Food is Love, Love is Food.

A blog devoted to the connection between meals, memories and the special moments in our lives.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Day After the Reunion: Cream of Mushroom Soup

It has been a busy weekend; all kinds of fun stuff went on.  First, there was Thanksgiving, the ultimate food holiday.  Then, we spent a fun evening with friends, eating pizza and staying out very late.  Finally, I attended my 25th high school reunion last night, which was a riot.  I graduated from a private, Catholic high school in the city where I grew up.  My high school experience was probably very typical for that time; the fun I had was relatively innocent, certainly by today's standards, and there was an amazing sense of community.

There are some people who do not enjoy reunions; I am not one of them.  Whenever I can look back on a period of time in my life and find the good memories, I am happy to do so.  I had a really fun time catching up with old friends, some of whom I had gone to elementary school with as well. It was very entertaining to recount some of the old stories, and even more entertaining to hear some of the stories of things that happened that I didn't know about at the time.  With many of the people I saw at the reunion, conversations were as easy as if we had not gone five, ten, or twenty years without seeing each other; we just picked up where we had left off.  Next to the time that my friend Lisa and I crashed my sister's 20th high school reunion, it was probably the most fun I have had at one of these things. 

Of course last night proved in many ways that I am not as young as I once was, and I am tired. The upcoming weeks will be hectic ones, as we prepare for more holiday celebrations, and  I need a day to just chill. The best way I know to do that is to make a pot of soup, and maybe a loaf of homemade bread, and lounge on the couch with my two daughters, my husband and the two dogs, and watch all the movies we taped this week while HBO was free.  So that is exactly what we are doing.  And as we have decided to eat a little more healthy in the weeks leading up to Christmas, today is sort of our last hurrah in the decadent food department.  This soup isn't so bad for you. It just has a little half and half, and it is so good, I am hungry just thinking about it.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

For the broth:
1 small handful of dried mushrooms (I used dried porcini)
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups water

Place the stock and the dried mushrooms in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Cook until the stock is reduced by half.  Let cool, and strain the dried mushrooms using a fine strainer.  Discard dried mushrooms.

For the mushrooms:
3 8-ounce containers of mushrooms, any type you like (I use a mix of cremini, baby bella, and    white), cleaned and sliced
1/2 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock

Saute the mushrooms, and onions in the olive oil until they just begin to brown.  Add the garlic, stir for a minute, and then deglaze the pan with the wine or chicken stock. 

To assemble the soup:
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups half and half
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chives (optional)

In a large pot, melt the butter, and add the flour, stirring with a whisk until the mixture begins to brown slightly.  Add the mushroom stock little by little, whisking as you go to incorporate.  Bring up to medium heat, and add the half and half, continuing to stir.  Reduce heat to simmer, then add the mushrooms, onions and garlic.  Let simmer for at least a half hour, until the soup thickens just a little and all the flavors are blended.  Serve with fresh chives, if desired, and a slice of hot, fresh bread.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cranberry Thanksgiving: Cranberry Orange Bread

My husband Michael comes from a family of savers.  They save everything.  Typically, this is problematic for me, as I am a thrower-outer.  I throw out mostly everything.  After we got married and bought our first house, my mother-in-law began to bring over the various boxes and bundles of things that Michael had saved over the years, as well as the things that had been saved for him.  There was the bowling ball and bag (had I found that earlier, it might have been a deal breaker), and the concert t-shirts, which I had previously been accused of throwing away, and a myriad of other items that were somehow crucial to his existence.  Now, I will admit that there were some things that were sentimental, and therefore, worth saving. 

One thing that Connie wisely held on to were a collection of classic children's books that Michael and his sisters had received as members of the 'Book of the Month' club, and had loved as children.  My girls were the recipients of those excellent and nostalgic books, and we read them, sometimes swooning with remembrances of these books being read to us as young children.  One of the books arrived just weeks before Thanksgiving, and not coincidentally, was titled Cranberry Thanksgiving.  It was about an old woman who had a secret recipe for the most delicious cranberry bread ever.  In the story, there is an ill-fated attempt to steal the recipe, and the culprit turns out to be the last person one would suspect.  The very valuable lesson, of course, is 'don't jump to conclusions about people.'

At Thanksgiving dinner that year, my sister in law mentioned that the recipe, which was printed on the back cover of the book (if only the thief had just bought a copy of the book!), was outstanding.  I poo-pooed the idea of a recipe, printed on a book mass produced in the late 1960s, as being spectacular.  I was soooo wrong. This recipe is tart and yummy, and utterly exceptional.  I make it every Thanksgiving now, and happily pass the recipe along, so that nobody has to steal it in order to enjoy this awesome bread.

Cranberry Orange Bread (Adapted very slightly from Cranberry Thanksgiving)
2 cups  all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp grated orange peel
3/4 cup orange juice
2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Add egg, orange juice and orange peel all at once, and stir just until mixture is evenly moist.  Fold in cranberries.

Spoon into a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simple Weeknight Dinner: Sage, Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken

A recipe for a roast chicken seems kind of ridiculous, kind of like a recipe for a sandwich. I mean, you just put in whatever you like, right?  But I made a really delicious and flavorful roasted chicken this week, and was telling a friend about it, and she asked for the recipe.  A whole roasted chicken makes a weeknight feel kind of special, kind of like a mini Thanksgiving, only so much easier and less stressful. It makes your house smell wonderful.  And with a big enough chicken, and one vegetarian in the house, there is plenty leftover for some great sandwiches the next day...hmmm.  Maybe I already have my next blog entry! 

Sage, Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken:

1 large, whole chicken (7-8 lbs)
5 garlic cloves, peeled
I whole lemon, zested and then sliced
10 fresh sage leaves
About 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or use the sage oil for extra flavor)
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.  Place in a large roasting pan.  Place the garlic, lemon zest, 1 tbsp olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper in the bowl of a mini food processor.  Pulse until it is a chopped paste. Take 2/3 of the garlic mixture, and using your hands, place it under the skin of the chicken.  Place the remainder inside the chicken cavity.  Place the slices of lemon under the skin of the chicken as well, and then a couple on top of the chicken.  If there are any left over, you can place them inside the cavity of the chicken.  Roast at 375 degrees until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees (or until the juices run clear). Delicious with roasted potato wedges.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Taste of Fall: Sage Oil

My husband is a genius!  My favorite fall flavor is sage, and although we dug the plant out of our garden, there are only so many sage leaves, and eventually, I will run out. So Michael has started making small batches of sage oil, and I have begun drizzling it on pretty much anything I eat.  I made beautiful soft scrambled eggs with the sage oil today, and I sauteed some mushrooms in the oil for an omelet for Emily this afternoon for lunch.  I roast vegetables with the sage oil drizzled over them, and put it on meats and salads.  It is utterly delicious, and truly simple, which is why I say my husband is a genius.  I mean, he married me, didn't he?

Sage Oil:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
handful of fresh sage leaves, washed and dried

Place oil and sage leaves in a small, heavy bottomed pan.  Put the pan on a burner, and bring it to a very low simmer.  Continue to simmer for an hour or two until the oil is infused with the flavor of the sage. Let the oil cool, then strain through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the sage leaves. The FDA recommends storing homemade flavored oils in an airtight container in the refrigerator and using up in at least ten days, so only make as much as you can use in that time.