Oh baby it’s cold outside and nothing warms up a numb body better than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Purée of vegetable soup is an easy recipe made with ingredients typically found in a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Canned tomatoes, canned or fresh cannellini beans, onions, carrots and celery make up the foundation for this hearty soup. The additional ingredients, like herbs, spices and other vegetables, add extra body and flavor for a bright tasting vegetable soup with great depth of flavor.
My original intention was to create a hearty tomato soup recipe. I love tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Essentially, I did develop a tomato soup, but one with a blended flavor of tomatoes, aromatics and legumes. As a result, compared to a traditional tomato soup, the tomato flavor is less pronounced. I found the generous amount of mixed vegetables softens the tomato flavor, creating a hearty and fresh tasting blend of garden delights.
I love living where there are four distinct seasons, but during this dark and chilly winter, I sometimes need a reminder of the sunny and warm days to come. These short days with harsh and biting temperatures can make a person feel sad and extra hungry. Do you find your appetite increases during the winter? Mine does. I believe the body needs extra calories to maintain a normal body temperature. That is my theory but some scientists disagree.
If you find you are always craving something extra during the winter, instead of reaching for a bunch of crackers, or cookies, make a bowl of vegetable soup. Not only will it provide sustenance and warm you up, the bright color and taste will lighten your winter mood and give hope for the spring days to come.
Warming winter foods:
Purée of Vegetable Soup
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion (about 9 oz / 254 g), minced
- 3 celery stalks about 8 oz /223 g, minced
- 2 carrots about 6 oz/ 165 g, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 fennel bulb about 7 oz / 219 g, minced (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup 60 ml dry white wine
- 1- 28 oz can 800 g whole peeled tomatoes in purée
- 1- 15 oz can 425 g cannellini beans
- 2 1/2 cups 625 ml vegetable broth
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TB raisins
- 2 TB chopped walnuts
- 2 TB chopped celery leaves
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 tsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Small pinch of salt
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf. Cook the vegetables until they begin to get soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. While cooking occasionally stir the vegetables so they don't brown or stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the fennel and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute.
Add the white wine and cook until almost evaporated.
Cut up the tomatoes into 3-4 irregular size pieces and add them and their juices to the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock and cannellini beans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Taste the soup after 7 minutes and correct the seasoning with more Kosher salt and or fresh ground black pepper.
Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Purée the soup with a blender or an immersion blender, until smooth or to your desired consistency.
Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
Garnish with croutons, your favorite garnish, or the celery raisin walnut garnish.
Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix together. Taste and correct the seasoning. Let the garnish sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve room temperature with the soup.
You can make this soup any consistency you like. If you do not own a blender or food processor, keep it chunky. Add more stock to thin it out if you think it needs it.
To make it smooth with chunks of vegetables, strain out about 2 cups (500 ml) of the cooked vegetables from the soup before you purée it. Once the soup is puréed to your desired consistency, add the mixed vegetables back in.
For more pronounced tomato flavor, add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot of cooked vegetables before you add the tomatoes and other liquid ingredients. You may need more stock to thin out the consistency.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Most of us had, and possibly still have, foods we did not, or still won’t, eat. Currently, raw oysters are on my list of undesirable foods, but when I was a kid I disliked peas, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. Honestly, it is a miracle I overcame any of my childhood food prejudices, especially vegetables. Mom only made frozen vegetables and she burnt them 8 times out of 10. Over time I grew to love all vegetables with Brussels sprouts being the last holdout.
About 15 years ago at a holiday celebration, a beautiful plate of Brussels sprouts was served with dinner. Up until then I did not give this cruciferous vegetable any thought or attention, but out of politeness and curiosity I put aside my childhood opinion and ate them. After one small spoonful of Brussels sprouts, my attitude changed forever. I cannot remember how my sister-in-law made them, but what I do remember was how surprisingly sweet they tasted. Even with the innate bitter components found in all types of cabbages, a tender and sweet flavor emerged. My sister-in-law’s meal tasted nothing like the Brussels sprouts of my childhood.
It is possible my attitude changed because now I tolerate bitter flavors. Whatever the reason, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables during the fall and winter seasons. The key to delicious and sweeter tasting Brussels sprouts is cooking them properly. What I learned over the years is, they taste their best with fast cooking methods because the longer they cook the more bitter they taste. The cooking method that retains the most amount of nutritional benefits is steaming them. This is true for all vegetables. Yet, I like to sauté, braise or roast Brussels sprouts. Each technique creates a caramelized sear on the sprouts that add contrasting color and flavor. They are not as quick to prepare as green beans or asparagus,, but like most green vegetables they finish cooking within 20 minutes.
