I didn’t mean to do it, but you can see the steam billowing away from this hot Fennel-Leek Soup with Walnut Pesto. Hearty without being heavy, this is a lovely light lunch with toasted baguette and cheese..
|Left: Roquefort Right: Aged Provolone|
or a lemony start to a special dinner. Simple pictures are often best and this is no exception. The soup pot ingredients are mostly fresh fennel, sliced leeks, chicken stock, and lemon juice–cooked up in about twenty minutes until the vegetables are just barely tender. The only complexity involved, and it isn’t much, is a gremolata-like pesto made in the food processor using today’s power food, walnuts, along with lemon and parsley. Traditional gremolata contains garlic, but I tossed that in the soup pot intead, so have named the topping a pesto. You can call it what you like; I also call it good.
As walnuts are the nut grown where I live in Minnesota (there’s a black walnut tree right down the street), I was happy to blog about them today! Not only are they locally sourced and extra-heart-healthy goodies, they also improve brain function and are full of anti-oxidants. A good source of easy-to-carry protein, walnuts weigh in at about 185 calories per ounce (about 14 walnut halves.) While we think of walnut oil as special salad oil, in France, at least, it was in years past used in lamps for light along with candles. I happen to be reading a book just this week From Here, You Can’t See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and its Restaurant, by Michael S. Sanders. Just at the point were I stopped, a local duck farmer was explaining about walnut oil to the author, as many local gardens featured walnut trees and some farms still had walnut groves:
(100 years ago)… And of course they force-fed geese, mostly for the fat, rather than for the meat. FOR THE FAT! Not for using in preservation, because pork fat is better than goose for that, but for cooking! And the walnut oil, they burned in little lamps, a shallow dish with a wick suspended above — you see them in all the antique shops now — les calèmes. They had walnut oil, back then, for lights. Oh, people make such a big cheese of the walnut oil now, eh? But it’s not that good, it goes rancid fast, and back then it was used almost entirely for lighting. They had no petroleum yet, that was the next thing to come. So they burned walnut oil or candles.
Three things: walnut oil was and is probably used for a lot of things, but it isn’t terribly useful for cooking per se as it’s heat-sensitive and burns easily. Also, it does become rancid easily, so buy small quantities and store the oil in the refrigerator. I have always stored walnuts in the freezer (up to a year); they keep only about a month on the pantry shelf. Let them come to room temperature before using for baking.
|Learn more about walnut here, but first make the soup!|
|The pesto ready to be made in the food processor.|
4 generous main-course servings
6 small first course servings
Cook’s Note: While the soup cooks, make the pesto, and have it ready at the table. This soup is easily vegan if vegetable broth is used instead of chicken stock. Without the toasted cheese accompaniment, it’s also gluten-free.
for the soup:
- 1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
- Pinch aleppo pepper (can substitute crushed red pepper), optional
- 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and sliced thinly
- 6 leeks, white and light green parts only, well cleaned, and sliced thinly
- 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 celery stalk, minced
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1-2 drops hot sauce, optional
- Juice of 1/2 lemon–or to taste (you need to grate the peel for the pesto-do that first!)
for the walnut pesto:
- 1/4 cup each fresh parsley and walnut pieces-whole or in pieces
- grated peel from 1/2 lemon
- In a 6 quart soup pot, heat the oil and butter with the pepper over medium heat. Add the fennel, the leeks, carrot, celery, parsley, herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir, cover and cook about ten minutes, stirring once or twice; turn heat down if browning too quickly.
- Add the garlic, stir, and cook two minutes. Pour in the stock and the white wine. Season with hot sauce, if desired. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let cook another ten minutes or so until all vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, make the pesto by placing all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or hand chopper and pulsing until finely ground like fresh breadcrumbs. Place in a small serving bowl with a tiny spoon at the table.
- When vegetables are tender, purée soup using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor or blender. Squeeze in about half of the lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding the rest of the lemon juice if you like it. I liked just a little more salt–this will depend on how salty your stock was. Serve hot with a small spoonful or two of the walnut pesto.
Disclaimer: For vegan and gluten-free options, please check all ingredients in your own kitchen as some ingredients are available with different options from different manufacturers. As always, check with your dietician with questions.
