I Am What I Ham

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Meet "Spootch."

Meet “Spootch.”

Holiday Greetings from Florida. Over here to the left is my new friend, “Spootch,” that I found at the Coconut Point Art Festival (along with those nifty chopsticks made by the same artist). This was my favorite booth and purchase from the show and I’m super excited to put my Spootch to use in the home kitchen upon my return.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re about to head down to the beach so this will be a quick post.  I am not a big ham person but we had it for Christmas dinner. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I bought ham from the deli since it gets so slimy. However, I do enjoy a nice cooked ham, and particularly because I know what to do with the leftovers. In addition to making lovely breakfast sammies, you can totally make the best split pea soup ever. So I took over the kitchen to make this:

Lady Sensory’s Don’t Pea on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining Soup

See what I did there? I love me some quality Judge Judy quotes. You will need:

1 16 oz bag of dried split peas

7 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (This is a lot of garlic, but it tastes delicious. So if you aren’t cool with that, reduce to your desired level.)

1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped

About 6 ribs of celery, finely chopped

3/4 bag of baby carrots, chopped

1 ham bone (used the leftover Christmas ham, but you can get one from a butcher)

1 – 1 1/2 cups cooked ham, cut into bite size chunks (again, Christmas leftovers)

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cracked black pepper, to taste*

6-8 cups of water

1-2 tbsp olive oil

*You can add salt if you like but there was more than enough in the ham and the bone so I did not add any.

Split Pea Soup

As I mentioned, this was a kitchen takeover. I think the pot I used was roughly 4-5 quarts (it’s similar in size to my 4.5 pot). So, warm the olive oil in a heavy stock pot or fancy pot over low heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic and continue to cook until slightly golden (another 5 minutes). Add the celery and carrots and com for about 5 more minutes and then add all of your dried herbs: the bay leaves, crushed red pepper, black pepper and Herbes de Provence and cook for about a minute or two. Now add the ham bone and dried split peas (you don’t have to soak them) and cook for a minute or two. Raise the heat to high and begin to add the water, 1 cup at a time, until bone is submerged and water is about an inch and a half from the top of the pot (so it doesn’t overflow). Add the chopped ham and cook until boiling. Skim foam and fat off the top (this is a personal preference and it won’t compromise the flavor). Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hr – 1.5 hrs (until peas have softened and soup has thickened). Serve and enjoy with a nice crusty baguette or roll and some dry white wine. We enjoyed trying three different kinds while waiting for the soup to cook – an Italian dry white blend, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre. Oops!

May your New Year’s Eve be fun, safe, and filled with similar wine indiscretions!

Date Night?

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Apparently, today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic is “Date Night.” Do you feel like Sigmund Freud yet? I think I’m about to sit on your couch and talk to you about why I don’t have a date this weekend. Can’t we just exercise some wish-fulfillment and alleviate some oral fixation by filling our mouths with delicious comfort food?

I actually planned a hot date with my Le Creuset. I know what you are going to say. Despite the fact that our torrid relationship has caused me a burned arm, a broken foot, and smashed toe, I’m taking responsibility for my kitchen antics. This well-built French mofo knows how to treat a girl right. 

Lady Sensory’s Shut Up and Eat Your Feelings Dreamy Potato Leek Soup:

I had to do a little research for this one and I decided to take elements that I liked to create my own version. This soup is a bit fussy but it’s totally worth it. I like to think of it as a blind date that went much better than I initially imagined. If you want to make it vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable stock or water to replace the chicken stock.

2.5 lbs of potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks (I used a mix of red and white boiler potatoes)

3 extra medium-sized potatoes (this is optional – see below)

5 leeks, green and white parts sliced into 1/4″ pieces

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

2 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

1 tsp each of salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence (you may need additional salt and pepper toward the end of the soup preparation)

1/2 cup dry white wine

8 cups chicken stock (I used a mix of stock and broth, which is fine)

1 bay leaf

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 cup of heavy cream

2/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup chives, finely chopped

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (bonus – add the cheese rind to the soup if you have it handy)

Plain Greek yogurt, also for serving (you can use crème fraîche or sour cream if you like)

I'm not showing this to gross you out, this is how the pan looks before you deglaze it.

I’m not showing this to gross you out. This is how the pan looks before you deglaze it.

