Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roasted Chestnut Bisque

Don't you just love when it's cold outside and all you want to do is curl up with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and watch the fireplace?  I do.   I was perusing through some of my favorite blogs the other day when  I ran across this perfect winter soup recipe and was inspired to try it myself  (thank you P.C at The Runaway Spoon).   This is one thing that I absolutely love about the food blogging world, there are so many talented and professionally trained chefs out there that I am able to find great inspiration, fabulous cooking tips and techniques, and a few hilarious stories to enjoy. :)

I personally have never cooked with chestnuts, and have only ever eaten them while studying abroad in Spain (they love to roast them over an open fire around the holidays).  AND, this was my first time ever using marjoram and OH MY GOSH, I can't believe I've been missing out on this fabulous herb!  The minute I took it out of the package I was in love with the smell.  I wanted to rub it all over my hands and arms (Blake was watching me in my nostalgia from the couch at this point and laughing at me).  I mean, marjoram might be the best new food thing to happen to me in 2010!  So again, thank you to P.C. at The Runaway Spoon.

{Recipe} Roasted Chestnut Bisque
Adapted from The Runaway Spoon

For the Bisque:
  * 1 medium-sized yellow onion 
  * 2 carrots
  * 1 medium-sized leek
  * 1/4 cup olive oil
  * 4 cups chicken stock
  * 1 (7.4 ounce) jars roasted and peeled chestnuts
  * 6-7 sprigs marjoram
  * 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For Marjoram Oil:
  * 6 Tblsp olive oil
  * 4 sprigs marjoram

Directions for Bisque:
1.) Dice the onion, carrots and leek.  Saute the vegetables in a large put with the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft and tender, and the onion and leeks are translucent.  Add the stock, chestnuts and marjoram sprigs (count how many so you can take them out later).  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer the soup for 45 minutes.  Leave the soup to cool until it’s safe to put in the blender. Meanwhile, prepare the marjoram oil (see below).

2.)  Fish out the marjoram stems, then transfer the soup to a blender in batches and puree until smooth.  After blending each batch, pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer set over a large bowl and push the soup through with a wooden spoon or spatula.  There won’t be much in the way of solids left behind, but straining the soup creates the velvety texture that makes this bisque so elegant. (For an even velvetier texture, you could push the soup through the strainer a second time).

3.) When ready to serve the soup, heat it gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally, but do not let it boil.  Slowly stir in the cream, incorporating it fully into the soup, then warm through.  Serve immediately drizzled with marjoram oil.

For the Marjoram Oil:
  *6 Tablespoons olive oil
  *4 sprigs marjoram

1.) Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan just until bubbles appear on the surface and the oil is shimmering.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool for two minutes, then drop in the marjoram sprigs, cover the pan and leave to cool.

2.) Strain the cooled oil into a jar or small spouted measuring cup for drizzling on the soup. The oil can be kept in an airtight jar for up to a week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Faovrite Childhood Salad: Satsuma-Poppy Seed Salad

Please, let me begin by saying that I was NOT a salad eater until about college.  I always found salads boring and at heart, I am a true carb lover.  Pasta?  Bread? YES, PLEASE!  I grew up in a meat family, and my poor mom always fought to get a salad on the table that we would eat.  I would fill up garlic bread first, then move around my plate to the protein, and last, the veggies.  I can recall a few times where I was actually stuck at the table after everyone else was dismissed until I finished my vegetables.  Being an extremely stubborn child, this would usually last for about 45 minutes or so (which is forever to a child). I would finally cave in, because of course my parents' patience was far superior to that of my own, and shove the vegetables down so I could go watch Home Improvement (my childhood crush was J.T.T). ;)

Then one day, my mom put this Satsuma-Poppy Seed Salad on the table.  God bless her heart, she found a salad I would eat!!!  I love avocado and satsumas, and she had found a way to serve them with spinach.  I assume she is still pretty proud of herself for this salad (as she rightfully should be).

