Weekly Winner:  Another Bowl of Lusciousness

It seems as if I’ve been a bit fixated on soups lately.  I always seem to have a stack of four or five new soup recipes that I’m just dying to try out.  The problem with that is then there’s all the soups that I’ve already made and dearly love.  When am I going to eat them?!?  I guess I’m just going to have to hope for a very long, cold winter.

Potato-Kale Soup is absolutely luscious.  Creamy, (without cream) garlicky potato goodness amped up with shreds of glorious kale.  Yes, I am a kale lover.  I like how it stands up to cooking while retaining a nice bite and seems more substantial and tastier than simple spinach.

This soup is so simple, yet totally elegant. It would make an amazing first course at a dinner party.  Me? I had it for a midweek lunch.  But I gotta admit, I felt just a bit fancy as I sat at the table enjoying this soup while going over client menus and checking Facebook.

The recipe comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks – The Chef Next Door, by Amanda Freitag.

Potato-Kale Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp canola oil

2 Spanish onions, diced

10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 leek, cleaned and thinly sliced

2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cups chicken stock

3/4 pound Tuscan kale, ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Optional Garnishes: hot paprika, extra virgin olive oil.

Procedure:

  1. Heat the canola oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, garlic, and leek, season with 1 tsp of the salt, and sweat until the vegetables are cooked down and really soft with no color, up to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, stock, and remaining 1 tsp salt and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are fully cooked, about 30 minutes.
  3. Let the potato-leek mixture cool to room temperature, then purée it in a food processor or blender, working in batches as needed, or directly in the pot with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
  4. Return the purée to the original saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir in the kale and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve the soup in deep bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of hot paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

Weekly Winner:  Reclaiming Control with Kasha and Kale

It has been a banner holiday season food-wise around here. Dinners out with friends, house guests, bowl games, celebrations large and small.  All of these had several things in common:  bountiful tables of gloriously indulgent food and copious amounts of festive drinks.  I am a firm believer that the holidays call for an extra dab of decadence which I am guilty of adding to what I cooked as well as accepting in what others offered.  I’m not complaining … or at least I wasn’t, until the holidays were over and I ever-so-cautiously stepped on the scale.  Ouch.  Yeah, OK, I sort of saw that coming.

I’m fortunate in that, unlike most people who dread going back to the “daily grind” when the holidays are over, I not only welcome it, I crave it.  Enough is enough and it’s time to get down to the business of working out again and eating reasonably.  Which is exactly why I made this for dinner last night:  Kasha with Kale and Pancetta.  I don’t believe I had ever eaten Kasha before last night and I know I’d never made it.  It’s very similar to Farro which I dearly love.  It’s easy to prepare and it is super satisfying.  This is not a dish that will blow you away with spectacular flavors.  This is a subtle, sumptuous and soul-satisfying bowl of comfort.  All of that is just what the doctor ordered around here. The recipe comes from Sunset Magazine, which is appropriate, because the sun has definitely set on the holiday eating frenzy.

Kasha with Kale and Pancetta

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

About 3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided

3 to 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup kasha (roasted buckwheat)

3 oz diced pancetta

1 large bunch Tuscan or curly kale, stemmed and leaves sliced 1/2 inch thick

1/4 tsp red chile flakes

1 Tbsp lemon zest, plus lemon wedges

1/4 tsp pepper

Poached eggs (optional)

Preparation

1. Bring broth, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. oil to a boil in a small saucepan. Add kasha. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, sauté pancetta in a 12-in. frying pan over medium heat until golden brown and starting to crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon from the pan to a small plate.
3. Add kale and chile flakes to fat in pan. Cook, stirring often, until kale starts to soften and turn bright green, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest, 1/4 tsp. salt, the pepper, and a splash of water if pan starts to get dry; cook a couple of minutes more. Stir in kasha mixture and 2 to 3 tbsp. more oil to moisten.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature, with an egg on each serving if you like, and lemon wedges on the side.


