Sunday, January 26, 2014

Winter Paradise Butternut Squash Soup

We're in the midst of another polar vortex here in the Midwest and I am feeling compelled to make big pots of soup!   I find making soup warms the soul as much as eating it warms the body.  It's a gratifying process that I have always loved and on this snowy day I welcomed the opportunity!

Eric, my fiancé, had roasted and then froze some butternut squash back in November, so I pulled that out to thaw and began to think about what flavor profile I wanted to take my soup.  I decided exotic would be nice- thoughts of warm sandy beaches and palm trees flashing through my mind. So, coconut milk was going to be a player, and some exotic spices as well.

I took a quick inventory of spices I had on-hand, grabbed my mortar and pestle and started to add cardamom seeds, star anise, whole cloves, whole cinnamon bark (stick), Himalayan sea salt and grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta- a species in the ginger family from West Africa, where the peppery seeds grow on a leafy plant and are easily harvested) and ground this mixture into a fragrant powder that perfumed the whole kitchen.  I then added freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of all spice.  Man was this tasty!  My tongue danced in delight when I tried a tiny bit and I knew I had a winning match to go with the buttery flavor of the squash and the richness of the coconut milk.

I made this soup vegetarian, using vegetable stock, but you could certainly use chicken stock if you prefer.  While I do like to make my own, I also keep ready to use stocks and bouillon cubes in my pantry.  Working 70-80 hrs a week at our gluten-free bakery isn't always conducive to having the time to keep homemade stocks on hand!  For this soup I used a vegan bouillon cube from Rapunzel, an all natural product from Switzerland that I get at my local health food co-op. 

Here is the recipe for my Paradise Spice Blend first.  It made about 2-3 tsp which is enough for the soup recipe, but you could easily double or triple it, to have some to keep in an airtight container for another use (I think it would be excellent as a rub for roasted chicken, but I'd love to hear how you would use it!)

Paradise Spice Blend (makes about 2-3 tsp)

Seeds from 4 Cardamom Pods
1 "petal" from a Star Anise "flower"
2 whole Cloves
1/8 tsp Grains of Paradise
1" pc Stick Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Himalayan Coarse Sea Salt
1/8 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
pinch All Spice

1.  Place first 6 ingredients in a mortar & pestle and crush and grind it to a smooth powder.
2.  Transfer to a small bowl and add last 2 ingredients and set aside until ready to use.

One note before we proceed:  Roast your squash in advance so that you're not waiting on it when you want to make your soup! You can keep it in your fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

Now for the soup:

Winter Paradise Butternut Squash Soup (makes about 3 quarts)

2 c Onions, chopped (about 2 medium onions)
3 lg cloves Garlic, minced
1T Coconut Oil (or Olive Oil, but I love the amazing taste, versatility and health benefits of coconut)
6 cups Butternut Squash, roasted, peeled and rough-chopped ( about 2 avg. sized)
1 Apple, peeled, cored and chopped (I love Pink Lady)
2 tsp Paradise Spice Blend (recipe above)
2 c Vegetable Stock (or Chicken stock, if you prefer)
2-3 c Water
1/2 Lemon, juiced
Sea Salt, to taste
1/8-1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper 
1- 14-15oz can Coconut Milk (full fat preferably)

1.  Heat a large soup pot (at least 4 qt capacity) over medium-high and add coconut oil 
2.   Add onions and garlic and sautée until tender ( about 7-8 min).  Season with salt to your taste.

3.  Add the squash and apple and cook, stirring often, until bubbling.  Add 1 tsp of Paradise Spice Blend and stir to incorporate.

4.  Add stock and 2 cups of the water and return to boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then use a stick blender and purée the soup until completely smooth (or transfer to a blender and purée in batches and return to the pot).

5.  Add the lemon juice, the remaining Spice Blend, cayenne and more salt, if needed.
6.  Pour the coconut milk into a small bowl and use a scraper to get all the good stuff out of the can. Use a whisk to blend the coconut fat back into the thinner liquid to reincorporate it into a smooth, creamy milk, then whisk into the soup until well blended.

