Spicy Black Bean Soup

This recipe is from Field of Greens by Annie Somerville who is the chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. It has some components to it that may seem labor intensive but it is the most flavorful black bean soup that I have ever had! One component is the Chipotle Puree which is just a can of chipotles in adobo, pureed. The pureed chilies keep forever in the refrigerator and it is a condiment that I use often. The other component is the ancho chili puree which are the ancho chiles, like you see in ristras-toasted in a cast iron pan until lightly toasted and then covered in a bowl with boiling water for 15 minutes-then drained and pureed. I find some beans, no matter how long you soak them need time to cook. This recipe calls for them to be soft in 20-25 minutes but my beans took over an hour to soften.* I think this soup could be great for a party with all sorts of garnishes including the above and also you could have rice and some type of cheese, like feta or any of the Mexican grating cheeses.

bean-soup-pot
2 c. dried black beans, about 12-16 oz. (I use 16 oz. as I buy my black beans by the pound from Rancho Gordo, sorted through and soaked overnight
6+ c. cold water
1 fresh oregano sprig
2 fresh sage leaves
1 T. light olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 3 c.
salt and cayenne pepper
1/2 t. toasted oregano, in a small pan til lightly toasted
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 t. chipotle puree (see above in notes)
1 T. Ancho Chili puree (see above)
1/4 c. dry sherry
1/2# fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, about 1 c. or 1 8 oz. can of tomatoes, with juices
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
For garnish
1/2# fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped, about 1 cup
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro
Or other garnishes
fried strips of tortillas
thinly slice avocado
creme fraiche mixed with orange juice, cumin and cayenne
black-bean-soup-garnished
Rinse and drain the beans. Place in a soup pot with the cold water, oregano sprig, bay and sage leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered until the beans are soft-20-25 minutes or however long it takes. Heat olive oil in a saute pan and add the onion, 1/2 t. salt, 1/8 t. cayenne and toasted oregano. Cook over medium heat until onion is soft-about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and chili purees. Saute for 3-4 minutes, add the sherry and simmer until reduced by half, a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 t. salt and cook for 10 minutes.
Set aside 1 1/2 c. cooked beans. Remove the fresh herbs and bay leaves. Combine beans and their broth with the tomatoes and onions and puree in the blender in batches. Add the reserved beans, orange juice and 1/2 t. salt. Season with salt and cayenne to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
Toss the tomatoes and cilantro together and garnish each serving with a spoonful.

Sharon’s Caesar Salad Dressing-the best!

This recipe comes from my friend Sharon who is a wonderful cook. She has been perfecting it for 30 years! I am a huge anchovy fan and try new kinds often. My favorite kind is Scalia which may be hard to find.
sharons-caesar-dressing
1-2 garlic cloves, to taste
1 can of anchovies, with oil
1 T. worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. good olive oil, I love California Extra Virgin
1 T. mayonnaise
dash of red wine vinegar, optional

Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated to taste

In a blender add the first four ingredients and blend well. Add mayonnaise and vinegar if using. Chill and serve with good croutons and romaine and Parmesan cheese.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin

My niece Rachael introduced me to this fool proof Tenderloin from the one and only Ina Garten. It is so easy and everyone loves beef tenderloin! It is a wonderful dish as is or for a large party I served it with mini brioche rolls with horseradish sauce. Always a hit!
beef-tenderloin
2 1/2 pounds filet of beef, trimmed and tied
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Place the beef on the sheet pan. Combine the mustard, vinegar, and salt in a small bowl. Spread the mixture on the filet and brush it evenly over the top and sides. Sprinkle the cracked pepper evenly all over the meat.
Roast the filet for 30 minutes exactly for medium-rare (25 minutes for rare and 35 minutes for medium). Remove the pan from the oven, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and allow the beef to rest on the pan for 10 minutes. Slice and serve hot or warm.
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Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/balsamic-roasted-beef.html?oc=linkback

Avgolemono Soup

This is a Greek lemon, rice and egg soup that is so comforting. You probably already have the ingredients and it comes together in 20 minutes. I used rice but will try orzo next time I make it.
avgolemono-soup
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked orzo (or rice or pastina)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.
Add the orzo, rice, or pastina and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes (20, if using rice). Season with the salt and pepper and reduce heat to low; simmer.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth.
Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, then whisk to combine.
Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.

