Tag Archives: winter

Parsnip and Celery Root Soup

root soup tastefood
Parsnip and Celery Root Soup

White root vegetables do the talking in this rich and velvety soup that will leave you guessing it’s laden with cream. Well, guess again. This humble soup is light and healthy, thickened by parsnips and celery root with a good splash of milk. The sweet and nutty root vegetables are tempered by garlic and thyme for a well rounded and slurp-worthy bowl of goodness that promises to keep you warm in the cold weather.

root soup viewWhite Roots

Parsnip and Celery Root Soup

Feel free to change the ratio of veggies and/or add Jerusalem artichokes to the mix. Just be sure to keep the total weight at 2 pounds. Serves 4 to 6.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 pound parnsips, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 pound celery root, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup whole milk plus more to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent without coloring, about 3 minutes. Add the parsnips, celery root, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, 2 to3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs. Carefully transfer the soup to a food processor (or use an immersion blender) and purée until smooth. Return to the soup pot. Add the milk, salt and pepper.  If too thick, add more milk to your desired consistency and taste for seasoning. Serve warm.

Root Vegetable Mash

mashMashed Sweet Potato, Celery Root and Rutabaga

Root vegetables are winter’s best kept secret. Packed with nutrients, natural sugars and starch, the lowly root is a healthy and flavorful substitute for the ubiquitous potato, and a superb way to get your vitamins and nutrients in the cold weather season. A good peel of skin reveals a rainbow of colors ranging from magenta to ochre to creamy white, sure to brighten any dreary winter day – and your holiday table. Feel free to mix and match roots, such as sweet potato, parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, celery root, and of course the dependable russet, to your taste and preference.

Root Vegetable Mash

Choose a balance of sweet and savory roots for even flavor (I used 1 pound each of sweet potato, celery root and rutabaga) and mash to your desired consistency. I like to leave my roots a little chunky for a more rustic presentation.

3 pounds mixed roots
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Drain and return to the pot. Let cool 5 minutes. Add the garlic, butter, sour cream, and yogurt. Mash with a potato masher or in a food mill to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Prepare ahead: The mash may be prepared up to 1 day in advance of serving. Cool completely and transfer to a buttered, deep gratin dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Preheat oven to 325°F. Dot the top of the mash with 1 tablespoon butter and cover with foil. Bake in oven until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Beef Short Ribs

chipotle short ribs

~ Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Beef Short Ribs ~ 

I’m not going to lie to you: These ribs take 2 days to make. Now don’t roll your eyes, and remove that finger from the keyboard poised to click away. Just hear me out. I promise that if you make these ribs, you will be one very happy cook. Your family will be eternally grateful. Your guests will be impressed. And you will be rewarded with a deeply flavorful, warmly spiced, tender and rich meal. The only people who might not be pleased will be your neighbors, because they will have to live through a day of incredible aromas wafting from your kitchen window, making their stomachs rumble, while knowing full well they are not coming to dinner.

Now if none of this is enticing enough, here is some good news: While it takes 2 days to make these ribs, most of the time your are doing nothing. Well, hopefully you’re doing something, but nothing related to this recipe. During this  time, the ribs will take care of themselves, braising in the oven or sitting in the refrigerator. You will  be actively involved in the beginning, when you brown the meat (a very important step, I might add, which will make you feel useful), then when you reduce the sauce (which technically your stove will do for you), and then prettifying the stew for serving. Your biggest hardest most tortuous task will be…waiting. But consider that a gift in this era of clicks and instant gratification – the celebration of process and patience yielding intoxicating results. All of the time invested is for good reason: to tenderize the beef to a supple version of itself, and to infuse the meat and stew with knock-your-socks off flavor. So go ahead and give it a try. Start on a Friday and eat it over the weekend. And feel free to double the amount so you can freeze extras for another day or have a party. It might be a good time to invite the neighbors over.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

If you have the time (and patience) rub the short ribs with the spices the  night before browning to develop the flavor. The chipotles in adobo will add a nice kick of heat to the braise. Serves 4 to 6.

Dry rub:
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

4 pounds short ribs, cut in 3-inch pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (750 ml) bottle red wine
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup chipotles in adobo
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 heaping cup peeled baby shallots or pearl onions
1 carrot, sliced 1/2-inch thick

Day 1: Combine the dry rub spices in a small bowl. Arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking tray. Rub the spices all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before browning.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof pot with lid or a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the ribs in batches on all sides without overcrowding the pan, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well). Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with remaining ribs.

