Split Pea Soup

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The longer you go without blogging is similar to going without exercise or making pie crust. It seems more daunting and doesn’t come as naturally. You have a squishy butt and empty countertop. I’ve experienced all three of these recently. While trying to make my coworker a pie, I rolled out my dough onto the counter right above the dishwasher that was running. The steam melted the butter chunks so quickly, I had to peel it from the hot counter. The crust grew tough. Whatever happened to baking pie for a living? Oh, right.

I got a 9-to-5 job managing restaurants for a food delivery startup in downtown Seattle.

I used to have my hands in dough daily and drift into my own thoughts, usually crafting a blog post or article to pitch. I would stroll the short walk home and have half the day to sit at my computer to transcribe the thoughts I had while sifting flour and pulling pies from the oven.

Now, I sit at my computer every day and instead, I stare at spreadsheets comparing enchiladas to burritos to quesadillas – not that I am complaining.

In an attempt to get back to last December – when I was writing an article about holiday cheese balls – I made split pea soup.

Thomas Keller, who’s book this is from, seems to overcomplicate many of the steps. What should be a really simple pureed soup is made fussy. There were several moments where I grew frustrated and went rogue. My boss used to work for him at The French Laundry, and today she said her few grey hairs are from him. Surely, if you follow his recipe exactly, you will be salt-and-pepper-chic. I preferred not to prematurely grey and instead found a much simpler, likely as good, version.

So here I go, blog post #5 billion, which really feels like #1 again.

Serves 6-8//A much simpler version than Ad Hoc at Home’s

  • 3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas, rinsed and picked for stones
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups peas (2 pounds in the pod) blanched (optional)
  • 1/2 cup creme fraîche
  • Mint leaves

Heat the oil in an 8 to 10 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks and onions with a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer for 45 minutes. Remove about half of the cooked stock vegetables and toss.

Add the rinsed split peas and bring to a simmer once again. Cook for an hour, or until the split peas are completely soft.

Remove the soup from the heat. Take out the ham hock and set aside. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and salt to taste. Use an immersion blender (or transfer in batches to a blender) to puree completely.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper or vinegar if necessary.

Keep on low while you pull the meat off the ham hock, tossing the fat and skin. Cut the ham into small pieces and stir into the soup (or reserve some to put on top).

Serve the soup with creme fraîche, chopped mint and extra ham hock. If it’s spring time and you can find fresh peas, sprinkle those on top as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk

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My mom recently told me she had to perform the Heimlich maneuver 3 times when I was little. Apparently I was always putting more food in my mouth than it could hold. This is probably the first sign I was a foodie.

I make winter squash soup often this time of year. You can make it, savor it, freeze it, dress it up, whatever. I actually made a simpler batch, with fewer ingredients, a couple of weeks ago and froze it. I was feeling sort of lackluster about having to defrost it and eat a bowl of it for dinner until I happened upon a recipe from Orangette. It had a similar base, but with an addition of some delicious ingredients I already had on hand. It was scrumptious–the perfect combination of sweet, squashy, spicy and salty. The other great part about this recipe is that you can add more or less of any of the flavoring ingredients to cater it to your taste. Like to assault your taste buds with spice? Add more hot sauce. Like it mellow and sweet? Use half the spice and accentuate the maple syrup. Like that spike of asian salt? More fish sauce.

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other Asian chile sauce
  • Wedges of lime, for serving

Warm the oil in a 5-quart pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onions until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the curry powder. Add the squash, coconut milk, broth, maple syrup, fish sauce, and Sriracha, and stir. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the squash is soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), puree the soup until smooth. Taste the soup for flavor. You may want to add more fish sauce or a sprinkle of salt. If it’s too sweet, add more chile sauce. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a squeeze of lime.

 

Roasted-garlic pumpkin bisque with herb potato dumplings

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This bisque is perfection.  The roasted garlic adds a wholeness of earthy flavor in this creamy and luscious soup.  It is smooth and flavorful on its own, but the herb potato dumplings pack a punch of herbs and texture for those who aren’t satisfied with the simple pumpkin base.

The dumplings and are plump and soft.  They melt in your mouth releasing the flavor of the herbs to add flavor to the soup.  This recipe was a bit time intensive, but completely worth it; I had leftovers for days.

This recipe is from a book featuring restaurants in the Northwest, The Northwest Best Places Cookbook.  This recipe in particular is from Inn at Ludlow Bay in Port Ludlow, Washington.  Because not all pumpkins are for eating, look for a cooking pumpkin in your produce section.  If you can’t find one, Hubbard or acorn squash make good substitues.

Makes 4-6 servings:

For the soup:

  • 1 whole head garlic
  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh pumpkin, peeled and seeded
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons packs brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream for serving

For the dumplings:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chives, thyme, and oregano
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (more if needed)

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Discard the loose skin from the garlic head and wrap it in a piece of foil.  Roast the garlic in the oven until tender, about 30 minutes.  At the same time, bake the potatoes for the dumplings until tender, about 50 minutes.

    While the garlic and potatoes are baking, cut the pumpkin into large chunks and put it in a large pot with the chicken stock and onion.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the pumpkin is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

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    Unwrap the garlic and let cool slightly, then peel the individual cloves.  Lightly mash the garlic with a fork in a small bowl (you should have about two tablespoons); set aside.

    Working in batches, puree the pumpkin mixture in a food processor or blender and return it to the pot.  If you have a hand blender, you can blend it in the pot.  Stir in the cream, roasted garlic, brown sugar, and nutmeg, with salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm over very low heat while making the dumplings.

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

    Halve the baked potatoes and peel away all the brown skin.  Mash the potatoes.  Stir in the egg yolks and herbs, along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir in the flour, a little at a time, until a firm dough is formed.

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    Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a cylinder about 3/4 inch in diameter.  Cut the cylinder into 1-inch slices to form the dumplings.  Cook the dumplings in batches in the boiling water untl they are tender and float to the surface, about 2 to 4 minutes.  Scoop out wiht a slotted spoon and drain well.

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    To serve, ladle the pumpkin bisque into individual bowls and add the potato dumplings to the center of each bowl.  Plop a small spoon of creme fraiche or sour cream over the soup and serve.

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