With summer just around the corner, our attention is drawn to fresh herbs, greens and veggies, and light quick preparations that highlight their goodness. This little ditty is delicious as a sandwich spread, tossed with whole wheat pasta, as a crudité dip or bruschetta topping, or stirred into some smashed potatoes to make them pop. Heck…serve a dollop along side a juicy grilled steak, piece of fish, or chicken to add a little blast of summer to your plate.
Making this gorgeous treat hardly requires a recipe at all. In fact, crafting homemade potato chips is so easy, and the results so delicious, that once you give ’em a try, I bet you’ll think twice before buying store bought chips again. Really….. still warm from the fryer, and seasoned with a generous sprinkle of salt, they are very hard to beat.
I first pursued making sweet potato fries and chips as a means of getting the kids to take more of a liking to them….um….that would be the sweet potatoes, not the chips and fries. It’s funny, but while they all love potatoes, and adore all things sweet, when you put the two together, not one of them would eat them. I’ve baked them, steamed them, and smashed them, and always the answer was the same….no thanks.
Peyton, home from school the other day, was banging around the kitchen at lunchtime looking for a way to enhance her standard lunch fare, a classic grilled cheese. She was looking for something to elevate the dish to something more befitting the special occasion that is a SNOW DAY. Her first inclination was to make a croque monsiuer (a brilliant idea for a future post), but as we didn’t have any ham in the house, decided instead to whip up some tomato soup as an accompaniment.
The girl was in luck, not only did we have all the ingredients needed to make a delicious tomato soup from scratch, but I had recently stumbled across this recipe and was dying to give it a try. In our studied opinion, there are few things more perfectly matched than a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and a creamy bowl of tomato soup. I don’t know about you, but the combo was one of my favorites as a kid, ranking right up there with a PB&J with potato chips!
This dish came together one afternoon just before the kids went back to school, and was designed with a few different thoughts in mind. First, it is a vegetarian option (well, not quite, it does have chicken stock) that will pass Peyton’s “pescatarian” hurdle, it used some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, cilantro and thyme from our garden, and it qualified as an entry in Food52’s weekly competition for “Red Pepper” recipes.
For those of you new to “Oui, Chef”, Food52 is a fabulous website that I have contributed to over the past year or so. It was founded by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, and acts as a food lover’s portal that brings together terrific and passionate home-cooks to share recipes, and compete in weekly contests where the winners get their recipes published in the Food52 cookbook. I was lucky enough to win one of their first round of competitions, and will get to see one of my recipes published in their 1st cookbook that will come out later this year (click HERE for a look at the winning recipe).
I am THRILLED to tell you all that this recipe for roasted red pepper soup has been chosen as a FINALIST in this week’s competition. The gang is now working on their second book, and with your help, I just may be able to pull-out another win and earn the honor of inclusion in the second annual Food52 cookbook. Please visit the site by clicking this link: Food52, and if you’re not already a member (you really should be), join the fun community and VOTE for my “Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Corn and Cilantro”. Voting closes at 12 AM ET on 9/15/10, so don’t delay and please go NOW to vote. Thanks all….you’re the BEST! 10/4/10 UPDATE: Thanks to all of your support, this recipe won the “Red Pepper” competition and will be featured in the 2011 Food52 Cookbook! Below you can see a video of Amanda and Merrill making the soup.
Imagine my surprise when my lovely wife returned home from an appointment last week with a bag full of the most beautiful asparagus I’d ever seen. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the stalks were enormous, nice and thick and long enough to stretch from the crook of my elbow to the tip of my fingers. Interestingly, the cut ends were wrapped in wet paper towels….these were no ordinary spears bought from a store, but rather cut fresh from a friend’s private stash that very morning (insert hallelujah chorus here).
That night, I roasted then briefly and served them with an orange hollandaise sauce, they were sublime.
Until very recently, whenever I’d pass the cauliflower display in my local market, I’d mumble to myself….”what the #$%^ do people do with cauliflower anyway?” I mean, I’m a cook with fairly well rounded tastes, comfortable cooking and eating just about anything, but for some reason, I have avoided, ignored, and dismissed cauliflower for years. It could be that I never remember having it as a kid, it just wasn’t a part of my mom’s cooking routine, and therefore I never developed a taste for it when I was young. It could be that the few times I’ve had it served to me and actually liked it, it was either deep fried, or drowning in a cheese sauce, and as much as I’m a fan of cheese and ANYTHING fried, to me, that whole route seems to defeat the purpose of eating vegetables in the first place.
