carrot soup and almond-parsley pesto

carrot soup and almond parsley pesto

Did your mother – or someone else who presumably cared about your well being  - ever tell you that peeling a carrot takes away all its vitamins?

It’s one of those admonitions that gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life, probably because you first heard it when soft brain material was still forming (up till the age of 26, I read somewhere). Those whose job it was to see that you grew up with all parts intact did their best to point out every which way you could inflict damage, wreaking havoc on not only yourself, but others, too. You know:

Don’t run across the room with that sharp pencil – you’ll put someone’s eye out!

You’re going to fall off that tree/roof/high-up-dangerous place on top of the swingset and crack your head open!

If you sit so close to the TV in this dark room; YOU”LL GO BLIND!

I can’t think of such warnings having to do with food equally as menacing as the visions of heads cracked open like watermelons dropped from a tall building and eyeballs plucked whole out of their sockets by an innocent writing tool. Oh, there was something about Vitamin C – not enough and you’d become riddled with scurvy and toothlessness. Other than that my takeaway nutritional wisdom remains; All the Vitamins are in the Skin.

I only just learned (like, yesterday) that in fact, peeling carrots has absolutely little effect on the nutrients contained therein. Other forms of produce, such as apples, pears and potatoes, yes – keep the skins on. But carrots? Turns out that some of the best stuff in carrots, like the beta carotene, is in there all the way through. Lots of vitamins, antioxidants and magical cells live in the colorful parts of fruits and vegetables, and if the food is the same color inside without its skin, no harm done.

I admit I do peel carrots when they have an abundance of stiff, old root hairs and tiny clods of dirt. Who wants to eat that?? Plus they look brighter and prettier without the skin. Fresh little carrot bunches with their green tops on don’t usually have that problem.

Having gone on and said all that (are you still reading this?), it won’t make much difference if the skin is on or off the carrots in this soup recipe since they get pureed in the end. It’s your call.

carrot soup with almond parsley pesto

I’ve just started browsing through Deborah Madison’s tremendously wonderful new book, Vegetable Literacy.  The book is organized by families of vegetables, how they’re related and play together – I LOVE that.

The first chapter covers The Carrot Family, which includes celery, parsley, fennel and coriander. Carrots remind me of spring, and parsley reminds me of carrots, so there’s the starting point for my soup.

carrot soup and almond-parsley pesto

Yield: serves 4 - 6

This soup couldn't be simpler and tastes like the essence of carrot. Use any leftover pesto within a day or two, tossed with roasted vegetables or spread on a warm crostini.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur (optional)

Pesto:

1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan until butter melts; add the carrots, onion, celery, salt sugar and coriander. Stir the vegetables around and cook until they begin to release liquid and become softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Pour in 6 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat and cool for a bit, then puree the soup in a blender until completely smooth. Stir in lemon juice and amaretto, if using, and taste for salt.
  3. To make the pesto, reserve a few parsley leaves and chop the rest in a small food processor until finely chopped. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the almonds and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped and the mixture forms a paste; add the fennel seeds, olive oil, salt to taste and the cheese and pulse to combine.
  4. Serve the soup with a spoonful of pesto and sprinkle with remaining parsley leaves and almonds.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/carrot-soup-and-almond-parsley-pesto/

parmesan and black pepper shortbread

parmesan black pepper shortbread cookies

If by some chance you like to have your wine and eat some cookies too, this is a recipe for the file. And if by another chance you could care less about wine but require a sweet treat no matter what, I’m confident you’ll be equally pleased to indulge in one of these.

The savory elements of black pepper and Parmesan are at play here, which makes them a great partner for wine or other adult concoctions. But at the same time these crumbly, buttery cookies are subtly sweet, with a balance of crunch from cornmeal and some sea salt – just as delicious with tea or espresso.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

To me that equates to a perfect ratio. I love shortbread cookies for the very reason they’re not overly sugary, yet deliver a richness of flavor I find irresistible.

