Potage Bonne Femme

My Lolly is sick this weekend, which means my Lolly wants soup.  Not just any soup, mind you, but my distinctly comfort-foody potato leek soup.  This super-simple dish is my own personal interpretation of the classic French soup known as Potage Bonne Femme, and is quite delicious and satisfying.  It is a traditional peasant soup served hot, with some texture and body to it.  By contrast, its cousin Vichyssoise has some of the same core ingredients but is served chilled as a smooth puree.

IMG_1143_edited

Here are your ingredients to make enough for 6-8 servings:

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 large leeks
  • 7 cups milk
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • White and black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Peel the potatoes and cut them into coarse chunks.  For the leeks we will be using only the white/light green portion — the fibrous dark green tops can be reserved for flavoring a stock if desired.  Cut the roots off the leeks and split them in half lengthwise.  Wash them carefully, peeling back the layers like pages of a book.  They tend to hide some grit between those layers, so be thorough.  After the leeks are washed, slice them crosswise into about 1/2″ pieces.

Place the potatoes, leeks, thyme and milk in a large saucepan, preferably nonstick if you have one.  Slowly bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.    Using an immersion blender, partially puree the soup to thicken it, but don’t make it completely smooth — that slight bit of texture gives this soup a wonderful rustic appeal.

It’s very easy when making this soup to get a bit of scorched or burnt milk on the bottom of the pan, no matter how gently you try to cook it.  This tends to show up when you do the puree, as little brown bits kick up into your soup, but no worries, it’s entirely harmless and even enhances the appearance, in my humble opinion.  This is, after all, a rustic soup.  If, however, you prefer yours without that extra dab of peasant charm, you can avoid this simply by transferring the soup to a clean saucepan or bowl before doing the puree.

Finally, stir in the heavy cream, and season to taste with kosher salt and white pepper.  Now you’re ready to serve.  Garnish with a swirl of olive oil, a couple turns of fresh pepper from your grinder, and some fresh chopped basil.  Throw in a bit of crusty bread on the side, and you have a hearty, filling and yea, verily, even vegetarian meal.  We munched it down with a big, happy grin on our faces — then had seconds.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!

IMG_1144_edited

Advertisements

Weeknight Chicken Piccata

This simple, bright chicken recipe is perfect for whipping something together quickly on a Tuesday night after work.  It comes together in very short order but is extremely tasty and, with a little attention to your sides and plating, can actually be the centerpiece of a very nice dinner.   This is my own personal take on a classic Italian dish.

IMG_1129_edited

So without further ado, here are your ingredients to make dinner for two:

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, about 6 oz. each
  • Kosher salt
  • White pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3-4 thin lemon slices
  • 2 tsp. capers
  • 2 oz. dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Use a tenderizing mallet to pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness of about 1/2″.  Season with salt and white pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium flame.  When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook for about 2 minutes until lightly browned.  Turn the chicken and continue cooking until done, turning occasionally as needed.  It should take maybe 8-10 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 165°.  Add the lemon slices and capers to the skillet, cook for about 2 minutes to infuse their flavors, then deglaze with the white wine.  Finish by sprinkling on the lemon juice, and you’re ready to plate.

We served ours with sides of pan-fried gnocchi and sautéed red cabbage.  The entire menu came together in the space of about 30 minutes.  It was severely yummy all around, and we munched it down with a big, happy grin on our faces.  I’m sure you will do the same.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!

IMG_1126_edited

Mixed Vegetable Frittata

On this beautiful spring morning we were in the mood for Sunday brunch, so I thought it would be fun to rummage around the kitchen and make some frittatas out of some odds and ends of vegetables and cheeses — just like in those fancy restaurants that do the exact same thing with their leftover ingredients, but charge you a lot more.  Today I happened to have on hand some red onion, red bell pepper, asparagus and scallions, along with some young Spanish manchego and crumbled gorgonzola.  Here is what came out of the skillet:

IMG_1118_edited

For best results, use very fresh eggs (2-3 per frittata, depending on how big and thick you want them) and let them sit out for about an hour to come up to room temperate.  Whisk them in a bowl with a pinch of salt and a little milk (about 1 tbsp. per egg) and let them sit another 15 minutes or so before you cook them.  Not sure about the chemistry behind it, but this tends to make for fluffier eggs when they’re done cooking.

