cauliflower + parsnip soup

Around this time of year, I can think of no better way to spend a day than standing over a slowly simmering pot of soup. For me, it’s a way to unwind. I find calm in watching the steam rise in lazy curls from the pot, and of bowing my head over them to inhale deeply. Nothing is hurried, nothing sudden. There is no urgency, no pressure.

After a particularly demanding week in culinary school, I longed for this slowness in the kitchen, and set out to make a soup that would be as comforting to prepare as it would be to enjoy. A couple heads of cauliflower and a handful of parsnips promised a simple, yet warming combination of autumnal flavors. To that I added some thyme and bay leaves, which released their herbaceous and lively aromas as they simmered along with the vegetables. After cooking, I added a touch of heavy cream and sweet, roasted garlic for richness and depth.  All in all, a mere seven ingredients flavor this dish – each one working together with the next to complement and balance, yet also receiving the attention it deserves.


cauliflower + parsnip soup

Like all of the soups I love, this soup demands nothing. There are no elaborate cooking techniques, no unique ingredients – just a simple, wholesome combination of cauliflower, parsnips, and roasted garlic. The perfect dish to curl up with on a chilly fall day.

 

ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups chopped white onion (about 2 small onions)

2 heads cauliflower, greens removed

2 pounds of parsnips (about 4 medium-large), peeled and ends trimmed

3 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus leaves for garnish

2 bay leaves

2 heads of garlic

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

1 cup heavy cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a heavy-bottomed large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions and sweat, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 10 – 15 minutes.

While the onions cook, prepare the cauliflower and parsnips: remove the greens from the stems of the cauliflower and cut the stems into 1-inch sized chunks. Separate the heads into florets. Reserve 2 heaping cups of the florets and set aside. Add the rest of the cauliflower to a large bowl. Peel the parsnips and cut into 1-inch sized pieces. Add the parsnips to the bowl with the cauliflower.

Once the onions are translucent, add the parsnips and cauliflower and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes, until vegetables are just beginning to brown on the edges. Add 8 cups of water, the thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the garlic and roasted cauliflower garnish: Separate the reserved 2 heaping cups of florets into even smaller florets. Spread evenly in one layer on a sheet pan. Cut the garlic heads in half horizontally, keeping the peels on, and arrange next to the cauliflower. Drizzle everything with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt. Transfer to the preheated oven and roast. After about 25 – 30 minutes, once cauliflower is browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Allow garlic to continue roasting for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until soft and browned on the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Once soup has simmered for 45 minutes and the vegetables are tender, remove from heat. Carefully remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme (the leaves will have fallen off by this point) and discard. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the peels into the soup, being careful not to get any peels into the pot. Working in batches, or with an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth. If using a blender, transfer the soup back to the pot after its pureed to rewarm. 

Add the heavy cream and adjust the seasoning to taste (I added 3 teaspoons of salt and a few cracks of black pepper). If soup is too thick for your liking, you can add a bit of water at this point (though I didn’t need to).

Serve the soup in bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle roasted cauliflower florets and thyme leaves over the top as garnish.

 

yield: approximately 3 quarts of soup; serves 6

join our Italian holiday table + a giveaway!

Twinkling lights are beginning to dot the city’s streets, quietly marking the start of the holiday season, and with it the promise of festive gatherings and celebrations. It’s a busy time of a year, but also a joyous one — a time to remind ourselves of what really matters, to relish in the joy of giving, and to cherish moments with the ones we love.

To me, the holiday celebrations are defined by their meals — humble, comforting dishes that serve to gather my loved ones around the table. So, when Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates asked me to create a holiday inspired meal, I knew I had to make something that would do just that.

This meal is a holiday classic at its best. Everyone’s favorite — roast chicken — is browned in olive oil in a cast iron skillet until its skin is crisp and crackling. It then roasts on a bed of onions until succulent and juicy. The pan drippings are used to make a sauce, to which a reduced balsamic vinegar is added for depth of flavor and a welcomed sweetness. Add to that a creamy, herbed polenta, caramelized, roasted carrots, and a festive dessert of almond cookies dipped in chocolate, and you have yourself a meal that is worthy of a holiday celebration. It’s simple, yet special. Delicious, yet unassuming. It’s a meal that is sure to bring your loved ones around the table.