… … … … … … …
38 Power Foods is a group effort! Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available.
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
All sites may not blog power foods every week.
Are you a food blogger? Join us!
- We’d like to have you as part of the group. Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits: Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com
Sing a new song,
|All together: Annual Lilac-Bloom Dinner last Friday at our house.|
|Newman came for the occasion.|
|Gabby’s always happy with guests!|
Sing a new song, get outside,
how easy is that?
|Ina’s Roasted Shrimp with Feta from her 2010 book, How Easy is That? served with salad.|
If I’m home in the afternoon, no one has to ask where I’ve disappeared to around 3. I’m watching Ina, of course. I’ll admit that portions of the Food Network are not for me; I switch them off or tune them out. But if Ina’s on (or Tyler Florence), I’m probably watching. It says a lot. I’m not a tv person, with the exception of early morning political shows (love “Morning Joe”), a few minutes of TODAY, and the occasional film on the old-movie channel. I have better fish to fry, literally. Or I’m at the piano. Or I’m walking Gabby and Tucker. Loving Dave.
But Ina and I go way back–sorta. In fact, we could have been friends. Well! Back in the seventies, my bus stop was right in front of the building where she worked in Washington, D.C. (I didn’t know that then.) I cooked; she cooked. I gave dinner parties; she did, too. Right around the corner from one another almost. Until she moved to New York to open the Barefoot Contessa, a specialty food store, in 1978. Between then and now, she ran that store and catered for twenty years, wrote seven books and countless magazine columns, and made more segments of The Barefoot Contessa on Foot Network than I know what to with. There’s also a product line, Barefoot Contessa Pantry, available in specialty stores where you can buy everything from coffee to cupcake mixes. In fact, I noticed our local Macy’s carries Ina’s products. I freely admit I have never bought any of these boxes goods. Hey! I make Ina’s stuff from scratch. But if you try them, let me know; I’d love a review.
|Ina, you’ve got to stop, but why not an app for my ipad?!|
Somehow we missed meeting and cooking together. Sigh. Later I moved all over the country until I stopped in one place where a new friend talked me into borrowing The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook from the library. That was it. Now I have my own copy and six more of Ina’s books plus an index.
Trying to decide which recipe to blog for Ina, who is number 39 in the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, was like trying to decide whether to go to Italy or France for two months next summer. How could I decide? I’ve made tons of them. Some of them are very, very much favorites–including a lemon pound cake I just made last week for the Friends of the St. Paul Library board:
One of the perfectly perfect things about Ina’s recipes is that you can do all kinds of things with them. I added homemade strawberry ice cream and a blueberry drizzle to this cake and here’s how it looked:
|Ina’s a great starting point.|
After much dithering and mithering, I did the only sane thing: I made something of Ina’s I hadn’t yet made. A great excuse to try a new recipe, which turned out to be Roasted Shrimp with Feta. I have always made a summer pasta that is this fast: spaghetti topped with lots of chopped fresh tomatoes, cooked shrimp, chopped feta and a good, heavy dose of dried oregano and black pepper. But Ina’s recipe is great in the winter…. Run, don’t walk to the store to make this. It’s beautiful, tasty–tasty, easy, not too expensive, cuts in half easily, and is healthy. (Is this a Friday in Lent?) Including chopping ingredients, it probably takes about 45 minutes to make–much of which is taken up with cooking stove-top or in the oven. I served it with a simple green salad and we needed nothing more except a bit of Chardonnay. Fancy enough for company, I made it for just Dave and me and we ate on the front porch for the first time this winter. (Like the rest of the country, St. Paul is experiencing May in March–no complaints.) I’m not going to print the recipe as Food Network is clear about “all rights reserved,” but the link is just below. The recipe is in Ina’s Newest book, How Easy is That? (2010/Clarkson-Potter) so you can buy it if you like!
Ina’s Roasted Shrimp with Feta Recipe... click here.
