Pages

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Asparagus, Leek, and Fennel Soup

I had to try this as soon as I saw it since it is asparagus season in the garden. I am going to post it quickly, too, for the same reason. Although the soup has other vegetables, asparagus is the star. This soup can be vegan if you use vegetable stock and skip the creme fraiche. It is quick, creamy, and beautiful but might need the accompaniment of some bread and a salad to make it a full meal.

Let me encourage people to grow French tarragon (make sure you don't buy a Russian tarragon seeding which is completely different in flavor). This plant is a perennial down to zone 5 and can be wintered in a garage for lower zones. It is easy to grown in pots as well as in the garden. I love having one right next to my back door and often grab a bite as I pass by. Yum.


print

Asparagus, Leek, and Fennel Soup


Adapted from:  Serious Eats
Serves: 4 if it is the main dish or 6 if it is a side

2 T oil
1 large leek, white and pale green portions, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (save some of the fronds for garnishing)
salt
2 T all-purpose flour
4 c chicken or vegetable stock
2 pds asparagus, trimmed and cut in 1 1/2-in pieces
1 small handful minced fresh French tarragon leaves (plus a little more for garnishing)
2 T fresh lemon juice
creme fraiche thinned with some cream or milk, optional
pepper

Heat the oil in a 4- qt saute pan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Scoop the leek and fennel into the pot and stir in a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the flour and stir while cooking until it is incorporated, about half a minute. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. 

Add the tarragon and asparagus, reserving a about 8 spears. Return to a simmer and cook 6-8 minutes until the asparagus is tender. Add the lemon juice. Place the spears in a small bowl with a tablespoon or two of water and microwave for 1 minute. Remove from the bowl, drain, and cut each spear in half.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a countertop blender. You can blend it very smooth or a bit chunky if you like. Taste the soup and season with pepper and more salt if needed. Serve, garnishing with creme fraiche (if you are using), tarragon leaves, and fennel fronds. You may also drizzle a bit of olive oil over all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Skillet Chicken with Spring Vegetables

Here is another fast recipe from Cook's Country that will help you take advantage of asparagus season.




print

Skillet Chicken with Spring Vegetables


Source: Cook's Country

3 lbs bone-in chicken pieces, of your choice, trimmed
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c dry white wine (I used vermouth)
1 T minced fresh tarragon, divided (or 1 teas dried tarragon)
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut on bias into 2-inch lengths
1 c frozen peas
2 T unsalted butter
2 T minced fresh chives

Heat oven to 475F. Heat oil in 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Season the chicken with salt and pepper while the oil is heating, then cook the chicken skin side down until well browned, 6-10 minutes. Flip and cook on other side until lightly browned, approximately 2 minutes.

Add broth, wine, and half of the tarragon. Then move the pan to the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the breasts reach 160F and drumsticks/thighs reach 175F. Transfer chicken to a platter (or a casserole baking dish) and tent with foil.

While the chicken is in the oven, microwave the asparagus in a covered bowl until just tender, about 3 minutes. After the chicken is on the platter, place the skillet back on medium-high heat (be sure to use a hot pad to handle the skillet!) and bring the sauce to a boil. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add peas and asparagus and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Off heat whisk in butter, chives, and remaining tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. Pour vegetables and sauce over chicken, then serve.

Quick Beef and Vegetable Soup

Is it too late for soup? Maybe. But this would work well on a coldish spring day, as well as a really cold day in the winter. I love it because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand, and because it reminds of my grandmother's beef, vegetable, and barley soup I ate frequently as a child and teenager.



print

Quick Beef and Vegetable Soup


Source: Cook's Country

1 lb 90% lean ground beef (I have used 80% lean and it is greasier, but not inedible)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teas dried oregano
salt and pepper
4 c beef broth (or chicken broth, if you don't have any beef)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
8 oz Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (red potatoes would also work)
6 oz green beans, trimmed and cut on bias into 1-inch lengths
2 T chopped fresh parsley, optional

In a Dutch oven, cook beef, onion, carrots, oregano, 1 teas salt, and 1/2 teas pepper over medium-high heat. Use a spoon or spatula to break up the beef until no longer pink. Add broth, tomatoes and their juice, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, 10-12 minutes.

Add green beans and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and soup has thickened slightly, 12-14 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkled with parsley.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Savory Sour Cherry Sauce

Last summer my friend, Diane, had a pie cherry tree loaded with fruit. She kindly let me pick some and I ended up with enough for jam and a couple of quart bags of cherries in the freezer. I've made the sauce with fresh and frozen cherries and they performed equally well. This can be used on pork (as in the recipe below), sliced ham, or baked or sauteed chicken. It is rather hardy so it seems more like a winter dish, but if you eat "seasonally" it can be a summer meal, too.



print

Savory Sour Cherry Sauce


Adapted from: Epicurious.com
Serves: 6-8

3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T sugar
3/4 c dry red wine
1/4 c minced shallot
1 3-in cinnamon stick
1 c chicken broth
1 pound sour cherries (about 3 cups), pitted (frozen sour cherries are fine, too)
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 1 T cold water
2 teas fresh lime juice, or to taste
salt and pepper
6-8 thick pork chops (country style ribs, pork roast or tenderloin would be good, too)

Boil the vinegar and sugar over moderate heat in a heavy saucepan until the mixture has thickened into a glaze. Add the shallot, wine, and cinnamon stick; bring to a boil and cook until the mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Stir in the cherries and the broth and allow the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir the cornstarch mixture and add it to the sauce. Stir as the sauce thickens and simmer for 2 minutes. If you want it to be thinner, add water by tablespoon until you achieve desired thickness. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the sauce and keep it warm.

Here's how to prepare pork chops to eat with cherry sauce:

Brine pork chops for an hour in a mixture of 1 1/2 quarts water and 3 T table salt. With paper towels, pat the chops dry and season with pepper. Grill the chops over heated coals or a preheated gas grill for about 6-8 minutes on each side or until they are cooked to your preference. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow juices to be reabsorbed. 

Serve the chops passing the cherry sauce at the table.