Holy Crab! … and Avocado Soup

First of all, SO SORRY for my laziness over the past 9 months. Rest assured I have been cooking and feeding my now hubby, but wedding planning over the past few months really took a toll.  Hopefully, I will get to write about that journey one day, but now that the wedding is over… let’s get cookin again!

After 2 weeks of the summer’s delicious sweet corn and grilled chicken, the law of diminishing returns has set in.  To rescue us from the summer food doldrums, I browsed through the list of saved recipes I’d intended to try over the years but ended up collecting cyber dust.

The Crab & Avocado soup (easier than it sounds) is exactly what I needed to maintain my “good wife” status! This DELICIOUS cold summer soup packed with all the goodness from avocados and sweet crab meat served with some sourdough bread is the perfect light summer dinner.

Crab & Avocado Soup

Crab & Avocado Soup

I modified this Epicurious recipe to make it a bit soupier and doubled the amount of crab (hey, why not) so I can serve this as a main.  Also, if you don’t already have an immersion blender, get it, it’s da bomb!!

Yields 2 Main Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lump crab meat (I used back fin crab meat due to cost)
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation

– Mix crabmeat, celery, dried parsley, and lemon zest in a bowl.  Cover and chill crab salad.

– Cube and pit avocados; scoop flesh into a large mixing bowl. Add vegetable stock, crème fraîche, lime juice, kosher salt, and 1 1/4 cups water. Purée with immersion blender until smooth. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper; chill.

– Divide soup amongst 2 bowls.  Spoon crab salad into center of each bowl.

Holiday Dinner Thyme – Part II of III: Appetizer and Main

I hope Part I’s Buttered Rum & Cranberry Popcorn and Kale Chips recipes are making you hungry! Let’s keep the holiday spirits high and move onto appetizer and main course recipes: Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Figs with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze & Provencal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes.

The dynamic tastes & textures of the stuffed figs truly makes it a wonderful starter.  Also as a hostess favorite, these figs can be pre-assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving!

Stuffed Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

I’ve tried making this original Todd English recipe with smoked ham and prosciutto; based on the structural integrity and taste of the end product (as well as presentability) I have to recommend using Prosciutto – other modifications below.

Ingredients:

Serves 8

– 16 fresh Black Mission figs, cut off stem, exposing small section flesh, quarter through the stem end, leave root end intact

– 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (see Note)

– 16 paper-thin slices Prosciutto

– 2 tablespoon olive oil

– 4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

– 1 teaspoon kosher salt

– 1 teaspoon black pepper

– 1  1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (to make glaze)

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F degrees.
  2. Stuff each fig with 1/2 tablespoon of Gorgonzola. (I’ve found the figs not really being able to hold more than ½ tbsp and that amount is perfect for each serving)
  3. Wrap each fig with a slice of Proscuitto and top with the oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper mixture.
  4. Place the figs in a greased medium-size baking pan. Bake until the figs are gooey on the inside and charred on the outside, soft but still firm, about 15 to 18 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place the vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling until it reduces to about ¼ of the original volume, about 20 minutes. The vinegar will start to glisten, thicken, and taste much sweeter than the original liquid. (YUM!!!!)
  6. As soon as the figs come out of the oven, pour the hot glaze over them. Serve immediately.

NOTE: You can substitute Roquefort, Danish blue, or ricotta cheese for the Gorgonzola.

Stuffed Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

This Epicurious Provencal Rack of Lamb recipe has accompanied me through many Holidays and has never failed to impress – while the lamb itself is delicious, the potatoes and tomatoes are equally key. I double the amount of the garlic, thyme, rosemary rub so I have enough to cover as much surface area as I can to give the tomatoes and meat a nice crispy top. For the potatoes, I use a mandoline slicer to get a thin even cut.

