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*May/June 2010 COTM - GOURMET: Drinks. First Courses, Soups

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Welcome to our May and June 2010 COTM, Gourmet Today: More Than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen.

Please use this thread for review and discussion of recipes from the following chapters:

Drinks
Hors d'Oeuvres and First Courses
Soups

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  1. Hunan Scallion Pancakes, p. 55

    This was a great short-cut method using fresh flour tortillas from a local Mexican market, though next time I would use more scallions. Minced scallions, sesame oil, salt and egg wash is sandwiched between two tortillas. They're weighted, fried, drained, and cut into wedges. I also tried to make sure the edges were sealed with the egg wash so that they wouldn't be too oily. I served these with a dipping sauce of soy, Chiankiang black vinegar, and Sriracha.

     
    1. These are recipes I made prior to this month, so my recall may be a bit fuzzy:

      Mint Lassi, p. 30, is a nice alternative to the mango lassi that is so common in America. Toasting, then grinding cumin seeds, which I did in a mortar and pestle before putting everything in the blender, makes all the difference in flavor here. I suppose the blender would do a fine enough job if you have one with a powerful motor. I particularly like this recipe with buffalo milk yogurt, which has become hard to find here.

      Spiced Milk Tea with Saffron and Pistachios (Kashmiri Masala Chai), p. 33, was a total indulgent treat. We make chai on winter evenings fairly often, but it's usually more like the other recipe in the book. This version is gorgeous yellow with bright green bits floating and shimmering from the fats pounded from the nuts. This recipe would impress guests after an Indian style dinner party, and offers special pampering for any evening. We like it with honey in place of the brown sugar, and substantially less than the recipe specifies, about a teaspoon per person. I usually add whole cloves to masala chai, but this version has none, as well as no assertive ginger root, so the cardamom shines through, which I like. It reminds me a little of golden milk, without the slightly bitter edge of turmeric, of course.

      Vietnamese Summer Rolls, p. 94, we made without bean sprouts due to allergic sensitivities, with the Nuoc Cham recipe, p. 80, for dipping. Be sure to find palm sugar if you can, though brown sugar will work in the sauce. I actually like these better with added perilla leaves, which most southeast asian grocers will have in the produce department. They're also good with seasoned cooked shiitake mushrooms and tofu in place of the shrimp for vegetarian diners. I'm accustomed to pickling the carrots for these rolls, but the sugar rub is a nice quick alternative to soften and enhance their flavor. I do think they're probably best with the added crunch of bean sprouts if you don't have anyone allergic to that in your household. One note, and this is an important one, the recipe says they can be assembled and refrigerated up to 4 hours ahead of time. This is a BAD IDEA! The rice paper wrappers that you carefully hydrated in warm water will dry out and become unpleasant, if not inedible, in the refrigerator. This is why you usually find summer rolls unrefrigerated at southeast asian grocers where snacks are sold. They'll sell them by a certain time, then mark them down to half price by 5 pm rush, because they need to be eaten the day they're prepared, unrefrigerated. So, if you're squeamish about storing cooked seafood at room temperature, make these fresh.

      1. Lentil, Sausage, and Escarole Soup, Pg. 134

        It just wouldn't occur to me to combine lentils and escarole though I love both individually. This soup was delicious, very satisfying... quick and easy for a week night meal. Lentils, water, stock, bay leaf and garlic are combined and simmered while the second part of the soup is prepared and cooked. In another pot sliced sausages are browned in oil then removed to a bowl. (I used TJ's spicy turkey sausages) Next, chopped carrots, celery, onion and more garlic are softened in the pan, seasoned with salt and pepper, then the lentils with cooking liquid and sausages are added in. This is cooked for about 10 minutes. Chopped escarole is now added and cooked for about 5 minutes. That's it. The recipe calls for red wine vinegar to be added at the end but after tasting I decided not to. Crusty bread and a simple tomato and red onion salad completed the meal. Very, very nice ! There's plenty left over for another meal. If I had left over rice or boiled potatoes I'd add them into the mix for the second time around.