Cut your veggies to whatever size and shape you like, and sauté them in a little extra virgin olive oil until they are tender and lightly caramelized.  I also recommend seasoning them gently with some kosher salt and cracked pepper.  Turn your broiler on high when you’re ready to start cooking your eggs.

Heat some clarified butter or olive oil in an 8″ non-stick skillet over medium flame.  Add a portion of the sautéed veggies, followed immediately by the beaten eggs, and stir them together.  As the eggs begin to firm up, use a soft spatula to lift the outer edges and tip the skillet to allow uncooked egg to run down into the skillet.  When the eggs are almost finished cooking, that is, no more runny stuff in the skillet, sprinkle your cheeses over the top and pop the skillet under the broiler for a few minutes.  You’re looking for the top of the eggs to finish cooking, and for the cheeses to melt and begin to bubble.  The eggs should puff up noticeably during this phase of the cooking.  Keep a close eye on it to avoid overcooking.

When you begin to see some slight browning on top, pull out the skillet (with hotpads or oven mitts, of course) and slide the finished product onto a plate.  Garnish with whatever makes your little heart flutter — fresh herbs, avocado slices, a splash of hot sauce, etc.  There you have it — a yummy brunch that is quick and tasty, and uses up those odd bits in the fridge.  Munch it down with a big, happy grin on your face.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!

IMG_1115_edited

Turkish Spiced Lamb Flatbreads

In recent weeks I have been experimenting at home with various dishes from the Mediterranean region in an effort to strike a good balance between my own culinary curiosity and Lolly’s demand that we eat healthy — she’s my adorable little diet and fitness taskmaster.  The more I read about the Mediterranean diet, the more convinced I am that it holds one of the best ways to eat a wide variety of hearty, satisfying fares while promoting good health.

The Mediterranean diet is not actually a “diet” per se.  It is more a style of eating common in the various cultures in that part of the world that emphasizes certain healthful ingredients, such as vegetables, fruits, fish, whole grains and unsaturated fats like olive oil,  while limiting (but not necessarily eliminating) others that are less conducive to good health, such as red meats, saturated fats and enriched grain products.  For example, earlier this week we tried honey-Dijon glazed salmon with a green lentil salad, or chicken shawarma over a bed of mixed greens.  And yes, wine is still on the menu in moderation, which is to say 1-2 glasses a day for men and one glass a day for the ladies.

For today’s installment we’re going Turkish with spiced lamb on whole wheat flatbreads.  As a matter of personal preference I made the flatbreads myself but you should have no trouble finding something suitable at your local market.  Here are your ingredients to make 4 flatbreads, which made a hearty dinner for the two of us:

  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. ground lamb
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 4 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

And for your garnishes:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Italian parsley leaves
  • Sliced red onion
  • English cucumber slices
  • Lemon wedges

This dish does not take long to pull together, so consider getting any side dishes going ahead of time.  For ours we made roasted asparagus with fingerling slices.

IMG_1108_edited

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high flame and brown the lamb, which should take about 5 minutes.  Drain off the excess fat, then add the garlic and onion, and sauté for about a minute.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in the tomato paste and spices until thoroughly mixed and heated through.  Your mixture should be somewhat dry and thick, so if you like something with a bit more moisture, maybe stir in a tablespoon of olive oil.

