Last week, I picked up a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard at our Red Stick Farmer’s Market and immediately thought about how great it would taste in a batch of white bean, greens and sausage soup. The combination of beans, greens and sausage, along with aromatic veggies and fresh rosemary, is just delicious in soup. I especially love this in the springtime, but it’s fun to make it year-round with whatever seasonal greens are emerging from local farms.
Last week, on my 225 Magazine food blog, Spatula Diaries, I posted about Spinach Madeleine, the iconic spicy spinach side dish that helped make the Junior League of Baton Rouge’s River Road Recipes one of the best selling community cookbooks of all time. The dish has a great story arc. It was invented on the spot, became wildly popular and was thrown into confusion when one of its key ingredients, Kraft’s jalapeño cheese log, was discontinued.
In 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing its creator, Madeline Wright. Here’s that story, which ran in 225 in 2011.
I’m not a vegetarian, but I make it a point to go meatless at least one night a week. It’s a great way to force yourself out of that confining protein-starch-veggie template that lords over the dinner menu and probably has us eating more than our fair share of meat. It also guarantees you enjoy new flavor combinations since vegetarian cooking so often relies on fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables to impart that umami punch.
One of my favorite veg-centric dishes is a savory vegetable gratin, a layered ‘veggie bake’ if you will that’s also referred to as a tian. While it’s packed with healthy fresh vegetables, it’s got a gooey layer of melted Gruyere on top, and a layer of tender potatoes and onions on the bottom, both of which give it main course heft. Yum.
Fresh green beans are one of my favorite vegetables, in part because they’re one of the few that all three of my kids like. It’s crazy how hard that is. And now that beans are in season* and emerging from numerous regional farms, I’m having a field day cooking with them.
Frequently, I blanch a batch and put them in a food storage bag in the fridge, taking out handfuls a couple of times during the week to sauté for dinner. I love them tossed in a hot pan with olive oil and fresh garlic, then doused with a little soy sauce and topped with basil slivers. Or sometimes I add lemon peel, toasted almonds and fresh chives. They’re amazing with Hollandaise, and I love them served as an hors d’oeuvre with spicy peanut sauce. These guys are versatile.
This week, I’m combining fresh, blanched green beans with gorgeous wax beans, also in season, and using them as a salad with fresh tomatoes, crumbled feta and a homemade lemon-Dijon vinaigrette.
I know you’ve heard this before, but the nice thing about buying local it that takes minimal effort to make fresh ingredients taste great. That’s exactly the kind of stripped-down cooking I’m about these days as I try to simply keep my head above water (like everybody).
Last Saturday, (our three kids shockingly free from morning activities) John and I snuck out and dropped by our local Red Stick Farmers Market in downtown Baton Rouge to do some shopping. We were having friends over that night, and I wanted to put together an easy appetizer and a tray of roasted vegetables.
This time of year in south Louisiana, we start to hit that fun period at the market where we can find both cooler temperature crops, like carrots, Brussels sprouts, beets and asparagus, as well as warmer crops like peppers and cucumbers. Gotta love a year round growing season! I bought a big variety of veggies, along with honey from two vendors for morning smoothies, and herbed goat cheese and a whole wheat half baguette for a quick hors d’oeuvre that evening.
The veggies were, as usual, gorgeous and inspiring! I know, food nerd. But still….
I thought I’d squeeze in one more hot soup blog before the weather gets toasty and our thoughts turn elsewhere.
Lately, I’ve been making a big pot of vegetable soup on the weekends, starting with homemade beef stock. I went through a phase when I bought beef stock from the store – there are so many good quality ones these days, and it definitely saves time – but honestly, nothing compares to the real thing. And last year, I got inspired to return to homemade stock after we did a fun 225 Magazine story on great local soups. I had the best time picking the brains of local chefs on what makes their signature soups so delicious. Some soups were cream-based, and their success turned on straightforward decadence. But others, like Dang’s pho, MJ’s Café’s black bean and Galatoire’s Bistro’s turtle, were soups that rose and fell on house-made stocks. No surprise, they were tended for many hours at a time.
Chef Kelley McCann at Galatoire’s Bistro told me about roasting a medley of veal bones, including lots of gelatinous joints, before simmering them for hours in order to make a super rich reduction for the restaurant’s signature turtle soup. Even Maureen Joyce’s vegetable stock, used in her black bean soup at MJ’s, called for overnight slow-roasting of multiple root vegetables. Soup seems so simple, but a really good soup requires some behind-the-scenes work.
I’m not sure I have that much time to devote, but I can certainly muster a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon while I’m hanging out with my family and doing loads (…and loads…) of laundry.
So, the question is, which bones are best for creating a stock that makes your soup sing?