A Winter’s Tale of Soup

Scarola e Faciole: White Bean and Escarole Soup with Pancetta

Scarola e Faciole: White Bean and Escarole Soup with Pancetta

If you, like me, are suffering through these grey upon grey single-digit days, reading Dostoyevsky while sipping a good Russian vodka could provide some comfort. Sipping said vodka while watching Dr. Zhivago might be another plan. These activities, of course, accompanied by a good cup of soup– always a good leavening agent.

Take Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, “The Brothers Karamazov”. In the midst of a heady conversation between Ivan and Alyosha, soup is brought into the story:

“Though I may not believe in the order of the universe, yet I love the sticky little leaves as they open in spring. I love the blue sky, I love some people, whom one loves you know sometimes without knowing why. I love some great deeds done by men, though I’ve long ceased perhaps to have faith in them, yet from old habit one’s heart prizes them. Here they have brought the soup for you, eat it, it will do you good. It’s first-rate soup, they know how to make it here…”

It’s a random mention, but why not? For the brothers, perhaps soup provides more of a tangible relief from life than than their more ethereal topics at hand.

Oxtail Soup

Oxtail Soup

Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical climate, we’re in Dostoyevsky-mode now, folks.  And may I suggest something that the brothers might have enjoyed? Perhaps  Borscht or an Oxtail Soup? Or maybe a White Bean and Escarole Soup?

Here’s another something/something that helped chase away my blues. My publishing company is reducing (for a limited time) the price of a physical copy of THE WELCOME HOME DINER. I’m grabbing copies for book club signings as I can’t get them any cheaper than this–even with an author discount. (US residents only: $6.99 per paperback. Free shipping for Amazon Prime, recipes included)

 

 

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Quick & Festive Holiday Appetizer Ideas

Most of my friends are in accord that it’s difficult enough to get your dwelling in shape for a party much less entertain, supply the bar and  party food fare. Especially during the busy holiday season.

My group is happy to pitch in, bringing a dish, a bottle, or in Frederick’s case (pictured at the piano) musical talent to help ease the strain. I’ve had several such events of late–all different crowds–so took the liberty of repeating myself by stuffing various fillings into endive leaves.

Last week I stuffed the leaves with my recipe for Walnut-Dill Chicken Salad (pictured above). If I was really short of time, I could have purchased some ready-made chicken salad, as well.

Last night I decided to stuff them with langoustine salad (recipe below).

Endive stuffed with Langostino Salad (recipe below).

I used a package of langostino tails, which have a meaty-lobsterish taste and texture, which I purchased in the frozen seafood department at Trader Joe’s. You could, however, substitute them with shrimp in the recipe below. A crab salad would be wonderful stuffed in endive but I would use a vinaigrette base instead of mayo.

Most seafood departments in my area have various ready-made spreads and seafood salads that would be marvelous stuffed in endive. A smoked fish, chopped up an tossed with chopped red onion and capers would also be heavenly.

I wish you and your family a stress-free holiday season, filled with an abundance of happiness and peace. ♥♥♥

 

Recipe: Langostino Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) package frozen Langostino Tails, thawed* or 1 3/4 cup chopped lobster or shrimp (with paper towels or a clean cloth, press as much liquid as possible out of the seafood)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, homemade or Hellman’s preferred (reduced fat is fine)
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon or dill
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • Pinch of cayenne, or to taste
  • Dash of Worcestershire (optional)
  • 10-16 sturdy romaine or endive leaves, washed

Instructions

  1. Combine mayonnaise, lemon zest, juice, tarragon or dill, chives, celery, seafood seasoning, cayenne, and Worcestershire (if using).
  2. Pat dry thawed langostino tails to remove excess water. Stir into dressing and season to taste with kosher salt. (Other ingredients lend sodium so you may not feel it necessary.)
  3. Place in decorative bowl with lettuce wedges on the side for stuffing. (You may also stuff them prior to serving. If you do so, garnish each endive boat with additional fresh herbs and zest.)

Time: 15 minutes (if not stuffing)

Number of servings (yield): Enough salad to stuff appx.12-14 large leaves

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Clay Pot Chicken, Rice and Lentils

This morning we woke up to the first real snow of the year––good thing I’d purchased a chicken. The following is a recipe I’ve been tweaking each winter when the snow flies; this year I added a cup of dry lentils to the rice. Below, you’ll find a slide show I made several years ago after visiting friends one snowy winter in Colorado. My friend’s husband demonstrated to me how to make his specialty:  Clay Pot Chicken.

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Use an unglazed clay pot,or at least insure the lid's unglazed.

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Soak non-glazed clay before cooking.

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Assemble ingredients.

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My friend organizing ingredients.

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Toss long-cooking rice w/vegies & aromatics.

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Season, place pats of butter over breast & under skin, stuff w/onion & tie legs.

