this potato soup will hug you…be comforted.

April 2, 2013 § 1 Comment

I thought twice about posting a potato soup today.  I mean, after all…it is spring.  Well, it is cloudy.  It is 50° outside. I decided to post it anyway.

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I am fond of tradition.  And I love family recipes. So, years ago I called my mom-in-law and asked her what my guy’s favorite birthday dinner was when he was growing up.   She said he always asked for potato soup.  She dug around and found the recipe and here it is!   It is nice to top it off with some crispy bacon and chives.  I topped this particular one with crispy sage leaves.  (Heat some olive oil in a non-stick skillet and cook whole sages leaves on both sides, using tongs to turn, until crispy. Salt them a little.)

What you will need for this dish:

  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 1 onion, any color
  • little olive oil
  • 3 celery stocks
  • cube of butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • powered mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • steak sauce (like A-1)
  • 6 oz. cheddar cheese
  • salt / pepper
  • small handful of parsley
  • crispy bacon…optional
  • chives…optional
  • sage leaves….optional

grandma’s potato soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, any color,  diced
  • 1/2 cup celery,  diced
  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 6 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • small handful of parsley, chopped fine
  • salt / pepper

In a large pot heat the olive oil over med high heat and cook the onions and celery until softened.  Add the potatoes and mix together coating the potatoes well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking for 5 minutes.  Add the boiling water, increase to high heat and bring back to a boil.  Lower heat to a slow boil and continue to cook 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauce pan.  Whisk in the flour until smooth and thick.  Stir in the mustard and add the milk continuing to whisk until a smooth sauce forms.  Stir in the steak sauce.

When potatoes are tender pour the buttery sauce into the soup pot and stir well.  Add cheddar cheese and parsley, stir until cheese is melted.  Serve topped with your choice of crispy bacon, chives or crispy sage leaves. (or all three!)

Generously serves 4.

buon appetite!

watercress and radicchio salad

March 31, 2013 § 8 Comments

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This colorful salad is a delight to put on the table.  I love the slight bitterness of the radicchio and using a crushed garlic clove in the dressing, then removing it upon serving is a nice way of giving a subtle garlic flavor without overwhelming.  Sometimes I plan my meals taking color into consideration. I always make sure our plates have plenty of green.  And then sometimes I even think to add red, purple, yellow and orange!  It’s a fun way to arrange the plate and perhaps put something on the table you wouldn’t normally serve at dinnertime. Like, a bowl of strawberries along side grilled carrots and asparagus.  Or roasted beets along side peeled mandarins and steamed green beans.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 bunches watercress, trimmed, washed and spun dry
  • 2 small heads of radicchio, shredded washed and spun dry
  • bunch of chives, chopped
  • freshly shaved parmesan
  • salt and pepper

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard,  parsley and garlic.  Remove the whole crushed garlic and toss the watercress, radicchio, chives and dressing in a large salad bowl until well coated. Top with shaved parmesan and serve.

Serves 4

buon appetite

croutons…for soups and salads!

March 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

The young man of the house is running track right now.  His already sizable appetite has increased and trying to work out the weeks “school lunch” options creates a head scratcher.  With that in mind, we buy a nice crusty loaf of rustic bread for his sandwiches.  We are very fortunate to have some astounding commercial bread bakers in Seattle. And since we never seem to finish the full loaf by the end of the week I freeze what is left to use later.  I grind it for recipes calling for fine breadcrumbs, dip it in milky eggs for french toast and make croutons for soups and salads.  I love these croutons because they have a crispy edge while still a bit chewy on the inside.  I use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand.  Since I have thyme, rosemary and oregano growing in my yard I normally use all three.  I always make extra because they seem to disappear out of the skillet before they make it to the salad bowl!

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What you will need

  •  4 slices of firm, good rustic bread
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • salt

Stack your bread and slice into bite size, irregular shaped cubes. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Cook garlic and herbs together until fragrant, making sure not to brown your garlic. Add the bread to the skillet and coat well with oil and herbs.  If your bread seems dry after soaking up the oil you may need to add a little more.  Continue cooking on medium heat, moving around with a spatula, until bread is toasted and browned.  Salt to taste.  Remove from heat and cool prior to tossing with salad.

