Winter came early to New England this year. It was barely December when we had our first snow fall! The new season has given us plenty of days with temperatures in the teens as well as enough snow to keep the ground covered in white. For me, this weather signals that it’s time for soup cooking so my soup pot has been out more than it’s been in the cupboard this past month. One of my favorites is a creamy potato and leek soup made even more tempting by being served with a selection of simple, tempting garnishes. The idea came from Kirsten Bell, a fellow New Englander, who prepared a potato soup with a smorgasbord of trimmings for her own family.
Once I heard about her soup “buffet,” I couldn’t wait to try my own version! The potato and leek soup which follows is a traditional French classic to which I’ve added a little crème fraiche plus half and half for a richer Continue reading
A couple of years ago while in Paris my husband and I met good friends for lunch at Le St Joseph, a small, unpretentious restaurant just outside the city in the town of Garenne-Colombe. It took 45 minutes in a cab to get there, but the restaurant was (as they say in the Michelin Guide) worth a detour. Every dish we sampled on that June day was delicious and creative, but the one I remembered best was a creamy corn soup dotted with drops of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The French don’t often cook with corn so I was even more intrigued by this first course.
Somehow I didn’t get around to trying the soup after returning home. However, when our first local corn appeared in groceries and farmers’ markets this summer, I thought of it, and Continue reading
A few weeks ago in Paris I sampled a delicious leek and potato soup at a Left Bank restaurant called Les Sellae. Although potato soup cooked with leeks is a classic winter offering in France, the inventive chefs had enhanced their version with contemporary touches by finishing the potage with swirls of Taleggio cream plus sprinkles of crispy speck (an Italian deli meat similar to prosciutto) and fresh dill. I tried recreating the soup with good results in Paris, and once home in New England prepared it again with a few tweaks. As I took sips of this hearty, warming soup, I had a Eureka moment when I realized that it would be perfect to serve for The Super Bowl this coming Sunday!
The soup takes about 45 minutes start to finish, and can be prepared a day ahead. I replaced the speck with prosciutto and sautéed the julienned slices several hours ahead. For the Taleggio cream, I simply melted bits of the tangy Italian cheese in simmering cream at serving time.
To round out the menu, add a salad of mixed greens tossed in a lemon and shallot dressing, a warm crispy baguette, and a bowl of pears, grapes, or apples served with your favorite homemade cookies.
Fall has been slow to arrive in New England this year. Throughout September there were many days when temperatures reached the 80s and 90s, and the air conditioning was kept running. My cooking—which included grilled dishes and plenty of salads–was more redolent of summer than autumn. Finally, this past week the weather turned brisk and chilly, signaling the arrival of the new season and the time for me to change my menus. Along with roasting rather than grilling meats, I’ve been making hearty soups like the creamy cauliflower soup featured here today.
When we invited good friends for a kitchen dinner last weekend, I offered, as a first course, bowls of this smooth, ivory-hued potage topped with sautéed cauliflower florets and sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs and parsley. (The fall theme was continued with roast , Continue reading
I think of this time of the year as transitional—not quite the end of summer, but not exactly fall either. Here in New England since September arrived, we’ve seen the thermometer reach a sweltering 90 degrees and just as quickly watched it drop to the chilly 50s. As a cook, the challenge is obvious. What I want is dishes that are just as tempting for those lingering hot, humid days as well as for the cool, crisp ones that hint at autumn.
The following recipe for a creamy tomato soup scented with goat cheese and garnished with tarragon easily bridges both these weather extremes. It can be prepared with the last Continue reading
When I spotted fresh shelled green peas in two of my local supermarkets recently, I was at once reminded of a pea soup I had sampled in Paris late last spring at Le St. Joseph, a restaurant located on the outskirts of the city, but definitely worth the cab ride. When the creamy, celadon green soup arrived at the table, it was garnished with a fine dice of snowy white feta and with crisp, golden mini- croutons. One sip of this delicious, verdant potage, and I was smitten. I polished off the bowl in less than 5 minutes.
