Soup.

I really love making soup. LOVE it. It is easy, makes your whole house smell like a good place to be, and it is pretty hard to screw it up. Winter is one of my favorite times of the year to make soup because there are so many tasty root and bulb vegetables in season. Also, there is the cold. So, since our local grocery had some pretty sexy looking cauliflower and parsnips, I decided to make Cream of Cauliflower and Parsnip soup.

I don’t really use recipes when I make soups so much as a suggested ingredient list. First, when I make cream-based soups with pureed vegetables, I find that you really don’t need that much cream at all. Basically, I used a stick of butter, 3 small bulbs of shallots, one medium onion, three leeks, a good-sized head of cauliflower, about a pound of parsnips, 4 cups of chicken stock, fresh bay leaves, fresh thyme, about a cup of cream, some grated parm/reg, a pinch of powdered dried chipotle (because the parsnips are pretty sweet) and salt and pepper to taste. I use both ground black and white pepper when making soups.

Chop all your veg.

Mis - soup

Make sure to soak the chopped leeks in water rather than just rinse them. They are dirty, dirty veg.

Dirty, Sexy Leeks

Sweat the onion and shallots in a dutch over or big pot over med-low heat in the butter. Yes the whole stick. Don’t be such a pansy. Add the fresh herbs and S&P. Add the leek, re-season, put the lid on and let the veg soften completely. Add the stock, bring it up to boiling, add the cauli and parsnips, re-season, turn the heat down to low, put the lid on, and go do something else for a while. I folded laundry and drank some wine. Okay, and ate some chocolate.

Almost Soup

When the veg are COMPLETELY soft, turn off the heat. Puree in blender or food pro in small batches and put pureed portions in a separate bowl. Now PAY ATTENTION here unless you want to burn the living shit out of yourself and spend 47 minutes cleaning crap off of your ceiling. When you put hot substances into a blender, DO NOT PUSH THE LID ON. Catch that? Because the heat plus the motion of the blades will blow the top off of your blender unless you have it vented somehow. And no, it is NOT a good idea to just remove the oil cap. Instead, carefully place the lid on the top of the blender without smooshing it down and hold it in place. You can even drape a dish cloth over the top – just make sure to hold the lid in place because it WILL push up. Also, do not ever fill the blender vessel more than 1/3-ish.

When you are done with this and/or have tended to all your burns, return the whole pureed lot back to the original pot. Add your cream SLOWLY. Then your powdered chile and cheese, taste and re-season as needed. I sometimes add a couple of slices of crumbled bacon. Keep over low ’til you are ready to eat it.

Cream of Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup. And Maybe Some Bacon.

We had this with some totally old-school BLTs.

OMGBLT!

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Fix Me A Plate! -Fancy Ham and Cheese Sammich Version

Decided to revive the “Fix Me A Plate!” thing in honor of today’s easy and delicious quick-fix. I needed something to take to a gathering. I had originally planned to make some ham and cheese turnovers, but (as too often happens) I ran out of time to get the puff pastry made. And call me a food snob, but once you have had from-scratch puff pastry, it is damn hard to feel the same love for Sara Lee.

So anyhow, I was left with all this delicious ham and gruyere and my heart set on something flaky. So, I pulled some phyllo dough out of the freezer (yeah, I don’t really see me EVER being able to make phyllo from scratch. Unless I get some REALLY awesome tools…) and let it warm up. And yes, I will give a few tips on handling phyllo here in a bit, so be patient. A little of this, some of that and VOILA easy (well, kind of) ham and cheese roll-ups. You will need the following

– about 1/2 – 1 lb of GOOD sliced meat (I used ham. prosciutto, serrano, soppressata, whatever floats your meat boat – how much you need really depends on how long before you get tired of dealing with the phyllo).

-1 box of phyllo, thawed to room temp AND STILL IN THE SEALED BOX  (really? you could probably sub a box of puff pastry or even use the Pillsbury Crescent rolls and still end up with something tasty).

-about 2 oz of ricotta, room temp

-about 4 – 6 oz grated GOOD cheese (I like gruyere with ham. a harder cheese is better – there are some really good firm goats out there these days. heh).

-tablespoon or so of mustard and/or horseradish

-2 teaspoons of powdered mustard

-salt and pepper to taste

-olive oil

Mix the ricotta, grated cheese, mustard/horseradish, powdered mustard and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Now – and here is the important phyllo shit – get your mise on. Preheat the oven to 400. Get a large halfsheet or cookie sheet and line with a Silpat or with parchment. You can use tinfoil, but if you do, spray it lightly with Pam or Pam-like substance. Wet a dishtowel that is at least 12 x 8 inches in warmish water, wring out thoroughly and set aside.  You will need at least 3 feet of counterspace to deal with the phyllo. If you don’t have the space, use another lined cookie sheet. Pour about a cup of olive oil (yes, really) into a bowl and have a good silicone or other soft brush next to the oil. This should be sufficient. However, IF you have a kitchen/life that is subject to unforeseeable distractions, keep a spray bottle filled with water and set to mist handy.

Now, slowly open the box of phyllo. Yeah, I know. Your hands might shake a little, but it’s just phyllo. You can do this. And just think. Once you do – you can make BAKLAVA. For real. It is easy once you can handle the phyllo. Spanikopita, too.  So just take a breath. It really isn’t that hard – more like a huge pain in the ass. You will need to move quickly and smoothly, so do whatever it is you do to get in the ‘quick and smooth’ mindset.

