Monday, December 31, 2012

Potage St. Germain

More commonly known as Split Pea Soup, expectations are higher with a name like Potage St. Germain, and boy does it deliverLoaded with many layers of flavor, this is not the same soup you'll find on your neighborhood diner's soup of the day menu.  This recipe is from the Magic Pan Restaurant that originated in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, California.   In the mid 1960's Hungarian immigrants Lazlo and Paulett Fono opened their restaurant, which largely became known for it's crepes. 
Finding no ham bone in my freezer, I used a 7 oz package of diced prosciutto instead.  After setting aside 1 Cup of the diced meat, I gently sauteed the remainder to render the juices and followed the recipe from there.  Rather than both water and broth, I went with all chicken broth, and decreased the milk by 1 Cup.  This soup is a delicious start for any meal or can stand alone as a meal by itself.

For those times when I don't have chicken broth, Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base comes in handy.  Recommended by Americas Test Kitchen tasters, this 8 oz jar of concentrate makes 38 cups and has a shelf life of 18 months.

The Magic Pan Restaurant's Potage St Germain
1 (1 lb) ham bone
4 1/2 C water
1 (13 oz) can chicken broth
2 C split peas
2/3 C finely chopped leeks or green onions
1/3 C finely chopped carrots
1/3 C finely chopped celery
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried thypme
bay leaf
1/2 tsp pepper  
2 1/2 C milk
1 C whipping cream
1 C chopped ham, cooked
1/2 C chopped chicken, cooked  

Place ham bone in large pot.  Add water, chicken stock and peas and bring to boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
In another pan, sauté the onions, carrots and celery just until limp.  Add them to the soup pot along with all the seasonings and continue to simmer until peas are very soft and mixture is thick - about 45 minutes.  Remove ham bone.  Gradually stir in the milk and cream. 

Add ham and chicken.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes.  The MAGIC PAN served the soup with a dollop of sour cream, a drizzle of sherry and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
It is just as delicious when reheated the next day. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

I always seem to have too many balls in the air at this time of year.  Here is a really tasty soup that needs only a few minutes of prep time, then toss it all in a crock pot to cook while you are out and about finishing up those last minute errands. 
This comes from and is titled Crock Pot Sweet Potato Basil Soup.  I took the advice of someone who had previously made this little gem and added sweet curry powder and cumin rather than basil.  

2 sweet potatoes or yams, diced
½ yellow onion, sliced
1 (14oz) can of coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and stir to mix.  Cook for 3 hours on highUse a hand blender, blender or food processor and puree the mixture until smooth.  Serves 3-4.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Feta Caesar Dressing

I know I've said this before, but I'm going to say it again...if you make your own salad dressing, rather than buying a bottled one, you know exactly what is in it More importantly, you know what is not in it, preservatives or unnecessary fillers.  Last week, cooking with my girlfriend at her house in the Keys, we made this wonderful Feta Caesar Dressing for dinner one night.  Feta cheese is a frequent addition to salads at my house.  I really enjoy the sharpness of the cheese in contrast to the mild greens and other vegetables.
Feta Caesar Dressing
2 Tb crumbled Feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 Tb lemon juice
1/2 C Parmesan, finely grated
1 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Put everything but the olive oil in a glass jar and shake it good.  Add the oil and shake it even longer.  Sample it; adjust to taste the lemon juice, salt and pepper.   When I'm making a salad dressing that is more than we'll use in one evening, I like to assemble it in a glass jar; it's easy to blend and ready for storage in the refrigerator.  You can just as easily whisk it all together in a mixing bowl.  Personally, I like the chunks of Feta, but if you prefer it smoother, you could use a food processor or blender to incorporate the ingredients. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Peppers and the Scoville Scale

There were many varieties of peppers in my garden this year.  They need a lot of sunshine and heat so the majority of my crop came to fruition at the end of summer.  I dehydrated most of the late season crop so that I could use them in winter soups, stews and chili.  
The Scoville Scale rates the hotness of a food, with zero Scoville units indicating there is no spiciness or heat, while the top of the scale,16 million is pure capsaicin.  According to the Scoville Scale for Peppers, " while certain breeds of hot pepper have been known to fall within a certain range, depending on the conditions where it was grown, it may be hotter or sweeter than rated." 
Here are a few peppers and their Scoville ratings:
    Scoville Units                  Pepper Variety
    5,300,000                       Police Grade Pepper Spray
    2,000,000                       Common Pepper Spray
    100,000-350,000            Habanero
    100,000-325,000            Scotch Bonnet
    30,000-50,000                Cayenne & Tobasco
    5,000-23,000                  Serrano
    2,500-8,000                    Jalapeno
    500-2,500                       Anaheim
    0                                      Red

This past summer was the first time I planted the Burning Bush Habanero.  It is a very good producer and when ripe, the peppers are a lovely peach orange color.  This pepper carries 180,000 Scoville units.
Big Jim peppers cooling on the dehydrator tray.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love this time of year, when everything is pumpkin flavored.  You name it, they make it: granola, yogurt, coffee, smoothies, soup, butter, cake, cookies, bread.  Here in the city of micro breweries, we even have fresh pumpkin beer.  The local breweries usually tap it near Halloween and it is available until it's gone, which is around Thanksgiving.  If you've never tried it, you need to, it's amazing.  But today I'm talking about pumpkin muffins.  These little mini muffins are quick to make and a treat to eat
Here they are cooling upside down.  Loaded with chocolate chips and a healthy dose of pumpkin, these three bite delights are quite satisfying.  The recipe comes from

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 C packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
15-ounce can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 C lowfat vanilla yogurt
1/4 C melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat three 12-cup mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the brown sugar and eggs until blended.  Beat in the pumpkin, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Add the flour mixture and beat until just blended.  Fold in the chocolate morsels.
Spoon the batter into 36 mini muffin cups.
Bake 10 minutes, until a wooden pick comes out clean.- took at least 5 minutes more.
Cool muffins in pans. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Turkey Mushroom Risotto

I know Thanksgiving day is still two weeks away, but who says you can't cook a turkey until then?  We cut out the backbone, butterflied the bird and put it on the smoker.  Oh, in case you haven't heard, the new word for butterflying poultry is 'spatchcock', crazy right?
Just by removing the backbone, and splaying the bird, a 16 lb turkey cooked in 2 hours, nearly half the time it normally would take.  I think that's great.  Typically, I like to brine the turkey at least 24 hours with some salt, sugar, lemon and orange, but this cooking opportunity  happened quickly.  There was only time for a 6 hour brine in 8 quarts of water with 3/4 cups each of kosher salt and sugar.  Given the short brine time, I was impressed with how moist the finished turkey was.
Here's something else I was impressed with, Turkey Mushroom Risotto, from the November issue of Bon Appetit.

8 cups of turkey stock, chicken broth or water
4 Tb unsalted butter, divided
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cups assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced-(used all baby portabellas)
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup shredded leftover turkey meat-(used 2 cups)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan- (used 1 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Bring stock to a simmer in a medium pot over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and keep warm.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat until it begins to foam.  Add onion.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent and just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes.
Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, and any liquid released has evaporated, 5-7 minutes.
Add rice; stir to coat.  Add 1/2 cup warm stock and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding stock by 1/2-cupfuls, stirring constantly, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. (It took 30 minutesAdd leftover turkey meat, stir to combine and to warm through, adding a little stock or water if necessary to keep mixture creamy, about 3 minutes.
Stir Parmesan and remaining 1 tablespoon butter into risotto.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide among warm bowls.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  What a great way to enjoy leftover turkey.