        1. Mint Julep, p. 19

          Classic Mint Julep with a nice balance of the mint, bourbon (I used Eagle Rare), and sugar.
          The recipe calls for making a batch of 8. I used the ratios, but mixed them individually (the one in pic needed more ice), and served them on Kentucky Derby Day.

           
          1. Mushroom Strudels, p. 61

            I really liked the flavor of the filling in this, esp the rehydrated porcinis with their strained liquid, along with regular mushrooms, butter, shallots, whte wine, s&p, and parsley. I used the suggestion of brushing with duck fat (from D'artagnan), though forgot the truffle oil. I actually brought it to ArizonaGirl's house and she (of course!) had truffle oil. We tried them both with and without and thought the truffle oil gave a nice extra layer of flavor.

            I would make these again, probably freezing a batch to keep in the freezer. Presentation-wise, however, I would make these as phyllo triangles. It was hard to cut the logs into neat pieces without the phyllo tearing and flaking.

             
            3 Replies
            1. re: Rubee

              They look cute and thank you for the report, Rubee. I enjoy phyllo so much. What are those goodies peeking out behind the mushroom logs?

              1. re: twilight goddess

                They were these delicious onion and poppyseed tarts with bacon and dates I made from a past Cookbook of the Month - Ana Sortun's "Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean". I'm overdue to report on it. Will be sure to this week!

                1. re: Rubee

                  I have cooked from that book, with great enjoyment! Mmmmmm. Looking forward to seeing the report. Maybe you could add the link here too. thanks!

            2. Manhattan, p. 20

              Manhattans are one my favorite cocktails, though I've never actually made one. E is the bartender in our house. Classic ingredients - whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, garnished with a cherry. I prefer the more traditional rye so used that instead of blended whiskey. I also like it with a little less vermouth than this recipe called for.

               
              1. Shrimp & Pork Pot Stickers [without Shrimp] pg 73-75

                Perhaps I shouldn't post a review of this recipe since I am allergic to shrimp, but I will press forward anyhow. I purchased a large pork shoulder roast and ground it up to make meatballs, dumplings and Dan Dan noodles.

                To be honest, I wasn't sure about the filling ingredients. I thought several items were missing from the list. But, in the interest of COTM I assembled the ingredients. I substituted an equal amount of pork by weight for the missing shrimp. In a bowl you combine water chestnuts, the meat, 3/4 cup of chopped scallions [fresh from the farm], ginger [she says minced, I grated since I prefer that texture], soy sauce, sesame oil and a bit of peanut oil. I let this sit in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors to blend.

                And now to the wrappers. I confess this is not my first attempt at dumpling wrappers. The previous attempts however, were miserable failures. So, I began this project with store bought wrappers in the kitchen, just in case. [Always have a Plan B when you have just mixed up almost a pound of pork with flavorings.]

                As with all wrapper recipes, this is simple to a fault. Mix flour and water, knead and let it sit to rest. The recipe indicated that the dough should rest for 10 min-1 hour under a bowl. Life got in the way, and I didn't make it back to the dough for 2 hrs. You divide the dough in half, roll it out and cut it with a 3" cookie cutter. Though the recipe said to roll to less than 1/4 inch, I thought this was too thick and took it to 1/8 inch. Cutting was easy, but the dough stuck to the countertop when I tried to lift the resulting circles. [Second batch I solved this by dusting with more flour.]

                My crimping technique is still rudimentary. I suspect any Chinese girl of age 8 can do a better job, but I pressed ahead and crimped away. Though the recipe indicated that I should use 1 tablespoon of filling per dumpling, there was no way this was going to work for me. I ended up using an overflowing teaspoon per dumpling. At this point, I still have quite a bit of filling left and will need to make more wrappers to finish off this project.

                To cook, I steamed the dumplings in a bamboo steamer on a wok for 8 minutes. Then browned for two minutes in a tiny bit of peanut oil.

                The dipping sauce was surprising. The chili oil became the predominate flavor and I won't use that again. Instead, I remixed with just the soy, vinegar and water.

                The filling is porkie goodness with a lovely sesame undertone, but it is really dense and has an intense flavor. In the future, I will shred some napa cabbage into the mixture to lighten it up just a bit.

