All posts tagged winter

  • bread soup with corona beans

    bread soup with white beans

    Guys. I asked for beans for Christmas. I’ve been on a huge bean kick lately, but asking for beans for Christmas is a bit much, right? In my defense, I asked for some really nice beans that would become my… you know, special beans. Much to my delight on Beanmas morning, I unwrapped a large box that contained a variety of Rancho Gordo beans, along with a stray bag of Italian corona beans from a local market. I was instantly drawn to the corona beans because they are huge! See:

    Italian Corona Bean Size

    I had some leftover peasant bread from Alexandra Cooks, so I cracked open a bag of my special corona beans and put them to good use. Corona beans really fatten up when cooked and hold their shape well. I still have a cup or so of uncooked coronas left and plan to use the rest to make this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. If you can’t find corona beans in your area, any white bean is a good substitute for this soup. If big chunks of bread aren’t your style, add the bread before the beans, remove the bay leaf, and pulse with an immersion blender for a tomato/bread puree. After that, add the beans and kale. It’s almost dinner time, and I’m off to heat up the rest of this soup!

    Bread Soup with Corona Beans

    1 onion, diced
    3 garlic cloves, diced
    1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
    3 cups of broth, vegetable or chicken
    1 bay leaf
    1 tablespoon dried parsley
    salt & pepper, to taste
    2 cups of cooked Italian corona beans (or any white beans)
    2 cups kale, torn into bite sized pieces
    2 cups of toasted stale bread, cut into cubes

    For serving:
    parmigiano reggiano, to taste
    red pepper flakes, to taste
    olive oil

    Over medium heat, add oil to a large stockpot or dutch oven. Dice an onion, then toss them into the pot, stirring frequently.

    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, cut up the stale bread into bite-sized cubes. Add them to a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat each piece. Bake for 10 minutes. Go back to the cutting board and chop up the garlic. If the onions have softened, add the garlic to the pot. If not, wait a couple minutes. Stir garlic until fragrant and add the diced tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then let the soup simmer.

    Check on the bread cubes, turn them over and return them to the oven for another 10 minutes. Once the pieces are golden brown, remove them from the oven and set aside.

    After the soup has been simmering for 10-15 minutes, add the beans, kale, and bread. The bread cubes will absorb a lot of the liquid, so feel free to add more broth (or water) here if necessary. Let the soup simmer for another 10 minutes, season with more salt and pepper if necessary, before ladling into bowls. Serve with grated parmigiano reggiano, red pepper flakes, and olive oil.

    Serves 4

  • carrot and polenta cake with marsala

    carrot cake with polenta and marsala

    “Let’s go for a walk”, Cory suggested and before I knew it, we were slipping on our shoes and heading out the door. We didn’t have a destination in mind, but our feet took us in the direction of Powell’s Bookstore, which is where we inevitably ended up. Powell’s is a large independent bookstore, taking up an entire city block and then some. It’s a labyrinth of a place and I hardly know where anything is, except for the cookbooks. They must have at least 3 aisles of cookbooks. It’s completely overwhelming and easy to lose an hour there, conjuring up future meals in my head. Despite how often I cook and how much I think about food, I only own a few cookbooks. After two cross country moves in less than 18 months, packing up box after books got old fast, so we ended up donating much of our book collection. Now that we’re in Portland and intend to stay here for at least a couple years, adding a couple cookbooks to the shelf here and there won’t be too painful when we pack up our stuff again, right? That’s what I tell myself, at least. A copy of Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Vegetables of Italy went home with me that night.

    I’ve been happily cooking my way through the book, making crostinis, baking polenta, roasting squash, pureeing soups, and most recently, baking a cake. This is definitely my kind of cake. No frosting, no fondant, no layers, and it doesn’t have to look pretty. While it may seem plain looking at first glance, this cake has a lot going on. The polenta gives the cake a nice coarse texture, it’s accented with a bit of citrus and hints of nutmeg, and your favorite olive oil really gets the chance to shine through here. After just a few minutes in the oven, our little apartment was filled with the scents of orange and marsala. It felt a little like Thanksgiving or Christmas, the days we always have a pot of mulled wine simmering on the stove. It’s the kind of cake I can’t wait to make for just about everyone I know. I have plans to bake it for a get together next week and I’m wondering how it might hold up in the mail with all the other Christmas treats I plan on sending to family. The cake is perfect for dessert, and hey, you could probably get away with having it for breakfast too.