Let’s not forget about the giveaway! This post was sponsored by Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates, and they have generously offered to give away the basket of their products that you see below to one of you! The basket includes a wide array of olive oils, vinegars, pastas, chocolates and more. Click here to enter


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roasted chicken with herbed polenta + rainbow carrots

 

prep time: 45 minutes

inactive time: 2 hours

cook time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

 

for the chicken + balsamic glaze:

1 [5 – 6] pound chicken

kosher salt

5 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 sprig of fresh sage

2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into large wedges

2 cups low sodium chicken stock [preferably homemade]

1/2 cup Colavita Aged Balsamic Vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted cold butter

 

for the carrots:

1 bunch of rainbow carrots [about 12 – 14], peeled, greens trimmed, and split in half lengthwise [if you can’t find rainbow, orange carrots work perfectly here too]

2 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Parmesan cheese shavings, for garnish

 

for the polenta:

4 cups water

1 cup Colavita Polenta

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

First, prepare the chicken: remove the giblets and trim the wing tips. Rinse the body cavity and pat dry all over with paper towels. Season liberally with salt all over, including inside the body cavity. Place on a sheet pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours [better if overnight]. 

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking, and allow to sit at room temperature. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the olive oil all over the chicken and massage into the skin. Fill the cavity with the sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage. Using butchers twine, tie the legs together. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken, breast side down. Sear the chicken over high heat until the skin on the breast is golden brown, about 4 – 5 minutes. [Try not to move the chicken during this step, unless to quickly peek at the color, as it will not brown nicely]. Once golden brown, turn off the heat and flip the chicken onto its back. Arrange the onion wedges around the chicken and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Roast, making sure to flip the onions every 30 minutes so they don’t burn. The chicken is done when a thermometer reads 165 degrees F when inserted into the meaty part of the thigh, away from the bone [this should take about an hour and a half]. If the onions are browning too quickly, you can remove them and set aside while the chicken finishes roasting.

Once the chicken has been roasting for about an hour, prepare the carrots: spread the carrots evenly over a sheet pan, so that they lay in one layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Transfer to the oven with the chicken, and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 35 – 40 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a serving platter and tossing with the pomegranate seeds and shavings of Parmesan cheese. 

Once the chicken is done, use tongs to lift it out of the pan, and allow the juices to drain from its cavity back into the skillet. Set aside on a carving board, cover in aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. If you haven’t already, remove the onions from the skillet and set those aside as well. Using a spoon, skim the clear layer of fat from the top of the skillet, making sure not to discard any of the brown juices. Place the skillet back over the stovetop and heat over high heat. Once the juices start to bubble, add the chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring the stock to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. 

While stock is simmering, add the balsamic vinegar to a small sauté pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until vinegar thickens and becomes a glaze-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Whisk the balsamic glaze into the simmering chicken stock. 

Once the stock and balsamic mixture is reduced and thickened [it should coat the back of a spoon], remove it from the heat and add the chopped thyme and cold butter. Swirl until the butter has melted completely. Transfer to a small sauce pitcher, and cover to keep warm. 

Lastly, prepare the polenta: bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a stock pot or large sauce pan. Once boiling, slowly pour in the polenta while whisking. Reduce the heat and cook the polenta, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, thyme, and rosemary. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spoon the polenta onto plates immediately [see note below] and arrange the chicken over top. Drizzle with the balsamic sauce and serve the carrots on the side. 

 

Note: if the polenta is too thick, or starts to solidify as it cools, whisk in a drizzle of heavy cream or milk [a little at a time] until the desired consistency is reached. 

 

Yield: 6 servings


chocolate dipped almond cookies

 

prep time: 20 minutes

inactive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

cook time: 20 minutes

 

ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons almond paste

3/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina White Chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

Add the butter, almond paste, and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour and salt. Stop the mixer just when the dough comes together.

