February 25, 2013

EASY EASY EASY Pea Soup with Crispy Pancetta

Easy pea soup with crispy pancetta

I don't like peas very much and I love this soup. And it tastes just like peas. Which leads me to the conclusion that the part about peas I don't like is the texture when you bite into them...a sorry excuse for a snap, then mush (shudder). This soup is creamy and satisfying and comes together quickly...in a bona fide snap.  It's one of Ina Garten's recipes. Of course. All her food is perfect which is why she's the reigning queen of cookbook sales. As it should be. So easy - frozen peas, chicken stock, onion and garlic and a bit of crunchy pancetta.

Pea Soup with Crispy Pancetta

adapted from Ina Garten foolproof

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 cups frozen baby peas
4 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 thin slices pancetta
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft (10-15 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add chicken stock, peas, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes or until peas are tender. Puree in blender.

Preheat oven to 425ยบ. Line baking sheet with parchment. Place pancetta on pan in one layer. Bake for 10 minutes or until crispy. Serve on top of soup with a drizzle of cream (if using).

February 22, 2013

Pita - ful Day

Easy Pita Bread with Feta Cucumbers and Basil

I had a crummy day. The oven door broke, I found a brown spot on my face the size of a dime (hiding where my sideburns would be if I were Peter Fonda circa 1970) and the dog threw up in her cone (the plastic thing she wears around her neck when she's got a hot spot so she won't lick). I cleaned up the yuck (on the floor and on the cone), rubbed some retinol cream on the brown spot and called the appliance company, (Yes! This time I did buy the extended warranty). Then I drove to a happy place called Bill's.

Bill's Imported Foods is a greek market on a busy street with limited parking and unlimited charm. I love the greek mother who runs the place. I love the pictures of the grandkids behind the counter that she updates so I get to see them grow, and I love their food. Especially the french feta cheese.

This cheese is so good that it needs little more than pita bread and olive oil for accompaniments. But I can't find good pita bread (even the mama at Bill's admits their prepackaged stuff isn't great). And this cheese is so good it deserves good bread. Hey, I'm so good I deserve good bread, especially today.

The dough for this pita is similar to the dough for pizza and you can cook it in much the same way - in a very hot oven, on a heavy stove top griddle or on the grill.

So good - it was the perfect blanket for feta, cucumbers and basil and made for a sweet spot in my gritty day.

Bubbles tell you the yeast is working. 

February 18, 2013


You win some, you lose some. Here are some things I made with high hopes of them being delicious only to discover (after taking charming photos) that....not so much. 

The first three are kind of pretty - looks can deceive...

First ever  batch of baked donuts....very dry and dense...
there could never be enough cold milk to wash these down.

Gorgeous chocolate cream pie....and salty as a pickle - ugh.

Rustic grape tart - with raw mushy dough and barely cooked grapes inside.

I saved the best for last...

Beef, mushroom and spinach stroganoff - if you didn't choke on the slimy spinach
 you were wondering what you had done to deserve such an ugly dish.

February 10, 2013

Toasted Couscous Spring Onion Chicken Salad

toasted couscous spring onion chicken salad

I adore onions - most stinky foods as a matter of fact. This variety (they look like giant scallions with a plump root end) are so bright and not-too-intense (but still oniony) that I'm having a fling with them this week.

And couscous? They might be the simplest grain in the world to cook. You just put them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and wait ten minutes. Done. Sometimes (and this is one of those times) I toast the couscous in a pan to make them more flavorful (as opposed to just taking on the flavors around them, which is what they really excel at).

I fried up some onion slices and lemon rind in the olive oil that I eventually used for the dressing. Worth it for the onion, skip the lemon rind - cool idea but kind of bitter. I shredded leftover rotisserie chicken to give this heft and protein and added chopped parsley for herbaciousness. This is so fresh and good and satisfying. I think I could eat it every day.

Toasted Couscous with Spring Onions and Chicken

Serves 2 for lunch

1 cup plain or whole wheat couscous (I do a mix of half and half...sneaky)
 ½ cup spring onions
3 tablespoons parsley
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cooked chicken (cold or warm)

Heat heavy dry skillet over medium heat. Add couscous and cook, shaking gently, until lightly brown (about 5 minutes). Pour into a heatproof bowl and pour 1¼ cups of boiling water over (until it just covers the couscous). Cover (I use a plate) and leave alone for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice white and light green part of onion and chop parsley. Shred the chicken with two forks (or clean fingers). Uncover and fluff couscous grains with a fork. Add onions, parsley, chicken, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Top with fried onion slices if using. Tastes best at room temperature or you can keep it in the refrigerator for a day or two.

The lemon rind is pretty but bitter
(maybe it resents being fried in hot oil).  

February 5, 2013

Spring Onion and Celery Soup with Crispy Onions

spring onion and celery soup

Announcing the Onion and Celery Soup Diet!! Just kidding - but this kind of sounds like one of those soups that you eat twice a day for 2 weeks and lose 5 pounds. This would probably get you there but, gross. Not that this soup is gross....but anything would be if you had to eat it exclusively. Not really selling this, am I?

What this is, is a fresh-tasting, oniony, creamy soup that warms me up and gives me an excuse to tear into a superb baguette I picked up at our local and wonderful Turtle Bread. Just for fun, I fried up tiny slices of spring onions and put those on top - adds a nice little crunch. 

Spring Onion and Celery Soup with Crispy Onions

Serves 4

2 cup spring onions (or other mild variety)
1 cup celery (2 stalks)
1 russet potato
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium)
3 tablespoons cream

Slice onions and celery thinly. Peel potato and cut into small (½ inch cubes) . Heat butter and olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and celery and saute until soft (about 15 minutes, reduce heat if they start to brown). Add potatoes, saute for another few minutes then add chicken stock and let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Puree in blender adding as little, or as much, cream as you like. Salt to taste. 

Crispy Onions

Thinly slice some spring onions or scallions. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in your smallest pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion slices and cook until deep brown (less than a minute). Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Use oil in pan to drizzle on top of soup (or on your baguette). 
There's a little lemon rind floating in there too...an unsuccessful experiment
(but the onions are tasty)

fried spring onions

February 2, 2013

SK's Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats

salted brown butter crispy treats

I'm a big fan of Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perlman's pioneering food blog. She's friendly, funny and imperfect - some of my favorite qualities. I couldn't wait to try this easy recipe from her first cookbook which my husband gave me for Christmas (ever supportive of my new hobbies). I love it when someone takes a classic and puts a spin on it, flips the collar up, adds a string of pearls without sacrificing what makes the thing great in the first place. And what makes a crispy bar great is the crunchy chewy texture and clean sweet flavor. So how smart to brown or "toast" the butter before adding the marshmallow? Enhances the taste of the butter, evokes a toasted campfire flavor in the marshmallow and just heightens the whole deal. And to add a bit of flaked salt? Duh?! Cannot believe someone didn't think of it before, but that's Smitten's genius. These are so good I'll never make them any other way again. These are it!

SK's Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 9 large bars or 18 smaller

5 cup crispy rice cereal
1 10 ounce package marshmallows
1 stick butter 
Heaping 1/8 teaspoon flaked or kosher salt

Butter an 8 x 8 baking dish. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium low heat until brown. Watch carefully...it goes from brown to burnt quickly. Takes about 5-10 minutes. When it's brown, turn off heat and add salt, then marshmallows, and stir until melted. Add cereal and stir until combined. Press into pan (I buttered a piece of wax paper and used that to press them down). Cool and cut into 9 big squares. 

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