Friday, February 27, 2015

14 Days of Avocados and Winter Soups (AKA Is it Spring Yet??)

With the cold and the grey that cloaks everything, I decided to produce a personal project titled "14 Days of Avocados." Daily on Instagram, I am sharing a photograph a day of a unique recipe, and once the two weeks have passed, I will be sharing them all here in their glory. And on my new website, which is coming along nicely…… (stay tuned!)

This vivid project was conceived as a means to escape the last onerous days of winter, and while it may still be cold out, I've been up to my eyeballs in amazing food and loving each and every creation. The colors alone have made for a new pep in my step. We are on day five right now - click here to follow the fun!

Simultaneously,  I've been participating in an ongoing soup competition, also on Instagram. Soup soothes the soul. I love making soups of all kinds to nourish myself through these frigid days.

Paths crossed with the chowder which was produced for 14 Days of Avocados - and happened to be timed nicely for the soup contest. There is also a new favorite, a bright tomato soup, which has made it as a finalist in said competition! So, here are the recipes for both, because being nourished feels great.

Please vote for my tomato soup finalist here. This is what the tomato soup image looks like, so you may find it easier -

You have until Friday, March 6th, to cast your vote. Please share it with your friends and families, if this image compels you to do so! :)

Winter chowder with smoked fish and avocado

1 leek, white and light green parts only, sand rinsed and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups frozen corn
3-5 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
good olive oil
2 tbsp pastured butter
4 cups fish stock
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz smoked trout or wild salmon, to top
1 avocado, diced, to top
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped, to top

Melt butter and a glug of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Sauté leeks until they become translucent, stirring so that they do not brown. Add celery and potatoes and sauté for 5 or so more minutes. Stir every so often to keep things cooking evenly.

Add dry vermouth to pan and continue cooking until it is almost evaporated. Add stock, wine, spices, thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover with top slightly askew, and lower heat to low. Simmer for a half hour or so, until the flavors meld and the soup thickens a little.

Remove from heat. Add in corn and stir to incorporate. Pour cream and stir again. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

You can either serve this immediately, or after cooled to room temperature, refrigerate overnight and allow the flavors to meld even more. If you choose the second option, as you reheat: do not allow the soup to boil.

To serve, flake smoked fish over top, add diced avocado, and fresh parsley. Serve with crusty bread to sop every last bit up.

And now for the delicious tomato soup….

I think this is the most flavorful tomato soup I've had, to date.

Please make it and drop me a line agreeing in fantastic enthusiasm, or let me know what it needs more - or less - of! :)

 Tomato soup with nutmeg and smoked paprika

1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth - use homemade if you can
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
2-3 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp pastured butter
good olive oil

a few slices of good crusty bread
1/2-1 cup grated gruyere cheese
good olive oil

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat a glug of olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Give the mixture a good stir.

Add tomatoes and their juices, coarsely breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add in the stock - I give the tomato can a rinse with the stock to get all the last bits, pouring the liquid mix into the pot - along with the nutmeg, paprika, bay leaf, and a good pinch of sea salt and a few good grinds of black pepper.

Bring to a simmer,  then cover and cook on very low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream. Allow to cool almost to room temperature. (I left it to sit with its lid on overnight before blending. This also helped the flavors to meld further.)

Remove bay leaf. Use an immersion blender to purée most of the soup. The idea is to keep a little texture but have the body of the soup largely smooth and supple. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. To serve, reheat but do not allow to boil.

In a toaster oven or using the broiler setting in your oven, dress the slices of bread with small piles of the grated cheese. Broil on a baking sheet until bubbling and melted. Serve the broiled cheesy toast atop the soup, drizzled with good olive oil, finished with another grind or two of black pepper.

Let these soups nourish and sate you. Stay warm in these last burdensome winter moments! Spring is just around the corner…..

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