kale and white bean soup

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After all of the junk I ate over the holidays I decided I needed to atone for it in the new year and the first food that came to mind?  Kale.  It’s so good for you and I am actually quite a fan of it so it was not difficult to convince myself to seek out kale-based recipes.  Other foods that are good for you?  Carrots, white beans, garlic, and onions.  Check, check, check, and check.

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Last week was very cold with temps in the single digits at night so soup sounded like an especially excellent idea and also an easy way to combine all of the aforementioned ingredients.

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The recipe recommended adding kielbasa or other smoked sausage so I did, though the soup could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage and substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth.  It would still be excellent with these changes though I am glad I used the kielbasa because it definitely added a nice smokey dimension to the soup and made it more hearty.

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Another key ingredient that I have never once added to a soup before is a hunk of parmesan cheese rind.  It totally works.  It partially melted into the soup adding a salty creaminess though there was still a substantial chunk of cheese left after it was done cooking that I discarded along with the bay leaf.  This may be my favorite new soup and it was very simple to make.  Certainly it would have been a little healthier without the kielbasa and parmesan but overall I think the good far outweighs the bad and it’s definitely a good way to start the new year!

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Kale and White Bean Soup (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 qt water
  • 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 lb smoked sausage such as kielbasa (optional), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse.

Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 1 quart water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.

While soup is simmering, brown sausage (if using) in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain.

Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, and remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Cooks’ note: Soup is best if made 1 or 2 days ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chill, covered. Thin with water if necessary.

curried squash and red lentil soup

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I told you you’d thank me for sharing a soup recipe?  Well if it wasn’t already, it definitely is soup weather now and I just can’t help myself– I haven’t wanted to make anything but soup lately!  This time it involves butternut squash, red lentils, ginger, and curry.

The ginger adds warmth to the soup and the lentils make it hardy so that it can be the main course and not just a starter.  Butternut squash is just starting to show up at farmer’s markets in these parts so when I saw it a few weeks back I had to pick some up and do something with it.  The soup is already vegetarian but could easily be made vegan with the omission of the butter.  I personally think that cooking the onions in olive oil and butter is luxurious but it would certainly still work without it.

Curried-Squash and Red-Lentil Soup (found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Heat oil with butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.

Add lentils and water and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 25 to 40 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

just beet it

I’m ashamed to say that I once shied away from beets.  Their strange texture, earthy smell, and vibrant color used to totally freak me out.  I’m very glad to say I got over that and realized how wonderful they are and now grate them raw into salads and juice them on a regular basis.  A coworker of mine makes the most excellent pickled beets that someday I plan to learn how to replicate.  But today we roast them.

A friend of mine teases me because I like everything roasted.  Almonds, flax seeds, sweet potatoes, garlic.  The list goes on.  So when I found a recipe for roasted beet and potato borscht I was totally intrigued.  Borscht is a beet-based soup and it has been something I have always been curious about but never wanted to try because I wasn’t sure I could eat a whole bowl of soup dedicated to the boldly-colored, earthy-smelling vegetable.  If the beet were first roasted, however, I think it could be a thing of beauty.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler: you peel and chop up some beets and potatoes and throw them in with chopped shallots (I didn’t have any on hand so used a yellow onion which worked out just fine) into a roasting pan, toss with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper and then add a couple of twigs of thyme and roast them all in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Once the roasting is done, discard the thyme, and add the vegetables to a large pot with 5 cups of chicken broth or water and bring to a simmer.  Then you mash the vegetables with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher or use an immersion blender and voila.  Add a splash of red wine vinegar and top with sour cream and scallions or parsley if you so desire.  I skipped the toppings and it was delicious.  Roasting is the way forward.