Drain off all of the fat from the pot. Add the chopped onion, chopped carrot and garlic. Cook, over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan, until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, tomato paste, chipotles and bay leaf. Return the ribs and any collected juices to the pot. Add the beef stock. If the ribs are not completely covered with the liquid, add more stock as necessary. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to oven. Bake until the ribs are very tender, about 3 hours, stirring once or twice. With tongs or a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the ribs to a cutting board to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove any remaining bones (most will have fallen off) and cut away any of the tough gristle.

Return the pot to the stovetop and bring  the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by about half and thickened to a sauce consistency, 10 t0 15 minutes. Strain the sauce into a bowl, pushing down on the solids to extract flavor, then discard the solids. Return the beef to the sauce, submerging completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2: One hour before serving, remove the ribs from refrigerator and turn on the oven broiler. Scrape away any congealed fat collected on the surface of the stew. Gently rewarm on the stovetop over medium-low heat to liquefy the sauce. Carefully remove the meat from the stew and arrange in a baking dish. Broil the meat until dark brown, turning once, about 2 minutes per side.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and a pinch of salt. Saute until crisp tender, about 2 minutes.

Bring the sauce to a low simmer. Add the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Add the onions and carrots. To serve, divide short ribs between serving dishes or shallow bowls. Ladle the sauce over and around the meat. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley.

Note: To freeze the ribs, prepare all of the Day 1 steps. On Day 2, scrape off the congealed fat, and then freeze. To continue, defrost the stew in the refrigerator overnight. One hour before serving, proceed with broiling the meat and the remaining steps.

Onion Soup au Gratin

onion soup au gratin

~ More Bowl-Food: French Onion Soup au Gratin ~

When I think  of winter I think of skiing and fireside dinners at the end of an active day spent outdoors. I think of warm, rich, soul-satisfying meals that are deeply flavorful and nourishing. I think of French Onion Soup.

The key to a good onion soup is time and patience. I’ve written about this before, and there is no denying that the best way to attain a full flavored onion soup – the one with a mahogany burnished broth, butter rich and slick with caramelized onions – is to cook the onions for a long long time. As they cook, they will sweat, break down, release their juices, caramelize and melt into a sweet slump of slurp worthy soup. I’ve posted a recipe which requires 3 hours of slow cooking in the oven, and by all means if you have the time to do this I encourage you to do so. But if you are spending the day skiing the slopes of your favorite mountain (lucky you) or simply working during the week, 3 hours of cooking is simply not possible without a crock pot.

So here is a recipe that still respects the time involved to extract the sweet goodness of onions, yet may be prepared in little over one hour. This gives you plenty of time to warm up from the cold, stoke the fire, pour some wine and relax by the fireplace before your soup is ready.

Onion Soup au Gratin

This soup is very rich, even without the gratineed bread. For a simple rustic meal serve with a big green salad and a platter of salami and cured meats.

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 large yellow onions, about 3 pounds, thinly sliced
3 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
Salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups organic beef stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Calvados brandy
Freshly ground black pepper

6 slices peasant style or Levain bread, 3/4-inch thick
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere and/or Emmental cheese

Melt the butter with the oil in a large Dutch-oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring from time to time until onions are dark golden brown, about 45 minutes. (As a brown crust forms on the bottom of the pot, be sure to stir it up into the onions). When the onions are golden, sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add 4 cups stock, Calvados, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir to blend, and add additional stock to desired consistency. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the bread. Heat oven to 350 F. Place bread on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off without removing the bread. Leave bread in until crisp, about 15 more minutes.

Heat oven broiler. Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls or crocks. Cover the soup with bread slices. Sprinkle cheese over the bread. Broil until bread is golden and cheese is bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.

If you like this you might enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Pate de Campagne with Cranberries and Pistachios
Caramelized Onion Tart
Anelletti Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

Cheesy Cauliflower Potato Soup

Cauliflower Potato Soup TasteFood

~Cheesy Cauliflower Potato Soup ~

Making purée, er, soup doesn’t get simpler than this. It began as a purée. I made a light and fluffy Cauliflower and Potato purée to accompany a stew this week.  However there was so much purée left over, I thinned the remainder with extra chicken stock and renamed it soup. It’s clearly all about the cauliflower, thickened with potato and spiked with a little garlic and piquant Pecorino cheese. Add just a little stock and you’ll have a light and airy side dish. Add more stock and you’ll have a satisfying winter soup. And since it’s the holidays I fancified both purée and soup with a generous pinch of gifted truffle salt sprinkled over the top.

