Friday, September 28, 2012

Harvest Soup

For me, the best part about the onset of cooler weather is making soup.  I could happily make and consume a different variety every day.  There is something cathartic about making soup.  The rhythmic motion of the chopping, the sizzle as the onions hit the hot oil in the pain, the fragrance of the herbs as they’re crushed and chopped all combine to make the act an almost spiritual experience.  Your woes will evaporate with your first taste of this warming, soothing soup.  A feast for the eyes, palate, and soul.

Harvest Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½  tablespoons butter
1 ½  tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
4 cups homemade chicken stock
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon rubbed sage

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Using a sturdy knife, cut off the top of the butternut squash near the stem, then cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds and membranes.  Prick the flesh with a fork and brush surfaces lightly with oil.  Sprinkle the cut side with a little salt and place face down on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Roast for 40-50 minutes until you can easily pierce the squash with a fork.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and cut into cubes.

While squash is roasting, melt butter with oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat.  Add onions, parsley, and sage; saute until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and salt; stir one minute.  Stir in cubed, roasted squash and pumpkin puree.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until heated through.  Stir in cumin and rubbed sage.  Cool slightly.  Working in batches, puree soup in a blender (or use an immersion blender), allowing some texture to remain.  Return soup to pot.  Thin with additional stock, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a crouton and sage leaf.

This post is linked to:  Foodie Friday

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Pasta House Co. Special Salad

The Pasta House Co. is a St. Louis Tradition.  Founded in 1974 it has been a popular Italian family restaurant for as far back as I can remember.  They are known for their Italian salad that has graced many a local and not-so-local table (thanks to the prolific sharing of their recipe), and adorned our deck table last night as we enjoyed light dinner fare along with a beautiful autumn sunset.

The official recipe is below.  I make a few changes in the dressing in that I add a teaspoon of sugar and a half teaspoon of dried mustard giving it a bit more zing, and toss in a spoonful or two of homemade croutons.

The Pasta House Co. Special Salad

1 Head Iceberg Lettuce
1/3 Head Romaine Lettuce
1 cup Artichoke Hearts
1 cup sliced Red Onions
1 cup diced Pimentos
2/3 cup Olive Oil
1/3 cup REGINA wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese


Wash the iceberg and romaine lettuce, allowing all the water to drain completely. Place in refrigerator to chill. When lettuce is well-chilled, remove from refrigerator. Split head of iceberg lettuce in half, pulling the heart of lettuce out of both halves and breaking into small pieces. DO NOT USE A KNIFE ON LETTUCE. Only separate the rest of the iceberg, it will break up when tossed. Tear the romaine lettuce (each leaf into 3 sections). Place both kinds of lettuce into mixing bowl.

Drain artichoke hearts well; measure and add to lettuce. DO NOT USE MARINATED ARTICHOKE HEARTS. Peel and slice red onion; drain and dice pimentos. DRAIN PIMENTOS COMPLETELY or salad will turn red. Measure the onions and pimentos and add to lettuce.

Add Olive Oil, Vinegar, salt, pepper and toss. Then add Parmigiano cheese. Toss until all is mixed completely and serve. Serves four.

Makes 1-2 Servings

I'm linking this post to Tablescape Thursday, not so much for the table setting, but here this gorgeous table is the whole show!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Exotic Mushroom Soup

I’ll admit it, I used to be afraid of dried mushrooms.  I’d see those little packages all lined up in an attractive display in the produce section of the local market, would eye them curiously and walk away.  There was just no way, I told myself, that those dried up things could ever rehydrate and again resemble a REAL mushroom, and they just couldn’t have much taste, could they?  Boy, was I wrong.  This was years ago, of course, in my pre-O-P days.  Now I keep a constant supply of them in my cabinets and panic when I get down to just one or two packages.  Dried mushrooms have helped me out of many a mushroom emergency when the fresh ones wrinkled up and abandoned me when I needed them the most.  As far as taste, once rehydrated the taste is intense and earthy, nutty and woodsy, and they can greatly enhance any recipe in which fresh mushrooms are to be used.  Case in point, this delicious mushroom soup that I put together in preparation for taking another dinner to dad. Is the soup good?  Well, let me put it to you this way, I sent him two meals and two appetizer servings of soup.  All of the soup was consumed with the first meal and I received an enthusiastic request for more.