    carrot cake with polenta and marsala 2

    Carrot Polenta Cake with Marsala
    (adapted from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy)
    I made a few minor tweaks to the cake based on what I had on hand. The original recipe calls for the zest of an orange and lemon, but I just used the zests from two oranges since I was out of lemons. I also used a 9″ springform pan, instead of an 8″ x 8″ cake pan. The cake was ready after 32 minutes for me, instead of 35.

    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup dry marsala wine
    zest of 2 oranges
    1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
    1/2 cup polenta
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    dash of freshly grated nutmeg
    2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 large carrots)
    powdered sugar, for dusting

    Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush an 8″ x 8″ cake pan with olive oil. Shred the carrots.

    In a large mixing bowl, mix together olive oil, sugar, eggs, marsala, and orange zest until blended.

    In another bowl, whisk together flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid the clumps. Stir in the carrots until thoroughly mixed in. Transfer the batter into an oil-lined cake pan.

    Bake the cake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick runs clean. Depending on your oven, it may help to check the cake a few minutes early. Once the cake is done, transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set on the rack until warm or room temperature. Dust the cake with powdered sugar, and serve.

    Serves 8-10

  • broccoli and cheddar soup

    broccoli and cheddar soup

    Every time I go to the renaissance festival, I always make sure to order broccoli and cheese soup in a bread bowl. It’s still too hot that time of year to enjoy almost boiling soup, finding a place to eat is almost impossible, my hands are covered in animal hair, and the soup isn’t that great — runny with the occasional speck of broccoli. But it’s tradition, so I keep ordering it anyway. A couple weeks ago, I set out to make the broccoli and cheese soup I wish they served at the renfest. It was so good I “forgot” to take photos of it, so I just had to make it again. It’s deliciously rich, creamy, and would be perfect for a bread bowl, but a hunk of crusty bread will do just fine.

    I’ve been making lots of soups and stews not just because of the weather, but they also make for such easy leftovers. While you can use a blender or food processor for this recipe, an immersion blender makes this soup much less of a hassle. This recipe calls for an obscene amount of butter, cheese, and milk. Everyone you serve it to will love it, just don’t tell them how much butter is in the soup.

    Broccoli and Cheese Soup

    1 onion, chopped
    1/2 cup butter
    4 garlic cloves, diced
    1/2 cup flour
    4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    1.5 cups water
    3 russet potatoes, cut into large chunks
    1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    1 tablespoon dried herbs (any or all of the following: thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, marjoram, parsley)
    salt and pepper, to taste
    8 ounces cheddar cheese
    1.5 cups milk (add more for a thinner soup)

    For serving (optional):
    Cheddar cheese, shredded
    Bacon
    Bread, lightly toasted

    Heat oil in a large stock pot. When hot, add the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Remove onions from the pot and pour into a bowl. Set aside the onions.

    Melt butter in the stockpot. Add garlic, and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the flour, mixing constantly until smooth. Start adding the stock, a few tablespoons at a time. Once you’ve gone through the stock, add the water and mix into the pot. Toss in the onions, potatoes, herbs, and nutmeg. Simmer the soup over low heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Stir frequently. Test with a fork to see if the potatoes are ready. When the potatoes are cooked, add the broccoli and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Whip out an immersion blender and blend until desired smoothness. I like leaving some chunks. Return the pot to the stove.

    Add the cheddar cheese and milk to the pot. Heat until the cheese has melted through and the soup is hot enough to your liking. Ladle into bowls and serve with extra cheese, crumbled bacon, and with a side of lightly toasted bread.

    If you have enough soup for leftovers, it will thicken overnight. Mix in about 1/2 cup of water at a time to achieve desired consistency.

