Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Soup

We’ve made a few scrumptious spicy soups on this blog already – oh boy, have we.  Habanero Pepper Soup and Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup are two crazy-good soups I crave on a regular basis.

This soup comes from a fresher angle; it’s essentially a soup of pureed roasted red peppers. Not a heavy cream base, or a cheese base. But I’m sort of lying. Because there is heavy cream in this, but not as much as I’d usually pour in. Unheard-of on this blog, I know.

And no bottled roasted peppers here. These are roasted in your oven, done the right way, because it’s super, super dummy-proof.

You know those recipes you cook over the course of the day that seem so effortless? Any crockpot recipe feels like this, and so does any bubbling braised beef short rib recipe with a bunch of leftover vegetables from the produce bowl on the counter, and even simple roast chicken.

There’s a reason to do this recipe while you’re in between laundry loads, cleaning out your junk drawer, or opening your Comcast bill. First, you’re going to get your oven nice and hot. Takes a while, at least for my hard-working apartment-grade oven. Then you’re roasting the peppers in the oven for 40 minutes or so, and letting them sit in a plastic Ziploc bag to steam, allowing for easier removal of the skins.

That’s another 15 minutes to do, well, god knows what. In my case, it’s probably something preposterous like organizing my bookshelf by color.

Finally, when you have 10 minutes to spare after you’ve responded to that month-old email you’ve been meaning to send, comes the cooking part, which takes hardly any time at all. By this point, your kitchen is smelling super aromatic. With the fire-roasted flavor of the peppers already achieved, there’s little need to keep the soup simmering for long to develop a richness of flavor.

You know what really sets a soup over the edge? Those final garnishes. But not just the garnishes that look good – it’s the ones that look good AND taste good that deserve that place at the top of your soup. For me, that’s usually something pourable – whether it’s a long squeeze of sriracha, a hefty drizzle of posh olive oil, a spoonful of sour cream that is almost cheese-like, or in this case, and thick pour of heavy cream and some minced, raw habanero.

Easy days at home should be just that – easy. We shouldn’t try to force effort when we’re not feeling it. Whether that’s in the kitchen, or when life’s endless to-do list beckons you away from deserved “me” time.

You can fit in delicious, gorgeous meals minimal effort – this recipe is proof of that!

Happy souping! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

(If you are sensitive to heat, I would recommend leaving out the habanero in the soup recipe altogether. I know that raw habanero can be too much for some folks, so tread lightly!)

Serves 1.

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 2 habaneros, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 /2 shallot, minced
  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Pinch of sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Place the bell peppers in the oven on a sheet pan and roast for 40 minutes or so, until the peppers are charred in most places.
  2. Remove the peppers from the oven, and place them directly in a Ziploc bag. Allow to steam for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Remove the peppers from the bag, cut the tops off, remove the skins, and de-seed the peppers using the back of your knife. Cut the roasted peppers into large chunks, saving some of the pepper for garnish.
  4. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and the butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and shallots, and sauté for 4 – 5 minutes or so, stirring often, being sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
  5. Add the roasted red peppers, 1 pepper’s worth of the minced habanero, heavy cream, a heavy pinch of salt, a heavy pinch of pepper, and a small pinch of sugar.
  6. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and add the mixture to the food processor, processing batch by batch until all the soup is pureed, adding the pureed soup back into the pot as you go.
  7. Once all the soup has been pureed, bring the soup to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  8. Plate the soup, garnishing with a pour of heavy cream and a sprinkling of fresh habanero, if desired.

 

 

 

 

Herb Salad with Egg Yolk Dressing & Bacon Fat Croutons

I love frisée salads with lardons, poached egg and perfectly crispy croutons. This recipe encapsulates all those French elements, plus some.

This salad is all about indulgence.

I bought a crazy good cheese from Whole Foods – Brebirousse D’Argental – and felt the need to share this discovery. It was the bright orange rind drew me in.

Goat_Cheese.JPG

Brebirousse D’Argental

If you want a punchy, funky cheese with a wow factor, this is your cheese. It’s flavorful in all the right ways. And, it liquefies in a matter of minutes after sitting at room temperature. I want that quality in my cheese, to be clear. Any fresh goat cheese would be wonderful in this recipe though, so stick with your favorite.

If you can get a fat slab of pork fat, which I couldn’t find, this is going to be that much better. I went with the highest-quality, thickest bacon I could find.

cheesecubes

Can we talk about bacon fat croutons?  Yes, French baguette croutons broiled in garlic, olive oil and sea salt are addictive. But these are next-level good. And take a lot less time, if you’re already going through the hassle of browning bacon.

If you’re anything like me, it takes time for me to establish new cooking habits – especially extra steps that seem like added work, but I know are worth the payoff. I always thank my past self for the effort.

Think – re-using frying oil, saving Reggiano rinds, grinding your own spices, regularly preparing chicken and beef stock, and flavoring batches of olive oil. In the case of bacon fat, I’ve started to save a jar of it in the fridge, leftover from previous frying sessions. I use it instead of butter in dishes that are begging for a bacon boost. A spoonful packs a whopping punch.

