Smoky Split Pea Soup

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So, the recipe began with The Minnesota Farmer’s Market Cookbook I am reviewing for my book review blog. I will note the adjustments I made to the recipe.

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 coffee beans
  • 2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3–4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, diced (The cookbook called for red, I don’t have any on hand.)
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil (This seemed like a lot, but I decided to trust the recipe. It is the right amount.)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine (The recipe calls for vermouth, but I didn’t want to buy something when I had white wine which worked perfectly well.)
  • 2 cups yellow split peas
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Heat the olive oil, add the thyme, red chili peppers, and coffee beans. Add chopped yellow onion, salt and pepper, two bay leaves, and smashed garlic. Add salt and pepper. Cook on medium low until onions are tender, but not caramelized.

Add white wine and turn heat to medium. Cook ten minutes or so, until alcohol is cooked off.

Toss in the split peas, salt, pepper and water and turn heat up to a low boil for about an hour to 90 minutes until the peas are tender. Check frequently, stirring so it does not burn or stick to the bottom.

Using a slotted spoon remove the bay leaves and coffee beans and let cool. The book does not mention doing this, but it just makes sense. However, I missed one coffee bean (it must have been a small one) so it got blended up in the blender, hence a few tiny brown flakes in the soup. This was not enough to ruin the soup, but I think blending all the beans into the soup would be a disaster.

Blend in batches in a magic bullet, blender or with immersion blender.

So this soup is magical, rich and creamy with no dairy, smoky and rich in flavor without bacon or ham. Those coffee beans were an intriguing idea and they worked a treat. The splash of balsamic vinegar gives it a fresh and light lift that is what you taste first before it deepens to the smoky umami of the peas and ends on the gentle heat of the peppers.

 

Grapefruit & Fennel Salad with Grapefruit Balsamic Vinaigrette

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  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Fennel
  • Yellow Onion
  • Green Olives
  • Grapefruit
  • Asiago Cheese (or Parmesan)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Tajín

Make dressing first. Zest a whole grapefruit, Add 3 TBSP balsamic vinegar, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1 TBSP olive oil, 1 TBSP white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. This makes enough for three salads.

Chop six leaves of romaine lettuce and layer on the bottom of a platter. Thinly slice about 1/4 cup of fennel bulb. Dice up about 2 TBSPs of onion. Supreme half a grapefruit and layer six segments on the salad. Toss about eight olives on top. Shave a few pieces of asiago or parmesan cheese on top. I sprinkled with a bit of tajín on top to add a bit of heat and zest.

This salad is delicious. The olives and asiago add a bit of fatty creaminess to balance the astringency of the grapefruit and vinaigrette. The onions and fennel add sweetness and bite, balancing each other and the lettuce makes a solid foundation to marry all these flavors together harmoniously. It was a nearly perfect salad, I just should have made a little bit more.

 

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

This was a delicious and easy salad for lunch. I started by making my dressing first, a grapefruit zest- infused balsamic vinegar and oil. I made it first because I wanted the zest to soak into the balsamic vinegar and enhance its flavor.

  • 1 grapefruit (and its zest)
  • 1/4 small yellow onion
  • 12 asparagus spears (thin)
  • 12 almonds (toasted)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cupbalsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBSP olive oil

First, zest the grapefruit until you have 2 TBSP of grapefruit zest. Add it in a small container that seals to 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Let rest for 10 minutes or until you are done making your salad. Add 3 TBSP of olive oil, salt, and pepper. It makes enough for 3 salads, so you will want the container to seal so it can be saved.

Put a dozen almonds in  a dry pan on medium high heat so they toast. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn too dark. You don’t want them to turn bitter.

Using a vegetable peeler, slice thin strips off the asparagus so you have a nice deep bed of asparagus strips for the base of your salad.

Cut the ends, the peel and the pith off the grapefruit and carefully remove the segments from the skin. Cut them in half, and toss on the asparagus.

Cut your onion in half lengthwise. Take half and cut it in half again. Cut off both ends and slice thinly, separating the slices into thin strips.  Toss into the salad.

Chop the almonds and toss them on top. Shake the dressing to mix the file and vinegar and toss on the salad. Mix lightly and serve.

If you want to add cheese, you could add thin strips of parmesan, but it really did not need it.

 

Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam

  • 1.5 pounds of bacon ends and pieces
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of cold-brew coffee (strong coffee)
  • 1/4 cup of molasses
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Weigh out 1.5 pounds of bacon ends and pieces. You can use regular bacon, but it is more expensive. Cut into 1 inch chunks. Cook on low-medium (3 out of 10) heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon crisped. Remove the bacon and strain off the grease. I put it in a colander inside a bowl to rest while everything else cooked. Remove half the bacon grease from the frying pan.

