Tag Archives: leeks

Signs of Spring and Springtime Ham Soup

When I think of soup from a ham bone, visions of thick and hearty Split Pea or Lentil Soup come to mind. There is nothing quite as comforting as losing oneself in the smokey richness that is found in a ham based legume soup.  It’s the perfect partner for a cold wintry night. Winter is gone now (fingers and toes crossed) and Spring is in the air.

Like many, I was left with a ham bone from Easter Dinner (Thanks Jordan & Kelly it was wonderful). I went to the pantry and reached for the lentils, then thought better of it. As tasty as the result would be, the sun coming in the window and the trees beginning to turn green led my inspiration in another direction. Why not make Ham Broth out of the bone and use it as the base to make a lighter, brighter soup. And that’s just what I did.

The mirepoix was leeks, garlic, and carrots. Olive oil made its appearance in the pan to get everything sweating in the best way possible. The broth was added along with more than a few thyme sprigs and everyone took a nice long simmer.IMG_1577

I know that sweet potatoes and corn don’t sound very spring-like, but they are the colors of spring (and often part of Easter Dinner). They were a colorful and tasty addition to this soup. I also added some haricot vert and snow peas. IMG_1581

IMG_1585It wouldn’t be ham soup with out ham so I added a generous cup of the ham bone trimmings. This meat is a little heartier and stands up to the long simmer that soup takes. Speaking of long simmering soup, the haricot vert and snow peas take only minutes to cook and can quickly turn dull, so I added them at the end. I actually blanched them and added them to the bowls before I ladled in the soup. The piping hot soup warmed them up and the crunch they gave to the soup was a bonus in flavor and texture. This soup was the perfect blend of  light yet filling and comforting. Adding a grilled cheese sandwich to the meal would make it a perfect Supper.IMG_1589

Springtime Ham Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Springtime Ham Soup
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the leeks carrots, and garlic tossing to coat them with the oil. Add a pinch of salt and cover the pot. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 5 - 7 minutes.
  2. Add the Ham Broth and the thyme leaves to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. At this point you can remove the thyme sprigs as the leaves have probably fallen off and the sprigs have done their flavor magic. Add the sweet potatoes and corn and simmer 20 minutes more or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  4. While the soup is simmering, blanch the snow peas and haricot vert. Put them in boiling water briefly, then remove them to a bowl of ice water. When they are cold drain them well. This will leave them tender crisp and bright green. Set them aside.
  5. When the soup is done, taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. Place a few haricot vert and snow peas into each soup bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowls and serve.
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Soup is wonderful any time of year. With the new season’s vegetables coming in, take advantage of them and create your own soup pot of love.

Stock in a Box on Steroids

Let me start by saying that homemade stock is the best. It is easy to make and freezes beautifully. I will also say that nothing compares with the flavor of homemade stock. You are in complete control of salt and all the other flavors that you choose to add.

That being said, I admit that I use “Stock in a Box” from time to time. It is convenient and once you find a brand that you like and that doesn’t offend your healthy sensibilities too much, it is great for quick soups and sauces. I’ve even been known to saute in it.

I was getting ready to make some soup the other day and was out of my homemade stock. The soup, which was going to be dinner couldn’t wait for me to make scratch stock, so I went to the pantry and found a box of chicken stock. Feeling somewhat adventurous, I decided to play with it a bit.

I decided it needed to be bulked up some so I added a leek, some garlic, and fresh herbs.DIGITAL CAMERAI used my fool-proof method for cleaning leeks. Leeks are notoriously sandy and the sand loves to settle in the layers of the leek where it can create an unpleasant taste and texture experience.

DIGITAL CAMERA You can diligently rinse them under running water while prying the layers apart, but it’s been my experience that a few errant grains will remain.

This technique eliminates that. Once you have cut off the root end and the tougher dark green ends you can slice the leeks to suit the recipe you are creating.DIGITAL CAMERADrop the slices into a bowl of cold water and let them float there for 5 minutes or so.DIGITAL CAMERACarefully scoop out the leeks with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Dump out the water and marvel at the grit and sand in the bottom of the bowl that now will not ruin your creation.

