Friday, December 6, 2013

Soup of the Day: Split Pea with Ham

There is something ultimately comforting and serene about split pea soup. Making it is more an act of meditation than of true recipe, and a spoonful of the creamy green goodness seems to soften the edged of your troubles, letting life's little irritations and jangled nerves recede.
We are expecting some icy weather this weekend, and life has been quite hectic this last fortnight, so I whipped up some split pea soup. I can't wait to serve of some bowls of calming,  creamy delight.
Four quarts organic chicken broth
1 pound ham hocks
8 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 pound ham, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
Black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
2-3 pounds potatoes, chopped
1 pound carrots, chopped
2 pounds split green peas
Simmer the garlic, onion, celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper with the ham hocks and thyme until the onions are transparent. Add the peas and 2 quarts of the broth and bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the peas are creamy.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer another hour or so, until the flavors have married.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Soup of the Day: Minestrone

I usually associate minestrone with summertime, especially July and August, but today as I contemplated what would be the first offering in Soup of the Day, minestrone was on my mind, in my heart, and I couldn't wait to get to it. As the garlic, basil and onion simmered with a few spices, I knew I had made the right choice. Perhaps we just need a quick vitamin C fix, or maybe we need some of the sunshiny goodness that minestrone always brings with it, but in any event, here it is. Slow simmered, aromatic and enticing, filling the house with savory promise.

Wintertime Ingredients
Four boxes (32 ounces each) organic chicken broth
Two cans (28 ounces each) organic diced tomatoes
Two jars (24 ounces each) organic tomato sauce
Two cans (15 ounces each) canelli or other white bean, rinsed and drained< br /> 1/4 c. diced garlic
1 onion, diced
3 Tablespoons leaf oregano, dried
3 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
olive oil
diced celery
chopped vegetables of your choice (frozen is fine, but I would avoid canned): I'm a big fan of carrots, potatoes, broccoli and green beans, but I firmly believe that minestrone is Italian for leftovers, so pretty much whatever needs cooking is going to get thrown in, and be all the better for it.
Two cups elbow macaroni or other pasta

Simmer garlic, onion, celery, oregano, salt, pepper and basil in olive oil until onion is transparent. Stir in broth, sauce and tomatoes and bring to a healthy simmer. Let cook for an hour or so, and then bring to a boil again, adding in the pasta and more black pepper and salt as desired. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes more, stirring frequently. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of cold, fresh milk.

This makes a gallon or so of soup, which is especially helpful for hectic nights as well as big crowds -- it stores well in the freezer, is even better the next day, and freezes like a champ.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lemon Ginger Tea with Honey

It's Flu Season, and the only thing that seems to really make me feel better when I have a bona fide cold is Lemon-Ginger Tea with Honey. Crisp and spicy, deeply warming, soothing and fragrant, a cup of this is an amazing boon at any time, but especially when you feel yourself fighting off the germs of winter.

Grate fresh ginger root into a diffuser (or straight into your mug if you don't have a diffuser handy -- it will still work, but you might get some ginger bits in your tea, which is still fine). Pour boiling water over the ginger. Squeeze some lemon juice into the mug and add a healthy dollop of honey (my favorite these days is thistle honey, but any kind will work, with local being especially beneficial to the immune system). Let steep for a few minutes or longer. Sip.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Roasted Cornish Hen with Vegetables

There is something deliciously celebratory in serving Cornish game hen -- the dish simply looks as though it is an event in its own right. I like game hen better than chicken, since the flavor is much richer, the texture more velvety, and altogether it is a slightly more hedonistic experience. The use of sweet potatoes in this continues to bring a rich, unexpected flavor to the whole thing, while steamed asparagus provides a crisp freshness that is the ultimate counterpoint.

This makes light work of entertaining, and the beauty of hen is that with very little fuss, they serve two people each (one per person if you're being decadent), and you can spend some time soaking in the tub while the hens roast, decompressing before your guests arrive. Goes nicely with a petite syrah, or, even better, with champagne.

Layer in the bottom of the crock:
Sliced Shitake mushrooms
Large slices of onion
Chicken bullion, if desired
Several cloves minced fresh garlic

Nestle on top of the Mushroom Layer:
Two Cornish Game Hens (gibblets and necks removed, brined)
Two or three sweet potatoes, cut into thick slices
Three or four carrots, cut into inch-long pieces

Sprinkle oregano, salt and pepper over the whole dish, and add 1/4-1/2 cup water to crock. Cover and cook on high for four hours. Serve with steamed asparagus (or broccoli, or snow peas, or sugar snap peas).

Storing Vegetables without Plastic