7.  Increase the temperature to bring the soup back to a boil.  Add more water if it's too thick for your desired consistency and adjust seasoning again with more salt if needed.
8.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Cinnamon if you prefer.  Serve immediately and let the remaining portion chill, then properly store until ready to use or freeze.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hubert's Polish Kitchen

So it was a dreary cold day in Columbus, Ohio and the wife and I are looking for someplace to have lunch. After pitching ideas back and forth for about an hour we decide that we can't decide. When this happens we head to the North Market...many many choices ...after doing a couple of laps around the market (bypassing my usual choice Kitchen Little and the incredible duck cassoulet) we stopped at Hubert's Polish Kitchen. What drew us to that stand was pure comfort factor...mashed potatoes, cabbage rolls, kielbasa made my Falters meats, pierogis, dumplings, and on and on ...This was the stuff my grandmothers cooked..we called it country cooking...I just didn't know what country..Who Knew? I do now and the answer is Hubert's. Don't get me wrong...this food is heavy and substanstial...maybe not the answer for everyday, but the exact correct answer for a cold, dreary winter's day...Info at Hubert's Polish Kitchen webpage

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Coop....Cliffside and Indianola....Clintonville

                Simple elegant food, prepared with high quality locally sourced as possible ingredients, prepared with technique and out this hidden gem in Clintonville. 2701 Indianola is the address and an old fair trailer is the venue, but what this truck lacks in glam and glitter is more than compensated by skill and solid technique. The food is inventive yet very familiar and comfortable. The Menu board is straight forward as to the offerings. If you need suggestions, just ask Angie and co. are very helpful. On this day I started with a pickled egg, southern style pickled in dill, tarragon and vinegar. My wife had the Winter Caesar salad...a beautiful little salad with baby kale, fennel, shaved Parmesan, croutons, anchovies and a surprise...a fried egg, soft yolk of course. I had the bison burger fried in duck fat, topped with bacon, fried egg and arugula...friends had told me about this burger and how great it was. I was a skeptic...I would find out for myself, I came, I saw, I conquered. This sandwich is a commitment. When the sandwich came to the window it was love at first sight, I took my photos and then dove in...I can't imagine the noises I must have been making, but my wife asked if I needed some privacy....yeah it is that good...absolute magic. The Coop is on facebook( The Coop's facebook site) with hours, telephone etc, cash, credit cards accepted...they have a website, but not very functional..I will be back...there is a confit duck leg with sweet potato hash with my name on it ...and oh yeah they have Vacuum drip coffee and Mexican Coke...the real deal...real cane sugar in glass bottles, not the high fructose corn syrup US version. Angie and co. you have done a nice job here keep it up...
Winter Caesar Salad

Bison Burger at first bite
The Coop

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Piada Italian Street Food.....Columbus, Ohio

Busy, beautiful open kitchen

my lunch...salad bowl with grilled salmon and wedding soup
Your guides in the process

Window logo at Easton

  Piada Italian street food is like Chipotle meets Italian food, ingredients and preparations. Beautiful open kitchen, efficient cooks, the freshest ingredients and comfortable tables make for a unique and lively dining expierence. Your first time ordering will be overwhelming, but don't worry well informed efficient cooks guide you through the process. Piada is a Columbus, Ohio home grown affair, but not for long I would say. A solid concept that is spreading rapidly throughout central Ohio. If you are looking for something a little different in your dining choice you will not be dissappointed. The combinations are endless and menu fatigue is not likely to occur. For more information go to . The website does a great job explaining what Piada is, interesting take out options, locations and such..Enjoy

Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mi Li Cafe...Columbus, Ohio

Pho combo...beef, pork, tripe and meatball
Family Run
Mi Li cafe in Columbus, Plaza
Columbus, Ohio
Mission: quest for the perfect Pho
Mission accomplished