Remove the dough from the bowl of the mixer and wrap in plastic wrap. Form into a fat log and place in the refrigerator. Chill until firm; at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper.

Once log of dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator, unwrap, and cut in half. On a clean work surface, roll each half into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Slice each log into 1/4-inch-thick medallions and arrange the cookies on the lined sheet pans, making sure to leave some space between each cookie. Transfer to the oven and bake until cookies are just barely golden around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

While cookies cool, add the slivered almonds to a dry pan over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle almonds into a bowl, and set aside.

Add the two types of chopped chocolate into two separate small bowls and melt in 30 second intervals in the microwave, making sure to stir the chocolate at the end of every interval [should take about 1 1/2 minutes per bowl in total]. Set aside.

To finish the cookies: once completely cool, dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and shake off the excess. Place onto a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool. Repeat until all the cookies have been dipped, half in the bittersweet chocolate, and half in the white chocolate. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the toasted almonds over the cookies, pressing them gently into the chocolate. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill until chocolate is completely hardened. Cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Yield: approximately 24 cookies


beet fettuccine with almonds + thyme


beet fettuccine with almonds + thyme

Making your own pasta is a simple process and if you’re willing to put in a little muscle, it does not require special equipment. The star of this recipe is really the pasta dough itself — what you serve it with is up to you. I garnished mine with the same beets that flavor and color the pasta dough, along with a drizzle of olive oil, almonds, thyme, and ricotta cheese. If you wanted to dress things up a bit, a white wine cream sauce would be lovely, as would a simple browned butter with sage. The options are endless.

 

for the pasta dough:

4 medium to large beets, greens removed and peeled [some will be reserved for garnish]

1 egg

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

 

for garnish:

extra virgin olive oil

fresh thyme leaves

flaked or coarse salt

sliced almonds, toasted

ricotta cheese

reserved beets from pasta dough

Cut the peeled beets into large chunks and add to a stock pot. Fill with enough water to cover the beets by 1/2 of an inch. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 40-45 minutes. Remove beets and reserve the water for cooking the pasta later.

Reserve about half of the beets and set aside [these will be used for garnish when plating]. Place the other half in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, add 3/4 cup of the beet puree, egg, egg yolks, and olive oil to a medium bowl. Whisk gently until everything is completely combined.

Add the flour to a large work surface and form a mound. Make a well in the center, and carefully pour the beet and egg mixture into it (making sure it is completely surrounded by the flour). Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mixture, starting with the inner edges and working outward, until a shaggy, sticky dough starts to form. At this point, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until completely smooth, dusting your work surface lightly with flour if it sticks [be careful not to add too much flour, as it will make the dough too dry]. Once your dough is completely smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.

Once rested, divide the dough in four equal parts. Working with one section of dough at a time on a floured, large work surface, roll out the dough until about 1/4-inch thick. Fold in half and repeat 2 more times. Lastly, roll the dough in a large rectangle until as thin as possible [about 2 – 3 millimeters thick]. Make sure to move the dough often while rolling to ensure it does not stick to the work surface, and make sure to keep all dough that is not being rolled covered to prevent it from drying out.  This whole process will take some muscle. Alternatively, if you have one, you can use a pasta roller to roll the dough in the same manner. Cut the rolled dough into strips, about 1/4-inch in width. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook to avoid them drying out. 

To cook the pasta: bring a large stockpot of water and the reserved beet water to a boil over high heat. Season with salt. Add the fettuccine strips and cook until just al dente [about 2 – 3 minutes]. Drain and toss immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

To plate: arrange the pasta on a plate and drizzle with additional extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, coarse salt, and toasted almonds. Serve each plate with a spoonful of ricotta cheese and the reserved cooked beets.

