Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two soups that must not go unmentioned

Winter's over – this weekend it is finally finally warm and sunny, we planted the last of our seeds in the garden yesterday, my first farmers market visit of the season is behind me, and the tasty fresh meals of the best season are beginning. But, before I put winter totally behind me, I have to give credit to these two soups that helped pull me through it. You never know, there might be a day or two of soup-worthy weather in these happy months to come.

That beautiful bowl of yellow above is Julia Child's Saffron-flavored Garlic Soup with Potatoes. I certainly haven't mastered many of Julia's recipes yet, but her soups have been easy winners for me so far (it was one of her soups that turned me into an instant fan before I even owned the books). This garlic soup is kind of amazing. You don't use any stock – the broth is created just by simmering garlic, herbs and olive oil. And it tastes incredible.

The second soup is Green Soup with Ginger, from another source that I trust absolutely when it comes to soups, Heidi Swanson. My most-loved soup is one of hers from the book Super Natural Cooking, Baby Lima Soup with Chipotle Broth. Both of these soups are made wonderful by the fact that they taste like so much more than the combination of their few simple ingredients. As with Julia's garlic soup, the results amaze me.

It's no surprise that I love the Green Soup with Ginger – I can never get enough ginger, or lemon. Or greens for that matter. Darryl always looks at me and says, "You want to add all that chard?" Or spinach, or kale, or... I love them all, and the more the better. This soup tastes healthy and nourishing, with a freshness and lightness that is rare in winter.

Below is Julia's recipe, and the Green Soup with Ginger can be found on Heidi's site, 101 Cookbooks. I substituted yukon gold potato for sweet potato, and shallots for the onion.

Saffron-flavored Garlic Soup with Potatoes
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

Drop 16 cloves whole unpeeled garlic in boiling water and boil 30 seconds. Drain, run cold water over them, and peel.

Place the garlic and the following in a 3-quart saucepan and boil slowly for 30 minutes:
2 quarts water
2 tsp salt

pinch of pepper

2 cloves

1/4 tsp sage

1/4 tsp thyme

1/2 bay leaf

4 parsley sprigs

3 tbsp olive oil

Strain the soup and return it to the saucepan. Simmer 3 cups diced potatoes in the soup with a pinch of saffron for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Correct seasoning. Serve with French bread and grated swiss or parmesan cheese.

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Messing – just a little – with an old favourite

I don't often mess with the classics – those recipe copied onto cards from my Mom's books in the days when I felt only the very faint beginnings of an interest in cooking. I pull these out when I need a quick and always delicious basic and want nothing more. But, on Friday I wanted biscuits. I wanted them to be quick, like Mom's classic Baking Powder Biscuits, but with a different flavour somehow. More flavour. So I dared to mess with the recipe. And the results were so yummy, I felt the revision was worth sharing. It's a minor enough departure from the original that I think it may replace it for me. They're not all that different, but better.

I replaced half of the white flour with a combination of whole wheat flour and cornmeal, and added sesame seeds to the top. But, I'm sure you could try other flours here too, or different toppings. As with the originals, these are heavenly when just baked, warm, flakey, buttery. Eat them all on the first day, or possibly the second – they won't be good much longer than that. I had these with baby lima bean and chipotle soup and radish salad for Friday's lunch, and then with plum jam for breakfast on Saturday. They were perfect in both cases.

Quick Multi-Flour Biscuits
1 1/2 cups white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
6 tbsp cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk, yogurt, or sour milk (3/4 cup milk with 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar added)
sesame seeds for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter until butter pieces are evenly integrated and the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.

Add the milk and mix until the dough holds together.

Turn out dough onto counter and knead briefly. Roll out to 1/2" thick. Cut with a glass or cookie cutter. Arrange fairly close together on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with sesame seeds.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

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