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.


Blueberry Pie Sorbet

SONY DSCA long time ago I posted a recipe for blueberry compote. I have since adjusted that recipe a bit and used a blueberry syrup from that compote to make blueberry pie sorbet – the lemon and the fresh nutmeg make it taste like filling from blueberry pie. If you prefer your sorbet more tart than sweet, increase the amount of lemon juice and decrease the blueberry syrup accordingly.

Make sure that the bowl of your 1 quart ice cream maker has been in the freezer for at least 24 hours, and make the simple syrup explained below and chill that in the fridge.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of cold simple syrup. It’s easy to make: In a medium saucepan mix 2 cups granulated sugar with two cups of water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then chill until ready to use.
  • 8 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar (or to taste, depending on how sweet the berries are)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (must be fresh, or omit it)

In a large saucepan combine the berries, sugar, lemon juice and nutmeg. Bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes and then reduce to a simmer. Keep them on simmer until the berries fall apart and the juice thickens. Taste it to be sure that it is as sweet as you like it and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (and your tongue, since you’re tasting). It should not be watery at all. Let it cool to warm or room temperature.

SONY DSCOnce the berries are cool, place a sieve over a large measuring cup/bowl and fill the sieve 3/4 full and let the syrup drip through. It’s okay to stir the berries to speed up the process. Keep adding the berry mixture to the sieve when it gets too thick, and stop when you have 1 1/2 cups of syrup. (If you don’t have quite enough syrup you can add enough lemon juice to bring it up to 1 1/2 cups.) Combine the syrup with the 2 cups of cold simple syrup and pour the mixture into your 1 quart ice cream maker and mix until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove to a 1 quart container, top with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.


Makes  quart.

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.

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.

Tomato Soup

A soup for the winter that will not end.  This creamy tomato soup is adapted from a recipe from the King Arthur Flour people.  I simplified it a bit and made it gluten-free.

  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions (1 large or two small onions)
  • 1 28 ounce can tomato puree
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Melt the butter and olive oil in a soup pot or large saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion and sauté until it is translucent, about 10-15 minutes.  Add the tomato puree, thyme basil and a bit of black pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, measure out the chicken broth in a glass measuring cup and then stir in the cornstarch until it dissolves.  Add the broth to the tomato mixture, stirring constantly until it is thoroughly incorporated.  Cover the soup and simmer it gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat up to low/medium and stir in the baking soda – it will foam up for a second but as long as you’ve used a pot that leaves you a few inches at the top it will be fine.  Add the sugar, milk and salt and bring it back to a simmer.  Taste and correct the seasonings.  I found that letting it simmer for a little while longer before serving allows it to develop a little texture.

Serve hot with crackers and cheese, or for those who can have gluten, a grilled cheese on sourdough bread.

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.

I Scream: Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Cream

This ice cream is for people who like their chocolate really dark.  I use a Cuisinart ice cream machine.


  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Green & Black’s or Valrhona)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Ghiradelli Bittersweet chocolate chips (or 8 ounces ch0pped bittersweet chocolate)
  • 1 Tablespoon espresso powder


In a medium saucepan over medium low heat combine the milk and heavy cream.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk mixture and then add the empty pod to it, too.  Simmer it all over low heat for 30 minutes, then remove and discard the bean pod.

In a mixing bowl beat together the sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, eggs and egg yolk until thick.  Measure about 1 cup of the hot milk/cream mixture and, with the mixer on low, add in a thin stream to the egg/sugar mixture, mixing thoroughly.  Stir the chocolate chips to the hot milk/cream that remains in the pan and once the chips have mostly melted, add the egg/sugar mixture to it.  Cook over low hear stirring constantly until it thickens and looks like chocolate pudding.  Remove to a heatproof bowl, cool ever so slightly and then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface (so that a skin does not form on the top).  refrigerate until completely chilled, 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the ice cream maker (it won’t pour if it’s thoroughly chilled) and mix until thickened, about 30 minutes.  It may be served immediately or further firmed in the freezer until ready to serve.  Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Makes 1 quart.

Two Summer Cherry Sauces

I never did find the sour cherries, but I did get a boatload of sweet cherries and made two kinds of sauces.  The whole cherry sauce I served over ice cream (vanilla or peach), on pound cake, and on lemon yogurt; the puree I used to offset the sweetness of a Blueberry Mascarpone tart.

  • 4 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar (taste the berries and adjust accordingly)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons cognac (optional)

Combine everything in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle boil and let it boil for 5- 10 minutes.  Let it cool completely.  For the whole cherry sauce just cover it and refrigerate until ready to use (it has more flavor at room temperature).  Keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.

For a smooth cherry sauce, puree the sauce in a Cuisinart until there are no chunks of cherry at all.  It will still not be totally smooth.  Strain the sauce with a fine mesh strainer – then it will be smooth, and a beautiful shade of red.  Keeps in the refrigerator for about a week, and freezes beautifully.

Dark Amber Caramel Ice Cream

Another member of our family is now gluten free so I need to diversify my desserts.  Cambridge, Massachusetts ice cream purveyor Toscaninni’s makes a Burnt Caramel Ice Cream I used to get when I worked at MIT in the 1990s.  Now the local Whole Foods carries it and it is just as good as I remember, and when I found a caramel ice cream recipe I thought I would try and replicate the burnt version at home by cooking it longer and adding some sea salt.  It worked!  I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker.


  • 1 1/4 cups organic sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon coast sea salt (flaked is even better)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs


In a dry 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat 1 cup of the sugar, stirring to assuring even heating.  Once it starts to melt swirl the pan over teh ehat until all of the sugar is melted and it turns a deep amber color.  Carefully add 1 1/4 cups of the cream (careful – it can splatter) and stir until all of the caramel has dissolved.  Transfer to a bowl and add the salt and vanilla.  Cool to room temperature.

Once the caramel is cool, in a small saucepan bring the milk, the remaining cream (1 cup), adn the remaining sugar (1/4 cup) jsut to a boil.  Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium bowl then add half of the hot milk and sugar mixture in a thin stream, whisking continuously.  Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat and stir with a wooden sppon until the custart coats the back of the sppon adn registers 170 ndegrees on an instant read or candy thermometer.  Do not let it boil.  Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in the cooled dark caramel.

Chill the custard in the refrigerator, strring now and then, until completely cool – 4 to 6 hours.  Our it into the prepared ice cream maker and mix it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, about 25-30 minutes.  It will still be quite soft when it is finished, and is delicious as a cold custard, or you can transfer it to an airtight container(s) and firm it up further in the freezer.

Serve it on its own or with bittersweet chocolate sauce and/or whipped cream.

Makes 1 quart plus 1 cup.