Weekly Winner:  Stealthy, Healthy, Comfort in a Bowl

I truly believe that the right bowl of soup can save your soul. There is something wonderfully comforting and nourishing about hunkering down over a big bowl of steaming goodness.  Usually, my favorite, go-to comfort-food soups include cheese or cream, or at the very least pasta — heck, some include all three!  But this soup, while it does contain a bit of cheese, is satisfying, cozy and surprisingly healthy.  Most importantly, however… it is amazingly tasty!

The recipe for White Bean and Barley Soup with Tomatoes and Greens comes from Real Simple Magazine and there is no false advertising there.  Besides all the attributes I’ve listed above, this soup is a breeze to pull together.

White Bean and Barley Soup with Tomatoes and Greens

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Kosher salt and black pepper

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth [full disclosure:  I used chicken broth – sue me!]

1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed

1 small bunch collard greens or kale, stems discarded and leaves cut into strips (4 cups) [I chose kale]

1 15oz can cannellini beans, rinsed

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (about 2 oz) plus more shaved for serving.

Procedure:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the broth and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil.  Add the barley, reduce heat, and simmer until the barley is tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Add the collards or kale and the beans and cook until the greens are wilted and the beans are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • Serve the soup drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan.

Weekly Winner: The Perfect Answer to “Polar Vortex 2 – The Sequel” in Chiberia

2015/01/img_1524-0.jpgThis is the type of soup I would usually save for a dinner, possibly even a Sunday Supper. However, within the past three days here in Chicago the daytime temps have hovered around zero and we won’t even discuss the windchill – minus 20 to 30 have been the norm with howling winds. You need something substantial to keep you going through that kind of weather. You need soup. But not some wimpy, pureed, vegetable-based soup. You need meat!

Having said all that, it is also January which means my annual attempt to eat healthier and lighter has also kicked in. What a conundrum! How will I satisfy my need for hearty sustenance with my desire for more veggies and healthy stuff? The answer: Beef and Farro Soup. Yes, it has beef. But it also is loaded with carrots, celery, tomatoes, KALE, and my new favorite grain, farro.

I got the recipe from a recent issue of Food & Wine and while it does take quite a while to prepare, it is super easy to make. And an added bonus is while you are hunkered down in the house waiting for the temps outside to inch into the double-digits (which I’m still waiting for, by the way), the house smells amazing!

Beef-and-Farro Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 head of garlic, pierced all over with a knife
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Procedure:

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Add half to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate.  Repeat with the remaining meat.
  2. Pour off all of the oil from the casserole.  Add 1 cup of the stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits.  Add the remaining 8 cups of stock along with the meat, garlic, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in the farro and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over moderate heat until the farro is almost tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, leek, celery, carrots, kale, miso and paprika.  Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic and herb sprigs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls.  Garnish with cheese and serve.

 

Weekly Winner: Superfood Salvation

Travel wreaks havoc with my best intentions. I always think I will make wise choices while traveling and visiting my family but alas, it never happens. Between running through airports to grab a quick bite and festive reunions with too many tasty temptations (and plenty of wine) around I always fall way off my healthy eating track. So on my first full day back at home, I needed salvation. I craved something that inherently tasted healthy and would reset my system.

IMG_0571.JPGEnter Seared Salmon with Lemony Barley Salad With Kale Pesto.  The seared salmon was just that:  salmon seared with salt and pepper.  Therefore there is no recipe for that.  The Barley Salad however comes from Food & Wine Magazine.  I adore salmon and it is always my go-to thing to prepare when I want something healthy.  The barley salad was a total surprise awhile ago.  I made it for a client, tried it, and adored it.  The two together saved me.  Salvation on a plate!

Lemony Barley Salad with Kale Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup pearled barley (about 8 ounces)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup currants

1 tablespoon minced shallot

6 ounces kale, stems discarded and leaves torn into small pieces (4 cups)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt

Procedure:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cook the barley in salted boiling water until al dente, 30 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over low heat, stirring, until lightly golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the currants and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the shallot is golden, about 3 minutes. Scrape into the barley and add the pine nuts.
  4. In a food processor, pulse two-thirds of the kale with the lemon juice until chopped. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil until smooth. Season with salt. Scrape the pesto into the barley. Add the remaining kale leaves, season with salt and toss well. Serve.