                Success! These wrappers are silky and beautiful. I made gyoza wrappers successfully. Plan B was not required.

                1 Reply
                1. re: smtucker

                  Great report, SMT -- you really brought us into the kitchen with you on the doubts, frustrations and eventual triumph of your dumplings -- you might inspire me to take the plunge!

                2. Last night I finally got to the Limoncello and Mint Sparklers (p. 26) which I've had my eye on for the past 2 months. I figured it would be a nice thing to drink while making my first recipe from Italian Easy. Mint, limoncello, lemon juice and club soda over ice. I did NOT let mine sit for an hour, as the recipe instructs. Still delicious and very refreshing. Photo when I have my computer.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: LulusMom

                    These sound great. Limoncello will be on my shopping list (along with a whole load of other things!) on my upcoming trip to Italy.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I now always keep a bottle in the fridge.

                      Speaking of you, and booze ... we had the most delightful afternoon on Monday, my bf and I, drinking your elixar with champagne. I"m sorry I haven't been able to type to you about just HOW incredible it is, but my computer is not working and this webmail I'm using has NONE of my old emails, so I have no record of your e-address. But please, please - send me the recipe. We were both madly in love with it at first taste. Thank you SO much.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Me and booze in the same sentence - shurely shome mishtake. ;-)

                        I didn't actually make the elderflower cordial, a man in one of my favourite shops in Brixton market did, but I could get the recipe from him. He's also made elderflower champagne - I bet that would be right up your street! Do you have elderflower trees where you live? In England they flower in May and June, so you may have missed the boat for this year unless you get a move on. Otherwise you might be able to buy it online if you can find a US supplier. It makes a lovely drink combined with sparking water as well, although champagne is obviously preferable!

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          I love elderflower cordial in sparkling water or wine. Funny how it smells like lychees! Anyway, I buy the D'Arbo brand, which LulusMom may be able to find in a local shop, or failing that, can certainly buy online from a number of sources.

                          Here's what it looks like: http://www.zabars.com/darbo-all-natur...

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            Belvoir is a popular brand here which you might be able to get in the States. Otherwise you'll have to come on another visit!

                          2. re: greedygirl

                            Oh, please do ask for the recipe. I cannot stress strongly enough how much we loved it. I've had the elderflower liquor that is big right now (maybe St. Germain?) in martinis, which is surprisingly nice, but this stufff was superior, and I'd love to make a batch or 20.

                            Anyway, another excuse to get to the UK and see you over drinks sounds good to me.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              You have to gather elderflowers though (and it's probably too late for this year now). Are you sure you even have them in North America?

                              But yes - come again! I did an amazing day trip in Kent the other day which you should defnitely do next time you're here.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Elderberries do grow in the US. I have a friend who is growing some. I also have a great book called The Berry Bible that has recipes for all kinds of berries. It has a recipe for an alcohol free cordial made with the flowers. Supposedly the berries can also be used but I'm ot sure how.

                                1. re: karykat

                                  And it seems that it grows well in our area (NC) and grows quickly. Going to ask my gardener friend if she knows of any local sources.

                              2. re: LulusMom

                                I asked the guy who made it for the recipe and he said he it was from the River Cottage book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I don't have it, but found it on his website.

                                http://www.rivercottage.net/SeasonalR...

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Thank you so very much. As soon as I can find the elderberry bush ...

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    They're trees really, and they may have flowered already (I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case, given that your climate is warmer), so no elderflower cordial until next year, unfortunately.

                        2. re: LulusMom

                          ArizonaGirl gave us a bottle of homemade limoncello. I'm going to have to make the sparkler this weekend!

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Limoncello and Mint Sparklers, p. 26)

                            Recipe link:
                            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/dri...

                            Agree with LulusMom, delicious and refreshing, like a sophisticated lemonade. Perfect for the 4th of July weekend, and the rest of the summer. I just made another pitcher this afternoon.

