbsp you used in the latkes)

1 Mango, thinly sliced

Juice of 1 lime

3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 Tbsp chile salt

Additional salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

2 Tbsp assertive red wine vinegar

4 Tbsp grapeseed oil

1 Avocado, sliced

  • Wash and drain watercress, and remove the hard-to-chew stems.
  • Place watercress, cilantro, mango slices, and pepitas in large bowl.
  • Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chile salt all around.
  • Cut the lime in half and move it around in a spiral over the salad, drizzling the delicious juice all around the bowl of greens (and stuff).
  • Drizzle the vinegar and then the oil around the bowl in the same spiral patter you used for the lime.
  • Toss the salad, and then plate it up as shown in the picture (we had a little extra after plating it up for 6, but I just put it on the table and it got eaten).

THE PLATING

  • Place 2 – 3 latkes on each of six plates.
  • Place avocado slices on each plate.
  • Place some watercress salad on each plate.
  • Sprinkle chile salt over everything in an artful manner. Use a flamboyant flourish to remove any chile salt from your fingers. This will impress your guests.

Course #2: Grilled “Speedgoat” Steaks with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

I swear it's not blood! It's the pomegranate chile reduction sauce and it was delicious! Obviously, I need a squeeze bottle for more precise drips and smears.

Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 cups refrigerated pomegranate juice (like Pom)

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

4 large dried California chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 tsp adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo

1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp ground cumin

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Stir sugar and water together in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Increase heat and boil until syrup is a deep amber color, swirling pan occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  • Add juice and broth, stirring constantly (syrup may solidify as you add the juice, but it will melt again when the mixture heats up).
  • Add chiles.
  • Boil until sauce has reduced to about 1 1/2 cups (about 25 minutes).
  • Remove from heat; puree in a tightly covered blender until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  • Transfer to bowl, and mix in adobo sauce, vinegar, and cumin.
  • Season to taste with a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Grilled “Speedgoat” Steaks

My dad acquired some Speedgoat steaks from a friend (well, he called them Antelope steaks – see my brother’s comment below), so I kind of planned this meal around them. I just thought that the strong flavors from the pomegranate reduction sauce would go nicely with big game. You could substitute regular beef steaks, or buffalo, or venison – whatever you have available to you.

3 lbs antelope steaks

Drizzle of olive oil

Coarse kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Finely minced garlic

  • Rub salt, pepper, and garlic onto steaks a couple of hours before grilling them.
  • Drizzle olive oil on steaks.
  • Grill steaks to desired done-ness.

Butternut Squash Puree

So as to avoid any fingertip burning when dissecting the squash and sweet potatoes, the first thing I did in the meal prep was to start cooking those guys. I cooked the squash in the microwave and the sweet potatoes in the oven about 3 or so hours before dinner.

2 3ish pound butternut squash, each pierced several times with a knife

Coarse kosher salt

1 – 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes

1/4 cup butter (I know, I know, not kosher to serve dairy and meat in the same meal, but so delicious – substitute margarine for schmaltz if you want to be all kosher about it)

1/2 tsp ground allspice

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cook squash, one at a time, on high in microwave until very tender, turning once, about 25 minutes per side.
  • Cook sweet potatoes for about 30 minutes, or until quite tender.
  • Let squash and tubers cool, and then remove skins/seeds.
  • Puree in food processor, add allspice, butter, and kosher salt, and then transfer to baking dish.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, heat the puree.

THE PLATING

  • Place some puree on a plate.
  • Place an antelope steak on top and squish the puree with it.
  • Drizzle pomegranate-chile reduction sauce about the plate in an artful way; this will impress your guests.

Dessert

Toasted Coconut Souffles

Like I said, this one was a total flop (literally) – They just looked like ramekins with some stuff at the bottom. Therefore, no picture. Do NOT make these ahead of time, as Bon Appetit suggests. I think the custardy stuff would be OK to make ahead of time if you keep it at room temp, but definitely do NOT add the egg whites ahead of time. Bake immediately after you add those guys. I mean, they were still good, but they were neither light nor fluffy and that made me very sad, especially since I had my suspicions about the recipe, but since I’d never made a souffle before I figured I would follow the recipe for a change. Big mistake!

