Saturday, October 30, 2010

Potato leek Soup

The Autumn harvest brings the perfect ingredients for making delicious, creamy soups and chowders. Blending some basic ingredients can provide you foundation for a huge variety of wonderful soups. Some of my favorites are Mushroom Barley, Spicey Carrot & Sweet Potato, Roasted Tomato & Garlic and then there's Potato Leek Soup. Clearly an all time favorite around my kitchen. Truth be known, if I could get away with making a different soup every day, I could be one very happy camper. I simply love soups! But for this pretty simple concoction, the fresh leeks are the shining star and oh so yummy. Use whatever veggies you have on hand.. the more that's added, the better the pot.
What I like about leeks is that there is very little waste and they are just so tasty from tip to tail. For this soup I use almost the whole leek and save the darker tips to add to another dish.

Potato Leek Soup

6-8 mid size leeks, cleaned thoroughly & chopped
2 large onions, sliced
2 shallots, diced fine
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 zucchini, cubed
1/2 bunch Italian kale, chopped
3 carrots, cleand & cut
4 scallions, diced
1 summer squash, cubed
7-8 potatoes, peeled & cubed ( I used red & white New potatoes and Yukons)
1/4 stick unsalted butter
2 cans low salt chicken or vegetable stock
low fat milk or light cream
sea salt & ground pepper to taste

Saute cut leeks, onions, shallots, & garlic in butter about 5-6 minutes. Rinse and cut up all your vegetables. Add to the pot with 2 cans chicken stock. Cover, and bring to a low boil and cook until vegetables are just tender. Remove cover and cool for 10 minutes. Pour vegetable mixture into Cuisinart or blender & give it a whirl until just smooth. Return it to your pot & add low fat milk (not much) or if you must.. light cream! Season to taste. Serve with Syrian bread triangles, or nice crusty bread, Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Savory Harvest Galette

Autumn to winter, winter into spring. Spring, into summer, summer into fall, So rolls the changing year, and so we seem to change menus with the season. It's pretty safe to say that Fall is officially in full swing. Up here in the northeast, the leaves have changed from green to gold, rusts and striking crimson and the crisp Autumn air has brought about the first chills of the season.

What sets Autumn's menu aside from Summer fare?-- Root crops! Most of the garden has been put to bed, the herbs are all harvested and dried for teas along with winter meals--the root crop ready for harvesting. In my basket this week I pulled beets, carrots, leeks, purple top turnips, ruby swiss chard, delicata squash, and some butternut squash from the gardens, so I decided to go with this colorful season, roasting them all up to go into a savory galette. Earlier this summer I made my first galette using fresh fruits of the season,that was just fabulous, but I've anxiously been waiting for cooler weather to try a savory version. Saturday, I picked up some goat cheese at farmers market and a couple of kambocha squash. I just love roasted vegetables and root crops--but also love their look.. beautiful and so Fall like.

Piled all over my counter, they just draw me into the kitchen thinking of delicious recipes they'll all be used in. Besides-- a combo of root vegetables slow roasting in the oven for an hour lends warmth, and great smells to my kitchen as well as go into a very satisfying dish. Perfect, for the chilly day that it was.

Combined with some carmelized onions, herbs and seasonings and fresh goat cheese. The outcome? Well it was both, very colorful and so tasty! I can't wait now to try another. :) You can't go wrong, no matter what assortment of veggies you might decide to use. Enjoy!

Savory Harvest Galette

The Pastry:

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup chilled and cubed butter
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water

2 TBLS milk - to wash top of dough before baking

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and 1 tsp sugar until well mixed. Add the butter using pulses until you no longer see chunks of butter in the dough. Use pulses to get everything to mix together correctly,and does a better job of breaking up the butter rather than letting the machine just run.

Slowly add the ice water a tablespoon at a time while pulsing the dough until it is evenly distributed and it begins to look like play-dough. If you need to add a bit more water--add it only a teaspoon at a time. You don't want your dough to be too wet-- but it should hold together nicely.

Remove the dough from the food processor and knead for a few minutes until it begins to smooth out. Don't overwork the dough, you just want it to come together and smooth out a little bit, it should really only take a couple of minutes. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

The roasting veggies:

6 medium beets, rinsed, unpeeled & quartered
4 purple top turnips, quartered
4 new red potatoes, quartered
6 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 delicata squash - unpeeled,quartered and cubed
1/2 butternut squash- peeled & cube
1/2 medium size kabocha squash, peeled & seeded
1 tsp fresh summer savory
1 TBLS fresh thyme
1 TBLS fresh oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt & ground pepper

In a large bowl toss all the vegetables with fresh herbs in olive oil. Be sure to coat them all well and turn out onto a large parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for an hour, until the veggies have just become tender. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool.