In the remaining bacon grease, add yellow onions and cook until translucent. Then add brown sugar and cook for about 5 minutes until they onions get sticky.

Add the garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and nutmeg and the coffee and cook for a five minutes before adding the molasses. Bring to a boil, stirring while it heats up to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium and add the bacon, stir while cooking for about 35-40 minutes, so the bacon absorbs the flavors from the liquid and the moisture cooks away. Add the vinegar at the end. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I just added some pepper as the bacon provided plenty of saltiness.

Figgy Yogurt with Apple Slices

Fig Yogurt

I had three fresh figs that were at their outer limit. I knew I would have to remove most of the skins to be able to use them, so I decided to try making a fig yogurt. This is too easy for words and so delicious.

I scooped the flesh out of three very ripe fresh figs and put it in a small bowl. I added 1/2 cup of nonfat plain yogurt and stirred them together. Then I added the smallest dash of balsamic vinegar and stirred. It was delicious, but I was hungry and wanted to make a larger snack, so I peeled and sliced up a Pink Lady apple and put the slices in a bowl with the yogurt. It made a great dip/sauce for the apples.

I have always though blueberry yogurt was the ultimate yogurt flavor, but it might just be knocked down a peg by this fig yogurt. It was sweet and tart and that bit of vinegar really just brought out the fig flavor without adding vinegar tang, It was delicious and something I hope to make again and again.

Made one serving.

Watermelon, Figs and Feta

Watermelon, Figs and Feta

There are no real measurements for this simple salad. Cut some watermelon into one inch chunks and wash and quarter some fresh figs. Toss them in a bowl, sprinkle a bit of salt. Add a tablespoon or two of feta depending on your preferences and drizzle a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar on it. You end up with a pretty and delicious salad. The feta adds just the right amount of tartness and creaminess. The balsamic vinegar cuts the sweetness. You can’t really taste the salt, but you can taste how it brings out the flavor of the fruit.

Makes one serving.

Spinach, Pomegranate, Apple and Couscous Salad

Spinach, Apple, Pomegranate Couscous Salad

It was a hot day today. I went to the World’s Largest Louie Louie Sing-A-Long downtown so I was not interested in cooking or making anything difficult, but I wanted some rich and complex flavors. I kind of just started with some couscous and added what appealed until I ended up with something scrumptious.

  • 1/3 cup of couscous
  • 2/3rd cup of boiling water
  • Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 1/3rd cup chopped red onion
  • 10 toasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, chopped.
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

I took 1/3 cup of couscous and poured  2/3rds cup of boiling water on top of it in a small bowl and put a lid on it. While it absorbed the boiling water, I prepped a pomegranate. I used all the seeds from half of a pomegranate.

There is a fast and easy way to prep pomegranates. Carefully cut through the skin without cutting deep, leaving the pomegranate seeds whole. Once you have cut through, give a little twist and it will separate into two halves. Take a half and pull and twist the edge a bit to loosen it, then turn it upside down in the palm of your hand and whack it hard over and over and all the seeds will fall out. I only needed half a pomegranate, but I cleaned both halves and stored half the seeds in a plastic container for another day.

I toasted some almonds in a clean dry skillet and chopped them in half after they cooled.

I cleaned and chopped a bunch of fresh spinach, chopped up some red onion and tossed them in with the pomegranates and couscous. I added some salt and pepper, the feta and toasted almonds.

I then chopped up 1/2 of a granny smith apple and tossed in some balsamic vinegar.

I put a lid on the bowl I was mixing this all up in, shook it up a bit and refrigerated for about an hour.

This was delicious and so rich in texture from the crispy apple, crunchy almonds, tender couscous and the juicy bursts of pomegranate. The flavor is grounded in the couscous, the spinach adds a nice fresh taste, the red onions a bit of heat, the apples some sweetness, the almonds some umame and the pomegranate a lovely sweet-sour tang. The feta gives a bit of richness, making it all come together in this big explosion of flavor and texture and color.

Makes two servings.

 

Couscous with Red Chard, Celery, Leeks, Tarragon, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

Couscous with Celery, Leeks, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

This was a fast and easy salad to make. In the morning when I made tea, I poured 2/3 cup of boiling water on 1/3 cup of couscous (tri-color couscous) and sealed the container it was in, letting it rest on the counter until I was ready to make the salad. I also toasted about a dozen almonds in a dry pan and let them cool off on the counter for later.

