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Posts tagged ‘side dishes’

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham


Oh, March…you don’t really belong to winter…and yet you’re not a full-fledged spring month either.  Sigh…

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I start craving all things spring.  Ramps, fiddleheads, greens, onions and asparagus, but there is one vegetable in particular that I look forward to the most.  Spring peas.  I think my devotion to the fresh-from-the-garden-spring-peas comes from disliking all peas that were placed in front of me before sometime in my mid-twenties…and is most likely related to the fact that 99% of those were of the frozen or canned variety.

Here’s a revelation.  This Spring Pea soup can be enjoyed any time of year.  Let me say that again, you can enjoy the delightful crisp and sweet taste of spring peas any time you feel like it.  Herein lies the genius of this Spanish Pea Soup with crispy ham and the Barefoot Contessa!  So even if it is still dumping snow in your neck of the woods…it can be springtime in your mouth!

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham

Good olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 pounds frozen peas, such as Bird’s Eye Sweet Garden
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto

In a deep (8 x 5-inch) heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until coarsely pureed, season to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp.

Reheat the soup and serve in shallow bowls with a slice of crispy ham on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve hot.

The ham is an integral part of this dish…a nice salty and crunchy complement to the sweet peas.  We opted to serve some crusty bread alongside and we couldn’t resist yet another Barefoot Contessa recipe for Garlic Roasted Cauliflower to make the dinner a bit heartier.

This is so simple, quick and fresh that it makes a perfect weeknight meal, and leftovers are wonderful, even served cold for lunch with a dollop of creme fraiche and of course the drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt!

What is your favorite spring craving?

 

 

Chicken Gorgonzola Pasta Salad with Bacon


D’Amico & Sons!  Ring a bell…?  If so, you probably live in Minnesota or Florida or have flown through MSP airport and had enough time to wander around for a bite to eat…and if this is so…you know what I’m talking about.

I wasn’t always one for pasta salads.  They were always bland and drenched in oil and vinegar and seemed to be a dumping ground for canned and often ignored veggies.  My nightmare of a pasta salad involves tri-color spiral pasta with a bottle of italian dressing, some canned sliced olives and if we are lucky…a dice of red bell pepper.  If that’s the best thing you can think of to do with some pasta…perhaps you should consider take-out!

Now that I’ve seen the light…I know the potential that lies in a well-thought-out pasta salad.  Think big…you probably can’t go wrong!  Visiting my husband’s family in Minneapolis, I was treated to D’Amico and Sons, and have been recreating various menu items ever since!

The weather has started to turn truly into spring in most of the country and what better way to welcome it than with a totally cold dish of hearty pasta?

Fun Fact:  Add buttermilk to regular mayonnaise and POOF!  You get ranch dressing.  No, really…nothing additional needed, unless you want it to look like ranch dressing, then you could add some things…ya know…like…herbs.  That’s it.  That’s all.  We were shocked – it tastes just exactly like ranch.  After we got over this fun little piece of info…we got on with the cooking chopping and mixing.

All ingredients in our version are just a guess…so we have chicken, not-all-the-way-sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, bacon and gorgonzola dressing.

I know it looks a little like butter…but it is actually really delicious creamy gorgonzola!  The dressing is simple…a little mayo, buttermilk, crumbled gorgonzola, salt and pepper.

Oh yeah, you’ll also need some pasta of your choice…cooked extra al dente!  Add the various components to the bowl, pour dressing over the top and drizzle.  Be conservative at first with the dressing, each piece should have a nice coating…but not be drowning in dressing.  Mix it up…then add the spinach.

Lastly, scoop onto a plate…and top with your perfectly cooked bacon crumbles!

Enjoy!

Cumin Scented Sweet Potatoes & Wild Rice


We have had an abundance of sweet potatoes this winter.  I’m okay with this.  I love sweet potatoes.

Usually, we poke them with a fork, and throw them in the microwave until they are ‘baked’ and cut a cross in the top, pinch the sides, mush up a bit with a fork and then top with salt, a pat of butter, and maybe some chives or other fresh herbs.  Nothing more is necessary.  I decided to mix things up a bit.

Dice the sweet potato into ½ inch cubes.   A simple way to get an (almost) perfect dice is to start with peeled potatoes, slice them lengthwise, then lay flat to cut strips.  Rotate 90º, and cut into small cubes.

Next, slice up some onions.  Now, usually, I’m a believer in cutting ingredients in a dish into similar sizes – this can be important for cooking times, texturally important and visually important as well.  Except, there are always exceptions.  I sliced the onions (rather than a dice) for all of the same reasons mentioned above.  With such a simple recipe…the difference in texture and variety of size does more for the dish.

Toss it all in a sauté pan with a fat of your choosing (bacon fat, olive oil, butter…it’s up to you) and shake to coat.  You want the sweet potato to brown, and then onion to soften so keep the heat on medium.  If it’s browning too much, but the veggies are not tender, add a little broth or water to help steam and let it evaporate to bring back some of the caramelized goodness!

Season well with salt and pepper.  Now it’s time for the cumin, one of my all time favorite spices.  Sprinkle in up to a teaspoon of ground cumin…the aroma should soon fill your kitchen.  I added a twinge of oregano as well.

In the meantime, or the day before, or whenever.  Cook up some wild rice.  I’m lucky enough to have a Minnesota source for real wild rice…and let me tell you…it is worth the extra effort and the extra cost to find the real, true WILD rice.  The wild rice grain comes from a long-stemmed grass that grows in shallow lake waters or slow-moving streams and was/is typically harvested by Native Americans in canoes by bending the stocks over an open canoe and whacking the grass to knock the grain out.  It can take close to an hour to cook, and if added to a soup will continue to soak up liquid…the next day, you might look in the fridge for leftovers, and be confused when instead you find a thick and hearty stew.  Not to worry, a little stock or milk will thin it right down.  Soaking up liquid isn’t an issue for this dish, but you will want to make sure that you have cooked the rice to your liking.  I like it a little toothy still.

Throw it all in one big bowl together…and mix well.  Make sure to taste for seasoning again…adding all that rice will require some additional salt and pepper, and maybe a bit more cumin.

This was one of many dishes (our contribution to a potluck) that we enjoyed alongside a wild-shot, home-smoked and roasted goose.  Delicious all around!

Bon Appétit!

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