Although here in New England it is technically spring—a time when we think about body cleansing rituals—there is still a chill in the air that beckons warmth and comfort. So while all my west coast & southern friends are chugging their chilled green smoothies, we northeasterners can feel more comfortable downing soups for the same effect.
I dearly love creamy soups but know that too much dairy does not agree with me. Dairy sort of defeats the cleansing quality of greens but I love the smoothness and creaminess it adds to pureed soups. As an alternative I came up this recipe that, to my taste, gives the comforting satisfaction of a creamy broccoli cheddar soup yet still retains the health benefits of a spring green cleanse. Enjoy!
- 1 brocoli crown chopped; about 3/4 lb. or about 4 cups
- 1/2 medium onion chopped; about 1/2 cup
- 1 medium potato; about 3/4 cup
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 T neutral flavored oil (or if you want a little dairy 2 T butter really enhances the flavor)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (easily found at the grocery store in the Bob’s Red Mill section)
In large soup pot, heat oil/butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and brocoli, then cook for two more minutes stirring to prevent browning. Add broth, bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until potato is very soft and squishy.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is smooth and creamy. Alternatively, let the soup cool then add to your food processor or blender to puree, then add back into the pot to warm again.
Stir in the nutritional yeast and you are done. This yeast adds some protein, lots of vitamin B12 and a cheddar cheesy type flavor. Yum!
The last of the dishes are washed, my guests are gone and I am still reveling in the scent of green. Today I held a Cooking with Herbs class celebrating the multi-cultural traditions of eating the first herbs of spring and it was s o m u c h f u n!
When living from nature, herbs are the first green food of spring. For centuries all cultures have used them in various ways to tone and flush the body after a long winter of eating stored foods that were nutritionally depleted. While each herb has its own culinary and nutritional value, the compound that makes plants green−chlorophyll−is exceptionally beneficial to the body. It cleanses the blood and reduces cholesterol & triglycerides. It balances the gut by killing bad bacterial and microbes and is full of tissue regenerating vitamins A, C, E and K along with iron, potassium, calcium and fatty acids. Eating green helps the spleen!
Because eating bitter helps the body purge itself we made a salad of dandelion greens, lemon balm leaves and horseradish leaves. We dressed it with a vinaigrette we made with tarragon and chives. Vinegar helps extract the essence of the herbs.
I think our favorite flavor profile was from the Montpellier butter we compounded with chives, garlic scapes, marjoram and loveage. We spooned it over baked eggs. Download recipe here…
We ended our meal with a scoop of rhubarb mint sorbet which I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of. It was a gorgeous coral-y red, not too sweet, pleasantly astringent and fruity. A morning of fun and the comments were that LOTS was learned about growing and harvesting herbs, new cooking and knife skills were learned, good team work, it was delicious and loads of fun. Thumbs up on this one; I think I will do it again.
The week before last was a week of good-byes for me, so a feast was called for. My daughter went back home after a nice long stay, my husband & I enjoyed our last stay at our Portsmouth Pied-a-terre, winter had melted away in our yard AND it was the final episode of Downton Abbey – too much to not mark the moment in time with a feast!
On my vegetarian daughter’s last afternoon with me we watched the final episode of Downton Abbey. To celebrate these farewells we prepared a variety of produce-based dishes to feast on while we watched. Vegetarian cooking is something my daughter and I have shared through the years, prepping together to find new ways to tickle our taste buds with technique and spices while trying to adhere to the principles of good health. We find our process opens up the world of flavors to us where traditional American vegetarian recipes we grew up with were always a bit bland.
I would say that this round of cooking has a little inspiration from the Mediterranean region with an influence from the indigenous America’s. Let me share them with you so you can enjoy them with your own feast; perhaps to celebrate the arrival of spring or add to your Easter celebration!
Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers; stuffed with a quinoa pilaf and real parmesano reggiano topped with a cashew gravy, their flavor is nutty and sumptously sweet.
Prepare the peppers.
- Roast 4 red bell peppers then steam off their peels. METHOD: place on a vegetable steamer over a gas flame or under a broiler in the oven, char all sides of the peppers until they are blackened. immediately place inside of a covered bowl or in a paper bag and let “steam” for 10 minutes after which time the peels will pull right off.
- When cool, peel then slice open the peppers on one side and remove the seeds.
Make the pilaf.
