Tag Archives: Melissa Clark

Caramelized Leek and Potato Soup

serving soupI have been transfering my liquid dish soap into beautiful glass bottles ever since I was inspired by this. That was in 1993, long before #hatemartha was trending. For the record, I am firmly in the #lovemartha camp. She is all about making everyday life aesthetically pleasing. She speaks my language.

While my husband doesn’t share this passion, he does tolerate it. However, I think I pushed him to the brink this week when I bought a charming new glass bottle for the liquid dish soap. soap bottleHe complained that the soap is very slow to come out. I turned the bottle upside down and counted. Yes, it takes a full 7 seconds for the soap to drip into the dirty dishes. I told him he was viewing it with the wrong lens. He simply needs exchange his impatience for anticipation. He just smiled and nodded, a trick that I taught him. My little secret for how to have a happy marriage. You’re welcome.

This is not a quick cook soup. It too, requires some patience. But while you are caramelizing the leeks, just anticipate how delicious it will taste. A traditional leek and potato soup (vichyssoise) is pureed smooth and served cold. The leeks are very briefly sautéed before the potatoes and stock are added. In this version, created by New York Times columnist Melissa Clark, the leeks are cooked until golden brown. If you haven’t already, you need to sign up for the New York Times Cooking Newsletter. Wonderful daily inspiration!

You can’t hurry caramelizing onions. They must be cooked over a low heat for a good 25-30 minutes. Turn up the heat and you will burn them, resulting in bitter onions.in white bowl 2 625 sqdicing leeksThe leeks are sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil. At first it seems like you have way too many leeks, but they eventually shrink down to a very small pile, of golden delicousness.raw leeks 1caramelized leeksFlavouring this soup is a supporting cast of fresh herbs. Sage, bay, thyme, parsley and celery leaves get tied up in a cheesecloth bundle to impart their goodness to the soup. I used a mixture of vegetable stock and water, but I think I would use all water next time, to really let the leek flavour shine through.bouquet garni Yukon golds are the potatoes of choice. I peeled, halved and thinly sliced them.slicing potatoesI very coarsely pureed the soup with a few bursts of power from my hand held immersion blender. I really like to leave the soup mostly chunky.soup pot

Click here to print recipe for Caramelized Leek and Potato Soup.in white bowl on wood and white marble server

Roasted Squash with Smoked Paprika, Maple Syrup and Sage Salt

Roasted squash 2 625 sqWhile home for a visit last weekend, my daughter observed the mess on our dining room table and expressed the opinion that perhaps I may have developed a bit of a hoarding problem. “Don’t you think you’ve acumulated enough food photography props mom?” she asked.DR tableClearly she doesn’t understand. Those are all spring/summer props. Now I need to start acquiring appropriate fall/winter props. While some parents turn their kid’s vacated bedrooms into gift wrapping quarters or perhaps an extra closet to store off season clothing, it is entirely possible that her bedroom may be converted into my props closet, if I continue collecting at my current rate.

Of course it doesn’t help when my sister sends me these charming bowls. They were intended as nut bowls, but they are just perfect as mise en place bowls for a photo shoot!  I let out a squealed with joy when I opened my gift. I have an extreme fondness for bowls! The colour combination of these little vessels is just gorgeous. little bowlsShe found them in Toronto at The Cookery Store. I have since discovered you can also get them online at Fishs Eddy.

I had a glut of winter squash after a recent photo shoot, and I needed to use them up before they went bad. My go-to ingredient for roasting vegetables is smoked paprika. It just makes everything taste better. The inspiration for this roasted squash hails from Melissa Clark’s book, Cook This Now. She mixed smoked paprika with olive oil and honey and smeared it all over squash before roasting. I swapped out the honey for some maple syrup, because that’s just the way we Canadians roll!ingredients

brushing squashMelissa suggests finishing the roasted squash with a sprinkling of homemade sage salt. So simple to make; just bake some fresh sage leaves for about 10 minutes, until crispy. Then crumble them between your fingers with some coarse sea salt. Earthy, and slightly bitter, sage makes a perfect partener for sweet squash. A final sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds adds a welcome crunch.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple Syrup, Smoked Paprika and Sage Salt.

