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Parsnip and Apple Soup

This was something I had made with the intention of posting it back in January as part of the Dark Days challenge.  The challenge host got exceptionally busy, so the challenge died.  Clearly, I wasn’t going to be keeping up with it anyway, so while I’ll miss the fun in participating, I also completely understand that life sometimes gets in the way.

But, this soup reminds me of all that I loved about the challenge.  Throwing together a meal of entirely local ingredients is a true challenge, even in this part of the country.  It takes planning and creativity, but it pushes you to cook things you wouldn’t ordinarily.  Like this soup.  Probably not something I would have made if I had my whole pantry and everything in the grocery store available to me.  But, it is absolutely delicious.

It’s relatively simply, hearty, and great for a cold winter’s day.  I topped mine with crumbled bits of Marin Sun Farms pancetta and served it up with a crisp Sonoma rose.  Absolutely delightful.

I took a lot of liberties with the original to work within my local parameters.  It’s a simple recipe and lends itself well to tinkering.

Apple and Parsnip Soup
Inspired by the The Kitchn

3 Granny Smith apples (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and cored, and diced into small pieces
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
About 1-1/4 pounds medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
1-2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of thyme, tied
5-6 cups liquid (recipe recommends chicken broth, I just used water and had no problem)
1/4 cup or so of cream or half and half

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until they start to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add parsnips and sauté for three more minutes. Add the apple pieces and saute for a few more minutes.

Add the broth or water, the bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil. If you are using water, not broth, add some salt in there before you bring it to a boil – probably a tablespoon or so, maybe a bit less. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.

Allow the soup to cool slightly. Fish out the herbs.  Purée until smooth, either by working in batches in blender or using a hand blender, thinning with more broth/water by half-cupfuls as desired.  Taste it – if the parsnips are really strong, you might need a dab of honey in there.  Return soup to pot and bring to simmer.  Remove from heat and whisk in the cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The original recipe recommends serving it with some sauteed, diced apples.  A commenter suggested crushed marcona almonds, which sounds lovely.  But, I have to say, completely perfect with some crumbled fried pancetta on top.

 

Romanesco Pizza

This weird looking thing is romanesco and it’s awesome.  I’m not a huge broccoli or cauliflower fan, but this is their more delicious sibling.  Plus, it’s probably the only nuclear green food without artificial ingredients.  I’ve only recently started cooking with it, and now can’t stop.  Mostly I’ve been roasting it, but it was fabulous in some roasted garlic aioli during the Super Bowl, and it’s really good on this pizza.

Romanesco Pizza a la Arugulove

Ingredients
1 pizza dough (this is my latest favorite recipe)
a couple heads of romanesco, broken up into florets
1 lemon, zested and juiced
a couple leeks, washed and thinly sliced
A bunch of kalamata olives, pitted and diced (I probably used about 1/3 of a cup before chopping)
A tablespoon or two of capers, chopped up a bit, if you can
A handful of fresh parsley, minced
4 ounces of goat cheese
Olive oil, salt & pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450.  Toss the romanesco in olive oil and salt and pepper and roast for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat up some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the leeks, and saute until soft, about 7-10 minutes.  Towards the end, add the lemon juice, and simmer until cooked off.  Place the olives, capers, and parsley in a bowl.  When the leeks are done, add those and mix together.  Spread out on the pizza dough.

At this point, I was tempted to bake and eat just like this.  I may do it too, for my next party.

But, this time, I persevered.  I pulled the romanesco out and spread it on the pizza.  Add the crumbled goat cheese and the lemon zest.  Stick it back in the oven and bake for another 12 minutes or so.  Pull out and enjoy with a glass of crisp rose or sauvignon blanc.

I have seen both Martha Stewart and Jamie Oliver make white crudite platters.  And they looked soooo beautiful.  Even Jamie’s, who’s food usually looks delicious, but well, not like Martha’s, to say the least.  So, I wanted to do that.  Either they have whiter vegetables than me, or they were photographed through some magic whitening lens because this is not white.    So, this is my shades of beige crudite platter.

The vegetables are endives, steamed potatoes, radish, and carrots.  The white (ish) carrots and radishes were procured by my amazing husband, who went to Berkeley Bowl and searched for the best white vegetables he could possible find, just for me.  Totally made my day that he came back with awesome stuff and not boring old cauliflower.   The potatoes were inspired by a friend of mine, who served steamed potatoes and siracha aioli at her housewarming, and it was so delicious.  But since siracha aioli is not white, I did not make it.  Instead, I made roasted garlic aioli.