Bright airy interior

Pho herbs and toppings

Beef Noodle Bowl
Pork Crepes

Pork skin summer rolls

Each dish had a unique sauce

Cat loving it

Slurping good Pho
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rack of Pork.......with walnuts, orange and rosemary

This recipe was made at the Celebrated Chefs Alumni Summit in Chicago by my class of Celebrated Chefs, Chef Michael Foley, Rhys Lewis, Charles Wiley, Suzette Gresham - Tognetti and myself. It was a true honor to be picked by the pork industry to represent them and there growers. I serve center of the plate pork entrees in all of my restaurants and utilize pork in every means possible. Pork lends itself to so many different types of preparations the possibilities are endless. That was a great competition, lots of fun and it was great to see all the amazingly talented Chefs assembled in one place....
This recipe is delicious and very simple to prepare, perfect for this time of year as well.  Enjoy............

1 tbsp vegetable oil
Ground white pepper
2 tbsp dried rosemary
1 cup whole walnuts
½ tsp garlic powder
1 egg
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves minced garlic

To prepare the racks of pork: Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over high heat. Season the racks of pork with salt and pepper (I use fresh ground sea salt and ground white pepper). Sear the racks on all sides until nicely browned. Remove racks to a platter and allow to cool enough to handle. At this point preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To make the walnut crust: Put dried rosemary into a food processor and pulse several times to grind, If you don’t do this the rosemary pieces will be too large. Add walnuts, ¼ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of white pepper, and garlic powder. Pulse several times until mixture is the consistency of bread crumbs. Pour mixture onto a large dinner plate or a platter.

To make the mustard mixture: In a dish combine the egg, mustard and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Mix well with a fork until egg and mustard are completely incorporated.

To coat the racks of pork: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Once the racks are cool enough to handle, place 1 rack in the mustard mixture and coat all sides. Next place the coated rack into the walnut mixture and coat well. Using your hand press the walnut mixture firmly onto the coated rack. Transfer rack to the baking sheet. Repeat steps for each rack. You can make the recipe to this point and place in refrigerator until ready to cook.

To cook: Place the racks of pork into the oven and roast for 30 minutes for medium well. I use a temperature probe in one of the racks, and remove meat from oven when it registers between 150 to 155 degrees F. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hamburger Aficionado ! Tabbuli Grill is the place to get one!

OK, there are hamburgers...... and then there are Hamburgers! Well I found a great one at Tabbuli Grill.
Big, Juicy, seasoned perfectly and cooked to perfection.
First they take chuck and grind it, then they take all the trim from the prime rib the cut for there Kabobs and grind that. Then they mix the two and run it through one more grind to get the perfect texture. They hand patty the burgers into half pound giants and let then chill.
OK, now for the cooking part. They season the burger properly with a generous amount of salt and pepper and start the cooking process on the flattop griddle. This sears the burger and gives it the that nice brown crispy crust we all like and when its close to the cooking temperature you want it is transferred to the charbroiler just to finish cooking it and to give it the hint of that char flavor only a grill can give. It is remove from the grill and served on a toasted corn meal dusted kaiser roll with all the trimmings, lettuce tomato and onion. I don't get cheese on mine because I don't want to infringe on the flavor of the beef.
Next, the french fries! If you want a truly great french fry as well then get ready because they have them too!
French fries if you are cooking them from scratch is an art form in itself. First you start with an Idaho potato, they use a 60 count which is a big potato. It is run through a potato slicer so every fry has the same thickness. They are soaked in a bucket of water with a little vinegar overnight and then drained. Then they are blanched in hot oil for about 2-3 minutes, just to soften them and then they are cooled completely. Now when you place your order for you burger those cold, blanched fries are dropped in the fryer again and fried until golden and crispy. They come right out of the fryer into a bowl where they are seasoned immediately and serve to you at once! Ummmmm......I can taste them now... So my friends, that is how you cook a great burger and fries. So instead of going through all that trouble, come on down to Tabbuli Grill at 6 North Market Street and see for yourself. You will be glad you did...........