Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Soup


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I'm not on New Year cleanse or diet, but after all the cookies and cocktails of December, I crave simple food that won't burden my wallet or my waistline. A recipe for Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup caught my eye when I was flipping through a book of Italian vegetable cookery in my friend's living room the other day (in front of a fire, even). I have to confess, I didn't actually read the recipe, but the idea stuck in my head. Here's a soup with only two main ingredients that are nutritious and cheap as heck—what's not to love?

There are always a couple of dried-out ends of Parmesan in my fridge, waiting to flavor broth. If you haven't tried this yet, you are in for a treat—and you'll no longer feel guilty when you don't finish that expensive Parmigiano Reggiano before it gets hard as a rock.

Cabbage is truly an underrated vegetable, and even in the dead of winter it's in season. I don't think cabbage is about to be as trendy as kale, but it's got a lot more to offer than just a side of slaw. Braise it, saute it, stew it or ferment it. It's cheap, it's versatile, and lasts a lot longer than a head of lettuce in the crisper drawer (or even kale, for that matter). 

So lets make soup. You just need olive oil, garlic, Savoy cabbage (that's the round wrinkly one), salt, bay leaf, chili flakes (optional), and bread. 

Heat a little olive oil in a big heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Crush and peel a few cloves of garlic, or more than a few, and toss them into the pot. Chop a whole head of Savoy cabbage into large bite-sized pieces. Add the cabbage to the pot and turn the heat to high. Saute until the cabbage and garlic are browned at the edges. Now fill the pot with water to cover the cabbage by a few inches, and add a spoonful of salt and a bay leaf if you have one. Simmer the soup until the cabbage is soft, longer if you have time, adding more water if it doesn't look brothy enough. Isn't it amazing how much flavor you can get from a few simple ingredients?!

Serve the soup drizzled with more olive oil, and sprinkled with chili flakes and sea salt. A garlic crostini is the perfect accompainment (soaked in your bowl of soup until it's soft and crunchy at the same time). Here's how to make the crostini: turn on the oven to 400, slice stale bread and rub it with garlic, put a lot of olive oil on a cookie sheet and rub both sides of the bread in it (throw the garlic on the pan too), put it in the oven and toast until golden and crisp on both sides. 

This soup may be incredibly frugal, but it tastes rich. Poach an egg in the broth if you crave some protein, serve this as a first course before pasta, or simply enjoy it in its ordinary glory.

Creamy Squash and Tomato Soup

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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Butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin––squash season is upon us! It's easy enough to roast a couple of winter squash while you catch up on e-mail or watch tv. Just crank the oven to 450, slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, lightly oil it, and roast it on a cookie sheet until a fork can slide right in, or your finger can make a soft dent, about 30-60 minutes. Now you've got a side dish, the makings of pie filling, or the base for Creamy Squash and Tomato Soup.

Once you've roasted the squash, you can make this soup using just one pot. Dice an onion and saute it in a tablespoon or two of butter until it becomes translucent. If you've got some wine––red or white, it doesn't matter––add a glassful and let it simmer for a few minutes (it's optional). Now add a big can or box of tomoatoes; I like the Pomi ones that come in a tetrapak. Use the can or box to measure out the same amount of roasted squash (just the flesh, no peel), and then twice that amount of water. 

If you have one of those stick blenders, blend the soup right in the pot. You want it thick and creamy, but not baby food smooth, so leave a little texture. If you don't have one of those, you'll have to get the blender or food processor dirty. Now add a big pinch of salt, and simmer the soup for a few minutes, at least, until the flavors blend. Stir in crème fraîche to make the soup creamy, thick and tangy––the amount should be to your taste, but I reccomend using a lot. Add a generous amount of cracked pepper. Taste a spoonful: does it need more salt? more crème fraîche? more pepper?

Serve the hot soup with fresh herbs, if you can. This reheats well, and crème fraîche is much more stable than cream, so you don't have to worry about it curdling. If you're just cooking for one or two you can enjoy this soup for days.

 

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Pasta with Peas and Salmon

French Lentils with Crème Fraîche and Chives

 

Pasta with Peas and Salmon

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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We all need a few dishes we know we can cook from the pantry without a trip to the store, or for those times when you shop not knowing exactly when you'll actually get to use the ingredients (and a head of lettuce would surely end up slimy and forgotten in the so-called crisper). It's better yet if you can make it all in one pot, with as few steps as possible. This is one of those recipes. 

As I was eating a bowl of this pasta, it reminded me of something familiar that I couldn't put my finger on. Then it hit me: this is the fancy version of adding canned tuna and frozen peas to a box of mac and cheese! If that idea appeals to you, then stock up on these staples for a sophisticated yet comforting meal that can be pulled together with hardly any effort, and only one pan to wash. Even tea measurements are easy to remember!

PASTA WITH PEAS AND SALMON

makes 4 modest portions

  • 1/2 box bow tie pasta (about 1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche, more for serving
  • 1/2 package smoked salmon (3-4 ounces)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • small handful freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh parsley, chives, or basil (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water––as salty as the sea––to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain off most of the water, leaving a Tablespoon or so of the water in the pot (you can tip the pan over the sink with the lid holding the pasta in, rather than using a colander).

2. Add the peas and crème fraîche to the pot, and stir to thaw the peas. Break the salmon into small pieces and add it. The crème fraîche should cling to the pasta: if the sauce is runny, return the pot to a boil for a few minutes to thicken it, then turn off the heat. Add lemon zest and the Parmesan cheese.

3. Serve topped with another dollop of crème fraîche, more Parmesan, freshly ground black pepper, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs if you happen to have them.