Ready?

Here we go! Unfold the phyllo. *Lightly brush the top sheet with olive oil. Fold in half. Lightly brush the top of the folded sheet with olive oil. Set aside. Repeat this four times, stacking the folded sheets. As soon as you have placed the fourth folded sheet, cover the remaining untouched sheets of phyllo with the damp cloth. I also invert a half-sheet pan over the untouched phyllo, but my kitchen is really dry.

Spread a little of the cheese mixture on the folded phyllo. It won’t really “spread,” so just kind of gently mash it out and place it evenly on the phyllo. Place slices of delicious meat on next. GENTLY tuck a long side and roll up. Place the roll seam side down on your lined pan. Brush the roll with olive oil.

Repeat from * once or twice or even three times, depending on how long it takes for you to start hating the phyllo. If things go wrong and the phyllo starts drying out and ripping, LIGHTLY mist it with water and try again. If a sheet rips it is okay, but if you find it aesthetically horrifying, just toss that sheet and start again. There are about 20or so sheets to a box, so you have room to screw up.

Lower your oven temp to 350 and bake for about 20 minutes or until things ooze and the phyllo is a LIGHT golden-brown and crackly.

Remove from oven, slice, and amaze your friends.

Ham. Ham is Good.

Fix me a PLATE – Italian BLT Pizza

I am toying with the notion, suggested by one of my brothers, of having a weekly post that offers tips and recipes for, as he put it, ‘dudes who love bacon.’  Of course, it won’t be just restricted to dudes.  But I do like the idea of having a weekly post that features an easy-to-make dish (not to insinuate that dudes can’t cook – of course they can – I just mean something easy because it is the middle of the freaking week and something easy would be nice) or something unusual or creative.  Or just bacon-tastic.  SO…  With that in mind, what follows is one my my favorite dishes.  My version of an italian BLT pizza.  You can use a pre-made crust or dough, but I have included my recipe for pizza dough if you want to go all out.  Pizza crust is actually a snap to make and SO much cheaper when you make it from scratch.  Anywhats, if you have any questions, put them in the Comments.  Also, if you can think of a good snappy sarcastic name for this new blog feature, Comment that as well.  I don’t have a picture of the BLT pizza, so enjoy one of my vegetarian BBQ chicken pizza for now:

 

Pizza...

Pizza...

 

ITALIAN BLT PIZZA

 

CRUST:

2 cups and 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, plus extra as needed

1 and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, plus extra to taste

2 teaspoons dry active yeast 

Fresh ground pepper

1 cup warm water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

1 – 2 tablespoons semolina flour

 

TOPPING:

1 small onion, julienned 

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 tablespoon of decent balsamic vinegar

4 oz chevre

4 oz pancetta, diced

2 roma tomatoes, sliced thin

2 heads belgian endive, finely chopped width-wise

1 – 2 sprigs fresh basil, rinsed, dried, de-stemmed, and chopped.

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

 

 

This takes about 30 minutes to assemble and 30 to bake; assembly and pre-bake times can overlap to shorten the total time needed.  Use a pizza or baking stone for best results.  This dough will make thin and crispy crust with a 16” diameter circle or a 14” x 14” square crust. 

 

CRUST:

 

Place stone on lowest rack and preheat oven to 475°.  Using a fork, stir flour, yeast, salt, and pepper in large bowl ‘til combined.  Add olive oil and warm water and stir ‘til combined.  Briskly stir with fork for an additional minute.  Dough will be wet and very sticky to handle.  Sprinkle extra flour on hands and dough and form dough into a ball and set in bowl.  Sprinkle dough with flour and turn over in bowl; sprinkle with more flour.  Cover bowl with towel and let rest for 10 minutes.  Working quickly, pull heated stone from oven and sprinkle with semolina flour.  Rub flour on hands and pat the dough flat and place on center of stone.  Stretch the dough into your pizza shape as best you can without creating holes.  You may use a rolling pin, though this isn’t necessary.  Using your fingertips, poke pizza all over so that it is dimpled but do not break through or form holes.  Drizzle with olive oil and spread so that the crust is lightly oiled all over.  Sprinkle with salt.  Return the stone and dough to the lowest rack and pre-bake the crust for 12 minutes or until top begins to show golden-brown areas.

 

TOPPING:

 

In small skillet, fry the pancetta until crispy.  Remove the pancetta from the pan and place on a towel to drain off the excess grease. Without removing any remaining pancetta bits and grease from the skillet, add the julienned onions and butter to the skillet and saute.  Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and saute until onions are translucent and softened and “carmelized.”  Remove from heat and set aside.  Microwave chevre for 25 seconds on high to soften.

 

When crust is finished prebaking, remove it from the oven.  Spread softened chevre all over the crust.  Using a spatula, spread the onions and their sauce evenly over the chevre.  Spread the pancetta evenly over the chevre and onion mix.  Place sliced roma tomatoes evenly over the top of the pancetta.  Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the crust is as brown as you like.  Remove from oven and sprinkle sliced endive evenly over the pizza, then top with the chopped basil, then salt and pepper to taste.  Slice and enjoy!