Appetizers Soups and Stews Uncategorized Vegetarian

Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio

Artichoke Velouté w/ Truffle Carpaccio

It’s day three of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” for which I feature recipes created by the lovely and talented Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. Today’s installment is the second of the five-course meal. Check back Monday for course number three.

Velouté in French means, “velvety,” and this soup is made velvety, not by creating a butter and flour roux, as are most French velouté sauces, but rather by puréeing the soup (including the artichokes and potatoes) in a blender and then pressing the it through a fine sieve. Whenever I strain a sauce or soup through a sieve, I am reminded of Thomas Keller because he has said that ‘nothing moves from one pot to another in the French Laundry kitchen without first passing through a sieve.’ Now that I have gotten into this habit as well, I highly recommend it.

The other special trick for this soup is the black truffle carpaccio as the garnish. Viviane featured these in her original post, and I was compelled to order some myself. They are available at Gourmet Attitude in New York City. They FedEx them to you in a chilled box. They were a wonderful addition to this soup and I can’t wait to try them in other dishes as well. These are the first truffles to take up residence in my kitchen, so I am very excited about that.

This would be another great occasion to own a stick blender. Every time I make a soup like this, I think it’s time to buy one, but I’ll be honest. I haven’t yet pulled the trigger.

Parlsey and Thyme Bundle

Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio
From a recipe by Viviane Bauquet Farre, by permission
serves 6 (makes 8 cups)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Vidalia or Spanish onion – skinned, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
8 oz Yukon gold potato (1 large) – peeled and cut in 1/2” cubes
2 8oz boxes of frozen artichoke hearts
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups spring/filtered water
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 Italian parsley sprigs & 6 thyme sprigs – tied in a bundle with kitchen string

1/2 – 2.82 oz jar Black Truffle Carpaccio or truffle oil as garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped chives as garnish


1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onion, stir well and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until just golden, stirring from time to time. Add the garlic and wine. Stir well and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the wine has reduced to a syrupy sauce and has almost all evaporated. Add the potato cubes, frozen artichokes, stock, water, salt, pepper to taste and herb bundle. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot and slow-simmer for 40 minutes until the artichokes are very tender. Remove the herb bundle and discard.

2. Purée the soup with a stick blender, food processor, or blender until very smooth. Strain in a sieve and return to the soup pot and gently re-heat at medium heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

3. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, put a spoonful of black truffle carpaccio (or a spoonful of truffle oil), garnish with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh chives and serve immediately.

Amy’s tip: Viviane recommends straining this soup through a medium sieve. I own a fine sieve but not a medium one. It was time-consuming to strain it through the fine sieve as she warned ,but I was glad I did it anyway. I used a wooden spoon to press it through and just tried to stay patient.

Artichoke Velouté
Soups and Stews Uncategorized

Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale

White Bean Soup with Kale
White Bean Soup with Kale

With the intention of creating heart-healthy, low-sodium, nutritious dishes, I bring you a white bean soup with kale. I’ve described it as creamy, but there is no cream. The creaminess comes from puréeing the beans themselves. To make this a vegan dish, simply swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock. This recipe is also gluten-free (as long as the stock you use is gluten free). I’m eating it right now and it is totally hitting the spot. The heartiness of the puréed beans makes bread an unnecessary companion, which is good, since I’m trying to avoid that too.

You can garnish this soup with grated Parmesan cheese and certainly season it with additional salt, but since we’re cutting back on salt and fat, I’ve left out both.

Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale


1 lb of dried Great Northern Beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, chopped or diced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
5-6 cups low-salt chicken stock
3/4 of a bunch of kale (I used curly kale)
Freshly ground pepper


1. Rinse and sort beans. In a large stockpot, cover with water (about 6 cups) and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit 1 hour. This is the quick replacement for soaking overnight. Once they are soaked, drain the water.

2. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and carrots and sautée gently until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. (Watch heat carefully to ensure onions don’t brown too much).

3. Add rosemary and sauée 1 minute. Add beans, then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for about 20 minutes (unless your beans were really tender, in which case, you may be able to simmer for as little as 10 minutes).