Cook’s Note: I changed almost nothing in the recipe, though I did add a pinch of crushed red pepper–a bit of heat enhances the lemony shrimp. Get the best feta you can find; you’ll be glad you did. Use peeled shrimp.
|You don’t need more than this.|
Thanks, Ina Garten and that doesn’t begin to say it. Blessings on your life and work. Keep on! (And about that app…)
Watch Ina on youtube.
Want to read other bloggers who are following the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food story? There are a lot of good blogs out there; read on!
Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden, Heather – girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette – Healthy Living Mary – One Perfect Bite, Kathleen – Bake Away with Me, Sue – The View from Great Island Barbara – Movable Feasts , Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen Annie – Most Lovely Things, Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table, Amrita – Beetles Kitchen Escapades
If you liked this, you might like:
My Breakfast Reuben in a Cup for St. Patrick’s Day on my Dinner Place (Cooking for One) Blog.
Sing a new song and join me on my daily Lenten blog,
If you have a yard surrounded by old lilacs, spring is a good time for a dinner party.
And, if it’s spring, it’s a good time for Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta).
And, if it’s time for Pasta Primavera, it’s a good time for pink wine. French rosé. Or Oregon rosé.
You needn’t be picky about the wine, though it must be dry and young (2010). It shouldn’t cost much–not more than $15 and often much less. Just make sure you have enough. A variety of choices would be a kind gesture to both you and your guests.
And if you were really loving that day, you might make an appetizer platter of tapenade and local goat’s cheese blended with fresh basil and grated lemon rind. Some proscuitto and tiny tomatoes make the plate.
The rosé will be quite stunning with that goat’s cheese. Promise.
I’m sold lately on lemon ice cream. In fact, it’s a perfect solution to dessert.
|Picture taken later after the ice cream had been in the freezer.|
I used a recipe from epicurious. com (Gourmet, 1993), though I didn’t use as much sugar. I thought 2/3 c was plenty and it was. The brightness and/or sourness of the lemon can easily be overwhelmed by too much sugar. (Click on the purple recipe.) Note that the mixture must be made ahead, cooked briefly, chilled very well, and have more half and half added right before freezing.
About the Primavera... you could look up twenty recipes for Primavera and they’d all be different, except that they should all have spring vegetables of some sort (leeks, ramps, scallions, peas, asparagus, baby greens, fennel, etc.). If you go to the farmer’s markets now (when you think there’ll be nothing), you should find some spring vegetables. If not, pick up your favorites at the grocery and use those.
|A gorgeous fennel bulb..use the fronds for garnish. There’s a core here much like in cabbage. Cut it out and slice the fennel into half moons.|
|Fresh pea shoots–leaves, shoots, and tendrils from pea plants. Yummy greens.|
The basic directions (serves 4) that would include your choice of vegetables would look like this (and I don’t think the Primavera police are out tonight if you want to change the process):
|Ramps–quite like scallions|
1. Bring a big pot of salted, peppered, and herbed pasta water to a boil. (Fresh herbs only–parsley, if it’s all you have. Parsley’s a perfect herb and quite nutritious.) Lower the heat to low until you need the water in a few minutes. That is, unless you’ve timed it perfectly. Ha.
2. Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, saute in a tablespoon of olive oil a half cup of sliced something(s) from the onion family: scallions, leeks, ramps (kind of like green onions…sort of between them and lilies of the valley), a mixture…even a bit of garlic, though just a bit–say 1 clove, minced. I would include fennel here (another half cup if you have it) as it requires a similar cooking time. Do not brown these vegetables, just cook until softened. A shake of salt and pepper wouldn’t come wrong here. Remove them from the pan and reserve.
3. Add a bit more oil, heat it to medium-high, and cook a cup of freshly sliced mushrooms for three or four minutes until golden. They needn’t be –though they could be!–expensive; button mushrooms will do. Don’t salt them til later. Do, however, add a tablespoon or so of fresh chopped herbs to them and pepper it all lightly. (I like marjoram, but rosemary or thyme is so good, too.) Remove them from the pan and add to the onion mixture. Note: Like meat, you must leave mushrooms unmoved for best browning. Don’t stir until well-browned on one side. Watch closely!