                             
                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Limoncello and Mint Sparklers, p. 26

                              Why did I make this quintessentially summery drink in cool, drizzly February? Because I wandered into this thread looking for something (that wasn't here) and read about it, and I had a big bunch of mint, so why not. Lovely. I made three-quarters the amount (based on how much limoncello I had available), and have half the mint-infused limoncillo + lemon left for another night. And I'll definitely be doing it again in warm weather.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                I had totally forgotten about these. I have a bottle of limoncello in the fridge sitting feeling unwanted. Maybe this is exactly what it needs.

                            2. Agua de Jamaica -- Hibiscus Flower Cooler, page 31

                              It was FUN to make this, and great to offer something different and cooling for guests on a hot afternoon or evening. I sent a text to my friends offering a pitcher to anyone who could guess the mystery summer drink and no one got it. The color is an exquisite deep crimson.
                              I chose this as I've ordered agua de jamaica plenty of times in taquerias, etc and I am a girl who appreciates a tart beverage. I found a bag of the dried hibiscus flowers in a bodega for a few dollars. Points here for this drink for any budget-aware gourmet divas!
                              Boil four cups water, add 1 cup dried flowers and simmer uncovered on lower heat, five minutes. Cool and steep for 1/2 hour. Strain, pressing on the flowers, and add 1/3 cup sugar (VERY tart like this, which is my preference, but if you are coaxing anyone with a sweet tooth, do add more) and a couple of cups of ice cubes. Cool covered in the fridge for a couple of hours before stirring. Note indicates that you can make it all 2 days ahead, waiting of course to add the ice cubes. I didn't add the ice until right before serving, b/c the cubes would melt during that time in the fridge anyway.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: twilight goddess

                                One of my very favorite summer drinks. Not bad with a shot of vodka, either.

                                I have difficulty finding dried hibiscus flowers in Manhattan so I order a bunch at a time at the beginning of every summer from mexgrocer.com. Even including shipping it's less than what I have to pay for it around here.

                                http://www.mexgrocer.com/9689.html#sc...

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Hibiscus flowers are pretty common around here (lots of Afro-Caribbean influence) so will have to try this one.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    Great option, also, for friends who don't drink. It's so festive looking (and food friendly depending on strength and pairing) that those holding alcohol-drenched cocktails are sometimes envious.

                                  2. re: JoanN

                                    I like the vodka version idea myself, had never thought of that with jamaica.

                                2. Grilled Shrimp Saté with Spiced Pistachio Chutney, (p. 70)

                                  I made this for dinner along with potato salad using similar flavors, but this would make a great party dish as an appetizer; I just favorited it on EYB. Shrimp are butterflied and marinated in garlic, olive oil, salt and lime juice. I didn't grill but instead cooked them in a hot cast-iron pan. The chutney is made with ground pistachios, cumin, and coriander with jalapenos, cilantro, and yogurt in a food processor. Instead of 8 oz drained yogurt, I used about 6.5 ounces (what I had) of Greek yogurt.

                                  We loved the flavors of the chutney. The recipe calls for 4 jalapenos with seeds. I used 1-1/2 large chilis and it was PLENTY hot. In fact, I had to add a bit more yogurt to it the next day as it was so spicy (and I like spicy). I bought my jalapenos at the Mexican market and they always have plenty of heat. If I used 4, it would have much too hot. It's interesting in the on-line recipe link below that the recipe calls for 16 oz of yogurt (book says 8 oz) along with double all ingredients but the 4 jalapenos, with seeds and ribs removed from 3. It's really delicious though - I served the leftover chutney for lunch yesterday with the Indian "arancini" I had in the freezer. Great combination - better than the raita I did initially.
                                  ( http://www.chow.com/photos/495560 ).

                                  Recipe link
                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                   
                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Rubee

                                    I made this as one of my offerings for a Potluck last night, based on your recommendation. I loved it! I used two whole, largish jalapenos and served it with two pounds of shrimp. There is still some leftover, and I'm looking forward to trying it with grilled chicken, as suggested in the book.

                                    1. re: mirage

                                      So glad you liked it! I love that chutney. I used some mixed with mayo for chicken sandwiches. So good.

