Thursday, September 16, 2010

Late Summer Succotash

The glory of a good succotash is great ingredients - so beautifully available this time of year.  I keep experimenting with recipes but I think this is the winner so far . . . though a close runner up is the recipe in Rick Rodgers Thanksgiving 101.

What makes this recipe especially fine is the unexpected splash of vinegar to brighten the flavors.    That and generous fresh basil - because why would you use any other herb in late summer? 

I like to add steamed flat Italian green beans and I adore the sweet tenderness of fresh shell beans - I prefer to shell the adorable red & white cranberry beans instead of the more usual fresh limas.  With bacon that was our neighbor's hog, basil I grew myself, and peak-of-ripeness local vegetables this, for me, is late summer in a dish. 

adapted from Epicurious: Gourmet August 1999

Late Summer Succotash

Over moderate heat cook until crisp
  • ¼ lb bacon (~ 4 slices)
Drain grease and blot, setting aside 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease.  Crumble bacon into nice-sized bits.

  • 2 lbs fresh cranberry beans in pod  (a delight in itself.  Now I just need to find me a rocking chair and a big wraparound porch and a little early morning birdsong)  - about 2 cups of beans

Add shelled beans to
  • a small saucepan of boiling salted water
and cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender - about 7 minutes.  Ladle beans out of water with a slotted spoon.

Using bean water steam
  • 1- 2 lbs flat Italian green beans
about 5 minutes until color is vivid.  Then lift from boiling water and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

Cut kernels from
  • 8 ears of corn
taking care to catch the juices in a bowl or on cutting board.

  • 1 - 2 lbs cherry tomatoes
cutting the larger tomatoes in half, then chop or mince
  • 2 Vidalia onions
  • 2 - 3 garlic cloves

Add the saved 2 tablespoons of bacon grease to skillet and cook onion over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook or 1 minute, stirring.  Add tomatoes, corn and
  • 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Cook, stirring, until tomatoes just begin to lose their shape. 

Remove skillet from heat and gently stir in both kinds of beans and the bacon.  When a little cooled, gently stir in
  • ½ cup or more of generously packed basil leaves, gently torn
Pepper to taste.  Family to table.  Enjoy to the last bite.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two Soups in a Blue Moon for a faraway daughter (+ croutons)

Today my Eldest calls from college for two soup recipes.   Because these are her comfort foods:  Peace Soup (fresh peas in a sweet and slightly minty, gingery milk-based broth)  and Sweet Dreams Soup (creamy, slighty spicy, very carrotty carrot soup) ~ both adapted from her childhood favorite cookbook, Blue Moon Soup by Gary Goss, illustrated by Jane Dyer.

Peace Soup

My girl (who is a peacemaker as well as soup maker and at the same time plenty well-versed in savories and spices) likes her soup with a little more emphasis than suggested in the original and so increases the leeks, ginger, curry and mint at least this much.  

Melt in a soup pot over medium heat
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups leeks, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh mint, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Add, with enough water to cover (~ 2 cups)
1 (10 oz.) package of frozen peas (or 2 - 3 cups fresh green peas)
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered until veggies are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a blender or a large bowl, blend or mash 2 cups of the soup with
2½ cups milk
Return the blended to soup to the soup pot and stir.  Season to taste.  Garnish with
fresh mint, or
carrot curls

Sweet Dreams Soup

The consensus of a discussion on Epicurious suggests at least increasing the number of carrots, leeks and celery and upping the spice amounts for a better Sweet Dream Soup.  We concur.  

One commenter even suggested using coconut milk in place of the bovine variety which we will have to try sometime.  Here are our tweaks of this gently filling soup, guaranteed to turn any hungry lion into a lamb.

2 cups salted water
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
and boil until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain, save the broth, and set the potatoes aside.

Melt in a soup pot over medium heat
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups leeks, chopped
1 - 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon curry
1 - 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (half the amount if using dried)
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or more to taste)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Add the cooked potato and the potato broth plus
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 - 3 more carrots, finely chopped
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

In a blender or a bowl, blend or mash 2 cups of the soup (or all of it if you prefer) with
2½ cups milk
until thick and silky smooth.

Return the blended soup to the soup pot, and stir.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with
carrot curls
croutons  (see recipe below)

Crusty Croutons

Preheat oven to 325.  Cut
good bread 
into cubes and put in a large mixing bowl.  Add enough
olive oil 
to moisten all the cubes.  Sprinkle with
basil, oregano, or crushed garlic 
Or sprinkle with
grated Parmesan or cheddar
 Place on a cookie sheet, and bake until golden grown and crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes.