Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Soup of the Union

Even with the state of the union, the souperstars still made time for soup. This week Kaitlin hosted soup night. She put together a great fruit inspired menu, with pomegranate, apricots, and blood oranges. I don’t know about you, but when I hear pomegranates, I always think of the Greek myth of Persephone, how eating pomegranate seeds sealed her fate as queen of the Underworld, and also explains the turning of the seasons. I wish the seasons would turn a little faster. Chicago has been brutal.

Kale and Pomegranate Pasta with Pistachio Pesto
Armenian Apricot Lentil Soup
Blood Orange Tart

Kale and Pomegranate Pasta with Pistachio Pesto
Serves 4
*adapted from 101 cookbooks
8 oz. whole grain linguine
2/3 cup pistachios, toasted

1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large bunch of kale, washed, de-stemmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
 (Save a couple large kale leaves to garnish your serving platter)
1 pomegranate, just the seeds

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you are waiting, break the pasta into 1 1/2-inch segments and make the pistachio sauce by pureeing 1/3 cup of the pistachios, garlic, salt and olive oil with a food processor. Set aside.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously and cook the pasta per package instructions - be careful not to overcook. At the very last second, add the kale to the pot of boiling water, and IMMEDIATELY drain the pot. You don't want to overcook the kale to the point that it is listless. Run cold water over the pasta and kale, using your hand to work the cold water through the kale and pasta. Toss gently with a spoonful of the pistachio sauce and now spin the pasta and kale dry in a salad spinner to toss off any remaining water.

Just before serving, toss the pasta with a big spoonful of the pistachio sauce and 1/2 of the pomegranate seeds, taste and add a bit of salt if needed. Turn the pasta out onto a platter lined with a couple kale leaves (optional), and sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds and pistachios on top. Finish with another drizzle of the pistachio sauce if you like.

Armenian Apricot Lentil Soup
Serves 8-10
*adapted from 101 cookbooks
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, diced

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 tbs ground cumin

3 cups red lentils, rinsed

10 cups water

12 oz. dried apricots, chopped


Heat the oil in your soup pot over medium heat, then stir in the onions and carrots. Sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and stir well. Decrease the heat, cover, and let the vegetables sweat for ten minutes.

Add the lentils and pour in enough of the water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook for twenty minutes, or until the lentils and carrots are tender. Add more of the water as needed as the lentils soften and expand.

Remove from the heat, stir in the apricots and any remaining water, and season with salt. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Take care not to over salt this soup. The right amount will bring out the flavor of the apricots but leave the onions in the background. Garnish with almond slices. Serve hot.

Blood Orange Tart

*adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/4 cup plus
2 tbs granulated sugar

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick plus 1 tbs unsalted butter, the stick cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

3 tbs ice water

8 to 10 blood oranges (about 5 oz each) [I only needed 7]

1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 tbs of water

Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce, for serving (recipe below)

In a food processor, pulse the 1 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the baking powder and salt. Add the stick of cold butter and pulse several times, just until it is the size of peas. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and pulse just until moistened crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto a work surface, knead once or twice and pat the pastry into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to an 11-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper–lined flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chilled.

Meanwhile, peel the blood oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise; remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, releasing the sections into the sieve. Remove the pits and gently shake out as much juice as possible without mashing the sections; you will need 1 cup of sections. Reserve the orange juice for another use.

Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the oranges. Using a paring knife, thinly slice the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-inch border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the tart directly from the freezer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is deeply browned. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the tart cool for 30 minutes. Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the rack and let the tart cool completely. Serve with the Deep Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce (below).

Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce 
Makes about 1 1/3 cups of dessert sauce

1 cup sugar

6 tbs salted butter
1/2 cup plus two tbs heavy cream, at room temperature

Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a larger pot than you think you’ll need–at least two or three quarts, whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in, before turning off the stove and pour in the heavy cream (The sauce will foam up quite a bit when you add it; this is why you want the larger pot.), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce.

You use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. Serve over everything.

Beer and Wine served

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