I got out my mandoline for fine slicing. I sliced two stalks of celery and 1/4 cup of leeks. I tossed them in with the couscous along with a  handful of dried cranberries. I cleaned two stalks of red chard and rolled them up so I could cut them into thin slices. Then I chopped them the other direction for small pieces.  I removed the leave from 1 bunch of tarragon and chopped the leaves up. I chopped the almonds in half and tossed them in. Then I added some salt and pepper and about 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 TBSP of olive oil. I put the lid back on and shook it all up and let it rest in the fridge so the flavors could marry.

This made about 1.5 pints of salad, 4 servings.

There is a nice bite from the leeks, a bit of tang from the tarragon, earthiness from the chard and zingy sweetness from the dried cranberries. The balsamic blends the flavors perfectly.

Warm Mushroom and Kale Salad

Warm Kale Mushroom Salad

This was a fast and easy salad that I decided to have as an entree instead. It makes a single serving entree or two sides. The key to success is not overcooking the kale, letting it darken in color but not cooking until it wilts. That makes the rest seem more like a dressing for the kale and keeps it fresh in taste, texture and appearance.

Warm 1 TBSP of olive oil, add 1/4 cup of diced onions, 1/4 chopped red peppers and sauté until tender. Add salt and pepper. Meanwhile clean and slice 9 small mushrooms or whatever amount you need to make 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. Also mince one clove of garlic. Add the garlic and mushrooms and let cook until tender. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Finally, add 2 cups of chopped, cleaned kale and 1.5 tBSP of Balsamic Vinegar and stir. Keep stirring quickly so the kale heats evenly and quickly without steaming and wilting. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It might sound crazy to add salt and pepper three times, but the secret of good seasoning is to season at each stage of cooking for the amount that you have in your pan. This will make your seasoning more effective and actually end up using less salt and pepper.

This is earthy with a bit of tanginess from the balsamic vinegar. The flavors blended beautifully and would make a great side dish for something like a pork chop or beef steak, but is capable of standing on its own.

Dried Cranberries, Apple & Radish Greens Salad

Dried Cranberries, Apple & Radish Greens

When I made that Red Chard & Potato Soup yesterday, I saved the stems to see if I could come up with something tasty to use them in. I made up a salad that is marinating overnight. If it does not show up on the blog next, then it failed, but I have high hopes. While I was working on that salad, I decided to clean the radishes I bought, cutting off the tops because they wilt and rot so quickly. As I cut off the tops, I nibbled on one and thought that cooked, it might just be delicious. So here’s I browsed around looking for recipes using radish greens. One sounded very intriguing, but I don’t like raisins and I don’t have any nuts or seeds, so I decided to try reworking it a bit to use what I do have.

First I put about 2 dozen dried cranberries in a small bowl and poured enough balsamic vinegar in so that they were about 2/3rds covered. I let them soak in the balsamic vinegar for most of the afternoon so they rehydrated a bit and were soft. Once they were softer, I made the salad.

When I was cleaning the radishes earlier, I washed the greens about 4 times. Veggies with lots of crinkly veins can be hard to get really clean. To clean the radishes, I put them in the plastic veggie bag from the grocery store, added cold water and twisted the bag top shut and then shook them in the water. Then I drained the water off and repeated again until they didn’t dirty the water.

I put the seeds from 2 cardamom pods (about a dozen seeds) in a dry pan with about 6 peppercorns and heated them until the popped and perfumed the air. Meanwhile I peeled a tart apple (Granny Smith) cutting it into pieces about 1/2 by 1 inch.

I added 2 tbsp of walnut oil to the pan and brought it up to a medium heat. I added the apple pieces and let them sauté for about 3 minutes. They browned slightly. Their texture was slightly softer than raw apples, but still toothsome. It is really important you don’t let them get mushy. As soon as they cooked, I removed them from the oil.

While the apples cooked, I chopped up the radish greens. I removed the stems and cut into thin ribbons of greens. After removing the apples, I turned the heat up a notch and tossed in the greens. I stirred them while they cooked for about 1 minute until tender and a rich dark green. I removed them from the pan straight into the salad bowl with the apples. I then spooned out the cranberries from the balsamic and tossed them in, mixing up the salad. With the pepper and cardamom, the salad needed no salt or pepper to finish it. I saved the balsamic to the side. I can use it to dress a lettuce salad or marinate some beef.

The balsamic from the cranberries and the oil from cooking provided plenty of dressing for the salad, so I did not add more vinegar or oil. It was perfectly dressed as is.

It was a super flavorful salad, the cardamom and apple were sweet and tart and that was doubled down by the balsamic and dried cranberries. The radish greens are slightly bitter, the apples are sweet and the cranberries slightly sour. Since bitter is balanced by sweet and by sour, they worked together perfectly. Now I wish I had bought more radishes. Made one salad entree or two side salads.