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.

Ingredients:

  • 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.

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.

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Not Your Average Meatballs

I am not a meatball person – my only meatball memories involve burned meatballs mixed with Franco American Spaghetti, and I am not a great fan of Italian sausage, either.  But one of my children requested spaghetti and meatballs and so I decided to see if I could find a good recipe.  This recipe is based on one I found on Epicurious, but I made a lot of changes – the key ingredient in that recipe is lemon zest.  The zest with the fresh bread crumbs provides an echo of veal scallopine that is just wonderful.  I will try them with a home-made sauce eventually, but this version reflects how I actually served them.

Serves 6-8 if you serve in sauce with spaghetti, but they would make a lovely appetizer on their own.  If you have a smaller group, you can reserve and freeze some of the cooked meatballs for later use.

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 ½  cups fresh, plain bread crumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled organic oregano
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 3 pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive  oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

If you are going to put them in sauce from a jar, you will ened 2-3 32 ounce jars of pasta sauce (I used Classico Tomato and Basil).

Cook onions in the 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove to a large bowl to cool.

Dampen the bread crumbs with the milk, making sure they hold together a little but do not become mushy; the milk should be absorbed completely.

Gently together the cooled onion mixture with the bread crumbs, eggs, cheeses, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper until just combined. Add the ground beef to bread mixture, gently mixing with your hands until just combined – avoid the temptation to squish it all like a meatloaf – there should be pockets of crumbs and meat.

Form mixture into about 45 (1 1/2-inch) balls, arranging meatballs on a half sheet or large baking pan(s) lined them with tin foil (for easier cleanup).

Heat olive or vegetable oil (1 cup) in a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably Le Creuset or another enameled cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown meatballs in 4 or 5 batches (without crowding), turning often, about 5 minutes per batch. Return to baking sheet(s) that have had the tin foil replaced and been lined with paper towels.

While you are cooking the meatballs, warm the pasta sauce in another pot on the stove.

Once they have drained a bit, add meatballs to sauce and gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.  Prepare the pasta and serve with the meatballs in sauce with grated Pecorino Romano on the side.