Roasted squash 1 625 sq

Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots

ready to eat 2 625 sqYou know it’s January because every food blogger worth her salt is writing about the joys of vegetables . Those sweet food porn days of December are long gone, buried under the 5 pounds of butter and sugar, tucked oh so discretely under a layer of skin, in my case, just below where my waist used to be.

Although we squeal with delight and burble over with joy at summer produce (remember wild blueberries?), winter in the produce aisle can produce some gush worthy moments as well. It just requires a bit more work.

Carrots are often bypassed as too pedestrian, but in deft hands, carrots can be magical. These carrots were way too pretty to leave behind at the supermarket.carrots in a circle 2I have a secret ingredient that turns ordinary roasted carrots into something quite special. It’s pomegranate molasses. Not actually molasses at all, but just pure pomegranate juice, and a bit of sugar boiled down and reduced to a thick, syrupy reduction. Dip your finger into this thick, garnet coloured syrup and you will be instantly transported back to your childhood! sweet tarts fIf you are of a certain age you will remember with fondness that powerful puckering of your lips from these candies. Pomegranate molasses has that tart/sweet quality, but in a grown up way. It adds an intense earthy depth of flavour to so many things. I have been using it in a chicken sauce for years now, and everyone who eats it always asks, “what is in this sauce?” It can be found in many supermarkets now, as well as in Middle Eastern specialty shops. If you can’t find it, here is a recipe from Alton Brown to make your own pomegranate molasses.

 

The idea of roasting carrots with pomegranate molasses came from Melissa Clark’s book “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.” The first time I made them, I found the flavour to be delicious but the carrots were a bit shrivelled in appearance and leathery in texture. As I thought about how to avoid this issue, I remembered that I boil potatoes for a few minutes before roasting to get a crispy not leathery skin. I wondered if the same treatment with carrots would work? I peeled them and cut them on the diagonal, to increase the surface area that would come into contact with the roasting pan. peeling carrots They got a quick 2 minute dip in boiling salted water. Then I drained them on paper towels for a few minutes before roasting.boiling carrotsdraining carrotsI tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne and roasted them in a hot (425°F) oven for about 45 minutes. I added the pomegranate molasses and some honey during the last 5 minutes of roasting as I did not want them to burn.ready for oven

pouring glaze on carrotsThe finished carrots were crispy without being leathery. The pinch of cayenne added a nice kick and the pomegranate molasses added an amazing sweet tart punch. I gilded the lily and sprinkled on some pomegranate seeds. They glistened like little jewels.

Click here to print recipe for Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots.

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Rhubarb Curd Strawberry Tart and Some Surprising Discoveries

For those of you who have been following my blog for the past little while, you know that I have been suffering from some disc problems that landed me flat on my back in bed for about 8 days. I’m pleased to report that I am continuing to feel much better. But while I lay in bed, in agonizing pain, I became quite anxious about the fact that I was unable to do any of my regular forms of fitness (treadmill, elliptical, weight training and yoga).

I have come to rely on exercise as a stress reliever, as well as a way to allow me to control my weight. A mentally balanced sane person would be more concerned about the errant disc fragment lodged in her spine, pressing on the nerve that connects to her left hip flexor and quadriceps. Yet, I seemed to be more concerned about weight gain.

Surprising discovery # 1: Shockingly in the past 3 weeks I have actually lost 5 pounds! I am not quite sure how that happened. It may have something to do with muscle loss (muscle weighs more than fat) or it could have something to do with the fact that I was unable to get down the stairs to my kitchen, where we keep the food, for 9 days. Now don’t misunderstand me here.  I didn’t starve for 9 days. The lovely family members in my house did bring me food and water at regular intervals. It’s just that perhaps my regular intervals are a bit more frequent than theirs!

Again, a mentally balanced and sane person would look at this weight loss and begin planning healthy meals of quinoa, kale and lentils, so that the pounds do not creep back on. However, I saw a loss of 5 pounds and immediately started planning what I would bake and blog about next.