4. A little more oil, medium heat, and cook 1/2 cup each new peas (or frozen if you can’t find new), chopped asparagus, chopped haricots verts (very slim green beans), even a bit of zucchini or yellow squash sliced thinly–despite the fact that they are summer vegetables. We’ll let you slide by with it. After they’ve cooked a couple of minutes, add 1T cup each of your favorite fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, etc.) and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper. Throw in the onion-mushroom mixture, taste and adjust seasoning, and set aside. These vegetables should be just barely done…not crunchy like a salad, but not granny-done, either.
5. Cook your pound of pasta as directed (10 minutes for dried thin noodles like spaghetti or linguine…just a few minutes for fresh), drain it and add it the vegetables. Mix well. I do not believe in the ubiquitious addition of pasta water here.
6. If desired, a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of very fresh ricotta can be included here, as well as 1/2c-1 c fresh baby greens (pea shoots, baby spinach, watercress…). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Good cold, too.)
7. Pass Parmesan (you’ll need 1-2 cups grated), chopped parsley, cherry tomatoes (heirlooms are tasty), and white pepper at the table.
Alternatively, and much more quickly, you might try this method for ease of preparation: Bring a 10-12 qt (2/3 full) pot of well-seasoned water to boil; add 1 lb pasta and cook 7-8 minutes. Throw in peas, chopped asparagus, chopped green beans, etc. and continue cooking 2 more minutes. Drain well and drizzle with olive oil. Add a handful of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 c sliced green onions. If you like ricotta, and have some, stir in 1/2-1 cup. Season quite liberally with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Serve hot and pass a generous bowl of Parmesan and a grinder for black pepper around the table.
|Nothing like fresh ricotta.|
This is a fun meal to make if you like interactive dinners. Have each guest bring their favorite vegetable, cleaned and chopped. Someone who doesn’t cook can bring a couple of different rosés. Let a strong person grate the cheese, a detail-oriented friend supervise the pasta, and definitely get a wino to make sure everyone tastes all the wines. The ice cream can be put into the freezer (if it’s a small one) when you sit down to dinner.
If you’re a fan of Mark Bittman (NYT), as am I, here’s a link to his recent take (and ideas for variations) on Primavera, which he contends is American. Who am I to argue with Mark Bittman? Mr. Bittman also has ideas for pastas that, since they require fewer ingredients (and seldom meat), are pretty inexpensive. Which is always good.
Well–all that said:
It’s spring. The flowers are in bloom. Sit outdoors if it’s not too cold. Put spring flowers on the table and think loving thoughts.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
The house is still in process, but crystal is in the china cabinet, boxes are out of the living room, and I am walking, gardening, and practicing again.
|I must be home. The cream soups are here.|
|House being prepared for paint.|
|St. Paul Farmer’s Market Scallions|
|Made rhubarb pie yesterday…may blog it! From…|
|Farmer’s market rhubarb.|
|Flowers at the market downtown–a fine way to spend Saturday morning.|
|Our side yard (south)|
|Front yard tree.|
|Our house from the north.|
|Our driveway garden becoming a jungle.
I’m planting herbs, columbines, tomatoes, impatiens, pansies, alyssum…and looking for more light in the yard!
Happy Spring as you sing a new song, my friends!
My sweet husband adores bacon. God love him.
I like bacon. Why not? It’s great with eggs and it’s an incredible UP when you need a taste boost for the start of a soup, chicken salad, tomato sandwiches, et al. And, oh, the scent of it.
But I don’t adore it. I adore chocolate. I adore Pinot. (Oregon Pinot Noir) I am a Pinot girl, in fact.
At 57, I enjoy being able to say that. I have a couple of girlfriends who feel the same way. I have guy friends who certainly feel that way.
But back to bacon. I only have to SAY, “Bacon.” I don’t even have to cook it. And Dave is entranced. Hanging around. If I actually start cooking the stuff, he is in the room and doesn’t leave. So, there you go. If you want to attract someone to the nth, fry bacon. No one ever told you? Ach.
