Vegetable and White Bean Soup with Blood Farm Ham

Cool weather. Time for soup. This one is a variation on a recipe from the Gardner Museum Café Cookbook. Groton’s own Blood Farm ham is a salty and smoky variety – you can substitute Virginia Ham.  The Blood Farm ham can be leftover baked ham (I bake it with bourbon, cloves and brown sugar) or grilled ham steak – each version imparts a slightly different flavor to the soup. If you are using grilled ham you might want to add a little extra sherry. There is room to play with the amounts of some things (I often skip the cream) but the fresh basil, parsley, peppers and mushrooms are key to the flavor of this soup.

  • ¼ lb. butter (1 stick) butter
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ¾ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup minced fresh basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 – 3 cups diced cooked ham
  • 1 quart chicken stock – low sodium if canned
  • 2 large sweet red peppers
  • 1 pound small mushrooms, quartered
  • ¾ cup dry sherry (not the supermarket kind – the liquor store kind)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans – or one 15 oz. can, rinsed thoroughly in cold water
  • 1 ½ cups corn kernels (optional – increase the beans if you don’t use the corn)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Sea Salt

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt half of the butter, and add the garlic and onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent, then add the parsley, basil, bay leaf and ham, then sauté another 3 minutes. Transfer to a large sauced pan or soup pot. Add the chicken stock and let it simmer while you do the next step.

Heat the rest of the butter in the sauté pan over medium heat and add the peppers. After about 5 minutes add the mushrooms. After another 5 minutes add the sherry and simmer an additional 10 minutes to dissipate the alcohol. Transfer this mixture to the soup pot

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the beans, corn and cream (if using). Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the pepper and sea salt to taste. Reheats nicely.


This post first appeared in October of 2012.

Eggs for Dinner

This is one of those using-up-leftovers recipes that turned out better than expected. Of course it can be served for breakfast but it didn’t feel like I was having breakfast for dinner (like when you make pancakes at night) – it was just good. I had some leftover boiled new potatoes and tomato and red onion salad – that’s how it started. This is how it ended up:

SONY DSCIt looks like a mess but it tastes great. It’s almost not even a recipe, but here it is anyway.


  • 6 new potatoes, cooked and sliced
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons red onion, diced
  • 1 cup yellow and red grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic-infused olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 springs parsley, torn
  • 5 Thai basil leaves, torn
  • 4 chives, torn
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 slice provolone cheese, halved (optional)
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper

SONY DSCHeat an enameled cast iron skillet at medium, and add the oil, then the butter. Add the potatoes, the red pepper, and the onion and cook, stirring frequently until the potatoes are nice and brown about 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper (or to taste). Add the tomatoes, and then the parsley and basil. Turn down the heat a little and add the chives. After a couple of minutes, when the tomatoes are cooked but not falling apart, divide the mixture between two dinner plates, and top with the cheese.

Put a little more butter in the pan, and crack the eggs into it. (Some people prefer their eggs “clean” and might want to use a separate pan for the eggs – not me.) Flip the eggs so they are over easy so that the whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny. Place one egg each on the serving place, right on top of the cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves two.

On the side: a glass of dry white wine or a grapefruit juice/citrus vodka/agave/seltzer cocktail.

Winter Storm Comfort Menu: Grilled Cheese with Red Pepper Jelly & Coconut Macaroons

Food for a cold winter's night

Food for a cold winter’s night

Storm bearing down and we’d rather hang out than cook a lot (maybe tomorrow), but we were in dire need of a gluten-free sweet so that’s where we focused our energy. There’s not much I can do to improve on Ina Garten’s Coconut Macaroons so just follow that link – but I do think they could use a touch more salt than the recipe calls for (maybe more vanilla, too), and make sure that you let them get very toasty and brown in the oven (closer to 30 minutes). Winter is a good time to make these because the egg whites whip up very nicely in the cooler temperatures. These are not the very soft kind of macaroons – they are crunchy and chewy and lovely.

Whip those egg whites

Whip those egg whites

Cookies made and cooled, time to bring out the panini press, the sourdough bread (Nashoba Brook Bakery if you live in Massachusetts), a tangy cheese (American, fontina, cheddar) and Stonewall Kitchen’s Red Pepper Jelly. Put a little jelly on one slice of bread (or two) before putting on the cheese, then butter the bread (garlic butter is a plus but not required) on the outside and toast. Add a green salad and a cocktail (Limonata cocktail shown) and you are ready to settle in by the fire and put on a movie.

Let it snow.

Note: Obviously the sourdough bread is not gluten free – you can make this with Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread, though.

Shirley’s Ginger Cookies

Imported from Iowa. Scroll down to see substitutions for a gluten-free version.

Regular sugar for these is fine, but organic sugar taste even better because it is a little closer to brown sugar.

  • ¾ cup butter (if butter is unsalted add a pinch of salt to the dough)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 teaspoons molasses (I use Brer Rabbit Blackstrap)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • extra sugar in which to roll the cookies

Preheat over to 350 degrees. In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and molasses. Assemble the dry ingredients and sift them into the butter mixture. Put some sugar in a small bowl or saucer. Shape the dough into one inch balls (it will be a little sticky) and roll them in sugar and place them on a backing sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Let the cookies cool for a couple of minutes before removing them to a rack and cooling completely.