Once the leeks were clean, I added them to a soup pot along with some garlic and herb sprigs. I let them all “sweat it out” for a bit in some olive oil before I added the stock.DIGITAL CAMERAI let everything simmer for 45 minutes or so until the stock smelled incredible. The sprigs of rosemary and thyme that I used came out clean as the proverbial whistle. I diligently fished them out until I had the same number of stems that I started out with.DIGITAL CAMERA This isn’t me being anal, it is saving my immersion blender from “choking” on the woody stems. Experience is a wonderful teacher…DIGITAL CAMERAThe stock that resulted was a bulked up and richer version of what came out of the box. It was a perfect addition to my soup. In fact, this may become a new Mama D standard when using stock in a box. I used chicken stock, but it would work equally as well with vegetable stock. You could even use this technique with homemade stock to give it a little more muscle. With Thanksgiving only days away, this could be a wonderful base for your gravy.

Stock in a Box on Steroids
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Stock in a Box on Steroids
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Chop off the root and and the dark green top of the leek. Cut it in half lengthwise then slice thinly into half moons. Place the pieces in a bowl of cold water and let them sit for 5 - 10 minutes without disturbing them. Carefully scoop the pieces out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat. Add the leeks, garlic and herb sprigs (count them). Sweat until the leeks are very soft and the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Pour in the box of stock and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil. reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or so. The stock should smell wonderful and the herb stems should be bare of their leaves.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and fish out the herb stems. Make sure you have the same number of stems you put in (your immersion blender will thank you).
  5. Using an immersion blender process the stock until it is smooth (how smooth is up to you and there will be some herb flecks)
  6. Your "bulked up" stock is ready to use in your recipe.
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Whatever techniques and ingredients you use in your cooking, the most important thing to add is love. There’s a place for short cuts and convenience, even in Mama D’s Kitchen. 

 

What Can Mama D Do With Butternut Squash?

Butternut Squash is delicious, nutritious, and versatile. It’s in its heyday in fall and winter, so the time for Butternut Squash adventures is now. I must confess, I’m fairly new to the winter squash scene. It’s only been in Mama D’s Kitchen for about 5 years (except for Spaghetti Squash which has been in the kitchen for decades). It’s time to make up for lost time.

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I’ve been using this oddly (?) shaped squash quite often and it always surprises me with its adaptability. It also has certain affinities with other foods. It stands up to all kinds of onions. From leeks to shallots and every type in between, squash takes them on and still keeps its identity.  Bacon seems to have been put on earth, for among other things to compliment squash. Something in the smokiness of the bacon goes well with the sweet earthiness of the squash. Besides that, “ Mama D do love her bacon”.

Many people are fond of the sweet notes of squash and expand on them. Personally, I like to keep the sugar sweetness in dessert and let the squash display its innate sweetness in the main part of the meal.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Mama D’s Butternut Squash & Apple Soup. This recipe was born in a cooking class I took several years ago. It’s gotten some Mama D lovin’ and has become what I like to call ” Autumn in a Bowl.”

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
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Autumn in bowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
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Autumn in bowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in large soup pot until crisp. Remove the bacon drain on paper towels. Pour all the drippings into a heat proof container. Return 2 tablespoons of the drippings to the soup pot and add the onion. Sweat for 3 or 4 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
  2. Raise the heat to medium high and add the squash and apples. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is slightly browned. Add the apple juice and stir to de-glaze the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, add the sage and cook, covered 30 minutes or until the squash is soft. remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.
  3. While soup is simmering, heat a tablespoon of the bacon drippings in a small fry pan. Add the shallots and cook until carmelized, 15 minutes or so. Set aside for garnishing the soup.
  4. Return the pot of soup to the stove and simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Add the cream and heat gently until everything is steamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. If soup is too thick, add a little more stock or cider. If Soup is too thin, add 2-3 tablespoons of potato flakes. Heat until any additions come up to temperature.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each bowl with some of the bacon and shallots and sprinkle with the pepitas.
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Butternut Squash makes a wonderful side dish. Roasting seems to bring out the nutty flavor and provides enough of a reason to coat it ever so lightly in olive oil. While olive oil is the healthier alternative, I’ve come up with a recipe that uses bacon drippings as the lubricant (so to speak). It also repeats some of the same flavors found in the above soup. What can possibly be wrong with bacon, shallots and sage? Nothing, I say!!

