Archive for December, 2011

From Dish Danielle:

‘Tis the season for festive menus and cozy recipes. For our last round of Whisk & Ladle suppers, we decided to try our hand at a Pear & Chestnut Soup. We’d made Pear soup before… and we’d made chestnut soup as well, but had never combined the two. This, my dear dishes, is a culinary match made in heaven.

4 large leeks, tops removed, sliced and rinsed clean
3-4 tbsp butter
4 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
13oz peeled and cooked chestnuts (Trader Joe’s carries them ready to go!)
6c veggie stock (thereabouts)
1 ½-2c heavy cream
more salt

Place butter and trimmed leeks in large stockpot over med-low heat. Once leeks are soft and translucent, toss pears in and stir. Add just enough stock to cover the pears and allow to simmer for 20mins. Stir every so.

Chop up chestnuts and add to the pot. Add more stock — enough to submerge chestnuts. Let simmer for an hour or so, gently stirring here & there.

Add stock incrementally as it reduces. Add salt & pepper as well. Pour in remaining stock and heavy cream. Puree with hand blender or food processor.

Taste and season as you like. I added 1 ½c of water at the very end — after buzzing, to thin it out a bit, but this is up to you!

As you can see this soup is pretty dang easy, and I’m telling you our guests were raving. Several people have asked for the recipe since the dinners, so here it is! I am eager to try some alternate pear/chestnut formats so if you have some ideas, leave a comment and let this Dish know!

Happy 2012 y’all.

(Photographs provided by Frank J Florio, this Dish’s Dad!)

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From Dish Gwen:

This time of year all I want to eat is hot soup and buttered bread. It’s cold out and there’s something about a steamy bowl of soup that makes winter time feel right. My son is 10 months old and I want to share this experience with him, but chunky chicken soup and beef stew are a little bit out of his league still (even though he does have an impressive 7 teeth already).

Butternut squash makes a perfect soup that both my son and I can enjoy. Plus it’s amazingly quick and easy to make, and it’s a vegan and vegetarian soup with a whole lot of flavor. Sounds too good to be true but it’s really kind of a miracle meal.

Butternut Squash Puree
1 whole butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped loosely
½ cup chopped white onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small dried hot pepper (or 1 tsp red pepper flake – my baby can handle a little spice but feel free to leave it out if you’re worried about it)
2-3 quarts of water

In a large pot, sizzle the garlic and onion with olive oil on medium/high heat until they begin to brown. Add in the squash, salt, and red pepper, toss everything together, and cook the squash for 2-3 minutes until it browns a bit. Add enough water to the pot to cover the squash completely, then cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to boil for a couple of minutes until the squash is soft enough to stab with a spoon.

Turn off the heat and carefully ladle the mixture into your blender. You may have to do this in two parts if your blender is too small to hold everything at once. Puree the mixture until it is a smooth creamy soup, then empty it back into the pot and stir the batches together (if you had to divide it up). Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream or plain, and make sure it’s nice and cool before you feed it to your baby.

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From Dish Erin:

“I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery.”

That’s the inimitable Ellen Griswold. It’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies of all time, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. It’s also part of the reason Dish Rachelle and I were cooking up a storm last night at our annual pre-holiday get together. Every year around this time, we grab our boys, our kitchen toys, and drink lots of wine while we cook up a feast in an attempt to de-stress from all the holiday craziness.

When I entertain guests, I like to cook something that’s simple to prep and cooks up fast, like pasta or shrimp. This dish has a lot of ingredients, but it’s relatively stress free, so it’s the perfect meal for guests or a weeknight meal–or both!

To brine shrimp:
1.5 lbs peeled and cleaned shrimp
4 cloves of garlic, minced and divided in half
A big ‘ol handful of parlsey, chopped roughly and divided in half
White wine

For grits:
1/2 cup quick cooking grits or polenta (not instant)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

To prepare shrimp:
2-3 slices of pancetta or bacon, diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
A few shakes of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons butter
2 scallions, diced (white + green parts)

Open a bottle of white wine. Have a glass.

OK, now: Place shrimp in bag with half the garlic, half the parsley, and a generous 2-3 tablespoons of kosher salt. Throw in a few splashes of your wine for good measure. Fill bag with very cold water to cover shrimp. Set aside and let shrimp brine for about 20 minutes.

Make grits according to package directions. It will take about 10-12 minutes to cook, so it can simmer while the shrimp cooks.

In a sautee pan over medium heat, cook pancetta until it’s rendered and starting to crisp up. Remove from pan but leave heat on.

Add remaining garlic and stir until fragrant. Empty most of the brine from the bag and add shrimp to pan (you want a little bit of juice in there). Cook for about 2 minutes until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add the dried spices and stir to coat.

Make a “well” in the middle of the pan and add the tomato paste, a few more splashes of wine, and the Worcestershire sauce and stir to incorporate. Then stir everything together to coat the shrimp and add the pancetta back to the pan.

Add the butter to the pan, stir again to coat, sprinkle with parsley and scallions and turn off heat.

Add the cheese to the grits and stir.

Plate grits, then top with shrimp and a bit of sauce. Serve with a crusty piece of bread and a salad. Shown here: arugula, pears and pomegranate seeds with a balsamic and fig vinaigrette.

Keep drinking your wine and reminding yourself that it’s the holidays, and we’re all in misery, but if you have good friends nearby, it’s all good.


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