So yesterday I was at work and eating a satsuma when it hit me, I have not had this salad since I moved away from home.  It was definitely time to go to the store and re-create it!

{Recipe} Satsuma-Poppy Seed Salad
Serves 4
  * 1 small, roasted chicken (optional)
  * 7 cups spinach
  * 3 satumas
  * 1/2 avocado
  * 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds

  * 1/3 cup olive oil
  * 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  * 1/2 tblsp. sugar
  * 2 tblsp. poppy seeds

1.) Remove meat from roasted chicken and discard skin (this salad usually does not contain chicken, but I chose to add it in last night in order to serve as a main dish).

2.) Peel and separate the satsumas and dice the avocado, set to the side

3.) For dressing: whisk together olive oil, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and poppy seeds

4.) Toss the spinach and chicken in a large bowl with the dressing.  Add satsumas, avocado and sesame seeds to the top and enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fennel, Prosciutto and Pomegranate Salad

Finally!  Work is slowing down!  WOO HOO!

I was able to come home early today and I decided to cook Blake a nice meal (since he's been the only one cooking for quite a while now).  I decided to make seared duck breast in a Pinot Noir and Shiitake mushroom sauce, and nice light salad. The duck turned out beautiful and I received lots of compliments on it, unfortunately I was too hungry to stop and take pictures of it. :)

My best friend also came over for dinner and spent the evening hanging out with us.  I'm sad to say that she's leaving in a few weeks to spend a couple of months traveling Asia, but I am extremely excited for her at the same time.  We will actually be meeting her and her boyfriend in Bali for two weeks to relax and spend some time at sea  (we're taking a boat trip around the island!).  So, on the bright side, I won't have to live without her for too long!!

 Now, to give credit where credit is due, I found this recipe and somewhat altered it from one 
of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen.

{Recipe} Fennel, Prosciutto, and Pomegranate Salad

  * 2 cups very thinly sliced fennel bulb
  * 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  * 6 cups arugula (about 4 ounces)
  * 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
  * 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
  * 1 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  * 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into strips
  * 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1.) Combine fennel, arugula, green onions, and mint  in large bowl; toss.
2.) In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, and olive oil.  Pour over salad and toss again.  Season with salt and pepper.

(Pretty simple, right?!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Weekend Getaway and Mushroom Picking

Oh wow, it has been OVER A MONTH since the last time I posted anything on here!!!  Work has been overwhelmingly busy, and I haven't had a chance to cook at all.  Lucky for me though, Blake loves to cook.  He has been so sweet since I started working long hours and makes dinner for us almost every night (and I don't mean a pizza or a HungryMan).  I'm a pretty lucky girl. 


I thought our trip to the Washington coast would be a good lee-way back into blogging.  We spent a weekend in Longbeach, WA with blake's sister and husband, playing on the beach with our dogs, cooking, playing games, and mushroom picking.  The mushroom picking was not planned until about 3 days before we left.  I was surfing the web for things to do while in Longbeach, and it just happened to be mushroom celebration month.  Perfect timing!

(Our crazy Yorkie, Zeus, on the beach)
The mushroom picking was quite an interesting experience.  It felt like we were on a treasure hunt or Easter egg hunt, and it was just as exciting every time we would find another one. Our guide was a feisty little woman from Hungary who has quite a reputation for mushroom picking.  Of course we had no idea what we were looking for, so we definitely had to follow her lead.  We even ran across some of the psychedelic mushrooms (they look like the mushrooms from the Mario Bros. video games)!  Our evening would have turned out much different if we didn't have our guide to turn us around.

                     (Our Mario Bros. Mushroom)             (Blake's sister with one of our giant mushrooms)

Work is finally starting to slow down a bit, so I'm planning all sorts of goodies to start on for Christmas gifts.  Apple butter, peanut butter brittle, apricot-bourbon mustard, who knows what else I'll  dip my hands into.  :)  I mean, you can't forget about all of the holiday baking that will need to be done as well!