Sauce

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (about 4 ounces)

3/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail

1/2 cup sugar

  • Bring all ingredients to a boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until berries are soft, about 6 minutes.
  • Pour mixture through strainer set over bowl, pressing on solids to extract liquid.
  • Bon Appetit recommends discarding the solids. I recommend saving them and putting them on your oatmeal in the morning 🙂

Souffles

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk

5 Tbsp sugar, divided, ;lus additional for sprinkling

1 1/2 tsp white rum

3/4 tsp coconut extract

Pinch of salt

5 large egg whites, room temperature

1/3 cup coconut flakes (Bon Appetit suggests using sweetened, but I used unsweetened because I don’t like stuff to be very sweet, and it was delicious), lightly toasted, cooled, and crushed into small flakes

  • Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add flour; whisk until bubbly but not brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add the coconut milk and whisk until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in 2.5 Tbsp sugar, rum, extract, and salt.
  • Transfer to large bowl.
  • Place plastic wrap directly onto surface of mixture and bring to room temp.
  • PREHEAT OVEN TO 375
  • Butter 8 3/4-cup ramekins and coat with sugar.
  • Place cups on rimmed baking sheet.
  • Using electric mixer, beat egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form.
  • Add 1/4 of whites to coconut base and whisk until lightened.
  • Add remaining whites in 2 additions and fold in with rubber spatula.
  • Fold in toasted coconut.
  • Divide mixture among prepared cups; smooth tops.
  • BAKE IMMEDIATELY!!!!
  • Bake souffles until they are puffed and beginning to brown (about 18 minutes).
  • Serve in ramekins with sauce drizzled over the top.
Erica.r.Cipriani@gmail.com

IMG_1717Our butternut vine has found its second wind. I had an idea for a lentil soup with butternut squash in it, and it was so delicious we couldn’t even believe it. I’ve been instructed to use all of our butternuts this way.

VEGETARIAN FRIENDS, of course you can make this without the meats. Just use some olive oil to brown the onions, and then use vegetable broth instead of beef stock. I would not, however, recommend fake bacon. Ever.

Lentil Soup with Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Kale

1 onion, chopped

6 oz bacon, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 package hot Italian sausage, cut in small pieces

4 celery stalks, chopped

1 large butternut squash, peeled, cleaned, and cut in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks

4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped

8 cups low sodium beef broth (preferably home made, from the bones of a cow named Bessie)

1 bunch kale, sliced

8 sage leaves, sliced

1 Tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp pepper

salt, to taste

1 Tbsp paprika

hot pepper flakes, to taste

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 cup dry French green lentils

1/4 cup dry bulgur

  • Place bacon chunks in large heavy bottomed pan on medium heat while you chop up your onion and garlic.
  • Add onion and garlic to pot and cook until bacon has browned and onions start to caramelize, stirring frequently.
  • Add sausage. Either brown the sausage separately ahead of time if you want to drain off the juices, or just add it directly to the pot and cook through, stirring frequently.
  • Add celery at the same time as the sausage, or as soon as you have it chopped. Cook until celery is wilty.
  • Add the butternut chunks, and stir.
  • Add the tomatoes, kale, and then the broth.
  • Add spices, and bring to a boil.
  • When the kale has wilted to make room in the pot for the lentils and bulgur, add them.
  • NOTE: this soup gets better as it sits in the fridge – boy are you in for a treat!
  • **VEGETARIAN FRIENDS, of course you can make this without the meats. Just use some olive oil to brown the onions, and then use vegetable broth instead of beef stock. I would not, however, recommend fake bacon. Ever.
    Yep, that's my new Kitchenaid Mixer in the background! I love her - her name is Lola.

    Yep, that's my new Kitchenaid Mixer in the background! I love her - her name is Lola.

    Well, the time has come. I can no longer deny that peach season is coming to an end. I’m sad about it, but all is not lost – you can make smoothies with those mealy peaches that you can’t bring yourself to snack on because it’s too depressing.

    Aromatic Peach Smoothie

    4 mealy peaches, peeled

    1 cup goat yogurt

    1 Tbsp orange flower water

    1 tsp cardamom

    1/4 tsp vanilla extract

    1/4 tsp almond extract

    milk or water to thin to desired consistency

    • Place first 6 ingredients in blender.
    • Blend.
    • Add enough milk or water to achieve desired consistency.
    • Drink fresh, or refrigerate overnight (it’s better the second day).

    IMG_1641I’ve been working on perfecting this apple pie since I was maybe 10 or 11 years old when I started baking pies. I like a LOT of fruit and very little added sweetness. I’m not a big fan of pastry crusts, so I usually make some sort of crumble crust, and the ingredients vary depending on the fruit I use. I used to use an oil pastry, but recently decided to switch to butter. This one was pretty good, but I still think it should be flakier, so I may have to update this post later as I play with the pastry. I hate soggy crust, so I always pre-bake my crusts to a nice golden brown.