Start by preparing your leeks and potatoes and preheating oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I actually washed the potatoes in the dishwasher (no soap) on the top shelf and it worked really well! Warm a large (6-7 qt) fancy pot on the stove at medium-low temperature (Le Creuset, or any heavy cast iron pot that can easily transfer from stovetop to oven). Add the olive oil and butter, then add the garlic. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the chopped leeks and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the leeks turn bright green and start to soften. Add the potato chunks, raise the temperature slightly and cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Transfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven and roast the potatoes and leeks for about 45 minutes, stirring at 10-15 minute intervals. While they are cooking, boil the 3 remaining unpeeled potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water. This part is optional and only to add a bit of chunky texture to the soup. Drain when tender and set aside. During the last 15 minutes of cooking the potato/leek mixture in the oven, add the Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and stir. The reason behind the delayed seasoning is that salt causes the vegetables to release moisture. The goal is to get the veggies to brown on the bottom of the pot for added flavor, so you want to have very little moisture until the end. When the 45 minutes are up, remove the pot and place on the stove top. Transfer the cooked potatoes and leeks to a separate bowl and warm the pot on medium-low heat. Add the 1/2 cup of wine and start deglazing the pan by stirring with a rubber spatula. Add the stock, a little at a time, stirring until all 8 cups are incorporated. Begin to pulse the potatoes and stock together in a food processor in small batches (or use an immersion blender) until smooth and transfer back to the large pot on the stove. Add the bay leaf and cheese rind (if you have it, seriously – don’t stress out if you don’t have the rind). Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Zest and juice the lemon and add that and the cup of heavy cream and stir until incorporated. At this time, peel the 3 cooked potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks, and add to the soup. Combine the parsley and chives in a small bowl or ramekin. Turn off the heat and sprinkle half of that mixture into the soup and reserve the rest of the herbs for garnish. Pour soup into a bowl and finish with a little grated Parmesan, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkle of herbs. This batch makes hearty servings for about 8-10 people. Now savor this rich deliciousness with the knowledge that this could be the start of something very special.

Frankie Goes to Rubino’s

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SoupToday’s Blog Every Day in November topic is about relaxation. This is probably not too different than the post I wrote about National Stress Awareness Day. So we have a choice, dear readers. I’m either going to post the lyrics to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s song, Relax, or I’m going to crack a Southern Tier 2XMAS beer and cook something for you. Cookin’ and sippin’ is how Lady Sensory likes maxin’ and relaxin’.

Well, you’re in luck. I’ve chosen the latter and that’s thanks to today’s little jaunt to a local Italian grocer, Rubino’s. I rolled up to grab some amaretti cookies because Wegmans isn’t stocking them anymore (tsk-tsk, Danny!) and I plan on making this in a few weeks for Friendsgiving. Upon my arrival, I saw a big sign that said, “Fresh Sausage Made Daily.” Being from the Syracuse area, I’m kind of a Gianelli sausage snob but since they make it fresh daily I said to myself, “What the heck? Try something new.” I went with the standard mild fennel (they have a plethora of sausage flavors) and contemplated making sauce. I then decided that I didn’t need to get involved with meatballs, a food processor, and clothing stain nonsense, so I made a sausage soup. I’m happy to report that the sausage is just as tasty as my standard sweet Gianelli. Additionally, I managed to spend only $10 at the store and walked away with a pound of sausage, 2 packages of amaretti and a loaf of bread. It pays to support local small businesses.

I’m not a huge meat-eater, but every now and then I crave some. I could probably use some protein because I’m sure my ‘unenjoyment diet’ of PBJ, coffee, random veggies, and wine is probably not doing me any favors in the nutrition department. With a gentle nod to the beans and greens which incapacitated me this past summer, I came up with this one.

Lady Sensory’s Is That A Sausage In Your Pants Or Are You Just Happy To See Me Hearty Winter Soup:

1 lb of Italian sausage, casing removed and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used mild fennel, also dubbed sweet, but use whatever sausage variety your little heart desires.)

6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (As a side note, check out this tip that helps you peel your garlic super fast. I tried it and it totally worked!)

1 large onion, finely diced

1 cup of celery, finely chopped

1 cup of chopped carrots

2 15.5 oz. cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice (not drained)

1 small bunch (2-3 cups) of Tuscan kale, rinsed well and chopped into bite size pieces (you can also use any variety of kale, spinach, or escarole)

2 tsp. dried basil

3 qts of chicken stock or broth (I did one qt chicken stock and 2 qts chicken broth)

1.5 cup dried pasta (I used ditalini, which are short tubes that are perfect for soup)

2 bay leaves

Salt & pepper, to taste

2 tbsp olive oil (I used a basil-infused version from F.Oliver’s)

Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Brown the sausage in a cast iron skillet on the stove or in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (your choice). Remove sausage and set aside in a bowl lined with paper towel.  Conserve the sausage grease if you wish to cook your soup veggies in that, but I opted to cook my soup veggies in olive oil because I’d rather cook some turkey cutlets in the sausage pan for some added flavor. In a large fancy pot, warm your olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, then the garlic, and sauté until golden. Follow with celery, then carrots, and cook for about five more minutes. Add the dried basil, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Then add the beans, sausage, and tomatoes. Simmer for a bit (3-4 minutes) and then add your chicken stock or broth. At this point I’d like to make a comment about the Wegmans brand cannellini beans. I found 3 black-eyed peas in one of my cans. Seriously, Wegmans? That’s like bringing Fergie to a party with the cast of The Godfather. No. Just no. Sort that shit out, dude.

Pic of Fergie Ferg on Wikipedia Commons

Pic of Fergie Ferg on Wikipedia Commons

Bring mixture to a boil and skim the foamy stuff off the top. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil (feel free to add a bit of salt, if you wish) and cook the 1.5 cup of pasta to al dente texture (cooked with a bit of bite to it). Drain pasta and add to the soup and then add the kale and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Kale should wilt and pasta will expand a little.  Serve immediately with some nice bread or a crusty roll and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  This makes about 8 decent sized servings.

Don’t think about the fat content here. Just enjoy. When it comes to sausage, go big or go home. You’ll be so glad you did.