Sunday, October 26, 2008

Carrot Fennel Soup

For reasons unclear to us, Gourmet started showing up in our mailbox about six months ago--we never ordered it, so either someone at Gourmet reads the blog or one of you really, really loves us. This soup is a variation on the carrot fennel soup in the recent Thanksgiving issue: velvety, elegant and simple, a fantastic showcase for fennel.

medium fennel bulbs with fronds
1 lb carrots, quartered lengthwise
1 medium red onion, quartered
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F. Thinly slice fennel bulb. Mince some of the fennel fronds and save them for a garnish. Start a vegetable stock with 6 cups of water, carrot trimmings, onion and garlic skins, fennel stalks and any extra fronds.

Toss the fennel with carrots, onion, garlic, oil and salt on a greased baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, for about half an hour, until soft. Puree vegetables in a blender with 4 and 1/2 cups stock until very smooth. Taste for salt and serve sprinkled with reserved fennel fronds.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beet and Cumin Soup

This was inspired by beet soup we had at Dosa last month that was smooth, earthy and swirled with a little creme fraiche. Our attempted reconstruction came out equally satisfying--make sure to be persistent in pureeing the soup, since the creaminess is a big part of this soup's apppeal.

We made our own stock with the trimmings, and while that may be too fussy for some, we find that making stock out of beet trimmings for a beet soup really brings the sweetness forward. It really doesn't add much time.

1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 large leek, white part only, diced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 lbs beets, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Salt to taste
Yogurt for topping

First, start a stock with the leek tops, beet trimmings, thyme stems, garlic skins (also, whatever other veggie bits you have lying around) and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer while you do everything else. Strain.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a stock pot and add cumin seeds. Stir quickly, then add leeks and garlic and saute for 3 minutes, until leeks start to soften. Add beets, thyme and barely enough stock to cover. Simmer about 30 minutes or so, until beets are tender. Transfer to a blender (in batches if necessary) and puree until very smooth, adding more stock if necessary. Return to pot, salt to taste, and simmer for a few more minutes. Serve with a swirl of yogurt.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cauliflower Bisque with Miso

This soup may look and taste like it's packed with cream, butter and decadence, but it's just roasted vegetables, stock and miso. It's warming, velvety and a great dead-of-winter pick-me-up. Save out some of the roasted cauliflower florets for the top--they're delicious!

We used Russian banana fingerling potatoes, but anything waxy will work here. Use potatoes with a nice thin skin so you don't have to peel them. In this recipe, the garlic cloves get roasted with the other vegetables, but we also tried this with the delicious preserved garlic we made last winter (still good!)--if you go that route, just add them when you're ready to blend it all up.

1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
1 lb small waxy potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces
4 cloves garlic, peeled
about 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon miso

Preheat oven to 350. Toss the cauliflower, potatoes and garlic with olive oil and salt in a large pan and roast for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower and potatoes are fork-tender. If you don't already have vegetable stock, you can make some now while you're waiting.

Set aside a third of the roasted cauliflower and potatoes, then puree the rest of the roasted vegetables, miso and stock in the blender. You might need more or less stock depending on the consistency of your potatoes, so add it slowly. Be patient and keep blending until the texture is as creamy as possible. Add in the reserved vegetables and enjoy!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Applesauce with Ginger and Plums

We were already planning to spend all day in the kitchen roasting heirloom tomatoes to keep for winter, so while we were at it we made a batch of my sister's applesauce. This is one of the last weeks we'll see both apples and plums at the farmer's market, and here's a great way to take advantage of that overlap: spicy, rosy-hued, delicious with a swirl of yogurt. It would be great on latkes, too.

This made enough for 5 12-ounce jars, so scale down if you're not embarking on a mass-preserving project. We used a mixture of apple types from the "seconds" bin at the farmer's market and tiny Italian prune plums, but what we ended up with was basically half apples, half plums--any plums will do.

1/2 cup Concord grape juice, apple cider, Good Earth tea or other yummy sweet liquid
12 medium apples, roughly chopped (leave the skins on if they're organic)
30 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
4 tablespoons very finely grated ginger (use a microplane if you have one)

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and simmer for about 2 and a half hours, stirring occasionally, until fruit is broken down and saucy. Run through a food mill.