                                  2. White Bean and Tuscan Kale Soup with Chestnuts p. 129

                                    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                    I made this soup yesterday so I could have it for lunch this week. This seemed like a solid, uncomplicated dish, but I really underestimated how good this soup would be; it was surprisingly delicious! Heat oil (I used 1 T instead of 3T) and add pancetta (I used 2 oz instead of 4), 1 chopped onion, and 3 chopped garlic cloves until browned. Then add 1 can whole tomatoes in juice, cannellini, chicken stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (from the freezer), s&p and cook until tender. Discard cheese rind, add chestnuts (jar), puree 2 cups of soup, return to broth, add Tuscan kale (aka cavolo nero or dinosaur kale) and stir in chopped thyme.

                                    This was full of umami goodness and very hearty. The beans were plump, the broth was tomatoey and cheesy, and the kale added nice color and sweetness. The only thing I did not love about the soup, surprisingly, was the chestnuts. I love the taste of them, just not in this soup. I found it was a distraction, especially the bigger ones. The next time I make this, I will omit the chestnuts, but I will definitely make this again.

                                    16 Replies
                                    1. re: BigSal

                                      That sounds delicious, being a lover of pretty much all forms of beans and greens (not to mention cheese). You have been knocking it out of the park lately with all your reports. And I really appreciate and trust your suggestions for minimizing the fat without sacrificing flavor. Thanks for all your great reports.

                                      1. re: BigSal

                                        Would have totally overlooked this one (not a big chestnut fan). Now maybe I need to put it on the list. Great report - thanks.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          LLM and Mebby,

                                          Thanks for the feedback. I hope you like the soup as much as I did.

                                          1. re: BigSal

                                            this is one that I have earmarked from the book to try - perhaps I won't bother with the chestnuts from the start - interesting sidebar - we had just been to the eye doctor and because macular degeneration runs in DH family he was told to incorporate more Kale into his diet! I thought this might be an interesting recipe to try to do that.

                                            1. re: BigSal

                                              Thanks, BigSal -- this was dinner last night and perfect for a rainy night with a fire going in the fireplace, while still being healthy (trying to work off T-day excesses). I went with your suggestions on reducing oil and pancetta amounts. Subbed rosemary for the thyme (and let it simmer with a stalk of it in the pot. Served with a nice rosemary-olive oil bruschetta rubbed with garlic. My husband loved it too. Leftovers are in the fridge waiting for lunch.

                                          2. re: BigSal

                                            BigSal and Mebby - couple of quick questions. Did you use fresh beans? It sounds (maybe just wishful thinking) as if Sal used canned - if so, how many cans? Second, do you think subbing spinach for the kale would make a huge difference? I have no problem with kale, but given that you can get those prewashed bags of spinach, it would make this a sinch to put together. I get that at this point I'm not really making the same dish (leaving out the chestnuts, using either turkey bacon or turkey sausage, subbing the veg, and yes, probably using rosemary instead of thyme), but it sounds so good, and perfect for this weather. Thoughts?

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              I make an Asian-y seasoned soup with tofu, mushrooms, and spinach, and I just stir in the spinach right at the end - it takes about two minutes to wilt and cook. So if you wanted to use spinach for this soup, that's what I would do, just add it at the very end of cooking instead of simmering as you would with kale.

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                LLM-I used dried cannelini that I soaked overnight, but I would not hesitate to use canned beans. I see turkey bacon or sausage working too. Spinach- substitute away!. I think the soup would work with just the onions, garlic, beans, tomato, cheese, herbs and greens. It is really the cheese, beans and tomatoes that made the soup for me.

                                                Mebby- So glad you and your husband liked the recipe! I like the idea of rosemary too. I may have to try that next.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  I was going to use canned, but wasn't sure how to convert amounts from dried, so I used the quick soak method in the book, which worked very nicely. That said, I'm sure canned would be fine too and I do very often used canned beans -- they just suffer a little in terms of texture. And I'm sure spinach will work fine added at the end as Caitlin says, although I do like the bit of extra oomph of the lacinto kale.