Roasted Beet and Potato Borscht (from Everyday Food magazine, also found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 2 pounds red beets, scrubbed, peeled, and diced medium
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced medium
  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 5 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • Sour cream, (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • Thinly sliced scallion greens (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together beets, potatoes, shallots, thyme, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beets and potatoes are cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Discard thyme. Add vegetables to a medium pot, along with broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky. (I made quick work of it by using my immersion blender.)  Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with sour cream, parsley, and scallion greens, if desired.

in a few days you’ll thank me

Massive apologies for the large gap between posts.  I went on vacation and severely neglected my blog along with much else in life.  It was great, but now I’m back to tell you how much I love fall.  I love it, I do.  Favorite season of the whole darn year.  And even though it was a sticky 90 degrees today by the weekend it will be in the 50’s at night and you will want soup, mark my words.

It definitely felt like fall at the farmer’s market this past weekend.  I wore jeans for the first time in ages and it was kind of gray and windy and I got there early enough to avoid crowds and really take my time perusing the seasonal wares.  Since it was feeling so much like fall I decided to pick up some standard soup ingredients: potatoes, onions, garlic.  Done and done and done.

I made a beautiful soup by roasting the garlic and shallots and then sticking them in a pot with some potatoes, wine, broth, and a little fresh rosemary.  My apartment smelled amazing and the resulting soup was rich, creamy, and filling in a nice, not overly-stuffed way.  With a little fancy “ancient grain” bread I picked up at Whole Foods it fed me well all weekend.  And now hopefully it will feed you well some weekend this season!

Roasted Garlic and Shallot Potato Soup (adapted from recipe found at www.cookinglight.com)

  • 5 whole garlic heads, unpeeled
  • 3 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  •  1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 10 shallots, unpeeled (about ¾ pound)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cubed peeled baking potato (about ¾ pound); I used 2 cups unpeeled fingerling potatoes cubed and it worked just fine
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (can substitute with thyme if you prefer)
  • 1 cup 2% milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove white papery skins from garlic heads (do not peel or separate cloves), cut off tops, leaving root ends intact.  Place garlic in a shallow roasting pan.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over garlic, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  Add shallots to pan.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over shallots, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes or until tender and browned.  Cool.  Squeeze garlic to extract pulp; peel shallots.  Discard skins.  Set garlic pulp and shallots aside.

Heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion.  Cover and cook 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic pulp, peeled shallots, and wine.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.

Stir in broth, potato, and rosemary (or thyme); bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender.  Cool slightly.  If you have an immersion blender use in Dutch oven until soup is smooth, if you do not own an immersion blender place half of potato mixture in a blender; process until smooth.  Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture.  If you used a blender return pureed mixture to pan.

Stir in milk, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper into pureed mixture.  Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

rainy days and mondays always get me down (and hungry for soup)

Last weekend I picked up some lovely crimini mushrooms at the farmer’s market.  I’m not gonna lie– mushrooms are not always my favorite, but crimini mushrooms I get really excited about.  I first used them years ago in a roasted vegetable/smoked mozzarella/pasta dish I saw on Everyday Italian and instantly fell in love.  They are woodsy and meaty and just generally awesome so when I saw them at the market I bought them without knowing what I was going to use them for.  Some of the best meals start this way!

The last few days have been quite chilly and grey and rainy in these parts… it is spring after all.  And with the chill and the grey and the rain I wanted one thing: hot and hardy soup.  Combine the idea of soup and my farmer’s market find with a little Googling and you have Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Pancetta… unless you’re me and want to use up ingredients you have on hand and then you have Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon.  Don’t be afraid to improvise on recipes.  I used to but with cooking, that is the beauty.  Improvisation in baking is not always as successful, but that is another story for another time.  Now we eat soup!


Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon (adapted from a recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ¾ cup wild rice (about 5 ounces), rinsed, drained
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken meat
  • ½ cups frozen corn kernels
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream

Bring 2 ½ cups water, rice, and ¼ teaspoon salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender but still firm to bite, 45 to 60 minutes (time will vary depending on variety of rice). Drain; set aside.

