Everyone Is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day & Potato Soup with Ale, Smoked Sausage & Greens

A lot has changed since the great Irish migration in the mid-1800s. Today, we all love the Irish, their melodic accent and gift for storytelling. Throughout the country and regardless of heritage, one and all will raise their glasses and sing the praises of the Emerald Isle on Saint Paddy’s Day.

In 1845, the Potato Blight launched a huge wave of Irish immigration to America. Potato crops were decimated and a devastating famine hit Ireland. Within five years, a million Irish were dead and boatloads had fled to America. As proud as many of us are of our melting pot heritage, near and past history shows that too many immigrants, including the Irish, received a far from warm welcome.

The plight of the Irish sticks out for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, there were a lot of them. In the 1840s, about fifty percent of all immigrants to the United States were Irish. And, of course, like all of us, they had accents … but theirs were different. Plus, they were farmers without a farm. Whole families arrived with little more than what they had on their backs. Once landed, they didn’t have the resources to move to the countryside and buy a homestead to farm. Instead, port cities like New York and Boston were suddenly teaming with countryfolk.

And then, let’s not forget, most of these new Irish immigrants were Catholic. Even though the United States was founded by people escaping religious prosecution, the well-established protestants did not see that as a reason to tolerate, let alone embrace, people of other faiths.

Finally, the Irish were destitute or close to it; otherwise, they’d have stayed home. Desperate to find housing and jobs, they did what they could to survive. They took any job available and accepted any roof to live under, leaky or not. Although generally forced to take the most menial work, they were accused of stealing jobs and driving down wages. Poverty forced them into unsanitary tenements and they were then ridiculed for poor hygiene.

Anti-Irish and anti-Catholic feelings ran high. In newspapers and shop windows, help wanted advertisements boldly told these new immigrants that “No Irish Need Apply” or specified only Protestants would be considered. This sentiment peaked in the 1850s and ever-so-slowly dissipated over several decades.

From Mother Jones to John Sweeney, Irish and Irish-Americans played a key role in the development of labor unions. Organized labor gave many working men and women the opportunity to earn a living wage with reasonable hours. The movement also brought safer conditions to workplaces and protected children from exploitation. In other words, Irish immigrants and their descendants played a key role in building a strong middle class in the United States.

Today there are laws in place that prohibit an employer or landlord from warning that the Irish or any other nationality need not apply. Unfortunately, these laws are not always foolproof. Too many immigrants continue to receive a less than warm welcome to melting pot America.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, we honor Irish contributions to our country and the world. We celebrate James Hoban – the designer of the White House and John F. Kennedy who served in it, actress Saoirse Ronan, writers Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, brewer Arthur Guinness, mathematician George Boole and many, many others. Perhaps it’s a good day to honor all immigrants.

Let’s lift our glasses together and embrace our melting pot nation. Bon appétit!

Potato Soup with Ale, Smoked Sausage & Greens
The potato famine drove the Irish out of Ireland. I’m not a corned beef fan so potato soup sounds like a deliciously hearty way to celebrate the Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!
Makes 4-5 quarts

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces ale or beer
  • 2 pounds red skinned potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 8-10 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound your favorite smoked sausage, cut in quarters lengthwise and 1/2-inch thick
  • 12-16 ounces greens – Swiss chard, baby kale, spinach or escarole

Lightly coat a stockpot with olive oil and heat on medium. Add the onion, carrots, celery and leek, sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, paprika and cayenne, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the ale and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the potatoes, 8 cups chicken stock and the bay leaf, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

For a thicker soup, remove the pot from the heat and gently crush some or all of the potatoes to with a masher. Don’t overdo it; you don’t want mashed potatoes.

Add the sausage to the pot and simmer until heated through, 5-10 minutes. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add more chicken stock.

If you have the time, remove from the heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Bring the soup to a boil, add the greens and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and simmer until the greens are wilted and tender.

Remove the bay leaf and serve hot in soup bowls or mugs.

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First in the Nation & Thai Soup with Shrimp, Greens & Noodles

We Granite Staters are ever so proud to hold the first in the nation primary. A lot of pundits complain that New Hampshire has too much visibility and sway in the presidential election. Although not known for its diversity, the people of our little state take presidential politics seriously.