Fast forward a year to those fresh peas nestled among the sugar snaps and snow peas at the grocery. I picked up several packages to create a facsimile of the Parisian original. Sautéed leeks and tarragon make fine partners to the peas, which are simmered for a few minutes in stock, and then pureed. Some half-and- half adds a smooth finishing touch, but it is the simple garnishes that truly distinguish this dish. I sliced a block of feta into fine Continue reading
As soon as we arrived home last week, after a long stay in France, I started stocking our empty fridge and cupboards. Several trips to local supermarkets took care of the basics, but it was at our weekly farmers’ market that I found gorgeous summer vegetables, freshly baked loaves of bread, and locally crafted yogurt.
Honest-to-goodness tomatoes, deep red, juicy, and packed with flavor, were the first thing that caught my eye. They would be perfect to use for a summer tomato and chickpea soup—a dish I had created for my new book, Soup Nights.
The tomatoes need only to be chopped and seeded, then simmered slowly with chickpeas in a cumin-scented broth. Lemon, yogurt, and mint all contribute cooling accents to this soup. I used chicken broth for my version, but vegetarians can sub the quick-and-easy vegetable stock recipe that is also included. Continue reading
Panel with Stacy Schiff and Mark Bowden for LitFest at Amherst Colleged Mark Bowden for Litfest
Lunch with our friend and author, Stacy Schiff
Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with Orange
Cream of Celery Root Soup with Celery Leaf Gremolata
Table set for lunch
Last weekend Amherst College hosted a debut literary festival, called LitFest, and invited a roster of notable authors to speak to the college and the community. Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Angela Flournoy, who wrote Turner House, both 2015 National Book Awards finalists in fiction, discussed how they crafted their books. Stacy Schiff, Putlizer prize- winner, and author most recently of The Witches, and Mark Bowden, who wrote Black Hawk Down, shared their experiences writing nonfiction. Since Stacy was a good friend, we invited her for a quick Saturday lunch during the festival.
I knew the meal had to be simple and made in advance, so I chose a soup and salad menu. As the centerpiece I decided on a cream of celery root soup paired with an arugula salad with lemon and shallot dressing. A dark chocolate hazelnut torte ended our lunch.
No, I have not forgotten about you! I have been writing, re-writing, testing and re-testing recipes for my new book, Soup Nights! The first half of the manuscript was due last Thursday at 5 PM. I hit the “send” button at 4:45! I have a breather now until the next half is due on November 15th, so I wanted to share with all of you a favorite recipe from the batch I just sent off. It’s for delicious Creamy Chicken Soup with Autumn Vegetables.
This is comfort food at its best, perfect to serve as the cool days of fall arrive. Like most cream of chicken soups, it is thickened with a little flour, but the similarities end there. An unexpected addition of fresh autumn produce, including diced butternut squash, sliced Brussels sprouts, and Baby Bella mushrooms enhance this special version, while some half and half enriches it.
For the 2 cups of diced chicken called for, you can use leftover roast chicken. Since I am always in a rush, I rely on a good quality purchased rotisserie bird, a big time saver. If you have extra roast turkey, it would be equally good in this soup. Continue reading
Several days ago two young women, both seniors at Amherst College where my husband teaches, emailed that they had some free time the following week to come and cook with me in my kitchen. Stellar students as well as passionate foodies, they had, during their four years of taking rigorous courses at the college, often found extra hours to cook and, of course, to sample recipes with me. This would be the last time before graduation for us to be in the kitchen together, so I picked some special dishes, including a soup with spring peas, mint, and pancetta.
To prepare the dish we made a rich but quickly assembled broth and then added orecchiette (small ear-shaped pasta), fresh peas, snow peas, and chopped bibb lettuce to the simmering liquid. The brodo was garnished with crispy bits of pancetta, fresh mint, and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. From our first sips, we all adorned this soup with its Continue reading