Day 22 of 31 days of pumpkin and I am really moving out of my comfort zone now. I’ve never made gnocchi before, or any fresh pasta for that matter, but I was inspired by a beautiful cookbook I have, A16 Food + Wine, the cookbook for the restaurant A16 in the Marina district of San Francisco. It’s called A16 after the highway in Italy between Naples and Canosa. The book is a beautifully designed and photographed tome that I am just getting into, but when I spotted a recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi, I thought, “I could put pumpkin in that,” and that’s what I did. And it worked.
Choosing the sauce to go with pumpkin gnocchi was a no-brainer: it has to be a sage cream sauce. Pumpkin and sage, they’re like Abbot and Costello, Brad and Angelina, Click and Clack (you know, the Tappit brothers).
This week at the grocery store, I bought an enormous bag of broccoli florets and have since been adding broccoli to everything.
Today I decided to make a more significant dent in the bag by making cream of broccoli soup. My husband loves cream of broccoli soup and even enjoys the Campbell’s version. In the past, I’ve added Campbell’s Cream of Broccoli soup to various chicken casseroles, but we’ve both watched as the cans have disappeared completely from store shelves throughout Northern California and the Sierras.
It does still exist. But I was happy to find out today just how easy it is to make the good stuff from scratch at home.
Here are my tips and tricks for making your best cream of broccoli soup yet:
1) I use a potato to help thicken the soup. I do use heavy cream at the end, because I can’t resist the rich flavor and texture of cream, but adding the potato could have meant cutting back on the fat and using whole milk instead.
2) To boost the flavor, I sautée onion and garlic first, then add the broccoli and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
3) To make the soup really smooth (and not gritty) I use an immersion blender to liquefy the soup and then pass it through a fine strainer. Not once, but twice! I was inspired to do this by something I read in the French Laundry Cookbook
where Thomas Keller describes how liquids don’t move from one pan to another in the French Laundry kitchen without passing through a strainer. Got it? Blender. Strainer. Strainer. Done.
4) I also add spinach to boost the vibrant green color and add even more nutrients.
5) Don’t have an immersion blender yet? It’s time to get one. It simplifies soup making so much.
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
5 cups broccoli florets
6 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
½ cup raw baby spinach leaves (packed)
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup sour cream
Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sautée gently until softened and translucent - about 3 minutes.
Add potato, broccoli and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and baby spinach leaves. The heat from the soup will wilt the leaves down right away.
Let the soup cool a bit before adding it in batches to a blender. Return soup to pan through a strainer. Not all of the contents will make it through the strainer. Reserve the thick parts that won't strain and put them back into the blender. Then pour back into the soup.
While reheating soup gently, add cream. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Once soup is hot again (but not boiling!) whisk in sour cream and blend completely.
Serve with a garnish of parsley or mini broccoli spears or a tablespoon of shredded cheddar cheese or even another dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!
It’s Gruyère week here at StreamingGourmet. I just can’t get enough of the stuff. I guess it’s also heavy cream week. Sorry! But since I bought these items for the Tarragon Chicken dish the other day, I’m determined not to waste them.
I became a fan of creamed spinach while waiting tables at the now defunct Ingleneuk Tea House in Swarthmore, PA. I was a vegetable girl there in 1991. As the main dishes were served, I offered each guest one of the evening’s side dishes from a large bowl I carried from table to table. I regularly ladled out maccaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes, or creamed spinach. The restaurant served family-style meals from its opening in 1916 until its demise in a fire in 2000. With whom do I share the distinction of having served vegetables at the Ingleneuk? That would be none other than James A. Michener, a 1929 graduate of Swarthmore College. Swarthmore is a dry town, so there never were any restaurants of consequence there. Renato’s pizza and the Ingleneuk were the extent of the culinary scene in the early nineties. Except, come to think of it, for Occasionally Yours, a little café and catering company that served very decent food.
So it was at the Ingleneuk that I first learned about adding fresh grated nutmeg to creamy dishes like macaroni and cheese and creamed spinach, an addition I am quick to include in these dishes today.
Creamed Spinach 2 – 4 servings
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced or 3/4 cup minced shallots
(For more flavor, add garlic too – Emeril does)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 6 oz bag pre-washed baby spinach
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon freshly grated Gruyère cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat milk and cream over low heat in a small saucepan. Make sure the milk doesn’t get scalded on start to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and sautée until the pieces are starting to turn brown, about 6 minutes. (You could cook them more gently until softened, but I like the nutty, sweet flavor that results from browning them in the butter). Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon and allow flour, butter and onion mixture to brown for 3 minutes. This is a roux and is the basis for so many cream sauces (including my favorite mac n cheese sauces).
2. Whisk in the heated milk. Reduce heat and stir continuously while incorporating. Add pinch of nutmeg and blend. Simmer gently until sauce thickens. Add Gruyère and stir until completely melted and blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the raw spinach directly into the pan (this might break some rules, but it sure simplifies things and worked for me). Stir spinach to coat with sauce and watch the spinach wilt. Once spinach is thoroughly wilted but still a vibrant green color, remove pan from heat and serve.
I’m a huge fan of chicken Marsala and veal Marsala, but I’ve got a craving for a pork chop, so I figure “why not try pork Marsala?” At the store, a double thick pork chop catches my eye and once again I think, “Why not?” (read on to find out why not). I’ve never made Marsala sauce before, but I figure it’s a variation on the Fig Sauce I did in September, just with mushrooms and Marsala wine instead of figs and Balsamic vinegar. Let’s see how this one turns out. An ingredients list (of sorts) is at the end of this post.
I’ve scoured the internet for a recipe to use for tonight’s fig adventure. I am surprised at how few recipes there are out there for fresh, green figs. Most of the recipes I found were dessert-oriented or were for dried figs, or were for Mission Figs which are black figs. Mission Figs are sweeter than green figs. People dry green figs because they are not considered sweet enough fresh, but I’ve got a tree full of fresh green figs and I want to use some today, so we’ll just have to see what happens. I’ll put some of my green figs aside for drying and try them out later.
Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 pork slices and saute until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer pork to baking sheet. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to skillet. Repeat with remaining 4 pork slices. Transfer pork to oven to keep warm.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Simmer until vinegar evaporates, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of skillet, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth. Simmer until mixture is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add figs and whipping cream. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 4 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar and any accumulated juices from pork. Simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, about 2 minutes longer. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange pork on plates. Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.