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

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


tomato + ricotta tart

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.

– Rumi

I’m feeling it all right now: nervousness, excitement, anticipation. In two days, what has long been nothing more than a vision will become my reality. In two days, I will be donning my chef whites and stepping into the kitchens of culinary school.

It’s a huge step, and a decision that I (nor Henry) made lightly. As much as I’d like to portray a romantic image of me leaving my job without hesitation and blindly pursuing my passion, it wouldn’t be honest. It took a lot of self-reflection and contemplation. It took long nights of conversation, of financial planning, and preparation. We made sacrifices, and will continue to make sacrifices for a while to come. But, in the end, it’s all worth it.  

We made this decision, together. Henry believes in me – believes in my passion and what I am capable of. But, more importantly, I believe in myself. I’m proud to say that I am acting on the sentiment I so often share here: I’m casting aside my fear and hesitations and letting my ambition and passion take the driver’s seat. I have a choice, and I’m choosing to be brave.

It’s a new path, and one that I’m sure will have its fair share of bumps and unexpected turns. I’m really not even sure where the path will end up. All I know is that it points in the right direction. I hope you’ll stick along for the ride.


tomato + ricotta tart

A crisp, buttery crust, a melt-in-your-mouth rich filling, and bursting, sweet summer tomatoes — does it get any better than that? This tart would be delicious served with eggs for brunch, with lightly dressed greens for dinner, or even packed up for a picnic lunch.

 

ingredients

prepared pastry dough

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg, separated

1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces [I used cherry tomatoes, but any tomato would do well here]

splash of milk

 

First, prepare the pastry dough

and place in the refrigerator to chill.

After the dough has chilled for at least an hour, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch x 15-inch rectangle (approximately). Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a baker’s quarter sheet pan (9-inch x 13-inch) so that the dough is falling over the edges on all sides. If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan, you can use a half sheet and use a folded up piece of aluminum foil to create a false side in the middle of the long edge so that the pan measures 9-inches x 13-inches. Trim the overhanging excess dough, so that the crust reaches just to the top of the edges of the pan [see note below for a fun use for the excess dough]. Cover the pan lightly in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill.

While the dough chills, prepare the ricotta mixture: in a medium bowl add the ricotta, egg white [reserve the yolk for the egg wash later on], oregano, thyme, garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine.

Remove the chilled prepared dough from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the middle of the tart and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the bottom. Arrange the tomato slices over top of the ricotta and garnish the tart with more oregano leaves and flaked or coarse salt.

In a ramekin or small bowl, beat together the reserved egg yolk and splash of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the exposed parts of the crust.

Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve. [The tart is delicious served either warm or at room temperature, garnished with more fresh oregano and thyme leaves].

 

for the pastry dough:

2 cups all purpose flour

pinch of salt

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter, and using your hands, work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal [the butter pieces should be about the size of large peas]. Add the water and mix until the dough just comes together. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using.

 

*Note: Don’t throw away your pastry dough scraps! Collect and reform them into a disc, and roll out on your floured work surface until about 1/4-inch in thickness. Cut into pieces [triangles, squares, circles, whatever!] and place about 1 – 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the pieces with cinnamon and sugar and transfer to a preheated 400 degree F oven [you can bake them at the same time as the tomato tart]! Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, and cool on wire racks before serving. These are delicious eaten as cookies, or served as a garnish to a bowl of ice cream.