It’s October, and the weather in New York has taken a nasty turn. The pool company covered my pool, and my husband took in the lawn furniture. So that’s it. (Sigh) I have no choice but to concede—the summer is … Continue reading
Last October I visited France in order to do some research for my upcoming novel, the last book in The Gift Saga. Although my stories are primarily set on Long Island, New York and various locations in Greece, this third book travels to Paris and Champagne as well.
My time in Épernay was an experience I will never forget. I was able to visit and learn about the creation of champagne in the traditional méthode champenoiseat a generations-old family vineyard. I also walked the length of L’Avenue de Champagne, where many of the most famous Champagne houses are situated. Each one was breathtaking in its grandness and unique in atmosphere.
Soupe à L’ail is an easy to prepare traditional French dish. With the other two books in the saga, only Greek recipes were included, ones that had been handed down to me by my mother and grandmother. This time, along with the ones from my own heritage, I’ve added a couple of French ones.
News of the release of Book 3 will be announced soon, but you can count on it to be available for your summer reading. In the meantime, here is one of the recipes tucked between the chapters.
Soupe à L’ail
2 Heads Garlic
2 Quarts chicken broth
1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence wrapped and tied in cheesecloth
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Tablespoons cornstarch & ¼ cup of water
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Eggs yolks
2 Tablespoons butter
Thin slices of baguette, toasted
Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded
Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Break up the garlic into individual cloves, leaving the skin on. Add the cloves to the boiling broth and lower the heat to a simmer. Add the diced potatoes. After five minutes, remove the cloves, which should be floating at the surface, from the pot. Let the broth continue to simmer.
Remove the garlic from the peels and mash before adding them back into the broth. With a handheld Immersion blender whisk until the solids are pureed.
Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and add to the soup, blending thoroughly.
In a separate bowl whisk the olive oil and egg yolks together. Slowly ladle approximately a ½ cup of the soup into the egg mixture to temper it. Add the egg mixture to the soup and stir. Melt in the butter to finish and add a silky texture.
Garnish with cheese topped toasts.
An old high school friend and I were talking about a French teacher we had and I had mentioned that I still used the French onion soup recipe she taught us in french cooking class. I actually make reference to this teacher and the recipe in my book, Evanthia’s Gift. The original post was from last October when I was already complaining about the impending cold weather. Well, here we are again, so I thought I would repost it along with an excerpt.
“Mmm, French onion soup,” he grinned. “Just what the doctor ordered.” He sat down and breathed in the aroma. “I remember the first time you made this for me.” He looked at her, thinking of those high school days. Her hair wasn’t waist length anymore, but it was still long and time had been good to her. She looked nowhere near her forty-one years.
“Thanks to Madame Le Claire’s French cooking class. I still use her original recipe.”
“I think I remember her — tiny blonde lady?”
Sophia nodded. “That’s her.”
“I took Italian. Vinny and me… Mr. Morel. Cute little guy. We fooled around so much I don’t think we came out learning more than a couple of sentences. Do you still remember any French? Mmm… this is even better than I remember,” he said, cutting into a crouton, while struggling with the stringy cheese.
“Of course! I teach ballet. The positions are all French terms. Plus, the month I spent in Paris helped my fluency.”
Silence ensued as they both realized which summer she spent in Paris, and for the first time that afternoon, awkwardness hung between them.
For me, this time of year is the most difficult to negotiate. I hang on to summer until the first day of autumn is officially declared, and even then, I extend summer with my annual trip to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Orlando. Until then, I continue to wear my summer wardrobe and our pool remains open. After all, late September temperatures often reach the 80’s, and even early October can provide warm days. However, unlike the summer, it’s cold in the morning, but warms up by the afternoon, which creates the problem of what to wear. So what does this have to do with food? Nothing really, except that I find the same dilemma this time of year with what to cook. One day I am outside happily grilling on my patio. The sun is shining and although it’s October, I am contemplating eating outside. The next…
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Italian Wedding Soup
I personally have never been to an Italian wedding where they served soup with mini meatballs as one of the dinner courses. Have you? So where did the name come from? As it turns out, it got its name from a misinterpreted translation. The recipe was trying to describe the marrying of its ingredients to give the soup a delicious flavor. From that, the name was born – Italian Wedding Soup.
