Category: Lemon

38 Power Foods, Week 31 — Walnuts — Leek-Fennel Soup with Walnut Pesto

38 Power Foods, Week 31 — Walnuts — Leek-Fennel Soup with Walnut Pesto

Hot!

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!


   leek-fennel soup with walnut pesto  

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  
  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4.  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.

Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

All sites may not blog power foods every week.
 
    Are you a food blogger? Join us!

 Sing a new song,
Alyce  

Chicken, Chicken, Chicken or It’s Still Hot Around Here

Chicken, Chicken, Chicken or It’s Still Hot Around Here

 

Don’t know what to do with chicken?  How about cook it?

I simply don’t know how to do anything without doing it with all my heart.  In fact, I don’t.  Unless it’s washing sheets (yes, I’ll do it today), cleaning the stairs (twice a week with golden retrievers), driving through construction (not on googlemaps, of course), going to the DMV, shopping for a pair of black pants at Macy’s (How many places could black pants be and how much should I pay?), or picking up the trash folks leave in my yard (the price for living in the city.)  I mean, boredom or even half-heartedness is not interesting and I don’t learn or grow from it.  Thriving on change is a good way to live.  Especially since change is the way things are.  The new normal.  Change, in fact, is the status quo.  Hmm.

So when I look at the stack of chickens in my freezer (Book club friend’s husband has a tie to great organic, free-range poultry and the order just came a couple of weeks ago.) and go, “Oh, no!” I rear my head in disappointment at myself and begin dreaming chicken.

With tomatoes
With pasta
In the oven
On the grill
On potatoes
Poulet au vin blanc (chicken with white wine)
In soup
Con poblanos  (with green chiles)
Next to asparagus
For sandwiches
TACOS!!
In the crock pot
Snuggled up in noodles, celery, and onions

In a world where the hungry numbered 925 million in 2010, I am embarrassed that how I cook chicken is even a topic.  I do indulge myself on this blog, however, and go on after breathing deeply.

The other night, I just couldn’t come up with anything terribly new and entertaining for chicken (in the summer) and just began throwing the parts into the pan.  They’d get done, wouldn’t they?  We’d eat, wouldn’t we?  But, wait:  first the parts should be seasoned very well with salt and pepper.  (Leaving out an entrancing snout-full of pepper is what people often do with chicken.  And it’s pale and insipid and oh, you fill in the blank.  Same for salt.  Poultry HAS to be well-seasoned, whatever you choose to do it with.  Particularly if you’re eating it as is or the poultry is of the very inexpensive sort.)   And, oh, let’s roll into the pan some fragrant olive oil if we’re just cooking it any which old way.

As this what-the-hell supper began to cook, here’s what it looked like:

You know the drill; you have the picture.   Well, I don’t know what you do with yours, but I’m not standing there watching chicken cook.  I had other fish to fry.  (Right.)  After it browned well on both sides (a good 5-7 minutes each side over medium-high heat), I threw that sucker in the oven to finish cooking for another 20-25 minutes or so:

And wondered what else was for dinner.  Just like you.  A quick bang of the pantry and frig doors showed pasta, rice, capers, carrots, yellow squash, celery, lemon, and feta.  On the counter were onions and garlic because in Alyce’s kitchen, God (and a gardening neighbor) is good and those things are always there.  A glass full of basil sat at the sink.  Mint’s in a pot next to the tub of rosemary (that needed water so badly it looked like a Christmas tree in January) outside my backdoor.  And because there’s a difference between eating and enjoying the meal with my husband, I began to grab pots, knives, cutting board, and so on.  It soon appeared that an orzo salad was coming together as orzo cooks quickly and is a great home for savory and piquant additions.  And oh how I love olives! with orzo and feta.  No olives, though, more’s the pity.  Capers would have to suffice unless I wanted to sprint to the store during rush hour.  Probably not.  Before the chicken was done, the salad was ready:

So you have the idea of the chicken.   Season well, brown throughly on both sides, and finish in a moderate (350 F) oven until quite browned and juices run clear or thermometer registers 165 F.  Unsure about temperatures, read the USDA guidelines–very simple.  While the chicken is in the oven, cook the orzo and chop the veg and cheese.  While this chicken with an orzo salad isn’t an instant meal, it’s fairly quick and hits the major food groups in a tasty way.  And, hey!   There would be leftovers for lunch.  Yum leftovers.  Who isn’t, after all that, glad to reach in the frig and pull out a piece of chicken come noon?

