Spring Chicken Soup

9 06 2011

Lemon and dill brighten a soup packed with chicken and spring vegetables

Soups are perfect for showcasing the best of each season, from asparagus in the spring to cabbage in the fall and winter. Packed with spring vegetables, this particular recipe is light and summery, making it ideal for warmer weather. A bit of lemon and fresh dill brighten it up and give it a bit of zip.

Some Helpful Tips: Dill is best when it’s fresh (vs. cooked) so add it at the very end of cooking. Don’t use dried dill – it doesn’t have much flavour. Use fresh lemon juice and always zest a lemon whole, before cutting it open to juice it.

This soup is delicious served with fresh Cheddar-Herb Biscuits or Cheddar Toasts (or just some plain bread if you’d rather not fuss!)

Spring Chicken Soup

Makes about 9 to 10 cups

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 X 12 oz. (350 grams) chicken breasts or thighs/legs, bone in and skin on
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium leeks, chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 large spring onions (or 1 small regular onion), chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (you could also you a couple of garlic scapes, chopped finely)
  • The zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 lb. (450 grams) thick asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 12 oz. (350 grams) baby red potatoes (about 2 cups), cut into quarters
  • 6 cups good quality chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (or more, to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Pat the skin of the chicken dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. In a large stockpot or enameled cast iron pot (5.5 quart or larger), heat the olive oil on medium-high.  Add the chicken pieces and brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  2. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. Add the carrots, leeks, celery, onions and garlic to the pot. Sauté until just beginning to soften, about three minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and thyme and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the asparagus pieces and potatoes. Pour in the chicken stock. Return the browned chicken pieces to the pot and make sure they are submerged in the stock.
  4. Cover the pot and simmer gently on medium heat for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the chicken pieces from the soup. Remove the skin and discard. Using a fork, pull the meat off the bones. Chop it into small pieces and return the chicken to the soup, discarding the bones.
  5. Add the lemon juice,dill and chives and simmer the soup for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with more fresh dill and chives if desired.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!
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Farmers’ Market Report – June 5th, 2011

5 06 2011

The first day of the 2011 East Lynn Farmers' Market, Toronto

The farmers’ markets are underway for another year! Last week marked the launch of weekly farmers’ markets in Toronto. While there are a handful of markets that run through the year, the pickings tend to be slim between December and April. Now that there is locally-grown produce available, we can enjoy getting it straight from the farmers for the next five months or so. For a list of Ontario markets, check out Farmers’ Markets Ontario. (If you live elsewhere, a quick google search should point you in the right direction).

There isn’t a whole lot available right now but things should pick up considerably in about a month. Here were some of the highlights of this week’s markets:

Asparagus

Asparagus at its peak

It’s June and that means asparagus is at its peak! It seems to be a very good year for asparagus – the spears have been sweet and flavourful. The tables at the market Saturday morning were piled high with bundles of asparagus of various thickness (I prefer thicker ones but many people enjoy the delicate thin spears). It’s extremely versatile and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I whipped up a simple egg white omelet for lunch the other day and threw in some steamed spears (see Asparagus 101 for cooking tips). I added some chopped ham, finely diced onion, chopped chives and a tiny bit of cheddar cheese. Served with a simple green salad, it was the perfect spring lunch. Eggs pair very well with asparagus: try a Crustless Asparagus Quiche. It can be dressed up with a bit of ham, cooked crab or lobster, your favourite herbs, different cheeses (swiss is nice) or diced red peppers.

A simple egg white omelet filled with steamed asparagus, fat-free ham, diced onions, chives and a bit of cheese is easy, nutritious and delicious.

Strawberries

Ontario strawberries are finally in season!

I was excited to finally see strawberries at the market. They are a little bit late this year, likely because of the cool, damp weather we had for most of May. The few I tried were on the tart side but still had more flavour than imported berries. As the weather warms up, hopefully the berries in coming weeks will be a little sweeter. For breakfast, I like to add a few sliced strawberries to my cereal. If you’re feeling a little more decadent in the morning, Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce are sure to be a hit.

Rhubarb

There was no shortage of rhubarb at the markets this week. It’s a bit of an acquired taste (I know quite a few people who don’t care for it) but properly sweetened, it can be quite refreshing. Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote is a great make-ahead dessert for a spring meal. Or start your evening off with a rhubarb-based cocktail such as a Springtime Kir or a Rhubarb Refresher.

Onions and Herbs

There were a few fresh herbs available this week, including mint which pairs beautifully with strawberries in Strawberry Mojitos. I also saw garlic scapes and picked up a few baby onions. Chives are also starting to blossom (in my herb pot – I didn’t see any at the market) and are delicious in stir-fries or coated in a tempura batter and fried: Chive Tempura Blossoms.

