Cucumber and Avocado Soup

c2The past few weeks have been sweltering hot to say the least. I am not complaining, just stating fact. I adore this time of the year. Summer is relatively short so I have decided that no matter how hot it gets I’m not allowed to whine and complain. I know myself too well, come late fall I will long for the dog days of summer.

Even though I love the summer heat, I’m not a big fan of standing in front of a hot stove in this weather. I try to keep the stove use to a minimum and make everything as cool and fresh as possible. It is easy to skip down to the local farmer’s market to pick up ingredients. Fresh, fresh, fresh. Easy and healthy.

During this heat wave our friend Natalie came to visit for a few days which we parlayed into a weeklong stay. I have to admit she’s quite an inspiration when it comes to eating well and healthy. We shared cooking duties and one day for lunch I made a cucumber and avocado soup. This is one of my favourite summer soups. The fresh taste and smell of cucumber is dreamy and the avocados lend a creamy texture. Blended together it makes a fresh tasting and healthy lunch or appetizer. 

I am pretty sure your guests will hold their bowls up for seconds. In our case we ate it straight from the serving dish until there was nothing left.c5

2 medium onions

1 tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic

pinch of ground nutmeg

3 cups chicken broth

1 cucumber

2 avocados

juice of half a lime

salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the onion and garlic. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and sauté the onions for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2. Add the chicken broth and nutmeg and let cook until onions are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. 

Rinse the cucumber well and cut in half, lengthwise. Cut the cucumber in 1″ pieces and transfer to a food processor. Slice both avocados in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into the food processor. Add the juice of the half lime then pulse until finely chopped. 

With the processor on high speed, start adding the onion and chicken broth mixture about one cup at a time. Puree until smooth, check the thickness of the soup, and add more of the liquid if needed. Once soup is nice and smooth, pour into a sieve and press the soup through with the help of a ladle into a bowl. Chill, covered, in the fridge a couple of hours before serving. Garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche, chives and a sprinkle of good salt.c4c1c6

Swedish Split Pea Soup

sps1Can you make lunch today?” my mom asked one chilly morning while I sat down for coffee. 

Sure!” I said, not really knowing what to make. 

My parents and I always divided up the cooking duties during my visits back home. This yearly sojourn in Sweden has become a veritable feast of new recipes to discover on top of my old favourites I still get to enjoy. Food is a huge thing for my family. Almost daily trips to the grocery store, planning and prepping. So much fun. 

I took a sip of coffee and we started to plan the dayplan the food. We were talking about soup. How we all love soup. All kinds. Savoury, sweet, hot and cold.

“Almost,” my mom interjected. Her hand had reached out and touched my arm. “There is one I am not fond of.” 

It was the classic, Swedish split pea soup. 

Really? I thought. Perhaps she just hadn’t had a great version of it yet. sps2Back in the middle ages, Sweden, while still a Catholic empire, Friday was a day of fast. So, on Thursdays, people started making a hearty soup with yellow split peas, cooked in a delicious broth of pork and served with hard bread, mustard and cheese. 

Long after The Catholic Church lost its grip here, Thursday is still called ‘soup day’. Today’s Special in restaurants is often soup and most schools serve soup for lunch. 

Today was not Thursday. It was, however, a perfect day for hearty soup. This in mind, I jotted down items I needed to get for lunch. My mom, sharp eyed as ever, spotted ‘yellow split peas’ on the list. She looked at me. I looked at her, smiled and nodded. She smiled back. 

I’m looking forward to it,” she said. I assured her she’d love it, all the while quietly praying I would be right. 

This is a very simple recipethough a bit time consuming to preparethe results are rustic and beautiful. My dad loves split pea soup, so I wasn’t worried about him. My mom’s verdict? Well, one wouldn’t take seconds if one didn’t like it, correct?

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2 cups yellow split peas

8 cups water

1 large onion

2 carrots

2-3 bay leaves

300g bacon

5 whole allspice corns

2 tsp oregano

2 tsp thyme

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp dijon mustard

1/2 cup crème fraîche

pinch of salt

pepper

Place the peas in a large bowl and fill up with water. Leave to swell for 6-12 hours.

Drain the peas and transfer to a large sauce pan. Add most of the water. Cut the carrots in 2″ pieces and peel and quarter the onion. Add to the pot along with bay leaves. Bring to a boil and let simmer, uncovered for 30 min. Fold half of the bacon in half and tie together with kitchen string. Add along with the rest of the spices and let simmer for another 30 min. Stir once in a while and add water as needed. Remove the bacon and set aside. Let the soup cook until the peas are soft and starting to break down. 

In a frying pan, fry the rest of the bacon until nicely browned and crisp. Cut into small pieces and place in a serving dish. 

Remove carrots, onions, bay leaves and allspice corns from the soup. Cut the bacon from the soup into small pieces and add back to the soup. 

In a bowl, mix together mustard, creme fraiche, salt and pepper. 