    Serves 8-10

  • hot cocoa pudding

    hot cocoa pudding

    Although we just call it hot cocoa in our house, I’ve been having trouble on what to call this drink for the blog — sipping chocolate? Nah, that’s something that invokes visions of the finest quality chocolate, maybe sprinkled with fleur de sel. There’s nothing pretentious about these ingredients, you likely already have them stocked in your kitchen. Drinking hot cocoa? Sipping hot cocoa? Hot chocolate pudding? Hot cocoa pudding? I’ve decided to go with hot cocoa pudding because it’s not quite pudding and not quite hot cocoa. It’s somewhere in between, with the taste and texture of a melted chocolate bar. Take a sip of it and pat yourself on the back — you’re an adult and you can drink melted chocolate bars whenever you want.

    hot cocoa pudding

    Just before adding milk.

    Inspired by sahlab, the beloved wintertime drink of the Middle East made with milk and salep, I set out to make hot cocoa with the same thick texture. It’s now my go-to recipe for hot cocoa, perfect for warming back up after spending time outside in the cold.

    hot cocoa pudding

    Hot Cocoa Pudding

    1 cup water
    3 tablespoons cocoa
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2-3 tablespoons sugar, adjust according to taste
    pinch of salt
    1 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Add the water to a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Whisk until combined in smooth. Use a wooden spoon with a flat end to scrape the bottom of the sauce pan. Keep whisking and stirring (I usually have the whisk in my left hand and the spoon in the right) until thickened and lightly bubbling. Add the milk a bit at a time, constantly stirring until fully incorporated. Continue stirring until hot. Stir in vanilla. Pour into cups and serve.

    Serves 2

  • chicken tortilla soup

    Tortilla soup is one of those recipes that became a part of my cooking repertoire soon after I fell out of the blogging groove in early 2011. Once I started making it, I couldn’t stop. I made it about 3 times weeks in a row in giant batches until Cory asked me to cook something else. It’s one of those dishes, where if I lived alone, I’d make for myself just about every week and never tire of. I still slip it into weekly dinner menus fairly often, though. I love the wonderfully rich smokiness of the chipotle in adobo sauce, the sourness of the limes, and I never ever get sick of avocados. Also, what better way to eat dinner than with a bowl of tortilla chips? Purists might groan at that, but it’s a lazy and delicious shortcut that’s stuck with me (plus Trader Joe’s has the best tortilla chips).

    chicken tortilla soup

    PS – I don’t have a good set up for taking photos in our new apartment yet. The backdoor hallway gets the best light and today I had a little helper during the photoshoot:

    chicken tortilla soup helper

    Chicken Tortilla Soup

    1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken, shredded. In this case I used about 1 1/2 pounds of chicken legs, browned on each side on the stove, then baked until cooked through. I let it cool, then shredded it before adding it to the soup.
    1 large onion, diced
    2-4 cloves garlic, diced
    2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo sauce, blended
    1 green bell pepper, diced
    1-3 jalapenos, diced
    1 tablespoon cumin
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1 bay leaf
    salt & pepper, to taste
    4 15-oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained
    4 cups of chicken stock
    1 15-oz canned tomatoes, diced
    1 cup corn
    1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
    1-2 limes, juiced

    Serving:
    – small corn tortillas (1 per serving), sauteed until crispy and broken into pieces or tortilla chips

    Optional serving ideas:
    – grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese
    – guacamole or sliced avocado
    – sour cream
    – fresh cilantro
    – lime wedges
    – fresh jalapenos
    – chopped green onions

    Wash and pat dry chicken. Prepare the chicken as needed depending on the cut and size. If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, shred the chicken while the soup is simmering. In this case I used about 1 1/2 pounds of chicken legs, browned on each side on the stove in a stock pot, then transferred to a baking dish and baked until cooked through. I let it cool, shredded it, and added it later on to the soup.

    Drain most of the chicken fat from the stockpot, add a little more cooking oil and add the onions. Continue cooking the onions until softened, about, 5-7 minutes. Add green bell pepper and let it cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chipotle, spices, salt, pepper, and cook for another minute, stirring often.

    Add the black beans, chicken stock, canned tomatoes, and bring to a gentle boil. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the chicken, corn, and simmer for another 10 or so minutes. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Check the flavor and add more salt, if needed. Ladle into bowls and serve with tortillas and garnishes of your choice.

    Serves 8