I knew I wanted to be seasonal and bake something with rhubarb. Of course the obligatory strawberry rhubarb pie was a possibility, but I am not really a pie lover, unless it involves coconut cream. Searching for inspiration I turned to Melissa Clark’s “Cook This Now.” And sure enough, in the May chapter, she had a recipe for a Rhubarb Curd Tart. As I read through the recipe, I made surprising discovery #2: Curds are not just for lemons anymore! You can make a curd from any fruit juice you fancy.

While I love the tangy flavour of rhubarb, I find the stringy texture a bit off-putting. Melissa had come up with a genius way to get all the tang of rhubarb, without the texture. Puree the raw rhubarb in the food processor and then strain the pulp and squeeze out the juice. Use this juice instead of lemon, in the curd. Brilliant!

For the tart crust, I wanted to try a recipe from Anna Olsen. She has a new show called Bake, on the Food Network (Canada). This week’s episode featured desserts made with Pate Sable (tender tart dough). As I watched Anna prepare the dough, I made surprising discovery #3:  A hardboiled egg yolk contributes greatly to the texture and richness of Pate Sable. This European way of making tart dough was created by French pastry chef Pierre Herme.

The final tart was perfect. The crust was reminiscent of shortbread; crumbly and just a little bit sweet with the richness of butter (and egg!). The curd plays tricks on your mind. You see the yellow curd and you think lemon, but once you take a bite your mouth immediately recognizes the tart and tangy taste of rhubarb. Balanced by the sweetness of strawberries, this is one perfect bite. I think that should Anna and Melissa ever meet, they would be quite proud of their collaboration!

The secret ingredient to the rich crust is the yolk of a hardboiled egg! Butter and icing sugar are creamed together. The hard-boiled egg gets sieved and added. Additions of vanilla extract, salt, raw egg yolk and cake and pastry flour  complete the dough. I like to roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Transfer to tart pan with removable bottom. If the dough cracks while transferring, don’t sweat it. It’s a forgiving dough and is easy to patch. Trim off excess dough by running the rolling-pin across the tart pan. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans to bake.

While the tart is baking, prepare the curd. The idea that any juice can be turned into a curd has just blown my mind. I’m not sure why I only thought curd could be made with lemon. I guess I’m just not an out of the box kind of thinker, but now that I know, the possibilities are endless. I am planning a pomegranate curd tart for the fall! I always associate pomegranates with my mom. She used to make us strip down to our underwear and  go outside in the backyard to eat pomegranates, because the fruit stained so badly. Luckily, these days you can already buy the fruit juiced.

When making the curd, Melissa says to stand at the stove and whisk constantly for 18-20 minutes. I did not. I walked away for several minutes at a time and everything came out just fine. Although, I must admit, when I strained the curd, I did see a few bits of scrambled egg in the bottom of my strainer.

This tart would also be wonderful with fresh raspberries, but strawberries seemed like the right choice today.

Click here to print the recipe for Rhubarb Curd and Strawberry Tart.

Chile-Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself utter. “I’m one blog post away from being considered a stalker.”  When it comes to the blogsphere, I don’t think there is an official definition of when you have crossed the line from fan to stalker, however, this is my third blog post where I gush about Melissa Clark and her genius book, Cook This Now. I think if I give away any more of her recipes or continue to fawn over her, she may have me arrested.

Trouble is, every recipe in her book really does scream to you, “cook this now.!!”, and I just can’t help myself from blabbing to everyone I know about Crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas Lemons and Carrots or Double Coconut Granola.

I actually made these short ribs over three weeks ago, when it was still actually still  winter here in Ottawa, and you wanted to eat hearty beef ribs. I just got a bit distracted and am only getting around to posting about it now. Kind of bad timing for me to post about them when today’s record high temperature reached 28°c (82°F for any non Canucks reading this), and the only kind of coconut you may be wishing for is the scented sunscreen kind! However, just file the recipe away for next week, when no doubt we will be freezing once again.

Click here to print the recipe for Chile-Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs.