Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower, Tomato & Fennel Soup

I'm roasting! I wish! After a week of warm, sunny days we’ve been having around here, the skies are now gloomy and overcast,hail with rain and downright chilly. It’s hard to believe May Day is just a few short days away! I’m keeping my fingers crossed the weather will improve by then, May Day is also our opening day for my Kennebunk farmers market and I’ve been wrapping soaps all week for the grand opening.

It’s still very cold today and after buttoning up many of my sprouting veggies in the garden with the threat of another freaky frost I was craving something warm and comforting. Since there wasn’t much in the frig but a lone head of cauliflower and some fennel, and remarkably enough I found two bags of last seasons roasted tomatoes in the freezer, I settled on some roasted cauliflower soup and cornbread.

Roasted Cauliflower, Roma’s and Fennel Soup

1 head cauliflower
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fennel, sliced thin
about 6-7 roasted tomatoes- I used roma’s
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup light cream
zest of one lemon
thyme, savory and parsley
sea salt
ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the cauliflower then cut into flowerets.
In a large bowl toss cauliflower and sliced fennel with enough olive oil to lightly coat all the pieces then spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and season with herb blend.
Place cauliflower in the oven and roast, turning pieces occasionally until almost tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove cauliflower pieces and set aside to cool. There will be some olive oil left on the baking sheet. Pour the leftover oil into a soup pot. Add the fennel slices, mushrooms and minced garlic and saute over medium heat until just golden. Add cauliflower, roasted tomatoes and vegetable broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Then, turn heat down and simmer for ten minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
Remove pot from heat and let cool slightly. Scoop out four ladles and puree the soup until nearly smooth. I like to leave some of the cauliflower unprocessed, so I just used an immersion blender, but you can choose to puree it all, and then pour it back into the pot. On low heat gently reheat soup, then add one quarter cup of light cream, zest of one lemon, herbs, sea salt and lots of ground pepper to taste. If you find the soup too thick, add a little bit more of vegetable broth or even water to your liking. Stay warm. Enjoy!

Fennel Cornbread
Adapted from Ocean Mist Farms

The fennel and shallots adds flavor and moisture to traditional cornbread and was so tasty served with the roasted cauliflower and fennel soup.

1 egg, beaten
1/2 fennel bulb, grated
2 shallots, minced
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup wildflower honey
1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon
2 cups plain cornmeal
a handful of fresh chopped chives
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
cooking spray

Directions Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray 9 inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray and place skillet in hot oven to heat up.

In large bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing until well combined. Spoon batter into greased hot skillet and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until corn bread is golden brown. Slice the cornbread warm right out of the pan and serve.

I won't be around for a few days, and though these daffodils are now shivering in the rain I'd like to wish everyone a Happy May Day and pray the sun shines on all of you. Happy Spring!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Orzo with Eggplant, Asparagus & Mushrooms

The weather has been so nice this past week, with highs in the 80's but then today it turned really brisk, rainy and even a few spits of that white snowy stuff mixed in, so it’s really cold and stormy here today, limiting my time in the gardens. But hey, that's New England weather for you.

The first thing I did when I got home was turn on the heat.. I just couldn’t warm up. Whenever it's cold outside, I want comfort food. So I made lemoncello and basil chicken breasts for dinner and decided to serve it with orzo, mushrooms, eggplant and fresh asparagus. This was a simple yet comforting side dish, and I even had a little left over for lunch tomorrow. The mushrooms, shallots and eggplant gave it a wonderful flavor and texture to the orzo while the pepper added just enough heat.. It was a nice dinner and just perfect for a cold and stormy day like this one.

Orzo with Mushroom, Eggplant & Asparagus

2 TBLS olive oil
3 shallots, minced
7-8 mushrooms, sliced
2 clove of garlic, minced
5 spears asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
ground pepper
½ cup crushed roma tomatoes
¼ tsp hot pepper flakes *opt
1 ½ cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
½ tsp thyme
1/2 cup of orzo

Peel the eggplant and cube for a total of about 2 cups. Heat olive oil, adding shallots, mushrooms and garlic. Cook until garlic is just beginning to brown. Add the eggplant, asparagus and a generous grinding of pepper. Stir well and add crushed tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes more. Add the orzo and chicken stock. Cover and simmer over medium heat about 20 minutes and it’s ready. Enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scallops Marinara

I just love this time of year, warm enough to get your hands dirty and cool enough to not work up a sweat. I've been busy working in the garden all this week clearing,transplanting, adding amendments and planting. So far my peas have sprouted, the lettuce is up and the spinach is just beginning to pop through the soil. Big meals have been sparce spending so much time outdoors, but big appetites at the end of the day abound.

We try to eat seafood twice a week in our house, be it fresh fish or shelled and one of my favorites are sea scallops. In all honesty, they are so easy to prepare, I'd hardly call it a recipe, but still affordable. So when our good vegan friends Robin and Marcie came for dinner this weekend, I served these seared rapidly with a mushroom brushetta along with antipasto. With a few nice bottles of wine and great conversation we feasted and shared many laughs over a 'throw together meal' as Robin so aptly put it.

Scallops Marinara

2 lb sea scallops
3-4 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
Marinara sauce

Heat olive oil in a large pan, and saute garlic 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add all herbs and spices and saute another minute before adding the scallops. Cook the scallops just until they turn opaque, then add the marinara sauce and bring to a simmer, reducing the heat to low for just a few minutes. This is so good served over polenta, angel hair or linguine..but we decided to keep this meal really simple and along with the sides--it was more than enough to fill us up. Enjoy!

Marinara sauce

3 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
5 fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp oregano
1 16 oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes, crushed
sea salt & ground pepper
pinch of sugar

Saute the garlic in olive oil. Add crushed tomatoes, basil oregano, sugar,sea salt and pepper. Over medium heat-- simmer just 30 minutes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!

Finally the trees are budding, and daffodils and tulips are just beginning to open, the goats are kidding, the croakies are happily peeping in our overfilled ponds singing away -- Spring is a beautiful time of the year! Best of all I planted my peas!

Easter Sunday is predicted to be just a gorgeous day. We'll be having roast lamb with all the fixings, with only a few sweets. I'm really trying to stick to my diet :) but we couldn't celebrate the holiday without at least one slice of sweet Easter rice pie--torta di riso. I made just a small one for us this year. Wishing you all a very blessed Easter--Buona Pasqua