Perfect Peach Pie

This is a wonderful recipe from the NY Times, that is absolutely perfect as the title states! I did not use all of the liquid in the pie crust, but I should have.
perfect-peach-pie I only used half of the amount of sugar as I knew I would be serving it with Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream!
FOR THE PIE DOUGH:
2 ½ cups or 300 grams all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons or 169 grams unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Yolk of 1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
¼ cup water, from 3/4 cup ice water
White of 1 egg, beaten
Pinch granulated sugar
FOR THE FILLING:
6 or 7 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced, approximately 5 cups
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup or 30 grams all-purpose flour
Pinch of ground nutmeg
half-eaten-peach-pie
Make the pie dough. Using your fingertips or the pulse function of a food processor, blend together the flour, butter and salt until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. There should be pebbles of butter throughout the mixture.
Add egg yolk and vinegar to 1/4 cup ice water, and stir to combine. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of this mixture over the dough, and gently stir or pulse to combine. Gather a golf-ball-size bit of dough, and squeeze to combine. If it does not hold together, add a little more of the liquid, and stir or pulse, then check again. Repeat as necessary.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gather together into a rough ball. Divide the ball in half with a knife or a pastry scraper, then divide each portion in half again, and again, to create 8 portions. Using the heel of your hand, flatten each portion of dough once or twice to expand the pebbles of butter, then gather the dough together again in one ball. Divide this ball in half.
Flatten each ball into a 5- or 6-inch disc, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425. Make the pie filling: Combine sliced peaches, lemon juice, sugar and flour in a large bowl, and gently mix to combine. Set aside.
Take the larger of the pastry discs out of the refrigerator, roll it out on a lightly floured surface and place in a 9-inch pie plate. Add the peaches. Sprinkle them with the ground nutmeg.
Roll out second disc of pastry. Place on top of filling. Wet edges of the bottom pastry disc with some cold water. Trim pastry, pinch bottom and top edges together and cut a few slits to allow steam to escape from the pie. Brush the egg white on the top, particularly around the edges, and sprinkle with a pinch of granulated sugar.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375. Cook until peaches bubble and pastry is golden, approximately 45 minutes to an hour.

Best Chicken Salad

This is a simple basic and delicious chicken salad that tastes like velvet from Julia Moskin of the NY TimesVelvet Chicken Salad. My favorite quote in the article is “Whether eaten with a fork or in a sandwich, when made with care and good ingredients, chicken salad has a delicious dignity.” Definitely make it four hours ahead, it will not disappoint! I used creme fraiche instead of sour cream and loved it’s richness. Obviously, you do not need to make 4# of chicken salad, just adjust the recipe for the amount of chicken salad that you want to make.
Best Chicken Salad

About 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
2 scallions, cut into thirds
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 lemon, halved
⅔ cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s, Best Foods or homemade
¼ cup sour cream or crème fraîche, more to taste
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1 teaspoon brine from a jar of pickles, optional
2 or 3 pale green celery ribs, cut into medium (1/4-inch) dice
½ cup minced onion or finely sliced scallion, optional
½ cup walnut or pecan halves, broken into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, parsley, or chives, plus extra for garnish
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Choose a heavy pot or Dutch oven with a tightfitting lid. It should be large enough to hold the chicken snugly, but not much bigger. Fill pot about 2/3 full with cold water, but don’t put the chicken in yet. Boil some extra water in a teakettle.
Add scallions and peppercorns to water, cover and bring to a rolling boil. Turn off heat and slip chicken pieces into the hot water. If needed, add boiling water from the kettle to cover chicken with water by 2 inches. Replace the lid and let chicken rest in the hot water for about 2 hours. Do not turn the flame back on: The pot will retain enough heat to cook chicken thoroughly and safely. (To test, cut into 1 piece of chicken and check the meat near the bone. If it is still pink, return the pot to low heat, bring the water to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes more.)
Lift chicken out of the pot. Remove and discard bones, skin and fat. Pat the meat dry with paper towels, then cut or shred into small bite-size pieces and transfer to a bowl. (Meanwhile, simmer cooking liquid until tasty, strain and refrigerate or freeze to use as chicken stock.)
In a bowl, whisk together juice of 1/2 lemon, mayonnaise and sour cream. If using, whisk in mustard or brine. Taste and adjust the seasonings and thickness to your liking. Pour over chicken, scraping the bowl clean with a rubber spatula.
Add celery, onion if using, nuts, herbs and salt and pepper. Toss gently but thoroughly. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle with herbs before serving.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

This cookie comes from Cooks Illustrated and it is a showstopper. Easy to make and delicious!! I don’t have a microwave (!) so I melted the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over simmering water and let it cool slightly before adding it to the recipe. I make my cookies with my small scoop which is about a large tablespoon. I recommend chilling the dough before you scoop and roll the cookies-much easier!