                                                  Forgot to say that I also left out the chestnuts, per BigSal's recommendation. And my drizzle of olive oil when I served was sparing, but I had bashed it up in the M&P with some red pepper flakes and marash pepper, which we found quite pleasant (I mention only because I know, LLM, that you are a fellow abuser of the spice rack!).

                                                  On a side note, it was just nice to make a COTM dish -- since starting my new job a couple months ago I've barely had time to lurk, let alone cook, so it felt great and I'm happy to have GT back this month for go-to easy dishes like this one.

                                                  1. re: mebby

                                                    Thanks to all three of your ladies! (and I'm very amused to quite correctly be called an abuser of the spice rack.) I'll look at the quick soaking method with the beans - sounds like it really won't be a big deal (I never think it is that bad, but lets face it, canned beans are *incredibly* easy). I'm definitely going to be making some version of this soup next week.
                                                    PS - congratulations on the job Mebby - it's good to hear from you though!

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      Here's chart to convert dry beans to canned. http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/conve...
                                                      It appears that 1c of dried beans is about 19 oz canned.

                                                      P.S. Your cauliflower soup sounds wonderful and decadent.

                                                      1. re: BigSal

                                                        I love websites like that - thanks so much BigSal!

                                                2. re: BigSal

                                                  White Bean and (regular) Kale soup without chestnuts

                                                  Thanks so much to Big Sal for pointing this one out. I saw chestnuts in the title and just mentally crossed it off. But without the chestnuts it is wonderful. Canned beans, turkey bacon were subs on my part, but aside from that, made as written. Lulu said "Mom, this is GREAT!" Even my husband, who sort of snickered when I mentioned kale, went back for a huge second helping.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    I'm so glad you and your family enjoyed this. Lulu appears to have quite the palate. :)

                                                    1. re: BigSal

                                                      We loved it.
                                                      Lulu's a wonderful little weirdo, foodwise (at least compared to others her age) she loves olives, capers, sushi and raw fennel. She suggested that we take roasted green beans in to school for her turn at snack day. I had to veer her away from that idea.

                                                  2. re: BigSal

                                                    I made this the other day and thought it was great. Hearty and delicious. I used canned beans, but apart from that made it as written, complete with chestnuts. I love chestnuts, but agree that they could be omitted.

                                                  3. Cauliflower Soup with Stilton (p. 114)

                                                    YUM. Very rich soup, served as a starter for ... hot dogs. Everyone loved it, and LulusDad said "I want to eat this every day." Unfortunately he wanted to eat it so much that there were no leftovers for lunch for him tomorrow. Lulu also liked it very much, although she's still a bit iffy with eating soup (no idea what that is about; her small motor skills are not up to her tasting skills). Chopped cauliflower, onion and celery are sauted in butter until soft, then chicken broth and milk are added. Simmer about 25 minutes (until soft), then I used my immersion blender to blend. Add in half-and-half and stilton (I just used crumbled super-market blue) and bring to a slow simmer. Heavenly.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      That sounds incredible and I am so making this, although may have to get a bit creative about reducing fat content, as we're still trying to be virtuous between holidays. I wonder if JoanN et al's whizzed cottage cheese faux cream thinned down would stand in for the 1/2 and 1/2? But I don't plan to skimp even a little on the cheese!

                                                      And, thanks, LLM for the welcome back -- it's good to be here. I'm working at home now, so once my "part-time" job slows down, it should be a boon to the kitchen output, as I can at least pop in and do things like pre-soak beans, but in the meantime I've been slogging through with a lot of short-cuts, TJs and takeout!

                                                      1. re: mebby

                                                        Great minds, mebby. I was just thinking the same thing. Especially since I just picked up a gorgeous hunk of Stilton at Costco. Whoever tries it first, let's be sure to report.

                                                      2. re: LulusMom

                                                        I finally got around to making this after reading your post. I made a couple changes to the original recipe (I used skim milk, omitted the butter and skipped the half and half) . I used the total amount of the Stilton called for (1/3 c) which turned out to be only about 1.5 oz- not bad for 4 servings. Even with all of the changes it was still rich and delicious.