Cheesy Cauliflower Potato Soup
Serves 6

2 yukon gold potatoes, about 1 pound
1 medium head cauliflower
4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 quart chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh thyme leaves
Truffle salt (optional)

Peel the potatoes and cut in 1-inch chunks. Cut the cauliflower florets and core in 1-inch pieces. Peel garlic. Smash 3 of the cloves and mince 1 clove. Place potatoes, cauliflower and smashed garlic cloves in a large pot. Cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 25  minutes. Drain. Transfer half of the vegetables and butter to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add remaining vegetables. Puree again. Return vegetables to soup pot. Add minced garlic. Add chicken enough chicken broth to achieve desired consistency (the soup should not be too thick). Bring to a simmer and add cheese, stirring to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional cheese and fresh thyme as a garnish. Optional: Sprinkle with truffle salt.

Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine

Beef Stew TasteFood 1

~ Spirited Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine ~

For many days I’ve been saying that it’s Beef Bourguignon weather, so I finally stopped the talk and got cooking. I made this stew over the weekend, and the weather did not relent, gifting us with a deluge of rain worthy of an ark – and a cognac and wine infused beef stew. If you have to experience a torrent of rain, I dare say this kind of food makes it enjoyable – especially when accompanied by a creamy potato gratin, a robust bottle of Zinfandel wine, and a crackling fire.

Beef Stew with Cognac and Red Wine

Ideally start the stew a day ahead of serving. Not only does the flavor improve with time, it allows the fat to rise to the top as it cools. The next day, lift off the solidified fat from the surface before you reheat the stew. Serves 6.

Extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (750-ml) bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar

10 ounces pearl onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, ends trimmed, halved if large
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick
Fresh thyme sprigs

Pre-heat oven to 300 F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the beef to the pan in one layer without overcrowding. Brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat until all of the beef is browned. Add cognac to the pot and deglaze, stirring up any brown bits. Reduce by half, then pour the cognac over the reserved beef. Add 1 tablespoon oil, carrots, onion, and garlic to the pot. Saute over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften without browning, 3 to 4 minutes. Return beef and cognac to the pot. Add wine, stock, thyme, bay leaves and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook 2 minutes. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake in oven until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 3 hours.

Strain the liquid from the stew into a saucepan. Separate the chunks of meat from the vegetables. Return the beef to the dutch oven and discard the vegetables. Boil the liquid until the sauce is reduced by about 1/3 and somewhat thickened. As the sauce boils, skim the fat from the surface (if you are making the stew one day in advance, you may skip this step since the fat will be removed after refrigeration). Stir in the sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the beef. (At this point the stew may be made one day in advance. Cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. One hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and proceed with recipe).

One hour before serving the stew, prepare the vegetables. Blanch the onions in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute; drain. When cool enough to handle, remove skins; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until light golden, about 3 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Steam or saute the carrots until bright in color and al dente. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Skim any collected fat from the stew. Heat over medium-low heat on the cooktop. Add the onions, mushrooms and carrots to the stew. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until stew and vegetables are hot. To serve, ladle the stew into warm bowls and garnish with fresh thyme.

If you like this, you might enjoy these storm-friendly recipes:
Pork Stew with Prunes and Armagnac from TasteFood
Spanish Red Pepper Stew from Honest Food
Lentil Soup from TasteFood
Farro and Bean Stew from 101 Cookbooks
French Onion Soup from TasteFood

Cooking for Your Health: Kale and Quinoa Salad

Kale, Quinoa, Carrots, Red Cabbage, Chickpeas, Raisins, Lemon 

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t eat your salad. After all, we adapt our wardrobe for the cold season, and we can do the same with our vegetables. Fresh winter salads, fortified with grains and legumes, heartily provide us with a plateful of immunity-boosting accessories to keep the the doctor away. This kale and quinoa salad is packed with healthy ingredients rich in nutrients, anti-oxidants and protein. Kale is a superfood, rich in vitamins A, C and K, high in fiber and the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids as well as cancer fighting phytonutrients. That’s a lot of nutritional heft for a member of the cabbage family. Teamed up with quinoa, an ancient grain and an amino acid-rich protein, these 2 ingredients form a powerhouse of nutrition, promoting health, clear breathing and anti-inflammation. More importantly, they taste great – especially when seasoned and tumbled with raisins, chick peas and carrots in a cumin-spiced lemon vinaigrette .