The key to this salad though, is the combination of the runny egg yolk and the basic vinaigrette. The simplicity of the dressing emphasizes the in-your-face richness of the other ingredients in this salad – the heavy goat cheese, crispy bacon fat, and croutons browned in said bacon fat.

If you aren’t enthused about eating raw scallion stalk, chives would work just as well here. But I have a feeling there are others out there who like raw scallion flavor as much as I do. Slightly less harsh than biting into fresh onion, and much more herbaceous. Plus, it adds to the greenery of the salad.

What are some of your favorite French bistro salads?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 as a main course.

  • 4 cups mustard greens or frisee lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 2 scallion stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup curly parsley, roughly chopped
  • 6 oz. goat cheese, of your choosing, crumbled or cubed
  • 1 medium heirloom tomato, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups French baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 endive, leaves removed
  • 1 / 2 lb. bacon or lardons, cut into small cubes
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Whisk the Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat the bacon in a skillet. Brown until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. While still on low heat, add the cubed bread to the pan with the bacon drippings. Toast the bread, tossing often, until crispy and golden brown. Remove the croutons from the heat, sprinkle liberally with salt, and set aside.
  4. Prepare the salad – in a large bowl, combine the mustard greens, parsley, scallions, goat cheese, heirloom tomato, endive, croutons and lardons. Toss with the dressing.
  5. Plate the salads, topping each with an egg yolk. Sprinkle the salads with salt, and serve immediately.

 

Octopus & Red Chard Risotto

I’m fascinated by octopus. The appearance of tentacles appeals to me, and I think it makes octopus different from any other animals we eat.

I hear as creatures, they’re enigmatic and highly intelligent. Although their aptitude for solving puzzles has nothing to do with how they taste, their uniqueness makes me appreciative of the animal as a cooking ingredient.

I’ve wanted a pet octopus ever since seeing the old-school James Bond movie, Octopussy. But taking reality into consideration, I’m still weighing the pros and many cons of housing an active aquarium in my apartment. Maybe one day, when I don’t have a dog who would knock that tank over within minutes of it being installed.

During our family’s trip to Spain years ago, I remember being served a simple charred octopus – a preparation widely used there. I remember loving that. Here, I saute the octopus on its own, which releases juices from the meat. Those juices are used as a cooking liquid for the risotto in place of seafood stock midway through the cooking, and gives it a gorgeous warm color and infuses the grains of rice with unadulterated octopus flavor.

Saffron is a great addition here as well, as it is with pretty much any brothy seafood dish. The threads contribute to the reddish color of the risotto. It really doesn’t take more than a small pinch to get that familiar saffron-colored tinge.

I didn’t intend to put red chard in the risotto, but came across it in the produce aisle. It must be a beet-chard hybrid, because eaten raw the stalks had a strong beet flavor. The combination of the distinct tentacles and the bright red chard make for a visually appealing dish, that happens to taste phenomenal as well.

Upon receiving the wrapped octopus at the seafood stall, the purveyor said, “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you planning to do with this?”

I responded with an octopus risotto – one that I’ve never made before. It was a good question. And a question I’d like to be asked more frequently. What’s more fun than giving boneless, skinless chicken breasts a break for once, and cooking those odd bits?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 3 / 4 lb. octopus tentacles, cut into 1 1 / 2 inch chunks
  • 1 1 / 2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 cups red chard, stems intact, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 cup parm reg, grated
  • 1 quart seafood stock
  • 1 pinch saffron, approximately 1 / 2 teaspoon
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sautee pan. Add the chard, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes on medium-low heat, adding the sherry midway through the cooking to allow the greens to braise. If the mixture gets too thick, add 1 / 4 water as needed. The chard is done when the stems are tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In another sautee pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add the octopus pieces, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee the octopus for 5 to 7 minutes on medium heat, until the octopus is firm and cooked through. If the octopus is translucent in places, it is not fully cooked.
  3. Remove the octopus pieces to a separate bowl, and keep the juices that were released from the octopus for later, when it will be added to the risotto as cooking liquid.
  4. In the meantime, heat the seafood stock in a small saucepan, until just simmering. Keep on low heat throughout the cooking process.
  5. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the stick of butter until melted, and add the onion, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute. Add the rice, and allow to toast slightly in the butter, onions and garlic, about 2 minutes. Add the first ladleful of seafood stock and stir until combined. When the mixture begins to get slightly sticky and dry, add another ladleful of stock.
  6. After 10 minutes, instead of the seafood stock, add the juices from the sautéed octopus. Stir. Add the saffron as well, along with a large pinch of salt, and pepper, as needed for taste. When the rice begins to get sticky again, continue to add the seafood stock. Cook for an additional 10 minutes with the seafood stock as a cooking liquid.
  7. Once the rice reaches a near al-dente consistency, add the octopus pieces, red chard from the sautee pan, juices and all, and the parm reg. Add an additional ladle of stock, as needed, to finish cooking.
  8. Serve hot immediately, topping with parm reg, if desired.