I searched for a recipe, each one somewhat similar, but none that I was completely satisfied with. So I played and I tasted, until I came up with this recipe. It’s become another one of the meals my family looks forward to.
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, grated
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 large egg
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
In a large bowl, mix together all the above ingredients. Form into 1-inch meatballs and set aside.
14 cups chicken broth
2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup Acini Di Pepe pasta (tiny pearl shaped pasta)
6 ounces baby spinach
2 large eggs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring the broth and wine to a boil. Add the meatballs and pasta. When the broth comes up to a boil once again, add the spinach and lower the heat to simmer until the pasta is done, about 10 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cheese. Take the soup off the heat. Add the egg mixture slowly, while stirring the soup gently to form strands of egg. The seasoning from the meatballs and the flavor of the cheese should be all the seasoning you need. Add salt and pepper to taste, but be careful. The soup will probably not need additional salt. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Like our clothing and activities, our eating habits also change with the seasons. During the summer I live on fresh vegetables, salads and meats cooked on my outdoor grill. But with a dusting of snow on the ground and a forecast warning twelve to twenty-four inches, a salad isn’t going to warm me up. In this weather I reach for my large Dutch oven and cook huge pots of sauce with meatballs and braciole, or a pot roast, or a hearty soup.
On a cold day my mom would make a soup called zumaki, a beef and vegetable soup. Normally I didn’t like this kind of soup—and to this day I would never order any kind of vegetable soup in a deli or restaurant, but this was different. Zumaki is more like a stew, but with soup broth instead of gravy. The vegetables are not chopped into tiny pieces— carrots cut in half and quartered onions and potatoes fill the bowl.
There’s a method to eating Zumaki—a method as individual as the person devouring it. Mine is to squeeze a generous amount of lemon into my bowl and sprinkle it with extra salt. Then I eat the meat and the vegetables with a little broth on each bite. When the vegetables are gone I rip little chunks of Italian bread into the soup and eat the bread with the soaked up broth. And all the while my two sisters would be sitting at the table crying why they had to eat this meal in the first place. They can’t believe I actually make this in my own home because when they moved out of our family home they knew they would never have to eat it again. The truth is, if they tried it now they would probably love it—well, one of my sisters would. The other one subsists on candy and potato chips.
For me Zumaki evokes warm memories of cold days sitting at the dinner table with my family. Whenever it is very cold or someone isn’t feeling well I make a pot of Zumaki. Fortunately, my family looks forward to this meal and they, thankfully, didn’t have the same tearful reaction my sisters had.
2 pounds beef stew meat
2- 3 large onions, quartered
Celery heart, halved
4 medium potatoes
12 ounce can tomato paste
4 beef cubes (or beef bones from butcher)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Fill a large pot with water. (About two-thirds full). Add the cubed stew meat, bring to a boil and then simmer for thirty minutes. Add the onions, celery and bay leaves. Continue to simmer for another thirty minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, tomato paste and beef cubes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper. If you use the beef cubes do not add any additional salt. My mom used to add bones for the flavor she would get from the bone marrow and she never used beef cubes. If you choose to do this you may need to add the salt. Serve with lemon and the crusty bread of your choice.
Originally, I posted this recipe in November 2010 on my Livejournal blog. I love the idea of cooking with fresh seasonal vegetables. What once was the norm, mainly out of necessity, has now become a trend. “Farm to table” restaurants are popping up all over, and consumers are finally realizing that buying fresh ingredients rather than packaged products is a much healthier and tastier option.
