Monthly Archives: February 2013

ffwd: cheating-on-winter pea soup

Soup from Salad

People complain about the weather this time of year, but, I actually like winter. Sure, it’s cold, and inclement weather can put a wrinkle in your plans. However, it is winter, it is supposed to be cold and, here in New England, it is supposed to snow. No surprises there. I strongly believe you shouldn’t complain about things completely out of your control, like the weather.

On the positive side, there’s nothing like a bright, sunny winter day with the ground covered with snow, like today. I have a dog whose favorite thing in life is to walk. We walk outside for at least an hour everyday, no matter what the weather. She has a fur coat, but I bundle up (an excuse to exercise the variety of handmade hats and scarves I’ve made). We’re both quite comfortable. The recent snowfall has deterred us, but we often walk in nearby woods, enjoying the birds, trying to identify other critters’ footprints, and, generally, just enjoying being in the fresh air.

Another positive thing about winter: homemade baked goods and hearty soups and stews all feel right this time of year. And most importantly, no excuse is needed to enjoy a mug of steaming hot chocolate.

That said, I’ll be happy when spring arrives next month. I’ve already noticed it’s not quite so dark in the morning (at least until Daylight Savings Time starts), and it’s staying light later in the day. Another snowstorm is expected this weekend, so it’s definitely not over yet, but Winter is starting to get ready to hand things over to Spring.

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie Cheating-On-Winter Pea Soup is a perfect warm up for the upcoming transition.

Dorie says this soup is a liquid version of a classic French salad of lettuce, peas, and onions. Certainly, this soup couldn’t have been easier to make. An onion is sautéed in butter. Liquid is added (I used homemade vegetable stock because I’d just made some, but you could use chicken broth or even just water). Then, frozen peas and sliced romaine lettuce are added and simmered before pureeing in the blender.

Based on recommendations about this recipe from other Doristas, I used less liquid than the recipe called for (4 cups instead of the called for 6). This made a thicker soup, but otherwise, I think it would have been too thin for my taste. I pureed it in the blender because I find that makes the smoothest soup. Initially, I strained the first batch out of the blender, but too much body was caught in the strainer, so I added it all back in for a smooth, but not silky, soup. I found it was the lettuce that didn’t completely liquefy, rather than pea skins.

Soup a-Simmer

The soup starts out a brilliant shade of verdant green, though it faded to a slightly more olive shade overnight in the refrigerator. This simple soup is fine as is, or you could dress it up a bit. Over the past month, I’ve been experimenting with making my own chèvre, so I topped my bowl with a scoop of fresh goat cheese along with some crumbled bacon. The cheese sank, so you can’t really see it in the picture, but it tasted good with the soup.

All Dressed Up

The soup was a team effort. Howard cooked the bacon we used for garnish. This was the only recipe this month that got his seal of approval. Hooray!

If you’d like to try this yourself (and I recommend you do), I found the recipe for a half-batch here on Epicurious. I’m happy to see that the lettuce amount in this version of the recipe is more precise. I mean, how big is a medium head of romaine anyway? Mine seemed rather large, but never having made this soup before, I wasn’t sure how to judge how much of it to use in the soup. The Epicurious recipe says 4 cups (for half a medium head), so I’ll make a note of that quantity in my book for next time.

To see what other Doristas thought of this recipe, check out their posts here.

ffwd: coeur à la crème

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I’ve always been intrigued by this heart-shaped dessert molded in its only special ceramic dish with drainage holes. I was glad when coeur à la crème was chosen this month for French Fridays with Dorie. I thought it would make the perfect dessert for our Valentine’s dinner.

I’d never had this dessert before, so had no preconceived notions. This time, I didn’t have the special equipment lurking in my basement, so I went in search of coeur à la crème molds. I found a selection at my new favorite kitchen store, Kitchen Outfitters. They offered both a large one and smaller individual ones. I opted for one large rather than a set of small ones because without knowing whether I would like the recipe, it was more economical (i.e. cheaper).

I’d describe coeur à la crème like a cream cheese mousse. It was sort of like cheesecake, but much airier. You whip some cream cheese in the stand mixer with powdered sugar, vanilla, and liqueur (I used Chambord). Then you whip some cream and fold it into the cream cheese. The concoction gets wrapped in cheesecloth and set in the mold to drain overnight, though my coeur didn’t give off much liquid at all.

DSC04963I pureed some frozen raspberries with powdered sugar to make a coulis to serve on top of the sliced coeur. I thought this was good, though I probably wouldn’t make it again. Howard, predictably, did not like it. Sigh…

We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To see what other Doristas thought of this recipe and whether their Valentines liked it more than mine, check out their posts here.

On a more positive note, Howard did enjoy the rest of the meal. I made oven-roasted scallops, Israeli couscous and broccoli rabe. And, we drank a lovely bottle of Cava, on a weeknight, so it was decadent.

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And, our friend Lauren stopped by with boxes of handmade chocolates! They are gorgeous, and the ones tasted so far, delicious.

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