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…

Senate Bean Soup and Gam’s Navy Bean Soup

Senate Bean SoupCool Beans

Anyone who has known me for more than twenty minutes knows that I am into cooking. Those brave souls who stick around longer, know that I really like cookbooks…I have a rather large collection. There is something about cookbooks (and books in general) that make me happy. I love the look of them, and to thumb through them. I even use them to decorate my kitchen—there’s nothing cooler than a kitchen library corner!).

Over the years, friends and family have given me all sorts of cookbooks—from hot, trendy ones to the antiques they found in grandma’s attic. I especially enjoy the older ones, because they give me a glimpse of life in a different place and time.

My Father in Law gave me The Congressional Cookbook. It was originally published in 1927, and belonged to his mother. The recipes are compiled from members of The Congressional Club, who themselves are comprised of the wives and daughters of the members of Congress and the Supreme Court. Basically, it is a Congressional Junior League Cookbook. It is fantastic not only for the recipes, but for the social suggestions that go along with them. I may not ever have to worry about the proper seating arrangements for the President and other heads of state but at least I will be prepared.

Included in the 800+ pages of The Congressional Cookbook is the recipe for Senate Bean Soup, which has been served every day in the Senate restaurant since it was introduced in the early 1900s. It is, simple but very satisfying, and one that my grandmother used to make—though Gam tweaked it a bit.

It’s great to have in your freezer for chilly fall nights, or for a tasty lunch when the rain finally comes. (Cross your fingers!) This is a lazy Sunday type recipe so if you find yourself with a free afternoon, give this a try.

I have listed the Senate recipe below as well as my Grandmother’s version.

Senate Bean Soup
From The Congressional Cookbook
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Clam Chowder with Root Vegetables and Thyme

Clam ChowderUnder the Boardwalk…Down By The Sea

When I was a kid we had family friends with a vacation home in Santa Cruz, so we would stay with them during the summer. It was great. We would wake up and hit the beach, then hit the Boardwalk and ride the roller coasters ‘till we puked. Of course it’s possible that the roller coasters were not to blame. It’s possible that it could have been the amount of food (and sugar) that we ate.

There are an amazing number of dining opportunities at the boardwalk. From fried chicken to deep fried Twinkies—you can pretty much get whatever heat attack on stick or sugar bomb you desire. For me, I always liked the old time candy shops like Marini’s. salt water taffy, caramel apples and fudge. Those were my favorite food groups. Corn dogs are another good choice…and bowls of clam chowder on cooler nights.

My family is headed down to the boardwalk this weekend for, you guessed it, more baseball. There is no way we would go to Santa Cruz and not go to the boardwalk. What kind of parent would I be, after all, if I didn’t introduce my kids to the wonders of chocolate dipped bacon and the Giant Dipper? It’s going to be a good time out…

One thing we will be avoiding? The water. Maybe because this week was Shark Week on Discovery Channel. or maybe because of the recent beach closures due to Great White shark activity near Capitola, you will not find this chick frolicking in the surf. Thank you, no. I’ll hang back on the beach with my bacon. Mega Shark can get his own.

Clam Chowder with Root Vegetables and Thyme
Adapted from Taste Food Blog Read more…

Three Soups! Bonus Recipes

MinestroneOctober is soup season, and we are posting three of our staff’s favorite soup recipes to add to your repertoire. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Here are the recipes for Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup, a delicious Minestrone, and Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup. Read more…

Apple, Onion, and Cheddar Soup

Apple, Onion, and Cheddar SoupSoup to Nuts…or Nuts for Soup

OK, I admit it. I like soup. I am eating some right now, in fact. There is something about that first day when it actually feels like Fall, (My temperature gauge said it was 48º this morning.) that makes me want a cup of something warm and cozy. It also makes me think about what soup I will be making and freezing this weekend.

Canned soup is okay in a pinch, and there are some great ones available these days, but they don’t hold a candle to homemade. (Cheating by making chicken noodle with store bought broth still counts.) I have found myself grabbing for the frozen soup a lot lately. Especially after football practice or afternoon activity. (World Series anyone?) A little soup and grilled cheese, maybe a salad, and you have the makings of a quick and comforting meal.

I have been trying to branch out a bit with my recipes. I still have my favorites like the one I am eating now, but I can get bored of the same old, same old after a while. So I’ve been on a mission to find the new and interesting, and I think I found one!

I have owned a copy of the New England Soup Company Cookbook for years, but it’s one of those cookbooks that I tend to forget about. Last week I ran across it while looking for something else, and saw this recipe for Apple, Onion and Cheddar Soup. I knew I just had to try it. It’s perfect now that apples are coming into their season.

Apple, Onion, and Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Marjorie Druker
Chef/Co-Owner, New England Soup Factory

This soup is perfect during the cool fall months. It incorporates apples and cheese, which is an old-fashioned pairing for a pie in New England. The soup builds contrasting layers of sweetness, starting with the apple cider in the stock, then the caramelized onions, and finally the green apples add tartness.

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Cock-A-Leekie Soup

a99114_0102_chickenbowl_xlRooster In The Hen House

We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first eggs from our chickens since they are now of age. It has been fun to watch them grow from chicks to hens, and to get to know their personalities…and they do have personalities. Some of the biggest characters have been given names.

There’s Trouble, who got her name because if the chickens are found doing anything naughty, chances are she’s at the head of the pack egging the others on. She is also the one who likes to come and peck at our back door to see what we are doing.

Then there’s Turtle and Seagull. They were the easiest to name because Seagull looks like one and Turtle is short for Turtleneck. She has a ruff of feathers around her neck that makes her look like a Shakespearean reject.

The kids named one of the Rhode Island Reds Huevo—short for Huevos Rancheros. Apparently, sarcasm and irony are genetic.

And then, there’s Sparkle who got her name because she’s just not that bright. Now, I realize it’s relative. They are chickens after all, but she is exceptionally tragic. I watched her continuously run into the wire fence the other day, because she couldn’t figure out that she needed to fly back over it, which is the way she got out in the first place. I took pity on her and picked her up to give her a hand. Sigh.

We missed the mark on one of the chickens. As we watched the chicks grow bigger and bigger we noticed that one of the Rhode Island Reds was really tall. We figured she was part of the blessed 1% of poultry who could be referred to as Super Model Chickens. We named her Cindy for Cindy Crawford. The problem is Cindy is actually a rooster. So we changed his name to RuPaul.

Ru has become a problem, as you can imagine any adolescent rooster would. The girls want nothing to do with him, and unfortunately he’s the guy at the bar who just won’t take the hint. Therefore, we were compelled to find him a new home. This weekend he will be going to a nice farm where he can speed date with other chickens who might be more accepting of his nature. It’s a way better fate than the soup pot.

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