Saturday, March 31, 2012

Soup for You

It's taken until March for Los Angeles to get a decent dose of Winter; a couple of good rain storms where the Los Angeles River is more than just a narrow channel of concrete, the surface streets become white-tipped rushing waters, and there's a rare rumble of thunder and flash of lightning.  Those are the days best spent inside, in comfy clothes, rain pelting against the windows, and soup simmering on the stove.

Thanks to an overabundance of onions in the Italian Pantry and a flip through Mollie Katzen's Recipes:  Soups cookbook, it was easy to find a recipe worth trying.  When I first saw my plethora of onions, I was going to make French Onion soup, but the Swiss Cheese and Onion recipe in Katzen's book was really appealing.  There was a small issue though...I didn't have any Swiss cheese (or sherry, for that matter), but I did have horseradish (extra hot!), which was the ingredient that tipped the scales in favour of this recipe.  I could do without the sherry.   But I did have vermouth.  A touch of alcohol is a touch of alcohol, right?  After a search of the refrigerator's contents, I came up with Provolone and Mozzarella.  The soup would take an Italian spin (surprise, surprise!).

This also gave me the opportunity to break in the cast iron Dutch oven I finally bought for myself.  I could kick myself for waiting this long to get one, but I'll be using it frequently now.  Wait until you see the results of bread baking in it!  Okay...back to the soup.  It's a quick soup, coming together in less than an hour.  As I said before, the horseradish really adds a smoky depth and a wee bite.  I added a little more than the required teaspoon because:  1.  I love horseradish and 2.  I like a little bite in my food.  You can add more, less, or not at all, but I think you would be doing yourself a disservice if you left it out altogether.  Provolone and Mozzarella mellowed out the taste, and I will be making it again with Swiss, but it's good to know that the substitution doesn't lessen the deliciousness.

Onion Soup
(Adapted from 'Swiss Cheese and Onion Soup' by Mollie Katzen)
Makes 6-8 servings

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, sliced thin
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1-3 tablespoons flour
2 cups water
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 1/2 cups warmed milk
1 1/2 cups mozzarella and/or Provolone cheese (grated)
pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in your pot.  Add onions, garlic, salt, and mustard.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft (8-10 minutes).  Sprinkle in the flour by the tablespoon, stirring constantly.  The more flour used, the thicker the soup.  Mix well.   

Add the vermouth, water, and horseradish.  Stir and cook for 5 more minutes.  Add the milk and cheese, stirring as the cheese melts into the liquid.  

Let simmer for a few minutes more, adding pepper to taste.  

I followed Mollie's suggestion and served the soup sprinkled with a dash of paprika and homemade croutons.  A swirl of crème fraîche would be lovely too.

And yes....soup reminds me of 'Seinfeld.'

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fifteen Layers High

There's this little website called Pinterest that I am mildly obsessed with, meaning I don't have to visit the site every day, but more times than not, I will.  Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board.  It's a genius idea because I'm always bookmarking sites, whether they be recipes, blogs, photos, articles, or what have you.  In the past I've lost a huge amount of those bookmarks when I've upgraded browsers.  Now in one spot, off my hard drive, all my books marks can be saved!  Categorised!  It also satifies the voyeur in me because you share your boards with other people and can look at their boards!  It can be a huge source of inspiration.  If you're curious want to check out Pinterest or my boards, find me here.

To prove how inspiration struck, I found a pin for a crêpe cake.  That's right, a cake made with crêpes.  I love crêpes.  They're easy, they can be made sweet or savoury, and you can fill them pretty much with whatever you like.  I've had a great book on crêpes that I've referred to a number of times over the years.  Called (what else?!) 'Crêpes:  Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Home Cook,' it gives so many options you'll have loads of ideas for weeks.  The recipe for basic crêpes is so easy, along with all the variations they include.  But back to the cake.  Layer upon layer of buttery batter goodness.  This is not something to eat if you're trying to lose a couple of pounds this week.  If you're ready to indulge, I highly suggest it.  You don't need a crêpe pan or griddle (though it would be easier).  I use my 10-inch skillet, and while it does take a little maneuvering to slip the spatula under the edge to flip them, you'll find a rhythm that works for you with practice.

Make this if you're having friends over for dinner.  It's so pretty when you slice it.  I layered the crêpes with a mixed berry purée.  Next time (because there will be a next time), I'm going the chocolate or nutella route.

Sweet Crêpes
(Adapted from the 'Dessert Crêpes' recipe from 'Crêpes' by Lou Seibert Pappas) 
makes 14-16 10-inch crêpes

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Faretti biscotti liqueur (brandy, amaretto, bourbon, etc) [optional]
2 tablespoons butter, melted (plus more for coating the pan)

In a small bowl, sift the flour and sugar, set aside.  In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs, then add milk, water, vanilla extract, liqueur, and melted butter.  When all the liquid ingredients are combined, gradually add the flour and mix until incorporated.  Refrigerate the batter for at least an hour before use.  If the batter separates when chilling, mix again before making crêpes.

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, and coat the pan with a thin layer of butter.  Pour slightly less than 1/4 cup of batter into the hot skillet.  Thin is key here!  Cook until the edges start to curl and brown, about a minute.  Flip and cook other side until lightly browned.  Lay on plate to cool.  Layer wax paper or parchment between crêpes.

Mixed Berry Purée

1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup sugar

In a blender, combine berries and sugar and purée.  Add water by the tablespoon if needed.  Adjust sugar to taste.  Blend until smooth.

To build cake:

Lay crêpe on plate and spread a thin layer of berry purée on top.  Repeat until all the crêpes have been used.  Sift confectioners sugar on top.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Frittered Away

fritter [frit - er]*

1. verb to squander or disperse piecemeal; waste little by little

2. noun a small cake of batter, sometimes containing corn, fruit, clams, or some other ingredient, fried in deep fat or sauteed

I will admit to being guilty of frittering away many days by spending a lot of time online, roaming from one blog to another, and scouring recipes for hours on end.  I will also happily admit to making small cakes of batter fried in deep fat or sauteed.

Ever since I had that amazing bowl of cauliflower soup at Breadbar in Century City a couple of months ago, I buy a lot of cauliflower.  I've made cauliflower soup a few times since, and have roasted cauliflower with fennel to top polenta.  So once again, I found myself with a head of cauliflower in the fridge along with a large knotty celery root.  I knew the mellow flavours of both would work together and knew I could punch it up with curry, which has turned into one of my favourite spices.  Seriously...cauliflower soup with a drizzle of curry oil makes me swoon.

Curry Cauliflower-Celeriac Fritters
(makes 12-14 fritters)

3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups shredded celery root
1 egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
olive oil for frying

Steam cauliflower and celery to soften, about 3 minutes.  Rinse lightly with to cool vegetables.  In a medium bowl, mix egg with 1/4 cup of the flour.  Gradually add the cauliflower and celeriac, mixing with your hands to mash vegetables and work ingredients.  Add curry powder, salt, and garlic powder.  Continue to add flour until all the elements come together.  It will be sticky and a little messy.  

In a skillet, heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Form fritters in your hand or drop by the heaping tablespoon into the skillet and flatter with fork.  Fry each side until golden brown and drain excess oil on papertowel lined plate.  Add more olive oil by the tablespoon as needed.  

I topped them with a generous dollop of fat free Greek yogurt.

*definition courtesy of