Take the time to season this baby (the orzo salad) lovingly.  It takes a bit of thought, and trial/error, but you can go from “Yeah, that’s ok” to “Wow!” with attention, care, and a bit of knowledge.  Generally the wow factor comes from one of these:

The best ingredients you can find
Thorough, but not over-seasoning
Not over-cooking
Use fresh herbs (usually at the very end before serving)
Appropriate addition of acid (in this case lemon juice)

If you’re unsure, take a small portion, add the questionable ingredient and try it.  See if that’s going to make the difference.  Take three small portions and try three techniques…which do you like?  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by this process. So here’s how I did it this time:

Alyce’s Orzo Salad on That Day (amounts are approximate)   Serves 4 (as does a whole chicken)

1 cup uncooked orzo
1/2 cup each chopped finely diced carrots or cucumber,  and yellow squash
1/4 cup chopped celery 
2 cloves garlic smashed and finely minced (or more to taste)
2T minced red onion
2T ea chopped fresh mint and basil
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of oregano
1T capers (or a small handful of chopped kalamata olives)
1/2 t grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and pepper to taste (try just a bit of salt at first as capers and feta are salty)
Big pinch of crushed red pepper
1T white or red wine vinegar
3T extra virgin olive oil, divided (You’ll use some to flavor the hot orzo and some later for dressing.)
Juice of half a lemon
Optional:  Top with 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions and drain well.  Pour the orzo into a mixing bowl and stir in 1 T of the olive oil.  Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Add vegetables (including garlic and onions), feta, herbs, oregano, capers or olives, and lemon zest.  Stir well.
  3. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Taste and reseason.
  4. Sprinkle with vinegar and stir. Drizzle in other two tablespoons of olive oil and stir again.  Add tomatoes and nuts, if using.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  5. Squeeze lemon over all.
  6. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.  Store leftovers in refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2-3 days.

Another cook might have added finely chopped fennel, marinated artichokes, green peppers, jicama….and so on.  

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

 
It isn’t quite the last rose of summer (above), but there are moments, despite the heat, that I want to run to each flower and smell each one up close while I can.  I bravely planted some new things last week near the perennial hibiscus in my corner garden.  I’ll show you when they bloom.  (Please bloom.)

What else I’m cooking: 

       I’m considering some new recipes for those who are in the healing process or need softer meals:
  

A lovely butternut (and other) squash soup with thyme for garnish.

 A healthier, chock-full of stuff zucchini bread is in the works and you’ll read about it here first.

Whole wheat zucchini bread with dried cherries, raisins, nuts and bits of dark chocolate for your heart.

 About the house:

And will it look like this again?  Guess so.

  I am finally getting my house to make sense nearly three months after the moving truck arrived.  While the kitchen, bedrooms and dining room quickly fell into place (though bedding and tablecloths still seem to be in short supply), the living room defied taming.  A small, but pleasant light teal room that has a 3-season porch attached and boasts a bright, clean piano window (Thanks to my friend, Chris Brown:), it just made me shake my head (read that want to puke) whenever I took the time to look at it.  Now my living room, unlike some, is in constant use.  I often work at home and am at the piano or on the couch (with the good lamp) reading and studying.  I run between the pots in the kitchen to the hymnal on the stand to the computer to write and I need that room to not only be comfortable, but to be feng shuied mighty fine.  I nurse a glass of wine in there while enjoying the  Sunday New York Times sometimes in the evening.   (I never get it done on Sundays.)  I sit and read while Dave naps with his head on my lap.  The dogs have their favorite spot on the wool rug.  To say nothing of sharing a cup of coffee with a friend.   But the room had its own ideas about itself and it wanted to be tilted in the direction of what appeared to be a huge (it is) piano and a squeezed in sofa with two chairs nearly on top of one another in the corner with a beautiful table that cried, “Get rid of me.  I’m too crowded.”  It made my lip curl like Elvis and my brow crease like Bruce Willis when he’s in a real tight place.  I said nasty stuff about my furniture.  Talked about paying designers.  Wrote friends who WERE designers. Hemmed and hawed.  (What is hemmed and hawed?)

They aren’t concerned about what color the walls are; they just want to be together.  Rightly so.  Love dogs!

 Our physical selves often mimic our emotional or spiritual circumstances and, in this case, it was exactly so.  (Thanks to old friend Rev. Virginia Memmott for knowing that.)  As long as I hithered and thithered and dithered about the move, living in Minnesota , the hot summer, our Colorado house, the need for a job, etc, I couldn’t settle down enough to “see” how things had to be.

Living room the day the truck arrived

 One day last week, after receiving word of my new choir director job at Prospect Park United Methodist (Come sing!), I just walked in there, started moving stuff, called Dave down to pound nails in the walls for artwork, and found a way for that room to be arranged that not only made sense, but was downright charming.  After a day or so, I also saw that the light had changed.  The walls were more awake and you could read more easily as the sun was now in its late August position.   No more cave feeling.  And I like it.  And so there, room.  And, while it’s still hot outdoors, my eyes fall upon space that is welcoming, comfortable, and full of the things I love.  I didn’t have to go buy all new furniture or consign the art; I just had to give myself time to breathe and want the space to work.  Thanks, God.

