Cauliflower Soup

Dec 26, 2011

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays now beginning to slow down, a simple pot of warm, healthy soup is the perfect thing for these last few wintery days of 2011. So go ahead and cozy up with a new book, movie, (or iPad!) and enjoy yourself a steaming bowl of incredibly delicious cauliflower soup.

Now, cauliflower isn't the most flavorful of vegetables... That is, unless it is cooked just right. I particularly love roasted cauliflower, how it transforms into a richly caramelized treat. And now this. This is my new favorite way to enjoy the delicate little "snow-covered trees."

This soup might seem plain, but trust me. Paul Bertolli, often referred to as one of the greatest American chefs, knows exactly how to make a vegetable become the best it can be. This recipe makes for a soup that's delicate, sweet, and silky smooth. 

I hope that you enjoy the simplicity and deliciousness of this soup. And most importantly, I hope you (whoever you are!) have a very, very lovely rest of 2011!

Notes: Be sure to use the freshest cauliflower you can find, as it is the star of the dish. Also, the extra-virgin olive oil and fresh black pepper complete the soup, so I advise against being shy.

Adapted from Cooking by Hand, by Paul Bertolli

Barley & Millet Risotto

May 21, 2011

Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice that is traditionally used to make risotto. When cooked, the grains become creamy and chewy - perfect for a comforting dish like risotto. Here, instead of using the traditional arborio rice, I used barley, which still creates that creamy, chewy texture, but is a bit more wholesome. The addition of a little millet to this risotto is also nice - for added nutrition, texture, and flavor. This risotto makes for a lovely lunch or a nice side dish for dinner.

Risotto can be adapted a million different ways. The version I have pictured includes some quartered cherry tomatoes, toasted almonds, a bit of fresh oregano, and a drizzle of olive oil. You can use this risotto recipe as a springboard for all kinds of flavor combinations. I have included a few of my own ideas in the recipe below, but definitely experiment. And if you do, let me know what you like!

Notes: If you'd like to make this a full meal that is a little more substantial, you might try some grilled chicken or a fried egg on top. If you are lucky enough to find it, farro is a great and delicious substitution to the barley, but both work equally well.

Adapted from 101 cookbooks

This post linked to The Nourishing Gourmet

Quiche Lorraine

May 10, 2011

My dad is quite the cheese, bread, and pastry connoisseur. Living in southern Belgium and northern France for a couple of years can do that kind of thing to you, especially when you're a young guy spending your days on feet in the towns and cities. I wonder how many stops in the abundant patisseries and chocolate shops he took. (What a life!) Anyway, a few years ago, he took one of my sisters and me on a 2-week vacation to Europe. We visited France and Belgium during our stay and also took a detour through Holland, where our ancestors are from. If asked to choose my favorite place we visited during our trip, I wouldn't be able to. There are aspects about each country that I fell completely in love with. The windmills of Holland are incomparable, while Belgium boasts world-class frites. France, of course, with the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, is simply top-notch.

While staying in Paris, the three of us would grab a quick bite every morning at a little patisserie just around the corner from our hotel. This cute shop had it all: all kinds of baguettes, eclairs, tarts, mille feuilles, macarons, croissants, gateaus, and quiche. Oh, the quiche! I would order a quiche lorraine every morning and enjoy it on the park bench outside. The quiche at this little patisserie were perfect - a lovely buttery and flaky crust encompassed a rich, smooth custard that had just the right amount of bacon and onion. If only I could start every day just that way - sitting on a park bench in France with a quiche in hand.

Until I make it back to that French patisserie, I will have to do with my own version of quiche lorraine. Wait, did I just say "have to do"? Actually, I don't think this quiche merely "has to do" in place of an authentic French one, because it is wonderful, if I do say so myself. While enjoying our dinner the other night, I asked everyone's opinions of the quiche. In the words of my dad, "This is just as good as any I've had in Europe - if not better!" And then he helped himself to another slice.

It is so good.

Notes: Yes, the recipe is long. Yes, it takes time and a bit of planning ahead. Yes, it is worth it. Start the crust just after lunch and you should be prepared. Read the recipe through all the way before beginning, too, as is always wise. I made this recipe exactly as it was originally written, with exclusively all-purpose flour. I think I'll try it again using half whole-wheat pastry flour; I expect that it would work quite well. The authors note that to prevent the crust from sagging during the blind baking step, you need to make sure that it overhangs the pan's edge and use plenty of pie weights - about 3 to 4 cups. Also, it is important to note that this is a deep dish quiche, which is more authentic to the region from which it hails (France!). This recipe has been created for a 2-inch-deep cake pan to accommodate all of the filling - be sure to use the correct pan! I think you could easily use a 9-inch spring-form pan, too, because they tend to be at least 2-inches deep.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, July & Aug. 2010

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