June 29, 2010

Improved Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Here is one of my favorites.  A rich, creamy, luxurious soup with no cream.  I use potatoes and milk for thickening to keep it a bit more lean.   I make this and many versions just about weekly, and my mood dictates what if any new veggie will make it into the pot.  Sometimes I add broccoli and/or spinach for a nice combo (great way to sneak some veggies to your kids).  Garlic and white beans added to the cauliflower is a great starter to a Tapas meal.  Of course, a bit of cheddar cheese added to the soup makes a super yummy treat.  

When it comes to blending it up, I love a totally creamy soup, but you can leave a bit chunky if you so wish.

Now here are my thoughts when it comes to white pepper versus black pepper...Some swear by using the white pepper in a light-colored dish solely because if you use black pepper you will see the black flecks in the finished dish...(aesthetic reasons only).  Black pepper tends to be stronger in flavor than white, which is a bit sweeter.  I prefer the spiciness more in the black pepper and really don't care about the black flecks in my soup.  So there you have it.  

Pairing Suggestion:  A nice compliment would be a spicy berry-flavored Grenach , usually very soft on your palate. 

Creamy Cauliflower Soup 
Serves 4-6

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped 
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 large head of cauliflower, separated into florets
4 cups of water or chicken broth 
1 cup of milk ( I used low fat)
1/3 cup of dry sherry
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or white pepper)
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Fresh toasted croutons to garnish (see recipe below)

In a large dutch oven/soup pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Stir in onions, garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in potatoes and cauliflower and cook 5 minutes more.  Pour in water or broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.  15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  

Puree in batches using a blender/food processor,  (or in pot if using an immersion blender.)  Return to low heat and stir in milk, salt and pepper, nutmeg and sherry.  Heat through and serve.  My favorite garnish for this soup is some freshly toasted croutons and a sprinkle of parsley.

Toasted Croutons
Day old white or French bread/baguette cut into 1 inch pieces (whatever you have on hand will do)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder or salt (omit kosher salt if using garlic salt)
1/2 cup of light olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cut bread into 1 inch cubes.   Toss cubes in salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil.  Spread evenly in one layer on a cookie sheet. Toast gradually in oven until lightly brown on all sides.   About 10-15 minutes.


June 20, 2010

Makes Me Happy

As I was reviewing some past photos in our archive, I stumbled across many of my hometown of Beverly, MA.  Which leads to my happy thoughts of the week.  Here are just a few that make me oh so happy.  

The joys of an apple cider doughnut from my favorite farm Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA

An evening out in Boston is always loads of fun!

Remembering days of strolling through the Back Bay of Boston

The thought of a Hot Fudge Sundae at Richardson's in Middleton, MA

Just looking at these clams brings a huge smile to my face......The one and only Woodman's in Essex, MA

There you have them...my happy thoughts for the week.  You will always have a special place in my heart New England!

June 18, 2010

The Simple Popover

Offer me a popover...and you have a friend for life.  Big jumbo ones, small cute ones, flecked with herbs, laced with cheese, slathered with jam, any kind you can imagine, I assure you that if they are in front of me...they will be savored and devoured.  These are my absolute faves when it comes to rolls and breads.  I can say that I have made a few in my time...and this recipe is my definite go to for a simple quick compliment to any meal.  

My Favorite Popovers 
Makes 6 jumbo or 12 minis

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsp course salt
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  
Mix all ingredients together until combined.  The mixture will be lumpy.  Do not over mix.  

Pour mixture into popover pan filling each cup about 3/4 full.  

Place in oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes.  
Do not open oven until cooking time is complete and your popovers have risen.  
Best served hot right out of the oven.


June 14, 2010

Vanilla Scented Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys

Strawberries seem to be everywhere out here....with the farmers markets practically giving them away, it's not surprising that every week I find myself walking away with three or more pints of the oh-so-lush ruby fruit.  Then comes the thoughts of, "what other sweet treats can come of these beauties?"    
That's when I stumbled upon Deb's recipe at Smitten Kitchen of these little gems.  Of course they were a must try the instant that I saw them.  Even though they were perfect as is, I only slightly adapted them to suit my love of vanilla.  

