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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks: Creamy Apple, Leek and Brie Soup

Earlier this fall, I had reconsructive surgery to fix the issues caused by my weight loss. I spent most of my seemlingly-endless-recovery (which really was as long as the surgeon told me it would be, even though I totally thought he was nuts and I'd be back up-and-attem in a couple of weeks) in a recliner in the living room, watching the ID channel and cruising Facebook and Pinterest.

Pinterest. Such a simple concept - an online picture version of "favorites," organizable however you wish. To me... the best internet invention. Ever. Little by little, new recipes I've seen on Pinterest have started slipping into our regular dinner rotation. Falling into a same-old-same-old routine in the kitchen happens to the best of us, and for me, Pinterest is the ultimate for rut-busting. No matter how much my family enjoys a particular dish, there's an extremely fine line between last week's "YUM!" and this week's "AGAIN?" These people are a pack of wolves and will turn on me in a heartbeat.

Last year I told you about my tradition of serving a cup of soup before every Thanksgiving meal. In 2011, it was a Warm-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower Soup. This year I wanted something a little more decadent, and frankly, a little bad-for-you. To the Pinterest Bat Cave!! Somewhere in there I had pinned a very pretty picture of a Roasted Apple, Brie & Thyme Soup from the Spice or Die blog. The concept of an Apple and Brie Soup was exactly what I wanted to serve for Thanksgiving. Creamy, rich, and layered with the flavors of caramelized onions, apples, and cheesy goodness. My version really isn't anything like the original, but a Pinterest nod and thank you for the inspiration.

Creamy Apple, Leek, and Brie Soup
Inspired by Spice or Die

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. butter
2 c. diced yellow onion (around 1 large onion)
2 c. sliced leeks (about 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, slice in half and fan out under running water to clean thoroughly)
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored and chopped
2 t. fresh thyme leaves
3 T. flour
1 c. hard apple cider
4 c. chicken broth
1 lb. brie, rind removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (cut when cold, then set aside to come to room temp while you reaheat the soup)
1 c. heavy cream
Parsley-Thyme Oil (optional)

Heat a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-low. Add olive oil and butter and melt, then add the yellow onions. Turn the heat down to low and caramelize the onions. Cook them low and slow, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown and soft. This process can't be hurried, it took me about 30 minutes.

Once the onions are caramelized, stir in the leeks, celery, apples, and thyme. Sautee until the vegetables start to soften, around 8-10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the flour has lost its raw taste. Add in the hard cider and stir it all together. It will foam up at this point, but it's all good. Add the chicken broth, and simmer the whole thing until the vegetables are good and soft, about 30 minutes more. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.

I used my immersion blender to blend the soup at this point. Mine is amazing and awesome and purchased for me by my in-laws. If yours is more decorative than powerful, you may wish to blend in batches in your blender. But however you choose, blend the soup well until smooth.

The soup can (and for maximum flavor, should) be made one day ahead at this point and chilled.

Reheat soup gently until hot. Add cubed room-temperature brie cheese and stir and stir and stir until the cheese is mostly melted. I had impatient Thanksgiving guests, so near the end, I used the immersion blender one more time to get everything combined. Add the cream, and bring back temp to hot (not boiling) top with a drizzle of the parsley-thyme oil if you're using it, and serve.

Parsley-Thyme Oil (optional)

1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all 3 ingredients in a blender and blend, scraping down sides of blender as needed. Let sit 10-15 minutes, then strain mixture through a fine strainer, pressing on solids. Use the lovely green oil, discard the solids.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Procrastination Soup: Farro and Dried Cranberry Soup with Kale

Apparently I am not good at multi-tasking my life. I can blog as long as I'm not teaching... but I seem to have some sort of blog-fail option that kicks in once I start teaching again... I'm sure it's poor time management on my part.

Well, that and the fact that I currently have 100 seventh-grade language arts students. It took a good two weeks in this position before I had the head-slap moment of realization that every time I had them turn in anything, no matter how small, it generated ONE HUNDRED items for me to correct.

It's a balancing act, I tell you. I need to see their work, and I need to spend time reflecting on each one individually, but if I'm not careful, my bookbag floweth over. Take this weekend, for example. I have two assignments that need to be corrected. Doesn't sound bad, until you multiply 2 x 100. You don't have to be a math teacher to figure out those numbers. Ugh.

I'm queen of the procrastinators. And I rationalize. A lot.

So I made soup instead!

A November kind of soup. Creamy and tangy and full of unusual ingredients! I'm pretty proud of this soup - it's all mine, from the farro to the dried cranberries soaked in raspberry vinegar. What's farro? Here's how I described it on facebook to a friend... "Farro is a grain like barley, but it kicks barley's ass. Chewier, nuttier. It's like brown rice on the best kind of steroids."

And I added sage, because sage is so very November-y.

And kale, because I'm renaming the blog Kale-a-Woman.

Farro and Dried Cranberry Soup with Kale
Serves 4-6

2 T. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 T. chopped fresh sage
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 T. flour
1 c. farro, soaked in cold water one hour, then drained and rinsed
1 c. dried cranberries, soaked in raspberry vinegar (or balsamic) for one hour, drained and RESERVE the vinegar
5 c. chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 c. chopped kale, washed, center ribs removed, and chopped small.
3 T. of the reserved vinegar from the cranberry soak

Rinse 1 c. of farro and then place in a bowl and cover with water to soak for one hour. At the same time, place 1 c. dried cranberries into a bowl and cover with raspberry vinegar (or balsamic vinegar) and set aside to soak for one hour.
Drain and rinse farro. Drain cranberries into a separate bowl. Reserve vinegar.

Melt butter in a heavy soup pot over medium heat until melted, but not browned. Add diced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, around 8-10 minutes. They should be tender, but not browned. Stir in carrot and celery and sautee until tender, around 3 more minutes. Stir in sage and garlic and sautee until fragrant, around 30 more seconds.

Stir in flour, and stir and stir until flour is cooked and has lost its raw taste, around 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and the farro. Stir well and simmer around 30 minutes, stirrring occasionally, until farro is nearly tender.

Add in drained cranberries, and simmer 15 additional minutes, until cranberries start to plump up. Stir in cream and kale and simmer 10 more minutes or so, until everything is melded and yummy. Add the 3 T. of reserved vinegar and stir well. Taste and add salt and pepper, even more sage or more of the reserved vinegar if needed. Tweak the seasonings untl just right for you.