How to Cook Brussels Sprouts
This recipe uses two cooking methods. I first sear them in a hot skillet. Once they are nicely browned I add garlic, shallots and add some hot red pepper flakes then sauté them with the Brussels sprouts. For this recipe, I add the garlic after I sear the Brussels sprouts because I do not want the garlic to brown or burn. Then, I braise them in stock or water until they are just tender. I believe the steam from the liquid cooks them faster than they would if only sautéed. Plus the liquid gives the Brussels sprouts a nice coating for the pomegranate glaze to adhere to. Once they finish cooking, I add a glaze of butter and pomegranate molasses over the tender sprouts. It is just that simple.
The pomegranate molasses has a bitter-sweet taste adding just a touch of acid to brighten up the flavor. You can find pomegranate molasses at specialty markets, like Middle Eastern markets or Asian markets, or online. Or, you can make it. I recommend store-bought pomegranate molasses because it has a long shelf life. You can also use pomegranate molasses in a variety of recipes like, Muhammara.
There are so many variations for additions and garnishes for this meal. I added pomegranate seeds for a pop of color and compliment the pomegranate molasses. A touch of acid like lemon juice brightens the meal, but too much lemon juice, or any acid, will change the color to a drab green.
Other nice additions are crispy pancetta or fried prosciutto. Anything salty like cured meats or anchovies will cut out some of the bitter flavor. If you use anchovies, omit the pomegranate molasses.
Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze
- 1.5 lbs (750 g) Brussels Sprouts
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more to taste
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cloves shallots thinly sliced in half moons
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or dried red pepper flakes
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup (125 - 150 ml) chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
- 2 TB butter
- 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
- Fresh ground black pepper to Taste
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds or fried slices of prosciutto, or crispy pancetta (optional)
Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the bottom stem then slice the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Remove any loose outer leaves that are not in good shape.
Add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil to a very large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the olive oil starts to shimmer add the Brussels sprouts and lay them cut side down. Sear the Brussels Sprouts until golden about 2-3 minutes. Once seared to your desired color, stir them around then add the minced garlic and sliced shallots. Cook until the shallots start to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the stock or water, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until the Brussels sprouts are tender in the middle, when pierced with a fork. about 7-9 minutes.
When the Brussels Sprouts are tender, remove the lid and cook off any remaining liquid in the pan.
Once the pan is just dry, add the butter, or 1 TB olive oil for a vegan dish, and pomegranate molasses, stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with pomegranate molasses, lemon zest, and or crispy prosciutto.
If you are cooking for a large crowd, roasting Brussels sprouts is the easiest way to prepare them. Coat them in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a 400°F / 200°C oven for about 35 minutes on rimmed sheet pans. Turn them over from time to time during roasting. Add the pomegranate molasses immediately after they finish roasting with extra olive oil or melted butter and salt and pepper to taste.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
You know that feeling you get after spending hours outside in freezing weather? When you are so cold you forget what it’s like to feel warm. The freezing temperatures makes your muscles tense as if your shoulders are welded together and attached to your ears. Nothing feels right when a winter chill seeps into your bones. When I get that cold, the thought of sitting by a fire or taking a hot bath becomes a fantasy vacation. There is another solution for getting warm and that is sipping a Hot Toddy.
I’d almost forgotten Hot Toddies and its’ warming powers. Thanks to an outdoor fundraiser in February and an Irish Pub on 10th Ave, a distant memory defrosted from my archives. On a frigid February day, the westerly winds blowing off the Hudson River nearly defeated us. Our walk took us down a path from 42nd street to Battery Park, then back up to 23rd Street. Me and my co-conspirators were desperate to warm up. Our scheduled reward of a free pancake breakfast lost its’ appeal for something stronger, so we headed over to 10th Avenue and right into an Irish pub. Upon entering, our waiter accurately read our frozen expressions and sat us down at a table by the fire and suggested a Hot Toddy for our beverage.
A Hot Toddy. I immediately fell in love with this pub. Just the mention of this soothing cocktail made me relax. It also brought back memories of winter sailing with Dad on the San Francisco Bay. Winter in the Bay Area is nowhere near as cold as New York, but it is damp and that makes the air feel like it’s below freezing. Sometimes after a particularly cold day of sailing, Dad made Hot Toddies for “the crew”. His recipe was a simple one with boiling water, bourbon, honey, a drop of lemon, and a cinnamon stick. It wasn’t fancy, but it was the perfect remedy after a day of sailing through the fog. Even though my Hot Toddy only contained a drop of bourbon, I still felt its’ warming powers.