For months now, we have been changing or cancelling other plans to attend rallies and town halls to meet the candidates. That’s one of the cool things about New Hampshire. If you’re willing to make the effort, you can shake the hand of every candidate. Which in turn means, you can meet each and every president. Or it did until Mike Bloomberg. He’s skipping the Granite State and pinning his hopes on Super Tuesday. If he wins the oval office there are going be more than a few disgruntled, old guys who can no longer brag that they’ve shaken the hand of every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Along with seeing the candidates up close and personal, we get a lot of telephone calls. Sometimes it’s professional pollsters. Their survey can be short; press a few keys and you’re done. Others take forever. Still, I do my best to stay on the line while the poor kid at the other end takes me through round after round of what-ifs. In the final week leading up to the primary, phones rang nonstop with invitation after invitation to see the candidates – giving us one final chance to cement or change our choices.

That’s right, today’s the day to get off any fences and make a decision. No more top three, it’s time to pick one. So, here’s a thought, before you cast your vote, consider all the people who matter to you. How will your vote affect them? And don’t forget your forefathers and foremothers. While no longer with us, they certainly had opinions.

Let’s start with Nana, as in – what would Nana say? If your grandmother or great grandmother was born before the 19th amendment was passed, what would she tell you? What issues would she want you to consider? For one thing, I bet she’d tell you to get to the polls. No excuses.

On the other hand, what about grandpa? Isn’t he due to sign up for Medicare or social security in a year or two? Or maybe it’s your son who’s about to join you in one or both of these programs. What’s on his mind when it comes to the candidates?

Think of your children. If they’re full grown, think of them but also your grandchildren and great grandchildren. As the youngest members of your family make their way to school or work on this chilly, winter morning, what’s important to them and for them. Go beyond today’s concern and worries, imagine the future and what it could hold for them.

If you’re one of those children and old enough to vote, think of your mom and dad. Whether they’re living large and spending the winter in a condo in Florida or struggling to pay the propane bill, what’s best for them and their future?

Embrace your spouse or the memory of your spouse. How will he or she vote today … or would have? When you cast your ballot, stop and think about how your vote could help make your mate’s life better.

Beyond your near and dear, think of your friends and neighbors and their families plus the strangers from towns near and far and all their families. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to vote and bon appétit!

Thai Soup with Shrimp, Greens & Noodles

Special enough for company and quick for a weeknight, this flavorful soup will be the perfect end to a busy day. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • Vegetable oil
  • About 8 ounces shitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3-4 tablespoons Thai curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • About 1 pound baby spinach or your favorite greens
  • 8 ounces rice noodles
  • Garnish: cilantro leaves, thinly sliced scallions, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.

Lightly coat a soup kettle with oil and heat over medium-high, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pot and reserve.

If necessary, add more oil to coat the kettle along with the onion, garlic, ginger, curry paste and cumin, and sauté until the onion is translucent.

Add the stock, soy and fish sauces and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Prepare the noodles according to package directions and drain.

Raise the heat under the soup and bring it a rapid boil. Add the shrimp, spinach and mushrooms and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes.

To serve: divide the noodles among individual bowls, ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish with cilantro, scallions, peanuts and lime wedges.

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Blahvember & Curried Cauliflower Soup

Oh my, it’s that time of year again. It’s one of my two least favorite months – November. (The other is April by the way.) Also known as Blahvember because, well, look outside. All those brightly colored leaves, the ones that bring fame and tourists to northern New England, they’re lying in soggy piles on the side of the road. Day in and day out, it’s one gray, drizzly day after another. Hmph, I feel like one of those hapless kids stuck in a Dr. Seuss tale.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a lot to do or even look forward to. Halloween is in the rearview mirror and Thanksgiving doesn’t come until the very end of the month. To top it off, if you missed the time change, well, for the past few days, you’ve been early to work or the gym or wherever you spend your mornings. Think of it; just when we need it most, we’re no longer saving daylight. Then again, once bedtime and waketime rearrange themselves, the change doesn’t seem so bad. Afterall, it’s light or almost light when the alarm goes off.

As an early morning walker, I appreciate the earlier sunrise. Then something happens. Once a week, twice a week, I wake to a deluge or have an early morning appointment. No big deal. These little inconveniences can’t keep me from my daily tour of the lake. I simply postpone until afternoon. That’s when, heading into the homestretch, it becomes miserably apparent that it’s dark at 4:30. Yes … dark, as in dark as night … at 4:30 … in the afternoon. Ugh!