Try your croutons with this…

caesar salad

This is a very simple caesar salad.  This recipe omits the anchovies.  However, if you prefer, use two anchovies and smash them into the dressing to create a paste like consistency.  I realize some take issue with using raw eggs.  If you would prefer not to use the raw yolk I have read a substitution of 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise will work fine.

What you will need:

  •  1 head romaine, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Slice one clove of garlic in half, completely rub the inside of your wooden salad bowl with the garlic halves.  Place the garlic, salt (and anchovies, if using) in the bowl and mash into a paste. Whisk in the remaining ingredients.

Add the romaine, croutons and 1/2 of the parmesan cheese to the bowl and toss well.  Serve right away topped with additional freshly grated parmesan.

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Serves 4

buon appetite!

sushi, at home

March 23, 2013 § 5 Comments

Taken at Uwajimaya Asian Supermarket

We love to go out for sushi.  We actually enjoy a nice sushi meal at least four times a month.  Lately we have been talking about trying to prepare sushi at home.  I am not talking about sushi rolls.  I am talking about nigiri. A raw piece of fish on top of an oblong brick of sticky white rice.

Yesterday I decided I would go to Uwajimaya, Seattle’s asian supermarket and pick up some sushi grade salmon.  What I learned, you don’t just purchase fresh salmon for raw consumption.  The salmon must be frozen first for a period of time to sufficiently kill any potential parasites. They had a plentiful supply of sushi grade fish available.  I bought Atlantic salmon and “tako”, which is octopus.  The octopus had been already steamed and sliced.

While I was at Uwajimaya, I decided to gather the ingredients to make a Pho style soup.   I looked up a recipe for vegetarian pho broth.  My favorite “go to” food blog, thekitchn had a very simple recipe I knew I could prepare.  I collected the few ingredients I needed and I was off and running.  I also picked up dessert.  I found some delicious tiny bite size cream puffs, filled with fresh dairy cream and vanilla!

Well, I am sure we will still go out for sushi, on occasion.  However, I have to say, as a family, we had a blast preparing this meal together.

nigiri sushi

  • 3/4 lb. thinly sliced, sushi-grade salmon
  • 1/4 lb. thinly sliced, steamed octopus
  • 1/2 cup pickled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon prepared wasabi

sushi rice

  • 3 cups short grain rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

sushi rice

Wash the rice under running water for 1-2 minutes until the water runs clear, washing the starch out.  Place rice in a 2 quart pan.  Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil 1 minute on medium heat.  Stir once, cover pan and turn heat down to low.  I have read you should only use a wooden spoon to stir your rice.  A metal spoon will damage the rice. Simmer for 20 minutes.

While rice is cooking, in a small pot combine vinegar, sugar and salt. Heat, over medium until all solids become liquid.

When the rice is done, transfer to a bowl.  Stir in your seasoned rice vinegar and allow to come to room temperature.

assemble

Using wet hands, we formed little oblong bricks of rice, placed a little spot of wasabi, then topped with a slice of fish. Serve with little dishes of soy sauce for dipping.

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Next…

pho noodle soup

broth

  • 1 large onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 3 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

toppings

  • handful of watercress, torn into small pieces
  • a few sprigs of thai basil
  • one cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 pound dry flat rice noodles
  • (I realized I accidentally bought wheat soba noodles, used them anyway, it was still perfect)
  • sriracha sauce  (a thai-style hot sauce, typically made from sun-ripened chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt)

Since we were going to prepare sushi too, I prepared the broth a few hours before. I kept it on the stovetop, covered, and for the reason that it is vegetarian, without heat.

broth

Char the onion and ginger under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5-7 minutes on each side.  Rinse well with water.

In a large pot, dry roast cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent burning.  When spices are aromatic, add vegetable stock, soy sauce, charred onion and ginger.

Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Strain and keep aside until ready to serve.

toppings

While the broth is simmering, prepare and bring your toppings to the table.

noodles

Since I accidentally bought the soba wheat noodles, I boiled the noodle in the broth for a few minutes before serving.  Otherwise, if you have rice noodles, place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water.  Let stand for 20-30 minutes or until tender but still chewy.  Drain.

to serve

Divide noodles between bowls, ladle about 2 cups of broth in each bowl.  Serve, allowing diners to garnish their own bowls.

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Oh, did I mention Sake?

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Serves 4

buon appetite

cold spring day, hot spring soup

March 21, 2013 § 3 Comments

According to the calendar it is spring.  However, you wouldn’t know it according to the weather.  It has been very blustery and rainy here in Seattle.  Still wearing the down coat.

I have a cookbook I have been in love with for six years.  I use this book over and over again.  I feel it is the cookbook my mom would have wrote for me.  Although my mom’s cooking was very american, this book is very european.  The recipes are very simple and the outcome is truly comforting.

Here is the book:

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Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros

Since spring is here our markets are full of beautiful green vegetables.  Every imaginable leafy green, green scallions, english peas, snow peas, asparagus, the list goes on!  I stroll around the vegetable area wanting to bag it all up and figure out what I am going to do with it once I get it home.  I admit, I do shop like that often.  But, today, I remembered a soup recipe from Apples for Jam.  It seemed like it would be a perfect cold, blustery spring day meal.  This was probably the sixth time I made this soup.  It is so clean, nourishing and fresh.  Before discovering this recipe, I never imagined putting lettuce in my soup!  Oh, and here is a comment I heard at the dinner table tonight, “I have been waiting for this soup all my life!  Whenever I have wanted vegetable soup, this is what I imagined!

Here it is,

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green vegetable soup with egg and lemon

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 scallions, green and white parts, chopped
  • a couple leafy celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 small zucchini, cut into squares
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into squares
  • 2/3 cup fresh shelled peas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded lettuce (romaine or butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups watercress tips
  • 6 cups water
  • salt
  • 2 1/3 cups shredded baby spinach leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • juice of one lemon
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat olive oil in large heavy stockpot.  Gently sauté scallions and celery until soft, add zucchini, potatoes, peas, and half of the lettuce and watercress.

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Add 6 cups water, salt well and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes, making sure the potatoes are soft.  Add the remaining lettuce and watercress and spinach and cook for a few more minutes.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add lemon juice and continue to whisk.  Add a couple of ladlefuls of hot broth from the soup to the eggs to acclimatize them.

Remove the soup from heat and add the egg mixture to the soup.  Continue to mix while putting the soup back on the lowest possible heat for just a few minutes, allowing the egg to cook without scrambling them.  Taste for salt.

Serve warm with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

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Serves 6

buon appetite

simple arugula salad

March 17, 2013 § 3 Comments

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Serve this salad next time you make a steak. It’s perfect.  I buy baby arugula in the little clear box, already cleaned and ready to eat.  You can either use a sweet yellow or red onion. And always use freshly grated parmesan cheese!

What you will need for this dish:

  •  2 big handfuls of arugula
  • two tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 red or sweet yellow onion, sliced very thin
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • good sprinkling freshly grated or shaved parmesan cheese
  • pinch salt

Using a non stick skillet on medium high heat, toast the pine nuts.   Give the skillet an occasional  shake to brown all sides.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Place the arugula in a large salad serving bowl.  Spread the onion on top.  Next sprinkle the pine nuts and a generous amount of grated or shaved parmesan.  When you are ready to sit down, drizzle the olive oil on top, salt a little and toss well.

Serves 2

buon appetite

sumo mandarins!

March 15, 2013 § 3 Comments

Get a load of these beauties!  It’s “trending” right now in every Seattle market. It is a new citrus varietal, developed in Japan.  Evidently, they are being grown on farms in California’s San Joaquin Valley!  So, to all my family in San Joaquin Valley reading this…go get some! They are delicious.  Each sumo weighs 1 pound each!