Grilled Lemon & Goat Cheese Pasta Salad

The story behind this recipe can be found in Hankerings’ latest post, Country Grilling in Lexington, Virginia. I hope you enjoy!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 1 lb. short pasta, of your choosing
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 4 lemons, halved
  • 1 / 2 red onion, skins removed
  • 1 / 2 head garlic, skins removed, minced
  • 1 / 4 cup mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1 / 4 cup basil, coarsely chopped
  • 1 / 2 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz. chevre, crumbled
  • 1 / 3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat a grill to medium-low heat (approximately 250 to 300*).
  2. Place the lemons, fruit side down, red onion, and red bell peppers on the grill. Grill for 20 minutes or so, turning the peppers and onions every 3 to 4 minutes, checking to make sure the vegetables are charred in some places, but not fully burnt, before you remove them from the grill. Grill the lemons fruit side down until they are charred, but not fully burnt.
  3. Place the red peppers in a plastic bag to steam while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  4. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, and set aside.
  5. To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk the Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, pepper, capers, and the lemon juice from the grilled lemons, adding olive oil slowly to create an emulsion. Set aside.
  6. After 15 minutes or so, remove the red peppers from the plastic bag. Cut the tops off the peppers, and carefully slice into the peppers so they are butterflied open. Remove the seeds with the back of a knife. Slice the peppers into large, bite-sized cubes. Do the same with the red onion.
  7. In a large bowl, add the drained pasta, chevre, red onion, red peppers, crumbled goat cheese, herbs and vinaigrette. Stir until the ingredients are incorporated, and the goat cheese begins to melt. Top with extra chopped herbs, if desired. Serve room temperature.

Apple Cider Roast Chicken

Ina Garten is famous for her roast chickens, especially the ones she makes each Friday for Jeffrey when he comes home for the weekend. I love that about her. When you see how she prepares the chicken, it’s incredibly simple. I have rarely seen her use anything beyond salt, pepper, olive oil, a bulb of garlic cut in half and stuffed inside the cavity, with some potatoes or lemons in the pan. With that many roast chickens under her belt, I have to assume she knows something we don’t.

Her Roast Engagement Chicken for example is perfectly simple – and completely encapsulates her style of cooking.

There’s really not too much work that goes into roasting a chicken – it’s something you can do without reading a recipe. Ruth Reichl recently posted a tweet illustrating exactly how simple roast chicken can and should be:

Just roasted a fresh Kinderhook Farm chicken.  Did nothing – put it into a hot oven. Best chicken I’ve ever tasted.

While this roast chicken calls for a slew of ingredients, it’s really up to you which spices to include. I went for a series of warm, autumn spice flavors. The apple cider works here the same way applesauce goes so well with pork.

I love allspice, cloves and star anise. Some folks don’t like the licorice flavor of star anise – so I’d encourage them to leave it out.

If you do like this combination of flavors – know that if you fill a shallow pan with simmering water and add a splash of vanilla, along with a handful of these spices, your kitchen is going to smell like autumn bliss for hours. I do this every so often and it puts me in a cozy cold weather mood.

There’s wiggle room with the vegetables as well – parsnips, sweet potatoes or other autumn root vegetables would be delicious. Just make sure you keep a savory element, allium vegetables like garlic and onions help offset the sweetness of the cider, cinnamon and vanilla.

Happy roasting, friends! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 4 to 5 lb. fresh chicken, giblets removed
  • 1 stick room temperature butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 – 3 inch pieces
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 2 – 3 inch pieces
  • 1 small white onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and parboiled
  • 2 cups apple cider, plus 4 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon allspice (not ground)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 1 tablespoon pepper, plus additional as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Take the chicken out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pat the skin dry, including the cavity, with a paper towel.
  3. After an hour, sprinkle the cavity liberally with salt and pepper, and put the quartered onions inside. Truss the chicken legs with kitchen twine.
  4. Combine the butter, 4 tablespoons apple cider, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Gently loosen the top layer of the skin above each of the breasts with your fingers, and evenly distribute 1 / 3 of the butter mixture under each half of the chicken. Place one cinnamon stick under each half as well. Then rub the remaining 1 / 3 of the butter mixture over the rest of the chicken.
  5. Stud the top of the chicken with the cloves, and dot with star anise down the spine of the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with approximately 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.
  6. Toss the carrots, pearl onions, and potatoes with enough olive oil to moisten and a large pinch of salt and a larch pinch of pepper.
  7. Place the vegetables in the bottom of the pan. Pour the 2 cups of cider into the pan with the vegetables. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables.
  8. Cook the chicken for 20 minutes per pound – periodically removing the chicken from the oven and basting it with the cider juices from the bottom of the pan, approximately 2 to 3 times while cooking.
  9. To test the doneness of the chicken, cut the groove between the leg and the breast, and if the liquids run clear, the chicken is done. Or, wait until the chicken breast reads *165 on a kitchen thermometer.
  10. To serve the chicken, remove the star anise cinnamon sticks, and carve using Julia Child’s technique (carving starts at about 26:00). If you want a thicker sauce for serving, remove the pan juices to a saucepan, and simmer until it thickens to desired consistency.
  11. Plate the vegetables, juices and all, with the chicken presented on top.