Provencal Rack of Lamb

I prefer to have the potatoes go in the oven the same time as the tomatoes to get it cooked slightly before I place the lamb on top and finish the dish off.  Recipe and modifications reflected below:

Ingredients:

Serves 8

– 16 garlic cloves

– 16 teaspoons chopped thyme

– 8 teaspoon chopped rosemary

– 20 tablespoons olive oil, divided

– 8 medium tomatoes, halved  OR 32 – 40 cocktail tomatoes (while smaller, the flavor of cocktail tomatoes is well worth the extra cutting effort when regular tomatoes aren’t in season)

– 4 pounds frenched rack of lamb (4 chops per person, 1 rack usually has about 8 chops)

– 8 medium shallots, thinly sliced (1 1/3 cup)

– 8 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick

– 8 tablespoons water

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
  2. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 4 teaspoon salt and 4 teaspoon pepper. Stir together with chopped Thyme, Rosemary, and 16 tablespoons oil.
  3. Pat lamb dry and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown lamb on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer lamb to a cutting board.
  4. Put tomatoes cut sides up in an oiled baking dish and top with a third of garlic mixture.
  5. Rub half of remaining garlic mixture on fat side of lamb racks.
  6. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium heat and cook shallots and potatoes, stirring occasionally, until edges are browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in water and remaining garlic mixture and remove from heat.
  7. In an oiled baking dish, arrange sliced potatoes / shallot mix (single layer as best you can). Roast for about 15 minutes then arrange lamb over potatoes and roast in oven, medium 35 – 40 minutes (medium rare 25 – 30 minutes).
  8. Place oiled baking dish with tomatoes in oven. Roast until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
  9. Let stand, loosely covered, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with tomatoes.

Roasted Tomatoes Roasted Rack of Lamb

An Autumnal Dinner Party (Revised)

To celebrate the end of a successful (yet insanely packed) fall wedding season, it is time to get back to the social scene and invite some friends over for a fun dinner party!

With cauliflower at the tail end of its season, I decided to begin a meal with one of my favorite fall soups – Cream of Cauliflower Soup (with Seared Scallop & Lemon Oil).  The freshness of the lemon infused oil brightens up the cream and definitely wakes up your taste buds for the evening. Even better, the soup can be made one day ahead and rewarmed before serving – great for cooks who tend to be stressed out before dinner parties (I’m guilty)!  Remember, for your scallops to brown nicely, pat them very dry before searing them.

Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops

To temper the creaminess (and calories) of the soup, the main course will feature a homey chicken dish from Provence filled with the wonderful aroma of herbs de Provence, juicy tomatoes, kalamata olives, and hearty white onions. I have made this dish with a variety of cuts of chicken, I chose to go with 4 bone in chicken breast this evening for 4 adults.

Poulet Provencal

Bringing the meal to a sweet end, I featured my home made Earl Grey Tea ice cream. Delish!!

MENU

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallop & Lemon Oil

Poulet Provencal (Braised Chicken with Olives, Tomatoes, & Onions) served with Rosemary Potatoes

Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream
TABLESCAPE

How about an elegant arrangement of Pale Pink Peonies, Chilean Calla Lilies, White Tulips? Add a dash of whimsy (and a nod to the upcoming holiday) with some Hypercium Berries!

Floral Arrangement

RECIPES

CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH SEARED SCALLOPS

<Revised on 11/20/2012: Sorry Brian for almost burning down your house!>

INGREDIENTS

FOR SOUP / SCALLOPS

  • 3 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (2 tbsp for soup, 1-2 tbsp for searing scallops)
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3 3/4 cups (1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces cauliflower (from 1 large head)
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 4 sea scallops, patted very dry

FOR GARNISH

  • 1 leek (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • Homemade Lemon Verbena infused Olive Oil (or your can purchase lemon infused grapeseed oil) 
  • Finely chopped fresh chives

PREPARATION

For Cauliflower Soup

  • Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat (if you want to see if the oil is heated enough, drop a tiny drop of water in there and see if it “dances”. If it does, the oil is ready). Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add cauliflower, broth, and cream. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer gently until cauliflower is tender, about 18 minutes. Puree soup in small batches in blender until smooth. Return to same saucepan. Season soup with kosher salt and white pepper (go easy on the white pepper, it can easily overpower your soup).

For Scallops

  • After rinsing and patting the Scallops very dry, sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  • Heat remaining 1 – 2 tablespoon vegetable oil in medium skillet over high heat.
  • Sear until brown and just opaque in center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side (or minute or 2 more if needed to brown).