There’s just enough cornmeal for sandy texture, and Parmesan cheese fills the kitchen with a tempting aroma as they bake. The last touch is some lemon-infused sugar sprinkled over the top of the warm shortbread.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

parmesan, black pepper and cornmeal shortbread

Yield: 12 - 16 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup brown rice flour

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup stoneground cornmeal

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sift both flours and the salt over a medium bowl; use a whisk to stir in the cornmeal, cheese and pepper.
  3. Pulse the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until creamy; add the flour mixture and pulse just until a soft dough forms (about 30 seconds).
  4. Pat the dough in an even layer into a 9-inch square or round tart pan with a removable bottom.
  5. Bake 35 – 40 minutes, or until the top is very lightly golden and the dough feels set when pressed gently. Stir together the granulated sugar and lemon zest and sprinkle over the top of the shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  6. Cool the pan on a rack 10 minutes, then unmold the shortbread and cool 10 more minutes. While it’s still warm, cut the shortbread with a large, sharp knife into 16 squares or 12 wedges.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/parmesan-and-black-pepper-shortbread/

zucchini fritti, lemon and parmesan salad

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, italian parsley,parmesan and pine nuts

This past week in the month of March has been eventful; what with the Ides of March, Saint Patrick’s Day and the Feast of San Giuseppe going on, you can’t help but notice there’s transition in the air. One foot in front of the other, steadfastly marching toward — Spring.

It’s going to be a few more weeks (at least where I live) before true, seasonal produce will start to influence the next half year of my cooking; garden seeds are starting to sprout and trees are budding somewhere with the promise of summer fruit.

Although I think of them as a full-blown summer kind of thing, at this time of year I’m not ashamed to take advantage of cute little zucchini grown in far more southern climates than the one I live in, to help bridge the gap between darkness and light; brown root vegetables and green, leafy plants.

I’ve been getting itty-bitty zucchini at my local Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods markets over the past few months and this salad has become a major craving. It’s a personal preference, but I like small zucchini best, for this recipe and in general; I find as they mature and swell to a diameter larger than about an inch and a half, the flesh will likely have more seeds and become waterlogged and soggy when cooked.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon and parmesan

It could be the inclusion of lemon that gives this combination of ingredients a spirit of freshness, making me think of impromptu, warm weather eating, something I’m looking forward to.

My appetite was sparked a while back by a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, a blog I am both inspired by and admire from afar. I appreciate Gwyneth’s obvious passion for  food. And while I can relate to her clean, modern, yet down-to-earth style aesthetic I have to leave the $150 sweat pants in a neatly folded pile at her web store. Food I will indulge in; my fashion budget is far less opulent.

Shopping aside, Gwyneth has great taste – zucchini fritti are delicious and dare I say healthy (…yes, I did). I took her idea and ran with it. A light coating of rice flour and a little hot olive oil transforms the neutral nature of zucchini and makes me think of tempura.  You could easily eat fritti all on their own as a crunchy snack, but making a salad with the hot, crisp zucchini turns this into a simple meal.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

Serving Size: serves 2 - 4

Ingredients

¾ pound baby or small zucchini, between ½ - 1 inch in diameter

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

2 – 3 tablespoons brown or white rice flour

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ lemon, cut into wedges

Salt

¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped

½ cup picked Italian parsley leaves

Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, for shaving

Instructions

  1. Slice the zucchini into coins about 1/2-inch wide; put them in a bowl with the onion and toss with enough rice flour to coat evenly.
  2. Heat a 12-inch (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium high heat until hot. Pour in the olive oil and heat until it just begins to shimmer.
  3. Put the zucchini-onion mixture and lemon slices into the pan, cut side down. Season with a generous pinch of salt and cook undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes, until the zucchini turns dark golden brown on one side.
  4. Flip the zucchini over, either by shaking the pan or with a wooden spatula, to cook the other side. Add the pine nuts to the pan and sprinkle with a little more salt.
  5. Remove from the heat; stir in the parsley. Squeeze the juice from the fried lemons over the salad and serve right away topped with shaved cheese.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/zucchini-fritti-lemon-and-parmesan-salad/