So, what can you do about it? There’s always sulking or a Hallmark Channel movie marathon. Then again, how about that list of chores that never seem to get done? If your list is anything like mine, it’s not very motivating.

It might be more productive, make that more fun, to get a jump on holidays. You know, get out the knitting needles or your favorite crafty supplies and make stuff. An afternoon in the kitchen is always a pleasure or at least it is for me. Stir up a pot of soup or marinara sauce. Speaking of holidays, my butternut squash soup is perfect for Thanksgiving and freezes beautifully. Or you could bake some Christmas cookies and tuck them into the freezer. Cooking is a lot more fun than cleaning the garage; warmer too.

Skiers, snowshoers and other outdoor types can bring it in and out of the rain. Think about signing up for one of those super-duper fitness classes. It will help you get your abs, gluts and quads in shape. (If that sounds like I know what I’m talking about, don’t be fooled.) Oh, and by the way, signing up is fine but to make it work; you actually have to go to the class and participate.

Alternatively, November might be a good time to take up tai chi or yoga. While not as hardcore as boot camp or whatever those high-powered conditioning classes are called, both will build flexibility, strength and balance. Keeping your balance on an icy sidewalk is always a good thing. An added bonus, meditative exercise is a great stress reliever.

Wishing you a happy and boredom-free November. Bon appétit!

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Cold, gray, drizzly November, is the perfect time to stir up a kettle of soup – or two. Get an early start on Thanksgiving preparations with my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and/or try something new with a little spice. Either way or both – enjoy!

Makes about 4 quarts

  • 1/2 cup or to taste curry paste (recipe follows or use your favorite store bought)
  • 2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2-3 pounds cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
  • 1-2 Yukon gold potatoes, about 8 ounces, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, cut in eighths
  • About 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • About 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Cilantro-Lime Chutney (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the curry paste in a small bowl, add the vinegar and oil and whisk with a fork to combine. Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, add with the curry paste mixture and toss to coat.

Stirring and tossing once or twice, roast the vegetables at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Add 4 cups of stock, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little stock and/or coconut milk in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the cauliflower puree into a soup pot, add the remaining stock and coconut milk and the bay leaf and place on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Reheat on medium low.

To serve: ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, swirl a dollop of Cilantro-Lime Chutney into the soup and serve.

Curry Paste

Makes about 1 cup

  • 4 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil

Put the spices in a small food processor and pulse to combine. Add the garlic and ginger and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Cover and store leftover curry paste in the refrigerator.

Cilantro-Lime Chutney

Makes about 1 cup

  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1/2 or to taste jalapeno pepper
  • 2-3 cups roughly chopped cilantro – leaves and tender stems
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar and lime zest and juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add the scallions, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Let the chutney sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Cover and store leftover chutney in the refrigerator or in the freezer.

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Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

 

 

How to Avoid a Power Outage & Chicken Soup Florentine

When we were little kids, an approaching snowstorm was cause for excitement. With any luck, school would be cancelled. Yes, we did love those snow days. As it so happens, I still do. Com’on, who doesn’t like to spend the day in leggings and a ratty, no-longer-allowed-in-public turtleneck?

Now, I grew up in suburbia where power outages were rare. A snow day meant we could hang out in our PJs and watch television or read books until Mom sent us outside to build a snowman. As a would-be grownup, I can still hang out but a movie binge only works if the power stays on.

My neighborhood generally loses power a couple times a year. It happens when heavy snow takes down a tree which in turn takes down a power line. Sometime, instead of snow, a monster wind knocks them down. Or a frigid rain leaves a thick coat of ice on the lines, causing them to snap. Finally, and thankfully less frequently, some yahoo drives too fast and takes out a pole.

Just like a kid with inside-out and backwards PJs and ice cubes down the toilet, I’ve developed a series of rituals to ensure the lights stay on in spite of an approaching storm. I suppose none of this would be necessary if I invested in a generator but what’s the fun in that?

These rituals are not foolproof but, heck, they worked for the last two storms. Feel free to join me. For any hope of success, you must complete all the steps. The order doesn’t matter but completeness does. Just think, you might save your neighborhood from a power outage. Here goes:

Have the power company’s number handy so you’re ready to call the minute the lights go out.

Fill at least three large buckets with water. You’ll need it to refill the toilet after flushing. Fill several jugs or pitchers with water for drinking and cooking.

Run the dishwasher – even half-full. You’ll want plenty of clean dishes if the power goes out.