                                                        1. re: BigSal

                                                          Oh, I'm so glad you liked it! Funnily enough, we're swapping - I've got a pot of the kale and white bean soup heating up right now. I ended up using canned beans (2 cans) but did go for the kale, and subbing turkey bacon for the pancetta. It *smells* fantastic, and it is a cold night here, so it should be perfect. Thanks for telling us about it, and about the whole "leave the chestnuts out" business.

                                                          I've kind of got my eye on that Tunisian soup ...

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            Ooh, the Tunisian soup does look great! Spicy and comforting. Perfect for these cold winter days.

                                                        2. re: LulusMom

                                                          I think that Ruth L. made a great cauliflower soup for one of our local Chowhound picnics several years ago. Mmmmmm. Deeeelish. I don't like cauliflower much on its own either, but soup is divine.

                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                            I love cauliflower, and this was so decadent. There is also a really nice one on epicurious with cumin and lime: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                        3. Gascon White Bean Soup p. 133. This was hearty, warm, delicious and comforting on a cold night and easy too (especially with my shortcuts.)

                                                          So the number one cheat I did was I made it in the slow cooker. I'm sure it was somewhat detrimental to the outcome, but it was necessary to make this into a weeknight dinner for me. I soaked the white beans overnight (with salt, per CI bean brining method). I used a leftover ham bone instead of ham hocks, which I think was probably an upgrade, particularly since this was a nice meaty Smithfield ham bone. I loaded up the slow cooker with the beans, fresh water, ham bone, onion with clove, garlic, parsley, bay leaf and thyme (had to use dried as I didn't have fresh) in the morning before work and set it on low all day. I had my nanny add the cabbage and carrots (subbed for potatoes due to what I had in the pantry and to get extra veggies into the kids) in the late afternoon to have everything ready when I got home.

                                                          The beans suffered a little texture wise from their all day simmer, but I have to admit I like mushy beans (as does my 19 month old), so that didn't bother me too much. My nanny was a little stingy on the cabbage and most of it kind of disintegrated into the soup. So when I got home I ladled off some of the broth and put it in a large saucepan with another cut up half cabbage and let that boil until the cabbage was just cooked and the broth reduced down a bit. While that was going, I fished out the ham bone, shredded the meat and supplemented with a little fresh leftover cooked ham. I skipped the baguette toasts altogether, but I'm sure they would have been great with the soup. Added the fresh cooked cabbage back in and served with plenty of black pepper.

                                                          I thought this was delicious and my husband ate 3 bowls. 19 month old sucked down a lot of mushy beans, but didn't care for the cabbage so much. 3 and a half year old refused to eat any of the veggies or beans but said the broth was good and ate some of the ham. I have to admit this didn't taste particularly French to me and was not all that different from the usual ham and white bean soup I might make. The clove was the major difference in terms of ingredients, but I couldn't really taste it too much in the final product.

                                                          1. Harvest Corn Chowder, p. 116
                                                            Mlk Day gave me a chance to play in the kitchen today, and this tasty soup didn't disappoint.

                                                            Sauté cubed bacon, remove to a plate, then using the rendered fat, sauté onion, celery, carrots until soft. Add cream and chicken broth, then cubed sweet potatoes, red bell pepper and Yukon golds, simmer until tender, then add corn( I used frozen), simmer a little more and enjoy! I topped mine with garlic chives and served with a thick slice of homemade multigrain bread, and I'm in heaven! Super simple, great flavor, and even pretty healthy.

                                                            (Summary is from memory, hope I didn't miss anything)

                                                            1. Chunky Butternut Squash, White Bean, and Tomato Soup, p.123

                                                              This is a savory, hearty vegetable soup for the season, and it comes together easily once you've dealt with cubing the squash. Other ingredients called for are one sauteed garlic clove, canned cannelini, canned tomatoes, stock, water, minced fresh sage, salt and pepper, all of which simmers until the squash is tender, and grated parmesan is stirred in. I sauteed three garlic cloves and half an onion, added more tomatoes and sage than called for, and stirred in some leaves of baby spinach until they wilted at the end. With the gold squash, red tomatoes. and green spinach, it was pretty in the bowl, as well as nourishing and tasty.