March 2010 Archives

Potato-Leek Soup

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Jacques Pepin is one of my favorite tv chefs. His joie de vivre and quintessential French-ness make him a joy to watch in the kitchen.

In addition, his book The Apprentice is one of my favorite food memoirs. It recounts his education as a classically-trained chef through apprenticeship at a hotel, de rigeur for the time (1940's) in France, and is filled with much love for food, cooking, and recipes.

He waxes on about his love for simple dishes, like potato-leek soup with only five ingredients. Leeks are a very common ingredient in country French cooking, though I had never cooked with them. Last week, we had our last cold & rainy day of the winter, so it was a perfect time for me to debut Pepin's soup.

It is a white pureed soup, so it's not flashy. But the flavor! Something magical happens between the salt, leeks, and potatoes. Something that doesn't seem possible with its humble origins. Only because I made the soup myself did I believe that it didn't contain any cream (as many versions of this soup do) because of its silkiness. This became an instant classic for me. I'm just bummed that hearty-soup weather has just ended, but I know what I'll be spooning up come October.

Potato-Leek Soup

1 tablespoon butter
2 medium leeks, washed, split down the middle, and chopped (whites only)
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
3 cups water
salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

  1. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and saute leeks until soft but not browned.
  2. Add potatoes, water, and salt & pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
  4. Puree in a food processor until smooth.

Irish Soda Bread for St Patrick's Day

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It's beginning to dawn on me that maybe what I really wanted all along was a food blog. It's more convenient to have all my favorite recipes in one place, and that place seems to be frugalculture.org!

Here's a recipe for Irish Soda Bread from my Irish mother-in-law, who's a lovely lassie complete with red hair. Doesn't that sound so old-fashioned? The stereotypical housewife asking her mother-in-law for family recipes to cook for her husband. And boy am I glad I did! It's delicious and practically foolproof.

This is my go-to recipe for Irish Soda Bread, and makes one large loaf that fills a large bundt pan (which said mother-in-law gave me for Christmas one year) or two smaller ones.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 cups buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon vinegar with each cup of regular/soy milk)
2 eggs
½ cup butter (or 1 stick)
"fistful" of caraway seeds and raisins (that's exactly how she said it)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl
  3. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk & eggs
  4. Melt butter and add to buttermilk & egg mixture
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, along with caraway seeds & raisins. Stir with a light touch, trying to avoid overmixing. The batter will be lumpy, which is exactly how it should be.
  6. Bake in a greased bundt pan for 40 minutes or divide in half and shape into roundish loaves and place on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes.

    P.S. I've heard that it makes a nice base for French toast, too.

Spinach Salad with All the Fixings

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I had to come out of "blog retirement" with a shout-out to my favorite salad of all time. I'm more of a sauteed-greens-with-garlic kinda girl, but when a friend mentioned making spinach salad with feta, a faint but happy memory of this lovely salad came back to me.

It's gorgeous (lotsa colors), delicious, nutritious, and easy to make. And if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that's my recipe triumvirate, my foodie trinity. There's a lovely interplay between the saltiness of the cheese and sweetness of the orange slices, the snap of the onion and pillow-soft cheese. It's got everything.

Spinach Salad

Baby spinach, washed
Red onion, sliced thinly
Feta or cotija cheese, crumbled
Canned mandarin orange slices in light syrup

Combine & toss all the ingredients. Really, there isn't much more to say. Oh, if you want to eat this as a main course, add slices of hard-boiled eggs. And if you're a carnivore, crumbled bacon on top is almost gilding the lily.

Guess what I'm eating for dinner tonight?