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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grandma's Vegetable Soup

My friend Sarah and I have been buddies for decades, growing up together in North Carolina, and both ending up in New York City years later. She recently left New York and moved to San Francisco to start a new adventure, get re-inspired, and make more art (check out her stuff here!). I miss her.

But when we both were in NYC we would get together for dinners, sometimes out at restaurants, but often at her apartment catching up over a good warm meal and bottle of wine. One night she made me this vegetable soup-- her Grandma's recipe-- and I've been in love with it ever since. Each time I make it I add or try something new and over the past few years have adapted it a bit, primarily making it less vegetarian (i.e., NOT vegetarian). Isn't it better to start every soup with bacon fat??? If you disagree, this can easily be made deliciously vegetarian by subbing the bacon fat with butter/olive oil and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. It is filling, satisfying, healthy. A perfect lunch or dinner.

3 pieces of bacon
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1/3 cup flour
1 large (28 oz) and 1 small (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth plus 2 cups water
2 red potatoes, chopped
1 cup canned (rinsed) red kidney beans
4 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, diced
green beans, 1-inch chop
1/2 head of broccoli, chopped florets
a handful of fresh dill, chopped
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Cook the bacon in the bottom of a large soup pot and cook until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon and eat it (you just need the fat for the soup). Add a tablespoon or two of butter, along with the onion and fennel and cook, stirring regularly until softened. Add the flour and stir constantly for approximately 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes (with juice from the can) and the chicken broth and water and bring to a low boil. Add the potatoes and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the kidney beans and the celery, and continue simmering for a few minutes. Add the carrots and green beans and cook until all vegetables are cooked through.

Lastly, add the broccoli, dill, red pepper flakes (to taste), and salt and pepper. Don't be afraid to season liberally with the herbs and seasonings! Serve with parmesan toast.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chocolate Applesauce Cake

My mom has been making this cake for decades, usually in the fall or winter, often for Rosh Hashanah or Hanukkah. It is a great cake to make for a holiday or for any dinner party, since its so simple and quick to make and feeds 8-10 very happy people. People love this cake. The applesauce makes the cake incredibly moist and the cinnamon spice makes it warm and satisfying. No frosting needed, just a simple dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream and you're good to go. It also doubles as an wonderful breakfast with tea or coffee the next morning, which is how I prefer the leftovers. Adapted, ever so slightly, from Maida Heatter's recipe.

1 1/2 sticks (12 tbs) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons cinnamon
7 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease and flour a bundt pan. 

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cocoa powder).

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing between each addition until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. 

Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate the dry ingredients with the applesauce in two batches, mixing as you add, just until incorporated (dry, wet, dry, wet, dry). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, just until a knife or toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake when tested. 

Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Once cool, invert the cake onto a large plate, and cut slices and serve. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower Pasta

I made this recipe for the first time a few months ago and it instantly became my new favorite one-bowl dinner.  I've made it for friends and also a few times for a weeknight dinner for two. Also, its pretty rare that I gush about a vegetarian meal, so you know this one has an entire cup of grated parmesan in it is good. Serves 4 hungry people.

1 large head cauliflower, chopped into 1 1/2 in florets
6 cloves of garlic, skin on
red pepper flakes
1/4 cup bread crumbs (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup grated parmesan
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
16 oz short pasta (preferably one with curves or holes in it for the good stuff to get stuck in)*

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss together the cauliflower florets with the garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) and spread on a large cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower gets nice and brown and caramelized, tossing once or twice while it cooks.

In a medium bowl, combine the butter, parmesan, bread crumbs, and pine nuts and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil salted water and cook the pasta al dente, trying to time it so that the pasta finishes around the same time as the cauliflower. Drain the pasta and reserve about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Take the roasted garlic cloves from the cauliflower pan and squeeze the garlic flesh out of each clove, discard the skin and place in the bottom of the now empty pasta pot. Pour a little of the pasta water in and using a spoon/whisk/spatula mix the garlic water together so it distributes a bit. Pour the cooked pasta back in the pot, add the roasted cauliflower, and the butter/parmesan/bread crumb/pine nut mix. Stir well to incorporate all the ingredients, adding extra pasta water if it looks too dry. Sprinkle in the parsley, serve and enjoy!

* Sometimes I make this with less pasta (10-12 oz) or sometimes add a bit more cauliflower. I like it with a LOT of cauliflower, which cooks down significantly as it roasts.