I think this is common. I posted a note on fb last Friday that I was cooking a pork tenderloin with bacon twisted around it, fixed with toothpicks. I had more interest in that than anything I’ve cooked in months. Loved ones, think about making this. Soon. Simple? Pretty much so. Fragrant? Ahhhh. Earthy? Mmm hmm. Easy to harmonize? I thought so. A couple of Granny Smith apples, a bulb of fennel (go ahead and get one–ask the produce guy) and a big onion. Some green beans on the side. A light Pinot; you don’t need a great big heavy one, I don’t think. Maybe a little bread. I did some pears poached in port for dessert; you can do what you want.
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Fennel and Onions
1 pork tenderloin
Kosher salt; freshly-ground pepper
3-4 slices thick bacon
2T olive oil
1 fennel bulb, fronds removed, end cut, sliced into half-moons about 1/3″ thick
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, sliced
1 large onion sliced
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Salt and pepper well the pork tenderloin and wrap it with the bacon pieces, securing ends with toothpicks.
Meanwhile, heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat; add olive oil. Place bacon-wrapped pork in the center of the pan and surround with the fennel, apples and onion. Salt and pepper well the vegetables and apples. When the meat is very-well browned, turn and let brown on the other side. Stir the vegetables and apples. When that side is looking crispy, move the pan to the oven to finish cooking. It may take another 10-15 minutes or so. Using an instant-read thermometer, remove the skillet from the oven when the meat registers 150F. (Others will tell you 155; I like it a bit rare; it will continue cooking) Cover with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes before carving and serving. Slice meat in 1/2″ p ieces. Place cut meat at the center of a large platter and surround with fennel, apples and onions. Serve with green beans or whatever vegetable you like.
Poached Pears in Port (from FINE COOKING)
In a 4 qt skillet, pour 1 cup port wine. Add 1 cinnamon stick and a few peels each of lemon rind and orange rind. Peel four ripe, but firm Barlett or Bosc (or your choice) pears and slice off a tiny bit off one cheek to make a flat side. Place the pears in the wine mixture and heat over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce to a simmer, cooking for an hour or so until pears are tender when pierced with a knife. Eat warm, at room temperature or cold with a little of the thickened port sauce spooned over. You can add a little heavy cream if you like.
Did you wonder about an appetizer? Of course I had one. And I was testing it out for my Cooking with Music class, which was the very next day! Here it is:
This is a Ricotta Pine nut dogoodie that is served with crostini (grilled bread). I’ll blog it with the cooking class, but if you have to make it soon…..
Mix one cup ricotta with 3-4 T torn fresh mint and season well with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Lottsa pepper. Heat over medium heat a small saucepan with 1/2 c honey and 1/4 c pine nuts. (Amounts negotiable.) When quite warm and gooey, pour over the cheese mixture and serve with crostini or crackers. (I heard Tyler Florence talk about this once and committed it to memory. Yummy.)
Ok, folks…there ya go. Make it and tell me about it. I have to know!
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood, Including Fitness
It’s been a busy week, but the pups have been happy as clams; Dad was home for three days in a row!
|Tucky-Bucky letting it all hang out one morning.|
|Why God gets me up early.|
|The light on my backyard when the dogs go out for the first time.|
|First dusting of snow…early in the light.|
|Why I have dogs: I need tennis balls in the dishwasher, of course.|
Fitness update: This last week, I skipped the gym all but one time. Life got crazy. Did I let it all go, though? Nope. I did Denise Austin on the DVD. I hiked the ‘hood with Gabby. I lifted weights at home. I did my stretching routine. I watched what I ate–mostly. Or ate what I wanted, but not too much. Teaching an Italian cooking class could have done me in (and the crostata almost did), but we made the ricotta starter, a roasted vegetable soup, pizza margherita, and a veal stew as well. Took all afternoon Saturday and the students stayed for dinner to eat and see what wines fit where…. (Another blog.) But I was sensible and remembered how strong I long to be. That’s the crux.
Meantime, I’m applying for new jobs as my job winds down at The Church at Woodmoor. We are getting ready for Thanksgiving in St. Paul, as well. Good thing I have a dog sitter; an SUV ran into my old vet/kennel today! At the same time THAT was happening, I was driving up to a staff meeting at work in Monument, where there was a 40-car pile-up on I-25. I saw zip. Thank you, God.