Creamy Curried Carrot Soup

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Carrots and curry seem made for each other. Throw in a little ginger and you have a great flavor combination. This creamy curried carrot soup has a velvety texture and wonderful spicy heat. It can easily be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth. Cream of coconut could also be substituted for the heavy whipped cream. Or you can leave the cream out all together. This soup is wonderfully creamy without it and you may not miss it.

Don’t worry about peeling the carrots for this. A good scrub with a stiff vegetable brush is all they need. If you like a little more heat, increase the amount of curry or use a Madras curry.

Here is what I did:

Creamy Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 cups sliced carrots
1 potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or cream of coconut
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Additional salt (if needed)

Directions

Heat the butter in a 5 quart stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery and sauté until onion is translucent; about 10 minutes. Stir in ginger and cook a few minutes. Then add potato and  chicken broth. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover remove from heat.

Add curry powder and using an emersion blender, blend until smooth. Stir in cream and taste for seasoning. Add additional salt if needed. Return to low heat and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Alternatively, you may transfer soup in batches to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth then return soup to the stock pot or Dutch oven. Stir in cream and taste for seasoning. Add additional salt if needed. Return to low heat and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Acorn Squash, Spinach, and Ricotta Cheese Torte

It’s fall and winter squash are plentiful. Although there are many varieties, my favorite winter squash are the butternut and acorn. The acorn squash is also known as Des Moines or pepper squash. This recipe can be made with either butternut or acorn squash. I chose to use acorn as I was also making my Roasted Butternut Squash Chipotle Soup.

This torte makes a great side dish or can take center stage as an entrée for a meatless meal.

Here’s what I did:

Acorn Squash, Spinach, and Ricotta Cheese Torte

Ingredients

2 small acorn squash (approximately 1-1/2 pounds), seeded and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 eggs
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon water
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 packages (16 ounce bags) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place squash slices on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly spritz with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine two eggs, cheeses and sage. Prepare an egg wash in a separate small bowl by whisking water and remaining egg and set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté onion in oil until tender. Stir in the spinach, garlic and nutmeg. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes until heated through and set aside.

Next, unfold one pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly flowered rolling pin, roll out pastry sheet into a 14-in. square. Press into bottom and up sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan.  Excess pastry will drape over edges. Brush with reserved egg mixture.

Next, assemble the torte by layering the bottom pastry shell with half of the squash, half the cheese mixture, and half the spinach. Repeat layers. Roll out the remaining pastry into a 10-in. square and place over filling. Then fold the bottom pastry over the top and press edges to seal. Brush pastry with egg mixture.

Place pan on baking sheet. Bake at 400° 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. After cooling for 10 to 15 minutes, you may remove the springform ring. Allow to cool for 15 to 30 additional minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Blind Guy’s Bloody Mary

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Blind Bloody Mary garnished with spicy pickle spear, pickled spicy asparagus, blue cheese stuffed olive, and a grilled cheese sandwich.
Bloody Marys are not only a delicious cocktail, but they can also be whimsical. You can garnish them with just a few crudités like a stalk of celery, pickle, and olive or get creative with oysters on the half-shell and  burger sliders. You can go a little too far. The whole deep fried chicken found at Sobelman’s Pub and Grill in Milwaukee, Wisconsin just might be overkill.

I typically go a little light on the garnishes for my Bloody Marys with spicy pickled asparagus, blue cheese stuffed olives, spicy pickle spears, and maybe a slice of crispy bacon woven around some roasted Brussels sprouts. However for the last several days I have been craving a Bloody Mary with a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s like an adult grilled cheese and tomato soup.

My Bloody Mary recipe is based off of my friend Jeff Fitzgerald’s delicious recipe. This recipe makes nearly one-half gallon of Bloody Mary.