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“steak in the oven” w/parsley chimichurri

March 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

I was visiting one of my favorite food blogs yesterday, “the kitchn” and read:  how to cook perfect steak in the oven.  Inspired, I drove to my neighborhood market.  Thank goodness this market features  fine grass fed beef.  I bought 2 lbs. of rib-eye and gave the “Steak in the Oven” a try.  I use a Weber with mesquite briquettes when we grill, therefore, I have been wanting to find an oven recipe that would turn out a nice steak.  And I found it!  This was perfect, melt in your mouth steak.  If you are like me sometimes you just don’t want to build a briquette fire.  Also, if you are somewhat like me sometimes you’ll discover you haven’t cleaned the ashes out in awhile and that adds another daunting task!   Not to mention living in Seattle….rain.   I wish I would have known about this all those years I lived in an apartment.

I found the parsley sauce a few summers ago in a copy of Martha Stewarts Food Everyday cookbook.  I always serve this with our steaks. I call it chimichurri rather than sauce.  Chimichurri is an herb condiment sauce that is considered a culinary specialty of Argentina. Typically served with grilled or roast beef.  I read one definition of chimichurri being a “condiment for food” and loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order”.

And of course…if you have a palette for it, don’t forget the horseradish!

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Everything you will need for this dish:

  •  2 lbs. good quality rib eye steak
  • a little salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • handful of parsley
  • a few tablespoons horseradish….optional
  • cast iron skillet or heavy oven proof skillet

steaks

As mentioned in the kitchn recipe, the most important step is buy a good steak.  Grass fed and humanely butchered.  For a more intense flavor buy a dry aged steak.  You will spend a little more, and it is worth it.  We only have steak once in awhile so I don’t mind spending a little more on good quality beef.

Use a paper towel and blot your steak dry and allow it to come to room temperature.

Turn on your oven to broil.  Place a cast iron skillet in the oven, allow it to heat up as the oven is heating.

Generously brush one side of your steak with oil.  I used olive oil instead of canola or vegetable oil.  I read some folks may have had a problem with the oil smoking while it was broiling. I didn’t. It worked perfect for me. Sprinkle salt and pepper and pat it into the steak so it will stick.  Turn the steak over and do the same on the other side.  Brush oil on the edges too.

Turn your stove top burner on high heat.  Remove cast iron skillet from oven, place it over the high heat burner.  Using tongs place the steak in the hot skillet.  Cook for 30 seconds!  I counted 1001, 1002, 1003…etc.  Using tongs flip it over and do the same on the other side.  Then return the skillet to your broiler.  Cook the steak 2 minutes for medium rare, 3 minutes for medium.  Make sure to use a timer!  Using tongs, flip the steak over and do the same on the other side.

Remove steak from oven and put it on a large cutting surface.  Using foil make a tent and place it over the steaks for about 5 minutes allowing it to rest.

For presentation, rather than just serving your steak as a whole piece of meat, slice the steak.  Slice it against the grain. I like slices to be 1/4″ thick.  Serve with a spoonful of parsley chimichurri on top.

parsley chimichurri

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • course salt and fresh ground pepper

In a blender, puree the garlic, parsley, olive oil, and 3 tablespoons water until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

buon appetite

swiss chard risotto with chicken meatballs (risotto alla erbette con polpettine di pollo)

March 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

Usually on Monday I like to prepare a simple meal that does not require too many dishes, pots, time and thought.   However, last night something came over me and I took on a pretty significant cooking endeavor.  I made swiss chard risotto with chicken meatballs.  I found the recipe in La Cucina Italiana.  The entree was sensational!  Since the recipe came from the hard copy magazine, and they did not feature it on their website, I am unable to link it, so I will share it with you here.  This is why I love cooking.  While preparing this I didn’t feel rushed at all.  I went into it knowing there was a little more to it and I felt such a sense of quietude. Since I work full time, too often I’m rushed to get it on the table because it’s getting late in the evening and there are still too many things to do before bedtime.  We especially enjoyed the meatballs using finely chopped chicken thighs rather than ground chicken.  This step was the most time consuming, but highly recommended.

This recipe is exactly the same words as were used originally in the magazine. It did indeed take 1 hour, 45 minutes and I think it was more like 4 servings, rather than 6 servings.  But then we had this as a one dish meal.  No sides.