Do any urgent laundry. Of course, you define urgent but, if it were me and I was down to my last pair of leggings, I’d do a load.

Take a nice long shower. You want to be clean too.

Rummage around and locate every flashlight in the house. Check the batteries and stock up as needed.

Have candles ready as well as matches. Dinner, even in a power outage, tastes better by candlelight.

Don’t be left incommunicado – charge your phone. While you’re at it, charge your tablet and laptop.

Make soup. Whether the snow is gently falling or the wind is howling, there is nothing like curling up in front of the fire with a good book and a mug of soup.

And, just in case the power stays out for a couple of day … have plenty of wine on hand.

It worked last week. Hopefully, it will next time! Bon appétit!

Chicken Soup Florentine
Lights on or off, this delicious soup is great on a cold, winter evening. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 1/2-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch or to taste dried pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 or more quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind* (optional)
1 pound whole mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1 pound baby spinach

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup kettle over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from the pot and reserve.

If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the pot. Add the onion, celery and carrot, sprinkle with thyme and pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Return the chicken to the pot, add the stock, wine and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut or shred it into bitesize pieces.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.

Return the chicken to the pot and add the mushrooms. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

This soup is best when made in advance to this point. If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

If the soup is too thick, add more stock. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the spinach and stir to combine and wilt. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and serve.

* Adding a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add flavor and richness to your soup.

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One Year Ago – Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon
Two Years Ago – Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
Three Years Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Five Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Six Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Seven Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Eight Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Nine Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Ten Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite snow day rituals? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

A Cooking Marathon & Roasted Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup

What a strange winter it has been? Well, strange so far, it ain’t over yet. Yes, we New Englanders like to joke about snowsuits at Halloween. However, what we don’t tell the rest of the world, the snow rarely piles up and it usually melts within a day, maybe two. This year the snow held off until November but it kept coming and coming and coming. Kept coming until December which was unusually warm and rainy instead of snowy.

Now, what will the rest of the winter bring us? Mercifully, January has not given us a whole lot of it’s typical frozen tundra-type temperatures. That said, it could be me but, so far at least, it feels like the month has brought way too many cloudy days. Sure, we’ve had some sun and a couple of real, plowable storms but, mostly, we’ve been plagued with gray skies and what I call nuisance snow.

Since I’m a skier, you might wonder how I could consider any snow a nuisance. Let me explain. Nuisance snow is that inch of fluffy white stuff. It comes with a miserable dampness that makes it feel colder than the actual temperature. Furthermore, that skim of snow is quickly beaten into the pavement and is as slick as ice. In other words, it’s both uncomfortable and an accident waiting to happen.

But when the going gets rough, the tough get cooking! And when it’s really rough, it’s time for a cooking marathon.

Take for instance the other day. I was headed to the supermarket for a gallon of milk. That’s all I really needed. It was snowing so it was slowing going up the hill. As I inched my way to town, a whole bunch of tasty would-be recipes began floating around head. By the time I pulled into the snowy parking lot, I had a list a mile long. In the less than ten minute drive, I developed a hankering for both eggplant and cauliflower. I was betwixt and between curry, an over-indulgent Greek casserole and New England style soup.

Lucky for me, eggplant was on sale and the cauliflower was a beautiful, creamy white. No need to choose, I bought them both plus some greens, a couple of onions and garlic. I remembered the cilantro for curry but forgot the ginger root. And oops, the cheddar for the cauliflower soup. It’s tough to keep track when you shop without a list. A second trip to the supermarket and I was ready to spend a few afternoons in the kitchen.

Here’s how these marathons usually work. First, I get two or three interesting dishes or ideas stuck in my head. Then, I buy too much food. Next, I mull over ingredients and spices and whether to roast, braise, sauté or simmer. More often than not, it’s usually a combination.

At some point, the mulling stops and chopping begins. For the next few days, usually a weekend, I’ll cook enough to feed an army of foodies. As I put things together, I scribble out the list of ingredients and make notes of temperatures and timings. That’s one of the challenges of sharing recipes. You have to write them down.

On the other hand, the best part is inviting guinea pigs over to sample the results. Of course, they generally have to put up with a mini photoshoot. I like to photograph new recipes. Plus, not every dish is a brilliant success. Hopefully, the wine and company make up for any flops.

Wishing you a delicious 2019, stay warm and bon appétit!

Roasted Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup
What could be better than soup on a cold winter evening. Roasting the vegetables gives this soup a rich, deep flavor. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1-2 red potatoes, about 8 ounces, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large onion, cut in eighths
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8-12 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
1 cup half and half (optional)
1 bay leaf
About 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
Garnish: fresh chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and coat.

Stirring and tossing 2-3 times, roast at 375 for about 30 minutes. Add 4 cups of stock, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little stock in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the cauliflower puree into a soup pot, add the remaining stock and bay leaf and place on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the half and half and cheddar and reheat to steaming.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Reheat on medium low.

To serve: ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, garnish with chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Dandan Noodles
Two Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup
Three Years Ago – Tomato Soup
Four Years Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Five Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Seven Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Eight Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Ten Years Ago – My Favorite Chili

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

Twinkle, Twinkle Lights So Bright & Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens

When I was little, the holiday decorations in our yard never stopped traffic. Like the rest of the neighborhood, our display was pretty modest. A life-size Santa did not peek down our chimney. The entire house was not outlined in flashing bulbs. Instead, Mom put electric candles in the windows and hung a wreath with a big red bow on the front door. Then, under the watchful eyes of his two little girls, Dad untangled strings of colored bulbs. He carefully wound them around the rhododendrons that flanked the front stoop. Dad completed the tableau with a spot light aimed at Mom’s wreath. My sister Brenda and I generally pleaded for bigger and better but it was not to be.

My childhood fondness for holiday decorations was not limited to our front yard. One of my favorite Christmas rituals was driving around town to see the lights and decorations. Of course, I wasn’t doing the driving; I was only five. I was in the back seat with Brenda, our noses pressed against the windows A week or two before Christmas, usually with little or no warning, Mom and Dad loaded us into our big blue station wagon and the treasure hunt began.

After circling the neighborhood, we’d widen our net. Never satisfied, we’d twist and turn away from familiar streets in search of the best and the brightest. Our philosophy was the bigger the better. We gave no points for subtlety or quiet, tasteful decorations.

Bouncing from one side of the car to the other for a better view Brenda and I giggled, oohed and ahhed. Most houses sported a few strings of lights wrapped around bushes or a tree. Others were more extravagant with lights wound around front porch railings or along roof lines. We drove all over town in search of spectacular. The truly remarkable displays combined a ton of lights with life-size wooden cutouts of snowmen or Santa in his sleigh.

When it came to lights, we all had our favorites. Brenda and I preferred the big, fat multicolored bulbs. Big and brash we loved all that color. On the other hand, Mom liked the icy glow of all blue lights. Dad drove and more or less agreed with everyone.

To blink or not to blink was an annual topic of conversation. Far from a debate, we were all in agreement. To our shock and dismay, we’d turn the corner and face a riot of flashing color. To our New England eyes, there was done and overdone. Santa and eight reindeer on the roof elicited enthusiastic applause. Flashing lights got nothing more than a disgusted ugh.

About the time I started high school, I stumbled down the path of discreet, good taste. I no longer dreamed of a plywood snowman on our front lawn. I had no desire to encourage Dad to bring out the extension ladder and hang colorful bulbs along every edge of the house and roof.

Instead, I clamored for little white twinkle lights and was more than happy with the spot lit wreath. At about the same time, I noticed a few big, old colonials with small wreaths on every window. Oh my goodness, l thought they were fabulous. That said, I didn’t want to press my luck and kept my eye on the prize of little white lights. It took a few years to convince my parents. After all, what self-respecting frugal Yankee is going to toss out perfectly good decorations in order to replace them with some newfangled invention?

Enjoy the lights and bon appétit!

Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens
A hearty soup is the perfect supper after your lights tour or tree trimming, Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds precooked garlic sausage or smoked kielbasa, cut in bitesize pieces
About 3 cups cooked small white beans – 2 (15 ounce) cans or 8 ounces dried
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind* (optional)
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
6-8 or more cups chicken stock or broth
1 pound baby kale or spinach
Parmesan Crostini (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

Lightly coat a soup pot with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, carrots and celery and season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent, add the garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the sausage, beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Add more or less stock depending how you like your soup – more like a stew or nice and soupy.  Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Stir in the spinach and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf, ladle into bowls or mugs, top with Parmesan Crostini, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

* Adding a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add flavor and richness to your soup. 