Exotic Mushroom Soup

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
6 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2–ounce package Melissa’s Dried Exotic Mushroom Medley
2-1/2 cups very warm water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons Jamison’s beef flavored soup base
¼ teaspoon Steak Seasoning (I used McCormick’s Montreal Steak Grill Mates)

Empty entire package of exotic mushrooms into a medium-sized bowl.   Cover with 2-1/2 cups of warm water.   Set aside and allow to rehydrate for 30-60 minutes.   

Strain mushrooms through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a medium bowl.   Measure out 2 cups of the mushroom liquid; set aside.   Roughly chop the hydrated mushrooms; set aside.   Melt butter in medium pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions; sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.   Add all mushrooms and thyme; sauté until mushrooms begin to brown, about 6 minutes.   Add brandy; stir 30 seconds, then mix in flour and soup base.  Slowly stir in mushroom water; bring soup to boil.   Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 minutes.   Season with steak seasoning.  Ladle into small cups or ramekins.   Makes 4 appetizer servings.   Recipe may be doubled.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake Three Ways

Happy first day of fall!  With the coming season I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin coffeecake recipes.  Unsure whether I preferred a crumb topping to a streusel topping, I took a survey of family and friends to see which was the most popular.  After months of research (okay, two days, if you must know), it was a tie.  It seemed both toppings were equally loved.  Huh, I thought to myself.  Maybe I can come up with a recipe that uses both.  And I did.  This scrumptiously delicious coffee cake employs the use of both crumb and streusel toppingsor not.  Have it your way as they used to say in the commercials of a popular burger chain.  I made it with the streusel topping as a filling and topped it with crumbs.  But you can just use the crumbs, or just use the streusel, or break up the streusel and use half as a filling and the other half on top.  Can you say versatile?  It’s simply delicious, any way you slice it.

Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake Three Ways
¼ cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup chopped pecans
2 cups flour
2 sticks butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor*

Preheat oven to 350°F Spray a 9 x 9 square cake pan with Pam.  Line pan with parchment paper, leaving 2 extra inches overhanging the sides.  Spray parchment paper with Pam.

Place all ingredients into the work bowl of a food processor; pulse until crumbly.

Mix all ingredients together until crumbly:

Combine flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in pumpkin, vanilla extract, and Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor (if using). Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Spoon batter into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle Streusel Topping over batter. BAKE for 45 to 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Spoon batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and cover top completely with crumb mixture.  Return to oven and bake an addition 35-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Spoon half of the batter into prepared cake pan.  Top batter with filling (streusel).  Cover filling with remaining batter.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle the crumb mixture over cake.  Return to oven and bake an additional 35-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
 *If you don’t have this (and what a shame if you didn’t), just use 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring.

This post is linked to:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pumpkin Ice Cream

I've made a lot of things with pumpkin, but have never once made pumpkin ice cream, so when I saw this recipe in Taste of the Southmagazine, I had to try it.  It was quite an experience!  Generally,  Mr. O-P is the ice cream maker in the family, but these days I’ve been running amok with the ice cream maker.  So when my custard looked like it was beginning to curdle I feared that I’d failed despite having followed the instructions to the letter, and stirred with reckless abandon.  Fortunately, as it turned out, it did not curdle.  In fact, I ended up with one of the creamiest, most delicious ice creams that I’ve ever made.  Abundantly pumpkin-y, spicy and unique, this is one dessert that will cause your friends and family to raise their eyebrows in enraptured culinary bliss, and say, Yummmmm!  I topped mine with a sprinkling of Heath Brickle Bits.  You can also grate cinnamon or nutmeg on top, sprinkle with crushed ginger snaps, or drizzle with your favorite topping.  I tried it with each of Melissa’s Dessert Sauces and it was wonderful no matter how I topped it.  For purists, it is also delicious simply left alone.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Taste of the South Magazine

1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks
1 16-ounce can pumpkin*
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugars, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Place egg yolks in a medium bowl; whisk in half of hot milk mixture. Return egg mixture to remaining milk mixture in saucepan, whisking to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat; stir in pumpkin. Strain pumpkin mixture through a sieve set over a bowl. Add pumpkin pie spice and vanilla to pumpkin mixture, whisking to combine. Cover, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, approximately 4 hours.
Process pumpkin mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon into a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, approximately 3 hours. Serve with pecan brittle, if desired.
Yield: 4 cups

*I used less than this, about ¾ of the can, because that was all I had on hand.