Here is what I do:

Blind Guy’s Bloody Mary

Ingredients

24 ounces Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix
24 oz tomato juice
12 oz good vodka
6 oz dill pickle juice
20 heavy shakes of Franks Red Hot Sauce (approximately 1 Tablespoon)
1 generous squirt of Sriracha (approximately 1 teaspoon)
1 Tablespoon fresh ground or prepared horseradish
Lemon wedge and celery salt to rim glasses

Directions

Mix Zing Zang, tomato juice, vodka, pickle juice, Franks Red Hot Sauce, Sriracha, and horseradish in a large pitcher capable of holding more than two quarts. Wet the rim of a glass with the lemon wedge and then dip wetted rim in celery salt. Fill glass with cubed ice and then pour in Bloody Mary. Garnish and serve.

 

Jackfruit “Pulled Pork”

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As many of you know, my daughter Elizabeth is a vegetarian which has allowed me to expand my cooking horizons. She and her boyfriend visited this weekend, and I smoked a couple racks of ribs for him to enjoy. He loves ribs. As usual, I did not want my daughter to feel left out so I made a vegan “pulled pork” using jackfruit.

Jackfruit has been widely cultivated in India and South Asia for centuries but is relatively unknown in the United States. That, however, is changing as people here in the United States are beginning to eat less meat. When allowed to ripen, jackfruit has a very sweet taste and aroma likened to a taste combination of  pineapples, mangos, and bananas. Young, or unripened jackfruit, is firmer and more fibrous. It is often used in curries in India.

For this recipe, look for canned, young jackfruit packed in water or brine. Do not use jackfruit that is canned in syrup. It will be far too sweet and very mushy. It can easily be found in Asian markets or other stores that carry a larger selection of Asian foods.

Here is what I did:

Jackfruit “Pulled Pork”

Ingredients

2 20 oz Cans of Jackfruit in brine or water (not syrup)
1 Medium onion, chopped
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 3/4 Cups vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan if you desire
1 Teaspoon liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon ground dry mustard
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 Cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Drain and rinse jackfruit. Cut larger pieces into smaller pieces keeping the triangular shape. This lends to a stringy pork-like look later.

Sauté the jackfruit, onion, and garlic in a large skillet until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, molasses, thyme, chili powder, mustard, and pepper. Stir well so all ingredients are combined, then cover. Simmer on low stirring every 15 minutes. After about 45 to 60 minutes, remove lid and cook down any remaining liquid.

Use a potato masher to lightly mash the jackfruit once the broth has all cooked down. The jackfruit will easily shred and take on the appearance of shredded pork. You will want to leave some larger pieces and not a mush.

Spread shredded jackfruit onto a lightly greased, rimmed baking sheet. Place in 400°F oven for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, stir in 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and place back in oven for 10 more minutes or until it is very browned and caramelized. Remove from the oven and place in serving bowl. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce. Serve on buns with additional BBQ sauce if desired. It may also be topped with a creamy coleslaw.

Cast Iron Skillet Peach and Pecan Cobbler

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A cast iron skillet is the most versatile piece of cookware you can own. You can use it on the stovetop, in the oven, over a campfire, or even on a grill. You can fry in them, make casseroles in them, or even bake in them. I will make corn bread in nothing but a cast-iron skillet.

Here is a recipe I created for a Cast Iron Skillet Peach and Pecan Cobbler. I baked mine on my gas grill. The directions I am sharing are for an oven. Yeah, I include a little rye whiskey in the recipe. You can use bourbon or omit whiskey if desired. Increase lemon juice to three tablespoons if omitting.

Cast Iron Skillet Peach and Pecan Cobbler

Ingredients

Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour
cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Filling

cups pecans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
pounds peaches, cut into ½-inch wedges, approximately 6 to 8 depending on size
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Lemon, juiced
1 Tablespoon rye whiskey or bourbon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Topping

Add flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Add butter. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until clumps form and no dry spots remain.

Filling

Preheat oven to 350°.

Toast pecans in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet until slightly darkened in color about 8 to 10 minutes. Shake the baking sheet tossing the pecans every couple minutes to prevent from burning. Cool slightly then chop coarsely.