Carmelizing the Onions
3 medium sized yellow onions, peeled & thinly sliced
2 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS unsalted butter
titch of sugar

In a large skillet stir oil and sliced onions together over a medium heat. Cover and cook slowly until very soft, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, and add the butter and continue to cook until the onions are golden brown. I like to add a pinch of sugar at this point. Remove from heat and reserve.

Other Ingredients:

Add to the roasted vegetables and toss well:
**1/2 lb fresh chard leaves,chopped; stems removed (save for another day)
** 2 apples, peeled, cored & cubed
8 oz fresh goat cheese
4 oz grated fontina cheese
:) A mug of warm apple cider to sip as your savory galette bakes in the oven.

Assembling the tart:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out into a circle to about a twelve inch round. Don't worry if your edges aren't smooth or perfect--galettes aren't meant to be perfect, but rather rustic looking. Take a pastry scraper and transfer the dough round to a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Mix the cheeses together and spread onto center of pastry. Next, evenly distribute the roasted vegetables over the cheese, leaving a two inch border of pastry uncovered. Now top with the carmelized onions. Drizzle with just a bit of olive oil and season with sea salt & ground pepper. Free fanfold the edges of pastry over the mixture, pinching the dough as you go along to seal. Brush the crust with milk and bake until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. May be served warm or at room temperature. * Note.. I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups vegetable filling left over in this galette, so we used the leftovers in a breakfast omelet the next day. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Harvest Plum Bread Pudding

Fall is officially here and I just love baking during this time of year. One thing that's near and dear to my heart is bread pudding! It's one of my favorite Autumn desserts, plus, it's a great way to use up breads that are about to go stale. With just a few ingredients, bread pudding makes such a homey, comforting dessert.

Who can resist the fragrance of warm cinnamon and spice on a chilly Autumn night? Soft cushions of assorted country breads lightly browned on top with a creamy custard below. Served warm, with a topping of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of Amaretto sauce--not me for certain!

I had on hand a half loaf of peasant bread and a half loaf of crusty cinnamon raisin bread -- so this is what I used, plus we really enjoy the texture using a crustier grained bread in the pudding. I just love all those nooks and crannies where the cinnamon and spice can find it's way in to.

Because we are such big fruit eaters here and I still had on hand a few fresh plums in my basket after making some plum jelly, I tossed in a few of these along with just a bit of mashed pumpkin puree. The plums added just the right amount of tart to the recipe to offset the sweetness. Sometimes I use wild blueberries or apples or just plain old raisins, so you can't go wrong here using what fruits you have on hand. This bread pudding is packed with down home flavor and makes a wonderful addition to your dessert menu. The Amaretto sauce is to die for -really! But I'm one of those that just has to have that scoop of vanilla ice cream on any bread pudding I make as well.

Harvest Plum Bread Pudding

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
5 cups cubed day old stale or crusty bread
3/4 cup chopped plums- about six
1/2 stick unsalted melted butter
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp each ginger, allspice & a pinch of cloves
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins if you aren't using a raisin bread

Cut the bread into cube sized pieces and place in a good sized bowl. Add cut pieces of plums, tossing with the bread cubes. Drizzle the melted butter over the bread cubes and toss all gently and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs.. once frothy, add in whole milk, cream, pumpkin, sugar and spices. Gently whisk a bit more after each addition. Place your buttered bread cubes in a greased 2 qt casserole dish. Give the egg mixture one last mix and pour evenly over the bread cubes. Place casserole into a larger baker filling it with water about a third of the way up the sides of your pudding dish. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until set and golden on top. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and some Amaretto cream sauce on top. Enjoy!

Amaretto Cream Sauce

1/4 cup powdered sugar
5 TBLS unsalted butter
3/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
4 TBLS Amaretto liqueur

In a samll bowl dissolve the cornstarch in the Amaretto, whisking until smooth. In a saucepan scald the cream and milk over medium heat. Melt butter for 30 seconds in microwave and add to the scalded milk. Add the Amaretto slurry to the hot cream and bring to a gentle boil whisking constantly for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar. Whisk until completely dissolved. Cover and allow the cream to cool completely before serving over the bread pudding. See if you can resist a second serving. :)