Winter Kale and Quinoa Salad with Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette 

The beauty of this salad is that its ingredients may be mixed and matched according to availability and taste. Fresh, raw spinach may be combined with or substituted for the blanched kale. If you don’t have quinoa in the pantry, then try bulgur or wheat berries. Almonds or walnuts are a delicious, nutrient-rich substitution for the chickpeas.

Serves 4-6.

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
1 large bunch curly kale – (chou frisée)
2 large carrots, peeled, grated
1/4 small head of red cabbage, shredded
1 cup chick peas
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup golden raisins

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Whisk together all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl. Add oil in a steady stream, constantly whisking to emulsify. Set aside.

Prepare the salad:
Remove the tough veins from the kale leaves. Tear leaves into large pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the kale leaves. Blanch until bright green but not wilted, 10-15 seconds. Drain immediately and refresh under cold water or in a bowl of ice water. Spread in one layer on a kitchen towel and blot dry. Toss kale, carrots and red cabbage together in a large bowl. Add the chickpeas, raisins and half of the quinoa. Toss with half of the vinaigrette. Transfer to a serving platter or divide among serving plates. Sprinkle with additional quinoa. Drizzle with remaining dressing to taste.

This post is the first in a series of monthly posts devoted to Cooking for Your Health. In coordination with my long-time friend, Knirke, who is a Swiss-based pilates instructor, this column will provide a monthly recipe designed to boost health in synchronization with the season and a particular health theme in Knirke’s monthly newsletter. This month, the theme is breathing. Clear and deep breathing is essential to our vitality and health, providing oxygen to our blood and brain. The foods we eat can promote or interfere with our breathing. Interfering food allergens may be wheat, dairy and red meat which produce mucus. To counter this, it’s important to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables throughout the winter. Colorful produce is a rich source of anti-oxidants and vitamins, reducing inflammation, fighting infections and boosting our immune system. And, not only are they healthy for you, they are delicious, too. So, don’t just relegate your winter vegetables to a recuperative diet – enjoy them daily!

French Onion Soup

The key to a good onion soup is time and patience. The onions must cook for a long while. As they cook, they will sweat, break down and release their juices. The juices must then be allowed to caramelize and form a crust which is deglazed with a fortified liquid. This is what will give the soup its rich brown color and deeply flavorful stock. If you skip this process, you will miss in the soup an extra depth of flavor and body that will leave you struggling to improvise as you desperately rummage through your spice cabinet for that extra something that is missing. There is no substitution for time to achieve this result.

The good news is that there is little effort involved for the cook, except for the exertion of patience. Once the onions are sliced, they are popped in the oven for 3 hours, requiring a mere stir from time to time. During this time you are free to get on with the hustle and bustle of your holiday preparations, secure in the knowledge that at the end of the day you and your family will be rewarded with a rich, warming and nutritious soup. A little comfort and care goes a long way at this time of year. Happy Holidays!

French Onion Soup au Gratin

Serves 4-5

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 large yellow onions, about 3 pounds, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
1/2 cup sherry or Calvados brandy
5 cups beef stock or a combination of beef and chicken stock
4 thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen string
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12-15 baguette slices, cut 3/4 inch thick
1 cup grated alpine cheese such as Grùyere, Comté or Emmenthaler

Preheat oven to 400 F. (200 C.) Melt butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot with lid.  Add onions and salt.  Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.  Cover pot and place in oven for one hour.

Remove pot, stir onions and any collected brown bits on sides and bottom of pot.  Cover, leaving slightly ajar and return pot to oven. Cook until onions are soft and golden brown, two hours, checking and stirring up browned bits after one hour.  (There will be a lot of liquid in the pot at this point.)