A bit more welcoming, huh?

 Below:  Late hostas blooming on the east side of the house.  In other places, leaves are falling and the acorns crunch underfoot.  The acorns are even falling on the patio table that sits below a maple tree.  Now there IS an oak tree in the yard next door.  And somehow the acorns are moving from the oak to the maple and falling on us during dinner. 
  

 

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

While food trends wax and wane (Remember cupcakes?), I never-ha!-fall into the kitschy traps other foodies do.  I did make gingerbread cupcakes for Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but I would have done that anyway.  And you aren’t reading about pork belly here, though I’ve nothing against it.  But I fall off the wagon a bit about bacon.  While I am definitely NOT a bacon fanatic (and it’s on menus in quite odd places), my husband definitely IS.  But he has been a bacon fanatic since Eisenhower was president.
His favorite movie moment is in “Grumpier Old Men,”

Grandpa: What the… what the hell is this?
John: That’s lite beer.
Grandpa: Gee, I weigh ninety goddamn pounds, and you bring me this sloppin’ foam?
John: Ariel’s got me on a diet because the doc said my cholesterol’s a little too high.
Grandpa: Well let me tell you something now, Johnny. Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack?
John: Bacon.
Grandpa: Bacon! A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should’ve took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I’m still here. Ha! And they keep dyin’. You know? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot about me. Just goes to show you, huh?
John: What?
Grandpa: Huh?
John: Goes to show you what?
Grandpa: Well it just goes… what the hell are you talkin’ about?
John: Well you said you drink beer, you eat bacon and you smoke cigarettes, and you outlive most of the experts.
Grandpa: Yeah?
John: I thought maybe there was a moral.
Grandpa: No, there ain’t no moral. I just like that story. That’s all. Like that story.

So last week when I shelled out the big bucks for a pound of Nueske’s bacon at the butcher counter at Widmer’s for the summer BLTs, I didn’t blink.  In fact, I kept cooking that bacon daily to make sure it was all used before any stray pieces went bad.  You know how good your house smells when you cook bacon (Try it when you have a for sale sign out front..)?  Well, my house still smells like that.  The scent is fixed in the rugs and on the dogs, who can’t stop walking around with their noses up in the air.  Dave acts the same way.  And if there’s a fine layer of fat sprayed all over my stove, he doesn’t wipe it up.  “A little bacon grease never hurt anything.”

In the middle of that bacon for breakfast, bacon for lunch spree came a trip to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Paul.  For all of you who’ve never been, this is the most beautiful market in the United States.  The food that you can’t buy there doesn’t need to be bought.

Spring market bounty

Perhaps I exaggerate.  But not by much.  At the market, I gently loved a few more Minnesota tomatoes enough to coax them out of their owner’s hands and came home to make cheese for caprese.

(See how on my Dinner Place blog.)  But that bacon called.  And before I knew it, I’d fried up the last of it to tuck in between the caprese layers.  Not only that, I threw the haricots verts in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, drained them and topped them with a dop of herb butter.  (Here’s how Ina does this. Why should I reinvent the recipe?)  I couldn’t resist making a beautiful salad of the entire thing with the beans in the middle.

I don’t see a reason for putting up a recipe for the caprese either; here’s one from epicurious.com. Just add the bacon!   I will say this about my caprese:  I place the salad on a bed of spinach and I squeeze lemon over all and dust the whole thing liberally with ground sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  I then drizzle not too much of my balsamic vinaigrette over everything but the green beans, which are already well-seasoned with the herb butter.  Lemon on the beans–yes.  One of my favorites.

 

Love summer, my friends.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The end of August isn’t the end of summer, but there are signs.  The flowers look too tired to continue blooming, despite fertilizing and watering.  The road crews appear in a big hurry to get it all done.  There are Christmas decorations out in a few stores.  I’m looking for a guy to plow my driveway.  Acorns are dropping and the squirrels are very squirrely. The big tubs of mums are for sale at Ace.  Our floor refinishing (and installation in the kitchen) is scheduled so that we can do it while windows can remain open.  And, of course, in Minnesota, it’s State Fair Week!  (Half a million sticks for food used so far.  And if you don’t know what that is, it’s anything edible that will stay on a stick.  See what you dream up.)

Neighbor’s Victory Garden (from my driveway)

I close today with lovely news!  I am now newly employed as a choir director at Prospect Park United Methodist Church, which is a church just across the line in Minneapolis.  I’m thrilled, excited, and don’t have words (right) for how light my heart is.  Watch this space for news of their fine singers and what fun stuff we’re up to.   Thanks be to God.  And:  thanks to all who supported me and prayed for my employment.  Cyberhugs as you
Sing a new song,
Alyce