Chocolate Crinkle cookie
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 ½ ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups packed (10 ½ ounces) brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½cup (3 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
½cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl.

2. Whisk brown sugar; eggs; espresso powder, if using; and vanilla together in large bowl. Combine chocolate and butter in bowl and microwave at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined. Fold in flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Let dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

4. Place granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar in separate shallow dishes. Working with 2 tablespoons dough (or use #30 scoop) at a time, roll into balls. Drop dough balls directly into granulated sugar and roll to coat. Transfer dough balls to confectioners’ sugar and roll to coat evenly. Evenly space dough balls on prepared sheets, 11 per sheet.

5. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cool completely on sheet before serving.

Indian Spiced Corn Soup with Yogurt

From The New York Times Indian spiced corn soup a very easy corn soup to make! I did strain the soup for a finer texture and loved the flavor. We ate it cold but I think it would be delicious hot, as well. I love the flavors of the Indian spices with the corn.
Indian spiced corn soup
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
Large pinch cayenne
3 cups corn kernels, from 4 ears
Salt and pepper
Whole milk plain yogurt, for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped chives, for garnish
A few cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish, optional

Put butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds and cayenne and sizzle for a minute or so.
Add corn kernels and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 4 cups water and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Purée soup in a blender. Check seasoning and adjust salt.
To serve, ladle into small bowls. Garnish each with 2 tablespoons thick yogurt. Sprinkle with chives and cilantro sprigs. Add a squeeze of lime.

Pasta e Fagioli

This is a very easy soup that my mother found years ago in House Beautiful magazine, I believe. I have started using the dry beans soaked and cooked separately and it makes a huge difference!  It is nice to blend some of the soup mixture up before adding the pasta to give the soup some body. I only add **1/2 c. pasta-stars, dilatini or orzo all work well. Also if you have any parmesan rinds you are saving, wrap them in cheesecloth and simmer them in the soup-they add so much flavor! Note-If you like beans you should definitely try Rancho Gordo beans as they are all fantastic. I used a yellow eyed bean for this soup and it is incredible. Rancho Gordo has wonderful heirloom beans, most of which I have never heard of-very fun to try the different beans.

Serves 10 as a first course or 6 as a main course
3 tablespoons pure olive oil
3 to 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (about 14 ounces) dried cranberry, borlotti, cannellini, or other small white beans, soaked overnight in water to cover, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups diced canned plum tomatoes, with juices
8 cups water or chicken broth, or as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound small shells, ditalini, or other small pasta shape
**
Extra virgin olive oil for finishing
Grated Parmesan for finishing

In a large soup kettle, warm the pure olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it renders its fat and is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the soaked beans, the tomatoes and their juices, the 8 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
To give the soup more body, remove 2 or 3 large spoonfuls of beans and vegetables, place in a food processor or blender, and purée until smooth. Return the purée to the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Although you can cook the pasta directly in the soup, there is a danger of the soup scorching if the beans have been puréed. To avoid this, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, stir well, and cook until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, add to the soup, and simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, and top each serving with a generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmesan, and a liberal dusting of black pepper. Serve at once.

Italian Wedding Soup

This is the most amazing soup! I have wanted to try it forever and am so happy that I finally did! The Barefoot Contessa rarely disappoints! I love that you bake the meatballs and by the time they are baked, the soup is done! I used the little star shaped pasta that is so festive! I am not sure a photo would give this soup justice but I assure you, everyone will love it!
For the meatballs:
¾ pound ground chicken
½ pound chicken sausage, casings removed-I used two links of mild Italian
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and or basil
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese-I use all parmesan due to husbands salt concern
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup ¼-inch diced carrots (3 carrots)
¾ cup (¼-inch diced celery (2 stalks)
10 cups homemade chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars **I cook my pasta separately and really like orzo
¼ cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed -One bag of washed spinach from WFds is only 6 oz and seems to be plenty
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1- to 1¼-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan cheese.