I associate Hot Toddies with outdoor winter activities, but don’t limit yourself to just one type of occasion. Any time you want to relax or warm up is perfect for Toddy time. It is a cocktail to sip and relax with, not a let’s go drinking drink. For centuries a Hot Toddy was prescribed to cure many ailments like a sore throat, a cold or anxiety. It is a soothing drink, not a strong one. However, as history has shown, this cocktail is open to interpretation and variation.
What I learned is, throughout history Hot Toddies were made with local ingredients like Irish Whiskey in Ireland, Rum or Brandy in the US, and Scotch in Scotland. It also originated in India, not Scotland as I thought. Now, there are many variations made with apple cider, tea, ginger ale, tequila, vodka, gin, or served with whipped cream on top. Personally, I am partial to the traditional recipe for a Hot Toddy because I believe the warming notes of caramel found in whiskey is integral to the flavor profile of the drink. You won’t find whipped cream topping my Hot Toddy either.
How to Make a Hot Toddy
It is a good idea to temper your glass, so the Hot Toddy stays hot for as long as possible. Use an 6-8 oz (185-250 ml) Irish Coffee mug or a glass suitable for hot beverages. Or, add a metal spoon into a glass and pour the boiling water over the spoon to prevent the glass from cracking.
My Hot Toddy ratio is 2 parts water, or other hot non-alcoholic beverage, to one part spirit: 4 oz (125 ml) hot water to 2 oz (60 ml) whiskey. I am partial to Irish Whiskey, like Jameson or Tullamore Dew, but a bourbon like Makers Mark with its’ smooth and sweet honey notes would taste nice in a Hot Toddy. In my opinion a natural sweetener, like honey or maple syrup taste best. Lemon juice and orange or lemon slices are a nice touch with woody spices. Add 1-2 spices so they do not compete with each other, or no spices at all. I enjoy the different spices because each sip carries a unique flavor from the steeping spices.
However you choose to make your Hot Toddy, try this traditional recipe, at least once. You will soon feel its mellow effects and warm to any occasion.
- 4 oz 125 ml boiling water
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 oz 60 ml Irish Whiskey or Bourbon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise optional
- 1 -2 cloves optional
- thin slice of lemon
- a quarter slice of an orange optional
Fill a drinking glass like an Irish Coffee glass, or a large snifter, or 6 oz glass mug, with hot water to warm up your glass. If your glass is not made for hot beverages, temper it by putting a metal kitchen spoon in the glass before you add the water. Keep your water hot in the tea kettle while you wait for your glass to warm up about 5 minutes.
Empty your glass and add 4 oz (125 ml) of boiling water to your warmed mug. Use the spoon method again so your glass won't crack. Add the honey and lemon juice and stir until the honey is dissolved. Add the cinnamon stick, whisky and the lemon and orange slices, studded with a clove or two for garnish. Add a star anise if using. Drink while it is hot.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Cranberry sauce is an essential Thanksgiving side dish. I am so accustomed to eating turkey with cranberry sauce it is hard to imagine serving turkey without it. Of all the side dishes made for this yearly feast, it is one of the easiest. The sauce takes about 20 minutes tops to prepare, then chills in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. It is so quick and easy, I do not understand why more people don’t make it. The canned sauce is convenient, but there is no comparison to homemade cranberry sauce.
As a kid, I knew there must be a better alternative to the canned sauce. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mom proudly displayed the solid jellied cranberry sauce on its’ own plate. It’s cylinder shape and distinctive ribbed markings revealed its canned origin and was futile to disguise it. As each person reached over to slice off sections of the jellied cranberry cylinder, one never knew where it would roll. It slid around so much, we needed an extra utensil to hold it still. More times than not you heard the distinctive thwack of a knife hitting the plate when it slipped off the cranberry sauce. I never knew if it was going to slide away and knock over the gravy boat.
Passing the cranberry sauce around the table was challenging as well. It took adept balancing skills to keep it from rolling off the plate and landing on your lap. Every holiday as each family member carefully carved out their portion, I secretly chuckled to myself wondering if this was the year the cranberry sauce got away.