 

Butternut Squash Smash with Bacon and Shallots
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A hearty side dish that can hold its own with meat or fowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Butternut Squash Smash with Bacon and Shallots
Print Recipe
A hearty side dish that can hold its own with meat or fowl.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats, cook the bacon in a large skillet until brown and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Remove drippings from the pan and reserve 2 tablespoons. The rest can be discarded. Keep the skillet, as is, to use later.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lay the thyme and sage on the baking sheet to make an aromatic bed for the squash. Lightly brush the cut edges of the squash with 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings and lay cut side down on top of the herbs. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the squash and bake for 15 minutes more or so.it should be quite soft.
  3. Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes or until it can be handled, Make sure to save the herbs. Scoop the squash from the skin and place in a large bowl. Throw the skin away. Mash the squash until "smooth-ish."
  4. Heat the remaining bacon drippings and the butter in the reserved skillet. When it is hot, add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the mashed squash and the warm half & half to the skillet. Stir to combine (if things seem too thick add a little more half & half).
  5. Crumble the herbs, (leave the stems out of it) and add to the pan. Stir all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon into the mixture. Heat gently until everything is hot and happy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the remaining bacon. Serve with pride.
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This is a wonderful accompaniment to pork, be it chops, tenderloin or roast. It also compliments any poultry dish you may be serving.

I love visiting other food blog sites. One of my favorites is Proud Italian Cook.  Marie has lots of wonderful recipes. I took some inspiration from her Polenta and Squash dish and came up with Chicken and Squash Risotto. It started with Butternut Squash roasted with leeks and garlic.DIGITAL CAMERA

I made risotto using red onions, chicken stock and some leftover roast chicken. The squash and leek mixture joined in the fun.

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The result was a comfort food that satisfied the need for the creamy, slightly chewy and savory flavor that is risotto.

Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto
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This recipe uses a roasted squash, leek, and garlic mixture. You will have enough for this recipe and at least another of your choosing. This will also freeze well if you want to share your squash love at a later time.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto
Print Recipe
This recipe uses a roasted squash, leek, and garlic mixture. You will have enough for this recipe and at least another of your choosing. This will also freeze well if you want to share your squash love at a later time.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Combine the squash, leeks, garlic, and olive oil in a large bowl.Spread the mixture on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring half way though. The squash should be soft and lightly browned. Set aside.
  2. Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the red onion and cook stirring occasionally until translucent. Add the rice, tossing to coat well. Cook the rice until it is becoming translucent about 7-10 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan and continue to cook until it has evaporated (this will also de-glaze the pan).
  3. Using a ladle, add approximately 1/2 cup of the hot stock to the pan. Cook and stir until the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Continue to add stock, stirring and cooking until each addition is absorbed. This is probably a good time to pour a glass of wine, it's going to take awhile. You are looking for rice with a creamy texture but grains with a little bite.
  4. Add the chicken and squash to the pan. Add more stock as needed to keep the creamy texture of the rice. Heat until everything is steaming. Add about half of the cheese and stir until it melts. Taste the dish and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve in shallow bowls. Pass the rest of the cheese at the table.
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So the answer to the question in the title is, “A lot”. These recipes just scratch the surface of Butternut Squash. There are lots of other squash varieties out there as well and without too much adjustment, they can be substituted in any of these recipes. If you haven’t cooked these odd-shaped, nutrient dense vegetables, give it a try. There’s plenty of squash love to go around.

Happy New Year, Mama D