 

French Lentils with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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Here's a recipe to prove that the lowly lentil can be fancy and sophisticated, and really delicious. You could serve this for a casual dinner party, with a simple salad and a bottle of wine––won't you seem chic!? But they are easy (and cheap) enough to cook for a night when you're feeding only yourself. If you're lucky, you'll have leftovers to eat for lunch: warm them and toss them with grainy mustard, more olive oil, a little vinegar and some peppery greens––they're reinvented! And the extra crème fraîche and chives you have left will be as beautiful on scrambled eggs or omelets as they are on this elegant bowl of lentils.

French Lentils with crème fraîche and Chives

serves 3 as a main course, 4-6 as a side dish

  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large shallot
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 pound (1 heaping cup) French lentils
  • sprig thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • crème fraîche, for serving
  • chopped chives, for serving

1. Cut the celery, carrot, and shallot into very fine dice, nearly as small as a lentil: this is your mirepoix. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the mirepoix in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until the vegetables brown a little. Add the wine, and simmer until it reduces by half. 

2. Add the lentils, a sprig of time, and 2 cups of water. Simmer until the lentils are tender but firm, and much of the water is gone. If the water disappears before the lentils are tender, add a bit more and keep simmering. Er on the side of undercooking when you turn off the stove.

3. Season the pot of cooked lentils with salt and freshly ground pepper, and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive. Cover the pot and let the seasoning settle in for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm lentils in shallow bowls with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and liberal sprinkling of chopped chives on each bowlful.

Apple and Rye Pancakes with Crème Fraîche

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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The humble pancake is as infinitely variable as it is easy to make. Mixing basic pancakes from scratch takes maybe a minute or two longer than ones from a packaged mix. This variation with apples, rye flour and crème fraîche asks only that you slice an apple and add one extra ingredient (and if rye flour is not on your shelf, that you shop the day before). 

Buttermilk might not be a pantry staple for you, but let me make the case. I don't really drink milk, I use it mostly for baking. Real buttermilk, because it's cultured, lasts longer, and it makes more tender and flavorful cakes, biscuits, and pancakes. It's not hard to use up a quart. It's tang compliments the rye flour in this recipe, as does crème fraîche.

If you're not familiar with crème fraîche, it's thick cultured cream. It tastes rich, subtly complex, and slightly sour. The best use, as far as I'm concerned, is to serve it with fresh berries: dessert in an instant! But berries aren't in season now. In this batter, crème fraîche makes the pancakes rich and tender, and served on top it's like whipped cream for grown-ups.

Apple Rye Pancakes

serves 2 hungry adults

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • butter and maple syrup for serving

1. Peel and core the apple, and cut it into very thin slices. Set aside. Heat a griddle to 375, or a skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the oven to 150-200 degrees, and set out an oven-safe plate or pan.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: rye flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg. Whisk in the crème fraîche, then the buttermilk. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir only long enough to moisten the flour–lumps are ok and stirring too much will make rubbery pancakes!    

3. Swipe the griddle or pan with butter to grease it. Dollop about 1/4 cup of dough onto it, spreading it out sou it's about 1/2 inch thick. Press a few apple slices into the top of the dough. Cook until the bottom edge look firm, and you see a few bubbles in the top of the pancake. Flip, and cook a few minutes more. Place the finished pancake on the oven-safe plate or pan, and keep warm it in the oven. Repeat until you've used up all the dough.

4. Serve warm pancakes with butter, maple syrup and crème fraîche.

 

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5 Things to Put on Pancakes when You're Out of Maple Syrup


Weekday Waffles

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You might think of waffles as a weekend-only breakfast ordeal, but when you make the batter the night before, weekday waffles are easier than frying eggs!

I woke up on Wednesday morning to the buttery yeasty smell of overnight waffles. My boyfriend was in the kitchen perfecting his technique with our brand new Belgian waffle maker (we finally grew tired of the Hello Kitty one I bought when I was 20, with its tiny kitty-shaped waffles). The pull of sleep is strong––I'm not naturally morning person––but the pull of waffles is stronger, especially when their toasty aroma and the sound of a kettle clanking onto the stove draws you from your pillow to the kitchen table.

Here's the recipe, so you too can wake up to waffles. If there's not already someone in the kitchen making them for you, it's ok, because all you have to do is scoop batter into the waffle iron and sip your coffee while they cook. You'll have prepared the batter the night before (and dreamed sweetly of waffles all night). If you're solo, or the family doesn't have a big appetite, leftover waffles can be frozen to be toasted at a later date. Or you could eat them for lunch with savory toppings like sharp cheese and sweet cherry tomatoes.  

Get out the measuring cups to night, and you'll be able to make waffles with your eyes closed tomorrow. Not only does thinking ahead make the morning cooking easier, rising the batter overnight develops a rich bready flavor unlike any other waffle you've had.

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Overnight Waffles

adapted from the Fannie Farmer

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1. Make the batter the night before. Put 1/2 cup tepid water in a large mixing bowl (the batter will double in size), add the yeast and stir. Let stand for 5 minutes. 

2. Add the warm milk, melted butter, salt, sugar, and flour (everything except the eggs and baking soda). Beat with a whisk until the batter is smooth.

3. In the morning, plug in your waffle iron and heat it up. Beat the eggs. Stir the eggs and baking soda into the batter. Cook the waffles according to the waffle iron manufacturer's instructions. Generally, when the steam subsides, the waffle is ready. Waffles can be kept warm in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15 minutes. Extra waffles can be frozen.