Roasted Garlic Aioli
Recipe from the this website, reprinted from the Mustards: Napa Valley Cookbook by Ciny Pawlcyn.

Ingredients
1 large head garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Cut a thin slice off the very top of the head of garlic to expose the tops of all the cloves. Set the garlic head in a shallow baking dish. Pour the oil slowly over and into the head. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1-3/4 hours, until the garlic is very soft and tender. Don’t rush it; older garlic may take longer. Drain and reserve the oil, and set the garlic aside.

When cool, squeeze the pulp out of the roasted garlic into a food processor or blender and add the egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, water, salt, and cayenne pepper. Purée until smooth. With the motor running, add the reserved roasting oil and the additional 1-1/2 cups oil in a slow, steady stream and continue processing until emulsified.

Makes about 2 cups

This was my first time making my own mayo, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was and how delicious it tasted.  I used half the mayo at the party.  The other half went into a potato salad with fingerling potatoes, scallions, and arugula, which was amazing, and a bit on some burgers.

I served these at my New Year’s Eve party.  They were one of those, rare “please please please let this idea in my head work” hail marys that actually turned out exactly as I had imagined.  A Festivus Miracle indeed.

I don’t have a recipe, but I can tell you they were easier than they looked.  First, I cut a butternut squash in half, oiled it, and roasted it in the oven until it was soft.  Scraped out the insides and threw it in the food processor.

To make the polenta, I heated 2 cups of whole milk,  1 cup of water, and about 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and added 1 cup of polenta over medium heat.  I whisked and stirred for a good ten minutes, then added about a 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash puree to the mix, as well as a good heaping teaspoon of salt.  Stir until it starts to get firm and the corn tastes cooked.

Pour the mixture into an oiled 9X13 pan and refrigerate over night.  The next day, I heated an oven to 350 and baked it for a good 30 minutes or so, until the top began to brown.  Let it cool, then cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.

To make the pesto, I cut a small chunk of parmesan cheese (probably about 1-2 ounces) and 5 or 6 large sage leaves and pounded the hell out of them in a mortar and pestle.  Add a bunch of salt and pepper and about 1 1/2 cups of walnuts.  Pound away until you reach the desired consistency and taste.  If it’s too sagey, add more walnuts.  If it’s not sage-y enough, mince some and add it in.  It’s really trial and error here.  Once the balance is right, mix in some olive oil until it gets to a pesto consistency.

To serve, dollop the pesto and a bit of mascarpone cheese on each square.  Surprisingly, they still looked and tasted fine well past midnight, so you can make these a bit in advance and serve at room temperature without a problem.

When we got married, we had the most adorable woman catering our wedding.  She was hilarious and so sweet.  In one of our conversations, she started talking about Tyler Florence, and referred to him as “a little slice of heaven.”  A couple weeks ago, I caught an episode of his, and he made a salad that looked just incredible.  I mentally added those ingredients to my next farmers market list, determined to make it.  And when I did, OMG.  If it’s possible for a salad to be a little slice of heaven, well, this is it.

Like most recipes anywhere, but especially for salads, the original is way too complicated.  I skipped a lot of steps and ingredients.  It was still delicious.   The basics are beets, greens, and toasted bread.   The ingredients all taste good together, and none are so delicate as to be overpowered by the others.  So, just play around with proportions and just work with what ingredients you have.  Because this was my dark days meal, I skipped a few things (goat cheese, balsamic vinegar) that wouldn’t have been local, and nothing was missed.

Winter Panzanella Salad
adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients
Beets
Greens (recipe recommended arugula, I used baby chard.  Radicchio would probably be amazing.)
Pancetta
Italian bread, cut into crouton size pieces
Dates
Orange
Honey
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

Spread the bread on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and bake on 350 until they start to become dry and crispy, like croutons, about 10-15 minutes, depending on how big your cubes are.  When they are done, add to a large salad bowl.

Scrub the beets and cut them in half.  Cut the shallots in half.  Place on some tin foil, drizzle with oil, and wrap up.  Roast in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes or until the beets turn soft (mine took about 40 minutes).