I am happy to say, eating canned cranberry sauce did not turn me off this condiment for good. I did like it, but I wanted something fresher. Once I was on my own, I did not waste time and quickly learned to make it from scratch. In fact, I learned how to make homemade sauce before I learned how to roast a turkey. In my opinion, homemade cranberry sauce is key to tying the whole meal together.
Whenever I host Thanksgiving it is for a large crowd of 30 family members. Everyone contributes a dish for this feast. The cranberry sauce must compliment every and any side dish in the buffet. As a result, my recipe does not have a lot of different herbs, spices or alcohol, but offers the classic pairing of tart cranberries with bitter-sweet orange zest and marmalade. This combination of bittersweet flavors goes with everything.
More holiday side dishes: My Favorite Stuffing Recipe
I believe the original recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, probably around the early 1990’s. The publisher and author information are missing, but I believe this is an accurate guess since I subscribed to Bon Appetit at the time. I made one small change to the original.
The original recipe includes frozen concentrated cranberry juice cocktail. Unfortunately, finding frozen cranberry juice is getting harder and harder with each passing year. As a result, I make it one of two ways: reduce 2 cups of cranberry juice to one cup, or just add one cup of regular cranberry juice. Either way the cranberry sauce has a deep red color with tart cranberry flavor. If you can find frozen cranberry juice, feel free to use it.
I call it Triple C Cranberry sauce because it has three different cranberry ingredients, fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, and cranberry juice. It also has three layers of orange flavorings, orange zest, orange juice and orange marmalade. Altogether these 2 x triple layers of cranberries and oranges, makes a tart and fruity cranberry sauce with a touch of sweetness for balance. It is not too thick or too thin, and spoons easily over your Thanksgiving meal. I promise, this cranberry sauce won’t roll away.
Triple C Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup (250 ml) cranberry juice, or frozen juice concentrate thawed
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar
- 1- 12 oz (350 g) package of fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dried cranberries
- 3 TB orange marmalade
- 2 TB orange zest
- 2 TB fresh orange juice
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
Add the cranberry juice and sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to medium and add the fresh or frozen cranberries, and the dried cranberries to the juice. Stir and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 - 7 minutes. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes to reach the desired texture of popped cranberries to whole ones. I think it is nice to have an even ratio of both.
Turn off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to evenly combine.
Pour the cranberry sauce into a storage container and cool. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is no denying it, the heat is turned on and the leaves are turning and dropping. Summer is over. Fall has established itself and cast a deciduous mosaic of red, orange, yellow, brown, and green leaves gleaming across the hillsides. Along with the change of season, the tempo has picked up. The quiet and relaxed pace of summer is replaced with back to business with intense purpose. No more half days on Fridays.
Despite the hurried tempo, cooler temperatures, and reminder that winter is not too far away, I love fall. It is a great time to play outside, hiking, gardening, sightseeing and foraging the last of the season’s bounty. Even though the growing season is ending, there continues to be an ample selection of vegetables and fruits to buy at the market before everything dies down for the winter. Fall belongs to apples, winter squash, pears, persimmons, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and so much more.
Recently, I visited a local apple orchard, Stuart’s Fruit Farm. It was heartwarming to see many couples, families, or just friends walking around the orchard picking apples, enjoying a crisp and sunny fall day. Children’s laughter and the excited child pitch, “I got one!” echoed across the orchard. Glee, family love, activity, and the sweet aroma of fermenting apples with trampled grass enveloped me as I walked about. I saw in the faces of the playing children the reflection of my own children as preschoolers, running and climbing around the same trees. When you are surrounded by your history, it is easy to see how simultaneously time stands still and moves forward.
I am grateful that Stuarts Fruit Farm is still here. A lot of apple orchards sold off their land to developers in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. The land is very valuable and farming work is difficult to make profitable. Stuart’s Fruit Farm recently received grants and secured a conservation easement from The Westchester Land Trust. These combined efforts will protect the farm land from development and allow the Stuart Family to own the land and continue to farm there. Stuarts has been an operating family farm since 1828, and is the “oldest working family farm in Westchester County,” (LoHud July 11, 2016).
I went to Stuarts with two purposes, take photographs of the apple orchard and buy apples. I feel so fortunate to be able to drive 6 minutes and step out on farm land. It is so close to home, I could ride my bike, or walk to the farm if I was so inspired. I love being able to go out in my neighborhood buy fruit and vegetables grown on the very same land. It is amazing to me that I live in a suburban NYC metropolitan area and have an apple orchard in my neighborhood. The additional bonus is it is not the only family farm in the Somers/Yorktown area.