Decorate the hot soup with a dollop of mustard crème fraîche and sprinkle with fried bacon. Serve with crisp bread, butter and Havarti cheese.sps3sps5

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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Asparagus Bisque

a1A few weeks ago I squealed with joy as friends of ours dropped off a big bag of freshly cut asparagus from their own garden. I get this tingling feeling in my whole body every spring when I know the asparagus is ready and the local farm stands will soon begin displaying these bundles of bright green beautiful stalks. A true perk to live out in the country. For me it’s the best part of the year. The kick-start for the fresh produce season. I fully indulge and eat as much asparagus as I possibly can during its rather short span and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The great thing about asparagus is that there are endless ways to prepare it. Fry it, cook it, steam it, roast it, bbq it, puree it, eat it raw – the list goes on and on.

One of my asparagus favourites is this oh so simple bisque. It’s delightful both hot, room temperature or slightly chilled, depending on the day. The asparagus takes centre seat while nicely backed up by fennel and cumin. A dollop of lemon crème fraîche tops it off. The bisque can be made a day in advance to make your lunch or dinner as enjoyable as possible. Perfect.

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2lb asparagus

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

5-6 shallots, roughly chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

5 cups chicken broth

1 tsp lightly crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp lightly crushed cumin seeds

White pepper and salt to taste

1/2 cup crème fraîche

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest from one lemon

Cut off the bottom 1” of the asparagus and cut them in 2” pieces.

In a large heavy sauce pan, melt the butter with the olive oil. Sauté the shallots until soft ~ 5 minutes. Add the garlic, asparagus and spices and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer until asparagus is soft, about 10 minutes.

Let cool before transferring the soup to a blender. Purée for a couple of minutes or until very smooth. Pour soup through a sieve into a large bowl. Use the back of a ladle in the sieve to push the liquid through. Discard the solids.

Mix together the lemon juice with the crème fraîche and decorate each serving. Garnish with the lemon zest. Serves 4.

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Spinach Soup with Egg Halves and Carrot Slaw

ss1We all have them. They come and go. Difficult to avoid. I’m talking about the days where you just want to stay in bed. Not move, not care, not anything. The reasons might be all different but the feeling is universal. I recently had one of those days. The weather was cold, grey, rainy and windy. Coffee didn’t even lift my spirit, which is rare. I knew I had to get up and get on with my day and was looking for something to cheer me up. 

This Swedish spinach soup came to mind. Traditionally served with egg halves and hard bread. I recently picked up some local eggs from a nearby farm and the yolk is the brightest orange you’ve ever seen. This in turn inspired me to go crazy with the colour. A refreshing carrot slaw with ginger and orange zest became a great side snack to the soup which offers subtle spinach, onion and a hint of freshly ground nutmeg. The meal did lift my spirit. Thanks to both flavour and colour. Try it. It’s the perfect lunch on a day when feeling a tad blue.

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Soup:

2 tbsp butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 1/2 tbsp flour

5 cups vegetable broth

500g frozen spinach

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt

white pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 boiled eggs

Carrot Slaw:

4-5 grated carrots

2 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange juice

salt 

pepper

In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the carrot slaw. Set aside to marinate while you make the soup.

In a large pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. When slightly browned add the onion and turn the heat down to medium. Sauté for 2-3 min until slightly translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and mix well. Let cook for another minute. Add about a cup of the broth and stir well. When simmering add the rest of the broth along with the spinach and nutmeg.

Let simmer for 10-15 min. Take of from the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup along with the boiled eggs. The carrot slaw can be served on crackers or hard bread or on its own on a side plate. Serves 4.ss5
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Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Shots

s2You might think this is very much a fall post. That is true. It would be a perfect fall post. Except it’s not. March has finally arrived and spring is just around the corner. The long winter months are over and we can start looking forward to seeing the the earth come to life again. In anticipation of the new season, with all that it will give us, I find celebrating what has kept us alive throughout fall and winter is a nice gesture. In the olden days root cellars were very popular. Before grocery stores became what they are today and before modern refrigeration, this was the way to survive. Everything that needed to stay cool was put down there. Potatoes and carrots, apples and onions, squash and pumpkins were stored along with preserved vegetables and fruits. Perhaps even a few bottles of wine. I really love the traditional Swedish root cellar. They were outside of the house, dug into the ground and covered with dirt so that they resembled a grassy mound with a small door.  I would love to eventually build a one behind the house. I will tell you more about them in another post. So, this will be one of the last ‘winter posts’ for a while. These butternut squash and apple cider shots are a great amuse bouche or hors d’oeuvre for your next dinner party. I am using The Old Third Golden Russet Apple Cider of course.
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1 butternut squash

1 medium onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

6-8 fresh thyme sprigs

fresh ginger, one 1″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cup dry apple cider

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt & pepper

1/2 cup cream

1 package sliced bacon

 

Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1″ pieces, discarding the centre core. Peel and roughly chop the onion and ginger. In a frying pan heat up the butter and olive oil. Sauté the onion and ginger 2-3 minutes, then add the squash and garlic as well as the thyme sprigs. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock, apple cider and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is soft, 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, fry the bacon crisp, either in a heavy skillet, or on a baking sheet in a 450F oven. Let the bacon cool then crumble it together into small pieces. Put aside. 

Remove the soup from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour into shot glasses just before serving.Decorate with the crumbled bacon. Makes 24-30 shots or 6 appetizer size servings. 

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