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Always put clay pot in cold oven, THEN pre-heat.

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Nothing goes to waste; entrails for the dogs.

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My friend serving sautéed livers & gizzards to his dogs.

Clay Pot Chicken & Rice

Clay Pot Chicken & Rice

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Ready to eat.

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The leftovers make awesome chicken & rice soup.

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Roasting chickens is my favorite way of using my clay pot, and it’s a technique that has been traced back to Roman times. My recipe varies according the the ingredients found in my fridge. You can mix brussels sprouts or cherry tomatoes into the rice before roast. Perhaps you’d prefer a cajun rub to the rosemary one I used.

Many use an all-clay unglazed Romertopf roaster. According to Saveur. com, the Romertopf was invented by a German and is modeled on an ancient Etruscan design. Today, they are produced in Mexico with the same mixture of clays as the originals.

I use a 4 1/2 quart clay roaster at with a glazed bottom and unglazed lid that I purchased locally. The moisture absorbed in the large domed lid distributed moist heat producing a tender, evenly cooked, golden bird. The aesthetics of cooking in a natural, earthen element are pleasing; a beautiful oven-to-table serving dish.

Not only does the snow inspire my recipes, it also inspires my characters. My work in progress, THE MAIDEN TOWER, has a character who’d just left Idaho and moved to Key West. This morning as I watched the snow fall, I tunneled into two of my “maidens”, Linnea and Delphina, as they talked about snow:

“So back to snow,” I say, feeling a pang of sorrow for my twin. “How does it smell?”

She pinches her nose. “It’s hard to articulate. I can describe the feelings I get when it snows—content, safe, cozy. And what snow makes me want to eat—fondue, meaty stews, sticky pudding—foods that are unappealing to me down here. But I can’t explain the smell.” She shrugs. “Snow is so beautiful, and yet it smells like nothing.”

She chews at a cuticle on the side of her forefinger, a puzzled look on her face. “Not everything that’s beautiful in nature has a smell. Unless you’d consider nothingness a smell.”

“Aha! You’ve combed the country searching for a place that suits you, and all you’re looking for is nothing? That’s a healthy, Zen approach to life.”

Linnea’s eyes glaze over, and when she speaks, it’s in a hushed voice. “When it snows, it’s always a miracle. There’s a stillness, a sanctity in the white space that surrounds me.” She wraps her arms around her midriff and shivers. “I snuggle deep inside myself, and drift. The landscape’s a blank page and its beauty is experienced in its nothingness. That nothingness, Delphina, is my chapel. What, to me, is holy.”

(Speaking of holy, BTW, the holy grail of earthenware cookery: Never put a clay pot in a preheated oven; it may crack. As well, on soak the elements of your pot that are UNGLAZED.)

Recipe: Clay Pot Chicken & Rice

Ingredients

  • 1, 4 1/2 quart, clay pot cooker
  • 2 cups long cook rice (a rice that cooks in 30-45 minutes)
  • 1 cup (uncooked) brown lentils
  • Specified amount* of liquid such as wine, stock, water or a combination (see critical notes below)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 cup carrots cut into 1/2 inch coins
  • 1, 4-5 pound, whole roasting chicken
  • 2 tablespoons dry, crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, sliced into thin pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion, peeled but left whole**

Instructions

  1. Soak unglazed clay according to manufacturers directions, apx. 15 minutes.
  2. Combine rice, liquid, mushrooms, carrots, and brussels sprouts at bottom of pot. Combine rosemary, salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper (adding additional pepper to taste) and rub inside chicken cavity. Lift up chicken skin and rub under skin, then over the exterior skin. Stick pieces of butter under skin over breast. Place chicken over rice mixture.
  3. Place bay leaf in back of cavity and stuff with onion; tie chicken legs together with string or kitchen twine.
  4. Cover pot with lid and place on middle rack of a cold oven. Turn on heat to 450 degrees and cook 1 1/2- 2 1/2 hours; or until chicken juices run clear when thigh is pierced. (My 4 3/4 pound chicken took exactly 1 1/2 hours to roast to perfection. Take care not to overcook.)
  5. Remove onion, chop and stir into rice. Pour residual juices from cavity onto a serving platter. Carve chicken and serve with juices and rice mixture. (Note: leftovers make a marvelous chicken and rice soup.)

*Whatever rice you use; halve the liquid requirement on packaging. (2 cups of the rice I used called for 4 1/2 cups of liquid, therefore I only used 2 1/4 cups, but since lentils need water, as well, I used 3 cups total liquid–2 cups stock and 1 cup white wine.)

**Onion will remain firm through cooking. Feel free to cut into pieces and stir into rice prior to cooking, or omit altogether.

Time to soak clay: 15 minutes

Active Time: 20 minutes

Roast Time: 90-120 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4-6 servings

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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