The Weekend Dish – Split Pea Soup

_MG_2204There are some food traditions that are shared by many, turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving and ham on Easter to name a couple, and then there are food traditions shared by families – split pea soup on Halloween is one of those in our family. Our mother began serving the traditional meal when we were little. She had the revelation while trying to come up with something quick to make ( it was usually accompanied with hot dogs), on a night when time flies by with costume preparations. Her ultimate goal: that we would have some “real food” in us before heading out trick-or-treating and eating a bagful of candy. In the early days, I remember the soup being from a can but as we got older, and needing less help from her with our costumes, she began making the soup from scratch. The meal then takes longer to prepare but the flavor boost is well worth it. Also, it can be prepared the day ahead, thus allowing the flavors to “marry”. We began looking forward to the “Halloween dinner” as much as the trick-or-treating. Then, as a young mother myself, I appreciated the relative ease of the split pea soup and hot dog Halloween dinner and have carried on the tradition with my own family. Seems like every year, at this time, I develop a craving for split pea soup. Homemade soup is my idea of warmth and love in a bowl, just the thing to take on the ghouls and goblins.

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Split Pea Soup

  • 1 – 16oz. package of split peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 3 quarts water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (I use hickory smoked pepper to give it a smoky flavor)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots
  • 1 C chopped celery
  • 3 medium white potatoes chopped

In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until translucent.

Add the peas, water, or broth, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

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Stir in the carrots, celery and potatoes ( I use my food processor to chop the carrots and celery) and simmer an additional 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until soup reaches desired thickness.

If the soup is getting too thick for your taste you can add more liquid. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes as well.

Serves 8

_MG_2202I had some potato chips left over from a party and they make a nice garnish for adding a little crunch, or just sprinkle with cracked pepper and serve.

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Baked Garlic

_MG_1700Since it is October and we are getting close to Halloween, I have a delicious and vampire repelling dish for your snacking and dining pleasure, baked garlic.  When cooked, garlic mellows and even develops a slight sweetness. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to bread, meats, or use it as a spread on a sandwich or anything else you can think of, get creative. Begin by removing any loose outer skins and cut the top off of the bulbs so the cloves are open on the top.

_MG_1709Place the bulbs in a pie dish or any shallow oven-proof container. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over and season with salt, pepper and thyme or another herb of your choice, if you desire.

_MG_1725Cover with a lid, if your dish has one, or foil and bake in a 300° oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the olive oil, or until the garlic is golden brown and soft.

_MG_1731Baked garlic cloves can be served whole

_MG_1742or removed from the outer skins ( I usually squeeze it out ) and mashed.

_MG_1745It’s disease fighting properties are not to be overlooked as well.

_MG_1755The smell alone will elicit mouth watering responses. Here’s a tip, to keep you socially acceptable, eating a little parsley is an effective post garlic breath freshener.

To your health!

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Hot Fudge Pie

_MG_1057In the mood for baking and chocolate? I was recently; and here is something that fits both those desires perfectly. This recipe has been in our family so long I have forgotten where the original came from. It can be made with a store bought pie crust but this time I was really in the mood for baking and made mine from scratch. It has been awhile since I did this and I forgot how fun it can be plus how nice it is knowing exactly what is in the crust you are eating and being able to pronounce all the ingredients ( which isn’t very many).

I will start with the pie crust.

_MG_1028Four ingredients that’s all:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter, I cut mine and put in freezer a short time
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.
_MG_1031Add water just enough water, with fork, to moisten the flour.
_MG_1043Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.
_MG_1044Roll out a ball of the dough to fit in a 9-inch pie pan, so roll to about 12 inches.
_MG_1048Trim the edges and press around the edges with a fork, or fold the excess dough up and flute the edges.
Now for the filling:
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2t flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • 1 cube butter, melted
  • 1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

Mix cocoa, flour, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and butter.

_MG_1051Mix well. Pour into the pie shell.

_MG_1055Bake at 350º about 25 minutes.

_MG_1170It is delicious warm, on its own or with ice cream.

_MG_1180After trying it, you will come to realize why our father nicknamed it “good-bye” pie…

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Dare I say it is as “easy as pie”, and sure to impress.

May your chocolate dreams come true.

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Jalapeño Lemonade

_MG_0292Want to add a little spice to your life this weekend? It’s quite simple really. By adding a sliced jalapeño pepper to lemonade, you will end up with a refreshing and slightly spicy, hot, yet cold, beverage. It’s an anomaly.

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_MG_0368A backyard daughter had the idea and I am so glad she did.

_MG_0375The amounts of the different ingredients can be adjusted to suit your tastes, so think of this recipe as a suggestion more than a rule.

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Jalapeño Lemonade

  • 6 cups of water
  • 2/3 cups of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1 jalapeño pepper sliced

Stir together until incorporated. Taste, and adjust lemon juice and/or agave if you like a sweeter or more sour lemonade. Slice the jalapeño and add to the lemonade. You can add more or less according to your heat preference (remember the longer the jalapeño is in the lemonade the more heat and flavor it imparts.)  Add ice and enjoy!

_MG_0402In southern California the fall can turn hot and this is just the drink for such an occasion, or any time you feel like spicing things up a bit!

Cheers!

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Basil Tomatoes

_MG_9857 basil tomatoesHere we are in the midst of tomato season and perhaps, if you’re lucky, your counter has been overrun with a red sea of tomatoes inviting all sorts of possibilities. This Basil Tomatoes recipe enhances the tomato’s natural flavor with basil, garlic and roasting. The result is an elegant tomato which can be served along with bread or added to pasta or as an accompaniment to fish or meat however you choose you can’t go wrong.