Gluten free: substitute 2 cups King Arthur Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, plus 1 teaspoon xanthan gum.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Fresh Blueberry Compote

This recipe could not be simpler, so long as it’s not too hot to let it simmer on the stove. Warm or cold, use it atop French vanilla ice cream or lemon yogurt. I think lemon and nutmeg bring out the best in blueberries but if you want to make it straight blueberry because you will use that to complement other flavors (like peach ice cream or raspberry sorbet) just add more water and a bit more sugar. Note that these amounts are not precise because blueberries come both sweet and tart, cultivated and large, wild and small, and can render a lot or a little juice. Keep stirring and tasting and make it right for you.

  • 8 cups fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg (must be fresh)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • the zest of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for at least 30 minutes or until the berries have released most of their juice. I let it cook down until it is fairly thick but still has enough liquid to strain some off to make sorbet (recipe to follow). Adjust the flavors and let cool completely in the pan before refrigerating.

Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Beef Vegetable Stew with Bacon

This is a variation on Mark Bittman’s Beef Stew with Bacon in his How to Cook Everything app.  The key things he does that distinguishes this recipe, I think, is to flavor the fat with the garlic before it turns bitter and also cook the meat in the stock for a while before adding the vegetables.  I think this allows the broth to develop better flavor for the vegetables to absorb. I made a few changes to make it gluten free, added some different vegetables and used a combination of red wine and homemade chicken broth because I did not have beef broth – I actually like it better with the chicken broth; it doesn’t overpower the other flavors the way that beef broth can.

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed but still mostly intact
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4-6 ounces thick cut bacon, diced
  • 2 lbs. Stew meat (I buy a chuck roast, trim it and cut it into bite sixed cubes)
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cups red wine – barolo, cabernet or any full bodied red
  • 1 cup stock – beef, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh chopped thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley for serving

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high and cook the bacon until it crisp.  Remove it with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Add the crushedgarlic cloves to the hot fat, cook for one minute, then remove and discard the cloves.  Brown the meat in the flavored bacon fat over medium high heat, adding it a few bits at a time so that all of the meat can brown properly.  Season with salt and pepper while it is browning – it may require cooking in batches to keep from overcrowding in the pot.  As the meat browns, remove the done pieces with a slotted spoon and when it is all cooked pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions.  Cook them, stirring frequently until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the wine and stock, bay leaf, thyme, and beef and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and check to see that the mixture is still soupy – if it seems too dry, add a little more wine, stock or water.  Add the potatoes, carrots and celery and bring the stew back up to a boil.  Then lower the heat, cover and cook for 45-60 minutes until the meat and vegetables are tender.   Add the bacon and the minced garlic.  Let cook for 5-10 minutes then adjust the seasoning.


Hollandaise Sauce

Around here, this is known as Holiday Sauce because we only make it when we are celebrating something, usually Eggs Benedict.

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½  pound butter, melted
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons boiling water
  • Dash of Cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 thin sliver of shallot (optional)

Doubles nicely.

The shallot is something my mother always added – if you add a teaspoon of fresh tarragon you will have a Bearnaise sauce.  If using unsalted butter be sure to adjust the seasoning carefully.

Put the egg yolks in a food processor with the shallot if you are using it.  Turn the processor on – keep it on as you add all of the ingredients.  Only turn it off when you are ready to taste and correct the seasoning.   Make sure the onion is shredded before slowly adding the boiling water (if you just dump it in the eggs may scramble and you will have to start over).

 Add the melted butter in a very thing stream.  Add the lemon juice, Cayenne, and salt.  Taste and correct the seasonings.

Keep warm over a double boiler (very low heat) until ready to use.

Make ahead:  Transfer to a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface.  Refrigerate until about an hour before you expect to use it, and then reheat either over a double boiler or in the microwave.  If you use the microwave, heat the sauce for 1-2 minutes on medium low (power level 4) – stir it vigorously and keep heating it a for short times at low power until it’s properly warm.  If you go too fast and it curdles you are sunk, so be patient.

Gluten Free Recommendations

One member of our family has been gluten-free for 11 years; another just joined that club.  The difference is that the longtime gluten free person is a child, and pretty limited in what he eats even though he has a well-balanced diet.  But now with two of them, we’ve needed to widen our repertoire and here are a few recommendations:

  • King Arthur gluten free mixes are by far the best mixes on the market for bread, cakes, and pancakes, and they make it easy if you also happen to be dairy free.
  • Schar table crackers and pasta go over well at our house, but we really have yet to find pasta that has really good texture.  The crackers are great, though.
  • The Really Great Food Company makes banana and corn bread mixes that are very good, and like King Arthur stuff, they keep well for a few days.
  • Deland Bakery frozen breads, found at Whole Foods and some specialty markets.  They do warn about cross contamination but we have never had any problems, and this bread travels well.  If you are very sensitive, however, please note that they do not guarantee their products to be gluten free.
  • For oatmeal fans, Bob’s Red Mill makes guaranteed gluten-free oats.
  • The Glutenista page on Facebook offers a much more exhaustive array of options and recommendation than I have here – if you are a FB type, it’s absolutely worth friending them.

We still serve gluten and this site is not going totally gluten free, but bear with us while we try to create some balance in our cookbooks.