Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nuts to Soup | Roasted Chestnut Soup with Thyme Cream

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I never imagined that I'd be making soup from nuts -- I always thought of nuts as an additive, a very nice additive, but not the main part of anything, except for snacking. (And maybe my favorite pistachio ice cream.) But I've learned that chestnut soup is a very traditional fall soup, and a staple at many a Thanksgiving table.

It's a great soup.  It's rich, smooth and creamy, without cream. It gets its richness straight from the sweet chestnuts, which, I also learned is low in calories and has all kinds of other good things going for them, like they're the only nut that has Vitamin C. And they're gluten-free.

The only bad thing I can say about this recipe is that roasting and peeling the nuts is a bit of a chore. But it's worth the effort and certainly can be done ahead of time.

We're lucky to have a neighbor who gave us a couple chestnut tree saplings that finally bore fruit last year.  This was not a good year for our own trees but our neighbor still shared some of his.

The original recipe called for bottled chestnuts, which I've never even looked for in a store.  But at this time of year, chestnuts show up in many produce departments.

I  first posted this recipe about a year ago when I guest posted at Eat Yourself Skinny.  And I realized I never posted it here. So here you go . . . .

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Roasted Chestnut Soup with Thyme Cream
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 10 servings

3 cups whole roasted (or bottled) chestnuts
2 cups chopped yellow onion
3/4 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
5/8 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry (optional)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the chestnuts.  Cut an X in the bottom of each chestnut. Place chestnuts on a jelly-roll pan and bake for 15 minutes.  Place chestnuts in large bowl and cool to room temperature. When cool enough to handle, peel the shells from the chestnuts.  (If you can find bottled or vacuum packed chestnuts, no need for this step!)

Prepare the puree.  Combine onion, carrot and oil on same jelly-roll pain.  Toss to coat the vegetables.  Bake for 1/2 hour or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Add the chestnuts in bowl and stir in broth.  Pour half the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour the pureed mixture into a large pot.  Repeat procedure with remaining broth mixture.  Or, if you're lucky enough to have an immersion blender, put everything into the large pot and puree it all at once in the pot.  Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Place pot over medium high heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add the sherry, if you like.

Prepare the whipped cream.  Place cream in medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form.

Serve.  Ladle soup into bowls and top serving with about a teaspoon of whipped cream.  Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sweet and Tart Cabbage Stew with Kielbasi

Cabbage gets a pretty bad rap, in my humble opinion.  It's often relegated to a back seat or it's dressed in a some kind of soupy disguise. Sometimes it's just filler. I admit it doesn't smell great when it's cooking, but its healthy attributes overshadow that one minor flaw.

But it's the star in a couple of my favorite comfort foods, stuffed cabbage and New England boiled dinner. And I love cole slaw, as long as it's not dripping in mayonnaise.  And Mr. Rosemary loves his pork and sauerkraut. 

Cabbage is a great veg in its own right.  It's high in Vitamin C, even higher than oranges! And loaded with roughage, and sulphur. It rivals kale for being a power food.

My sister gave me this recipe. She's a great recipe source; I know to trust her. She clipped this from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (I still clip recipes from newspapers, too. Do you?) The article said it came from The Splendid Table, but she couldn't find it on the website. She knows that I always try to credit the source here.

Although I knew Mr. Rosemary would like this dish, he would only view it as a side. There has to be meat somewhere for it to be a real meal.  So I added kielbasi. I cooked the kielbasi separately, browning it then adding about  a 1/2 cup of apple juice and deglazed the pan.

There's a lot of spice in this recipe; don't be tempted to cut back.

Sweet and Tart Cabbage Stew with Kielbasi
Adapted from a March 2010 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article and from “The Splendid Table Weeknight Kitchen Newsletter” 
Makes four generous servings
extra virgin olive oil
3 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small (about 1 ¼ lb.) green cabbage, thinly sliced
2 medium to large onions, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 generous teaspoon each ground coriander and ground ginger
2 tablespoons each sweet paprika and dried basil
2 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
1/3 cup vinegar (red wine or cider vinegar)
1 cup vegetable broth or water
14 ounce can whole tomatoes
Water, as needed
1 pound kielbasi, sliced and sauteeed in a separate pan

Film the bottom of a straight-sided 12” saute pan with oil and set it over medium-high heat.  Once it is hot, add the carrots, cabbage and onions.  Sprinkle them with the salt and pepper and sauté the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring them often, or until they’re browning.  This is where the stew’s depth comes from. Stir in the garlic, the spices and sugar.  Cook until the spices are fragrant, but no more than a minute.

