So. Vibrant. Green.
Reminds me of when I attended summer school in the U.K. and how deeply saturated green the scenery was. I really didn’t expect the soup to come out so green. What an invigorating visual pick me up though. English peas were blanched, shocked then blended with homemade vegetable stock. I decorated the surface with Pecorino shards and lemon oil. Simple, straightforward and fresh. Just what beautiful spring produce deserves.
It’s almost the end of September and yet I find myself holding on to the heels of summer. Feeling like I was running out of precious time I loaded up on heirloom tomatoes, corn and peppers from the farmer’s market last weekend. Feeling inspired by the produce I wanted to keep things very simple but unique at the same time. I tried out the combination of tomato and watermelon. I had felt hesitant about this pairing when I’ve seen it on menus before but I knew with sweet heirloom tomatoes it would be delicious.
I skinned and pureed reddish hued heirloom tomatoes and seasoned it with fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper and placed it in the fridge to chill. I plated cubed watermelon in a soup bowl with basil, minced habanero, lemon oil and freshly cracked black pepper.
After catering comes leftovers. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. Good thing because you got food in the fridge. Bad thing because you’re already sick of the food. I made too much of a few things including the cannellini puree. I was trying to fix my mistake of adding too much liquid to the bean puree by adding more beans. Hence, bean puree leftovers.
Soup seemed like the logical idea. I thinned out the cannellini puree with more water and simmered it while crisping up the thin bacon trimmings in a pan. Why water? The puree was made with chicken stock and I didn’t want additional chicken stock to overpower the soup. When the soup was heated I served it with a small dollop of romesco, few drops of lemon juice, a pile of bacon bits, cilantro leaves and a drizzle of the romesco oil. All the rest of the ingredients were leftovers too. A completely new dish came about – Cannellini Veloute with Romesco, Bacon, Cilantro – and I didn’t feel like I was eating the same ol’ leftovers. A simple reworking.
Winter squashes are so delicious but yet I’ve only cooked with it once this season. The whole peeling and sometimes difficult cutting keeps me at bay. I always feel like I’m going to lose a finger trying to cut through these suckers. But I love them so much! Yeah, contradictory feelings here. But once this season I did make a velvety and gorgeously hued kabocha soup as a first course for a dinner. I cooked the squash a very easy method. The kabocha was sliced in half horizontally and seeded. Then placed cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and baked off for 30 minutes or so at 350 degrees. I scooped the flesh out when the squash was done cooking and added it to the soup base and pureed the whole lot. Easy peasy and way fast than peeling and chopping up the whole squash. I seasoned the soup with vadouvan, a French version of an Indian curry spice mix, and before serving finished it with O Lemon Oil and basil chiffonade. The bright citrusy lemon oil and fragrant basil accented the earthy vadouvan and sweet kabocha nicely.
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
I made a birthday dinner for my shellfish-centric pescatarian friend. I absolutely love vegetables and shellfish so this would be no glitch at all. The first course was a refreshing heirloom tomato gazpacho made with a mixture of heirloom tomatoes blended up with Perisan cucumbers, red peppers, garic, sherry vinegar and unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. Before serving I garnished the soup with diced tomatoes, red and green peppers, cucumber, chives and a final drizzle of meyer lemon olive oil and sherry vinegar. I loved the sweetness of the tomatoes and the tang of the vinegar in the chilled soup.
Often when my parents have relatives or friends visiting they ask me to cook dinner for them. My immediate answer is usually maybe since I would have to give up a chunk of my leisure hours to undertake the project. But then my mind gets churning with ideas and I start thinking of menus. There’s no turning back at that point. Plus since my parents would be paying for the ingredients I have an opportunity to be a bit more extravagant than usual [although trying to convince my parents they must have Champagne and caviar on their menu hasn't come to fruition]. My great aunt and uncle were visiting recently and here is what I cooked for them and my parents…
Gougere – Lillet Blanc
Time was ticking for the small head of Savoy cabbage I bought at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. I would have loved to make a beautiful soup like Lucy did but I’ll save that until I get a bigger cabbage. I thought about a simple saute perhaps with a slice of juicy meatloaf and a dollop of stone-ground mustard but I was in no mood to make meatloaf and not really in a mood to eat meat either. Instead I turned to Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I knew there was at least a few Savoy cabbage recipes in there. But I confess I didn’t end up following any of those either. Instead I made Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup which diplomatically calls for “green, red, or Savoy cabbage”.
First the cabbage must be “smothered” by shredding it fine and cooking it slowly in a covered pan with olive oil and a little bit of wine vinegar. Then bring it up to boil with beef broth and add some Arborio rice and cook until rice is just done but still has a bite to it. Finish it with grated parmigiano-reggiano and butter. Doesn’t it sound and look like comfort in a bowl? It certainly was. And tasty too. I ate my bowl with a parmesan toast. A spoonful of warm cabbage rice soup and a bite of crunchy cheesy parmesan toast. That’s how my dinner went down, warm soup style.
I cooked up a birthday dinner for my mom yesterday. I usually cook non-Korean food at home but I decided to go traditional this year and make my mom miyeok guk, a traditional birthday soup made with seaweed, along with other goodies. Newborn mothers are fed this soup for its nutritive values including a high amount of iron and its aid in cleansing the blood. So in connection with that tradition Koreans have miyeok guk as part of their birthday celebration.
Ludo Bites serves up an amazing miso soup with foie gras and studded with fava beans, peas, enoki and garnished with nori and mint. I made a similar version at home but sans foie gras. Instead I added seared striped bass. I used shiro miso for the base then added all the same ingredients with the additional chiffonade of Korean perilla. A light, quick and fresh meal.