Living on Long Island, I have the luxury of driving to local farm stands and buying produce that was harvested that same morning. The corn, broccoli and cauliflower are my favorites. The enormous heads of snow white cauliflower cannot be compared to anything you find in the supermarket. Travel out East a bit and many roadside stands sell roasted corn dipped in butter and freshly made caramel apples. One farm I went to this year had a long line of people waiting for their famous apple cider donuts that were being made as quickly as they were being ordered.
At home, I roast fresh ears of corn and brush it with my own blend of herb butter. And I grill the broccoli with a marinade of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The cauliflower— I will eat it any way I can. Raw, steamed with lemon and olive oil, grilled, roasted, or sautéed in tomato sauce and garlic. My favorite is the cauliflower gratiné, which I serve as a side dish on Thanksgiving. A while ago, I ordered a cauliflower soup at a restaurant, and I’ve been craving it lately. This is my attempt at what I think I ate. It’s not exact, but pretty close. Although the soup had a creamy texture, there was no cream in the restaurant version. This is simple and easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of time.
Cauliflower Puree Soup
1 large head cauliflower
1 32-ounce chicken broth
3 cloves peeled garlic
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Boil or steam the cauliflower and garlic until very tender. Drain and rinse under cool water. Place in food processor and puree. Add a little of the chicken broth as needed to loosen up the cauliflower. Transfer the puree into a pot with the remainder of the chicken broth, bay leaf, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the grated cheese and stir until cheese is mixed and melted into soup. Remove from heat. Ladle in a bowl and garnish with croutons or crostini if desired.
* You may substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth to make this a vegetarian dish. If you choose to omit the cheese, I suggest you add more seasoning or the soup may be a little bland.
For me, this time of year is the most difficult to negotiate. I hang on to summer until the first day of autumn is officially declared, and even then, I extend summer with my annual trip to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Orlando. Until then, I continue to wear my summer wardrobe and our pool remains open. After all, late September temperatures often reach the 80’s, and even early October can provide warm days. However, unlike the summer, it’s cold in the morning, but warms up by the afternoon, which creates the problem of what to wear. So what does this have to do with food? Nothing really, except that I find the same dilemma this time of year with what to cook. One day I am outside happily grilling on my patio. The sun is shining and although it’s October, I am contemplating eating outside. The next day, it’s cold, almost bone chilling. I tell myself, “You will not make comfort food. It is too soon.” I know once I do this, I will have to pull out the fall clothing, decorate the front of the house with all the harvest paraphernalia, and there will be no turning back. But it’s cold and raining—so I make French onion soup…and a pot of sauce with meatballs and braciole. But then the sun came out on the weekend! And I grilled again! If only the pool company didn’t close the pool.
I hope All of October stays warm, but in case it doesn’t, here is a recipe for French onion soup. I think you will find this one lighter than most you’ve had in many restaurants. I don’t care for very dark broths that are heavy and tend to be too salty. I also don’t like when the soup is like an onion stew. That being said, I’ve created this recipe with the balance of ingredients to my taste. I hope you like it.
French Onion Soup
4 large onions (Vidalia or Spanish) sliced thin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
7 cups beef broth
1 ½ cups white wine
¼ cup cognac or brandy
Swiss, gruyere, jalsberg, or emmentaler cheese (In slices or shredded)
Add vegetable oil and butter to a large pot. On a medium stovetop, add the onions and sugar, stir and cover. Let the onions caramelize on medium/low heat for half hour to forty minutes, stirring occasionally. When caramelized, add flour and stir thoroughly. Add the broth and the wine. Simmer for half hour to forty minutes. While simmering, make baguette toasts. Slice a French baguette ½ inch thick on an angle and toast. You may rub a garlic clove on the toast if you wish, but this is optional. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When the soup is done simmering, remove from the heat and add the cognac or brandy. Ladle the soup into a crock. Add the baguette toasts and lay the cheese over the toasts. Place in oven until cheese bubbles and begins to brown.