4. While soup is simmering, blanch the kale. Here’s how. Trim stems off of the kale leaves by folding them in half and slicing along the spine of the stem. Bring a small amount of water to a boil. Add kale and boil for 2 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Pat dry on paper towels and cut kale into small, bite-size pieces. Set aside.

5. Once the beans have simmered long enough to be fork tender, purée the soup in batches in a blender and then return it to the pot. Reheat and add most of the kale. Save a few pieces of kale for garnish. Pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat later.

Appetizers Pumpkin Soups and Stews Uncategorized Video How-to

Pumpkin-Sage Soup

Pumpkin-Sage Soup
Pumpkin-Sage Soup

Day 3 of 31 days of pumpkin brings us to a savory recipe.

The secret to this pumpkin soup isn’t the sage (that’s in the title after all). It’s the fact that the onions are caramelized first. Caramelizing onions takes a bit of time (about 30 minutes, in fact), but it’s well worth it to bring out the sweet, nutty flavor hidden inside. The trick to caramelizing onions is to keep the temperature very low while they are sautéeing. Caramel is created when sugar undergoes controlled pyrolysis – the chemical decomposition that happens when organic stuff gets hot. If it gets too hot, then it gets charred. Char creates the familiar grill marks on a perfectly grilled steak. We’re not charring the onions, we’re trying to decompose the sugars in such a controlled way that they turn into caramel and that takes controlled temperature for a long time.

Elise Bauer, from Simply Recipes, created a stop-motion movie to show onions caramelizing. Her post about how to caramelize onions is here.

Appetizers Produce Soups and Stews Uncategorized

Silky Smooth Cream of Broccoli Soup

Cream of Broccoli Soup
Cream of Broccoli Soup

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.


Silky Smooth Cream of Broccoli Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Super silky smooth cream of broccoli soup.
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 4-6
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!


Soups and Stews Uncategorized

Asparagus Soup

Chopped asparagus
Chopped asparagus

It’s Asparagus season in Northern California. Bunches that normally go for $5.99 or $6.99/lb now go for $1.29/lb. That’s when I know it’s time for my favorite soup recipe: Asparagus Soup.

I’ve taken this recipe from the book Celebrating the Impressionist Table, by Pamela Todd. Published in 1997, it is now out-of-print, but it is full of sumptuous recipes. I love the premise of this book: to provide recipes for the foods seen in the paintings of Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet and others. Part art history, part cultural history, part cookbook, it satisfies the curiosity of anyone interested in understanding the day-to-day lives of these artists and their families as well as the role food played in their 19th century French lives.

Most important, though, is the fact that this soup is darn tasty.

Potage Argenteuil – Asparagus Soup


3 Tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and chopped with tips reserved
2 leeks, rinsed, trimmed and chopped
1 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
6 Tbsp light cream
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives (I didn’t have any this time, but I recommend using them)
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
fresh chives, to garnish


1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped asparagus, leeks, and potato, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth. (You could even strain it through a fine strainer).

2. Return the soup to a clean pan. Stir in the cream and chives and season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper; keep warm.

3. Blanch the reserved asparagus tips in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and refresh immediately under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

4. Spoon the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the asparagus tips and chives.

Potage Argenteuil (Asparagus Soup)
Potage Argenteuil (Asparagus Soup)
Soups and Stews Uncategorized

Classic Beef Stew

Beef Stew
Beef Stew

I think of November as comfort food month, so I thought I’d kick things off by making some beef stew. It’s easy, healthy and relatively affordable. What more could you want?

Time-saving tips:
Buy beef cubes pre-cut
Buy baby carrots and throw them in whole
Buy little red potatoes and just slice them in half


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs Beef Chuck cut into 1 inch pieces (you can buy it that way at the store)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
1 Bay leaf
2 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) ready-cut diced tomatoes
3 cups baby red potatoes, cut in half
1 bag (16 oz) frozen peas, thawed

1. Heat olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and sautée for 1 minute.

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