I returned home with a memory card full of images, a bag full of apples, and a desire to make apple pie. Being that it was late in the afternoon, I did not have enough time to prepare a pie crust, so I decided on one of my best and easiest dessert recipes I have, Swedish Apple Pie. It is the perfect recipe for any last-minute impulse bake or invitation to dine. Swedish Apple Pie is more like a cake in texture, but because apples are the main ingredient, it satisfies like a pie.
I first discovered this dessert staying at the home of a college friend. Fortunately, her mom gave me the recipe and I have made Swedish Apple Pie for over 30 years. All you have to do is peel and slice apples, mix together flour, sugar, egg, and butter, then pour the batter over the apples and bake. It is that easy. For people who say they cannot bake, this dessert is for you. You mix it by hand without any special equipment, just a pie pan. Even if you don’t own a pie pan, just buy the aluminum pans available at the grocery store. The pie will taste just as delicious. You can make this recipe with confidence knowing it is a delicious and easy dessert that all will love.
Swedish Apple Pie is a family favorite dessert that I can practically make in my sleep. My family loves this pie so much, one of my sons asked to have it as his “Birthday Cake.” Making Swedish Apple Pie will not interrupt your play time during this gorgeous fall season. You can spend the day outside and have time leftover to bake Swedish Apple Pie. Fill your home with the aromas of baking apples and cinnamon and a reminder of a beautiful fall day well spent.
Best Apples to use for baking pie: Serious Eats recommends Braeburn and Golden Delicious apples for making pie.
I have also had good results with Granny Smith and Cortland. You want to use a crisp and drier apple, one that will not turn into applesauce when baked.
Swedish Apple Pie
- 5-6 apples Granny Smith, or other crisp and not too sweet apple *see notes
- 1-2 Tb granulated sugar
- 1-2 tea ground cinnamon
- 1 cup 4 oz/ 117 g all-purpose flour
- 1 cup 7 5/8 oz/ 218 g granulated sugar
- 1 stick (1/2 cup/ 4 oz/ 113 g) butter
- 1 egg
- Zest of one lemon or juice of half a lemon (optional)
- Heaping 1/4 tea of freshly grated nutmeg. If you own ground nutmeg just use a level 1/4 tea (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a 9-inch pie pan (Pyrex or metal pans are preferred)
Melt the butter set aside to cool.
Peel, core and slice each apple and put into pie pan. Slice the apples no bigger than 1/2 inch across the bottom of each slice. The size of your pan and the size of your apples will depend on how many apples you will need. If you have a regular 9-inch pie pan start with 5 apples. You want the apples to fill the inside of the pie pan and have a slightly rounded top. Add more apples if it looks flat and you see bare spots. Optional - squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Toss to mix.
In a small bowl mix the 1-2 Tb of sugar with the cinnamon. The amount of sugar depends on the type of apple you are using. If you are using Granny Smith Apples you should use the full amount of sugar because they are not that sweet. All other apples are sweeter and might require using less sugar.
Sprinkle the sugar cinnamon mixture over the top of the apples in a nice even layer.
In medium size bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, ground nutmeg, and lemon zest until just combined. Add the cooled melted butter and egg, then stir until the batter is thoroughly mixed. Make sure you scrape down the sides and across the bottom of the bowl to mix in all the flour.
Spoon the batter over the apples starting at the center and working your way around the pan. The batter will be thick but still fluid, and will slightly ease over the apples and into holes. Try to evenly spread the batter in an even layer all around the apples, then spread it into any holes. The batter should read as one smooth top.
Put the pie pan on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake, checking to see if it is done beginning at the 45-minute mark. The cooking time will vary depending on the number of apples you have. For me, it has consistently baked at least an hour and often a little longer. The pie is done when the crust is golden brown all across the top, and none of the crust looks uncooked. You will get some crispy crust along the edges and a cake-like middle, not mushy, or too moist.
When it is done baking, take the pie out of the oven and let it completely cool to room temperature before serving.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or creme anglais. Caramel sauce is a delicious addition with the ice cream.
When testing this recipe I used Cortland Apples. Over the years I have used many different types of apples, but the best ones are apples that are well suited to baking. Some good examples are, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Cortland apples. You want very crisp apples that are not too sweet. You can even use more than one type of apple. McIntosh apples and Red Delicious apples do not work well because they are a softer apple and your pie will become apple sauce.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.