Arrange the flatbreads on baking sheets — you will probably only be able to fit two on each sheet — and top with a layer of the lamb mixture.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 5-10 minutes, until the edges of the flatbreads begin to brown.  Pull them out of the oven, garnish with dollop of greek yogurt, sliced cucumber and red onion, and some parsley leaves.  Finish with a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and that’s all there is to it.  Time to munch it down with a big, happy grin on your face, knowing that you’re eating a healthy but extremely yummy dish.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!

 

Dave’s Soon-To-Be-Famous Meatballs

Tonight was just going to be a throw-something-together-after-work kind of dinner, trying to use up some odds and ends in the pantry.  As it turns out, those odds and ends included the stuff to make some yummy Italian meatballs, which is a very doable dish on a Monday night.  I’m making a simple linguine dish using one of my quicker versions of red tomato sauce, but you can also use the one from my earlier post, Tuesday Night Italian.  You’ll want to get your sauce going first so it is simmering when you prepare the meatballs.

IMG_1098_edited

Here are your ingredients for enough meatballs to serve 4 people:

  • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated or shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Choose your sausage based on how spicy you like your dish.  I like mine pretty mild so I use a sweet Italian sausage as my base.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Shape the mixture into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter.  This should produce around 16 meatballs.

You have several options on how to cook the meatballs.  You can place them on a baking sheet in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes.  You can gently pan-fry them in a little olive oil until moderately browned.  Or you can simply add them to your sauce and allow them to slow cook.  This last option, however, may add some unwanted fat to your sauce, but on the flip-side the bread crumbs in the meatballs will pull some excess moisture out of the sauce.  My personal preference is to pan-fry until they are about halfway done, then finish them in the sauce.  This leaves most of the fat in the other skillet and allows the meatballs and sauce to blend their flavors for a while.

Whichever way you choose, you should get a tasty result.  Munch them down with a big, happy grin on your face.  And who knows, maybe if you share with your friends and they share with their friends, pretty soon I may be franchising a chain of Dave’s World Famous Meatball joints.  A fellow can dream, right?  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!

 

IMG_1101_edited

 

Smoked Sausage and Apples in Cream Sauce

For today’s trip into the kitchen I decided (or more accurately, Laura decided) that I should make one of my own recipes that was inspired by a dish I picked up in culinary school.  I have made this a few times and it has proved to be a huge hit with my family, so I thought it might be fun to put it out there for others to try.  The inspiration comes from the classic French pork loin with Normandy sauce, but this variation is my own riff using smoked sausage instead of pork loin, and a sweeter version of the sauce.

IMG_1084_edited

Without further ado, here are your ingredients to make 4 servings:

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 lb. smoked sausage links
  • 3 medium apples
  • 2 oz. applejack brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 oz. light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

Peel the apples, then core them and cut into sections.  Use a sweeter variety of apple such as Fuji or Honeycrisp for the best balance of flavors in this dish.  Slice the sausage links on the bias to a thickness of about 1/3 inch.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium flame then add the sausage pieces.  Cook until moderately browned on both sides, then remove onto paper towels to drain.  Your skillet will likely have a substantial amount of grease, so pour off most of it, reserving just enough to lightly coat the bottom of the skillet.

Add the apple slices and sauté in the sausage fat for about 5 minutes until they begin to tenderize.  Very carefully add the brandy and flambé to cook off the alcohol.  Continue to cook the apples for a couple minutes more.  You want them to be tender but still retain a delicate bit of crunch.  Next add the cream, brown sugar and parsley, and stir thoroughly.  Let the sauce thicken for a couple minutes, then add the sausage back to the skillet and stir to coat it with the sauce.

With that you’re ready to serve.  Tonight we made it with a side of My New Favorite Vegetable.  It was as thoroughly delicious as it looks, but in case you were wondering this is most assuredly not vegan, kosher or heart healthy.  As long as those things don’t hang you up, you can munch it down with a big, happy grin on your face.  Until our next visit to the kitchen together:  Eat well, my friends!

IMG_1091_edited