Spring Pea Soup with Burrata

Spring Pea Soup with BurrataGolden
My parents celebrated their 50th Anniversary over the weekend. Stop and think about that for a minute. 50 years. How much of their world has changed and what have they experienced since 1967? (And not just the birth of my sister and me!)

In 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as our new Governor in January. A fire killed the crew of the Apollo 1 spacecraft while they were testing on the launch pad, and halted the space race in the US for almost 2 years. The Pirates of The Caribbean attraction opened at Disneyland, in California. The Bee Gees released their first international album. Lastly, Elvis and Priscilla got married. But that wasn’t the biggest wedding of the year. The biggest event, at least to my sister and me, happened March 18th in Oakland, CA.

To be married for 50 years is no small feat. It’s not as common an occurrence as it used to be. Frankly, the fact that my mother has survived my Dad’s snoring for that long without smothering him with a pillow is mindblowing…

There is no way you can let such a milestone like this pass like it is any other day. We celebrated as a family, in style. ‘Cause that’s how we roll. There was a limo and there were fancy clothes. And, because it’s us, there was food. Really good food. And plenty of good things to drink with it, courtesy of Boulevard in San Francisco.

If you ever have the opportunity to dine at Boulevard, do it. I have been there multiple times, and it is always fantastic. That particular night, I enjoyed a green English Pea soup that was amazing. Like, lick the bowl amazing. Alas, that particular recipe is not in their cookbook. (I happen to own a copy…shocking, I know) Nancy, if you or any of your fantastic staff are reading this (‘cause why wouldn’t she?) I would LOVE to have the recipe or maybe even and updated cookbook?

For now, I am on the hunt for something that might come close. I am working with the recipe I posted below—perhaps it’s the closest yet? But we’ll see. The first-of-the-season English peas should be in the market soon. Though, with the return of the rain, who knows? In the meant time some quality, organic, frozen peas will be used. When you do get your hands on some fresh peas, grab as many as you can. And try this cream-free soup as a perfect spring lunch or light dinner.

Spring Pea Soup with Burrata
Yields 4 servings

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Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo for Mardi Gras

Smoked Duck and Andouille GumboFat Tuesday
I got a call from my sister over the weekend to see if I had her cookbook. I did, in fact, have it. I have been holding it for ransom for quite some time.

It is not surprising that she would be looking for this particular cookbook this time of year, because next Tuesday happens to be Mardi Gras. And this cookbook, in my opinion, happens to be one of the best New Orleans cookbooks available. Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking is filled with wonderful things.

New Orleans is one of those bucket list places for me. I have never been, and I have absolutely no desire to visit during Mardi Gras or the heat of the Summer. But I do have a desire to go and eat my way through the city. There is just so much history, not only in the streets but in the music and food. It makes my mouth water to think about it. Just not sure when I am going to get there…

In the meantime, cookbooks like this one give us a taste of the city, and whet our appetites for more. I have written about recipes from Spicer’s book, and I now bring them to your attention in advance of Mardi Gras. Her Autumn Salad with Apples, Comté, and Hazelnuts and Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish Pies are good, But without question, the best of the best is the Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.

And for something a little sweet to go with your Mardi Gras feast, there’s Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce from Emeril Lagasse.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer
Yields 8 Servings
You can substitute an equal amount of roasted chicken for the duck. But if you get a chance to use duck, give it a try. It’s delicious!

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Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt PorkSpanish Feast

A couple of weekends ago we had our cookbook club dinner and I have to say it was one of the best dinners we have had in a while. It may have been the subject matter. You can’t go wrong with Spanish fare…

The book was Curate by Katie Button, and I don’t think there was anything that we made that wasn’t fantastic. Everything was good. Even the octopus—and I am not a huge fan of octopus. The very best part? The book is intended for American kitchens, which means the ingredients aren’t hard to find and the recipes aren’t too involved.

One of the recipes I made was Stewed Chickpeas with Collard Greens and Salt Pork. Because of schedule overload I had to make this the night before, and it was so good that my husband and I couldn’t keep ourselves from having a bowl. This stew is more like a hearty soup, but it makes for a super (see what I did there? ) satisfying bowl that hits the spot on a cold night.

I would definitely recommend using the Edison Grainery Garbanzo Beans that we have here at the store, as they seemed to re-hydrate better than others I have tried. And, I choose to use kale rather than collards.

Serve this with some warm crusty bread and a nice Spanish Rioja….

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork
Adapted from Curate by Katie Button
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course
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New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam ChowderHot Dogs & History

When planning Spring Break vacations, most people think sun and surf. I admit that a comfy spot on a beach with a Piña Colada does sound pretty good right about now, but at this point of our lives, my family is playing beat the clock when it comes to the traditional family vacation.

Right now, my kids are still alright with being seen in public with us—we don’t know how long it is going to last before we are subject to a lot of eye rolling and sulking in the corner. We are by no means cool in their eyes, however we are least okay enough that they aren’t embarrassed…much. (We don’t make it easy on them.) This year we are trading in the warm weather and sand for Boston and our Nation’s Capital, with a few side trips.

First stop is Boston for a little history, a little chowdah, and the chance to pour some tea in the harbor. (The boys can’t wait. Apparently tossing tea into the water is cool.) Anyone who has been reading these posts knows how baseball-crazy my family is, so of course, no trip to Boston would be complete without seeing Fenway and the Green Monster. We are going, but the Sox are still in spring training. My boys convinced us that we should drive to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. (Sure! Why not? It’s only a four-and-a-half hour ride…in good weather.)

From Cooperstown its south to Gettysburg, PA, a place I have wanted to go for a long time, and a must-see for anyone who can. As a History major, this was my one side trip demand. My kids have told me that they are okay if I geek out, which is good ‘cause it will happen whether I have their permission or not.

After that it is on to the crazy adventure that is Washington DC. Last time I visited was in 8th grade when Dinosaurs roamed the earth.

It should be a fun trip,, I know there will be some funny stories and I hope a lot of good memories. Below is a delicious recipe for clam chowder. The original calls for salt pork. I prefer the smokiness of bacon ’cause everything is better with bacon, so that’s how I make it.

New England Clam Chowder
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Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil SoupWha’Soup?

In winter I cook a lot of soup. It’s a great way to mainline vegetables after the butter and fatty meat fest that was the holiday season. Also, soup is warm which, when we get rain like we have been, it’s very satisfying. Lastly, soup freezes well, so you can pull it out anytime you want a tasty lunch or an easy dinner.

I have a number of favorites that I make regularly. Minestrone is usually the first one I go to, followed quickly by my Butternut Squash Soup. Then there’s the bean soups. And what freezer would be complete without some Chicken Soup variant to stave off the winter flu? Matzo, Chicken Noodle, Chicken and Rice…

The easiest soups are the ones that you simmer for a while and blend smooth with a stick blender. Potato Leek is great, or even better, Baked Potato (Yum!). My favorites tend to be anything with some spice to it. If fresh chilies or cayenne pepper have my lips burning (for some reason other than the temperature of the soup) I am happy.

I found this one in the January Issue of Food & Wine a few years ago, and it’s a keeper. I made a few changes to suit my tastes, and encourage you to give it a try this week to help keep warm.

Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine  Read more…