PLATING / GARNISH

  • Using a slotted spoon, place 1 or 2 leeks on it at a time and submerge in small saucepan of boiling salted water for about 1 minute to blanch.  Set Aside.
  • Ladle soup in a wide rimmed soup / pasta bowl. Place blanched leek in center of each bowl, then place 1 scallop on top of each leek.
  • Use a dropper, surround each scallop with 5 drops of lemon oil, and sprinkle with chives for garnish.

POULET PROVENCAL
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound tomatoes (4 medium), cut into wedges
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges, leaving root ends intact
  • 1/2 cup drained & pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced, plus 2 teaspoon minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 teaspoons herbes de Provence, divided
  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts

 

PREPARATION
  • Preheat regular oven to 425°F with rack in middle.
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss together tomatoes, onion, olives, sliced garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Stir together 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Rinse chicken and pat dry, then rub inside and out with seasoning mixture.
  • In a 13 x 9 baking dish, surround chicken with tossed vegetables
  • Roast about 1 hour in oven and until skin is golden brown. Make sure center of breast is cooked through!

PLATING

  • Let chicken stand 10 minutes before serving.
  • Spoon a layer of vegetables and pan juices onto shallow dish, place chicken breast on top, garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve immediately.

EARL GREY TEA ICE CREAM

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
8 Earl Grey Tea Bags

PREPARATION

  • In a medium saucepan mix the milk, cream, granulated sugar, salt.
  • Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.
  • Remove from heat, place tea bags in the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for an hour. Remove tea bags.
  • Make an ice bath by putting some ice and a little water in a large bowl and nest a smaller metal bowl (one that will hold at least 2 quarts, 2l) inside it. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
  • Re-warm tea infused milk then whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and GRADUALLY whisk in about half of the warm milk mixture, stirring constantly.
  • Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. PATIENCE IS KEY if you don’t want scrambled eggs!
  • Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl nested in the ice bath. Mix in the brown sugar, then stir until cool, then chill over night.
  • Freeze according to ice cream maker manufacturer instructions

Here are the original recipes:

Poulet Provencal

Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops

All Souped Up – My Mealku Recipe

Soups are one of my favorite foods throughout the year! With the right ingredients, you can have the perfect one-pot meal with protein, vegetables, and carbs.  With the Northeast Fall / Winter already hitting NYC hard this year with Sandy and Nor’easter, it has left many of my fellow New Yorkers cold & hungry.

During the aftermath of Sandy, without transit, I struggled to find a way to help our friends in Brooklyn / downtown – I especially wanted to contribute the way I know best, by cooking and feeding!  Kid you not, soon after I arrived at my Upper West Side building I saw a flyer encouraging us “Uptown folks” to share a meal with our downtown neighbors at no cost!

The organization is MealKu –  The Home Made Cooperative. I quickly signed up, posted my “signature” winter “Italian Sausage & Tortellini Soup”, received a confirmation email that it was “ordered” and got a call for next day pick-up.  They provided me with the containers needed (4 of these nifty bags were more than enough for a 12 person soup – wow!!!) and delivered to Red Hook Initiative.  Easy peasy – THANK YOU MEALKU!

Here’s the original recipe from Epicurious. This soup is incredibly flexible – I have made it with chicken stock, without green pepper, no dried herbs or parmesan cheese (for those who are lactose intolerant) and it is still fantastic!  Below are my modifications – 6 servings. I would HIGHLY recommend using a mandolin slicer – here’s the one I use

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage casings removed
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 cups beef stock + 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 3/4 pound OR to save time, you can also buy canned chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium-sized green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (don’t skip this! adds a wonderful layer of complexity and richness)
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 8 to 10 ounces purchased frozen cheese tortellini (I have also used mushroom ravioli, yum!)
PREPARATION
  • Roughly separate the sausage in chunks, sauté the Italian sausage in heavy Dutch oven (with a drizzle of olive oil) over medium-high heat until cooked through, crumbling with back of spoon, about 10 minutes.
  • Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl. Add onion and garlic to Dutch oven and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Return sausage to Dutch oven. Add stock, tomatoes, tomato sauce, zucchini, carrot, bell pepper, wine, basil.
  • Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the amount of tortellini or pasta you would eat in a separate pot.  Ladle soup into bowls. Add cooked tortellini and serve!

This soup can be prepared 2 days ahead (tastes better next day anyway), freezes and warms up fantastically for those single cooks out there.

What is your favorite winter soup?