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1 hour, 45 minutes / 6 servings

Homemade chicken broth made with thigh bones deepens the flavor of the risotto.  If time is tight, substitute 4 cups store-bought, low-sodium broth combined with 2 cups water.  If using store-bought broth, use 3/4 pound boneless thigh meat or swap in ground chicken.

 Broth

  • 1 pound skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 celery rib, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 leafy thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fine sea salt

 Meatballs

  • 2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped carrot
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 leafy sage sprig
  • 1 leafy thyme sprig
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Risotto

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, gently smashed and peeled
  • 1 bunch swiss chard (about 3/4 pound), leaves finely chopped
  • fine sea salt
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Step 1.  FOR BROTH:  Remove skin and bones from chicken thighs; set aside meat.  In a large, wide saucepan, combine skin and bones, onion, carrot, celery, thyme, bay leaf, wine a pinch of salt and 6 cups of water.  Bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer, cook 45 minutes.  Meanwhile prepare meatballs.

Step 2.  FOR MEATBALLS:  Cut reserved chicken into small cubes, then finely chop.  In a large bowl, soak bread in milk until softened about 1 minute.  Squeeze out excess milk and place back into the bowl with chicken, parsley, salt and pepper.  Mix until just combined well.  (do not over mix). then form 1-teaspoon portions into 1 1/4 inch balls.

Step 3.  In a large heavy saucepan, arrange meatballs in a single layer.  Add carrot, butter, sage and thyme.  Cook, covered, over medium heat, 10 minutes.  Add wine; bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes more; remove and discard herbs.  Remove pan from heat; cover to keep warm.

Step 4.  FOR RISOTTO:  In large saucepan with lid, heat 2 tablespoons oil and garlic, over medium heat.  Add chard and pinch salt, cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove and discard garlic, set aside chard.

Step 5.  Strain broth into a saucepan through a fine-mesh sieve, cover to keep warm (if using store-bought broth, bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and cover to keep warm).  In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat; add shallot. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add rice; cook, stirring, 1 minute, then add wine.  Cook, stirring, until liquid is mostly absorbed.  Add 1/2 cup broth; cook, stirring frequently, until broth is mostly absorbed.  Continue adding broth in 1/2 cupfuls, stirring frequently, and allowing each addition to mostly absorb before adding the next, until rice is tender yet still slightly firm to the bite.  (You may have broth leftover).

 Step 6.  Stir in chard, cheese, butter and , if using homemade unseasoned broth 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve risotto immediately with meatball and their broth.

cauliflower soup

March 7, 2013 § 1 Comment

I love soup.  I love to cook soup.  I love to eat soup.  I have countless soup recipes to share!  After I spotted a nice looking head of cauliflower…I was hankering for some cauliflower soup today!   This is simple, easy and ready in 30 minutes.   I especially like the combination of pancetta, crispy sage, and cream fraiche as a topper for this soup.  To substitute the pancetta you can use chopped bacon and either plain greek yogurt or sour cream for the cream fraiche.

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Soup

  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tbsp.
  • 2 large russet potatoes peeled and diced (not pictured)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 3 or 4 medium carrots, diced
  • 1  head cauliflower, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • salt / pepper

Garnish

  • 1/2 cup of creme fraiche, sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • 4 oz. cubed pancetta or 5 strips of chopped bacon
  • 12 large sage sprigs

Using medium high, heat the olive oil  in a large pot.  Cook the onion until softened and aromatic.  Add the carrots, potatoes and cauliflower and toss well to coat.  Continue cooking  5 minutes allowing the flavor to blend a little.  Turn up the heat to high and add the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and lower heat back to medium so it is not a roaring boil.    Allow soup to soft boil until carrots and potatoes are tender.

I use a hand blender and whizz the soup just enough to leave a few cauliflower and potato bits whole. Soups done! Let the soup sit while frying the sage leaves.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick pan and fry the sage on both sides until crisp.  Remove with tongs. salt a little.

Divide the soup among serving bowls.  Top with a tablespoon each of “cream” and pancetta. Place 3 fried sage leaves on top and serve.

Serves 4 – with a little left over for lunch tomorrow…

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