- In 2 T clarified butter [called ghee; butter with the fats removed] plus 2 T olive oil, saute on low heat one red bell pepper diced and half of an onion diced. After 10 minutes add 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds and cook stirring for another 5 minutes until the seeds just start to brown.
- Add to pan: 1 cup raw quinoa, 2 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the quinoa is tender.
- Toss into cooled simmered mixture: 1/2 cup drained canned cannellini beans and 1/2 cup coarsely grated parmesano reggiano cheese.
- Fill the peppers with the pilaf mixture and place them cut side down in a baking pan that has been oiled with a little olive oil.
- Cover the peppers with cashew gravy. Soak 3/4 cup of raw cashews in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile saute 2 shallots finely chopped in 2T olive oil. Add 2T nutritional yeast plus 2T corn starch. Mix well then add the cashews and water stirring & heating gently until thickened.
- Add some herbed sauce to the center of the peppers. To make: In a sauce pan, heat up 1 tsp of olive oil and turn off heat. Add 1T dried/crushed tarragon leaves plus 1/4 tsp cinnamon and let them “marry” into the warm oil by sitting for a few minutes. (NOTE: to release the volatile flavor oils in herbs, they must be heated in oil) To this add one 8oz can of tomato sauce and heat through; add salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through and slightly browned on top.
Pureed root soup; using the last of our stored winter roots we created a flavorful puree that went down like silk.
- Clean and slice 2 leeks discarding the tough green ends. In a large soup pot saute these in 1T olive oil until soft but not browned.
- Peel and cut into chunks one celeriac (celery root) and three small potatoes (or two medium potatoes). Add to soup pot.
- Add one box of vegetable stock to pot, put on the lid and simmer about 45 minutes until the vegetables are very soft.
- Use a stick blender to emulsify the vegetables until they are smooth and creamy. Add salt and white pepper to taste plus 2 pinches of nutmeg. NOTE: if you do not have a stick blender, let the mixture cool then process in a food processor. Alternatively using a potato masher can work although it will not be as smooth.
Shaved fennel salad; a simple and nutritious fare, fennel helps the body digest fats and provides a good foil to the taste buds against the creamy textures of the other dishes.
- Simply shave one fennel bulb, discarding the stems, on a mandoline or in a food processor or by hand taking care to keep the slices a thin a possible.
- Drizzle the fennel with pomegranate molasses and a small bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and sea salt.
I hope you enjoy these recipes and a little taste of my home! If you are interested in learning more about the culinary use of herbs, I am offering a workshop on Saturday May 14th that you might find interesting, Cooking with Herbs; spring flush. I still have room for 1 or 2 more people. This is my first time to do this class offered by special request! See it here…
Its fall and the gardens are winding down here at my country home and studio. This time of year is always settling to me as though the plants and I have run a long, hot race through summer and now we can rest on our laurels. Artistic inspiration always comes. Here is what I am thinking…
The color of the end-of-season hydrangea and heirloom nasturium makes me want to get back to my hand appliqueing in similar tones. I am making a baltimore album type quilt a little bit at a time, year by year.
The gray bark of the maple trees is inspiring me to finally do something with the wood grained fabric I painted last year. Maybe I will get something created with it for Open Studio next month.
HOW TO: Apply a thin coat of textile paint to your paint board, run a wood-graining tool through it then very carefully lay either wet/rung-out cotton fabric [like above] or dry fabric on top of the paint. Roll a brayer on the fabric to “print it” with the paint below. Pull off carefully and let dry. Set paint with heat, wash and iron.
Although my rose geranium is still lush, it may freeze soon so I have clipped some stems of it and made starts already for next years planting. I make gorgeous rose geranium tinctures to use in my summer facials. Clip a tip off your geranium and pull off the lower leaves. Prepare a pot of good soil by moistening it with water and poke a hole down the center of the soil (I use the handle of a wooden spoon.) Dip the stem into powdered Growth Hormone and insert stem into hole. Press dirt around it. It will root where you pulled the leaves off and grow into another full sized plant.
I pulled down the worn out vegetable plants at the back door to clean up the entrance to my studio collecting the last bits. David dug up the potatoes out of the compost pile. I think I will make my stuffed pepper dish. Maybe an au gratin of potato with some rosemary on another day.Even the bees are slowing down enough for a photograph. Columbus Day week-end is always a good bench-mark for closing her down and buttoning it up. Enjoy your close to this season!