Add the pecans, peaches, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, rye whiskey, ginger, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl and mix well ensuring peaches and pecans are well distributed.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 10″ cast-iron skillet with unsalted butter. Pour peach mixture into skillet. Crumble the topping over filling.

Bake until topping is golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling around the edges about 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature with or without vanilla ice cream.

Heirloom Tomato Frittata

 

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Tomatoes are coming on strong now and can be found everywhere at farmers’ markets and roadside stands. We are eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Recently, I made this fantastic, flavorful frittata for lunch, but it would do well for any meal.

A frittata is quick and easy to make when you don’t have a lot of time or if you have several people to serve a quick, satisfying breakfast or brunch. The Italian word frittata comes from the Italian verb friggere – to fry, suggests the simplicity of this great dish. A frittata is somewhat like an omelet, however unlike the French omelet, the frittata requires no flipping or folding.

Heirloom Tomato Frittata

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
8 Large eggs
3 Tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
2 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (more for garnish)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, cut crosswise into 1/4′ slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease 12-inch cast-iron skillet with unsalted butter making sure to grease up the sides. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in cheese, garlic, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. When butter is melted, pour egg mixture into pan and cook until eggs begin to turn golden brown around the edges. Arrange tomato slices on top of egg mixture. Allow some slices to sink if they want to.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake frittata until eggs are just set in the center, 8–10 minutes. If desired, turn on broiler for a 3 to 4 minutes to give the top a deeper brown. When eggs are set and frittata is browned to your preferred doneness, loosen frittata from pan and slide onto a warm platter. Garnish with a sprig or two of thyme or with additional fresh thyme leaves, slice, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Chickpeas – A great snack

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Oven roasted chickpeas.

Whether oven roasted or fried, chickpeas make a great snack and either method of making them is simple. Each method has its pluses and minuses. The oven roasting method uses less oil if that is a concern. Fried chickpeas tend to stay crispier while the oven roasted can become soft in the center after they have cooled. I provide both methods below. I would suggest trying them both to see which you prefer.

I also suggest playing around with the seasoning. Chickpeas take on seasoning well. I list a smoky, slightly spicy seasoning mix, but you can use most any. My daughter suggests cinnamon and sugar for a sweeter treat.

Here is what I did:

Oven Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

2 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
1/2 Teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. and place an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly under running water.  Open the cans of chickpeas and pour the chickpeas into a strainer in the sink. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

Dry the chickpeas with a clean dishtowel or paper towels. They should look matte and feel dry to the touch. I like to let them air dry for 20 to 30 minutes if I have time. You can remove any chickpea skins that come off while drying, but otherwise don’t worry about them.

Toss the chickpeas with olive oil making sure they are evenly coated and spread the chickpeas out in an even layer on a baking sheet.

Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes so they brown more evenly. Don’t be surprised to see a few chickpeas pop. The chickpeas are done when golden and slightly darkened.

Place the chickpeas in a serving bowl and sprinkle the spices over the chickpeas. Stir to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Fried Chickpeas

Ingredients

2 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas
Vegetable oil
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
1/2 Teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Drain and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly under running water.  Open the cans of chickpeas and pour the chickpeas into a strainer in the sink. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

Dry the chickpeas with a clean dishtowel or paper towels. They should look matte and feel dry to the touch. I like to let them air dry for 20 to 30 minutes if I have time. You can remove any chickpea skins that come off while drying, but otherwise don’t worry about them.

Pour enough vegetable oil into a 12″ sauté pan to cover the bottom and heat over medium-high heat. It is best to fry the chickpeas in two batches. Carefully add half the chickpeas to the skillet and fry them until golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain briefly. Add additional oil if needed and fry the other half of the chickpeas.

Place all the chickpeas in a serving bowl and sprinkle the spices over the chickpeas. Stir to coat evenly. Serve immediately.