Remove pot from oven and remove lid.  Transfer to stovetop. Simmer over medium heat until liquid evaporates and onions turn brown, stirring and  scraping up any browned bits on bottom and sides of pot, about 20 minutes.  Continue cooking to allow a crust to form on the bottom of the pan without burning, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup white wine to deglaze pan and loosen crust.  Continue cooking until wine evaporates and another crust begins to form.  Deglaze a second time with remaining 1/4 cup wine.  The onions should be dark brown at this point. Add sherry, and cook stirring until sherry evaporates. Add stock, thyme and bay leaf.  Stir and scrape up any brown bits on bottom and sides of pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.  Discard thyme and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the croutons:
While the soup simmers, lightly brush bread slices with olive oil.  Place on a baking sheet and bake in 400 F. (200 C.) oven until light golden and crisp, 5-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Finish the soup:
Divide soup evenly among 4 oven-proof bowls or crocks arranged on a baking sheet.  Gently lay croutons in one layer to cover most of the surface.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over crouton and soup.  Place baking sheet in oven under grill element.  Broil until cheese is bubbling and golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Winter Warmth: Celery Root and Parnsip Soup

Celery root and parsnip team up in this soup with light yet luxurious results. The sweet earthiness of the parsnip grounds the subtle notes of the celeriac, adding depth without overpowering. The two root vegetables mingle and simmer in a simple concoction of chicken stock and thyme until they are soft enough to purée into a thick soup. You might find yourself tempted to call this soup creamy, but no cream is present – that is unless you feel like adding a splash for extra richness. (It’s the holiday season, after all!)

Celery Root and Parsnip Soup

Substitute a little cream for some of the chicken stock after puréeing for an even richer and more luxurious soup. Serves 4.

1 tablepoon olive oil
1 small celery root, about 1 pound, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 large parsnip, about 1/2 pound, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 garlic clove
3-4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat olive oil in a pot or deep skillet. Add celery root, parsnip and garlic clove. Sauté until fragrant and vegetables begin to soften without coloring, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups chicken stock and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer in batches to bowl of a food processor, or use an immersion blender, and purée soup until smooth. Return to pot. Add additional 1 cup chicken stock  or enough for desired consistency. (Optional: Replace 1/2 cup stock with heavy cream.) Stir in pepper and salt; heat through. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot.

The Cure and a Recipe for Spinach Salad with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette

Charucutepalooza #11: The Cure – Air Dried Pork Tenderloin

I knew the mini-bar had a purpose. There is a funky mini-bar downstairs in our home which serves no use except to take up space – that is until now. This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge is curing (which is another way of saying hanging and drying) a whole piece of meat. The trick is to hang the meat in an environment which maintains a steady temperature and humidity level. The professionals might use a curing chamber which will do all of this in a sleek, shiny, high tech manner. For us newbies we must rely on a basement, garage, wine cellar, and lots of faith tempered with caution. Of course, it would be helpful if we actually had a basement or wine cellar, or that the mild California climate would guarantee a steady cool temperature.

Enter the mini-bar fridge, which sits quietly forgotten, occasionally stocked with an overflow of party beverages, but usually empty. After reading a post by Michael Ruhlman, I realized that this appliance associated with my college dorm room could, in fact, house my meat. All I had to do was clean it and turn it to its warmest setting, and suddenly our clunky relic from the previous owner’s jacuzzi parties morphed into a handy dandy meat curing chamber.

Since I had no idea how any of this would turn out, and mindful that I might possibly produce results that could sicken my family, I decided to keep it very simple and cured two pork tenderloins. The process took all of 3 weeks, with no hands on attention except to remember to check it. My husband gamely offered to taste the finished results, and loved them, affirming – once again – that Charcutepalooza is making him one happy meat eating camper.

The meat is delicious to eat as is, but I also love to add dried ham to pizzas, pasta, eggs and salads. It’s salty, chewy texture gives just the right oomph to this winter spinach salad.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette, Toasted Pinenuts and Cured Pork

The warm balsamic dressing will lightly wilt the spinach greens as they are tossed. If you don’t have any air dried pork, oven dried prosciutto is an excellent and easily accessible alternative. Serves 4-6.

3/4 pound baby spinach, washed and dried
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, slightly smashed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cured pork or oven dried prosciutto (see below), broken in pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Place spinach and shallot in a large bowl. Combine garlic, vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until vinegar is reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly add oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Remove and discard garlic clove. Pour half of the warm dressing over the spinach. Toss to combine. Add more dressing to taste. Divide salad among individual plates. Scatter pork and pine nuts over the salad. Serve immediately.

To oven dry prosciutto:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place 8 slices of prosciutto on a baking tray in one layer. Bake in oven 15 minutes. Turn off oven; do not remove prosciutto. Let it sit in oven 15 more minutes. Remove and break into shards.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.