As a child, there were very few vegetables that I really liked at all. In fact, the list was dismally short, and included just peas and beets….it’s a miracle I lived past the age of ten on such a “vegetables prohibited” diet. What do these two lovelies have in common you might ask? Certainly not their size or color, nor their botanical specifics, the green pea being technically a seed, the beet a root vegetable. What they do have in common is their relatively high concentration of natural sugars that make them among the sweetest “vegetables” around, and a certain hit with almost all kids. Nature’s candy, I like to call them.
This dish is layered with great flavors, none of which are so strong to offend the average kidlet, and yet are sophisticated enough to appeal to the stuffiest gourmand. The whole shebang can quite easily be prepared by most kids all by themselves. Roasting the beets does take a bit of time, so plan accordingly, but the balance of the dish can be prepped in just a few minutes.
For those of you pulling your hair out over the complexity and time required to pull together the recipes of some of our recent posts, like Bouchon’s Quiche Lorraine or my Chicken Pot Pie, here is a delicious and simple side dish that you can put on the table tonight in about 20 minutes.
I have always been enchanted by the promise of couscous, a fine grained pasta that only takes about 5 minutes to cook, but to be honest, I’ve often found the recipes I’ve tried to be bland, dry and altogether forgettable. Couscous really well done can be a delight, when it is not, it can be like eating a bowl of sand. I don’t know about you, but my kids stopped eating sand a couple of years ago, and I’ve no interest in getting them hooked all over again, it was a hard habit for them to break.
My wife inspired the creation of this recipe by asking that I deconstruct a squash and sage ravioli dish that she had recently enjoyed. The resulting course is a deliciously simple, yet richly flavored dish that would be equally at home served with a braised lamb shank, or a simply prepared fish filet. I made the dish with a small grained couscous, but I’m sure it would work as well with the larger, “Israeli” variety.
I hope you enjoy it.
- 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 15 medium sized, fresh sage leaves, thickly sliced
- 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup couscous, cooked to the producers instructions, and kept covered and warm.
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts, lightly toasted in a skillet.
- 2 cups 1/2” x 1/2” cubes of butternut squash.
- Fresh parmesan cheese for grating.
- Peel, seed, and cube the squash, steam for 8-10 minutes, until just cooked through, remove from heat and reserve.
- Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat until the milk solids turn a lovely golden brown (see the brown flecks on the couscous in the photo above? That's what your looking for, and it is key to the success of this dish). When that happens, and with the butter still on the heat, add the chicken stock, sliced sage, and the freshly grated nutmeg (I used about an 1/8 teaspoon, use more or less as you wish). Cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened and reduced to about 1/3 cup, remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm.
- To serve, fluff the cooked couscous with a fork, and toss it into the pan with the sauce. Add the cubed squash and chopped walnuts, stir to incorporate and reheat gently if required. Make a final check for seasoning and serve with a light dusting of freshly gated parmesan.
I can’t think of a vegetable that I disliked more as a kid than brussel sprouts. I mean, what was mother nature thinking when she dreamed up those nasty little things, huh? Thankfully, my mom didn’t cook them often, so it was rare that I had to feign having contracted the ebola virus, and excuse myself from the table to avoid eating the dreaded buggers.
Sadly, my kids feel the same way about brussel sprouts as I did as a youngster, and now that I have come to love them, I’ve found myself working overtime to come up with a recipe that would make the little cabbages more appealing to the kids. After a few false starts, I think I’ve done it. In fact, not that he would ever admit it, but I saw Grid head back to the kitchen for seconds of these the other night….Eureka!
This is a favorite recipe from Epicurious.com that I have cooked for years. Each Fall when butternut squash are abundant, I make a huge batch of this soup and freeze about a half-dozen gallon sized ziploks of the stuff to get us through the Winter. The recipe calls for a little cream which can certainly be eliminated if you are trying to watch such things. When I make this, I do not add the cream prior to freezing, but will swirl a bit into the soup after it has thawed and been reheated. This allows me to serve some without if someone requests it that way. The drizzle of cider cream on top at service is a delicious touch, one I recommend you NOT skip unless you really must.
This year I got my squash from my guitar teacher, who, much to his surprise, found a bevy of the beauties growing out of his compost pile behind his garage! How cool is that?