Parmesan Crostini
1/2-1 baguette, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly brush both sides of each baguette slice with olive oil. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce
Two Years Ago – Bûche de Noël
Three Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens
Four Years Ago – Very Ginger Gingerbread Muffins
Five Years Ago – Ginger Shortbread
Six Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Seven Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Eight Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes
Nine Years Ago – Savory Bread Pudding
Ten Years Ago – Triple Chocolate Parfait

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you serving this Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

#IWILLVOTE & Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower & White Bean Soup

It’s the midterms. A time in our democracy when too many people stay home and enjoy a nice cup of tea rather than head out to the polls. But not me, my mother made sure of that. Mom was a firm believer in the power of the vote. Maybe it was because her mother was born before the nineteenth amendment was passed. Moreover, her grandmother was well into her forties when she was able cast her first ballot. Either way, Mom realized it was a hard won right and not to be ignored.

However, not everyone has had the privilege of being my mother’s daughter, son, grandchild or great-grandchild. Without her good influence, whole bunches of people have found lots of reasons to skip the trip to the polls. Here are a few … and her probable retorts:

It’s too cold to go out.
So, what else is new? It’s always cold in New Hampshire in November. Put on a coat; don’t forget your gloves and a hat too. By the way, if you suddenly won tickets to a Patriots game – would you turn them down? I don’t think so.

It’s raining. I don’t want to get wet.
You must have an umbrella. Why do I know this? Easy, because I have at least a half dozen of them in all colors, shapes and sizes and most of them were free.

I don’t have time.
Depending on what you do and where you live, this one might have merit. For example, the day shift at the hospital runs from seven to seven. Those are the exact hours of our local polling station. However, you can stop by the town offices and pick up an absentee ballot. As for that other stuff – you can get your hair cut, your nails done and your car washed on Wednesday. If you have time to stand in line for a lottery ticket, you have time to stand in line to vote.

I have no idea who’s running? I only (sometimes) vote in presidential elections.
Mom wasn’t tech savvy but if she was – she would have told you to go to your computer, visit your town website and pull up a sample ballot. If you can’t find one there, Google NH 2018 midterm election for a list of candidates. Now, check out them out and learn about their policy positions. Vote for candidates who best align with your values.

Why bother? My vote doesn’t matter.
Now, here’s a funny thing – your vote actually does matter. The 2016 presidential election was determined by about 70,000 votes. Living in a small state, that might seem like a lot but think again. More than 135 million people voted in the 2016 election. The final outcome came down to 70,000 individuals who made the effort to get to their polling stations that day.

It’s all rigged.
Another funny thing, voter fraud is actually extremely rare. Yes, it makes a good sound bite at a rally or in a tweet but the facts don’t back it up. When you go to the polls, you can be confident that your vote will count and matter.

#IWILLVOTE on November 6. You can too. See you at the polls and bon appétit!

Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower & White Bean Soup
Reward your trip to the polls with a cozy mug or bowl of soup. Enjoy!
Makes about 4 quarts – freezes beautifully so don’t hesitate to make a double batch

Olive oil
About 4 ounces (4 slices) thick cut bacon, chopped
1 head (2-3 pounds) cauliflower, cut in bite-sized pieces and florets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves
3-4 cups cooked small white beans (about 8 ounces dried beans or 2 15-ounce cans)
6-8 cups chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
3-4 sprigs thyme and 1 bay leaf tied together with kitchen twine
2 cups half & half
2 ounces plus more for garnish Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 ounces plus more for garnish Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a heavy skillet with olive oil and heat on medium. Add the bacon and sauté until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve.

Put the cauliflower on 1-2 baking sheets, drizzle with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and enough bacon fat to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the cauliflower at 375 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

If you like – set some of the roasted florets aside for garnish.

Put the onion, carrots and garlic on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and enough bacon fat to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the vegetables at 375 degrees until tender, about 20 minutes.

Put the vegetables in a large soup pot, add the white beans, 6 cups stock and the herb bundle and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

Cool the soup for about 20 minutes. Remove the herb bundle, and, working in batches, puree the soup. Use a blender for very smooth soup or pulse in the food processor for a more rustic version. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half-and-half.

If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Stirring frequently, adding more stock if necessary, reheat the soup to steaming on medium. Stir in the cheeses and stir until the cheeses have melted and combined into the soup.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, sprinkle with the reserved florets and bacon and serve. Pass more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the cheese lovers.

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One Year Ago – Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Two Years Ago – Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù
Three Years Ago – Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Four Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Five Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Seven Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Eight Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Nine Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Ten Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite cozy soup on a chilly day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018