Carrot and Last Minute Pear Soup

cp4I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Soups are great. They are easy to make and a good food option for all seasons. Warmer weather calls for cooler versions. When winter sets in, you want to nestle up with in a blanket and a steaming bowl of your favourite soup. Such a marvellous way to warm up. 

Recently I needed a reason to use up a big chunk of the carrots in our garden. Soup came to mind. Who wouldn’t love a bright orange soup made from freshly picked carrots? 

Whilst pureeing the soup, a bowl of pears on the counter caught my eye. Hmmm. Well why not? I  grabbed a few and quickly peeled and cored them berfore tossing them into the blender as well. Delicious. The vibrant colour and subtle taste of carrots went seamlessly with the fresh hint of pear. 

I do love when I hear a symphony of “mmmm’s” around the dining room table. It is one of those simple pleasures in life I never tire of. This time around it was with each spoonful. 

This recipe is a keeper. Equally as good warm as chilled.

Jens

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6 large carrots

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

6 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup pear eau de vie

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt

pepper

4 pears

dollop of crème fraîche

chives

 

Peel the carrots and onion and cut into 1” pieces. Peel and lightly crush the garlic cloves.         

In a large pot, over medium high heat, heat up butter and olive oil then sauté the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the eau de vie. Let cook for a minute, stirring the bottom of the pot. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until carrots are soft, about 20 min. Take off heat and let cool slightly.

In the mean time, peel and core the pears. Cut into 1” pieces. Add to a blender.

Transfer the soup to the blender as well and pure until smooth. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, some finely diced chives and a sprinkle of sea salt.cp2

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Asian Stuffed Peppers with Orange Vermicelli

sp1Being sick can have its perks. People close to you pay you more attention. They dote on you and supply what you need in order to make you feel better and to make your suffering as light as possible. A few weeks ago it was Bruno’s turn. A pinched nerve in his back forced him to lay still for much longer than first anticipated. I wanted to lift his spirits and so I asked him one afternoon for dinner suggestions. Surprisingly, he said stuffed peppers. This is something I don’t make often. To be honest I only think I’ve made them once or twice. Usually when we crave them we visit Bruno’s parents. His mom makes wonderful stuffed peppers. Since I didn’t want Bruno comparing mine to what he was used to, I decided to come up with something completely different.

A peak in the fridge and I realized no ground beef was to be found. Ground chicken on the other hand we had. An Asian inspired dish came instantly to mind. Now, I was getting excited.  I decided to leave out the rice which is usually mixed with the beef and instead served the peppers on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles tossed in orange juice and green onions. And the chicken? Well, lemongrass, cilantro and good helping of ginger. Loveliness.

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Peppers Filling:

1 stalk lemongrass

1 small zucchini 

7-8 shiitake mushrooms

1 stalk celery

2 tbsp cilantro

1” piece fresh ginger, peeled

2 green onions

1000g ground chicken 

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp soya sauce

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp horseradish

2 tbsp green curry paste

1 tbsp sambal oelek

Zest of one lime

 

6 yellow or orange bell peppers 

Parmesan cheese

 

Vermicelli:

250g vermicelli rice noodles

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp soya sauce

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. 

 

Stuffing:

Peel the lemongrass and finely dice the soft centre part. Also finely dice the zucchini, mushrooms, celery, cilantro, ginger and onions. 

In a large pan sauté the ground chicken in the olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Let cook on medium heat for 5-10 min. Add the chicken back into the pot. Stir well. Set aside.

With a small pairing knife, cut around the top of the peppers and lift out the centre. Clean the inside of the peppers from white flesh and seeds. Trim bottom of peppers carefully to make them stand up straight, but make sure not to cut through. They need to stay as a sealed bowl.

Place the peppers on parchment paper on a baking sheet then stuff the peppers with the chicken mixture. Grate parmesan cheese on top, then put in the middle of the oven for 40-45 min. until slightly browned and soft. 

Vermicelli:

In the meantime, cook the vermicelli according to the package. Drain and set aside. 

In a large bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add the vermicelli and stir well. Keep warm.

When serving, place some vermicelli on a plate and place a stuffed pepper on top.

Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions and cilantro.sp3sp4sp5

Gruyere Stuffed Arancini with Spicy Tomato & Basil

a6“What are the odds of me leaving to go to the city to help our friend move, while you stay here and deal with the tasting room?” I asked Bruno a few days before a busy August weekend. After an unexpected all clear and green light, I quickly made firm plans with Natalie – our good friend in great need of a moving partner for the weekend. Two long days and sore backs later, I popped open a  bottle of our sparkling pinot noir. We toasted work well done on her balcony while watching the Toronto skyline and sunset. 

Magical. 

“Let me take you out for dinner” she said. “Where do you want to go?”. 

I told her to choose a place I hadn’t been before. As you all know, I love food and I love eating. So, needless to say, I was very excited when we walked through the door of Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, known coloclially as: The Nose. Such a marvellous place! Italian all the way. Small plates, perfect for sharing, which I found difficult – much too delicious to share. One of the dishes was arancini. Stuffed, deep fried rice balls, served with an oh so tangy yet sweet tomato sauce. Finger licking good.

In September my parents came over for a three week visit. A few days in Toronto is always a must on their list. “Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before” they said one evening when discussing what to do for dinner. I instantly knew where to go. Back at The Nose we ordered one of most things on the menu – the arancini being one of them. Watching my parents share these rice balls was a joy. Talk about kids in a candy store. I recently decided to make them myself. I started with the tomato sauce. The key to good tomato sauce is time. Let it simmer and simmer. And simmer. 

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Tomato Sauce:

3 cups plain tomato sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 tbsp finely chopped basil

1/4 cup maple syrup.

1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 cup onions, finely chopped 

2- 3 tbsp sambal oelek

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

 

Risotto:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp oregano

2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Salt 

Pepper

 

2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

150g Gruyere cheese 

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil

Add all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally. I let the sauce slowly simmer until the Arancinis are fried and ready to be served.

Prepare the rice by adding all the ingredients for the risotto in another pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer over low heat, covered, until al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more chicken broth if needed. It needs to be sticky, not too wet when done in order to roll the balls properly. When cooked, set aside to let cool. 

Cut the cheese into 15 equal size squares. 

Add the beaten eggs to the rice. Mix well. 

Grab a small handful of rice and place it in the palm of your hand. Take a piece of cheese and place in the middle of the rice. Enclose the cheese in the rice, creating a ball. The ball should be 1 1/2″-2″ diameter. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the cheese then carefully roll the balls in the breadcrumbs until well covered.

In a large pot, add oil about 2″ deep. Heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 350F. Fry the balls, a few at a time, until golden brown. This will take about 4-5 min. Place on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve hot with the tomato sauce. Makes roughly 15 Arancinis. a1a4a3