_MG_9866 basil tomatoesThe tomatoes are peeled and cored and placed whole on a bed of basil leaves then garlic and olive oil are added. It’s that simple.

_MG_9868 basil tomoatoesPlace the dish in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and a half. Your home will be filled with the most comforting and inviting aroma as an extra bonus. This recipe came to my attention via the rave reviews of a backyard son after having enjoyed it with Nana and Granddad one late summer night many years ago, and it has been a hit in this backyard house ever since.

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Buon Appetito!

~ Susan

 Basil Tomatoes

  • 8 tomatoes, peeled and cored. To peel the tomatoes, add to boiling water for 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon then plunge into ice water for a minute or so and the skin will slide off easily.
  • 1-2 bunches of basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic

Place the basil leaves in a bed at the bottom of a pan big enough to hold the 8 tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, core side down, on top of the basil. Add olive oil to come half way up the sides of the tomatoes. Add the garlic to the pan, you can chop it or add more and leave the cloves whole. Bake at 350° for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until the tomatoes caramelize and become infused with the basil perfumed olive oil.Serve with bread, pasta or with fish or meat.

The Weekend Dish – Peach Cake

_MG_9645peachesThis time of year the fruit is plentiful and delicious. The peaches, plums, cherries and berries are emitting their sweet fragrances as I walk in the produce aisle of the store. Being especially fond of peaches, I like to use them as much as possible during this season. Aside from eating them alone, I like to add them to cereal, ice cream and use them to top pancakes or add them to a cake.

_MG_9687peach cake

I first tried this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated about a year ago and dreamed about it until this peach season came around again (I suppose canned peaches could be used but I like the seasonal anticipation). The recipe takes a little more effort because half of the peaches are roasted and all are macerated.

_MG_9649peachesBut it is well worth the effort.

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_MG_9656peachesRoasting the peaches concentrates the flavor as well as releases some of the juices thus helping to avoid a soggy cake. Panko crumbs are added to the roast peaches after they come out of the oven to further ensure the avoidance of “soggy cake syndrome.” I didn’t use the peach schnapps called for in the recipe because I like the true peach flavor to shine through.

_MG_9690peach cake

                                      Peach Cake

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

  • 2 1/2 pounds peaches
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, finely crushed

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with oil spray. Pit the peaches and slice into 1/2 inch thick wedges. Place 24 of the slices into a bowl and gently toss with 2 tsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp sugar; set aside. Cut the remaining peaches into thirds crosswise. Place in a bowl and toss with remaining 2tsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp granulated sugar. Spread peach chunks on prepared sheet in a single layer and bake until the juices begin to thicken and caramelize, 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and thoroughly combined. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream, vanilla and 1/4 tsp almond extract and whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Transfer half of the batter to the prepared springform pan and spread evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle panko crumbs over the cooled peaches and gently toss to coat. Arrange peach chunks evenly over the bottom layer of batter gently pressing peaches into surface of the cake. Spread the remaining batter over the peaches and smooth the top. Arrange the reserved peach slices in a ring on the top, using smaller ones for the center. Stir together remaining 3 tbsp granulated sugar and 1/8 tsp almond extract in small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of pan by running a knife around the edge of the cake. Remove sides of pan and allow cake to cool completely. _MG_9696peach cake

Serve and enjoy!

To summer’s bounty,

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Watermelon Gazpacho

_MG_9092 watermelon gaz

Some meals and/or certain dishes will stay in your memory long after consumption. It can be the unique flavors, the setting and dining experience or even the plain and simple pleasure of a well-made dish. Last week, I had one of those memorable meals. Some of the backyard family gathered at a local museum for dinner and entertainment. It was memorable for the occasion (the backyard mom’s birthday), the musical accompaniment (a musician playing exotic sounding Latin American instruments; one which produced a growling jaguar sound transporting me to the rain forest) and the delicious food. I chose watermelon gazpacho for my first course and enjoyed it so much I decided to try and create it myself. Working from my memory of the ingredients listed on the menu as a starting board, I came up with this version, making a few changes and adjustments for my own tastes.

Watermelon Gazpacho

  • pickled red onion (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 watermelon
  • balsamic reduction (recipe follows)
  • cilantro, sliced
  • piece of toasted bread to float on top if you choose

Cut the watermelon into chunks and place in a blender.

_MG_9101 watermelon gazWhir at a medium speed, pushing down occasionally to move the pieces down to the blades, until the watermelon is a liquid, about 30 seconds. (This is a yummy drink on its own or with an added squeeze of lime.)

_MG_9105 watermelon gazPlace a few of the pickled onions on the bottom of the bowl

_MG_9136 watermelon gazPour the liquefied watermelon over the onions. Drizzle the balsamic reduction according to your taste, I use about 1/2 tsp per bowl of this size. Sprinkle sliced cilantro on top and lay a thin slice of toasty bread on the top if you choose and serve. Depending on the size of your bowls this recipe makes 4-6 servings.

_MG_9142 watermelon gaz

Pickled Onions

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

Mix liquids with salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour over the onions in a jar. Sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Keeps in the refrigerator 2 weeks. Also, is a nice accompaniment to meat.

Balsamic Reduction

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Bring the balsamic and honey (in a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive saucepan) to a boil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and keep simmering until reduced to 1/3 cup and it becomes a honey-like consistency. (This takes about a half an hour and gives your house a strong vinegar odor but is worth it.)

Just the thing for adding refreshment to a summer evening of dining al fresco, watch out for the jaguars.

Happy Birthday again Mom!

~Susan