Chive blossoms: pretty and edible!

Bon Appétit and Happy Marketing!

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Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote

30 05 2011

Rhubarb at the market

The first local fruit to hit the markets where I live is rhubarb. After a long winter of apples, apples and more apples, it’s refreshing to see something new. Rhubarb is remarkably versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. In desserts, it pairs very well with ginger, vanilla and of course, strawberrries.

Cheesecake is always a popular dessert and is a great choice for entertaining because it can be made in advance. It’s also surprisingly easy; don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe, it’s very simple if you take it step-by-step. Be sure to use a springform pan so you can easily remove and cut the finished cake.

Once strawberries come into season, you can always add a few to the rhubarb compote (a compote is basically a sweetened fruit sauce). Try a ratio of half strawberries and half rhubarb and sweeten to taste.  The cheesecake base is pretty neutral so you can top with other favourite fruit sauces if desired.

Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote

Makes one 9″ cheesecake

Crust:

  • 5 oz. (140 g) gingersnap cookies (hard ones, not chewy ginger cookies) – will yield about 1-1/2 cups of crumbs
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor*, pulse the gingersnaps until they become fine crumbs. (*if you don’t have a food processor, place the cookies in a sturdy bag and crush until fine with a rolling pin or wine bottle). You should have about 1-1/2 cups of crumbs. Place the crumbs into a medium bowl.
  3. Melt the butter (it can be done in the microwave in about 45 to 60 seconds). Pour into the gingersnap crumbs and stir until the crumbs are completely coated.
  4. Press the crumb-butter mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, making sure it’s in an even layer.
  5. Bake the crust for five minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while preparing the cream cheese filling.

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 3 X 8 oz. (250 grams) packages of cream cheese (regular, not low-fat), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (regular, not low-fat)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • The seeds from one vanilla bean (split the bean in half lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape out the tiny seeds. Discard the empty pod)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  1. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds and salt until smooth.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  2. Turn the beater speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Mix until smooth. Tip: Crack the eggs, one at a time, into a separate bowl before adding to the batter to ensure no shell pieces get into the filing.
  3. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Bake the cheesecake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until just set in the centre, about 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool slightly. Refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.
  5. To serve: Top with rhubarb compote (see recipe, below). Run a knife between the pan and the edge of the cake to loosen it before unhinging the springform pan.

Rhubarb-Ginger Compote:

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1-1/2 lbs. (24 oz. / 680 grams) rhubarb (before leaves and roots are trimmed), will yield about 4 cups of rhubarb once trimmed and cut up
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or more/less, to taste)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  1. Trim any leaves and root ends from the rhubarb and discard. Chop the stalks into 1/2″ chunks.
  2. Place the rhubarb pieces into a medium saucepan. Add the water and bring to a gentle simmer on medium heat.
  3. Cook until the fruit begins to soften, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, ginger and vanilla. Stir to combine and continue to simmer until the rhubarb is completely soft. Use a large spoon or potato masher to crush the fruit.
  4. In a cup, add the cornstarch and water and mix well until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the rhubarb mixture and turn heat to medium-high.
  5. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the butter until melted. Remove from the heat and let the compote cool completely before using. Extra sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days.
  6. To finish the cheesecake: Spoon the cooled rhubarb compote over the cheesecake, spreading it in an even layer. Serve extra sauce on the side.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Vanilla cheesecake with rhubarb-ginger compote and a gingersnap crust

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Sour Cream and Chive Noodles

11 04 2011

Chives are easy to grow in a pot and require little maintenance

The first green item of spring has arrived: Chives!  The oniony herb is usually the first thing to appear in my herb garden each spring after a very long winter so I think it’s worth celebrating with a new recipe.

This simple pasta dish only takes minutes to put together and makes a great side dish for chicken or beef. Think of this dish as an alternative to a baked potato with sour cream and chives.

Sour Cream and Chive Noodles

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 8 oz. (227 grams) dry egg noodles (equals about 4 cups of dry noodles)
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock or milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Cook the noodles according to package directions (usually 5 to 6 minutes for al dente noodles).  Drain the water once cooked and return the noodles to the pot.
  2. Add the butter and stir until melted.  Pour in the chicken or vegetable stock (or milk) and add the sour cream and dijon.  Add the chives and stir until the noodles are thoroughly coated.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with additional chopped chives and serve immediately.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

For more great ideas using chives, check out the Chive Archives.

Sour Cream and Chive Noodles make an easy and delicious side dish

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Curried Parsnip Soup

22 03 2011

Parsnips are often overlooked but they are surprisingly delicious and versatile

We have finally welcomed spring after a long winter. Unfortunately, in many areas, there will not be a lot of new local produce available for at least six to eight more weeks.  However, there is an overlooked vegetable that is usually the first crop harvested each spring (sort of): Parsnips!

