Happy New Year! It's time for vegetables! I know that I don't really need to explain why, given universal post-holiday puffiness and such. For me, all sorts of high-carbohydrate, gluten-free grainy flours made their way into my diet and while festive, I certainly noticed how 1) tired, and 2) starving it all made me feel. Sometimes it takes little reminders that what works best - and for me that's not just gluten-free, but primarily grain-free eating - is exactly what works best. Hey.
As a bonus, all of the foods that make me feel and look like myself - high quality meats, fish, vegetables, eggs, nuts, fats, and small amounts of dairy and fruit - are all of my favorite foods anyhow.
So 2013, let's lead off with soup! I'll confess I didn't plan this one out, it sort of made itself out of the fridge. I'm quite sure that you could use vegetable broth, and skip the chicken, and enjoy this as a vegetarian treat. Dried porcini mushrooms make the broth - and everything - delectably meaty, for very little effort. When you're making up a soup, keep in mind that the most satisfying soups are texturally layered - this version is brimming with tender chicken, chewy mushrooms, crisp broccoli, with crunchy nuts to finish. That's how I like it! Kablam!
I hope you all enjoyed holiday time with family and friends. We hosted Christmas Eve here with my mom and sister Stacey. Escargot, beef stroganoff, braised cabbage with caraway seeds, and baked lemon pudding made up our holiday feast and uff da, it was indeed a feast.
Christmas Day we made our annual trip out to my aunt Mary & uncle Bruce's lovely farm west of Willmar. More beef - rib roast, yes! - snuggled up against mashed potatoes, beets, Brussels sprouts salad, topped off with my aunt Marge's famous cheesecake for dessert. More uff da. So worth it. So much sparkly, cozy fun!
I'd say the tree is put away and everything is back in its usual place, but...hell no. We also hosted a New Year's Eve party, and my birthday is tomorrow, so sometime this coming week will have to do. In the meantime, here's to a delicious and healthy 2013! Fresh Tart turns 7 years old tomorrow, pretty crazy, thank you so much for reading along with me for all these years!
Mushroom Soup with Chicken, Broccoli & Pumpkin Seeds
I'll confess that I gilded the lily by adding fried sage leaves as a garnish along with the pumpkin seeds and mushrooms. Totally not necessary, but if you're as crazy about fried sage as I am, fry it in the butter you toast the pumpkin seeds in (sage leaves first, remove them, add the pumpkin seeds, toast away) until a little bit browned. Killer.
1 c. + 1 quart chicken broth
1-6 oz. package dried porcini mushrooms
5 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled & chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 c. heavy cream (optional)
handful arugula leaves (optional)
1 c. broccoli florets
1 c. bite-size chicken pieces (I pulled apart a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 c. raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
freshly ground black pepper
In a small saucepan, heat 1 c. chicken broth until steaming. Remove from heat and stir in porcini mushrooms. Soak for 30 minutes until mushrooms are soft. Scoop mushrooms from broth with your hands, squeezing liquid back into the pan. Chop mushrooms and set aside. Strain broth through a coffee filter into a small bowl and reserve.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat until melted and foaming. Str in onion, carrot, celery, garlic, dried thyme, and a pinch of salt. Stirring occasionally, saute vegetables until beginning to soften, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and quart of chicken broth. Simmer broth and vegetables until vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes.
While soup simmers, in a small skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. butter over medium heat until melted and foaming. Stir in pumpkin seeds and toast seeds, stirring frequently, until seeds are golden brown. Transfer seeds to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.
Add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter to skillet and return to medium heat. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms and a pinch of salt and saute until starting to crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a blender, puree vegetables and stock in batches with arugula leaves (if using), returning pureed soup to the saucepan.
Heat the pureed soup over medium heat until simmering. Add broccoli and cook for 5 minutes, until broccoli is tender-crisp. Stir in cream (if using) and chicken and heat for a couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt. Serve hot with toasted pumpkin seeds and sauteed porcini mushrooms, topped with several grinds of black pepper.