Pour the vinegar into the pan and boil it down as you scrape up any brown glaze from the bottom of the pan. When there is no liquid left, stir in the broth or water, and the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pan.  The vegetables should be barely covered with liquid.  Add a little water if necessary.

Bring the liquid to a gently simmer, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes (check often for sticking) or until the carrots are barely tender.  Uncover the pan and turn up the heat so the liquid is at a fast bubble.  Cook off excess liquid, stirring the stew often to protect the vegetables from burning.  You want the sauce to be thick and rich tasting with a sweet-tart balance.  Add more sugar, vinegar, salt and/or pepper, as needed.
Add the cooked kielbasi.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ketchup and Mustard for Fall | Tomato Bacon Jam and Shasha Sauce

A local radio station says, "Summer ain't over till we say it's over!"  Same goes for my garden.The leaves are turning, the days are shorter, the air is brisker, but the garden was still churning out a few tomatoes and peppers.

But all the tomatoes and peppers have been sauced, pureed, chopped, jarred, jellied, frozen or consumed. Just a few stragglers were left. These last few tomatoes and peppers needed to get dressed for fall. So instead of summer's ketchup and mustard they became tomato bacon jam and shasha sauce.

Don't get me wrong: There's absolutely nothing wrong with ketchup and mustard.  There's nothing more All American than squirting good gobs of the yellow and red stuff on a hot dog grilled on an open fire.

But come fall, it's time to warm things up.  Both these sauces are great condiments and very versatile  They can dress up a hot dog or hamburger -- or a steak. They can be spread on a sandwich or toast or be part of a crudite platter.

Side by side, they're a great pair of hot and sweet.  The mustardy shasha sauce is very hot, especially when I used the last of the serrano peppers as part of the mix along with jalapeno and bell peppers. And the tomato bacon jam is smoky and spicy.  Just like fall.

I first learned of the shasha sauce reading Pass the Sauce.  This saucy blogger was inspired by Michael Symon's recipe. So mine is a combination. Both recipes used Hungarian banana peppers, one canned, one fresh. I just used the variety of "leftover" peppers from the garden, including my serranos and some banana peppers.

The tomato bacon jam came from sister. Sorta. It's actually a misnomer because the recipe she gave me included apples and was meant to be served with feta on crostini. (Although she confessed to me that she subbed bleu cheese.) But crostini-with-tomato-and-bacon-and-onion-and-apple-jam-with-feta is a mouthful, a pretty tasty mouthful. Anyhow, what doesn't bacon make better?  (Maybe bleu cheese.)

The recipe my sister gave me also included apples and used canned tomatoes, but since I had the tomatoes (and no apples) this is what I came up with.

Before the recipes, let me share with you a couple pictures of the garden's guardians this summer.

My neighbor shared my garden this year with me and fashioned these great scarecrows. They must have done the trick because, although we had a very dry summer, we still had a pretty good bounty.

They're stored away in the barn now, in hibernation before they have to go on duty again next spring.

Now that I've made you look at my scarecrows, here are the recipes . . . .

ShaSha Sauce
inspired by Pass the Sauce, inspired by Michael Symon
12 fresh Hungarian peppers or a jar of banana peppers (or, like I did, their rough equivalent in volume!)
4 cloves garlic
1 cup yellow ballpark mustard
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour (optional)
Process peppers with the garlic, mustard and vinegar until pureed.  Add puree to a hot saucepan and add in sugar. Simmer 30 minutes.  Add a slurry of flour and water to thicken if desired. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so. When cool, pour into glass jars and store in the refrigerator up to a month.

Tomato Bacon Jam
inspired by my sister and from Better Homes and Gardens, September 2010
½ pound smoked bacon
about dozen (1 1/2 pounds) tomatoes, mixed variety, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is just browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain excess fat.  Crumble or cut into small pieces. 

In a large saucepan, cook the chopped tomatoes on medium heat until they're softened and their liquid cooks down, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.  Add the, sugar, onion, vinegar, salt, pepper and bacon.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring often for 12 minutes or until most of the liquid is reduced. Store in fridge up to a week.