Weekly Winner: My First Foray into Farro … Fabulous!

Tis the season.  What season you ask?  Marathon training season.  Oh good God, not for me!  But for several of the clients that I am currently cooking for.  Now, while that means different things to different people, what it means for my clients is that they are looking for healthy, filling (but not heavy) recipes to power them through the added mileage they will be putting in.  Some want carbs, some do not — but all want seriously healthy, tasty food.

Of course kale is popular as is quinoa.  I’ve made more quinoa in the last few months than I ever thought I’d make in a lifetime.  I’ve gained a new-found appreciation for the ancient grain.  It’s basically a blank canvas.  But I digress.  This entry is not about quinoa but about farro.  One of my clients asked if I did much with it and I had to admit that I did not.  But that made me curious.  Then Martha came to the rescue.  Martha Stewart that is.  Not her personally, but her magazine Martha Stewart Living.  It was there that I found this recipe for Kale and Farro Salad with Feta.

Kale and FarroWhen I found myself with a free afternoon on the same day that my favorite Green City Market was going on, I knew what I had to do.  Test the recipe!  All for myself.  Dang it was tasty.  Really quite extraordinarily good.  The farro was wonderfully toothsome and nutty.  All around an incredibly satisfying dish and one that you just couldn’t help but feel good about eating.  I immediately put it on my marathoners’ menus and have a feeling I’ll be making a lot of this salad in the coming months.

And don’t worry — I’m proof that you don’t need to be a marathoner (or even a runner) to enjoy this recipe.

Kale and Farro Salad with Feta

Serves 4 -6

Ingredients:

1 cup farro

2 cups packed torn Tuscan kale leaves (about 2 ounces)

1/4 red onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup packed mint leaves, thinly sliced, plus whole small leaves for serving

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup crumbled feta, preferably French

Procedure:

Cover farro with 3 inches of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until grains are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain and let cool completely.

Transfer farro to a large bowl and add kale, onion, sliced mint, lemon zest and juice, and oil. Toss until farro is well coated. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with feta. Let stand 30 minutes before serving, topped with small mint leaves. Salad can be stored in refrigerator up to 2 days.

Weekly Winner: In Desperate Need of a Salad — But Kale??

Kale SaladI seriously never, in a million years, thought that I would be posting a Weekly Winner recipe that involves raw kale.  Seriously, it was not going to happen!  But then it did.

Generally, I do not have anything against kale if it is cooked in something.  Raw, it is just too much.  But then I desperately craved a salad.  In this unrelenting-never ending-won’t-even-get-to-freezing winter that we continue to endure here in Chicago, I have burned out on every soup recipe I own.  I wanted a salad!  But alas, the winter continues and therefore the produce offering is still on the slim side.  Decent tomatoes are hard to come by and the lettuces are all still looking a bit suspect.

As it so happened, I clipped this recipe from Eating Well magazine (go figure!) and thought, “How bad could it be?” I mean, it does have bacon, blue cheese and potatoes in it.  I figured it would be substantial and filling.  What I didn’t really expect was for it to be so dang good!  The combination of flavors was amazing — who thinks to combine honey-mustard and blue cheese??  That’s just crazy!!  But it works.  It really works.  Seriously, this will give any spinach salad a serious run for its money.  Try it and see if you don’t agree.

Kale Salad with Bacon-Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 6 cups kale, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 3 pieces center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 Belgian endives, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 cup currants or sweetened dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread out on a large baking sheet (reserve the bowl). Roast the potatoes, stirring once or twice, until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Place kale in the large bowl, add the hot potatoes and let stand for several minutes, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are warm but not hot.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, blue cheese, shallot, mustard, parsley and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the warm salad. Add bacon, endive and currants (or cranberries); toss to combine. Serve immediately.

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