Yield: 1 1/2 pounds of dough


grilled eggplant + hummus

I have this little blue notebook where I write my recipes. It’s filled with lists of ingredients, and quick bulleted instructions that probably only make sense to me. Every page shows evidence of ingredients past — a splatter of red wine stains the page that reads “risotto”, a smear of oil on the one marked “beet greens pesto”. There are scribbles and question marks, cross outs and ripped corners, and dark circles around the ingredients I often forget. Some pages are ripped out, signs of disappointments and failed attempts, while others are dog-eared and faded from constant use. 

Some days, when my mind feels too jumbled from the seemingly unending feeds of beautifully prepared dishes and innovative recipes in the media, I find myself referring back to my blue book, as a way to center myself. The other day proved to be one of those times. As I flipped through its stained and crumpled pages, I came to a page that caught my attention. In stark contrast to the pages surrounding it, this one appeared almost empty, save for a few lines and a simple title that read, “hummus”.  

Armed with my book, and the ingredients I had on hand, I went about preparing that hummus — nothing more than some chickpeas, a few spoonfuls of tahini, a drizzle of garlic infused olive oil and a whirl in the blender. I grabbed a few eggplants that I had picked up a few days earlier at the market, speckled lavender and white, and cut them into spears to grill. I threw everything on a board, added a drizzle of tahini, a few vibrant herbs, and some naan bread warmed in the oven, and paused briefly to remind myself: simple is best. Simple is what inspires you. 


grilled eggplant + hummus

I’ve never been a huge fan of eggplant, as I find it lacks flavor without its skin, but I often find the skin tough and unappetizing. I recently discovered these lavender and white speckled, delicate-skinned varietals at the farmers market, however, which I love. When grilled, they still hold their shape, but become soft and creamy on the inside, making for a delicious preparation and a beautiful presentation. Paired with some vibrant herbs and creamy hummus, this dish is perfect for a casual, light dinner, or for a fun appetizer. The hummus recipe can easily be doubled if you are making this for a party! 

 

for the eggplant:

4 small eggplants (preferably Antigua eggplants, or another delicate-skinned, non-bitter varietal)

extra virgin olive oil

salt, to taste

2 tablespoons tahini paste

1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish

a few handfuls of fresh mint and parsley, for garnish

 

for the hummus:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 tablespoons tahini paste

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons water

squeeze of lemon juice

sesame seeds and chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

naan bread for serving

 

First, prepare the eggplant: trim the ends and cut into long spears. If your eggplant has a lot of seeds, make sure to only use the outermost flesh with the least amount of seeds [the seeds are often bitter]. Line a sheet pan with paper towel and spread the eggplant over it in an even layer. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and allow to rest while you prepare the hummus. *This step is optional, but I find that eggplant does not absorb as much olive oil when they are salted first.

Next, prepare the hummus: in a small sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once warm, add the crushed garlic and sauté until fragrant [about 2-3 minutes]. Remove from heat. 

In a blender or food processor, add the chickpeas, olive oil and garlic, tahini paste, salt, water, and squeeze of lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to transfer hummus to a bowl and taste for seasoning. 

Once eggplant has rested for about 15 – 20 minutes, pat it dry with paper towels to absorb all of the moisture that has beaded at the surface and to rub off any excess salt. Drizzle eggplant very generously with extra virgin olive oil. Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat and brush grates with olive oil. Working in batches [making sure not to overcrowd the grill or pan], grill the eggplant on all sides until golden brown on the outside and very soft when touched [the length of time will depend on how thick your spears are. For reference, mine took 6 – 8 minutes each]. Make sure to give them time, as there is nothing worse than undercooked eggplant! If you are working in a grill pan, you may have to drizzle the pan with more olive oil between batches. 

Once cooked, remove the eggplant from the grill and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with tahini paste, and garnish with mint, parsley, sesame seeds, and coarse salt [if needed]. Top hummus with a drizzle of olive oil, and chopped parley and sesame seeds as garnish. Serve the grilled eggplant + hummus with warmed naan bread for dipping. It’s especially delicious if you add some hummus and eggplant to a piece of naan and eat it like crostini!

 

serves 4 as an appetizer