    I have found that the key to a really really delicious pie is the fruit you put into it. The best types of apples to use are either MacIntoshes (available on the West Coast), or Maccoons (available on the East Coast). If either of these are not available, you can use 4 tart and juicy ones like Granny Smiths or Pippins, and 3 Rome Beauties, which are always very mealy, so they absorb the juice from the tart juicy ones. I have found that this is the very best ratio for the most mind blowing apple pie. NEVER, EVER use Fujis. Fujis will fool you because they are so delicious to snack on, but they do NOT soften when you cook them, regardless of how long you cook them. It’s a disaster, so just don’t even try it.

    Good Old Apple Pie

    Pastry

    10-inch glass pie pan

    1.5 cups flour

    3/4 tsp salt

    1/2 cup cold unsalted butter

    3 Tbsp cold water

    • Heat oven to 425.
    • In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt.
    • Cut in butter and mix with a fork or pastry cutter.
    • Add water, 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing between each.
    • Form dough into ball and roll out. (It helps to roll out between two sheets of wax paper.)
    • Place dough in pie pan, with pie weights placed on top. If you don’t have pie weights (I’ve never actually used them, but they seem like a good idea), then you can place a layer of foil on top of the crust, and then either dry beans or rice on top of that.
    • Bake for 12 minutes at 425.

    FillingIMG_1623

    7 cups apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (about 7 apples – either all MacIntosh/Maccoon or 4 Pippin/Granny Smith and 3 Rome Beauty)

    1 Tbsp flour

    1 Tbsp sugar

    1 tsp cinnamon

    1/4 tsp cardamom

    1 Tbsp salted butter (dotted around the top of the filling, after you place it in the crust)

    • Thinly slice apples, and place in large bowl.
    • Sprinkle flour, sugar, and spices over apples, and mix to coat apples.
    • Arrange apples in crust. It will look like you have WAY too many apples, but they will shrink later so don’t worry.
    • Dot butter around the top of your stack of apples.

    Crumble ToppingIMG_1626

    1/2 cup salted butter, cold

    1/2 cup dark brown sugar

    1 cup flour

    • Mix butter and brown sugar with a fork.
    • Add flour, and mix with a fork or pastry cutter. Do NOT overmix. Only mix until everything is combined, just long enough to make the mixture crumbly without melting the butter.
    • Sprinkle crumb topping over apples. Since the apples will be stacked so high, you will have to place and guide the crumb topping with both hands so it stays on the apples and not your work surface.
    • Place pie in oven, with rack on bottom 1/3 of oven. Lay a piece of foil over the top of the pie, and place a cookie sheet or large piece of foil below the pie (the way you know it’s done is when the juices start to boil over).
    • Bake 50 minutes and then remove foil from top of pie.
    • Bake 10 more minutes, or until the juices start to bubble and boil over.
    • Best served warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
    The stuff in the back is the peppers and eggplant (no sausage, since I made it as a side dish for the meatloaf)

    The stuff in the back is the peppers and eggplant (no sausage, since I made it as a side dish for the meatloaf)

    This is a delicious versatile side dish without the sausage, or a delicious main dish with the sausage.

    Peppers & Eggplant (& Sausage)

    OPTIONAL: 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, cut in chunks, browned in a large heavy bottomed pan, and then the fat poured off

    2 – 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

    1 onion, sliced

    1/2 tsp salt

    6 cloves garlic, minced

    2 – 4 Japanese eggplants, quartered lengthwise, and then chopped

    3 bell peppers, chopped (yellow, red, and/or orange)

    2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

    1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

    red pepper flakes, to taste

    • OPTIONAL: Cut sausage into chunks, brown in a heavy bottomed pot, remove from pot, and then pour off the oil. (Another option is to leave the sausage juice in the pan and use that to brown the onions. This is a delicious option, but some people just don’t like sausage juice.)
    • Place olive oil in pan, heat over medium high heat, and then add onions and salt.
    • Stir onions occasionally until they get wilty, then add garlic.
    • Continue to stir occasionally as onions and garlic caramelize.
    • Add eggplant and peppers, stir, and cover mixture.
    • Let the nightshades cook for about 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
    • Add the parsley, pepper, red pepper flakes, and sausage, and cook uncovered for about another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
    • When the nightshades have reached the desired tenderness, serve with some nice crusty french bread, or over polenta.