Heat heavy large pot over medium heat and add bacon and cook until browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add mushrooms to pot and cook until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Add butter to same pot. Add carrots and celery. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; stir until soft, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir 1 minute. Return mushrooms to pot. Mix in chicken stock and rosemary; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Add rice, bacon, chicken meat, and corn to soup. Simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

pinterest digressions and spicy curry noodle soup

I have a confession to make: I think I have a Pinterest problem.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest it is essentially a virtual cork board.  Remember cork boards?  You probably had one on your wall in middle school with pictures of Salt N’ Pepa, INXS, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air on it.  (Or maybe that was just me…)

Anyhow, I have become almost obsessed with finding cool images of food/signs/flowers/home interiors, etc. on Pinterest and last night found myself up until almost midnight (aka waaaaay past my weeknight bedtime) pinning pretty images to my boards.  (If you’re already on Pinterest or are persuaded to join after reading this and care to follow me, my username is baxterandmain.  Little plug.)

All of this is leading me to a blog-related point or two.  1) I need to step my food photography game up, big time.  2) I need to get a real logo/header because I am tired of the up-close brownie shot.  Real tired of it.  Point 1 can be aided with natural sunlight (which should be more plentiful in Wisconsin in the next month or so, fingers crossed) and more thought put into the mise en scene of my pictures (and maybe a proper camera at a later date.)  As for point 2 I am real lucky to have a talented friend who has volunteered to help in this endeavor which brings me full circle as I have been looking for inspirational images on Pinterest to give to her to create some artwork for this here site.  So there we go.

And now the food!  I made some wonderful sweet potato chicken curry noodle soup to go along with the Thai iced tea for you!

Vegetarians please note that this dish could easily be made with tofu instead of chicken and sub vegetable broth for chicken broth and I bet it’d still be as amazing.

It’s spicy, a little sweet, and incredibly flavorful.  You will love it!  Unless spicy and curry is not your thing.  In that case stay tuned for butternut squash lasagne in my next post!

Spicy Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato (by Mai Pham from Bon Appetit magazine)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass* (from bottom 4 inches of about 3 stalks, tough outer leaves discarded; NOTE: if you can only find dried lemongrass in your grocery store you will only need about 1 tablespoon as it is more potent in dried form)
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste*
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)*
  • 2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk,* divided
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 cups snow peas, trimmed
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled red-skinned sweet potato (yam; from about 1 large)
  • 1 pound dried rice vermicelli noodles or rice stick noodles*
  • 3/4 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 red Thai bird chiles or 2 red jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced with seeds
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add next 4 ingredients; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in curry paste, curry powder, and chili paste. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk (scooped from thick liquid at top of can). Stir until thick and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring broth to boil. Keep warm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Cook snow peas in large pot of boiling salted water until bright green, about 20 seconds. Using strainer, remove peas from pot; rinse under cold water to cool. Place peas in medium bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil. Add sweet potato and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Using strainer, remove sweet potato from pot and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in small bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil and cook noodles until just tender but still firm to bite, about 6 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Bring broth to simmer. Add chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potato; stir to heat through, about 1 minute. Heat noodles in microwave in 30-second intervals to rewarm. Cut noodles with scissors if too long. Divide noodles among bowls. Divide snow peas and hot soup among bowls. Scatter red onion, green onions, cilantro, and chiles over soup. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

sweet potato and carrot bisque

Last weekend was a total soup weekend. It was cold, it snowed like six inches on top of the six we already had, and I was in no mood to venture out to grocery shop so instead decided to shop my pantry. I had sweet potatoes. I had carrots. I had onions. I had vegetable stock. Done and done and done and done.

With baking you have to stick pretty close to actual recipes but with cooking you can be more free and soup is an especially easy arena in which to experiment. Some of my favorite soups (and salads for that matter) have been a result of the mix of ingredients I happened to have on hand at that moment that all worked together to create something better than the sum of their parts.

This soup is full of orange vegetables– you know, the kind that make you see further and help prevent cancer. Totally awesome. Added bonus: it tastes good too.

Don’t fret if you don’t have an immersion blender, (though I highly recommend investing in one) you can puree this soup in batches in a blender or a food processor. Or you could even leave it chunky– that would be great too. Totally up to you. Experiment!

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bisque

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the carrots and sweet potatoes, cover and cook, stirring once, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer soup to blender or food processor in batches and puree until smooth.