When the beets are done, pour off the juices into a bowl (this is why you should wash the beets first).  Peel the beets and cut in to 1 inch chunks and put in a large salad bowl with the bread.  Mash up the shallots and add those to the roasted beet liquid.

Pit the dates and chop them into smaller chunks.  Add to the beets and bread.  Chop of the salad greens if needed and add those to that mixture.

Juice the orange or whatever citrus you have, and add that to the beet liquid.  Add a bit of honey and some vinegar if you’d like.

Dice the pancetta, and cook in a skillet.  When it’s cooked, pour that and the fat into the beet liquid with the citrus and honey.  Whisk together, pour over the salad, and toss.  If you want, add goat cheese.  Blue cheese would be good too.  But even without the cheese, the salad was incredible and made for a super delicious weeknight dinner.

Last weekend, Marin Sun Farms was running a special at their stand at the Ferry Building farmers market – all cuts of meat were buy one, get one free.  If you have ever bought natural, grass fed, pastured, humane meat, you know this is a major deal.  I convinced my husband to get up early and head over.  At 8 am we were there, loading our bags up with meat.  I felt a little guilty walking out of there with what seemed like a half a cow, paying just $66 for it, but we belong to their CSA, and the fact they appreciate their customers enough to offer these great deals just cements my commitment to renew our membership next month.

 While there, we grabbed a bunch of dinner supplies.  My husband fixed up the dinner, so I’m just recording what he did.

With the exception of olive oil, salt and pepper, and an accidental splash of cognac, this was all bought at the Ferry Building last Saturday.  We picked up a couple flat iron steaks and a couple hangar steaks.  They cook the same way. For a steak that’s about 3/4 pound to a pound,  just heat a cast iron skillet until it’s hot, add a bit of olive oil, and cook the steak for 5 minutes on a side for medium rare.  Easy peasy.

To make the sauce, remove the steak from the pan, cover with foil, and let it rest.  Reduce heat to medium, and add a pat of butter and some minced shallot.  Saute for a few, then hit the pan off with something liquid.  My husband, forgetting this was our local meal, used cognac.  Wine or broth would be fine too.  Scrape up all the goodies on the bottom of the pan, then add mushrooms (we used chanterrelles).  Cook for another couple minutes, add a splash of cream, and voila, mushroom cream sauce.

The fingerling potatoes were extra large.  We cut them in half lengthwise, tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper, and stuck in the oven at 400 for a good 40 minutes or so.  They were amazing like this.

The romanesco was prepared in almost the same way.  Separate the florets, toss in olive oil and salt and pepper, and into the oven, right next to the potatoes for about 30 minutes.  I had never had romanesco, but it is so much better than broccoli or cauliflower, so I may be buying ot more often.

To drink, a syrah from Sonoma which we picked up on our trip there in November.  We got it at Amista, which is a lovely little winery, and I highly recommend it.

Twas the night before Christmas, and my husband and I were enjoying the glorious peace and quiet of a holiday alone.  I made a lovely Italian-themed dinner, but before that, we had our own cocktail party.  On the menu, roasted olives and fennel, blue cheese cookies (cut in the shape of stars, to be festive), and negronis.

Roasted Olives and Fennel

I am a huge olive fan.  Love them.  But, there is only one thing better than olives, and that is warm olives.  To make them, I rinsed off a mix of olives from the olive bar at the store.  I then zested an orange and lemon, removing the zest in big chunks, then juiced each of them.  Toss the olives in the juice.  Then, take a fennel bulb (or part of one, depending on how big and how much you like fennel), cut it in strips, and toss that in.  Add a bay leaf and a few cloves of garlic smashed up.  Toss it all together with a drizzle of olive oil.  Preheat the oven and stick them in.  This is not an exact science, so if your oven is already on for something else, that’s fine.  In general, I’d say a good 12-15 minutes or so at 375 or so ought to do the trick.  You want to heat them up, and cook the rawness out of the fennel.  And voila, warm yummy olives.

Negroni

Now on to the drinkies.  I am not a huge cocktail person.  Wine is my vice.  But, I make an exception for these.  They are just lovely.  The Campari is bitter, but it’s cut nicely by the vermouth. Not too sweet, not too harsh, just right. To make one, put one ounce each of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in a shaker with some ice, shake it up, and serve with an orange wedge.  Cheers!

 

 

 

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