Parsnips are root vegetables that look like white carrots, although they taste a bit nuttier and sweeter.  In Ontario, parsnips are typically planted in the spring.  While most of crop is harvested in the fall and stored for the winter (much like potatoes and carrots), some parsnips are left in the ground through the winter and harvested in March and April. As a result, parsnips are considered both a winter and spring vegetable.  They are also delicious but sadly under appreciated. They can be used in soups, stews, dips and pasta sauces.

This soup is the perfect antidote to grey March days.  It’s hearty and warming and can be dressed up with the addition of seafood or shredded duck confit (the original recipe called for mussels but the soup is delicious without them). Be sure to use vegetable stock and skip the garnishes if serving vegetarians.

Curried Parsnip Soup

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. (454 grams) medium sized parsnips, peeled and cut into rounds 1/8” thick (equals about 8 parsnips)
  • 1 medium tart apple (such as a Granny Smith), peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (preferably low-sodium)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Items to garnish (optional) – shredded duck confit, steamed mussels or sautéed scallops
  1. In an enameled cast iron pot or medium stockpot, heat butter on medium until melted. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add parsnips and stir into the onions. Let parsnips cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning and sticking. Add the apple cubes and cook for another minute. Add curry and nutmeg and stir through until combined.
  3. Add stock and bring to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes, until parsnips are very tender. Remove parsnip mixture from the heat. Using a regular blender or immersion blender, carefully puree soup until very smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot and place back on medium heat.
  4. Add cream and stir through. Heat the soup until it’s warmed through and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To serve: ladle some soup into each bowl.  If using any of the garnish ideas, place a couple of cooked mussels, sauteed scallops or a small amount of shredded duck confit in the centre of each serving.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Curried Parsnip Soup can be dressed up with steamed mussels, sautéed scallops or shredded duck confit

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





It’s Spring!

21 03 2011

It will still be a while until new produce is available but we can start planning ahead

Welcome to spring!  We finally made it through winter (and it was a pretty tough one for many areas, weather-wise).  As exciting as the start of a new season is, the reality is that where I live we won’t have consistently nice weather and new produce for a while yet. However, we can start to transition into the new season by thinking about what lies ahead.  Here are some of my favourite spring recipes to get you in the mood for what’s to come:

Tempura Chive Blossoms

Pickled Radishes

Rhubarb Refresher (cocktail)

Crustless Asparagus Quiche

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

Baby Red Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Quick Strawberry Jam and Easy Drop Biscuits

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Tempura Chive Blossoms

26 05 2010

Chives are easy to grow and very versatile.

Chives are one of my favourite herbs and they couldn’t be easier to grow.  Stick some in a pot or garden and they will reappear each spring without any tending, spreading and becoming more robust each year.  The green chive stems can be used in a number of dishes and make a great garnish but their pretty purple blossoms are edible as well.

Chive blossoms: pretty decoration or delicious snack? They're both!

Chive blossoms can be dipped in a simple tempura batter and fried to make a delicious appetizer with a delicate oniony flavour. Tempura is a method of battering and frying seafood and vegetables that is popular in Japanese restaurants.  It sounds exotic but requires nothing more than some pantry basics.  Serve with cold beer, sake or sparkling wine.

Tempura Chive Blossoms

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes 30 to 35 blossoms

  • 30 to 35 large chive blossoms with about 1″ of chive stem still attached
  • 1 cup ice cold water (in a 2 cup measuring cup, add one cup of ice cubes and one cup of water – measure out 1 cup of water when ready to use)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt plus extra for finishing
  • Oil for frying (preferably a neutral oil such as safflower)
  • Chopped chives for garnish
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, add ice water and egg.  Beat until smooth and thoroughly combined.
  2. Add flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.  Whisk batter until completely smooth and combined.
  3. Carefully place chive blossoms in batter and gently stir until blossoms are coated.
  4. Heat enough oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan to measure about 1″ deep.  Heat on high heat until it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit or a small piece of bread can be fried to golden brown in about 10 seconds.
  5. Carefully place about 10 of the blossoms in the oil, wiping off any excess batter against the edge of the bowl as you lift them out. You can use the stems to handle them.
  6. Reduce the heat slightly to medium-high and fry the blossoms until golden brown, about two minutes.  Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the blossoms and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
  7. Repeat with remaining blossoms, working in batches.
  8. Sprinkle cooked blossoms generously with salt and serve immediately.  Garnish with chopped chives and serve with lemon wedges if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Tempura Chive Blossoms