Wine Pairing:  A superb pairing would be a Canadian Icewine.  YUM!  (look for a blog soon dedicated to this alluring sip) 

Vanilla Scented Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys
Adapted slightly from SmittenKitchen
Makes 6 Bettys

1 stick salted or unsalted butter
1 tsp granulated sugar
6 slices good quality white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 tsp vanilla powder (can use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
vanilla ice cream or creme anglaise to serve

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle.

In a small pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, reduce heat to medium-low.  The butter will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.  Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do.  Don't take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is less than a minute.  Remove from heat. 

Lightly butter muffin cups with some of the brown butter, then sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Roll bread slices with a rolling pin to flatten.  Brush both sides with additional brown butter, then gently fit into muffin cups. 

Stir together brown sugar, zest, salt, vanilla powder and panko, then add strawberries and toss to coat.  Stir in remaining brown butter.  heap strawberry mixture into cups, pressing gently.

Cover pan with foil and bake 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake until strawberries are very tender, about 10 minutes more.  Let stand 5 minutes before removing from pan.  Serve warm or at room temp. 

I served with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream. 


June 7, 2010

What is making Kendra Happy this week?

What makes Kendra happy this week?
Following Jess at Epheriell Designs (which by the way is a great site) this will be a new weekly post to my site.

Putting together a savory panini filled with fruit

Enjoying a great glass of wine 

Watching my family have a jolly in the sea

Enjoying some fabulous Farmers market treats

The beautiful shores of Corona Del Mar

Do a post like this one and leave a comment with a link and make sure to link it at the Epheriell Design blog.

June 4, 2010

Balsamic and Black Pepper Strawberries with Warmed Toasted Mozzarella Flatbread

Here is a great play on contrasts, with some delicate soft mozzarella and a piece of toasted warm flatbread, all smothered in some strawberries which have been macerated in a lusty sweet balsamic reduction.  It is such a great combo with those super-sweet strawberries enhancing the savory mozzarella and flatbread.  Oh my Yumminess is all I can say.  I will add that this is a heavenly match to wine.

This is a super way to impress your guests for a summer alfresco lunch or dinner or a teaser starter.  The flatbreads can be toasted in your oven, or even out on your grill if you are cooking the rest of your meal outdoors.  

Wine Pairing: A dry Rose' will compliment every flavor note in this dish.  

Balsamic and Black Pepper Strawberries with Warm Toasted Mozzarella Flatbread
An Andrea Immer recipe
Serves 6 as a first course or light main course

1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar Reduction* (see recipe below)
Course, freshly ground black pepper for grinding over the flatbreads
Six 6-inch flatbread rounds (whole wheat or white)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Coarse sea salt to taste
5 small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese (about 2-inch in diameter)
5 fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or preheat your grill to medium.  Combine the strawberries, vinegar, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl (non-reactive) and let stand at room temp for at least 5 and up to 30 minutes.

Brush the flatbreads lightly on both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.  Place on a baking sheet and heat in oven for 2 minutes to soften; or, place flatbreads directly on the heated grill for 2 minutes to soften and toast slightly.  Remove, cut in quarters, and return to the baking sheet.  

Slice the mozzarella into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Layer 3-4 mozzarella slices on the toasted flatbread quarters, and return to oven until the cheese is puffy, about 2 minutes; or, place flatbread quarters directly on the grill and close the lid until the cheese is puffy, about 2 minutes.  The cheese may get a few toasty-brown spots, but watch carefully to prevent over-browning.

Meanwhile, finely chop the basil leaves and stir gently into the strawberries.

When the flatbread quarters come out of the oven or off the grill, spoon the strawberry mixture over the cheese and serve immediately. 


*Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Makes 1/2 cup

1 cup balsamic vinegar (not aged)

Place the vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the vinegar is reduced by half.  Pour into a nonreactive container and let cool completely.  
This reduction will keep for up to a month, covered in the refrigerator.